I had imagined that once we had children, our Walt Disney World Holidays would be fewer, with longer gaps between them. So, when our eldest son arrived in July 2011, I imagined it would be quite some time before we’d be back to Disney again. However, spring/summer 2012 saw the realise of an offer we couldn’t resist; and so we booked to go back, taking our 20-month old little boy for his first visit.
With Free Dining, 14-for-7 Park Ticket, $100 gift card for booking and 30% off selected Resorts, we chose to take full advantage of this offer and picked a Resort offering the 30% Discount; Saratoga Springs. This would be our first stay at a Disney Vacation Club Resort, and although we would only be in a Deluxe Studio, I was looking forward to seeing the difference in amenities (both in-room and around the Resort) compared to Walt Disney World Hotels.
We arrived at Saratoga Springs in the early evening, as is usual with the Virgin Atlantic Flight. Check-in was very quick and straight-forward, which is always a bonus after 9 hours on the plane combined with jet-lag! They were also very accommodating with our travel party; we had 2 rooms booked separately (one for the 3 of us and one for my dad and stepmum) which were initially in two separate buildings – not practical as we were sharing a car. This was quickly changed to allow us two rooms in the same building and I was very pleased with how the staff were able to help us.
Our rooms were located in Congress Park (the area I had requested, another lovely little bonus!) and had been newly refurbished with soft furnishings. The room looked lovely, I felt the new furnishings really made a difference to it; and it was also very clean! I had heard some reports about rooms here being on the small side, but our Deluxe Studio certainly had room for all 3 of us, even with a travel cot up! However, with 1 queen bed and 1 pull-out sofa, I could see how these rooms may not work for a family of 4 with everyone needing a bad. But for us, it was perfect, especially with a little sitting area for the evenings. We also had a fantastic balcony, with a view of Downtown Disney; not all rooms have this though, so if it’s important to you, request the view.
Saratoga Springs has some beautiful landscaped grounds and I loved walking around them. The Resort is quite spread out, which wasn’t an issue for us, but may be for travel parties catering for someone with mobility issues. The lakes and gardens created such a peaceful atmosphere, which was a great contrast when looking out towards the hustle and bustle of Downtown Disney, especially at night when it was all lit up.
The main building was very pretty and a lovely place to spend some time. Artist’s Palette, located in the main building was the one-stop-shop for Quick Service Meals, merchandise and foodstuffs for your kitchen/kitchenette in your room. There was a good range of merchandise in the shop, although I did find it on the small side compared to the shops in Animal Kingdom Lodge and Port Orleans Riverside. The food area, on the other hand, was very well equipped; plenty of choice and options, and any food was had was tasty and served promptly.
One of my favourite things about this Resort was the main pool area. We used the quiet pool close to our rooms a few times, and it was brilliant for a quick dip, but the main pool area was fantastic for our needs. In particular, the Donald Duck splash zone was perfect for our toddler (and other toddlers too!) The recreational area and a snack bar where also located close by, which made this an area we spent quite a lot of time at. They also featured ‘Movies Under The Stars’ here, which is a perfect wind-down to your day if you don’t want to spend it in the Theme Parks
Overall, I really enjoyed our stay at Saratoga Springs. While a bit further out form the Theme Parks, it was a short walk to Downtown Disney, perfect for fans of the area. The amenities were great and the staff were all very helpful. A pleasant surprise with this Resort is that the rooms were not a small as any research I had done had led me to believe, and the new decor made them feel very comfortable. I would like to return in future to see how the Villas compare to the Deluxe Studios.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa was our first holiday back to Florida since our honeymoon at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 2 1/2 years earlier. This time we came back with our son (20 months) and Vikki’s dad and step-mum. It was great to get back, especially for our son’s first time. It was also Vikki’s step-mums first time to Disney.
We flew out on Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick, after a connecting flight earlier in the morning from Dublin on Aer Lingus. The flight passed off with relative ease. Travelling with an infant we were fortunate to get a bulk-head seat with a travel cot. On arrival, we picked up our car, a Jeep Patriot.
We arrived at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa in the early evening, passing security and arriving up to the lobby. The drive up from the gate is open, passing one of the holes on Disney’s golf courses. At the lobby the race course theme starts in earnest, with an iron horse statue.
We checked in with relative ease, taking advantage of the (then) new pin system to secure our room cards. We had separate rooms, one for us, and one for Vikki’s dad and step-mum. Initially these rooms were in separate buildings, at opposite ends of the resort. Fortunately the cast member checking us in was able to get us rooms in the same building at Congress Park.
We had contacted Disney ahead of our holiday to see if we could request Congress Park. This was because of a few reasons,
- It was a little further from the main resort area, so hopefully a little quieter
- It overlooked (Downtown) Disney Springs
- It had its own pool area
- It had a laundrette
We got treated with the room we had. Our balcony opened out on to the gardens at Congress Park, looking further onto (Downtown) Disney Springs. The in-laws had a balcony too, albeit smaller and overlooking some flora and the carpark.
We stayed in a studio, which in addition to the usual amenities at the Resorts, was a small kitchenette. Equipped with a small sink, microwave and toaster, it meant we could put together some food for ourselves in the evening, or first thing in the morning. The rooms had recently (I was told by Vikki) been updated with new “soft” furnishings. The rooms were well appointed, and certainly lived up to the deluxe title in quality of materials.
We had booked to stay for 2 weeks, staying here because it offered a 30% discount. We also had the $100 spend card.
Around the resort we found plenty of use for the walking/jogging trails. I took the opportunity for some fresh air and took our son out a few times to discover the resort.
There are a number of large lagoons with a water fountain in the middle. Coupled with the decorative flora, they really help build a relaxing environment. You wouldn’t realise you are next to the busy (Downtown) Disney Springs.
At Congress Park we used the pool sparingly. With a toddler the pool wasn’t ideal because the shallow end was a stepped entry, rather than a gradual slope. It wasn’t practical for a toddler who liked to walk. That aside, it was a quieter pool area than the main area. There was an alternative pool area by the Paddock, too, although we didn’t use it.
At the main area of the resort, the Carriage House, as it’s known, is home to the lobby, restaurants and shops. There were some pleasant seating areas, and some private areas if you needed to get some work done.
Further through the seating areas, the shop and quick service restaurant, The Artist’s Palette, are situated side-by-side. The shop is one of the smaller ones we’ve seen, however, it does offer a reasonable variety of merchandise. The quick service restaurant offers the usual delights of a quick service restaurant, as well as refrigerators full of goods for the guests to cook in their studios/villas.
Around the corner is the Turf Club Bar and Grill. We didn’t use this restaurant, for no reason other than we opted to stay in the parks.
For the golfer, downstairs in the Carriage House is the Golf Shop. The shop appeared to be well equipped with a variety of clubs, and golfing accessories. The resort also offered tennis courts and a spa. On this occasion we didn’t use these facilities. The spa was also closed for renovation during our stay.
The main pool is well fitted, having a shallow area that offers a shallow gradient entry for youngsters. There is also a splash zone for kids. The slide too offers great fun for the older kids, and young at heart! We also found benefit in the jacuzzi. The main pool area also features a pool-side bar, offering drinks and light snacks.
We also availed of the community hall, playing some of the games – notably table tennis.
In the evenings, movies under the stars would take place. Here they inflate a large projector screen, and show Disney movies for the resort guests. It’s a great way to unwind. Everyone grabs a sun lounger and circles around the screen, grabbing drinks in their refillable resort mugs, and getting popcorn from the shop (snack credit on the Dining Plan).
I enjoyed our time at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. I had read that it was a large resort and spread out. I know that it’s not everyone’s preference, but I liked that everything didn’t feel on top of you. The open space is quite relaxing, especially with the sound of the water from the fountains. One word of caution though, whilst walking, is to ensure you pay attention by the roads for the Disney transport buses. All in all, a great location with good sized rooms.