Why You Shouldn’t Stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Please note this site has financial relationships with American Express and this post may contain affiliate links. Read my Advertiser Disclosure policy here to learn more about my partners.

My very first trip to Walt Disney World was as a ten year old girl with my family. We did one big family Disney trip growing up where we drove to Orlando from Texas, played at Disney and the surrounding attractions for about a week, rode absolutely everything that existed at the time, and we stayed on Disney property at the then still pretty new Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. It was a grand trip, and until last week it was the only time that I had stayed at a 100% true Disney resort.

The Blue Business℠ Plus Credit Card from American Express

As an adult I have been lucky enough to return to Walt Disney World several times, and I like to think my lodging choices have improved each time as my knowledge and resources grew. Over the last 15 years of visiting Disney as an adult I have gone from sleeping on the floor of a friend’s Orlando timeshare, to Pricelining a $29 hotel about 30 minutes away from the parks, to staying at the nearby Hyatt Grand Cypress using free nights, to the staying at the on-site but not quite a Disney Swan using SPG points, and now after about 25 years I have finally returned to a true Disney Resort.

We didn’t just stay at any Disney Resort, we shot all the way to the top and stayed at one of the original Disney resorts right on the monorail, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Even though we did a decent job keeping costs as low as possible, it was still a splurge. My biggest piece of advice if you are considering splurging to stay at Disney’s Polynesian instead of using points or deals to stay off-site or saving some cash by staying at a less expensive Disney property is…don’t do it*. Here’s why you shouldn’t stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, plus a video giving a 90 second glimpse into what it is really like to stay at The Poly.

At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort you feel like you are on a relaxing island vacation filled with lush plants, lagoons, and more from the moment you step off the included Disney’s Magical Express bus from the airport.

After check-in you walk through the lobby and to an open green play area and look out at the volcano pool while listening to piped in island music. You might even make an immediate pit stop on the way for some cool dole whip. It’s almost perfect, so don’t do it.

You might even go for an evening swim in one of the two pools, one of which is open until 11PM at night.

From the main volcano pool you can see the Magic Kingdom’s evening fireworks. If you don’t want to be wet while you watch the fireworks, that’s okay because you can see them from the beach or really from almost anywhere at The Polynesian. If you want the full effect there are some speakers spread out around the property where you can even hear the soundtrack that goes along with the fireworks. It’s all too easy, too magical, so don’t do it.

If Disney characters are your thing, you can book a character breakfast at the on-site Ohana restaurant where your crew can not only enjoy all-you-care-to-eat eggs, sausage, biscuits, Mickey shaped waffles, and Kona coffee, but you also get to meet characters like Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Lilo, and Stitch as they waltz right up to your table.

If that isn’t enough fun to kick off your day there is also a kid’s parade that goes around the restaurant every hour or so. Again though, being able to walk (or be carried) right from your room to that fun is probably too fun, too easy, so don’t do it.

When it is time to head to EPCOT or Magic Kingdom all you need to do is hop on the monorail. For Magic Kingdom it is likely easiest to take the monorail from the second level of the lobby. For EPCOT it is easiest to walk the 5 minutes to the Transportation and Ticketing Center to get a direct shot from there, otherwise you need to transfer from the lobby monorail to the EPCOT monorail at the TTC. You get to walk from your room, to the monorail, and then be deposited directly at the gates of those parks if you stay at The Polynesian.

After the evening fireworks at Magic Kingdom there will be a line of exactly four million people trying to ride the monorail to the parking lots and such at the TTC, but you don’t get on that monorail. You get on the one with the much shorter line to three deluxe resorts including The Poly. Again, too easy, so don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing it. PS, the resort monorail actually stops at the TTC as well, just in case you are parked there and want to avoid the eleventy billion person line…

When you stay at the Polynesian you have almost immediate access to Mickey and all things Disney, but you also have a literal island themed oasis awaiting you when you return from the various Disney parks and activities. You can eat sushi and sweet rolls at Kona, have a feast at ‘Ohanas (make reservations 180 days out if you can), or hit up the food court options at Captain Cooks all just by walking from your room. No buses, parking, or monorails required for those solid dining options. But, you don’t want to get used to that, so don’t even try it.

