In February, we took a family trip to Walt Disney World as a final 'hurrah' before my husband left for a nearly year-long deployment. Because of the nature of military life, we had to book the room last minute, and all that was available was club level at the Grand Floridian.
We had stayed at the Grand Floridian resort in the past, and knew we loved it because of it's old-world charm and close vicinity to the Magic Kingdom, but club level was something new to us. In all honesty, we had never even considered staying club level. For one thing, the price is higher - in general, about $200 more per night. Now I KNOW that is hefty, and Disney's deluxe resorts aren't cheap - is it REALLY worth it to upgrade?
The answer to that question is both yes and no.....depending on your situation. When I'm chatting with my clients about their family vacation and their desires, budget, vacation style, etc. (schedule your free vacation planning session here), I know there's not a one-vacation-to-fit all! But for many families, club level absolutely makes sense! Read on to see what is included in Disney's Club Level and if it would be a good fit for your next magical getaway.
Where will I find Club Level Access?
Club Level is only available at Disney's deluxe resorts. This includes:
-Disney's Contemporary Resort
-Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
-Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
-Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
-Disney's Beach Club Resort
-Disney's Boardwalk Inn
-Disney's Wilderness Lodge
-Disney's Yacht Club Resort
When staying club level, sometimes called concierge level, you are privately escorted at the front of the resort to the club lounge for check-in. While my husband dealt with check-in details, my kids and myself were able to grab snacks, drinks and the kids watched Mickey cartoons. Then we were escorted to our room, located just steps from the lounge, and our luggage was delivered. The service was by far above and beyond that of any of my 20+ Disney Resort stays.
Morning Disney Club Level Selections
Hands down, my favorite perk about staying Club Level is the food and drink offerings, located in the concierge lounge. Breakfast with my crew of 4 children, plus my husband and myself, can easy cost us $50+ each morning, and that would just be for a quick service meal of coffee, juice, bagels, cereal, eggs, ect.).
Coffee service begins in the lounge at 6:30am, and breakfast is available at 7am. I admit the breakfast selections were sometimes lacking or boring - usually the same foods each day. However, it was definitely fresh and delicious and EASY! Getting my kids around in the morning and to a separate location and through lines before park opening is a hassle, lets just say it. So being able to pop out of the room to grab a bite to eat was a lifesaver!
Each day breakfast selections included fruit, pastries, yogurt, hot oatmeal with toppings, meat and cheeses, cinnamon buns, mini quiche, cereal with milk, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Water and soda in cans is also available. On select days (two days during our five day stay), we were surprised with Mickey waffles being served in the lounge with butter, syrup, strawberries and fresh whipped cream!
At Disney, time is money, and I felt the quick breakfast in the lounge was time well spent!
Mid-Day Refreshments in Disney's Club Level Lounge
During the hours of 11:30a-3:30p, you will find snack-like offerings. Daily selections included munchies like cookies, goldfish, rice crispsies, scones with jelly, veggies and fruit. A vast tea, coffee and hot chocolate selection is also set out for after 'tea time'.
Again, meats, cheeses, croissants, and one or two hot and savory snacks were offered, as well. One day it was stuffed mushroom, another day salmon bites with capers and cream cheese. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches were also available each day, along with a daily soup selection.
Now I know some review did not think these refreshments made up a meal, but for my family, I will tell you it certainly did. We ate "lunch" here at the lounge nearly every day that week. Let's face it, if you have picky children who probably will only pick at their food anyway, it's best to let them pick and choose from the selections of 'finger foods'! My children will eat raw veggies, cheese and crackers, fruit, and PB & J happily for a meal. I enjoyed the hearty soups with a side of bread and cheese. It was light but filling and satisfying.
We are park snackers - so for us, it made total sense to fill up on appetizer-like lunches while saving room for Mickey Bars, popcorn, and cheeseburger egg rolls in the parks.
Evening Selections In Disney's Club Level Lounge
Between 5 - 7:30pm, evening refreshments were offered. These, again, included appetizer and hors d'oeuvres, both hot and cold. The selection was increased from lunch - several more hot offerings were added. Each day, there was a larger roasting pan with something a bit more substantial in it that my kids loved - one day it was chicken nuggets, another day macaroni and cheese, and still another ravioli in a tomato sauce. Other warm selections included meatballs, crabcakes, and a fresh pasta bar, among others. Additional tarts, cupcakes, breads and pastries were also available.
Delicious cheese selections (rivaling the one's we usually pay $20+ for) were also offered, along with pairings of fresh fruit, honeycomb and bread.
Again, we more than gladly came back to the lounge in the evening to enjoy refreshments. Everything was delicious and more than filling enough to be considered a meal for our family. On the nights we did not have Advance Dining Reservations at one of Walt Disney's table service restaurants, we ate our dinner in the lounge.
Again, I know many will say that the offerings do not make up a proper meal, but for our family it was perfect. There was enough variety of hot and cold selections (the same selections that are served elsewhere in the resort). After snacking our way through the theme parks, this was a perfect meal to come 'home' to.
