Disney, Family Travel

Choosing a hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort


Okay, let’s face it. Choosing a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel is liking making only 1 selection at an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet with crab legs, scallops, shrimp, lobster…well, you get the idea. Each hotel has its own quirks and benefits–but picking the one that is right for you can actually be a simple process.

1st Things First
Before you close your eyes and point (please use this as a last option only!), consider that Disney offers 4 main hotel categories:
1. Deluxe Resort Hotels
2. Moderate Resort Hotels
3. Value Resort Hotels
4. Villas–these are larger rooms ranging from studios to 4-bedroom grand villas (most are used as part of Disney’s Vacation Club but rooms can be rented for non-members)

Now, as anyone who has ever bought a piece of real estate knows, the most important aspect is location, location, location. And Disney knows this all too well. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Deluxe Resort Hotels and Villas are closest to the action and the Value Resorts are farthest away. And this is where I think you should always begin with your decision:

How far away do you want to be from the park you plan to visit most often?

Now, if you have older kids, then a half hour bus ride to the Magic Kingdom won’t matter much. However, if you have young kids that you will have to get out of the stroller, fold up the stroller, and hold for the duration of the ride, then you may want to choose accommodations that are, well, a little more accommodating. And, of course, more expensive. In any case, though, the location of your hotel should really be your first decision–at least in my opinion.

Here’s a breakdown of where the hotels at Disney are located based on theme park:
Magic Kingdom area:
-Grand Floridian (Deluxe)
-Contemporary (Deluxe)
-Bay Lake (Villa)
-Polynesian (Deluxe–starting to see a pattern here?)
-Wilderness Lodge (Deluxe)
-Wilderness Lodge Villas (Villa)
-Ft. Wilderness (Moderate)

Epcot area:
-Caribbean Beach Resort (Moderate)

Epcot/Hollywood Studios area (these hotels are located on a lake in between the two theme parks and can be accessed by boat or a walking trail):
-Beach Club (Deluxe)
-Beach Club Villas (Villa)
-Yacht Club (Deluxe)
-BoardWalk Inn (Deluxe–yep, definitely see a pattern!)
-BoardWalk Villas (Villa)

Hollywood Studios area:
-Pop Century (Value)
-Art of Animation (Value)

Animal Kingdom area:
-Animal Kingdom Lodge (Deluxe)
-Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas (Villa)
-Coronado Springs (Moderate)
-All-Star Sports (Value–closer to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
-All-Star Music (Value–closer to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)
-All-Star Movies (Value–closer to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)

Downtown Disney area:
-Port Orleans (Moderate)
-Old Key West (Villa)
-Saratoga Springs (Villa–also offers Treehouse villas and, yes, they are as cool as they sound!)

2nds anyone?
So, you’ve taken your family (and its patience level) into consideration and now know where you want to stay on property. Yay! Now, you are down to only a handful of options–and this is where Disney does it best because, in most cases, there are accommodations that can fit most budgets. So the questions you need to ask now are:

What type of room accommodations do I want? And what type of amenities do I want at my resort?

For instance, let’s say you want to stay in the Magic Kingdom area but you don’t want to shell out the cash necessary to stay at the Grand Floridian. No problem. Check out Disney’s Cabins at Ft. Wilderness. These Moderate accommodations offer guests their own private wilderness cabins with all of the normal hotel amenities, including full kitchens and mousekeeping service. The best part is that you are only across the lake and a short boat ride away from the park.

Now, the higher the category of resort, the more amenities it offers. For instance, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (a Deluxe hotel), you will find concierge room options, room service and rooms with views of the savannah. On the other hand, if these options are not important but you still want to stay near the Animal Kingdom, consider a Value resort like All-Star Music. Here you won’t get to see roaming animals or be pampered with concierge services, but you will have the option of a family suite–and these rooms can sleep up to 6.

3 Strikes and You Are Done!
Finally, the last thing to consider is the number of people in your family and the size of the room you need to accommodate them all–semi-comfortabley. Now, Disney rooms are NOT known for their size (save for the Villas and suites) and tend to be smaller than 500 square feet. Therefore, think about how much space you need as a family. If you like to spread out and a living room is a must, consider a villa resort like Old Key West where you have a separate living room as well as a bedroom with a king bed, a full kitchen, private bathroom, and balcony. If you only need a place to crash after running around Epcot all day, then Port Orleans would sleep a family of 4 comfortably.

Now, I have stayed in a number of Disney hotels: The Polynesian (my personal favorite), the Wilderness Lodge, the Wilderness Lodge Villas, Ft. Wilderness Cabins, the Contemporary, Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, Tree House Villas, and I hope to stay at even more of them. There is just something about being wrapped up in all that Disney magic during my vacation. Would I ever stay off property? No, I personally wouldn’t. Because, for me, it’s all about the total immersion experience. The true magic that I feel every time I cross that sign onto Disney property–a feeling I just don’t get anywhere else…

Want more Disney goodness? Stay tuned! Next, find out what the real “deal” is behind Disney’s concierge level rooms.


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