Walt Disney World: Where to Stay
One of the important parts of planning your Walt Disney World vacation is choosing where to stay. This can be overwhelming as there is a lot to consider – on property vs off property, type of resort, to rent a car, budget restrictions, etc. We have stayed in at least one of every option available so I have some insight! Here is a break down the choices you have when visiting Walt Disney World to help you decide which option is best for you.
- Get the Magic of Disney: Each resort is themed to transport you away from central Florida and it can add to the magic of your vacation
- Perks: Staying on property means you get the perks of things like Magic Bands but more importantly, Extra Magic Hours. Each day a park opens an hour before and stays open an hour after then general public hours that is restricted to resort guests. This is typically a great time to get on rides with a long wait!
- Do Not Need a Car: I love not having to worry about driving in Disney! Disney transportation is reliable and has creative modes of travel- bus, boat, monorail, and now gondola. Some resorts are even walking distance from park entrance.
- Deluxe Dining: Some of the best dining spots on Disney property are not in the theme parks but in the resorts. Staying at the resorts give you easy access and little travel time from a full belly to bed.
- Price: It is no surprise that Disney is expensive and other than the theme park tickets, staying at the resort is an often non-negotiable expense. While some resorts are competitive with off property rates, most of the prime resorts are several hundred dollars a night.
- Value Resorts (All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Art of Animation, Pop Century): These resorts are the most inexpensive offerings on Disney property. They are known for their over-the-top themes (very photo worthy and fun for kids!), enormous pools, and food court styled dining. Value resorts are not walkable to any park and the buses are the only mode of transportation. Luckily, the gondolas will extend to Art of Animation and Pop Century for service to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Another added benefit of Art of Animation (other than being the newest resort in this category) is the ability to sleep up to a family of six. Be mindful that the Value Resorts are where high school class trips and sporting events are lodged so it can get noisy for these motel styled (door opens to the outside) rooms.
- Moderate Resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter): These resorts sit right in the middle having more amenities than Value Resorts but without the luxury expense of the Deluxe Resorts. These properties are very large and can accommodate many people. Some are so large that it can be up to a ten minute walk to get to the main building and have a bus system just for getting around the resort. That being said, the Moderate Resorts are also know for their immersion throughout the grounds. Families of five will find comfort here- this was also an issue for my family trips so this is a great perk. Some of these rooms are even themed for pirates and princesses! Dining options are expanded to include sit down options in addition to quicker service. While bus transportation is still the main way to get to the parks, Caribbean Beach will be tethered to the gondola system.
- Deluxe Resorts (Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club and the Swan and Dolphin properties): Deluxe Resorts are known for their amenities and proximity to the parks. While the Value and Moderate Resorts rely heavily on bus transportation, the Deluxe Resorts have numerous options – walking, taking a boat, the monorail, and then a bus. Dining options here expand to Signature Dining for fine dining meals, tasting menus, wine pairings, and sometimes even character meals. The Deluxe is exponentially higher in cost with the exchange of high amenities- full gyms, dynamic pools with aquatic play areas (always ranked the best pools on property), and some have a complete spa.
- Villas / DVC (Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas Jambo House and Kidani Village, Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge , The Villas at Grand Floridan, Old Key West, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Riviera, Saratoga Springs, Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs): The Villas with DVC (Disney Vacation Club) take luxury to the next step by adding the comforts of home. There are fully stocked kitchens (food not included but it can be delivered to your room on arrival!), living space, and washer / dryer – everything you need to feel at home. Traveling with a large party? These villas can sleep up to 12 people! While you get the bang-for-your-buck when frequently staying at these accommodations through the DVC program, there is a nifty way to get these rooms without being a DVC member and for a fraction of the price by renting points. Essentially, you are renting someone’s DVC timeshare to benefit from the cheaper prices. We did this for our honeymoon and definitely saved money while having the most comfortable room at the BoardWalk Villa. There are many companies that rent points – I have used The DVC Store and DVC-Rental.
|Value||Moderate||Deluxe / Villa / DVC|
|Price Range Per Night||$||$$||$$$ / $$$$|
|Theme||Over the top cartoon||Large and immersive||Luxury and creative|
|Sleeps up to||4 (Art of Animation can sleep 6)||5||5 (Villas can sleep up to 12)|
|Dining Options||Quick Service||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Transport to Parks||Walk||No||No||Yes|
|Gondola||Pop Century / Art of Animation Only||Caribbean Beach Only||Riviera Only|
|Pools||Large, no slides||Yes with slides||Yes with slides and aquatic play parks|
- Price: It is SO. MUCH. CHEAPER. to stay off property. From renting a room in someone’s home to an enormous house. Saving money on accommodations means you can either pocket the money for another trip, stay longer, or allocate to other trip expenses such as souvenirs or more expensive dining options. It is silly when you compare a Deluxe Resort to some of the equivalent (if not exceeding) amenity options off property for a fraction of the price.
- Comforts of Home with More Amenities: As opposed to a small room with multiple people competing for their own small space, staying off property affords the comforts of home. Having a kitchen can mean saving money but not eating every meal in the theme parks. Every member of your party can sleep in their own room. Laundry options are readily available. Who knows, you may even have your own pool to relax in.
- No Perks: Unfortunately, stay off property means you do have access to Extra Magic Hours. It also means no free Magic Bands. If you still want one for your park pass or FastPasses, Magic Bands are available in retail stores on property starting at $15.
- Car required: Now some people do not see this necessarily as a “con” but there are some things to know. Parking fees at the parks is $25 a day and climbing. There is also a fee for parking at the resorts. While Disney transportation is free, you still need to get on property somehow to take advantage of them. Ride shares like Uber and Lyft can add up over time and also have limited access around the parks.
- Traditional Hotels: With all the theme parks in the Orlando area, there is no shortage of hotels! There are ranges on proximity to the park and prices. Most hotels close to the Disney parks offer free shuttle service to Disney property as well. When choosing this option for a Disney trip, we like to stay at the hotels in walking distance to Disney Springs around Lake Buena Vista so we never feel too far from property and can easily get to Disney transportation since hotel shuttles are sometimes unreliable.
- Airbnb: When we booked flights that got us to Orlando for 11PM, I knew we were not paying for a Disney room that night- what a waste of money when all we really needed was a bed. So for the first time I turned to Airbnb and the availability is amazing! We ended up in an Airbnb for $30 (just a private room but hey, all we needed was a bed)! This option can get you affordable comforts of home to “just a bed” and range in accommodations. There is a huge market in this area for Airbnb so don’t be afraid to take advantage. I look forward to exploring Airbnb offerings in the Orlando area on future trips.
- Traditional Rentals: Renting a house is very common throughout the tourist areas of Orlando. For more room and more amenities you pay significantly less than Deluxe Resorts. Want a massive house that sleeps 10 people? Want a private pool? Want a full size kitchen? You can have it all!
I hope this was helpful for planning your first or next Disney Trip or any destination in the Orlando area!