Written By Lori Stephens
Selecting a Resort on Walt Disney World Property
Staying on Disney property is certainly our recommendation. 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. Added value! However, there are SO many resorts (more than 25!). So, how do you select the one that is best for your family? Well, we’re here to 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 - 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. Same goes for features onsite and availability of certain amenities. Let’s do a quick breakdown!
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 and toilet and shower/tub in a separate room) and bedding could be two doubles 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 but double the baths and add in some convertible sleeping options. From here things at both are about the same. Views can differ from parking areas and wooded areas to swimming pools – and naturally the better the view the higher the price. Speaking of swimming pools, the pools here are typically themed and could be interactive, but here’s your warning – 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 foot court or pool bar. Finally, transportation provided by Disney (a perk of staying onsite!) will usually be via bus.
The only exceptions to this are the Art of Animation Resort and Pop Century, which recently were added to the new-ish Skyliner route.
Includes: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Campsites at Fort Wilderness.
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 is 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, a health club (Coronado Springs), at least one table service restaurant and a lounge. Transport 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 Cabins at Fort Wilderness
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 more privacy. If the room is larger, there might be several baths. Bedding configuration is like a moderate property with nothing smaller than a queen. However, it’s the views, recreation, dining, and transportation that sets a deluxe apart. Pools will have slides, hot tubs, or other water features. Spa services might even be available. There are more table service restaurants, room service and maybe even character dining onsite. Lastly, these resorts are typically in close proximity to a park (very attractive to some), 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, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club.
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.
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. With the breakdown above and these two tips, you’re on your way to selecting the resort that is perfect for you!
Lori is a lover of all things travel and has been involved in the travel industry since 1998. After helping Sojourners as a travel advisor for years, Lori opened her own agency in 2021 so that she could still create a community of like-minded travel lovers that also helps others find their passion and dream in a new and exciting career.
Yes, she still sells travel! She LOVES helping her clients make memories! But she also loves helping her team learn, grow, and change their lives by serving others through travel.
Lori is a wife to an amazing man (our IT guy) and is the mother to 6 brilliant and beautiful children.