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When you stay at one of the Walt Disney World resorts in Orlando, Florida, you’re always in the middle of the magic! Disney resorts offer amenities, theming and conveniences you just can’t find at so-called “off property” hotels. But how do you know which one is right for your family? This guide can help you decide.
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There is a reason Walt Disney World is consistently ranked one of the top vacation destinations in the world. With four theme parks, two water parks, an expansive shopping district, several golf courses and countless restaurants, shows and fun things to do, Walt Disney World is the ideal family vacation spot.
And to really be a part of the magic, you’ll want to stay at a Disney resort hotel. There are tons of options to choose from, with more than two dozen Disney World resorts falling into four categories – Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas.
Which of the Disney World Resorts is Right for You?
How do you decide which Walt Disney World Resort is right for you?
A Value Resort will save you money, but a Deluxe Resort delivers fantastic theming, higher-end dining choices and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And the Moderate Disney World Resorts…they meet somewhere in the middle. If you need more space or are looking for a truly exceptional Disney experience, staying at one of Disney’s Deluxe Villas may be the right choice for you.
So the key is to decide what is most important to you (and your budget).
Disney Resort Perks
Some things come standard at all Disney World Resorts, so rest easy.
You’ll enjoy these perks no matter where you stay:
- A pool
- A retail shop and food court on site
- Ability to make dining and FastPass+ reservations in advance
- A mini-fridge in your room
- Parking (for a fee)
- Free baggage transfer between Disney Resort hotels
- Early theme park entry
- Complimentary wi-fi
- Laundry facilities
- In-room refrigerators
- Complimentary transportation to the parks and Disney Springs
- Magical Express transportation to Orlando International Airport (through the end of 2021)
Covid Changes at Disney World Resorts
Some hotel perks — FastPass+ reservations, for example — are suspended.
It is also important to note that all Walt Disney World Resorts are taking special safety measures since reopening. This includes enhanced cleaning, social distancing, and park reservations required for theme park entry.
Here are all of the Disney World changes for 2021.
If you’re just looking for the basics, a Value Resort may be for you! Value Resorts have smaller rooms and oversized, somewhat garish décor. But they are clean and convenient and cover all the basics a family needs on vacation. Value Resorts offer a food court and pool, but no water slide or hot tub.
Transportation to and from Value Resorts used to be bus service only, but the launch of the Skyliner changed all that for the better! The Skyliner connects Pop Century Resort and Art of Animation Resort to both EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
However, this convenience comes with an added price tag, as rooms at these two resorts typically cost more than staying at the All Star Value Resorts.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is also the newest and has mostly suites, a bigger food court and common areas, and therefore has a higher rate. For the latest on Disney resort prices, click here.
Which Disney Hotels are Value Resorts?
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
What You’ll Find at Value Resorts:
- Fun, bright, kid-friendly theming
- Food courts and pizza delivery available, but no Table Service restaurants
- Themed pools but no water slides
- Rooms open to outside corridors
- Large, spread out layout making for long walks to the bus stop
- No doors separating the sink area from the bedroom (there is a curtain)
- Bus transportation to all parks and Downtown Disney (and only 1 internal bus stop)
- Skyliner transportation available from Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts
- Inexpensive room rates
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is a slight exception. It is the newest and has mostly suites, a bigger food court and common areas, and therefore has a higher rate.
Before the Skyliner was launched, our favorite Value Resort was All Star Movies. The building exteriors showcase some of our favorite Disney Movies (101 Dalmatians, Love Bug, Toy Story), making this a fun but not overly-cheesy resort.
However, now my vote goes to Pop Century for the easy (and fun) transportation.
As with most things at Walt Disney World Resort hotels, the more you pay, the more you get.
Disney Moderate Resorts are a huge step up from Value. But of course not quite as high-end as what you’ll find at a Deluxe property. Moderate hotels tend to have a more subdued atmosphere and elegant theming. The rooms are bigger than Value Resort rooms, the grounds beautifully landscaped, and the hotel lobbies and common areas all add to the classier feel.
With the exception of the French Quarter, Moderate Resorts also feature a full-service restaurant in addition to the food court. Their pools have a water slide and hot tub.
