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Staying on Disney property is certainly my top recommendation for your Disney vacation. At the end of the day, Disney is about telling a story, painting a picture, and creating a complete experience, right? Well, the resorts on property certainly aren’t an exception. Each has been carefully crafted and immerses you in a story – and we LOVE that. Plus, staying on property comes with perks that hotels off site just don’t have. An added value!
There are SO many resorts (more than 25!). So, how do you go about selecting a resort on Walt Disney World property that is best for your family? Let’s break it down for you, and as we go, remember the story! A hint or indicator of it is usually in the name.
Disney separates its resorts into four categories or types – value, moderate, deluxe, and villas (usually part of the Disney Vacation Club, but can be booked for cash). Pricing usually follows this model as it sounds – value is a better price per night as compared to deluxe. The same goes for features onsite and availability of certain amenities. Let’s do a quick breakdown of the Walt Disney World resort categories!
The bulk of rooms in this category are standard and approximately 260 square feet. There is a basic bath setup (sink often in the open with the toilet and shower/tub in a separate room) and bedding could be two doubles, two queens, or a king.
Some rooms in this category are family suites coming in at approximately 520 square feet. They have a similar set up as a standard room but double the baths and add in some convertible sleeping options and are a higher price than the standard rooms.
Views can differ from parking areas and wooded areas to swimming pools – and naturally, the better the view, the higher the price. These resorts typically have outdoor hallways to access the rooms. Speaking of swimming pools, the pools here are typically themed and some are interactive, but here’s your warning – there are no slides! Other forms of recreation can be limited – think poolside games, a playground, and an occasional movie outside at night. Dining options are slim too with your only options being a food court and a pool bar. Finally, transportation provided by Disney (a perk of staying onsite!) will usually be via bus.
The exceptions to this are the Art of Animation Resort and Pop Century Resort, which recently were added to the somewhat new Skyliner route to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Includes: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the Campsites at Fort Wilderness.
Personal Pick: Pop Century is my favorite Value resort. The rooms are great and I love the Skyliner access!
Standard rooms in this category are in the 300 square foot range with a similar bath set up as a value resort, but maybe an additional sink. Two queen beds or one king is the standard, but there might be a spot for a potential fifth person (otherwise four people is the max). Views are similar as well but throw in the possibility of a room facing/near a natural body of water. Pools, other recreation and dining options are a little more robust with the addition of “quiet pools,” water recreation, bikes, at least one table service restaurant, and a lounge. Transportation here is typically bus as well, but there might be a boat service from some resorts to Disney Springs.
Includes: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness.
Personal Pick: Port Orleans French Quarter is one of our favorite resorts on property and definitely my top pick in the moderate category. This is the smallest resort so things are not as spread out as some other properties. POFQ offers great food and drink options, plus a boat to Disney Springs.
There are a variety of rooms and sizes here. We’re talking anywhere from 344 to 440 square feet. The bath situation can vary too and includes what you’ll find in a moderate, but probably in a different configuration for some more privacy. If the room is larger, there might be several baths. Bedding configuration is like a moderate property. However, it’s the views, recreation, dining, and transportation that sets a deluxe resort apart. Pools will have slides, hot tubs, or other water features. Spa services might even be available at select resorts. There are more restaurants to choose from onsite. Lastly, these resorts are typically in close proximity to a park (very attractive to some guests), so transportation options open up. Buses, Skyliner, and boats could still be available, but add walking and Monorails to the list.
Includes: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Village, Riviera, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club.
Personal Pick: I really love the BoardWalk area for a variety of dining and entertainment options, as well as the easy access to the Skyliner. My top pick for the Deluxe Resort category is Beach Club for the location and the Stormalong Bay Pool.
We’ll keep things simple here. Villas are a part of the Disney Vacation Club program but can be booked for cash. Villas can be found at some deluxe properties, but there are also three that are dedicated to Disney Vacation Club. Rooms are villa-style with more amenities and can range from a studio all the way to a three bedroom. Bath and bed configuration can vary by room size, but everything else is similar to a deluxe property.
Includes: Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House and Kidani Village, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Old Key West, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Riviera Resort, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Villas at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
Personal Pick: Riviera Resort is absolutely gorgeous! There are so many great dining options here, including the best character meal on property and a cute little coffee shop. This is our Disney Vacation Club (DVC) home resort.
Other Things to Consider
Evaluate each category as described and make your selection based on the needs of your family. From there, think about the story of the resort and what resonates with you most – maybe it’s animation, the Caribbean, or the South Pacific, and so on. Also, think about how much time you are planning to spend at your resort. Are you going to have some rest days to enjoy the amenities or come back for mid-day breaks? Or will you be gone from park open to park close?
With the breakdown above and these tips, you are on your way to selecting the resort that is perfect for your next Disney trip! You can view all of the Walt Disney World resorts here for more specific information. Need help planning your trip? Fill out my quote form and I can help take the stress out of planning and handle everything for you, at no cost to you as an affiliate of Academy Travel.
Which Disney resort is your favorite one to stay at?
This is SOOO helpful!! Thank you so much for sharing. As someone who has never been, I was lost until I read this!
I’m glad it was helpful! There is definitely a lot of information when it comes to Disney!
We’re hoping to take a Walt Disney World trip in a few years, so I love reading things like this. It makes it all feel so much less overwhelming. Thank you so much for sharing!
You’re welcome! I know Disney can be a lot, so I am happy to help!