Newly renovated on-site value: A review of Disney's All-Star Movies Resort in Orlando
On a recent trip, three TPG staffers decided to see what it’s like to visit Disney World on three different budgets. As an experienced budget traveler, I was assigned the budget angle and asked to stay at one of Disney's value resorts.
Before this visit, I hadn't stayed on-site at a Disney resort since I was a child traveling with my parents. Although I've traveled to Disney World several times as an adult, I stayed off-site on each trip. After all, you can get a great value when redeeming hotel points to stay off-site near Disney World.
However, for this trip, I booked the least-expensive on-site Disney value resort for my dates: Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, which reopened in March of 2021 after substantial renovations.
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I booked my stay through Mouse Counselors (an authorized Disney vacation planner). After I filled out the web form, a Mouse Counselor agent reached out to me about an hour later.
I’d initially planned to stay at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, as this resort is typically the least expensive of Disney's value resorts. But, the All-Star Sports Resort is currently closed, so the Mouse Counselor advised me that Disney's All-Star Movies Resort would be the least-expensive resort for my dates.
There are only two room types at this resort: standard and preferred. And the only difference between standard and preferred rooms is their location within the resort, with preferred rooms situated in better locations. Rooms have either one king bed or one queen bed and one Murphy bed. Different areas of the resort have themes, including "Toy Story," "Fantasia," and "101 Dalmations."
My Mouse Counselor suggested I book a preferred room. I paid half of the cost ($206.57) upfront with my Citi Prestige® Card since I expected the transaction would earn 5x points as a travel agent booking. But it coded as lodging, so I only earned 3x points. (The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)
I paid the remaining balance of $206.57 at the end of my stay with my husband's new Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, which earns 3x points on travel.
Since I booked through Mouse Counselors, the counselor I worked with provided helpful information for getting the cheapest park tickets and planning my itinerary. She also offered to do a call shortly before my trip to answer any last-minute questions.
Although I appreciated this extra assistance, you may want to check prices through your favorite online travel agency as well. For example, you can book Disney's All-Star Movies Resort through Hotels.com and earn Hotels.com Rewards on some dates.
So, if you don’t need extra help planning your trip and the price is the same, you may prefer to book through Hotels.com to earn stamps on your stay.
Related: Why having a Disney World ticket isn’t always enough to get you in the gates this summer
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort is in the Animal Kingdom resort area of Walt Disney World, but you can get direct buses from this resort to all four Disney World theme parks, Disney Springs and Disney’s two water parks.
As such, the location is ideal for anyone who wants to stay on-site at a Walt Disney World resort and is comfortable taking Disney's bus transportation (or driving) to the parks.
And if you fly to Orlando and stay at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, you may not need to rent a vehicle for your Disney trip. As an All-Star Movies Resort guest, you can take Disney’s Magical Express service between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the resort for no extra charge.
(Note that Disney will no longer offer its Magical Express service for guests arriving on Jan. 1, 2022, or later. However, Mears will launch a new paid shuttle service to Disney resorts starting in 2022. This service will effectively replace the Magical Express service for travelers willing to pay for the service.)
Related: Disney announces more resort reopening dates — what to expect at Disney World Resort hotels
Disney strongly encourages guests to use online check-in before arrival. So, I checked in online by entering my phone number for mobile messages and adding a new credit card to my profile. I could have entered room requests here, but only limited options were available (near the pool, first floor or the "Toy Story" building).
I’d rather have a quiet top-floor room, but there wasn't a text box for other requests.
Upon arrival, guests are encouraged to bypass the check-in desk and go directly to their room. I received an email and text at 5:14 p.m. on my check-in day stating my room was ready and the resort had assigned me to room 1743 on the first floor of the Dalmatians building one.
Once I arrived on the Magical Express from the airport, I went to my room and clicked the unlock door button in the My Disney Experience app as instructed.
Unfortunately, the unlock button didn’t work. So, I lugged my luggage back to the front desk and waited in a short line. When I told an agent the app wouldn't unlock my door, she quickly made me a room key after checking my driver's license.
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When I stepped into my room, I immediately noticed it had a connecting door. I considered returning to the front desk to ask for a different room. But, instead, I settled in and hoped for the best. I’d come to regret this decision.
