Planning a trip to Walt Disney World is an investment of your time and your money. So which level of resort should you reserve? I stayed at a value, moderate and luxury resort during my last visit and I have all the details to help you decide.
This TravelingMom procrastinated and the value-priced rooms disappeared before I could snag one for the Saturday night of our five-day, four-night trip to Walt Disney World. To make it work, I ended up with reservations at three different resorts. No biggie, I just transferred resorts. I made it work. As a family travel writer, it’s just part of the job. That and I didn’t have a choice.
So I learned a lot from my three-resort tour of Walt Disney World. My trip was part of a work conference so a couple of rooms were booked at a Walt Disney World deluxe resort. Since I was arriving early to explore the parks, I booked a room at a value resort. Then the least expensive room I could find for a Saturday night was a moderate resort.
Tips for Picking the Right Resort to Your Family
Which would I recommend? Picking the right resort depends on your family, their needs and your expectations.
My family is full of tweens, ages 8, almost 12 and 13, so it was all about the park time. Usually when I’m picking a property for a trip, it’s all about the pool. Except at Disney, some days we didn’t have time for a trip to the pool.
I remember the demands of babyhood and toddlerdom. You need a comfortable room since your stay at WDW will probably include afternoon breaks.
Planning a multi-generational family trip? Everyone doesn’t have to stay at the same resort to have fun and spend time together.
My Stay at a Value Resort
The Pop Century Resort is a value resort ($) 1.7 miles away from Hollywood Studios. It features four areas named after the decades of the 20th century with a total of 2,880 rooms along the shores of Hour Glass Lake and cross from the Art of Animation Resort.
The Pop Century Resort is fun. The buildings exude energy and draw me through the resort. From the four-story tall bowling pins and the ginormous 60s flowers attached to the sides of the candy-colored buildings, this place is a hit with the young at heart.
Hits at the Pop Century Resort
- Over the top theme that kids love
- Nice pool
- Great option if you plan on spending all your time in the parks
- All resort services are within walking distance
Misses at the Pop Century Resort
- Farther away from parks but closer than off-property lodging
- Limited activities for kids; no fishing or pirate cruises
- Limited to quick-service dining
- No character breakfasts
- No in-room coffee maker
- Small rooms and skimpy linens
My Stay at a Moderate Resort
The Caribbean Beach Resort is a moderate resort ($$) 4.1 miles from Epcot. The resort is an expansive property that includes seven villages with a total of 2,112 rooms along the shores of the 45-acre Barefoot Bay.
The Caribbean Beach Resort evokes the calm and serenity of a beach vacation yet includes a resort-style pool that’s sure to excite the kids. With its expansive grounds and lush, tropical landscaping, the Caribbean Beach Resort never felt crowded.
Hits at the Caribbean Beach Resort
- The Fuentes del Morro pool is one of the best of the Walt Disney World resorts.
- Lots of activities for the kids, like fishing excursions and pirate cruises
- Larger rooms with more amenities, nice if you’ll be spending more time in the room
- More dining options, quick-service and casual dining
- A pool in every village
- White sand beaches
Misses at the Caribbean Beach Resort
- Huge resort that requires its own bus to get around
- No character breakfasts
- No private patios or balconies
- A motel feeling; you enter your room from an outside corridor.
My Stay at a Deluxe Resort
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa ($$$$$+) is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort located on 40-acres next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. Built to resemble a grand Victorian seaside resort of the late 19th Century, it has 867 guest rooms across the main building and five additional buildings. Next to the lagoon is a pool, a white sand beach, a marina and a view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers a grand experience for families who yearn for the convenience of a Walt Disney World Resort and want a refined environment to decompress from the energy of the parks. Walking into the Grand Floridian lobby is a sensory experience. The architecture is impressive and so are the 3-foot tall flower arrangements. The service is refined yet welcoming.
Hits at the Grand Floridian Resort
- Beautiful accommodations
- Lots of dining options including quick service, casual dining and fine dining.
- Character meals
- Lobby entertainment
- The most transportation options to get to the parks—bus, monorail or ferry
- The highest level of service of the Walt Disney World resorts
- One of the best spas in Orlando
Misses at the Grand Floridian Resort
- Nice pool but not my kid’s favorite
- My kids were immune to their luxurious surroundings and wanted to spend all their time in the parks
- Beautiful property but off-site luxury resorts give you more for less.
Still not Satisfied?
Sometimes a standard hotel room will not do, especially if you plan to visit for an extended trip or have a large family. Walt Disney World has some fabulous suites at its vacation club properties that include amenities like kitchens and living rooms.
Not a member of DVC, don’t worry; you can still have access. With Vacatia individuals owners can list their property and you can reserve it. Vacatia is a great way to enjoy the DVC properties without having to buy points.
Note about Transferring Resorts During Your Stay
I had to transfer resorts two times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I preferred to pack up our bags and roll them down to bell services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
If I wanted a bellhop to grab my bags from my room, I would have to stay with my bags until the bellhop arrived. I found this inconvenient since we wanted to get to the parks as early as possible.
The process was fairly easy and I had only one small incident. One of our bags had a tag on it stating it was left on the transportation bus. Nothing was missing.
Tips from a TravelingMom
- By checking frequently for cancellations, I found a room on a booked Saturday night about 3 to 4 weeks before my scheduled arrival.
- Make reservations as soon as possible, even for slower months, if you’re visiting during a weekend.
- If online room check-in is available, use this option. WDW will text your room number when assigned. You can bypass the resort lobby.
- If you are transferring resorts during your stay, pack light. One rolling bag per adult. One rolling bag for every couple of kids. Backpack for the adults and cinch sacks for the kids.
- If this is your first trip to Walt Disney World, buy any WDW book and read it. You can’t wing a trip to Disney.
- Missed all the dining reservations, skip it. There are plenty of quick-service places to eat. Most kids don’t miss the experience and just want to ride the rides.
- Pack refillable water bottles and skip the soda. Take protein or granola bars for snacks while in line or on the bus.
- Bring athletic shoes for the park. No flip-flops, sandals or hiking sandals; they all killed my feet.
- Your bags will be unavailable until they arrive in your new room, usually after 5 p.m.