Doing Disney off-property? Magic Village is a great property.

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Last week, I spent a few days at the House of the Mouse. I made what used to be a fantastic redemption with Wyndham Rewards points. It isn’t a very good value on points any more (though it may not be terrible if you’re flush with Wyndham points). However, it is still a potentially excellent deal if you’re paying cash and looking for all the comforts of home on a trip to Disney where staying on-property isn’t a priority.

A Disney lite approach

Children get in for free at Disney World until they are three years old. I had previously assumed the cutoff to be 2 years old and only learned of the 3-year limit after we had this trip booked up. Interestingly, the rule is not uniform at Disney parks: I’m told that Disney Shanghai determines the child cutoff based on height.

With our son not quite two years old, we knew that he was unlikely to remember much of anything from the trip, so our main goal was to let him explore a bit and to hopefully enjoy seeing his reactions to the sights and sounds of Disney.

While we did go to the park, we were much less serious about it than most. We had no plan, didn’t fastpass any rides in advance, and didn’t prioritize anything ahead of trying to let him just have fun in a magical place for a kid. We saved some money on park tickets by stacking discounted gift cards with a 2-day “half-day” pass (good from 12pm until park closing) thanks to a last-minute tip from a friend.

All that is to say that we were less focused on maximizing Disney than on just enjoying it. I should add to this that while I like a Disney movie now and then, I am not a “Disney person” per se. That is to say that I’m not going to wait on a line for nine hours to get on the newest ride, nor did I know every character in the parade, nor did I buy a different set of mouse ears to color-coordinate with my outfits. That stuff is all good fun and I enjoy the madness of it all, I’m just not committed to it myself.

I say that to say to say that staying on-property wasn’t important to me for this trip. I recognize that for many people, there are important benefits to staying on-property or at one of the Disney Springs properties: from earlier fastpasses to an easier time booking character meals, etc, there are reasons to want to stay on-property. Those reasons weren’t paramount for me.

Furthermore, we wanted other family members to be able to join us and to keep costs down for everyone where we could. Being able to extend the Joy of Free to others seemed like the Disney thing to do.

That’s what initially led us to Magic Village. When Ed Pizzarello at Pizza in Motion wrote about a Wyndham property with 4-bedroom “villas” near Disney World, that sounded like a perfect deal for a family trip and I filed that tip away in mind. I’m glad he wrote about it, because the rooms at Magic Village were awesome.

Magic Village, a Trademark Collection property by Wyndham

Magic Village is a Wyndham property consisting of all 3- and 4-bedroom townhouses. At the time when I booked it, award pricing was significantly different: Until April 3, 2019, Wyndham charged just 15K points per night at any property in its portfolio (unfortunately, that changed in April 2019). When I booked back in early April, I was able to book a 4-bedroom “villa” (townhouse) for just 15,000 Wyndham points per night.

Long-time readers will remember that Wyndham ran a promotion a couple of years ago for large vacation homes. Through Wyndham’s partnership with cottages.com, it is possible to rent vacation homes (mostly in Europe) for 15,000 points per bedroom per night. For a brief window of time a couple of years ago, Wyndham offered those cottages.com bookings for 15,000 points per night for the whole thing, regardless of the number of bedrooms. I booked a huge 9-bedroom estate in the English countryside. Greg booked a mansion also. I mention that old, dead deal because Magic Village is not that. In contrast to those vacation homes managed by cottages.com, Magic Village is an actual Wyndham property. Thus its “villas” (using their word here) are treated like individual hotel rooms even though they have multiple bedrooms. That was really awesome when all Wyndham properties were available for the same 15K points per night.

At the time when I booked Magic Village, cash rates were around $250 per night. That made for an excellent value at 15K Wyndham points per night — well over the 1cpp target I’d have generally had in mind for Wyndham points. I was surprised when I booked that both the 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom units at Magic Village were available as standard rooms for 15K points per night even though cash rates for the larger room were higher. Since the points cost was the same, I went with a 4-bedroom unit.

Unfortunately, when Wyndham changed up the program, they began charging 30,000 points per night for Magic Village. That stinks as cash rates often don’t support that cost. However, on the bright side, cash rates are pretty reasonable. I found dates this coming summer at just over $200 per night for the 3-bedroom units or about $233 for the 4-bedroom units. One note on that: Magic Village adds a cleaning fee to paid stays ($150 for a 3-bedroom unit or $170 for a 4-bedroom unit when I looked at booking 1 extra night). They did not charge this fee on an award stay, so that is a potential benefit to using points. Once you add the cleaning fee and taxes, it might not be a terrible Wyndham redemption, especially if you value the conveniences of having a home-like place to stay.

