Before April of this year, I was a strong advocate of staying off site to save money. Staying off property wasn’t a priority or focus for me, because I spend most of my time in the parks and the price point was just too much higher compared to some place off site.
That all changed after I stayed at Pop Century at the end of April.
What was different, how I justify the extra cost, and what I loved about Pop Century is all included in this post, so let’s get started!
I have stayed on Disney property before multiple times, and I’ve even stayed at Pop Century before. Those times, however, I was a Florida resident and lived an hour’s drive away in Tampa. When I paying rent and had a bed to sleep in an hour away, and I had my car with, the perks of a Disney resort weren’t enough to justify the cost. So when I moved back to Indiana, I assumed it would stay that way.
I was totally wrong – staying on site is such a benefit when you’re traveling from out of state. Perks I loved include:
- Disney’s Magical Express transportation to and from the airport
- Disney bus transportation to get anywhere on property
- The Disney theming of the whole resort
- The renovated rooms at Pop Century
- Being able to spend an afternoon at the pool and still be a few minutes from the parks
Magical Express Airport Transportation
This was my first time using Magical Express. I’ve always uber’d to get to/from the airport before this (because I was staying off site). I had heard some not-so-good things about Magical Express regarding the timing – that it took forever to get you to your resort if you weren’t an early drop off and that they picked you up super early to go back to the airport.
Neither of those were true for my experience and I loved it.
They have multiple buses arriving at and leaving from the airport at all times, and you are placed on a bus based on the resort you are going to. So it’s not like I was on a bus of people going to the Grand Floridian, Port Orleans, Beach Club, Coronado Springs, All-Star, AND Pop Century.
The bus I was put on stopped at Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach – in that order. I was the second stop, and they’re all right there by each other so it didn’t take long at all to get to Pop Century.
From the time my plane landed to the time I was walking into the lobby of Pop Century, it took exactly one hour. You can’t beat that considering the drive from the airport is at least 30-40 minutes without a lot of traffic.
If you want to see more of the Magical Express, check out my Instagram story highlights of the experience!
On-Site Bus Transportation
I already knew Disney’s buses were reliable and timely, but this trip once again surpassed my expectations. I barely had to wait at any point to get a bus to the parks or back to the resort. My longest wait was leaving Animal Kingdom on a Friday afternoon, and it took about 20 minutes to get the bus and that was mostly bad timing on my end unfortunately.
The best example of how excellent the bus transportation was came on my first night there.
I saw Avengers: Endgame (no spoilers here, don’t worry) on Thursday/Friday at midnight at Disney Springs. Being a three hour movie, it was close to 3:30 am by the time I was out of the theater and ready to go back to my resort (I had to sit and process my feelings for a moment).
Disney Springs closed up everything except the theater (which only was open so late because of Endgame), and normally the bus transportation would have been long shut down.
I walked through Disney Springs and they had security cast members along the way to the bus loop, making sure people didn’t try to go off into the rest of the area, and they had 2 cast members at the bus loop helping guests.
I didn’t see any buses at first, other than ones in the back that were clearly parked for the night and not running, so I got nervous at first but I had no reason to be.
The cast members at the first bus stop I came to asked me where I was going, I said Pop Century, and then they told me to wait in the queue at that first stop (not Pop’s normal station). They got on their radio, called for a bus to go to Pop Century, and within minutes saw a bus pulling up to get me. Just me.
They were doing the same thing for more movie watchers staying on site as I was getting on my bus and leaving.
This is a prime example of Disney’s exemplary customer service.
Disney Theming at the Resort
The extent to which you see Disney characters and theming at a Disney resort varies by the resort. Some resorts are more elegant and fancy, but others like Pop Century and Art of Animation feature great displays of Disney characters throughout the resort area. There’s lots of great photo ops and things to see just at these resorts before you even get to the parks.
At Pop Century, each of their sections is themed to a decade in the 1900s, starting with the 50s. They also have the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. I stayed in the 1950s section and have previously stayed in the 1990s area as well.
In each decade section, they have Disney character statues and other nostalgic displays that represent the decade. For the 50s, they had Lady and the Tramp featured prominently, along with Sock Hop silhouettes on the buildings, and a pool in the shape of a bowling pin.
The 60s section is really fun, and also features the resort’s largest pool – the Hippy Dippy Pool along with the Petals poolside bar.
Speaking of the pools, I loved being able to leave the parks during the hot afternoon some days and spend time at the pool (either one). When I stay off site, getting back to my hotel and doing this involves paying for an uber, a longer car ride, and just more time in general. Staying on site made this possible and I loved being able to relax in the middle of a park day so I wasn’t so tired at the end of it.
I also loved Petals, the poolside bar I mentioned, because I love being able to get a drink and have it at the pool with me. It just makes the vacation that much more enjoyable and they had some good specialty alcoholic drinks!
Finally, I saved the best perk for last. Pop Century now has renovated all of its rooms that feature hardwood floors, new beds, and great lighting. They aren’t deluxe rooms by any means, but for 1-2 people the room I had was more than suitable.
I work in university housing and deal with things like bed bugs and nasty rooms all the time, so I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to hotel rooms because I want to be able to trust that I’m not bringing anything back home with me (other than lots of Disney merchandise and memories). Staying at a Disney resort puts my worries to ease and that peace of mind is worth something in my opinion.
Cost Comparison to Staying Off Site
Pop Century being a value resort is somewhat comparable to stays off site, though it is still a bit more per night. My rate was right at $150/night with taxes and fees, using a group discount rate for Dapper Day.
I justify this by factoring in all the transportation costs I saved. I would have had to get to and from the airport PLUS back and forth from the parks and Disney Springs a lot during my stay and that uber cost (or rental car cost) adds up quickly.
Factoring all my other perks, it was worth it for me and I’m now more in favor of staying on site than off – for at least longer stays.
For quick weekend trips, staying off site still works and I’ve got my select hotels I trust. For week-long stays or extended weekend trips, though, I’ll definitely pay the little extra money to stay on site in the future.
For a more in depth look at my expenses on this trip, check out my budget post.
So where’s the negative?
It’s honestly not common that I would do a review and be totally pleased with the experience, but there’s honestly nothing negative for me to stay about Pop Century or the experience of staying on site in general.
The price point was reasonable, the perks were great, and all of the services offered worked smoothly for me.
I totally recommend staying here at Pop Century. It’s my favorite value-level resort at Disney.
What’s your take on Pop Century or staying on site at Disney in general?