When you stay at one of the Disney World Resorts at Walt Disney World in Orlando, you’re always in the middle of the magic! Disney resorts offer amenities, theming and conveniences you just can’t find at other hotels off-property. But how do you know which one is right for your family? Here’s a guide to help you decide.

Disney's All Star Movies Resort

Disney’s All Star Movies Resort. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Which of the Disney World Resorts is Right for You?

My brother is awesome. He has a lifetime goal of visiting every state in the U.S. And he’s getting pretty close! Just three or four more to go. My travel goal is not quite so lofty but equally coveted: to stay at every Disney Resort hotel at Walt Disney World.

I’m closing in on my goal, too. There are nearly 20 hotels “on-property” at Walt Disney World (not counting the Deluxe Villas, which tend to cater more to Disney Vacation Club members). I’ve stayed at more than half – and several from each category. Here’s my guide to help you choose if a Value, Moderate or Deluxe resort is right for you.

Across the Board Perks…

It’s a common question for guests planning a trip to Walt Disney World – where should we stay? And if we stay on-property, do we choose value, moderate or deluxe accommodations?

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 moderates…they meet somewhere in the middle. So the key is to decide what is most important to you (and your budget).

Disney World Resorts: Value vs. Moderate vs. Deluxe

Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show takes place at the Polynesian nightly. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Some things come standard at all Disney Resort hotels, 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
  • Free parking
  • Free baggage transfer between Disney Resort hotels
  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Complimentary wi-fi
  • Laundry facilities
  • In-room refrigerators
  • Complimentary transportation to the parks and Disney Springs
  • Magical Express airport transportation
Disney Value vs. Moderate vs. Deluxe Resorts

Disney Value vs. Moderate vs. Deluxe Resorts. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

Value Resorts

If all you’re looking for is a bed to sleep in and a shower to bathe in, a Value resort may be for you! Value Resorts have smaller rooms and oversized, somewhat garish decor. But they are clean and convenient and cover all the basics a family needs on vacation. For the latest on Disney resort prices, click here.

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)
  • 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.

Disney World Resorts: Value vs. Moderate vs. Deluxe

Finding Nemo Family Suite Photo: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Photo credit: Disney.

If we had to pick one Value Resort, it would be 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.

Moderate Resorts

Like 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 –New Orleans French Quarter and a Caribbean resort. The rooms are lovely, the grounds beautifully landscaped, and the hotel’s lobby and common areas all add to the feel.

The French Quarter's architecture captures the essence of New Orleans.

The French Quarter’s architecture captures the essence of New Orleans. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

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.

Deluxe Resorts

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!

The Volcano Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

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

It is very hard to choose a favorite Deluxe Resort – they are all amazing! But if I had to pick it would be a tie between Disney’s Polynesian Village and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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. The newly renovated Volcano Pool has a zero entry area by the beach and giant water slide that twists through the volcano. The Pineapple Lanai is adjacent to the pool area, and it is always a bonus to have a Dole whip within easy reach when you’re at Disney World.

Get your Dole Whip fix at the Pineapple Lanai. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist, Healthy TravelingMom.

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 or Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Wilderness Lodge).

A Word About Resort Transportation

You’re visiting Disney World for the parks, right? So you want to get there fast! Most Deluxe resorts stand out in the transportation category, which is one of the reasons you’ll pay a premium. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Contemporary 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! (Looking at you, BoardWalk Inn.)

Top Reasons to Stay On-Property at WDW monorail

Three Disney Resorts are located on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop, including the Grand Floridian. / Photo credit Tami Mittan, Outdoorsy TMOM

With the exception of the Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter resorts – which offer boat transportation to Disney Springs – bus transportation is the sole form of transportation for all the Value and Moderate resorts.

So in the world of Disney transportation – as with everything else – you really do get what you pay for!

Which Disney World resort did you pick? Tell us why in the comment section below.