Did you know that Walt Disney World has twenty five hotels?
Those are just the ones owned and operated by Disney. They range from simple budget friendly rooms to elegant, luxurious 4 Diamond accommodations. With so many amazing options it is no wonder that you are having a hard time deciding where to stay for your vacation.
In this post I will walk you through some of the things you want to think about before choosing a hotel for your stay.
Still not sure you want to stay at a Disney operated resort or “onsite” resort, check out these resources:
Benefits to Staying at a Disney Resort
Disney has three separate resort categories with varying levels of amenities so they can fit within every budget.
This is Disney’s version of a budget resort but don’t let that make you think it is anything less than magical. The biggest benefit to the Value resorts is the size, nothing is very far away from each other and there is only one bus stop at the front of the main building. You can even upgrade to a preferred room to guarantee you will be in one of the rooms nearest the main building which is an incredible value when you don’t have to walk far from the bus to your room after a long day in the parks. These are a great choice if you are not planning on spending a lot of time in your room. You have everything you need here and can be sure you are getting a clean room and friendly service.
This category is best for those who want a little more than just the bare essentials. These resorts have sprawling properties with immaculate landscaping. They add a touch more luxury, slightly larger rooms and some extra amenities but without the deluxe prices. The theming is a little more elevated with each resort playing homage to a destination with little Disney touches along the way.
The Deluxe Resorts live up to their name! The theming is incredibly immersive but in an elegant way. If you ever wanted to vacation in the Polynesian or on an African Savannah without the long flight you will feel like you are there. The rooms are much larger ranging from 344 to a whopping 422 square feet with every bed arrangement you can imagine, including bunk beds! Most rooms will feature two queen beds and a Pullman bed (like the moderates) or a single sleeper sofa that more comfortably accommodates an adult. The biggest benefit to Deluxe Resorts is the plethora of transportation options. With the exception of Animal Kingdom Lodge, the beach resort offers boat passage, monorail service, or a walking path to at least one of the theme parks.
When I was a kid, my family visited Walt Disney World every few years… until my youngest brother was born, making us a family of 6. At that point, the Walt Disney World resorts did not accommodate that many people, and staying off-site was not an option with a teenage girl who wanted to be in the parks all day and a napping toddler. Fortunately, this is no longer an obstacle and there are many options for larger families or groups.
Some moderate resorts sleep 5 with a small Pullman bed designed for children under 10. Disney’s Deluxe resorts sleep 5 either a pull man or a little more comfortable daybed. Family suites sleeping 6 are available at Art of Animation and All-Star Music, both family resorts. The Deluxe Villa Resorts are Disney Vacation Club (Disney’s Timeshare program) properties that they also sell as additional hotel rooms. They have a studio (5) one bedroom (5) two bedroom (8/9) or Grand Villa (up to 12) options available.
For more including room configurations check out Best Disney Resorts for Large Families
One of my favorite events at Walt Disney World is the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. I love sampling the cuisine of other cultures at the food booths. When I go down to experience the festival I like to stay at an EPCOT area resort. This way even if I spent the day in another park I can pop over to EPCOT, grab some snacks and walk back to my resort. If you have little ones and plan on spending most of your time at Magic Kingdom you may want to consider a monorail resort. With a napping baby, we love the Contemporary Resort because we can walk to and from the park and not disturb the baby sleeping in the stroller
Magic Kingdom Area
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Animal Kingdom Area
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House, Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney Springs Area
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Disney’s Old Key West Resort, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
This is a big one. Even if you have the budget for a Deluxe Resort if you will be in the parks from open to close every day of your trip do you need the added space and amenities? I love the Deluxe Resorts when I go on family vacations. We slow things down and enjoy time together at the resort. If I am going by myself for work I stay at a moderate or value because I know I will not take advantage of the resort.
On the other side of that, if you have kids who are big fans of the pool and you know you will have a few pool days, you may want to consider upgrading to make sure you have a feature pool with a waterslide. All of the Moderate and Deluxe Resorts offer waterslides and hot tubs in their feature pool areas but not all the pools are created equally. Some resorts have zero-entry pools and The Yacht & Beach Club shared pool even has a sand bottom.
Alternatively, if you are not a big fan of the pool but plan on spending some days outside of the theme park consider the other recreation options at your resort. All of the resorts have an arcade, jogging path, and outdoor movies but depending on which one you choose you could have days worth of fun without ever setting foot inside a theme park.
Fort Wilderness has more recreational options than any other resort with pony rides, horseback riding excursions, carriage and wagon rides, archery lessons and a campfire with Chip & Dale.
When I was little my parents were so excited that they were able to book the Grand Floridian for our family vacation. They thought we would love to stay in Disney’s flagship resort. We loved being in Disney and loved riding the monorail but when I went to visit a friend staying at Caribbean Beach I was so jealous. I loved the atmosphere and the fun pool. While many consider the Grand as ‘the best hotel there really is no such thing. There is only the best for your family. Toy Story fans will love All-Star Movies, you will feel like you are staying at the Cozy Cone Motel at Art of Animation, and your princess will love the themed rooms at Port Orleans Riverside and the Savannah view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge will wow animal lovers.
