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My Favorite Disney World Value Resort

art of animation

Did I give it away? I have stayed at every single Walt Disney World Value Resort a few times, and my answer here is pretty easy: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. In fact, the contest really isn’t even close.

Opened during 2012, Disney’s Art of Animation is Disney World’s newest “resort” (technically, there have been a few Disney Vacation Club Resorts open since then). The resort was originally planned to be the second half of Pop Century, but only the main building and a few buildings were started before construction was halted due to a slow down at Disney. When the time came, Disney decided it needed a brand new resort, mostly because they finally figured out people would rather stay somewhere that is themed after their fantastic animated movies rather than giant rubik’s cubes and bowling alleys.

Disney’s Art of Animation features 864 Little Mermaid themed “standard” rooms and 1,120 family suites, with either Lion King, Finding Nemo or Cars themes. The standard rooms are identical in size and layout to the rooms at Pop Century, since these were completed in the existing buildings that were abandoned earlier. The family suites are brand new, and not really available anywhere on property.

What about the other Value Resorts?

I don’t really have a problem with the other value resorts, but they just aren’t as good as Art of Animation. The All-Star Sports, All-Star Movies and All-Star Music resort suffer from a few setbacks that are just too much for me to overcome. They tend to the be home base for any youth dance, cheer or sports teams staying at Disney. This severely skews the adult to child ratio, and leads to a less enjoyable experience. Also, these three resorts are built next to each other, and most times, the three resorts share one bus, so if you happen to be near the end of the line, there are times the bus will not even stop due to capacity. If your family really wants to stay at the resorts (especially Movies), you will have a blast.

Pop Century was for quite a while my default value resort, and while there isn’t really any downsides there like at the All-Stars, Art of Animation is just much, much better. I am still very happy to stay at Pop Century, it just isn’t my first choice.

The Big Blue Pool
The Big Blue Pool

What makes Art of Animation Special?

Little Mermaid rooms – Who has a little girl that doesn’t love the Little Mermaid? Think about it, these are the only rooms on Disney property themed after a Disney princess. All-Star Movies has sections themed after The Mighty Ducks and Herbie the Love Bug. How many kids even know who The Mighty Ducks are? The Little Mermaid rooms are super cute, and really well done. There is even a Little Mermaid themed pool for your little mermaids to enjoy.

Family Suites – These family suites were probably the most requested room option at Walt Disney World for 20+ years. If you were on a budget, and had a family of 5+, you were extremely limited at Disney. There were the cabins at Fort Wilderness, but those don’t really suit some people. Some of the rooms at Port Orleans – Riverside could sleep 5 with the use of a trundle bed, or you could get 2 connecting rooms at a value resort. None of the options were optimal, but the family suites are fantastic. They feature a “master bedroom” with its own bathroom, a front room with a fold down table/bed combo as well as a pull out couch and another bathroom. These work great for a family with kids, and who doesn’t love Cars, Lion King or Finding Nemo?

Landscapes of Flavor – This is Art of Animation’s food court, and it is head and shoulders above the other food courts in terms of offerings and food. You can find a pretty decent meal here.

The Big Blue Pool – My favorite Value resort pool by far. Located in the Finding Nemo section of the resort, this pool is just beautiful, and surrounded by great Nemo decorations and oversized characters. Did you know this pool is the largest pool at Disney World outside of the water parks?

Cars Family Suite
Cars Family Suite

What are the downsides of Art of Animation?

Not every Disney resort is perfect, and the Art of Animation has a few drawbacks:

No discounts – Ever since the Little Mermaid rooms opened in 2012, they have been excluded from every single Disney discount that has been released. If you want to stay there, you are going to pay the full rate. Sometimes during the years, like over Christmas, that really doesn’t matter since nothing is discounted, but most of the year, you pay a decent premium to stay in these rooms. The Family suite are usually included in all discounts.

Value resort – This is after all, still a value resort. So, you aren’t near a theme park, the pools don’t have slides or other amenities, there is just a food court, not a nicer restaurant, and the room quality isn’t as nice as the moderate or deluxe resorts. That said, I think I would rather stay in an Art of Animation family suite that most of the moderate resorts, if the price is close.

Cars area at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Cars area at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Have you stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation?

Important Dates when Planning a Disney World Vacation

When planning your Disney World vacation, there are some dates you will want to figure out well in advance, and keep track of them. Now, while some of these are not super important, some definitely are. While you may think it is crazy to plan a breakfast 6 months in advance, EVERYONE does it, and there are only so many seats at the table, so don’t dillydally. Your little princess may not be so princess like when she finds out you have to eat day old donuts for breakfast instead of eating with her favorite Disney characters.

Important dates when planning a Disney World vacation

  • 499 Days – This is the furthest away you can book your resort reservation, assuming rates and packages have been released for your dates. There are times during the year when you may be inside 499 days, but you can’t book your vacation yet. If you are just booking  a Walt Disney World Resort room, then you can book them 499 days in advance.
  • 365 Days – This is when you can rent a golf cart at Fort Wilderness. They sell out.
  • 60 Days – Probably the most important date, this is when you can book your dining reservations. If you are staying in a Disney World Resort, you can book all of your reservations for your entire stay 60 days before you check in, if you are staying off-site, you can only book reservations 180 days from the day of the reservation. 60 days in advance is also typically when you can make reservations for specialty cruises, tee-times for the Disney golf courses, boat rentals, etc.
  • 60 DaysFast Pass Plus! (Due to COVID restrictions, Fast Passes are currently not availabe to book in advance or use in the parks. Until Fast Passes return, the information in this paragraph is not accurate). You can now make your Fast Pass reservation online or on your mobile device with the use of the My Disney Experience app. Currently, you are allowed three Fast Passes per day that you can book in advance, and once those three are use, you can get another one at any fast pass kiosk in your park. Guests staying onsite, as long as you have a park pass linked to your My Disney Experience account, can make reservations for their entire stay 60 days in advance of check in. If you have an annual pass or just a normal Disney park pass, these reservations can be done 30 days in advance.
  • 30  Days – At this point, if you have a Disney World package that includes your Disney Resort and park passes, your balance will be due for your trip. If you just have a room only reservation, your balance will be due at check-in. You should at this point also have your Magic Bands customized online as they will ship to you as soon as your balance is paid, and if you are taking advantage of the Magical Express airport transportation, that should be set up by now as well to give Disney time to get the necessary documents to you.
  • 10 Days – By this point, you should have received your Magic Bands, Magical Express documents and Disney travel documents, and should be set to go.

Have a great trip! Feel free to use the quick date calculator below to figure out your important dates:

What is it like to be a Disney Travel agent?

So, what exactly is it like being a Disney Travel agent? Having owned a Disney travel agency for 14+ years (Mouseketrips), I think this is the question I get asked most often. When people hear what it is that I do for a living, most are stunned that there is enough business for me to feed my family. They would be surprised if they knew exactly how many people start a Disney vacation each day (it is in the tens of thousands), the number is staggering. The next thing everyone says is “that would be the best job on earth!”. Well, they are right and they are wrong, just like any other job, there are great things about it, and some not so great things.

What do you do on a normal day?

I think most people assume I sit around all day in my jammies, drinking cocoa and watching Disney movies, mixed with weekly trips to my favorite Disney theme park, or maybe a Disney Cruise every month or two. The truth couldn’t be further from the assumption. You might as well assume your doctor or postman sits at home all day doing the same thing.

Mouseketrips' Offices
Mouseketrips’ Offices

I try to be at the office by about 7:00 AM each morning. I have a dedicated office in an office building, I do not work out of my home. It is worth every penny, I am just not effective when working from home. Most of our agents work from home, whatever works best for you will work.

First thing, I check my email to see if there are any client emergencies that have cropped up overnight (there usually are), and sort through my email from clients and prioritize it. If it is an emergency, I get back to them immediately, within minutes of getting into the office. It usually takes a few hours to answer all the emails, call clients and call Disney to take care of any changes, reservations or whatever. Some days, this is a pretty quick process, some days, it may take me 5 – 7 hours just to get through my email. In a typical day, I hear from and help about 15 – 20 existing clients, and I may hear from 5 – 10 new/potential clients.

As the owner, I am also in charge of all marketing for the company, which takes up a good chunk of time each day. We post several helpful articles on our website each week (I aim for three per week, I usually make it), and I am responsible for getting the articles written, proofread, images added and posted on the website. I try to get the posts done each day around noon my time, 2 PM Eastern. An average article takes about 30 minutes to prep if someone else writes it, it may take an additional hour to write if I write it. Once posted on the website, the information is then added to Facebook and Twitter.

Each day I also add a few fun Disney images to our Facebook page that I have to create. I typically then repost those same images to our Instagram and Tumblr pages. This process usually takes a good 30 minutes to get them up for the day.

Then, back to email and the phone to take care of clients’ messages I received during my time away. During this time, I also try to keep track of the social accounts and respond to anyone who has reached out to us on any of our posts.

I try to be home by 4:00 PM, which is about when my kids get home from school. I usually work for a few hours in the late evening from home replying to emails, putting out fires and planning for the next day. In a typical week, I work about 50 – 60 hours. I try not to work on Saturday, other than addressing urgent problems, and I try to ignore work if all possible on Sunday.

