Values vs. Moderates: Worth The Cost to Upgrade?

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Values vs. Moderates: Worth The Cost to Upgrade?

I see this question asked a lot on Disney message boards:  Should I upgrade from a Disney value resort to a moderate resort?   For my money, the answer is easy:  No.  I realize this is an unpopular opinion and it probably makes me sound cheap, but hear me out.  I promise this isn’t entirely about wanting to spend more money in Disney signature restaurants. Okay, maybe it is.  But priorities are important, right?

So what’s the difference between a value and a moderate?  I’m glad you asked:

Theme:  Disney moderates have a more grown-up theme.  If you’re looking for a romantic weekend, Pop Century is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.  All Stars, especially when cheerleading and football competitions are in town, should definitely not be the first thing that comes to mind.  Kids tend to love the values and some adults enjoy the theming, but overall, the moderates are more pleasing to the eye.

ADVANTAGE:  Moderates, but only for those who actually spend time at their resort.

Food:  Moderates resorts have a sit-down restaurant.  These aren’t the type of Disney restaurants you probably go out of your way to go to.  In other words, you’re not going to leave the Contemporary Resort and head over to the Pepper Market for dinner, but if you happen to be staying at the resort, they’re fine.  Values have food courts, which have a lot of variety. They’re also inexpensive and kids like them.

ADVANTAGE:  Values.  I love  Disney food, don’t get me wrong, but the table service restaurants at the moderates aren’t good enough to justify upgrading from a value to a moderate.  And if you’re on the dining plan, are you really going to waste a table service credit on Boatright’s when you can eat at Le Cellier or Boma for the same credit?  No, I didn’t think so.

Rooms:  Moderate rooms run around 314 square feet; values a mere 260.  That amount of space means you can sleep five people instead of four (the fifth using a cot, which costs extra, or a trundle bed depending on the resort) and you’ll get a slightly larger vanity in the bathroom area.   It also means you’ll  have more space for a Pack & Play if you’re traveling with a small child.  Moderates also come with refrigerators.  You’ll have to pay $10 per day to rent a fridge at a value.  If you want to avoid that cost, go to the Disboards and participate in one of their fridge swaps.   It’s a fun way to meet people.

ADVANTAGE:  Tie.  Unless you need to sleep five to a room, that extra 60 square feet isn’t doing much for you.  You’re still getting the same two double beds (some Coronado rooms have queens) and the same sheets as your friends over in the values.  Same pillows too.

Amenities:  While both values and moderates are beautifully landscaped, there’s no denying that the mods have prettier grounds by most standards.  Moderates have slides, hot tubs and more pools.  They also have lounges where you can get an adult beverage and enjoy (fairly tame) nighttime entertainment.   In addition, moderates have adequate fitness centers if you’re thus inclined.

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ADVANTAGE:  Moderates, but again, it depends on how much time  you’ll be spending at your resort.

Transportation:  I’m going to just call this one a tie.   Both levels of resorts have adequate bus service and I would be hard pressed to find a huge difference between value and moderate buses.

Service:   You’re going to get the same Disney service at a value as you will at a deluxe.  I secretly think that  Disney value cast members are kind of like the smart but akward girl at the Sadie Hawkins dance:  They try harder because they’re the underdog.  Not that I know anything about that sort of thing.  Ahem.  Move along, nothing to see here!

ADVANTAGE:  Tie.  They’re both good.

Cost:  Okay, so if you’re discounting cost entirely, you’re probably going to pick a moderate, but in the real world that’s really not an option, so let’s discuss numbers.  A week in November at Pop in a standard room runs a reasonable $849.  A standard room at Caribbean Beach Resort is $1361 for that same week, a difference of $512. That’s a big difference and only you can decide if the nicer amenities and theming are worth it.  Do you spend enough time in your room to justify that cost?

But perhaps you need the extra space.  Maybe you’re like me and you have a family of five.  What do you do then?  Well, I might just rent a second room at a value or go with a value suite.  In both cases,  I’ll pay just a bit more than for a moderate  but I’ll get a lot of extra space, room for the adults to spread out after the kids go to bed, and an extra bathroom.  Even more likely, I’d probably rent points from a private owner at a Disney Vacation Club property.  That same week in November at Villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge costs 153 points for a one-bedroom, which comes out at around $1530 for the week assuming I pay the standard $10 per point, less if I find an owner who wants to unload points on short notice.   For less than $200 more than I’d pay at a moderate, I’m getting a full kitchen, a separate sleeping area, and an amazing deluxe resort experience.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Disney resorts.  You’ll find here that I probably write about them more than anything else. But as often as I go, I have to save money where I can and what I do save, I want to spend on experiences and food.   So don’t be surprised if you see me at Pop.  I’ll be the one on the way to  California Grill.

For a more in depth look at the differences between moderate and value pools, check out this post here.  Want to know more about renting points?  You can read about it here or check out the DVC boards at Disboards.com. Mouseowners is also a great source for DVC information and point rentals.  You can also read about my favorite value resort here.

Photo:  Getty.

Values vs. Moderates: Worth The Cost to Upgrade?

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