So you’ve made the big decision that your next vacation will be in Orlando, and you’re either contemplating staying in Walt Disney World (WDW) or you absolutely know you want to stay on property but have no idea where to begin? Well hopefully this guide will help!
So the first question that needs answering:
Why stay on Disney property and nowhere else?
Here are just some of the main things you can expect if you choose to stay at any of the hotels at Walt Disney World:
- FREE Disney Transportation to WDW
Disney’s Magical (arriving) / Tragical (departing) Express will take you to and from Orlando International Airport, to your Disney Resort, which saves you having to hire a car. This is a free service, simply just a case of scheduling your collection once you have finalised your booking – although since tipping is customary, you may wish to tip your driver for outstanding guest service.
- Free Disney transportation around WDW
Each resort has its own bus service running to and from each of the Disney Parks as well as Disney Springs. There is also transportation to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, sometimes direct, otherwise requires a change at Disney Springs.
- Disney Dining Plan (DDP)
There are several levels of dining plan that you can add onto your booking, but this essentially turns your holiday into some level of inclusiveness when it comes to food and drink, reducing the need to carry cash with you for food, which we will warn, can be rather expensive on Disney property!
- Extra Magic Hours (EMH)
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 has 2 EMH events per week.
- Resort Activities
Each Disney Resort has their own activities that they host throughout the week: some activities are common throughout the resorts, such as Movies on the Lawn and pool activities; others are specific to the resort, such as toasting marshmallows, morning yoga and guided tours. Most activities are free, but there are also some that come at an additional charge, such as running events, boat rental and horse carriage rides.
- Beautiful Resorts
Each and every Disney resort is themed, and as you would expect with Disney, they do not hold back, so even their Value resorts are wonderfully themed, and are worth an explore even if you choose to stay elsewhere.
If you’re like us and Disney merchandise is a weakness, then 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.
How do I choose a resort?
Now you may be thinking, but how do I choose which hotel to stay in? This can be a difficult one as there are TWENTY ONE different resorts to choose from (excluding the Disney Vacation Club specific areas of resorts), so unless you’re wanting to stay in every WDW Hotel Resort, you will be looking at the one that is going to be most suitable for you and your family’s needs.
Disney resorts are split into three different categories, here’s a breakdown of each of the tiered resorts that will hopefully help you come to your decision:
Resorts in this category are generally the cheaper resorts to stay in, and you could say that they are Disney’s version of a Motel. Rooms have everything you need for a comfortable stay.
There are usually at least two themed pools per resort with plenty of seating and pool-side activities and entertainment every day.
These resorts have one central bus stop area. Each resort also has a Quick-Service Restaurant, a Gift Store, and an arcade.
Value Resorts include:
- All Star Sports
- All Star Music
- All Star Movies
- Pop Century
- Art of Animation (NOTE: Here you also have the option of Suite rooms, however these are a lot more pricey, and can work out more expensive than a Moderate Resort room.)
Why choose value?
- The cheapest resorts to stay in so are ideal for those 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 and shower and store personal belongings, then these are a perfect choice to be right within the Disney magic, leaving more of your budget for merchandise, food, and a little bit of treating yourself at the outlets!
These resorts are the in-between of the Disney resorts; the theming tends to be more atmospheric than the Value, with Disney characters being less of the focal point in the scenery of the resort, and more of a nice touch to the story of the resort you choose to stay in.
Rooms are on the larger size compared to the Value resorts. Having stayed in each of the moderate resorts on property, we would say 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, giving the feeling of a little more relaxation whilst you are away.
Moderate Resorts include:
- Caribbean Beach
- Coronado Springs
- Port Orleans French Quarter
- Port Orleans Riverside
- Fort Wilderness Cabins
Why choose moderate?
- A budget that allows for a little extra to be spent on accommodation
- Bigger rooms
- Beautiful theming with a story
- More of a deluxe resort feel without the price that comes with Deluxe
- Most moderate resorts have more than one mode of transport to another part of WDW
- Variety of activities to enjoy away from the parks
- Quick-service and full-service restaurants available
There’s no denying that if your budget was open-ended, you would likely choose a Deluxe resort every time. Everything from the theming, to their rooms having a balcony, to the activities that they offer, and even their locations, all adds to making each of the resorts perfect in their own way.
There are still many of these resorts that we are yet to stay in, but the ones that we have stayed in have made for the cherry on top of the vacation. You will find both quick-service and full-serve restaurants available in all of the Deluxe resorts, as well as at least one gift shop. These resorts each have additional activities available according to the theming of the resort, some require an additional charge, others are complimentary.
The location of these resorts likely make it easier to get to one or more Disney Park, and most of the resorts have more than one mode of transport available to get around WDW. These resorts are also perfect for those of you that want downtime within your vacation to sit, relax, enjoy the pool and what the resort has to offer.
Deluxe Resorts include:
- Saratoga Springs
- Old Key West
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Wilderness Lodge
- Beach Club
- Yacht Club
- Boardwalk Inn
- Riviera Resort
- Contemporary Resort
- Polynesian Village
- Grand Floridian
Why choose deluxe?
- A larger budget
- You would like the option to stay Club Level, with separate concierge, and snacks and beverages available throughout your stay
- Larger rooms with a balcony
- More than one mode of transport available to get around WDW
- A choice of restaurants to dine in whilst in the resort
- A wide range of activities available to enjoy to fill your time outside of the parks
- Close location to your favourite Disney Park
- 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)
One final thing to factor in when choosing a resort, is the location. For some of you this won’t be important as you will be happy with being able to access all that WDW has to offer using their free transportation. However, you may know that you will be spending more time in one or two parks, and so you may want to focus on Resorts that are closer to those destinations within WDW. The WDW website has the option to filter this and may be useful to be aware of if you think that location will help you to choose which resort to stay in.
That’s all for now, but hopefully you are feeling a little clearer on how you will choose the Disney Resort that is right for you for your magical visit. See ya real soon!
Guest Post: @disneytoria