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Choosing the Right Disney Resort for Your Trip

There’s so much that Walt Disney World has to offer, and often Guests may not always realize just how much there is to enjoy and experience.

This can be especially true for Guests who are visiting for the first time, and also international Guests, who may have visited before but stayed elsewhere in Orlando.

It could be said that it can be a bit daunting planning a trip – with so much on offer – including Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks – there is a lot to factor in to plan the perfect visit. 

One decision that can be difficult is where to stay. It’s easy to say “we’ll stay at a Disney Resort”…until you actually find out that there are now 22 Walt Disney World Resort hotels available to stay at!

Credit: Disney

Credit: Disney

Of course, the budget can largely influence the Resort that you decide to stay in, but that may only narrow down your choice if you are working within a budget range.

So, let us make the decision of which Resort to stay at a little easier! Here, we’ll explore the different hotel classifications and the benefits that come with staying in a Walt Disney World Resort.

For some Guests, they may need to be convinced that Disney Resort Hotels are a good choice. Certainly, a Disney World Hotel offers many things that can help to make your vacation a little more relaxing and way more magical.

Free Disney transportation

Each Disney Resort has its own bus service, that runs to and from each of the Disney Parks and Disney Springs. There is also transportation to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks (one may be closed for maintenance and refurbishment, depending on the time of year you are visiting – usually during the winter months).

Sometimes they are direct, sometimes they require a change at Disney Springs. It’s also useful to know that should you choose to stay elsewhere in Orlando, whilst on Walt Disney World property, you are welcome to use Disney Transportation – the fun of exploring the Hotel Resorts isn’t limited to Hotel Guests only!

Credit: Disney

Early Theme Park Entry

As a Disney Resort Guest, you are able to take advantage of extra hours in each of the 4 Disney Parks throughout the week. Usually, each Park is open for early entry at least once per week, typically from 8:30 a.m. During this time, certain attractions are open for Guests to enjoy prior to the official Park opening.

Resort Activities

Each Disney Resort has its own activities that are hosted throughout the week. Some activities are common throughout the 22 Resorts, like pool activities and Movies Under the Stars at Resorts like Disney’s Contemporary or Wilderness Lodge.

Other activities are specific to the Resort. You can toast marshmallows around the campfire at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, do some morning yoga at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, as well as go on some amazing guided tours.

Most activities are complimentary, but there are also some that come at an additional charge, such as running events, boat rental, and horse and carriage rides.

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Incredible Theming

Each and every Disney Resort is themed to the highest level, no matter the classification of the Resort, as you would only expect of The Walt Disney Company.

That being said, regardless of the Resort that you choose to stay at, it is worth making time during your trip to stop by other Resorts. The Resorts make for great photo backdrops, and it’s great to try full-service restaurants or enjoy different snacks from around Walt Disney World in the quick-service restaurants.

Unlimited Drinks

All Disney Resorts offer an ‘unlimited refillable mug’ that is available for purchase at the quick-service restaurant. Once purchased, the mug is activated for the entire length of your stay, giving you unlimited refills on soft drinks and hot drinks from any quick-service location in any Disney Resort.

Although you cannot refill your mug in a Disney theme park, you are able to take your mug into the Parks with you – this can be useful to fill with water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Credit: V Mills

Resort Shipping

Here at Disney Tips, Disney merchandise is a weakness! If you are like us, you will absolutely benefit from being able to send your purchases back to your Resort gift shop.

This is complimentary and there is no limit to the number of packages you can send to your Resort for stores across WDW. Although this is currently unavailable, it is something that has been offered in the past, and will hopefully resume once pandemic restrictions have been lifted.

Online Check-In

This is available across all Disney Resorts; this informs you of your room number ahead of arrival and can alert you when your hotel room is ready for you to visit.

This reduces the need for you to visit the front desk upon arrival. If you have left luggage at bell services, once you arrive at your room, you are able to call down and a Cast Member will bring your luggage to your room.

saratoga-resort

Credit: Disney Dining

When it comes to choosing which Resort to stay in, a good starting point is to consider the category that will best suit your budget. Once that has been decided, select the Resort that will suit you and your family best: theming could play a part in this; otherwise go for the Resort that offers the facilities and activities that will work best for you. 

Disney Resorts are split into three categories:

Value Resorts 

Resorts in this category are generally the cheaper hotels to stay in, and you could say that they are Disney’s version of a motel.

Needless to say, you can still expect the theming to be on point, as only Disney does; expect larger-than-life characters, bold and bright colors, and plenty of photo opportunities – unique to each Resort. You can pick from ice hockey or country music to The Little Mermaid or the 1950s.

Rooms have everything you need for a comfortable stay, including two queen-sized beds, a table and chairs, tv, fridge, bath-shower, WC, vanity area with sink, storage for clothes and luggage.

Most hotel rooms in the Value Resorts have recently been refurbished, offering more storage, and changing one bed to a Murphy bed, that can be folded away to provide more room to move about during daytime hours.

There is usually at least 2 themed pools per Resort with plenty of seating around, and pool-side activities and entertainment throughout each day (generally the Resort will offer activities at the main pool, and have a smaller, ‘quiet’ pool, for those days where an afternoon nap is needed!). These Resorts have one central bus stop area, as well as a quick-service restaurant, a gift store, and an arcade. 