At Polynesian Village, and all Disney resorts, you can do everything from open you hotel door to charge lunch to access your FastPasses with a swipe of your included Magic Bands, and you don’t want to get used to being able to head out of your room without cash, your wallet, purse, key cards, and more, so don’t go down that road at all.

Enjoying the downtime at your resort as much as you do your time on the rides in the parks can get addictive, so I caution you against giving it a shot.

Seriously, don’t stay at Disney’s Polynesian Resort unless you are ready for it to be your best Disney experience ever. It is so good that it will be hard to stay elsewhere knowing how easy, relaxing, and enjoyable things can be at this on-the-monorail deluxe resort.

Of course I say ‘don’t stay at The Polynesian’ tongue-in-cheek, as we absolutely loved our time here. However, I am serious when I warn that staying here may spoil you to the point that you don’t want to go back to staying at an off-property less expensive option, or even on property at the Swan, but without the true Disney Resort perks and experience. We seem to come to Disney World about every other year or so, and it will be very hard to convince myself to go back to staying elsewhere….but my wallet won’t appreciate that change in travel patterns quite as much as my girls enjoyed their lei welcoming.

Honestly, while my girls are young, we may now be in a Poly-or-bust situation for Disney trips. It was that good, that easy, that fun. On the one hand I’m thrilled the resort lived up to my very hyped and decades old expectations, but on the other hand it will make Disney more expensive for us. So while I am kidding when I say don’t stay here, be careful about when you start dabbling your toes into these deluxe Disney resorts because you may not want to do Disney any other way once you taste the Mickey shaped waffles and watch the fireworks located just steps from your hotel room.

In my next post in this Disney series I’ll give insight into the two entry-level rooms at the Polynesian including the standard hotel room and the studio villa that we booked with rented Disney Vacation Club points.

I’d love to hear if you also became hooked on the Polynesian after enjoying some Dole Whip by the volcano pool!

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. Haha MP. I went through what you described in 2006. We stayed at the all stars every time we went to disney from 2002 to early 2005. We then rented DVC points in 2005 and 2006 at Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, Boardwalk, and Wilderness Lodge. You think you are hooked with the studio at the Poly? Try a 1BR, 2BR or grand villa. Having a separate bedroom for the kids, full kitchen, laundry facilities, and a family room. That is what got us to buy into the DVC. I love the poly, but I have a love/hate relationship with the monorail loop. The monorail is never as fast as I want it to be and they definitely have their share of delays. Even with the smaller rooms, we still love staying at the swan/dolphin just because we can walk to the studios and epcot so quickly. Our family might have a “lack of patience” problem. 🙂

    • Agreed! Monorail is unpredictable these days, but my legs can always carry me without a wait to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from our DVC room at the Boardwalk! We have stayed at the Poly, but in addition to the monorail inconsistency, DVC rooms require many more points there than at the Boardwalk!

  2. I agree with everything except that the MONORAIL is 1940s technology and breaks down very frequently and has been prone to severe delays especially since that accident few years back. All the Magic KIngdom resorts are awesome but the monorail advantage no longer exists. At times it will take you 45-60 minutes to go from Poly to MK. We prefer the boats or if the bus option is present or better still UBER it since it is very cheap. If you go to DisneyWorld as frequently as I go you will come to realize that MONORAIL is crap and Disney markets this MONORAIL advantage to infrequent guests who are not aware of its limitations!

    Other than that Poly rocks! Take UBER within Disneyworld!

    • I hear that about the monorail and I’m sure it is true…it just hasn’t really happened to us yet so I still love it, but I do love having the other bus, boat, or UBER options readily available.

      • I have taken the mono many times over my life and it has never once broken down or even been delayed. Love it!

