How Will I Know? Choosing the Right Walt Disney World Hotel for You!
There are 25+ hotels at Walt Disney World, so how do you know which resort is right for you and your family? There are a lot of things to consider when choosing Disney Hotels. Starting with the basics, the hotels generally fall into 3 categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. There are also Deluxe Villas, which are generally DVC properties, and the Campgrounds. As you might imagine, the more amenities a resort has, the more it’s going to cost you. Is there a bad resort? Not really. They’re all really good hotels. But they do each fulfill a different level of needs and that is what sets them apart. So what should you consider when choosing Disney Hotels for your trip?
Choosing Disney Hotels: The Basics
Walt Disney World’s Value Resorts include the All-Stars (Movies, Music, and Sports), Pop Century, and Art of Animation. All five of these hotels are your basic hotels, some may even argue motel, due to their outdoor entry. Each room has beds, bathrooms, a closet, and a television. Nowadays, they all have a mini-fridge, too. The hotels themselves are collections of buildings set up in a cluster and, at Walt Disney World, these resorts are the most “Disnified,” usually featuring giant statues of Disney figures like Woody, and Cars, and Goofy, and Donald Duck, etc. They all have at least one large pool, a playground, and a food court, as well as laundry facilities, a gift shop, and an arcade. And they all have free transportation to the parks, mostly just buses but Pop and Art of Animation do have a Skyliner station.
If you have a larger family and a smaller budget, the Value Resorts do have options that include Family Suites. At Disney’s Art of Animation (one of my family’s favorite resorts) and Disney’s All-Star Music Resorts both have Family Suites available. They sleep up to 6, have two bathrooms, a kitchenette, and living areas that transform into sleeping areas. So for families of 5-6 (or sometimes even 4 but bigger people that want to spread out), these are some things to keep in mind when choosing Disney hotels for your trip!
Walt Disney World’s Moderate resorts include Port Orleans (Riverside and French Quarter), Cabins at Fort Wilderness, Caribbean Beach Resort, and Coronado Springs. These resorts are some of the biggest on the property, representing that middle-of-the-road pricing that is supposed to replicate the “middle class.” These resorts all have multiple pools, multiple restaurants, gift shops, often internal busing as well as transportation to the parks, one big pool with a waterslide, an arcade, play areas, walking trails, and alternative transportation, including boats and the Skyliner. These are all heavily themed (from New Orleans to the Caribbean to the Spanish Southwest US) and have a vacation-on-vacation feel, but not necessarily Disney-themed. Usually, the Disney details are “hidden” within the decor as a cute little touch.
If you have a Deluxe Budget, but you want to parlay that into a longer stay, you might want to consider the Moderates when choosing Disney hotels. Sometimes moving from a Deluxe to a Moderate will give you 2-3 extra days, and you could use that for either extra days in the parks OR extra days to explore the beautiful resort you’re paying for! We have found, personally, that longer trips allow for much more downtime, and provide a much more relaxing Disney vacation.
Another bonus for many moderate resorts, too, is the option of fifth sleeper rooms. Gone are the days of the 2 kids and white picket fence dreams, and many families have a minimum of 3 kids. So the moderates offer rooms with fold-down daybeds, providing the space for fifth sleepers! Obviously this bodes well for families of 5 that maybe can’t swing the Family Suites in the Values, and the fifth sleeper may be the way to go!
Disney’s Deluxe Resorts are just that: Deluxe. Deluxe Resorts are Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Riviera, and Yacht Club. All of these resorts offer regular rooms, Club-level rooms, suites, and Villas. They have fine dining, casual sit-down dining, and quick service restaurants, as well as lounges and bars. There are larger pools with huge waterslides and, in the case of the Beach and Yacht Clubs, a MASSIVE pool that is more like a miniature water park. The Deluxe Resorts have convenient locations, in many cases offering walks to the parks, as well as monorail, busing, boats, and Skyliner. They offer guests amenities like full kitchens and washer/dryer units in some instances (mainly in the attached DVC Deluxe Villas) and a more peaceful, relaxed feeling to your vacation, with quieter environments than you’ll have at the larger Value Resorts, with their outdoor access.
Choosing Disney hotels are very personal, but don’t let the term “Deluxe” make you look elsewhere! It never hurts to consider a Deluxe, even if you opt for a split stay, and only spend part of your vacation in the Deluxe Resort!
If camping is your thing, they offer tent sites all the way to deluxe RV connector sites. This is by far the largest area on the property and is across the lake from the Magic Kingdom.
So how do you choose?
It all boils down to 2 things: budget and amenities. We would all LOVE to have 2-weeks Club-Level access in the Grand Floridian, but we can’t always get what we want. First, sit down and consider what you MUST HAVE for vacation, and then sit down and consider what you can afford.
1. Will I spend much time at my resort other than sleeping?
Some families like to buy 4-day tickets but stay 6 nights/7days and have a couple of resort days. If this is for you, you may want to see if a Moderate or even a Deluxe resort is for you. If you know you only have 3-4 days and you’re going to be spending them entirely in the parks, go for a Value. You only need a bed, so may as well go cheap on lodging and spend more on activities, dining, and souvenirs, right?
2. Are food options and varieties important to me?
Value Resorts only have one food location, and they are all food court, cafeteria-style. That is not to say that they don’t have many options, because they absolutely do, they just do not offer any sit-down options. If you stay at a Value and want to dine at a sit-down location, you will need to go somewhere else to do so. Therefore, you will need to account for travel time.
The Moderate Resorts have the best of both worlds, usually offering a cafeteria-style quick service location and at least one sit-down restaurant.
All Deluxe Resorts all offer one small quick service location, and at least (usually multiple) different styles of sit-down restaurants, from casual to fancy, complete with dress code.
3. What amenities are important to me?
All resorts offer beautiful and well-themed pools. Deluxe pools are a little fancier and have slides, while Value pools are more basic, but still quite fun. Some resorts offer things like surrey bikes, a marina, a health club, a spa, or kids programs. In-room child care is available at all resorts.
Remember, though, that many activities are available for guests staying at other Disney accommodations. So, for example, a guest staying at Pop Century can enjoy a boat rental at the Polynesian Resort. Going to another resort to use the pool is a definite exception. You cannot pool hop, though, except for two exceptions: All-Star guests may use pools at any of the three All-Star resorts and Port Orleans guests may use pools at either Riverside or French Quarter.
4. What is more important: amenities or just getting my family to Walt Disney World?
Like to workout but can’t afford a resort with a health club? Could you sub in body weight workouts while on vacation in order to just get your family to see Mickey? Decide what you can and cannot live without and make the best choice for you!
You’ve Narrowed Down Your Must-Haves, Now What?
So you know that you need a pool (that’s everything) but just having water is enough for you, you don’t need those fancy slides. Or you know you want a slide and at least one sit-down restaurant, but not necessarily Club-Level service. Whatever your needs, your next step should be to reach out to your favorite travel agent (which, of course, is me), and tell them EXACTLY what you’re after.