Credit: Disney Tips

Value Resorts at Walt Disney World in Florida include:

  • All-Star Sports
  • All-Star Music
  • All-Star Movies
  • Pop Century
  • Art of Animation Resort (This Resort also has the option of Suites, however, these are a lot more pricey, and can work out more expensive than a Moderate Resort room.)

Value Resorts are most likely to be the cheapest Disney Resort Hotels to stay in, making them ideal for families who have a smaller budget. If your vacation is all about the Parks and sights of Orlando, and you are looking for a hotel that will act as a base to sleep, shower, and store personal belongings, then Value Resorts are a perfect choice.

A Value Resort would also work well if you are making a short visit to Walt Disney World, to enjoy special events that are taking places, such as the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival. Value Resorts put you right at the heart of the Disney magic, whilst leaving more of your budget for merchandise, food and drink, and the experiences that will help to make your vacation simply perfect.

Moderate Resorts

These are the in-between of the Disney Resorts; the theming tends to be more atmospheric than Value Resorts. Disney characters are less of the focal point in the scenery of the Resort, and instead, enhance the story of the Resort.

Rooms are on the larger size compared to the Value resorts. Here at Disney Tips, we believe that these Resorts are definitely worth the extra cost if your budget allows for it. There tends to be less of the hustle-and-bustle that you can feel at the Value Resorts, helping your vacation to feel a little more relaxed when you need it to.

Credit: V Mills

Moderate Resorts at Disney World include:

  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Coronado Springs
  • Port Orleans French Quarter
  • Port Orleans Riverside
  • Fort Wilderness Cabins & Campground

Here’s why we recommend choosing to stay in a Moderate Resort Disney hotel:

  • Your budget allows for a little extra to be spent on accommodation
  • Bigger rooms, making sure your stay is a comfortable one
  • Beautiful theming with a story like only Disney can create
  • More of a Deluxe-Resort-feel without the price that comes with Deluxe Resorts
  • Most Moderate resorts have more than one mode of transport to another part of Walt Disney World, like the Skyliner
  • Variety of activities to enjoy away from Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Quick-service and full-service restaurants are available
  • Multiple bus stops (all Moderate Resorts, except Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter)

Credit: Disney Tips

Deluxe Resorts

There’s no denying that if your budget is unlimited, you would likely choose a Deluxe Resort every time.

Everything from the theming to the hotel rooms having a balcony, to the activities that are on offer, and even their locations; all of these things come together to make each Deluxe Resort perfect in their own way. It’s safe to say that a stay in a Deluxe Resort will add that extra bit of magic to your vacation.

You will find both quick-service and full-service restaurants available in all of the Deluxe Resorts, as well as at least one gift shop. Each of the Deluxe Resorts has additional activities available according to the theming of the Resort; some require an additional charge, but most are complimentary.

Deluxe Resorts are placed in great locations at Walt Disney World so that they offer easy access to at least one Disney Park. Most of the Resorts are also connected to the Disney Buses and at least one other mode of Disney Transportation. These Resorts are perfect for those Guests that want downtime within your vacation to sit, relax, enjoy the pool and what the Resort has to offer.

Credit: Disney Tips

 

Deluxe Resorts at Lake Buena Vista include:

  • Saratoga Springs
  • Old Key West
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • Beach Club
  • Yacht Club
  • Boardwalk Inn
  • Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Polynesian Village Resort
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Here’s why we recommend choosing to stay in a Deluxe Resort:

  • A larger budget, that allows for more to be spent on accommodation
  • The option to stay in Club Level accommodation, that offers separate concierge, snacks, and beverages throughout your stay, and preferred location of hotel room within the Resort
  • Larger rooms with a balcony, and further options of Lake View, Garden View, or Theme Park View
  • Villas available to stay is as most Deluxe Resorts are also part of Disney Vacation Club
  • More than one mode of transport is available to get around Walt Disney World, including the Monorail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  • A choice of restaurants to dine in whilst in the Resort, some of which are Signature Dining restaurants offering fine dining
  • A wide range of activities available to enjoy during time away from the Parks
  • Internal corridors, giving you the feeling of being in a hotel (all Value and Moderate Resort rooms, except Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, are accessed from external corridors)
grand-floridian-disney-world

Credit: Disney

Consider Location

One final thing to consider when choosing a Disney Resort is the location. For some, this won’t be important – you will be happy with being able to access all that Walt Disney World has to offer, using Disney Transportation.

However, if you are planning on spending most of your time at a specific Disney Park, it is worth checking out the Resorts that are located closer to that Park than others.

Check out the Walt Disney World website to find the Resorts that are located closest to your favorite Park. That being said, you will not be at a disadvantage staying in another Disney Resort if there is one that takes your preference, but is located a little further away from Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Credit: Disney

Regardless of the Walt Disney World Resort that you choose to stay in, you are certainly in for a treat; there is something really quite special about checking into a Disney Resort.

This is your home-away-from-home after all, whilst you’re on vacation. Enjoy being at the heart of Disney magic!

About Victoria Mills

Victoria is a Disney-loving, tea-drinking, Math teacher from Liverpool, England. Her motto is 'work hard, Disney harder'! Having taken part in the Disney College Program back in 2010, Victoria's love and appreciation for Walt Disney World only grew, and it's the place where she feels most herself - it's home!