Now that you have selected your date, next you will have to decide where to stay. One of the most difficult but yet exciting part of planning a Walt Disney World vacation is selecting the right resort for you and your family. I have tips to help you select where to stay on your Disney World vacation.
Walt Disney World offers more than 20 resorts that you can select where to stay. That is a lot to choose from. Some people (like me) view a resort as a place where you sleep and shower after spending an entire day at the parks. Others see a resort as destination itself, where they can enjoy the grounds and the resort amenities. Will you stay on-site of off-site? Staying on Walt Disney World property, on-site, and staying off Walt Disney World property, off-site, has advantages and disadvantages.
Staying off-site offers more space for less money. If you are traveling with a big family, you can save money by staying off-site. Rooms that sleep more than 5 people are pretty expensive on Walt Disney World property. You can save money by staying off-site. There are also guests that want to take a break for Disney and staying off-site can be a good way to break free from Disney. Some off-site property offer full kitchens for less money that at Disney.
Some off-site property do have more than one bathroom which can be a huge plus when you come back after a long day at the parks. Some off-site properties offer free transportation. If it does not offer free transportation, you will have to drive to the parks and pay for parking each day that you are at the parks.
There are also disadvantages of staying off property. Guests staying of property can book their FastPass+ reservations 30 days before their arrival. While guests who stay on property get to make their FastPass+ reservations 60 days before their arrival. This could be a problem if you want a to make a FastPass+ reservation for a popular attraction like Seven Dwarf Mine Train or Frozen Ever After because by the time that you get to make your FastPass+ reservations for popular attractions, it may be all taken. If you are making dining reservations, you cannot make them all at once on the 180 day mark. You will have to make them one at a time at when they hit 180 day mark. Learn more about FastPass here.
I recommend that you go to disneyworld.disney.go.com. Then go to the Places to Stay tab at the top and a drop down menu should appear. Then go down to:
More Great Accommodations
These are Resort Hotels that Disney recommends. It is definitely worth looking into it. You get a lot more square footage, good amenities and transportation to all Disney theme parks.
I also do recommend that you take a look at MouseSavers.com. They have a list of preferred hotels that offer outstanding value and excellent quality near Disney World. They did all the legwork for you and picked the best off-site property. Check out MouseSavers.com preferred off-site list.
Advantages for Staying Off-Site
- Bigger space. Great for larger families or people who want more space
- Less money than staying at Walt Disney World property
- Some have full kitchens
- Some have more than one bathroom
- Some offer free transportation to Disney Parks
- You can have a break from all things Disney
Disadvantages for Staying Off-Site
- Some might not offer free transportation to Disney Parks
- You will not be immersed in Disney 24/7
- Making FastPass+ selections at the 30 day mark
- Making dining reservations one at a time when it hit 180 day mark
- Not having your park purchases delivered to your room
- Not being able to charge things to your room
- Not being able to use the Disney Dining Plan
The biggest benefit of staying at a Walt Disney World property, on-site, is convenience. The resorts are close in proximity to the parks. Depending on where you’re staying, you can easily hop on a boat, monorail or bus to get to the parks. If you need to take a midday break, you can easily go back to your resort. Guests who are flying in, can take Disney’s Magical Express from the airport to their hotel and then back to the airport after their vacation is over. Guests don’t have to rent a car because Disney offers free monorail, boat and bus transportation to and from the parks.
Another huge advantage to staying on Disney World property is being able to book FastPass+ reservations 60 days before their arrival plus up to 10 days of their stay. This is a huge advantage because you may have a good chance to get FastPass+ reservations for popular attractions like Seven Dwarf Mine Train or Frozen Ever After. Guests staying on-site can make their entire dining reservations 180 days in advance. So if you are staying for 10 days, you can book all 10 days of dining all at once. Making advanced dining reservations may increase your chances to get popular dining reservations like Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table.
