Soooooo I’m taking my fam to the mouse for the first time. I have been there, but DH, DS16, DD8, DS7 and DS2 have never even been on an airplane. We’re not true “budget” travelers, as we have alloted a large sum for this trip. I’m struggling between Bay Lake Tower (seems funny to write BLT) and Art of Animation. It is more expensive to book BLT, obviously, but the convenience…especially since we will have the tiny one! But… we won’t be going to MK every day. Is it worth the extra expense for BLT? Please advise!! I have heard poor reviews about the transportation for Art of Animation… or is there a different DVC we should look into?
We stayed at Art of Animation and the buses were great - never waited too long and they don’t make any other stops. But - they are buses of course. The atmosphere at AoA is very very kid friendly and has multiple pools. Would you get a suite there? No experience with BLT.
This is really a case of “it depends how you live” and what you want to get out of the experience. There are really three things that stand out with AoA over BLT for me – the pool is MUCH better at AoA than at BLT. The food court at AoA is the best one on property (and for BLT, what you’ll have to do is go over to the main building at the Contemporary if you want to grab a meal. You can also easily walk to Pop Century’s food court to mix things up a bit. Also, for me personally, BLT is pretty bland in terms of theming. (It reminds me of condos down on Hollywood Beach that my family would visit from time to time.) On the other hand, AoA has some amazing things to see, especially over in the Cars section.
The bus system is okay – it ends up being hit or miss no matter where you end up, truthfully. For BLT, yes, you can walk to MK or monorail to the TTC and then monorail to Epcot, but I personally wouldn’t stay there just for that. If you really wanted to, you could stay at AoA for less and then just take a cab to and from the parks once a day and it probably still would work out cheaper!
Not sure what size of room you’re looking at for BLT, but I’m willing to bet that whatever you look at will have a full kitchen–so if eating some meals in the room is something you’d like to do, that’s a plus in that column.
In the past couple of years, I’ve stayed at BLT, Fort Wilderness, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Old Key West, and Animal Kingdom Lodge, and if I was taking someone for a one-and-only trip, I personally would go to Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is a bit more off the beaten path, so you’ll need to allot an extra 10-15 minutes for travel time, just to be safe, but the perks there are fantastic. There are more on-site activities for kids there than I have seen at the other resorts. Being able to see the animals outside your room is just amazing. I personally love all of the restaurants at the two buildings. And the big selling point to me is the pool and water play area over at Kidani. Walking into Jambo House, however, has such a wow factor that it is hard to beat. My second choice just because I love the larger rooms would be Old Key West, however the pool is not toddler friendly.
But if I had to choose between the two you listed, I would likely go with AoA. It just has a little something more for everyone.
Are you renting points? We are taking the kids to BLT in Feb and renting points through DVC Rental Store. The cost is less than was a Disney travel agent quoted me for a value resort - which made the decision to stay at BLT a no-brainer.
Disney transportation takes some big knocks in these forums but, for me and my family, we have only driven once on our very first trip and have relied on the buses, boats and monorails. While there is a time factor involved, this website has been very helpful in finding options:
Since three of your children are older and can help on the buses, I would go with AoA because, as has been mentioned, the resort is made for kids. We walked through on a resort visit our last trip and my DS12 was very envious of the pool and all of the incredible theme-ing.
If money is not a major issue, then staying close the the park(s) you’ll visit most often makes a big difference. I recently stayed at Bay Lake Tower (as a guest of a DVC member) and being able to walk to the Magic Kingdom was a great benefit. I’m also a bit of a monorail junkie, so extra monorail rides to Epcot added to my experience (even if they don’t save much time compared to buses, they’re more fun!).
Disney buses are, like most transportation systems, inconsistent. They are usually on-time, but at some point during most vacations you’ll wait 20-30 minutes when you’d rather be in the parks. I also have back problems, that are worsened by standing and waiting and standing on the bus (since I’m expected to give up my seat, and will always do so), so I usually rent a car. Magic Kingdom is the only park that isn’t directly accessible by car, so the Contemporary/BLT are ideal for me, since I can drive to the other parks and walk to Magic Kingdom.
Ease of travel is also a benefit with a large group in case you choose to split up. During my BLT stay, I traveled with my sister and her nine-month old son. She needed to return to the resort early to get her child to bed on time, but being nearby meant I could wander back to the Magic Kingdom to watch fireworks and be back at the hotel in a short time and without having to rush ahead of the throngs of others headed to their buses. That meant more rest.
If you’re likely to spend more time in Epcot or the Studios, then Boardwalk and Beach Club DVC make sense for the same ease of transportation reasons.
I also forgot to mention the ease of not having to fold up your stroller when walking or taking a monorail or some of the boats. Having helped others by carrying a stroller on a bus full of people, it’s not a whole lot of fun while you’re standing to keep it from falling over and keep things from falling out.
I stayed at AoA in late May last year and it was great for our 3 yo but I don’t know if I would suggest for the older ones unless they love the characters featured. The theming is very cute but HUGE and to me felt a bit overwhelming, but that is just me, my 3 yo loved it For big time Disney fans that are in to the characters that the hotel features, yes it is really great. If your kids aren’t in to those characters though, I’m not sure it would be a right fit. The bus system was like the others said, ok but yes still a BUS system so it’s not the speediest, especially if you’re comparing it to the monorail. I’ve never been to Bay Lake Tower but it looks fabulous if you don’t mind less character theming than AoA.
I completely agree! If AOA is in the mix then AKL should be seriously considered. It is a resort that is truly magical!