Car-free and Staying Sane at Saratoga Springs Resort

6 Sep

Saratoga Springs Bus StopAs many had predicted, I was not happy about being car-free at Saratoga Springs Resort. If I stay there again someday, I’ll probably rent a car. But sometimes that’s not an option. Maybe your budget won’t support it, maybe your desire to reduce carbon footprint is strong, maybe you have physical constraints that preclude driving. Or hey, maybe you like to have a little adult beverage poolside in the afternoon, and know better than to get behind the wheel afterward.

If for any reason you end up at Saratoga Springs Resort without a car, here are my tips for a relatively sane experience:

  • Request a room in the Grandstand section, or walk to the Grandstand bus station, especially if you are traveling to the parks right around opening time. SSR has five bus stops, and Grandstand is the first to be picked up on the way to the parks, and the first to be dropped off on return. Sure, you’ll have to do a 10-minute tour of the entire SSR resort on your way to the parks, but you won’t sit at the bus stop watching the buses roll by, full to capacity and unable to take on any more passengers.
  • Consider taking a cab if you’re in a rush, or if you’re traveling anywhere other than to/from the theme parks. We lunched one day at the Kona Cafe in the Polynesian Resort, and instead of taking the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom to wait for a bus, we hopped in a cab. We were back at Saratoga Springs in 10 minutes; Disney transportation might have taken as long as an hour. It was well worth the $23 bucks (including tip).
  • Bring a book, iPod, or other portable personal entertainment device. I’d usually argue against these things, as I prefer to just soak up the Disney atmosphere. But there’s only so much atmosphere sitting around on a bench at the bus stop. Without a book, you may resort to more embarrassing pursuits, such as obsessively photographing your well-dressed Pal Mickey everywhere you sit around waiting. Ahem.
  • Do not take the bus to Downtown Disney – I heard plenty of complaints about it. There’s a boat from near Artists’ Palette that seems to run pretty well on schedule, and Pleasure Island sure looks pretty from the water. Or, walking to Downtown Disney is not too bad from the Congress Park area.
  • Keep your sense of humor. We all know what real problems look like, right? They tend to involve terms like “neurosurgeon,” “foreclosure,” “inoperable,” or “viral load.” Sure, it’s frustrating to be so close to Magic Kingdom EMH rope drop, and miss it because the buses aren’t running right. But hey, if you’re at Disney World and everybody’s safe and sound, how bad can things really be? If you get frustrated and lose your cool (like I did, at least once), try to shake it off . . . I’m sure Pal Mickey’s ready to offer a quick quiz, or maybe you’ll even make a new friend while waiting for the bus.

10 Responses to “Car-free and Staying Sane at Saratoga Springs Resort”

  1. Christina September 7, 2007 at 10:24 pm #

    My mom and I stayed at Saratoga Springs earlier this year, and we don’t have a car. We didn’t encounter any of these hassles you mention. My mom was using an ECV cart and I don’t drive. Taking the bus to Downtown Disney was very smooth. We were staying in Congress Park and have nothing negative to say about the transportation at Saratoga Springs, except when one bus driver refused to let us aboard when my mom’s ECV power ran out and it needed to be pushed onto the bus. We just came back from an All-Star resort last week, and those can be super tiring when it comes to Disney transportation.

  2. Eric September 8, 2007 at 10:30 am #

    Having stayed at SSR twice, I never noticed any significant difference between the bus service there as compared to other resorts.

    Sometimes you get lucky and the bus is pulling up as you arrive at the stop. Other times, the bus is pulling away as you frantically walk/jog/sprint to the stop. For this reason, it’s very hard for me to compare resorts based on bus service.

  3. Kitty-chan September 8, 2007 at 6:53 pm #

    Anecdotally, it’s hard to compare transportation at the various resorts. Generally speaking I had a much better experience with the buses at Pop Century, but I’m enough of a scientist to want a more randomized sample. The plural of anecdote is not data.

    So . . .I look to the Unofficial Guide to WDW for their comparison of the travel time from the various Disney resorts, as well as the “report card” ratings from their readers. Generally speaking, SSR doesn’t fare too well based on either of these measures.

  4. Eric September 8, 2007 at 11:35 pm #

    I would like it if the Unofficial Guide noted when (month,year) their testing was done. I imagine a lot of their work for the 2007 guide was done in 2006 for SSR, a time when most of the resort was under construction, which could alter their bus routing (less guests=less members).

    Also, I wonder how often the UG recollects their data on these sorts of things. Surely Disney addresses these problem areas as complaints come in, which I would think they’d receive if the bus performance were truly substandard at certain locations.

    I’m not saying bus service isn’t poor at SSR. I’m only stating that it’s never been noticeably worse there for me than any other resort I’ve stayed at.

  5. Grumpwurst (aka Ray) September 10, 2007 at 5:09 pm #

    Kitty-chan,

    Your blog post really made our stay (so-far) at SSR.

    We got our room moved to the Grandstand section and would’ve never thought to do it if we hadn’t read this the day before we came.

    I gave mention to your post in my day 1 trip report on my blog
    Walt Disney World Day 01…..The Mountain that Didn’t Splash

  6. Kitty-chan September 10, 2007 at 5:19 pm #

    Ray, thanks for the comment and the link! Sorry to hear about your Splash Mountain misadventure . .. I hope the rest of your trip goes more smoothly! Give Mickey a hug for me.

  7. Grumpwurst (aka Ray) October 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm #

    I have finally put up my review of Saratoga Springs Resort from my September stay.

    I found the place to be absolutely wonderful and would win out if I had to choose between it and Animal Kingdom Lodge (the only other resort I’ve stayed at)

  8. Grumpwurst (aka Ray) October 5, 2007 at 2:59 pm #

    Oops….should’ve provided a link
    http://grumpyspace.blogspot.com/2007/10/saratoga-springs-resorta-review.html

  9. Kitty-chan October 5, 2007 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks for posting your review! I’m really glad to know that the advice about staying in the Grandstand section paid off.

    But man, can I just say I must have been there the wrong week? No topless sunbathers to look at when I was around . . . probably a good thing, I would have spent too much time by the pool. 😉

  10. Grumpwurst (aka Ray) October 5, 2007 at 10:29 pm #

    Well, it was during that period when all our fine Brazilian friends come north to enjoy some fun in the Florida sun. They didn’t name a wax treatment after them for no reason.

    Now, granted, they were staying on their stomachs so it wasn’t all burlesque and everything, but it could get a married man in trouble if he wasn’t wearing the proper eye protection to shield the true direction of his gaze 🙂

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