Picking the Right Resort for your Disney World Vacation

If deciding where to stay on Disney property were as simple as sticking to your budget, you’d book a value room and be done with it. After all, they’re clean, comfortable, and give you all the benefits of staying on Disney property while still being kind to your wallet. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Staying at a Disney resort is half the fun of visiting Walt Disney World, with each resort offering a unique feeling and experiences that make choosing downright difficult. Need a little help in deciding where to stay next time? Then try the following suggestions:

1. Set a budget within your comfort zone. Sure, you can probably swing $3500 for a week at the Grand Floridian, but how does that make you feel? If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s not the right resort for you even if you can afford it. The nice thing about staying within your budget is that it allows you to potentially say yes to a lot of other things, whether its tickets to a holiday party, a toy your child wants, or a big dinner at a signature restaurant.

2. Don’t get hung up on resort categories. Disney resorts are divided into three categories: Deluxe, moderate, and value. These categories are useful terms that can help you easily determine what type of amenities a resort has and roughly how much you’ll pay, but they’re even more useful to Disney in terms of marketing because of the ideas they connote to guests. Indeed, these are such powerful terms that I’ve seen guests completely adverse to booking in another, more suitable, category simply because they’ve decided that this category is what works for them and nothing else will do! My advice is to book based on what feels right, not on some label that a brilliant marketing strategist has decided to attach to your resort.

3. How big is your group? Quite often, where you stay will be based on occupancy requirements. Standard value rooms hold only four people (plus one additional child under the age of three). Most deluxe resorts and Port Orleans – Riverside hold five. The Art of Animation Suites, All Star Music Suites, Ft. Wilderness cabins, and some suites at Coronado Springs and the deluxe resorts hold six. You can also book a Disney Vacation Club properties that sleep anywhere from four to twelve. Keep in mind that if you’re on a budget but have a larger family, booking two connecting value rooms is usually the least expensive option.

4. Don’t book based on convenience. I’m frequently asked what I think is the most convenient resort on property and my answer is always this: They’re all equally convenient and inconvenient. Every resort has its transportation challenges, whether it be limited monorail hours, multiple bus stops, or location. While some are better than others—the walk from the Contemporary to the Magic Kingdom is a dream—when it comes right down to it, no visit to Walt Disney World is complete without a little bit of time spent on a Disney bus. And you’re going to do that no matter where you stay.

5. Theming is important. Before I started staying on Disney property, I didn’t realize how much I cared about a resort’s theme. Then I stayed at the All Star Sports. Now, I know some people love this resort, but I’m not a sports fan and I spent a lot of time there rolling my eyes at the theming, all of which, shockingly, revolved around sports. Since then, I’ve tried to stay at resorts where the atmosphere is pleasing to me because I know that this really is a big part of the experience. It doesn’t have to be an expensive resort, but I want a theme I can relate to that’s carried out in the landscaping, lobby, and rooms.

How do you pick your resort room? Do you base it entirely on your budget? Have you ever booked a more expensive resort than you should have, only to regret it later? Please let us know in the comments.

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About Christina Wood

For more travel planning articles by Chris, check out her Disney travel blog, Everything Walt Disney World. Chris is also a member of the Mouse Chat podcast team and an authorized Disney travel planner with Pixie Vacations, and visits the parks about 55 days each year. To get free planning and assistance with your next Disney vacation, please call her at 919-889-5281 or email at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com. You may also fill out a quick Disney Vacation Quote form here.
This entry was posted in Tips and Advice, Travel Planning, Walt Disney World and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Picking the Right Resort for your Disney World Vacation

  1. Gregory Wright says:

    I believe the first question to ask yourself is “How much time will you be spending at your resort?” I personally spend my time sleeping there, and that’s it. So all of the theming and activities are wasted on me. (yet I do prefer to stay on property) However, I have had trips with my family and friends where we were going to spend time at a resort and that was important. I say you need to look at what the resort has to offer you if you are hanging around. Restaurants? Activities? Coolness of the Pool? Budget? And, I did decide that I would try to stay at a deluxe resort at the end of my trip when I cold relax and enjoy that resort, while staying at a value resort while I was only using it as a place to sleep.

  2. Timothy Lewis says:

    When I went to WDW for the 1st time, I looked at where I could stay within my budget. Budget was the biggest factor in my decision. I stayed at the “Pop Century” Resort. It had everything I wanted and was priced within my budget. I stayed for 6 nights, 7 days. It was terrific! I really enjoyed myself and had a great room and everyone was friendly and courteous. If you are on a budget and want to stay on Disney Property, I would recommend the “Pop Century” Resort hands down.