All Moderate Resorts have bus service. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort also has the Skyliner. The Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts also offer boat service to Disney Springs.
Read More: A Complete Guide to Disney World Transportation.
Which Disney Hotels are Moderate Resorts?
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
What You’ll Find at Moderate Resorts
- Beautiful theming with a grownup feel
- Lush landscaping
- Rooms that open to outside corridors
- Table Service restaurant (except at French Quarter), food courts and pizza delivery available
- Multiple pools – a main themed pool with a water slide and other quiet pools throughout the property
In the Moderate category, my favorite is the Port Orleans French Quarter. It is one of the smallest, which makes it easy to navigate. It features a lovely New Orleans style architecture and is quite charming.
Disney Deluxe Resorts are detailed in their style and architecture – from the modern Contemporary to the African ambiance of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Deluxe Resorts will give you the largest rooms, the fanciest bath products, and many include balconies or patios. And, Deluxe resorts have the best pools with the biggest water slides. Guests staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge can even boast views of wildlife grazing out their windows!
Deluxe Resorts also offer the most transportation options and tend to be closest to the parks. If you are staying at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, or the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, you can take the Monorail directly to the Magic Kingdom!
Other resorts offer the Skyliner, boat, or bus, depending on which resort area you are in and where you are going. Deluxe hotels along the Boardwalk (including Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin) are within walking distance to EPCOT and Hollywood Studio, or you can take a Friendship Boat.
Which Hotels are Deluxe Resorts?
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
What You’ll Find at Deluxe Resorts
- Lavish theming with fantastic lobbies and gift shops
- Rooms that open to inside hallways
- Rooms with private balconies
- Table Service restaurants (including 1 upscale option) and Quick Service dining
- A main feature pool with a water slide and other quiet pools
- All the hotels along the monorail line are Deluxe
- On-site gyms, spas, and child care centers
- Valet parking
Which Disney Deluxe Resort to Choose?
We absolutely loved the vibe at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Although our room’s balcony overlooked the pool and not the African Savannah (a huge cost savings, by the way!), we still got to enjoy the animals from numerous vantage points around the hotel.
We loved the Polynesian mostly for the pool area, and because you could watch both the fireworks and Electrical Boat Parade from the shore.(Both were still operating when we visited pre-pandemic.) The Volcano Pool has a zero entry area by the beach and giant water slide that twists through the volcano. The Pineapple Lanai is next to the pool area, and it is always a bonus to have a Dole whip within easy reach when you’re at Disney World.
Other amenities you’ll find only at Deluxe Resorts include spas at the main pool, concierge service and lobby entertainment. In addition, Deluxe Resorts feature signature restaurants and experiences (like the Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian).
Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
Disney Deluxe Villas provide the ultimate Disney vacation experience! They are the ideal choice for families that need more space but still want to stay on-property and take advantage of the amenities offered at Disney Deluxe resorts.
Disney Deluxe Villas combine the high-end amenities and conveniences of Deluxe Resorts with the comforts of home. Villas feature a full kitchen with 2 full bathrooms in addition to a washer/dryer. They range in size from studio to 2-bedroom, and can accommodate large or extended families.
Disney World Deluxe Villas are all part of the Disney Vacation Club timeshare program. The easiest way to save at Disney Deluxe Villa resort is renting DVC points through David’s Vacation Rentals. Here is a post with info about how to rent DVC Points.
Which Disney Resorts are Deluxe Villas?
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
A Word About Resort Transportation
You’re visiting Disney World to go to Disney parks, right? So you want to get there fast! Most Deluxe Resorts stand out in the transportation category. However, you’ll pay a premium.
The Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Contemporary resorts are on the coveted Monorail line. They also offer transportation to the Magic Kingdom via boat, as does the Wilderness Lodge. Other Deluxe hotels offer boat transportation to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, and some are even within walking distance!
Bus service is the main form of transportation for most Value and Moderate Resorts. In addition, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter resorts offer boat transportation to Disney Springs, and the Skyliner has stops at Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and Disney’s Riviera Resort.
In the world of Disney transportation – as with everything else – you really do get what you pay for!