The TravelingMoms just unpacked their suitcases from another whirlwind trip to Walt Disney World. With a camera and cell phone in each hand, the moms sprinted across the parks looking for the new while enjoying the time-tested. Between potty breaks and snack stops, over 50 writers covered the parks so your family can have the best vacation ever. The first stop, finding which resort is the best at Walt Disney World for your family, no matter the budget.
Which Resort is the Best at Walt Disney World
Which Walt Disney resort do I recommend? Picking the right resort depends on your family, their needs and your expectations.
My family is full of tweens, 9, 12 and 14, so it’s all about the park time. Usually when I’m picking a resort for a trip, it’s all about the pool. Except at Disney, some days we don’t make it to the pool. For us, it’s all about the rides.
Though my kids are older, I remember the demands of babyhood and toddlerdom. You need a comfortable room since your stay at Walt Disney World 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.
Why Stay at a Value Resort
Disney can be expensive and if your family is like mine, kids want to spend all their time in the parks. With boys and a boy mom, it’s all about covering the basics in a room.
For our trip to Walt Disney World last year, we stayed at the Pop Century Resort, a Value Resort near Hollywood Studios. On this trip, I wanted to check out the rooms at the Art of Animation, the nicest of the value resorts.
Art of Animation for Families
Built in 2012, the Art of Animation Resort is comprised of 10 four-story buildings with three resort-style pools and a playground. A walkable resort with most guest services centrally located in Animation Hall, it boasts the largest pool of any of the Walt Disney World resorts.
The Art of Animation Resort features 1,120 family suites. Each suite offers 565 square feet with amenities like a master bedroom, two full bathrooms and a kitchenette with a coffee maker, a microwave and a mini-refrigerator.
The Art of Animation features 864 standard rooms, all decorated with The Little Mermaid theming. Each room offers 277 square feet, a little bigger than the Pop Century. Outfitted with a king or a pair of queen beds, the Art of Animation standard rooms met my expectations for value rooms.
What I Loved about Art of Animation
- The theming of the Art of Animation is super cute with giant sculptures and playgrounds.
- The pools are super fun and colorful.
- The Art of Animation’s size is manageable.
What I Wanted from the Art of Animation
- A coffee maker; none of the value resorts have them in standard rooms.
- More pillows; I found only two per bed.
- More transportation options to the parks; this resort uses buses only.
My Standard Room at the Art of Animation
I reserved The Little Mermaid themed room and my boys grunted at the Ariel details. The downside at Art of Animation is The Little Mermaid is the only option, no Cars themed standard rooms. That annoyed my boys though I loved the under-the-sea theme.
My room featured two doubles beds on the third floor of building seven. I entered my room from an outside entrance and used the elevator to reach the third floor. My room overlooked the courtyard and don’t feature private balcony or patio.
Our room provided two double beds, a small table with two chairs, a small refrigerator, a flat-screen television, a phone and an in-room safe. I didn’t find a coffee maker, a charging station, real glassware, a ceiling fan or separate closet. I missed some of those items, especially the coffee maker.
The bathroom area was small though it provided a curtain in the vanity area so I could dress while my boys slept in. The tub area features treasures under the sea tiles and an Ariel shower curtain. The mirror above the sink continues The Little Mermaid theming complete with a shell light fixture and swirly blue countertop with one sink.
Why Stay at a Moderate Resort
For families desiring more space and amenities than a value resort provides, a moderate resort is a step up. With more options in dining, activities and amenities, many families choose a moderate resort for their lodging needs at Walt Disney World.
After staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort last year, I wanted to stay at another moderate resort. With more dining options along with more sophisticated common areas, moderate resorts offer more space inside and outside the rooms. The properties just seem less crowded.
Coronado Springs with Families
With a 50-foot tall replica of a Mayan pyramid and a crazy fun two-story water slide, the Coronado Springs Resort’s Lost City of Cibola pool wows the kids. The refined Spanish Colonial architectural details appeal to adults who don’t want to stay in a movie-themed room.
As the only moderate resort at Walt Disney World to feature a convention center, Coronado Springs Resort was a natural choice for our trip. The rooms offer features especially for working guests, like a large work space and some of the fastest Wi-Fi across Walt Disney World.
The Coronado Springs Resort provides 1,915 rooms that measure 314 square feet across a lush tropical-inspired property that rings the Lago Dorado. For traditional Mexican cuisine and American favorites, I found Maya Grill. For families wanting more casual fare, try Las Ventanas, both restaurants accept reservations.
What I Loved about the Coronado Springs Resort
- The pool, which features a two-story water slide and a Mayan pyramid that wowed my boys.
- The grand lobby reminds me of old train stations across the Southwest.
- The rooms offered workspaces and walk-in showers.
What I Wanted at the Coronado Springs Resort
- A more manageable size; I walked for 10 minutes to get to my room.
- Something to eat near the rooms. I had to walk back to the lobby area.
- More transportation options to the parks. Coronado Springs uses bus transportation only.