Plus, it's just so convenient! We were able to let our little ones rest at the room and not have to worry about packing everyone up and taking them out to dinner where they must sit still. It can truly be a life-saver for parents with many children. My husband and I were constantly amazed at how much easier it was having endless food choices at our fingertips.
Evening Wine and Beer Selections at Disney's Club Level
Perhaps one of the very best perks of staying Club Level at Walt Disney World is the free alcoholic beverages. Between the hours of 5-7pm, it is considered wine and beer service, with a vast selections of bottled ciders, beers and wines poured by the glass. During these hours a bar is set up in the lounge, however, a tip - you can request wine or beer at any time (yes, even breakfast!) and they will grab it for you!
If you like to enjoy a few adult drinks, it can certainly add up quickly at Disney! A single glass of wine or bottle of beer will cost around $9. The glass containers are not allowed out of the lounge area, but the servers will gladly put your wine or beer into plastic cups (or even coffee cups!) for on the go. Talk about an adult sippy cup! :)
Nightly Desserts at Disney's Club Lounge
Desserts and cordials are served every evening 8pm-10pm. We were impressed with the vast selection and variety each night of desserts offered! Accompanying wines, as well as Grand Marnier, Courvoisier, Frangelico, and Bailey’s were also available. Some of the desserts available included cupcakes, key lime pie, lemon tart, mini cheesecake, chocolate mousse, coconut cream tart, rice crispies, plus varieties of cookies and brownies.
These treats are nearly identical to what you would find at a fireworks dessert party - which would cost you around $80 per adult, and nearly $50 per child - and no alcohol is included in many of the dessert parties. Now, I know, we're not directly in front of the castle, BUT - many of the deluxe resorts with club level do have breathtaking views of the nighttime fireworks displays.
For us, staying at Disney's Grand Floridian, we were able to grab our desserts, a glass of wine, and head outside to enjoy the firework show over the castle from beyond Bay Lake. As an extra bonus, you're not fighting crowds for an hour to get out of the park, AND your kids can be in jammies and ready to hop into bed directly after the show.
Now, I don't believe that this replaces the Disney Dessert Party experience, however, with the hefty price tag it's not something that our family does every time we visit. It was an enjoyable (and convenient!) option.
Disney's Club Level Extra Services and Perks
While the refreshments are perhaps the most noticeable benefit of staying Club Level at Disney, there are other services and perks you'll receive:
Personal Greeting at Check-in - you're met as you enter and privately escorted to the Club Lounge where you check in, and your baggage is taken to your room.
Concierge Services - Staff in the lounges are able to help make dining reservations, and organize activities for you, as well as help with any issues you may have with your stay.
Disney's Club Level - Worth it?
Back to our original question, the answer will differ for everyone. For our family, Club Level is absolutely worth it. However, our family vacation style means we're more relaxed and spend more time at the resort - using the services and enjoying the extra food!
Here's the breakdown of our most recent 5 day trip to Walt Disney World staying at Disney's Grand Floridian (for ease I'm using the current menus from restaurants located at the Grand Floridian for pricing as they would have been the most likely locations for us to eat):
5 Breakfasts at Club Lounge = FREE vs. Quick Service Mickey Waffle Breakfasts = $228.87
5 Lunches at Club Level = FREE vs. Quick Service Lunch (sandwiches for adults, chicken nuggets and two sides for kids, plus 6 drinks) = $374.40
2 Dinners at Club Level (other 3 nights we went out to dinner in at various other locations) = FREE vs. Table Service Dinner (cheese board appetizer, open faced sandwich for adults, macaroni and cheese for kids, plus 2 glasses of wine) = $226
We saved a total of $829.27 on meals, alone. If we spent $200 more per night to stay at Club Level, that would be $1000 extra we paid for the club lounge. Once you factor in bottled water, nightly desserts and alcohol, plus the absolute convenience, it was absolutely worth it for our family, at this time.
And for reference, here's what a day at Walt Disney World looks like for our family (two adults, four children ages 2, 4, 8 & 9):
Early Rise - We like to hit the parks at opening for the coolest weather and lowest crowds. We grabbed breakfast in the club lounge before heading out.
Mid-Day Break - As the parks become busier and the day becomes hotter (not to mention we're all loosing steam), we go back to the resort for an afternoon rest. We ate lunch in the club lounge, then usually we grabbed drinks and headed to the pool.
Mid-Afternoon Rest - We allowed our little ones to nap / take a rest while my husband and I enjoyed adult beverages on our private balcony.
Dinner Time - We either ate in the club lounge, or went to our dining reservation outside the resort. After dinner, we sometimes will go back to the parks and ride more attractions now that it's cooler, one or two nights we will watch a nighttime show in the park.
Evening Snacks - Most nights before bed we'll get the kids in their jammies and sneak back out for the dessert buffet offerings, or even head outside to watch the fireworks over the castle. Then to bed for another early day tomorrow!
If you are the type of vacationer who likes to 'go, go, go' than staying Club Level may NOT in fact be worth it for you. It requires BEING at the resort to enjoy it, so if you spend sun up to sun down in the parks, pass on Club Level.
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