  3. Stayed at the poly resort when I was 12. My parents worked a ton of over-time and pinched every penny for that trip. Back then it was an expensive $100+ per night! Really fond memories from that trip. The tough part becomes how to split the time between the fun at the parks vs the fun at the resort.

  4. If you love the Poly, then try going to the Disney Aulani in Hawaii, my family just returned from a 8 day trip, using rented vacation club points, and it was AMAZING……..I like staying at the Disney Resorts along the boardwalk, because of the ability to park hop into EPCOT every night for dinner and the ability to drink at the bars along the boardwalk at night.

    • It is penciled in for sure…early June looks to be a great time on DVC points. If not summer 18 then summer 19 for sure!

      • Aulani is awesome and we do it every year during new year’s. Just be aware of the limited food options within and nearby the resort although things have changed dramatically with food options in Ko Olina and Kapolei in the last 5 years. In any case be prepared for the sticker shock for food expenses especially if you are doing decent restaurants for dinner. for a family of 4 or 5

        We usually splurge on dinners every night and eat breakfast in the room 100% and sometimes lunch in the room. Getting a burger for $15+ and cocktails for 15+ is still has value when you are served on the pool or the beach! There is a Costco and Target and Walmart about 4 miles away in Kapolei and that’s our first stop on the way from the airport to Aulani for breakfast, lunch and liquor options!

  5. Wife and I ate and got Dole Whip at the Poly when we were there in March (stayed at Port Orleans which was excellent), and it really made us really want to stay there! Especially since the next time we go we’ll have kid(s) in tow, and if I was a kid I would definitely want to stay there!

    • I have only seen it from the outside and it does look quite impressive. I can see why people would love it, but for the kids and me I think the fun theming and activities/restaurants at The Poly are a better match than the fancier Victorian atmosphere of Grand Floridian, but that is personal preference. The location is very near to The Poly and fantastic for Magic Kingdom and decent for EPCOT. That said, if I win the lottery or someone else wants to fund the adventure, I’d be happy to try it out and report back with first-hand comparative info. 😉

      • You should go to the Grand Floridian for a character breakfast or dinner. We have done both and they are so much fun, and oh my… the Grand Floridian is fabulous! We will never afford to stay but every time we go for a meal there we hang out in the Lobby and on the grounds and the staff couldn’t be nicer or more welcoming. There is always a “big band” playing in the lobby and the atmosphere is truly magical!

    • I have stayed at both the Grand Floridian and the Villas at the Grand Floridian (DVC). For a family, I think the Polynesian is a better value and experience. My wife and I stayed at the Grand Floridian before we had kids and loved it. We thought it might be a little stuffy, but it wasn’t. The lobby is beautiful and you will hear a live orchestra from time to time. We have dined at Victoria and Albert’s on two separate occasions and thought that it was an amazing experience. I highly recommend a special occasion dinner here. The Grand Floridian is quieter than the Poly, but I think the Poly has more activities and kid-friendly theming than the Grand Floridian. It is the worst monorail hotel for getting to epcot. It can take 45 minutes with 2 resort loop stops and a transfer to the epcot monorail. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

  6. This is exactly how I felt about J class travel. I always flew Y everywhere but once decided to redeem 30000 Aeroplan points for a round-trip between Seoul and Singapore in SQ J (as opposed to 20 000 in Y), and flying has never been the same. Even with those angled lie-flats on their A330. The check-in, the lounge, the champagne, the book-the-cook. Once addicted came CX J, OZ F, CA F, UA J , SA J etc etc. In March when I was forced to fly 13 hours in Ethiopian Y I cursed myself for ever peeking behind that curtain. But it all looks magical!

  7. Sounds like you fell into the same trap we did! I won’t even consider staying at a non-Disney resort anymore and my all-time fave is the Grand Floridian since my husband and I went there on our honeymoon, although Polynesian is great too. It’s expensive for sure but I feel like with renting DVC points, going in the off season when possible etc, and using a few other tricks it’s doable for us. We are trying Animal Kingdom villas for the first time this December, it won’t have the convenience factor of the monorail resorts but we are really excited to experience the uniqueness of the resort.