My Standard Room at the Coronado Springs Resort
I found my room on the second floor in building 7A in the Ranchos section. The farthest building from the lobby, so we hiked for 10 minutes to get there.
My room featured two queen beds dressed with white linens. My room featured a large desk and console unit that housed the Keurig coffee maker with coffee and tea, a flat-screen television, a mini-refrigerator and ice bucket with real glassware. I found a hair dryer, a make-up mirror, an in-room safe and iron and board in the bathroom.
The bathroom area featured sliding doors that provided a separate changing area. The vanity area features two separate sinks with granite counter tops and decorative lighting. My bathroom at the Coronado Springs Resort featured a glass-enclosed shower with a rain shower head. I loved it but my kids don’t need a tub bath anymore.
Lodging near Disney Springs
After several trips to Walt Disney World, I learned I like the convenience of staying next to Disney Springs. With lots of dining from my favorite coffee shop and cupcakes to seafood and tenderloin, Disney Springs packs in the family fun.
It’s the place to shop for souvenirs, saving time in the parks. I found lots of splash pads for kids and cocktails for adults. My kids even insist on riding the boat from one end to the other of Disney Springs.
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista for Families
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista offers 626 rooms, steps away from Disney Springs on Hotel Plaza Boulevard with seven other Official Walt Disney World properties. From there, the closest hotel to Disney Springs, I just walked across the bridge to loads of dining, shopping and entertainment.
The on-site Fun Director organizes fun crafts for the younger kids and sports courts appeal to the older kids. The Wyndham pool attracts all with a poolscape and zero-entry along with a hot tub and poolside bar and dining. Of course the character breakfasts three times a week tops the list for families.
What I Loved about the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort
- The newly renovated property is bright and I love the beachy feel.
- Character breakfasts are available on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
- The Oasis pool playground with a zero entry grabs all the kids and the Oasis Poolside Bar and Grill is open all day.
- Two budget options, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Tower and the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. Very similar in interior styling, except the Garden has an exterior corridor and Tower and an interior hallway to access your room.
What I Wanted at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort
- You can’t take the Magical Express from the airport.
- I would like to see the airport transportation an easier process, made at the time of the hotel reservation.
My Room at Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista
During my visit, I stayed in a double queen room in the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower, a 19-story tower with 232 rooms with elevators right off the registration desk. My room had updated white bedding and light furnishings with turquoise accents.
I entered my room to find a hutch with the cubbies and hooks. A super-cute feature and I loved the use of bead board that gave my room a beachy feel. The credenza housed the mini-refrigerator and the flat-screen TV. The work station offered a charging station and task lighting.
My bathroom featured a tub and vanity in one room that might be a bit small for families. The granite countertops and lighted vanity mirror added to the luxurious feel.
The Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, a value option, is located on the same property and has access to all the same amenities while using the same registration desk. The five-story building has two wings and 394 rooms with exterior entrances.
More Value at a Resort Residence
For families desiring more space along with amenties, a resort residence is an option. I drove to nearby Celebration to stay at a manicured community boasting an activity center, a 18-hole golf course along with a club and four resort pools. Since it’s farther away from the parks, I found the resort quiet and peaceful yet full of family fun.
Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club for Families
With over 600 acres to explore, Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club offers resort-style lodging away from all the noise and activity of Walt Disney World yet just a few short miles to all the theme park adventures.
Mystic Dunes includes 23 separate buildings with several floors of accommodations and four different pools. At the welcome center, I found a fitness center, activities center along with a market and the garden pool and tiki bar.
With an activity center that includes a game room and loaner bikes, fun is not far away. During our stay, my boys pool hopped, trying out all four pools. Mystic Dunes also features a miniature golf course.
I ordered pizza from the on-property pizza delivery service and ate at the pool. The clubhouse features a full menu and bar.
What I Loved at Mystic Dunes Resort
- The ambiance. It’s away from the hectic noise of Walt Disney World.
- Several nice pools including the kids pool with a slide.
- The property was well-maintained.
What I Wanted at Mystic Dunes Resort
- More restaurants located nearby.
- A more walkable resort, I needed a car to get around the property.
My Studio at Mystic Dunes Resort
I stayed in a 650 sq. ft. studio on the third floor. The bedroom was painted celery green with beachy white furnishings. My room featured a whirlpool tub in the corner that seemed like a throwback to the 80s. The bathroom off the main hall included a large walk-in shower and a vanity with a single sink.
The open kitchenette featured granite countertops with an electric range, a dishwasher, a full-size refrigerator and a microwave. I found all the necessary dishes, cutlery, utensils and cookware for a family of four.
The living area featured a queen-sized, pull-out sofa with bedding located in the bedroom closet. I found a bar with two bar stools and a small round table with two dining chairs.
My unit featured two TVs, an in-room safe, an iron and board along with a stackable washer and dryer behind a door with detergent for one load.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Research transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport. I found a one-way car rental the most economical option for my trip.
- Ask about resort fees that are not included in the room rate.