You can also take advantage of having your purchases charged to your room and having your in park purchases delivered to your resort. Disney has made it easy for guests to enjoy the parks. If you brought your car with your or rented a car, you will receive free parking at all of the Disney theme parks. When you check in, you’ll be given a parking permit that you can show at the window before parking.
Advantages for Staying On-Site
- Making FastPass+ selections 60 plus 10 days before arrival (versus 30 days prior for guests staying off-site)
- Making all of the dining reservations at the 180 day mark
- Free transportation to Disney Parks (monorail, boat, ferry and bus)
- Beautiful theming throughout the resort
- Ability to use Disney’s Magical Express (free transportation and luggage transfers to and from the airport)
- The ease of going back to the resort to take a break
- Having your park purchases delivered to your room
- Being able to charge things to your room
- Not having to rent a car
- Being able to use the Disney Dining Plan
- Extra Magic Hours for on-site guests only
- Free parking at all of the Disney theme parks
- Immersing yourself in Disney 24/7
Disadvantages for Staying Off-Site
- Might be more expensive than staying off-site
- Rooms might be a bit tight
- Some rooms don’t have a full kitchen or a kitchenette
- Some rooms only have one bathroom
I personally prefer staying on site. To me, it feels more magical. You are immersed in Disney 24/7. I love the theming of the Walt Disney World resorts. I also love that at the beginning of my trip, I can park my car in the parking lot and then I don’t have to move it until checkout. Even though, Disney transportation is known to be slow and they squish you on the bus like sardines in a can, I don’t have to worry about driving after a long and exhausting day at the park back to the resort. That’s all worth it to me!
Which on-site resort to choose
There are lots of benefits staying on Walt Disney World properties. There are 5 Value Resorts, 4 Moderate Resorts, 8 Deluxe Resorts and 8 Villas and counting. So what’s the differences between these resorts?
Value Resorts are bright and vibrantly themed. The buildings are big concrete rectangles with bright colors and large statues decorating the grounds. It somewhat resembles a motel. The value resorts have basic amenities such as a food court, pool bar, arcades, a gift shop and pools without waterslides. They do not offer table service dining, baby sitting services, valet parking or a health club.
The rooms are 260sq ft and have either 2 double beds or a king bed. Each resorts has a main pool area and two other smaller pool. Each room has a mini fridge. It also has a playground, a shop, arcade and a food court. The rooms fit about 4 adults and a baby under 3 in a crib. It has free WiFi but it can be spotty in some areas. It does not offer room service. It only offers pizza delivery.
If you need more room, All-Star Music Resort and the Art of Animation Resort offers family suites. The family suites are 565 sq ft. The family suites sleeps up to 6 adults. It has a queen sized bed in the master bedroom and it has its own private bathroom. The living room includes a full size pullout sofa and a full size pull-down bed that converts from the dining table. There is a small second bathroom off the living room. It also has a kitchenette with a microwave, a mini fridge and sink.
- All-Star Movies
- All-Star Music
- All-Star Sports
- Pop Century
- Art of Animation
Best in value: Pop Century
My Favorite: Pop Century
Moderate resorts have beautiful theming and lush landscaping. The resorts are very spread out, so there can be a lot of walking. It offers more amenities than a value resort. It has a food court, a table-service restaurant (except for Port Orleans – French Quarter), a lounge bar (except Caribbean Beach), a pool bar, arcades, a pool with a waterslide, a gift shop and on-site recreation.
The rooms are 314 sq ft and 2 double beds or a king bed. The Moderate resorts have a mini fridge and free WiFi. It has a main pools with a slides, other small pools and a playground.
The odd ball in the group is the cabins at Ft Wilderness. It is listed as a moderate and it sleeps 6. It has a full kitchen, 1 bathroom, 1 queen sized bed, 1 set of bunk beds and a pull out sleeper sofa.
Types of Rooms
Standard rooms at Caribbean Beach have two queen or double sized beds which sleep 4 plus one baby under age 3 in a crib. Some rooms have a pull-down bunk-size bed for a child, which sleeps 5 plus one baby under age 3 in a crib.