    Glad to hear you had an awesome trip! Did you feel like the service was good at the Polynesian? I’ve had a few issues there and even at the Grand Floridian too that I felt like should not happen at a resort of those price points but yet I keep going back! 🙂

    • I expect we will try Animal Kingdom in a one-bedroom at some point, too! So the service is interesting, and I will hit more on this in the next post. The service was all very friendly at Polynesian, but things I have gotten used to with even mid-level elite status at non-Disney properties take an act of God at Disney properties so that is just an expectations adjustment. It’s a friendly no, but some things are a no when I don’t think they always have to be. At dinner our service started out a bit slow at Kona which was noticeable just because of how hungry and thirsty the toddler was at the moment, but otherwise I don’t have any service specific complaints at all.

      • It sounds like we are on the same page! The issues I’ve had haven’t been major but I’ve been surprised with the amount of effort it has taken on my part to get them resolved. Things like the room not having a sheet for the pack n play — not a big deal but after three or four calls of them saying they’d send it right up, it never came and it took me going to the front desk the next day to get one. Another one — last trip our magic bands stopped letting us into our building and room. Several trips back and froth from lobby to the room with a friendly cast member but ultimately he decided there was nothing he could do and we’d have to wait till morning — we had to spend the rest of the night going in and out of patio door, which seems less than an ideal scenario.

        These aren’t vacation ruining situations by any means but I guess I’d just expect more from a resort at this price point, especially a company like Disney that is supposedly known for hospitality. By contrast I had a stay at a hotel in Chicago (fraction of the price of Polynesian) recently where they forgot to perform the requested turndown service. They went way above and beyond by immediately doing it, apologizing and then sending up someone with a hand written apology note and a box of chocolates.

        Oh and Kona!! I had forgotten that it used to by one of my favorites at Disney but a few years ago we had such a bad experience with service and food quality that I haven’t been back since. I’m sure it was a fluke, maybe its time to give them another chance. 🙂

  8. Ahhh! You have made me so excited for our trip — we are only doing one night at the Poly (first timer here too!) on rented DVC points before switching to the Dolphin, but I intend to soak up every minute of it… Ohana.. fireworks… pools… looks so magical!! I can’t wait!
    The video was great 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa, so glad you liked the video! I know videos generally have such a different audience than written posts so I’m still playing with the best way to use them. As for your stay, I’m so excited for you! Yes, soak it in. Sounds like you already know this, but absolutely factor in time to enjoy the resort – especially if you only have one night.

      • yep! No park time – just resort time for that night (we did the same for AKL last trip – one night and it was amazing to just enjoy the resort). It still won’t be enough… like you said, I might be spoiled after this little taste 🙂

  9. I use to love Disney but now days it is too crowded, overpriced, the food quality is very poor and most of the rides are out of date. Now days, I prefer Universal and their resorts. No waiting in lines at the park when staying at the resorts, new cutting edge technology in their rides (even their old rides such as Men in Black is much better than Buzz Lightyear) and the food is very good to excellent. Also they just opened a water park that is incredible.

    Disney is now the definition of a tourist trap.

    • “Disney is now the definition of a tourist trap.”

      Unfortunately now this statement is so very true!! Disney’s well on its way to becoming the “Great American Rip-off” —–

  10. Looks so amazing! My kids are younger than yours (oldest is 2 and little sis is 2 mos) so I can’t yet justify that expense for something they won’t get more out of, but a Disney trip is definitely in our future. How did your 2 year old do at the park? Really enjoying your series on this!

    • She did great. Honestly I think it is a fun age where characters and all are real! Still free at two, strollers are simple, and I hope to bring mine again just before she turns three.

