Congratulations! You’ve decided to vacation in Disney World! Now it’s time to start planning and choosing what’s right for you.
If you want to be totally immersed in everything Disney and have the ultimate convenience, you’ll want to stay at one of the Disney resort hotels. While there are dozens of hotels off property, they don’t provide Disney amenities like Disney’s Magical Express, Extra Magic Hours, and early FP+ and Advanced Dining Reservations.
Let’s take a look at how you can choose the best Disney Resort Hotel for your style!
Before we get into determining the best resort for you, we need to understand the hotel tiers in Disney World.
There are three tiers of hotels: value, moderate, and deluxe.
Value resorts are often large campuses with a couple pools and a central dining location in the form of a food court. The only form of transportation that Disney provides for these resorts is bus service, which is still pretty good.
Moderate resorts can also be pretty spread out, and most of them have at least a couple internal bus stops. The rooms in the moderate category are larger than those in the value category, and they will have at least one table-service restaurant. They also have a more elaborate theme. They are, however, also usually served by bus transportation.
Deluxe resorts are the nicest resorts that Disney owns. They have the largest rooms, lots of dining options including signature restaurants, and they’re very elaborately themed. Most deluxe resorts also have monorail access and / or boat transportation, plus bus transportation as well.
Within many of the deluxe resorts are deluxe villas, which are equivalent to home rentals outside of Disney World. These are also the accommodations offered to Disney Vacation Club members. The villas have laundry, a full kitchen, a living area, and nice finishes.
Where do you normally stay?
Before you even consider your budget, think about where you normally stay when you go on vacation. If you’re used to staying at very high-end hotels, you won’t be happy at a value resort. If you’re used to staying in affordable motels, you’ll be surprised at the amenities you get in Disney’s “motel” style value resorts. If you typically stay at mainstream hotels, moderates are probably a good bet for you.
If you’re used to camping and you’re within driving distance of Disney World, consider reserving a spot at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. There are plots for campers of all sizes or you can tent camp with a variety of hookup options.
On the other end of that, if you’re used to renting houses or traveling with a group of people, you’ll want to focus on the deluxe villas. They may seem pricey, but if you can split the cost with your traveling companions, it can actually be very affordable.
What kind of vacationer are you?
Next, you’ll want to consider where you plan to spend your time. Keep in mind that Disney World is unlike most other vacation destinations. There are four theme parks, two water parks, two miniature golf courses, a professional golf course, and dozens of restaurants. Even on an extended vacation, you’ll have a hard time doing everything.
With that in mind, ask yourself whether you like to relax at the resort by the pool and enjoy a leisurely meal or if you like to be on the go chasing FP+ return times, eating on the run, and doing as much as possible with your time.
If you are an “on the go” kind of vacationer, you’ll basically be using your hotel as a place to sleep and shower. In this case, a value resort is all you need. You’ll get a comfy bed, a clean bathroom, and all of the amenities that come with staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. Plus, some of them have some really cool pools like the Big Blue Pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Value resorts are great for a long weekend vacation.
If you’re spending a week or more in Disney World and you plan to relax and really enjoy the resort for what it is, you might want to consider a deluxe resort. They’ll have the nicest restaurants, rooms, and pools.
Maybe you’re staying more than a few days but not a whole two weeks. You want to enjoy the resort, but you plan to explore the parks as well. Maybe you can’t splurge on a deluxe resort but you want a something little nicer than a value resort. The moderate resorts are a good option for you.
Do you like the pool?
All Disney resort hotels have pools, but some are nicer than others. Following the pattern above, deluxe resorts have the nicest pools, moderate pools are nicely themed, and value resort pools are pretty basic. If resort pools are important to you, here’s what you need to know.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort have exclusive access to Stormalong Bay, which is widely considered the nicest pool on property. With slides, pools, a lazy river, and a couple whirlpools, Stormalong Bay is like a mini water park. If you love to hang out at the pool but you don’t want to spring for the water parks and more option, you’ll actually save money and have more access by staying at the Yacht or Beach Club. I should mention here that Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is a really nice resort, but if creepy clowns are the stuff of nightmares for you, avoid the pool at all costs.
Pools in the moderate category are often very nice, and those at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort are rated higher than many deluxe resort pools making them a great value!
Value resorts have nice pools, but they’re pretty basic. If your budget doesn’t allow for a moderate or deluxe resort but a pool is an important part of your vacation, look at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The Big Blue Pool is the largest pool on property, it’s a zero-depth entry, and it has underwater speakers! None of the value resorts have whirlpools.
Are you into the nightlife?
Disney World isn’t just for kids and that’s apparent in Disney Springs. This shopping, dining, and entertainment district has some amazing new restaurants, high-end retail stores, and excellent entertainment late into the night and even early morning hours.
If you’re taking an adults-only vacation and nightlife is important to you, choose a hotel that is close to the action. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa is within walking distance and there’s also boat service between Disney Springs and the Resort. Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort also provide boat transportation to and from Disney Springs.
There are a handful of hotels not owned by Disney but on Disney property very close to Disney Springs. These hotels range from basic to fancy, and they’re within walking distance of Disney Springs with sidewalks for an easy trip.
Which park will you be visiting most?
Finally, consider which park you want easiest access to. Deluxe resorts are in closest proximity to the parks, but none are close to more than two parks.
If you have young kids, you might want to be close to Magic Kingdom. In this case, check out Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, or Disney’s Polynesian Resort. All three of these resorts have monorail stops that can easily take you to Magic Kingdom and, if you stay on for a bit longer, to Epcot. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort does not have a monorail stop, but there is a ferry to and from Magic Kingdom.
Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are close to each other, so hotels in the area are within walking distance. These include Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, and non-Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts. If you’re visiting during one of Epcot’s festivals, access to the International Gateway from these resorts is invaluable!