Disney absolutely knows how to market the complete experience to a family. When my daughter was just about 2 years old, we began planning our first trip to Disney World. Shortly thereafter, I learned about Disney Vacation Club, their version of a timeshare. It’s even governed by timeshare laws, so it behaves in some ways like a regular timeshare. However, it’s structured as a bank of points, meaning you have a lot of flexibility in which resort you book at. Disney resorts can be prohibitively expensive, especially on holidays.
One of the things that the salesperson pitched to us when we were considering buying a DVC membership was the ability to bounce around to different resorts to get a different adventure in each vacation. Honestly, I thought there was very little chance I’d want to do so. We figured we’d want to stay at Bay Lake Towers, which was the newest property and also right beside the Magic Kingdom. If you haven’t been to Disney World, the trek from off property to the Magic Kingdom can be daunting with kids, given parking, monorails, etc. There’s a certain appeal to walking out of your hotel and across the street.
The first few times we stayed, we tried out Animal Kingdom Lodge and found it to be way too far away for our tastes, then quickly switched to Bay Lake Towers for the rest of the stays. As I learned more about the different themed resorts, I became interested in the Treehouse Villas, which are adjacent to Saratoga Springs. They’re definitely further away from Magic Kingdom, but you get your own Treehouse, heavily themed and buried in your own small jungle. When there was availability for one of our trips, I went ahead and booked it.
The check-in for the Treehouse Villas is actually at Saratoga Springs. We showed up there and the process went quite quickly, though the kids did have a play area in the lobby to keep them occupied.
After that, all our material was loaded up onto a golf cart and we were taken on a short ride over to the Treehouse Villas (probably between 5 and 10 minutes). Each villa is tucked away in its own little jungle, so the drive over and arrival was a treat for our kids.
Our driver also carried all our bags upstairs for us. Our unit had it’s own private deck with plenty of room for everyone to fit.
We walked into the dining room/living room area. The room was a bit dark, but brightened up when we opened the curtains. The unit has a full kitchen, complete with china glass and silverware and your own washing machine and dryer.
When traveling with young kids, both of these areas can save a lot of money, especially given the price Disney charges for groceries onsite. My recommendation here is to skip Magical Express and book a car service, specifically one that provides a free grocery store stop. You can pay for the car service in the money you save on groceries easily.
To my knowledge, all of the Treehouse Villas lay out the same. One of the advantages of the villas is that they’re not a ton of DVC points, so a family can enjoy a vacation in a room that’s got the same sort of sleeping arrangements as home, not all crammed in one room like sardines. There is one master bedroom with a King bed and a sizable bathroom. A second bedroom has a Queen bed and shares a bathroom with the 3rd bedroom. That’s where the bunk beds are, and where our kids enjoyed monkeying around during our visit.
The living room sofa pulls out into a bed. This is one area where Disney excels. The pull-out sofa is by far the nicest one I’ve ever slept on. This is a thick, firm, real mattress, that they somehow manage to chop up and get stowed inside the sofa. It’s built the way every pull-out sofa should be (but aren’t).
There’s plenty of space for a large family. We were a grand total of 5 with my dad tagging along and we never felt crowded. And, with the walk to the Saratoga Springs pools less than 10 minutes (or a short golf cart ride), there were plenty of activities nearby. We didn’t hit the main pool at Saratoga but one of the smaller pools was just fine for us.
As the villas are located a bit further away from some of the action, transportation options become a bit more critical. There are quite a few:
- You can call the Saratoga Springs bell desk and they’ll drive a golf cart over to pick you up and take you to the main building.
- The same golf cart can also drive you to Downtown Disney (about a 10-minute ride).
- There’s also a boat dock adjacent to the Villas that will take you to Saratoga Springs or Downtown Disney.
- Bus service is only available at Saratoga Springs, not in the Treehouse area. This requires some planning to make sure you don’t have to wait too long.
- Taxi service is a somewhat affordable option. We did this a few times and it costs about $15 to get to Magic Kingdom from your villa.
The kids got a big kick out of the Treehouse Villas. There’s no doubt they actually became part of our trip, something I would have seriously doubted. After staying here for one of our trips, I was definitely convinced that trying out different resorts on the Disney World property made our trip more special. By staying onsite you also have access to Extra Magic Hours if you’re the type that likes to go full-throttle for long days.
We got lucky buying into DVC when we did, as prices have gone up considerably and the structure of membership has changed. There are still opportunities to buy decent contracts on the secondary markets, and I’ve found it quite easy to rent out our points when we don’t use them.