For those planning their first trip to Walt Disney World, deciding where to stay can be a pretty daunting process. With 25 resorts on Walt Disney World property and countless hotels in the Orlando area catering to Disney visitors, its hard to know where to begin. Follow our steps and you’ll be booking your package in no time.
1.Decide whether you want to stay off-site or on-site. Though there are (seemingly) massive bargains to be had when staying offsite, it pays to do the math. Sure you may be saving $40 a night but when you factor in gas to get to and from the parks, paying $20 a day for parking, and the cost of a car rental (if you’re flying), how much are you really saving? Staying at a Disney Resort comes with nice perks that eliminate many of these costs along with some fantastic extra benefits including:
- Free parking at the resort and theme parks.
- Disney’s Magical Express shuttle to take you between your resort and airport for free.
- Disney Transportation is available at each resort to take you to the theme parks and Disney Springs.
- On-site guests can make dining reservations at 180 days.
- Resort guests may also purchase a Disney Dining Plan allowing you to pre-pay for meals including character dining.
- Fastpasses can be booked for on-site guests 60 days in advance.
- Magical Extras. Disney will often offer a discount card to resort guests offer savings on shopping, Children’s Activity Centers, dining, tours and more.
So though you may miss out on the big bargains by staying on-site you may actually still be saving money while getting a lot of extra perks.
2. Pick your resort category. For those opting to stay on-property, deciding which resort to pick can be tricky. A great starting point it to choose your level of accommodation. Disney has 3 main categories which are as follows:
- Value Resorts– Great for the budget-minded Disney traveler, Value Resort prices usually run $80 -$160 per night depending on time of year. Values offer 2 double beds, large central pool areas (no waterslides), a central food court and most importantly a big dose of Disney theming. It’s not uncommon to see a 3-story dalmatian or a colossal Buzz Lightyear outside your resort room window when staying at a Value. Bus transportation is available to and from the theme parks.
- Moderate Resorts– Best for those who want a bit of luxury without the deluxe pricing, the Moderates are large resorts with beautiful landscaped grounds and more understated theming. They feature 2 queen beds and some even have a pull-down bed to sleep 5. They feature massive central pool areas with waterslides and have both fast food and table service dining options. Most feature lounges for the grown-ups and extra resort activities like carriage rides, bike rentals, and fishing. Moderates will usually run between $200-$300 per night. Transportation is by bus with some offering water taxis to Disney Springs.
- Deluxe Resorts– Disney’s 5 star accommodation, features luxurious theming, and extra amenities like spas and fitness centers. Kids will love the large themed pools with waterslides. Most Deluxes also feature a variety of restaurants including fast food, table service, fine dining and often times character dining options. Guests will be whisked to the parks by monorail, boat or bus (depending on the resort) and the Deluxes offer a wide range of activities for visitors including wine tastings, Night Vision Safaris, cookie decorating and making Mickey tie-dyed shirts just to name a few. Guests can expect to pay $300 a night and up for this little bit of Disney luxury with many resorts sitting in the $400-$600 a night range.
There’s also an additional category called Deluxe Villas, these are essentially studio, 1,2 and 3 bedroom apartments found at all the Deluxe Resorts. They are great for families wanting the convenience of cooking meals at the hotel, or for large parties. However they will usually set visitors back well over $500 a night.
3. Narrow your search. Once you’ve found a category that fits your needs and your budget, start to look at specific resorts. There’s so many fantastic options in each category but here’s a few of our favorites:
- Disney’s Art of Animation- Disney’s newest resort, Art of Animation is the best choice for those wanting a big dose of Disney with sections of the resort based on your favorite Disney/Pixar films including; The Little Mermaid, Cars, The Lion King and Finding Nemo. The resort also boasts the largest pool at Disney, a food court with a Mongolian grill and Family Suites (though they do cost $300+) for those needing more space.
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort- A favorite among adults wanting to stay in the Value Category this resort has a retro theme with each section of the resort representing a different decade. Where else can you swim in a pool shaped like a giant bowling pin? Pop features a large central pool, food court (where you can pick up a famous tie-dyed cheesecake) and buses to each of the parks.
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort- Riverside – A fan favorite for Southern hospitality and beautiful Antebellum architecture. Guests can water taxi to Disney Springs, enjoy a carriage ride on the grounds, stay in a Royal Guest Room filled with princess touches or enjoy a performance by Yeeha Bob Jackson. The resort also features a large central pool area called Ol’ Man Island that the kids will love.
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – One of Disney’s best kept secrets, this resort is a favorite with travel agents and Disney fans alike. It sports beautiful Southwest architecture, a delightfully themed food court and a Mayan pyramid-themed central pool area complete with a 123 ft waterslide. With a convention center attached, it also offers slightly more amenities than its moderate counterparts including a large lounge for the adults, business class rooms and even a spa/health club. Visitors will have bus transportation available to and from the theme parks.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge– One of Disney’s most breathtaking resorts, you are transported to the heart of an African savanna where you can watch zebras and giraffes stroll the grounds. The beauty of this resort is that standard rooms here will run the cheapest of all Deluxe Resorts due to its more remote location. The ambiance, pool areas, dining experiences and cultural activities make it a one-of-a-kind Disney experience.
- Disney Yacht and Beach Club Resort– These resorts have a lot going for them: beautiful beach style theming, a massive water play area called Stormalong Bay and their close proximity to the parks. Guests can get to Epcot by foot or by boat and to both Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs via water taxi. There’s fantastic character dining at Cape May Cafe and guests can enjoy the famous Kitchen Sink Sundae at Beaches and Cream.
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort- One of Walt Disney World’s original resorts this is Deluxe accommodation at its best. The Polynesian has recently undergone an impressive renovation including a massive volcano themed central pool area. Just a quick monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom, guests can enjoy an evening luau, watching fireworks on the private beach or partake in a drink at the local Tiki Bar. This is a great option for those looking to bask in Disney hospitality at its best.
There are so many great perks to staying on property at Walt Disney World and so many fantastic resorts to choose from that visitors are spoiled for choice. If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your getaway here are a few quick tips to help.
- Think about how much time you’ll be spending at the resort. If your family plans on being at the parks most of the time then you don’t need to splurge on a resort with lots of amenities.
- Save by booking a Standard View room. Disney will charge more for rooms with upgraded views. Staying in a Standard View means you can still take advantage of all the resort has to offer but at a more affordable cost.
- Consider working with a Travel Agent. Their extensive Disney training means they know the in’s and out’s of every resort on Disney property and can help you find a perfect fit for your family and your budget. They can also make room requests, help with on-line check-in and even apply discounts to your reservation even after you’ve booked so you are always getting the best rates. Best of all most Disney Vacation Planners offer their services for FREE.
- Consider a Split Stay. Want to stay at a Deluxe Resort but can’t afford it for your whole trip? Consider switching hotels during your stay. Find out more.
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Images copyright Disney.
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