Disney stacked the one queen bed in my room with eight plush pillows. Although eight pillows were excessive for one guest, it was nice to have too many pillows for once. I found the bed comfortable, although I was exhausted on both nights of my stay so I could have slept anywhere. There were two power outlets and two USB outlets on each side of the bed.
Across from the bed was a large 54-inch flat-screen television and a large dresser with three large drawers, a bible, two shelves and a safe that was large enough to fit my laptop. On the surface of the dresser were four more power outlets and four more USB outlets.
Near the entrance to the room was a desk with two chairs. But, as I looked at the strange handles on the wall and hinges on the desk, I realized my room had a second bed in the form of a Murphy bed. So, naturally, I folded it down from the wall -- doing so was surprisingly easy -- to see what the room would look like with two beds.
The Murphy bed featured playful artwork for kids but made the room feel crowded. So, after taking some photos, I folded it back up.
Across from the desk was a stand with a small refrigerator, coffee maker and a drawer with coffee and tea supplies. I appreciated that the coffee maker was a duel-cup coffee maker. (Perfect for making two cups of coffee or tea at the same time.)
I found the coffee maker intuitive to use and housekeeping restocked what I used after the first night of my two-night stay.
The room also had a climate-control thermostat, which allowed me to set the exact temperature I wanted in my room. The room's only window was also in this area next to the room's entrance door. My window looked out onto the walkway to rooms and an inner garden. The scenery wasn't great, but I don't expect most guests spend much time gazing out of their windows at this resort. The room featured a window curtain, but it didn't completely block out light in the morning.
The bathroom is on the far end of the room, away from the entrance. And, unlike many value-oriented hotels, this bathroom separated the sink area from the shower area with a sliding door. Likewise, there was also a sliding door to separate the sink area from the sleeping area.
The sink area had a small open closet with hangers and an upper shelf for bag storage; an ironing board; lots of shelving with extra toilet paper, an iron and an Andis hairdryer; and a lighted magnifying mirror.
The shower area featured a tub with an overhead rainfall showerhead, though it might not be comfortable for very tall guests, as it was just over 6 feet above the bathtub.
I was pleased by the shower's water pressure, but it might have just been because I've been living out of an RV full-time for almost a year now. There were bulk amenity dispensers with shampoo, conditioner and body wash (I loved the smell of the sea salt body wash) and plenty of towels and towel racks, as well as a toilet and trash bin in the shower room.
Unfortunately, through the connecting door, I could hear guests in the adjoining room coughing, talking, sneezing and flushing the toilet. And I was awakened (and then kept awake for about an hour) by a baby crying the second night. If you walk into an adjoining room at this resort and don't have friends or family in the adjacent room, you may want to request a different room.
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Food and beverage
There's only one dining venue at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort: the World Premiere Food Court. And similar to many quick-service Disney restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, mobile ordering is highly recommended.
I placed mobile orders from the food court twice, and in both cases, my meal was ready within five to 15 minutes.
I ordered a chicken sandwich and fries for dinner on my first night shortly before the food court closed at 11 p.m. I was surprised by how filling the sandwich and fries were and found that the sandwich tasted better than it looked. However, at $12.83 (including sales tax), it wouldn't be a good value compared to most off-site fast food joints.
I ordered a kid's meal on my last morning since I didn't want much to eat: two Mickey waffles, a bacon strip, apples and a drink. This meal was a filling and inexpensive breakfast for just $6.94, including sales tax.
If you want a drink onsite, you can visit Silver Screen Spirits near the Fantasia pool. This bar is open from noon to 11 p.m. most days.
I didn't have time to order drinks during my stay, but here's what you can expect to pay before sales tax and tip:
- Specialty drinks: $13 to $15
- Wine: $9 to $13 for a glass
- Beer: $8 to $10.20 for draft, can or bottle
- Nonalcoholic specialty drinks: $5 to $6
You can also get sodas from vending machines near the stairways in most buildings. The machines accept credit cards or cash, and there's typically an ice machine near the vending machine.
I don't recommend coming from another resort to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort for any of its food and beverage offerings. But, if you're staying at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, the food court is sufficient when you need to eat a quick meal.
Related: The best restaurants at Disney World
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort has two pool areas, each open daily from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and staffed with lifeguards. The Fantasia pool area is next to Cinema Hall and the Fantasia buildings. This pool has ample seating and a Sorcerer Mickey fountain that sprays water.
The Duck Pond pool near the Mighty Ducks and 101 Dalmations buildings is hockey-themed. This pool has less seating and is farther from the Silver Screen Spirits bar.
Near the Fantasia pool, there's also a kid's pool. At both the Fantasia and Duck Pond pools, there are racks with first come, first served lifejackets.
In Cinema Hall near the food court is a small arcade named the Reel Fun Arcade. When I checked it out in the evening, it was uncomfortably crowded. But, when I stopped by in the morning, no one else was in the arcade. Next to the entrance to the arcade is a Chase ATM.
As you walk from the food court toward the Toy Story buildings, you'll come across the Reel Spot. This small outdoor area screens movies most nights. Stop by and look at the posters to see what's on offer each evening.
Across the main walkway from the Reel Spot is a short walkway to a small children's playground. Despite the number of families with children at the resort, this playground never seemed crowded.
As you walk from the Fantasia pool area toward the Toy Story buildings, you'll find two ping pong tables. Most of the times I walked by, there were two paddles and a few balls available at each table. There are also several paid activities you can do, which are listed on a board near the Fantasia pool.
There are two on-site self-serve laundry facilities at this resort. One is located near the kid's pool by the Fantasia pool, while the other is near the Duck Pond pool. During my visit, it cost $3 per wash cycle and $3 per dry cycle. I found the laundry facilities busy each time I checked, but there were almost always a few empty machines.
The bathrooms near the kid's pool by the Fantasia pool have paid lockers and two showers stocked with shampoo, conditioner and body wash. These facilities might be helpful if you want to shower after visiting a park or enjoy the resort pool on your check-out day.
One significant benefit of staying on-site at a Disney World resort is the Disney transportation buses. I took these buses to the Magic Kingdom and didn't have to wait long in either direction. I also used the buses to visit other Disney resorts on my check-out day before an evening flight.
If you want to drive to Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, you can park your vehicle at the resort for $15 per night. Parking lots are available by each building, so follow the signs to park in the best location for your specific room number.
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort provides free Wi-Fi. I conducted a speed test during my stay and got a respectable 26.38 Mbps download and 21.14 Mbps upload speed.
What you won't find is a fitness center at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort. So, if all the walking around the Disney theme parks isn't enough exercise for you, there's a running trail that goes along the front of the resort.
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I found the service at this resort acceptable but mostly unremarkable. A few staff members said greetings as I walked around the resort. And getting a key after my app wouldn't unlock my door was simple enough.
Mobile ordering and pick-up were quick on both of my orders at the food court as well. However, the bag drop process with the bellhops was inefficient, resulting in a long line near check-out time. And I didn't appreciate not getting a human quickly when I called the front desk at night.
And to see how the front desk staff verifies identity, I pretended to lose my room key on the second night. I told the front desk I misplaced my key and the app’s mobile key function didn’t work (it never did).
The front desk agent first asked for my last name and whether I had any photo identification. When I said I didn’t have any identification on me, she asked for my first name, names of other guests in the room (which was a trick, since it was just me), room number (which I accidentally got wrong), home address and phone number. Once I provided all this information, she issued me a new key.
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Disney's All-Star Movies Resort isn't luxurious, only offers food-court dining and doesn't offer stand-out resort pools with slides. It does, however, often feature some of the lowest prices you'll find to stay on-site at a Disney World resort.
And frankly, this value resort provided everything I needed for my short Disney trip. After all, I arrived late, spent an entire day at the Magic Kingdom and then checked out after exploring the resort the following morning. I spent very little time in my room except when sleeping. The bed was comfortable and the shower offered good water pressure. Plus, there was plenty of power and USB outlets and storage in the room to satisfy even a four-person group.
I've visited Disney several times over the last couple of years. But, on each trip, I'd either driven from a family member's home in Tampa or stayed off-site. On this trip, I appreciated the ease of staying on-site and taking Disney's buses around the resort to visit the Magic Kingdom for a full day and to spend a half-day enjoying Disney World without park tickets.