Back in 1973, shortly after the opening of Disney World in Orlando, four high rise hotels opened on Disney property. These weren’t highly themed Disney hotels like the Polynesian or Contemporary. Instead, these were regular hotels run by well-known chains at the time such as TraveLodge and Howard Johnson’s.
The Howard Johnson’s was eventually bought by Marriott and run as a Courtyard property until 2003. In a case of the worst/best timing of buying a hotel, it was sold and turned into a Holiday Inn in December of that year, only to be massively damaged by Hurricane Charley in August of 2004. It didn’t reopen until 2010 after a $35 million dollar renovation. It just went through another renovation in 2018.
The Holiday Inn is now one of the Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels. While they are not run by Disney, they are still on Disney property. The benefits afforded to these hotels is the reason we booked a night here on the opening weekend of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disney Hollywood Studios.
The hotel consists of two areas, the original tower from 1973 and a six-story addition that was built in 1978. The fact this hotel is from the 70’s shows in the public areas as well as the size of the rooms.
The check-in area is simply two desks just past the entry. I was checking in around 4PM on a Saturday afternoon and the lobby was almost empty. The check-in agent efficiently processed my reservation, noted my IHG Platinum status and offered me my welcome amenity. He informed me that I was upgraded from the base room I booked to a pool view in the wing building. He told me how to get to the room and asked if I needed any other information, which I didn’t.
I went to walk to the room and was waved down by the agent at the “concierge” desk. He wanted to see if I needed park tickets or needed any tips on what to do during my stay. I politely said “Nah, I’m good” but I took his coupon book just to make him feel that he accomplished his goal with the interaction.
Walking out of the lobby, I passed the bar area
and the breakfast seating/atrium
I had to walk through a hallway to get to the wing rooms. From there, I took an elevator to my room on the fifth floor.
All of the rooms on the wing face the swimming pool area. The backside of the hotel faces I-4 and it’s nice that there are no rooms looking that way. I’m sure if the hotel was built nowadays, there would be rooms facing both directions.
Getting to the room, I was shocked at how large it was, considering it was a value hotel on Disney property. I guess rooms were larger in the 70s.
The bathroom was average size and still had small toiletries, soon to be gone from all IHG hotels.
The room also had a balcony with chairs and a view of the pool and the surrounding area.
There was a simple desk area with some extra plugs on the lamp and a network cable connection if you want to feel like you’re back in the 1990s. Don’t worry, the hotel also has free Wi-fi.
There’s limited closet space with an in-room (not) safe.
The room also has a fridge and a Keurig coffee maker that looked clean
The Holiday Inn has an outdoor heated pool and hot tub.
There’s also a on-site workout room which is reasonably equipped for such a hotel.
It also had the most overpriced game room I’ve seen, which I’ve already covered in this post.
The “office center” consisted of a nook containing two computers and a printer located just off the dining room. Good enough to print your boarding passes for a flight home but I wouldn’t imagine actually doing any work there.
The worst part of the hotel is the parking fee.
Disney World Benefits
Being a Disney Springs hotel offers some perks.
For us, the main reason we booked a room was to get access to the Extra Magic Hours benefit. More accurately, we wanted access to the Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Galaxy’s Edge opening weekend.
We arrived at the park at 6AM and still had to wait 45 minutes to get on Smugglers Run.
Getting access to the parks during Extra Magic Hours has been extended through 2020.
Hotels at Disney Springs also get the opportunity to purchase a Disney Dining plan, which is usually only offered to those staying at Disney hotels.
No matter how much I wanted to see Galaxy’s Edge, it wouldn’t be worth booking a hotel room or even using our DVC points. However, the Holiday Inn Disney Springs Area is bookable for 35,000 points a night. That means it’s eligible to reserve using the free night from the IHG Premier credit card.
Value of IHG Free Night Certificate
Considering that advance purchase cash rates for the same night were going for $160, using a certificate I get for paying the $49 annual fee for the IHG Select card seemed like it was worth it to get access to the biggest expansion to a Disney World theme park in recent memory.
Getting the park as early as we did, we were also able to get onto Slinky Dog Dash with only a fifteen-minute wait before the park opened to the general public.
We booked the Holiday Inn Disney Springs solely because it gave us early access to Disney Hollywood Studios on the opening weekend of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. To be honest, we didn’t even stay in the room – we live in Central FL and slept in our own bed that night. I did check out the property and while it did have some Disney touches in the public areas, the hotel was a typical Holiday Inn. It was a great deal being able to use the free night from the IHG credit card but I’d look close before redeeming 35,000 IHG points for a room because I’ve seen cash rates at this hotel as low as $80 a night.
There was a time when we were staying at Disney all the time when I didn’t care so much about staying on property. If I was in that position now, I’d consider the Holiday Inn as a solid option. Disney hotels, even the “value” properties, can go for up to $200 a night and a hotel that gives you many of the same benefits at a lower price point has to be considered as a reasonable alternative if you don’t have an unlimited budget.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary