Hello friends, I hope you are well! Today I’d update a nice and old blog post (from 2015!), all about how you decide where to stay in Walt Disney World! To start, I’m going to talk about why I like to stay on Disney property, then I’ll give an overview of the different levels of resorts at Walt Disney World. Okay, let’d get started!
(updated July 2019)
Walt Disney World is almost 42 square miles, and holds many hotels in that area. Disney owns 25 resorts, and there are many others within Walt Disney World (not owned by Disney, but on Disney property). So which hotel do you choose? Is it better to stay on or off site? I have done both, but I prefer to stay on site. Before you tell me I’m crazy, let me explain a little.
A Little Background Story…
When My family visited the Orlando area in 2012, we rented a house very close to Walt Disney World and rented a car. We stayed for a week and visited Universal Orlando, Sea World and Kennedy Space Center. For these destinations, it was great. We liked having the room of a house, and we could prepare meals when we wanted. After a week of staying there, we were off to Walt Disney World! We returned the rental car back to the airport, and were off on Disney’s Magical Express (look for a post all about that service soon!). We stayed at a Value resort and took advantage of the Disney transportation.
In the same trip, my sister Alex was feeling under the weather 🙁 but Disney transportation was very fast (they even dispatched an entire bus for the 5 of us to get us to the hotel faster!) It also helps that wheelchairs have priority getting on Disney buses, because they need to be tied down. Being so close to the parks helped in this case, because when she was at a park and wanted to head back to rest, she could easily go with my Dad.
I find that with the size of Walt Disney World it is easier to take Disney Transportation than renting a car and paying for parking, and you can also get the Disney Dining Plan (this post will be update shortly!). If you are staying at a resort that is in Walt Disney Word but not owned by Disney, you may be able to get free transportation to the parks. I have never done this, but know that it may be available at some resorts.
The Disney Resorts
The resorts that are owned by Disney in Walt Disney World are split into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value are the least expensive, moderate are in the middle, and deluxe are the most expensive.
Value resorts include Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the All Stars: All Star Music, All Star Movies, and All Star Sports. These resorts have one main building that houses the dining options, the bus stops and shops. The rooms are in separate buildings all spread out, and the farthest away buildings can be a bit of a walk so if you can I’d recommend paying a bit more for a preferred room. One other thing to note about the value resorts: they are larger than life Disney! Disney character statues are all around the resort, and you’ll find lots of Disney touches in the rooms. You can read a post all about the value resorts here.
Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach (my favourite), Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Fort Wilderness cabins and campground, and Coronado Springs. Moderate resorts are bit more expensive, a bit more quiet, and a bit more spread out. Instead of just a cafeteria style dining area you’ll also have a sit down restaurant. There will be one main building holding all of this plus the shops, and the main bus station. But because these resorts are larger, there are multiple bus stops around the resort that can make things more complicated. I talk more about this in the post all about Disney Transportation. If you’d like to read more about the moderate resorts, check out this post.
Deluxe Resorts include Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Yacht Club. They are the absolute nicest resorts on Disney property, and the prices reflect that! They have the nicest rooms, the nicest restaurants, and can even be within walking distance to the parks! There are so many Deluxe resorts that I split that into two posts. You can read part 1 here, and part 2.
Some deluxe resorts have larger accommodations (mostly for Disney Vacation Club members), called the villas. They share dining and amenities with the deluxe resorts. You can ready all about the villas here and here.
There are a lot of advantages to staying on site. Disney Resorts guests get access to the parks earlier and later on specific days called “Extra Magic Hours”. I would strongly suggest taking advantage of this if you stay at a Disney resort!
What To Consider When Selecting A Disney Resort
Location! Location can be really important, especially if you are relying on Disney Transportation. In some cases you can even WALK to the parks. Like how friggen cool is that? I tend to like resorts in the Epcot area, because they are central, and close to 2 of the 4 theme parks. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are somewhat out of the way, so getting to the other parks can take a little longer if you are staying close to a Kingdom park. Location can also be great, like at Caribbean Beach you can see Illuminations from the main pool. At the Contemporary, you can watch Wishes from the California Grill.
Disney usually creates special offers for guests staying at Disney Resorts, by giving you up to 30% off your stay. You should always check, because they are only for certain dates. You can find the information on the offer by visiting this page on the Walt Disney World website.
A Note About Disney Transportation
Buses only go from resort to park and from park to park. Not from resort to resort! You have to take time into consideration when making reservations at a resort that is not your own. If you are visiting a park that day it won’t be that hard to get there, but getting back can be time consuming. Buses run to Disney Springs until after midnight most nights, so you would have to take a bus to Disney Springs and transfer there to the resort you are staying at. It sounds confusing but I hope it makes sense!
It can be cheaper to stay outside of Walt Disney World, but I feel like it is much more convenient and adds to the experience to stay on site. Especially if you are dedicating your entire vacation to WDW, which I would recommend to get the most of your Walt Disney World experience.
If you’d like to hear more about how you can decide where to stay at Walt Disney World, check out the video below!
Which do you prefer, staying on site or off? If you like to stay on site, which is your favourite resort and why?
Other Vacation Planning Posts:
All About Walt Disney World Transportation
How to Decide When to go to Walt Disney World
How to Decide Where to Stay at Walt Disney World (You’re here!)
Thank you so much for reading!