  11. Does this property offer any free food? I’ve heard the Grand Floridian has multiple complimentary meals throughout the day including breakfast, tea, evening snacks, etc? I assume it is just because there is an even higher premium to stay at the GF but I didn’t know if the other on monorail resorts had complimentary meals as well?

    • There are no complimentary snacks on any disney property unless you book concierge options which runs about ~$100-$150 extra per night. In my opinion its not worth it unless you get it as a part of a package. I rather spend that $100 wisely on what I want to eat or drink!

    • It is essentially buying points for that stay from a Disney vacation club owner. I’ll do a whole post on that soon.

  12. haha, very cute and I’ve stayed at the Contemporary Resort “eleventy billion” years ago, and yes, it was great.

    Staying on-site makes a huge difference at Disney World.

  13. It looks like your trip was amazing! I would love to stay at the Polynesian with my kids sometime in the near future! Your girls’ LuLaRoe leggings are super cute! Do they love them?

  14. My favorite Disney World hotels to stay is the Boardwalk Villas and the Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas. I purchase points from a Disney time share owner that I know and get a deep discount. When I do not have money for that expense I go to travelpointology.com and subscribe to Travelpointology Plans and I stay for free to the Swan or Dolphin which is the right across from the Boardwalk and has all the transportation that Disney offers. I walk to Epcot and take a boat to Hollywood Studios. Its the best location because its centrally located when going to all four themeparks.

  15. I think resort choice is largely a matter of age. When my three boys were very young, the Contemporary was our resort of choice because you can WALK to the Magic Kingdom and don’t have to rely on Monorail (although we used it quite a bit). And we would go for a whole week, spending time in the pools, etc. Now that they are teens – but still love Disney – our trips are usually 4 days, and 100% park focused. They don’t care about swimming or hanging out at the resort, the theming is not important to them (although I still love it!), and we need 2 rooms, so we switched over to Value Resorts and rent a car so we can come and go as we please. At this point in our lives, that makes the most sense for us. We can get 2 rooms at a Value resort for the price we used to pay for one at the Contemporary.

    People who say Disney is a tourist trap and overcrowded are usually the ones who show up Christmas week or during Spring Break without pre-planning and are shocked to find long lines. If you plan ahead (and that’s a large part of the fun for me!) and go at the right time of year, I still think it is one of the most magical places for a family.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing! Next month is our 1st time at a Disney property. I was beginning to second guess staying at the Polynesian. Your delightful description has renewed my enthusiasm for the trip!

  17. Great trip report! Glad you enjoyed the Poly. I would like to stay each Disney resort, so the Poly is still on our list. Our girls are older, so we like staying at Bay Lake Towers or Beach Club so you can walk right into the MK or Epcot. Love the video!

  18. DO WANT! Wow! I would love to stay at the Poly next. But first, Disneyland! We will stay at a points-friendly hotel across the street, but I will also keep my eye out for a Chase redemption for Grand Californian because I’m a brat and I do what I want.

    At WDW, we’ve stayed at Art of Animation, Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Villas (points rental) and the Contemporary. The Contemporary was a free upgrade from Disney because we had booked Wilderness Lodge (which we LOVE) and after our reservation was booked, they announced some pretty significant renovations at WL that we preferred to avoid. So, Contemporary for same price. Amazing.

    It was fantastic to be able to walk to Magic Kingdom! A little more awkward to get to EPCOT because you have to transfer monorails at TTC. Poly makes more sense for getting around to both.

    We also do split stays on our WDW trips. 4 or 5 nights at one resort, then let Disney relocate our crap to the next resort. Feels like two vacations in one and we get to experience best of all areas. We really liked staying at EPCOT area resorts, too. Walkable or boat to EPCOT, and walkable to DHS.

    Pack with a split stay in mind, and it makes it easier. We didn’t even open 1 or 2 suitcases until we got to our second stop, for instance.

  19. Nothing beats walking into DCA from the Grand Californian in my opinion. There are plenty of great ways to stay off-site in California, but as Disney hotels go, Grand Californian is ALL THAT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *