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In my mind, Walt Disney World is a special vacation destination even for those who don’t necessarily live and breathe all things Mouse all the time. We love visiting national parks, big cities, little cities, islands, mountains, etc. but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also enjoy periodic vacations to the Theme Park Capital of the World, Orlando. I find that Disney has family vacations down to a science since they not only provide the big attractions, but they also take care of the “small” things very well. From accommodating food allergies, to providing baby care rooms, to having a rider swap process in place so that families with young kids can still enjoy the big rides, they make having a good time easy.
Of course that level of quality does not come cheap. While there are plenty of ways to save, a Disney vacation is still going to be an investment. One big component of that investment, especially if you want to stay on Disney property, is lodging.
The great news for miles and points fans is that you can stay on Disney property at a fantastic resort while using (or earning) Starwood Preferred Guest points. Not only that, but the price per night on points is actually very palatable!
Both the Walt Disney World Swan and the Walt Disney World Dolphin are SPG properties with the Swan technically being a Westin and the Dolphin technically a Sheraton. The two properties are connected by a covered walkway and share amenities like a pool complex, beach, etc. While I have only ever stayed at the Swan, the main difference between the two properties in my mind is that for the rooms with two beds, the Swan offers queen beds while the Dolphin offers smaller double beds. If having a slightly larger bed will be more comfortable for your crew then the edge goes to the Swan, but otherwise it is more or less a toss up.
These are large properties with a combined total of over 2,200 rooms and suites, but even with that massive inventory they still sell out on peak dates. For this reason when we planned our vacation on a late October weekend to “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” we booked our award rooms over a year in advance. These busy weekends can and do sell out, so we wanted to be sure to stay using just 10,000 points SPG points per night from our Starwood Preferred Guest Amex instead of paying the $300+ per night room rates that can pop up. Also remember you can get the fifth night free on points!
Since this was only our second trip as a family of four with an infant who was still not the world’s best sleeper, we very much wanted some extra space in our room. Even though we booked a standard room with points I called the hotel a month or two in advance of the trip asked about the options to secure an upgrade with cash. Since they were already very full during our visit there weren’t too many options available, but we were able to secure a larger room with an alcove for an additional $90/night. This wasn’t the best upgrade deal I have ever negotiated, but it was the best I could do given the high occupancy level.
However, when we arrived at the hotel we were in for a treat at check-in. As I typically do when traveling with the whole family, I inquired at check-in about any potentially larger rooms or suites that might be available and I was told we were already upgraded into a one bedroom suite. Cue inner happy dance…and slight confusion over how we got so lucky.
As the check-in process went on we were told about our Platinum SPG perks like complimentary continental breakfast for two, a couple of free drinks, waived daily $18 resort fees, etc. I did my best to hide my confusion since I am 99% sure my husband no longer has SPG Platinum status for 2015. However, he did have SPG Platinum status way back when we made the reservation, so I’m guessing somehow Disney magic carried that status through on the reservation. I know better than to question things when luck strikes so we said thank you about a hundred times and scurried up to see the one-bedroom suite.
All the sudden the not-so-spectacular upgrade we had negotiated in advance turned into something really magical!
Walt Disney World Swan One-Bedroom Suite
The one-bedroom suite at the Swan is a true one-bedroom suite with a separate bedroom with a king bed, sitting chair, desk, and full bathroom (which shower) in one room.
Through the connecting door is a good sized living room with a pull out couch, dining table, second bath with a bathtub, and a wet bar area.
We turned the wet bar area into a changing station, claimed the sitting chair in the bedroom as the “nursing station”, and put the crib in a corner of the living room furthest from the other beds. Basically, we babified the room straight away while our littlest one supervised with a very serious face!
I was relieved when I saw the second bathroom had a bathtub since that makes bathing little ones so much easier than nightly showers.
In addition to being thrilled with all the space that the suite offered, I also noted that the room decor had been significantly updated since our last visit a few years ago. Everything looked fresh and modern. The one downside to our room was that it was the one on the hallway closest to the elevators and the meeting rooms on the second floor. We happened to be staying during a conference, so not only was there fairly signifiant noise from the sessions during the day, but one night it sounded like a crew was working very, very late into the night/early into the morning to prep a room directly above ours for something as it sounded like furniture moving or elephants marching or something very loud going on for hours.
There was also fairly significant noise from outside until well after midnight thanks to an event that was going on. Thankfully that didn’t seem to impact our girls’ sleep since they were zonked from Disney!
Despite some of the noise issues, we absolutely loved our suite at the Swan. It exceeded our expectations and the extra space really made a world of difference while traveling with an infant and five year old. We don’t always get lucky with upgrades on our trips, but I am so grateful this was one of the times we did.
In the second half of this review I’ll talk about the Disney perks extended to Swan and Dolphin guests, the on-site amenities such as the pools, character breakfast, distance to the parks, and more.
Have you stayed at the Swan or Dolphin? What was your experience?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.