What do you do on a not-normal day?

Most days at Mouseketrips are pretty normal. Disney however, loves to release discounts. Sometimes, we know these are coming in advance, other times, it is a complete surprise. If we have a good idea the discounts are coming out, I am at the office at 4:45 AM ready to go. Disney World reservations open at 5:00 AM my time, so I have to be on the phone dialing and redialing just to give myself a chance of getting in to talk to a Disney cast member. One of our promises at Mouseketrips is that we will rebook your trip if a discount is released to save you money. In order to do so, we have to actually change each reservation and make sure you are getting the best deal. That takes time. If it is a big discount like Free Dining, we may be on the phone with Disney for several hours once they pick up. When a big discount is released, I can plan on being at the office for 15+ hours that day, and then a few extra hours at home. Between changing reservations, talking to clients about changes, replying to new clients who just heard about the discount and getting all the blog posts and social media done for the discount just takes a ton of time. Thankfully, these days are few and far between, we may have 10 – 12 per year at most. Discounts for Disneyland and the Disney Cruise do not affect us nearly as much as Walt Disney World discounts

What are some of the benefits of being a Disney Travel Agent?

Well, it is Disney after all. While I wouldn’t ever classify myself as a Disney geek, I do love the Disney parks, and there are few places I would rather take my kids than on a Disney vacation. All of my clients are always really happy to deal with me, they get to go to Disney after all. It is very fun to help people plan their Disney vacations, I can’t complain about that, and Disney is a great product to sell.

Being an agency owner, I also get quite a few perks from Disney, especially when Disney has a big event. I have been invited to the grand opening of Expedition Everest, the new Fantasyland and Cars Land to name a few. I was in Disneyland the day before its 50th anniversary, the only day the park was ever closed. Disney has been very nice to us in the past, allowing us to attend these events with the press, and we typically report on them on our website.

And of course, I “have” to go to Disney for work. It is very helpful to me to experience everything new that Disney has to offer, so I can fully help my clients as well as the agents who work for Mouseketrips. I make an attempt to stay in every new Disney Resort within a few weeks after it opens. BTW, the Grand Floridian Villas are to die for. The only resort at Walt Disney World that I have not stayed at is the new bungalows at the Polynesian. They are really, really hard to book, but I will get there.

What are some of the bad things about being a Disney Travel Agent?

Where to start? While I would definitely say I love this job, I think it is a lot different than most people think it is, unless you have done it. There is a lot more busy work and time required than people think. If you want to be a good agent, it takes time (40+ hours a week, and a good year of hard work to get going). I asked my agents what their “bad things” are, here are some responses (note: I edited out all the comments that mentioned me):

  • Clients assuming that we have special hidden deals we can offer them which are different than what’s on the Disney website. We are skilled at finding you the best rate, but we aren’t holding the keys to special rates you can’t find on your own.
  • When clients read stuff online or ask “friends”, who always know way more than you, a dedicated Disney Travel agent.
  • Essentially working 24 hours 7 days a week.
  • All Disney trips end up being working vacations.
  • Doing weeks’ worth of work and having the client cancel their vacation.
  • We are real people with families and lives.
  • Clients who seem uninterested in their vacation up until the week before and expect you to drop everything on your schedule to take care of them NOW.
  • Working with Disney “technology” every day.
  • Great discounts are released by Disney, including TV and web advertising, but they make only a few rooms available for most dates.
  • It may take months of hard work when starting to see your first penny, you aren’t paid like a normal job.

In addition to what my agents noted, the job can be very stressful, especially if you are not organized. There isn’t anything worse than realizing that a client’s Disney Cruise was canceled because you forgot to tell him the balance was due. It happens, and it is up to you to fix it, and the lost money comes out of your pocket.

How can you become a Disney Travel Agent like me?

Don’t be fooled by classes or online schools that offer to teach you how to be a travel agent, those are a waste of your time and money. At Mouseketrips, we have very high standard for a future agent. We require that you have been to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland at least 5 times recently, as well as on a Disney Cruise. We also look very closely at how a person writes, I cannot stress that enough, work on it. We may get 100+ applications to become an agent each year, and we may have 5, but we would love to see your application. There are now a bunch of other agencies out there, just be fully aware of what it is you are applying for. Many just “hire” you and send you out on your own to find your way, very few agents are successful that way. If this is something you want to do, take your time doing research on agencies, don’t even apply to an agency if you wouldn’t use them to book your own Disney vacation.

Questions? Feel free to ask below.