Standard rooms at Coronado Springs, Port Orleans – French Quarter and the Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans – Riverside have two queen sized beds which sleep 4 plus one baby under age 3 in a crib.
Standard rooms in the Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans – Riverside have two queen sized beds plus pull-down bunk-size bed for a child which sleeps 5 plus one baby under age 3 in a crib.
Coronado Springs offers suites, including Junior Suites, 1-bedroom suites and 2-bedroom suites. The price of a Junior Suite is more than double the cost of a standard room.
Coronado Springs offers Business Club Level rooms. There is an extra charge per night that includes personalized Front Desk and Guest Services, upgraded mattresses, lounge chair (in place of ottomans), additional shelving in vanity area, a DVD player, robes and turndown service.
The Business Club Level rooms will have access to Coconino Lounge, which is in the Cabanas building 9B from 7:00 AM – 10:00 AM for breakfast and 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM for evening service. In the morning, the lounge will have continental breakfast items. In the evening from 5:00 PM. to 7:00 PM, the lounge will offer appetizers such as cheeses, veggies, dips, antipasto meats, and breads. At 7:00 PM, the lounge will have pretzels, chips and fresh baked cookies. Throughout the evening guests are welcome to complimentary soft drinks, Perrier, beer, wine and sangria.
Caribbean Beach Resort has 384 Pirate-themed rooms in the Trinidad South buildings. There is an additional charge per night. It has two standard sized bed in a boat with a mast and sails.
Port Orleans – Riverside has 512 Royal Guest Rooms in the Oak Manor and Parterre Place buildings of Magnolia Bend (buildings 90 and 95). These rooms are very ornate with wooden decorative beds that feature headboards with fiber-optic special effects. It has gold trim throughout the room. It has picture of Tiana and friends hanging around the room. Tiana leaves a special surprise for her royal friends in the room. The details of the room will make you feel royal.
- Cabins at Ft. Wilderness
- Caribbean Beach
- Coronado Springs
- Port Orleans – French Quarter
- Port Orleans – Riverside
Best in value: Coronado Springs
My Favorite: Port Orleans – Riverside
Deluxe resorts have incredibly beautiful theming and lush landscaping. They offer valet parking, bell staff and concierge services. Deluxe Resorts also have table service restaurants, lounges, spacious rooms, suites, full room service, arcades, health club and shops. Most offer bike rentals and have onsite childcare centers. Deluxe Resorts are closer to at least one of the 4 Disney theme parks. Some have monorail and boat transportation. Each of the main pools have a waterslide or a feature. Most standard rooms at a deluxe resorts sleep up to 5 plus one baby under age 3 in a crib. The rooms come with two queen sized beds and a daybed. Most have a double sink.
The standard rooms at the deluxe resorts vary in size from 344 sq ft at to 440 sq ft. The rooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge are about 344 sq ft and the rooms at the Grand Floridian are about 440 sq ft.
All Deluxe resorts offer concierge service for an extra charge. This service gives you access to a private lounge that serves continental breakfast plus afternoon and evening snacks and drinks.
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Beach Club
- BoardWalk Inn
- Grand Floridian
- Polynesian Village
- Wilderness Lodge
- Yacht Club
Best in value: Wilderness Lodge
My Favorite: Polynesian Village
Villas – Disney Vacation Club (DVC)
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) accommodations range from a studio with small kitchenette that sleeps 4 to deluxe villas that can sleep 12 adults. In between are the one bedroom units that can hold 4 and the two bedroom units that can hold 8. Some of these accommodations have washer & dryers, fully equipped kitchens and jet tubs. The Fort Wilderness Cabins sleep 6 adults and it has a fully equipped kitchen and a 1 bathroom.
- Animal Kingdom Villas
- Bay Lake Tower
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Villas
- Villas at Grand Floridian
- Old Key West
- Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Saratoga Springs
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
Best in value: Old Key West
My Favorite: BoarkWalk Villas