Cars Suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort; Courtesy of Disney
All Ages

How to Choose a Disney World Resort Hotel

See recent posts by Jackie Perrin

Where should you stay in Disney World? With dozens of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, the options are extensive. When it comes to your trip, however, it pays to be picky. After all, the decision affects all facets of the experience–from how much cash you have for food and souvenirs to how much (or how little) space you have to share with your travel companions. Here’s your lay of the land or, in this case, “The World.”

Lion King Suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort; Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Value Resort Hotels

You’ll likely need to make a trade-off if you go this route. On the plus side, Value Resort Hotels are the most affordable, and offer the most exaggerated flair–from the 41-foot-tall Rubik’s Cube adorning Disney’s Pop Century Resort to the three-story electric guitars found at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort. On the down side, the rooms are small, averaging around 260 square feet.

Still, Value Resort Hotels offer in-room mini-fridges and coffeemakers, food courts, playgrounds and themed pools with adjacent kiddie pools (though none of the pools have slides). Guests at these properties also enjoy many of the same attractive amenities offered at higher-end resorts–free transportation, extended theme park hours (including early entry) and in-room treats, such as towel animals.

Disney’s Value Resorts

Disney Value Resort Pick: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort; Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Moderate Resort Hotels

Still in tune with a conservative family budget, Moderate Hotels offer families a bit more space than Value Hotels, as well as a more resort-style atmosphere, with water sports rentals, organized activities and themed pools with slides and interactive water features. Rooms, averaging 314 square feet, are larger, too, and themed choices like Pirate Rooms (Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort) pack plenty of kid appeal.

Room arrangements–with two sinks, versus only one found at Value Resorts–are great for families, and include refrigerators and coffeemakers. Food courts provide plenty of kid-pleasing options, and most lodgings have a sit-down restaurant. Complimentary transportation to theme parks is by bus or boat (and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort operates a private, internal shuttle, too).

Tip: Save some time and legwork by booking a room in a building close to the center of resort activity.

Disney’s Moderate Resorts

Moderate Resort Pick: The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Disney's Wilderness Lodge; Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels

Elaborate themes, water park-style pools and onsite restaurants give guests grounds to go the deluxe route. But, for many family visitors, some of the most attractive amenities featured at the World’s Deluxe Resort Hotels aren’t entertainment-oriented, but instead, are focused on comfort and convenience. Among the most popular reasons parents opt for a deluxe spot to stay are spacious accommodations, proximity to theme parks, onsite childcare centers (select properties) and access to an array of personal services. Plus, there’s full room service, which can be a big help when you’re traveling with kids.

At almost all Deluxe properties, guests enjoy direct access to at least one Disney World theme park via monorail, boat or walkway. All resorts are designed with interior corridors and services centrally located under one roof, making moving about with little ones less of a chore.

Families who value a personal touch will appreciate a concierge-level room option (also known as Club Level Concierge), which affords admission to a private lounge with complimentary food and beverages, access to exclusive tours (like the Sunrise Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and the service of a dedicated caretaker, who can help make arrangements for special occasions, rearrange furniture in rooms, shop for special supplies and perform other magical feats.

Tip: If you’re trying to conserve a little cash, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort are good options. Although standard rooms are on the small side, these resorts offer big themes for the lowest price point in the category.

Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels

Moderate Resort Pick: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Plunge Pool at Disney's Polynesian Villas; Courtesy of Disney

Disney’s Deluxe Villas

Offering the comforts of home, combined with the upper-level amenities available to those staying at a Deluxe Walt Disney World Resort, Deluxe Villas present the best of both worlds. Home bases for members of the Disney Vacation Club, these timeshare resorts offer accommodations for nightly rentals to the general public. Room options vary widely–from compact studios, equipped with microwaves, coffeemakers and mini-fridges, to sprawling, three-bedroom, three-bath villas with full kitchens, washers and dryers.

Of the nine Deluxe Villa (or Vacation Club) Resorts, six are associated with Deluxe Hotels and are situated either within or adjacent to a Deluxe Hotel building. Guests of Deluxe Villas enjoy the facilities of the associated resort, as well as the amenities exclusive to the Deluxe Villa property, such as dedicated pools and recreation facilities. Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa stand independently, and facilities and services at these properties are self-contained.

Disney’s Deluxe Villas

Moderate Resort Pick: Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

Finding Nemo Suite at Disney's Art of Animation Resort; Courtesy of Disney

Disney Hotel Rooms for 5 or More

There is an occupancy limit at all hotels. At most Value and Moderate Hotels, the maximum capacity is four guests per room, plus one child under the age of 3 in a crib. There are three exceptions: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside (Moderate) allows five guests in some rooms; Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (Value) allows up to six in Family Suites; and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort (Value) also allows up to six in Family Suites. At most Deluxe Category resorts, the allowance is often five people per standard room, plus a crib sleeper under the age of 3.

Tip: Before booking, be aware that room rates at Walt Disney World Resort hotels are based on double occupancy. When more than two adults occupy a room, there is a daily surcharge for each additional adult ($15 at Value Resorts, $25 at Moderate Resorts, and $35 at Deluxe Resorts as of 2018). There are no such fees at Deluxe Villas, though there are occupancy limits at these home-away-from-home properties.

Tip: You can also opt for a sized-to-fit suite, available at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (Moderate), as well as Deluxe Resort Hotel properties, where room layouts, dimensions and prices vary widely.

Many families find that one- to three-bedroom villas at Deluxe Villas offer the most comfortable, stick-together solution, providing flexible room arrangements, homey surroundings and a lot more space than you’ll find in traditional accommodations.

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