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While Disney World has been dubbed “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” the planning experience is anything but magical. Between the sheer number of choices and exorbitant prices, planning a Disney World vacation feels more like finding your way through a newly discovered black hole than preparing for anything resembling family fun. When we went to Disney in 2022, I was a complete Disney virgin. I had never been to Disney as a child, and though my husband had, he didn’t contribute a single joule of energy to the trip above and beyond handing me his credit card. But those are my specific set of marital problems, not yours. I was left to figure out all the logistics of the trip – including, but not Iimited to – where to stay, what to do, what to see, where to eat, what characters to see and where, the general itinerary for each day, and what we would all wear. By the end, I felt more like an underpaid volunteer travel agent than a parent trying to take my kids on vacation.
If you read my last post about our experience at Disney World, you may recall that we stayed at Beach Club Villas. Initially, we picked Beach Club purely due to its proximity to Epcot (walking), Hollywood Studios (Skyliner), and the Boardwalk (walk or boat). The infamous pool, Stormalong Bay was also part of our vacation Calculus, and a large draw to Disney’s Beach Club. We enjoyed Beach Club Villas so much, we booked it again for 2023; though our reasons have shifted dramatically. I’m not known to spare juicy details, so today we’re covering why the Beach Club should be on your shortlist, and why it shouldn’t. Let’s dive in.
Beach Club should be on your shortlist if…
Your idea of a perfect vacation includes a trip to the beach (with a side of a billion things to do)
While doing my initial research consisting of multiple books (yes, actual books), hundreds of hours scouring the internet, and way too much Pinterest, atmosphere wasn’t a primary consideration. The pool, the restaurants, and the proximity to other places without the need for a car were the primary factors. My children do not handle car rides well before the age of two, and I do not handle their meltdowns gracefully. I have absolutely had my husband pull over so I can collect my thoughts. I had basically narrowed down my selection to Wildnerss Lodge and The Beach Club; however, the atmosphere pushed me over the edge. Here’s the deal: I live in the Northeast. I appreciate a beautiful log cabin as much as the next person. But when I’m in FLORIDA? I want to be reminded of the beach, not frigid New England, where we bundle our children up in snow gear to trick or treat and hunt for easter eggs. The irony, of course, is Disney’s Beach Club was designed with New England and Cape Cod in mind. Some seasoned Disney-goers I spoke with described a “stuffy” atmosphere at Beach Club, and while I wouldn’t walk through the lobby in my swimsuit, I didn’t find it “stuffy” in the least. If quaint seaside vibes are your thing, Beach Club could definitely be for you.
You want easy access to most locations.
During our WDW vacation, I stumbled upon a shirt that read “There are two types of people” and a picture of Magic Kingdom, and Epcot. I found this to be 100% accurate. If Epcot is your jam, Beach Club’s location should be a top consideration. There are a few other resorts that allow you to W-A-L-K to a park from your hotel. Beach Club is literally next door. Sure, you can take the monorail from some resorts to Magic Kingdom, but waiting on and packing my children into public transit after a long day in the parks is not only unkind to them, it would require a level of patience that far exceeds paygrade (currently $0/year with no time off or benefits, if you’re wondering). It would also probably require rounds of shots for all the other patrons, and that salary I just mentioned doesn’t have a liquor budget. Beach Club allows you to take full advantage of whatever flavor-of-the-day park tickles your fancy, have a midday break, then park hop on over to Epcot, enjoy the incredible dining (and amazing fireworks), sauntering back “home” as soon as you’re ready.
You live for an epic breakfast buffet.
Due to mediocre reviews on the TouringPlans website, and their book, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, I did not expect much when I booked Cape May Cafe. It’s awkwardly situated in the hallway to Beaches & Cream, as well as the Stormalong Bay pool complex. What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in a fantastic breakfast buffet and terrific service. The food was delicious – no one in our party had any complaints, which is a true anomaly. Cape May has everything from assorted breakfast pastries to biscuits and gray (my favorite), and everything we tried was delicious. My parents loved it so much, they booked another breakfast on their departure day. Cape May Cafe also hosts characters in the morning; though they had not yet returned when we vacationed in 2022. The host tried very hard to make up for the lack of characters and didn’t do a terrible job, but I am very excited to see the look on my little’s faces when Minnie shows up dressed for a day at the pool!