    I had an issue with my meal plans and my girlfriend and I had run out of quick service meals and we didn’t know what to do, so I went to the front desk and the lady at the desk ask me if I needed help, and I explained the situation and she immediately without any prompting, helped me set up the rest of our meals while at WDW! She not only did that, but all the sit down meals we had left, she called each place and made reservations for us! We got to eat breakfast one morning at the “Grand Floridian” resort and had breakfast with the Characters. My girlfriend had no idea I had done that, so imagine her surprise when I told her what I had done!

    What made it all the more special, was that the lady that helped me out for the meals and such, was doing it on her own time! I had caught her at the end of her shift and she was just about ready to go and she went above and beyond the call of duty and I sincerely appreciated what she had done.

    Disney does it right! :)

  3. jen says:

    we chose to stay at the polynesian when we vacation at disney. there are many reasons for our decision. we typically travel with 5 people and like you mentioned above not all resorts can accommodate us in one room. there are nostalgic reasons as well [for me]. personally, i also think that the poly is one of the best themed resorts. i feel that i’m not just at a hotel say like i do when i walk into the contemporary. like you wrote, it all comes down to preference, budget and really what makes you (& your family) tick for disney.

    great post!

  4. Janet says:

    We’ve been to WDW many times and usually we always stay at a moderate resort.
    POR and POFQ are our 2 favorites. We have also stayed at Coronado Springs. It was also very nice. We did stay at value once – Pop Century and it was nice, but we wouldn’t do it again due to very crowded bus area all the time and waiting and waiting for buses. We are currently trying to plan the Boardwalk or Beach Club for our next visit since we spend the majority of our time at Epcot and are able to walk from those locations without taking other transportation. However, my husband and I are having a hard time justifying the pricing! WOW! For 5 of us it would be over $7000 for room and paying for dining plan (if the free dining offer isn’t available). Then airfare from NY on top of that! So, we are having a reality check and considering one of our moderate favorites or perhaps Carribean Beach?

    • jan says:

      the carribean beach resort is so spread out there is an internal bus needed within the resort. some rooms are a very long distancefrom the food court the registration desk and the restaurant and the main pool. if you are staying at the hotel a lot or like everything that far away its ok otherwise would consider another hotel

  5. Lisa says:

    I can’t agree with you more regarding picking a resort based on theme. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside this past October. Everything was great at the resort, except one thing. The music. It was horrible to me. Twang, twang banjo music. On the bus, at the pool, outside in the walkways, in the lobby. It drove me crazy.

    We stayed at the Coronado the previous October and we will go back. It felt like a Mexican vacation resort with their music and atmosphere.

  6. Andrew Parent says:

    Lifestyle changes, family age…all are a consideration. When the kids were young and we opened and closed the parks the value and sometimes moderate resorts were perfect. Now the kids are older, more independent and we are a bit slower….we can really appreciate the deluxe resorts and what they have to offer. We also always tend to go “off” season and the package rates are a bit more tolerable.

  7. Marsha says:

    We chose to stay at Wilderness Lodge and loved it. The theme was something we love and was very relaxing for us. We were also there for 6 nights. We spent some time at the pool and enjoyed the resort. I agree with other posters that if you are not going to be at the resort, then stay as cheaply as possible. Wilderness Lodge was convenient and on the lower price end for the Deluxe category. We will absolutely stay there again.

  8. Donna says:

    We have been to Walt Disney World twice, each for only a quick visit – check in and go to Downtown Disney, one park the next day and check out the third – before going to the mother-in-law’s house in southern Florida. We were encouraged by friends to stay away from the value resorts because they are typically so loud. The first year we stayed at the French Quarter, but the next year we upgraded to the Animal Kingdom Lodge because we got our park tickets free participating in the give-a-day, get-a-day program. This June we plan to go all out and check in early Monday and do a different park each day. We even plan on doing the dining plan and I already have made the reservations for table service. We are booked at the Caribbean Resort because my youngest (will be 13 this year) wanted to go to the beach and he loves the theme of the pool. I’ve been reading lots of bad reviews on several blog site though about the condition of the rooms. I hope I have not made a bad decision.

    • Samantha Remington says:

      Donna – My boyfriend & I stayed at the Caribbean Beach for the first time in September and loved it. The room was clean and quite, landscaping and pools are quite lovely and it feels like a little island escape. If you’re concerned about the walking distance, just request a room in Barbados (close to the custom house). You can also request a recently renovated room at check in at any Disney hotel (we always do). As long as your party doesn’t mind walking a little, it’s a good choice, especially if you have teens who want to log some beach time. We typically stay at Moderate or the lower Deluxe resorts and found the All-Star Resorts not suited to our needs but the Caribbean beach was fine – we’ll definitely go again.

      • Donna says:

        Thanks Samantha for easing my mind. I’ve been reading all these blogs and see the ones talking about mold and water running down the walls and these people just went in December. We are not worried about walking time, since if it is “too far” we can just hop in the car. We will be spending most of our time in the parks anyway. I just want a nice clean place too sleep.

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