Orlando is a pretty inexpensive hotel market outside of Disney properties, so the cash rates above aren’t necessarily much better than you’d do by booking separate rooms at a SpringHill Suites or Fairfield Inn type of property. However, I’d come back to Magic Village on a future family trip. While I’ve been in some condo-like hotel rooms, nothing about this place felt like a hotel. This felt like a house. It had the benefits of Airbnb with the predictability of a hotel chain, which appealed to me. The four-bedroom unit we occupied had everything I’d expect if I bought a townhouse: from a beautiful kitchen and living room, fully stocked with the implements to serve dinner for twelve people to plenty of space to spread out. For those who don’t get motion sickness easily, see this quick video tour and excuse my camera shake:

For those who prefer the still-picture run-down, here’s the kitchen and living room — a dining nook to the right is not pictured here:

There was also a patio outside with a built-in grill and sink:

I neglected to take a picture of the laundry room with washer and dryer (and the room came stocked with detergent for one load, which was all we needed in our 3 nights). Each of the four bedrooms had its own full bathroom (with mini-toiletries) and there was a half-bath off the kitchen downstairs. Two bedrooms had king beds and the other two had two singles.

One bedroom was downstairs and three were upstairs. In addition to the three upstairs bedrooms, there was a second living room.

I forgot to take a picture of the view from our balcony, which was big enough to feature a glass table with two chairs and also two pool loungers. One kind of interesting tidbit: as noted above, I had booked a 4-bedroom villa. At check-in, the agent said that I had booked a 3-bedroom but they had upgraded me to a 4-bedroom. When I told her that I had actually booked a 4-bedroom, she did a double-take at the reservation and then said that they had actually upgraded me from a regular 4-bedroom to a “pool view” as a Wyndham Diamond member. Three notes on that: First, the pool was pretty weak…not much of a view there. Second, I think the agent thought I’d reserved a 3-bedroom because it now looks like Magic Village limits full award bookings to the 3-bedroom units (you can book a 4-bedroom at a discount with a “Go fast” cash + points rate, but “Go free” awards appear to be limited to the 3-bedroom units). Third, I’m not a Wyndham Diamond member anymore. I was at the time of booking thanks to the status-match-go-round, but that ran out months ago. I’m obviously not complaining; Wyndham status doesn’t mean much (but apparently would have meant an upgrade from a 3-bedroom to a 4-bedroom at this property when available).

I didn’t spend much time exploring the rest of the property, but it was set up like a nice upscale townhouse development. My limited interactions with staff were excellent. I was impressed with the attention to detail in the making the room/house presentable. Check out how they placed the knives in the drawer — while a dumb little detail that didn’t make any material difference in my stay over just stacking the knives in a disorganized pile, it reflected the type of care that seemed to go into making the place look nice.

Having access to a full kitchen, laundry, full outdoor grill, two living rooms, a dishwasher, all of the plates and dishes and pots and pans one could need, kitchen devices like a blender and toaster and coffee maker etc is really appealing for a family vacation when you’re trying to keep costs manageable. We went to a nearby Walmart on the first night (Walmart was a mile or two in one direction and a Target & Publix were about the same distance in the other) and stocked up on a few things for breakfast and eased into our mornings. The property is a stone’s throw from Disney’s Animal Kingdom park; it took about 15 minutes to get to Magic Kingdom. Well-located, friendly, and a great deal on points at the time of booking put this property on our radar for a future trip. If we split the cost with the family members occupying the other rooms, I think this would be totally worth it for a paid stay.

Bottom line

Magic Village, a Trademark Collection by Wyndham was an excellent redemption when I booked it in the sense that it was a good value for the points and made it possible to save multiple family members on the cost of accommodation. It was easily the second or third largest place I’ve ever booked with points (behind the English countryside mansion I booked with Wyndham points and the massive upgrade we got at Domes of Elounda, which may not have had more square footage than this). Unfortunately, it is not the same value on points any more. However, I still share it here for two reasons: First, I think it’s a reasonable option for families looking for a home-style experience at Disney. Second, I think it’s a good reminder to keep your eyes and ears peeled for short-term opportunities like this. There are gems hiding in plain sight all the time. Without Ed Pizzarello’s post highlighting this place, I likely never would have scrolled through all of the Days Inn type properties on Wyndham’s site to find it. At the time, I had included it in a week in review post and made a mental note to look at it in the future. When Wyndham announced its program changes, I knew where I’d be burning the remainder of my points. It’s always good to have some of those things in mind so you can find the big wins in this game. While not a massive win, I’ll count Magiv Village as a win nonetheless.

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