When I am planning a trip for a family one of the first questions I always ask is if they can go anywhere in the world where it would be. They always look at me funny and remind me we are planning a trip to Walt Disney World. The resorts are so well themed to many destinations around the world so if there is someplace you have always wanted to go it tells me a little bit about your travel style and helps me determine which resort you will love. If you have always wanted to go to Fiji I would recommend the Polynesian Resort which is a little slice of the islands- if that is not quite in your budget I know you will like the laid-back vibes of the Caribbean Beach Resort. If you like the hustle and bustle of a European city then the Boardwalk Inn or Port Orleans French Quarter would be good options for you. Is African Safari on your bucket list? Well, that’s an easy one.
For me, food is always a deciding factor when planning a trip whether it’s to Walt Disney World or to Switzerland for fondue. It used to be when you went to a theme park like Disney you expected burgers and chicken fingers and not much else. In recent years Walt Disney World has really stepped up their game and offers a plethora of incredible places to eat in addition to the many resort options. I love to leave the theme parks and try the dining options at the resorts, there are so many hidden gems! Because the resorts are themed to destinations and the dining is themed to the resort even if there are multiple dining options in the resort they typically feature a similar cuisine so if you love a particular type of food and want to eat at the resort you are staying in this is something to consider before choosing a resort. Or if you know you want to eat dinner every night at one of the many locations in EPCOT you want to take a peek back at the location section and choose an EPCOT area resort. Want to spend some time sampling the new celebrity chef owned restaurant options in Disney Springs? Saratoga Springs has a walking path and boat service to the entertainment district.
Some of my favorite table service restaurants at the resorts are:
-Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian) 1900 Park Faire (Grand Floridian) Kona Cafe (Polynesian)Geyser Point Grill (Wilderness Lodge)
-Beaches & Cream (Beach Club Resort) Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
Some of my favorite quick service restaurants at the resorts are:
-Captain Cooks (Polynesian)
-Roaring Forks (Wilderness Lodge)
-The Mara (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
-El Mercado de Coronado (Coronado Springs)Landscape of Flavors (Art of Animation)
Families with Little Ones
All Star Movies – the pop icons at the all stars are always a hit with preschoolers. If you have a Toy Story fan there is no better place to stay than the preferred buildings at All Star Movies – you can request a Toy Story building just know this can not be guaranteed.
Contemporary Resort – this is where we stayed for my daughters first trip. Spending most of our time in the Magic Kingdom it was so easy to just walk back and forth.
Families with Kids
Wilderness Lodge – with its amazing dining options, great pool, amazing location and reasonable prices this is my favorite resort for families. Kids will love the boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom and the feeling of camping (some rooms have bunk beds) all with deluxe amenities for Mom and Dad !
Beach Club- with easy access to 2 out of the 4 theme parks this is a great option for anyone but the amazing zero entry, sand bottom pool is what makes this a favorite for kids, add a walk up ice cream counter and you have everything you need.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Is there anything better than being a kid and waking up and seeing giraffes from your balcony? I didn’t think so.
Yacht Club- for me adult only trips usually mean a ton of time in EPCOT, being able to walk there is a huge bonus. Both the Yacht & Beach Club are great options but the yacht club is a little more adult in it’s theming and with the convention center doesn’t attract as many families.
Coronado Springs – another convention resort, this was my and my husband’s favorite pre-children, we love the moderate pricing with the deluxe amenities and the amazing dining and lounge options.
Port Orleans French Quarter – the boat to Disney Springs is a great draw for this resort. I also like the live entertainment in the lounge and the short walk over to Riverside that also has a great lounge with trivia, paint nights and the best live entertainment on property – oh and boozy beignets.
Polynesian Village Resort – If I had to pick a favorite resort it would be tough but I think the Poly would come out on top, the location, fireworks view and theming can not be beat. It is a great location for families with littles that have to come back during the day. There are great indoor and outdoor lounges for the non-nappers and the food choices can’t be beat.
Art of Animation – the family suites are perfect for multi-generational families on a budget. The separate sleeping areas and bathrooms gives you the space you need and the theming is always a favorite of the kids.
I get asked all the time what is the best resort at Disney and as you can see there is no answer to that question. Choosing a resort is based on so many personal factors.
If you are ready to have the family vacation you’ve been dreaming of, without spending time researching, planning and making it happen, schedule a call today. I’m here to help busy working Moms plan, organize and book the perfect family vacation. With me, all you have to worry about is enjoying your well-earned time away with your family. If you are ready to stop trying to do everything on your own and see how I can help you schedule a complimentary trip planning session now.
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