You should avoid Beach Club if your main reason for going is…
Beaches & Cream
If you’ve read about the Kitchen Sink Sundae at Beaches & Cream, I’m sure you’ve at least considered checking this place out. During my research, one of my shortlisted reasons for staying at Beach Club was how fun this restaurant appeared. I think I expected a Johnny Rockets-style experience, and while the noise was on par, the service was not. The noise level was intense (it nearly required ear muffs), the service was glacially slow, the floors were sticky, and I ended up packing my kids up well before dessert was served. I actually think we saw the server maybe twice – one of the benefits of being a party of 7. Disney is charging gratuity either way, so the service is terrible because they don’t feel the need to earn their money. To be clear: you shouldn’t avoid Beach Club due to Beaches & Cream, but if this is the main reason you’re considering it, I’d encourage you to stay elsewhere.
If you’ve gotten this far into your research about Beach Club, I am confident Stormalong Bay is high on the list of reasons you’d like to stay there. And for good reason! Stormalong Bay is a three-acre aquatic playground, complete with a zero-entry sand-bottomed wading area, lazy river, 260-foot slide, kiddie slide, and a plethora of water activities. Here’s the deal: the sand is weird. No two ways around it. It isn’t hard-packed beach sand and it isn’t the soft, fine sand, either. It’s more like walking on cheap exfoliating scrub from Walmart. And the sand doesn’t stay in the shallow-bottom area, either. It’s sand – it gets everywhere – the other swimming sections, the spas, the lazy river. Anywhere you swim, you will have the chance to encounter this odd variety of sand, which doesn’t give the pool a sanitary feel to it. I think this feature gets positive reviews because the majority of the adults do not enter the water; at least for very long. Fair play, though I’m hardcore judging every parent sitting on their lounge chairs, sipping adult beverages, and allowing a few adults to be responsible for the safety of at least fifty children. I’m just here to say the quiet part out loud. Stand within arm’s reach of your kid. If they’re solid swimmers, make sure they aren’t being a bully or being bullied. Don’t let your or another kid’s vacations get ruined. That’s my tirade for the day. Moving on.
In addition to the weird sand: ducks. The body of water is so large, ducks mistake it for a lake or pond. Sorry, but I don’t swim in lakes or ponds for a reason. While I’m a hippie, I’m also a germophobe (it’s complicated), and I prefer my public swimming holes to be properly filtered and sanitized. I don’t particularly want my kids playing in duck poop and potentially being exposed to zoonotic diseases on our vacation. One of my little people is still putting things in her mouth – and she’s fast! How does the sand stay sanitary? I’m not sure, but given my background in public health and microbiology, I’m going to go out on a limb and say “it doesn’t.” This wouldn’t be a huge issue if the lifeguards encouraged the ducks to move along, but the opposite happens – they encourage the children to let the ducks stay as long as possible. While I don’t want children harassing wildlife, having my (small) children swim next to floating duck feces at a luxe resort is not my idea of “a good time was had by all.” All in all, this appears to be a non-issue as I’m pretty confident any of the large pools at Disney are having similar issues and we aren’t going to forego swimming on our vacation. When in Rome and all that.
As I mentioned, the pool complex is massive. The main pool area has a few different sections – the first section is where the slide dumps out. The next main section encompasses the lazy rivers, a few “hot” tubs, and the main swimming sections. Last is the shallow bottom swimming area. Outside the main pool complex, and across the walking path, is the shipwreck, which is where a small slide, swimming area, and the stairs to the main slide are located. The sheer magnitude and design make this pool difficult if either you’re in a group that isn’t always traveling together and need to hunt one another down or you have a child who wants to slide but wants the security of having a parent at both ends of the tunnel. I wouldn’t describe myself as a helicopter parent, but creepers go to Disney, too, and I just don’t feel comfortable sending my kids across the walkway without a clear line of sight.
Overall, we loved our trip to Beach Club. Some of the reviews discussed noise, and while this may be an issue in the main hotel, this was not an issue in the villas. We found the room to be quite spacious and having a place to prepare food meant we saved a lot of money (and meltdowns) by packing lunches and eating most of our breakfasts in the room. And while we could hear fireworks from our room in the evening, we could not see them, but the noise was eliminated with the use of a white noise machine. If you’re considering Beach Club Villas, 7/7 people in my traveling party highly recommend it.