disney hotels breakdown

We’ve had a lot of debates over the years with friends and strangers alike over the merits of staying on Disney property vs. staying offsite. We covered our points here, so I don’t think we need to go over them again. For the sake of this post, lets just assume that you agree with us that staying at Disney just makes the most sense. That still doesn’t tell you exactly where to stay, now does it? (spoiler: I’m not actually going to tell you where to stay either, but hopefully I can tell you the information you need to make your own decision on where to stay)

There are 4 categories of resorts (plus the Campgrounds at Fort Wilderness): Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas. As expected, the rates per night go up as you go up categories, but you do get extra perks with each category as well. Some of the Disney resort perks are universal. You can take advantage of Disney’s Magical Express if you fly into Orlando International when you are staying at any Disney resort hotel, and all Disney hotels have bus transportation to and from the parks. All resorts have at least a food court (or counter / quick service dining), and all the resorts have pools. And… all the resorts are just really cool!

Value Resorts

The value resorts are all “standard” style rooms that sleep up to 4 guests (plus a baby – and from here on out, assume every room sleeps X guests plus a baby, okay?), with the exception of some Art of Animation rooms. By “standard” I mean a regular hotel room, one room with an attached bathroom and no kitchen(ette). These rooms come with the option of either 2 double beds or 1 king bed. The exception is the Art of Animation Family Suites which have 1 queen bed in a separate bedroom with a couple of double sized pull out beds in the main area. The only transportation provided by Disney at these resorts are the buses.

Where I’ve stayed: I have stayed at one Disney Value resort, but I cannot for the life of me remember which one. How sad is that? Back in the day I didn’t keep the amazing records that I keep now. Mom, the boys, and I flew in and met Michael who had driven, and we stayed at one of the Values for one night before moving to the BoardWalk Villas. Maybe one day I will remember which All-Star we stayed at…

Moderate Resorts

The standard room size for the moderate resorts still sleep up to 4 guests but there are more options beyond that in this category. Certain rooms at Port Orleans Riverside can sleep up to 5. Coronado Springs has suites that can sleep up to 8 adults. Cabins sleep up to 6 – 1 queen bed and bunk beds. All the resorts in this category have bus transportation, and some of them also have boat transportation to select destinations. The Moderates have more (and arguably better) food options than the Value resorts. In fact, Boatwright’s Dining Hall used to be one of our favorites out of all the resorts!

Where I’ve stayed: The only Moderate resort I have stayed at is the Coronado Springs resort. We stayed there in 2011 when Little J was 2 months old. I still giggle when I think about it, because Heather’s family and mine went together, so we had a string of hotel rooms all in a row.

Deluxe Resorts

We start getting into some serious swank with the Deluxe resorts. The standard rooms sleep 4-5 adults, but most of these resorts also have suites at the Club Level that can sleep 6, 7, or even 8 adults. These resorts all have multiple pools, and the dining options range from counter service to sit down. You’ll also notice the Big Three in this list – the three resorts on the monorail line: the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. All of the Deluxe resorts have bus transportation, and all but Animal Kingdom Lodge have boat transportation to various destinations as well.

The Deluxe resorts and villas have the creme de la creme of fine dining. Most of it is family friendly even if it is a little swank, but then you also have Victoria & Albert’s. Yes, this is a Five Diamond Award restaurant. At Disney. Who would have thought? Michael has told me that he won’t take me until I complete my first marathon – if that isn’t motivation I don’t know what is.

Where I’ve stayed: I’ve stayed in the BoardWalk Inn and the Wilderness Lodge. The Wilderness Lodge was the first Disney hotel experience I ever had, and boy was it amazing. We stayed at the BoardWalk the next trip, and I fell in love.

Deluxe Villas

The Deluxe Villas are where it gets really fun. They all have the standard studio rooms that sleep 4-5, but they also have 1, 2, or even 3 bedroom villas. The villas are more like apartments than hotel rooms to me. When you need the space, those 3 bedroom grand villas can sleep up to 12! Yes, you’ll be paying quite a pretty penny for that space, but it is so worth it. One year Michael & I brought the in-laws to Disney, and we stayed in the Treehouse Villas – 3 bedroom individual buildings associated with Saratoga Springs. Michael and I had a room with a king bed, and my mother- and father-in-law had a bedroom with a queen bed, and my sister-in-law shared the bedroom with bunk beds with the boys. There was also a pull-out couch in the living room.

okwkitchen
The kitchen / dining area in our  Old Key West 2 bedroom, as seen from the living room. Again, this was more like an apartment than a hotel. In fact I think it was nicer than the apartment Michael was living in when Big J was born!

One of my mother’s favorite perks of the villas is the kitchen. Yes, kitchen. Not kitchenette, which you can get with the studio, but a full kitchen. If you stay in a 1+ bedroom villa, you will have a full sized fridge, stove & oven, and all the goodies you need to make your own meals at “home”. Just… pro tip: if you have people sleeping in the pull out bed in the living room, try to be quiet at 6:30 in the morning when you’re chopping vegetables for your omelets. Sometimes those people shut the parks down and don’t go to bed until 2:00am and they really didn’t want to wake up before the sun came up. Not that that has ever happened to me or anything…

You’ll notice that most of the names on this list match the Deluxe Resorts list. In general the villas are just a section of the resort. When Michael & I stayed at the Grand Floridian we went into the main resort building for dining, but our room was in a building separate from the main building. However, Saratoga Springs (our home resort with DVC)  and Old Key West are nothing but Villas resorts.

gfkitchen
The kitchen in a one bedroom villa at the Grand Floridian

Where I’ve stayed: I’ve stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani), BoardWalk Villas, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the Villas at the Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian is hands down my favorite hotel that I’ve ever stayed at, anywhere. We’ve been to the Animal Kingdom Lodge twice, and had a savanna view both times. Annnnd… I booked a 1 bedroom theme park view room at Bay Lake Tower for our anniversary this year, but I wound up canceling it when I realized that would be multiple weekends out of town in a row. Y’all. Seriously. I gave up a theme park view bedroom at one of the niftiest hotels around. And Michael says I never do anything for him…

You really can’t go wrong no matter which hotel you choose. In the end, where you stay will come down to what you need for your trip and what your budget is. If you need more space for a larger party, you have to go up the tiers, but if you’re going with a small family the Value resorts should suit your needs just fine. I recommend you pick the time of year you’d like to go and start checking room rates at the various price points to start working up your Disney vacation budget.

Heather’s additions, for what they’re worth 😂

I’ve stayed at All Star Music and movies as well as Pop Century on the value end. 

I’ve also stayed at Coronado (and yes, we had quite the string of rooms that year, I need to blog about that trip… it was, shall we say, dramatic in many ways…) and the Caribbean Beach Resort. 

I’ve stayed at Saratoga (home), Old Key West, Tree House Villas, Polynesian, Bay Lake Tower and Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some of these we’ve stayed at multiple times, some just one time. 

Items of note that I can think of… 

Coronado is HUGE, Bc it’s also a conference center. So, request a room close or get ready to walk a TON. 

Kidani (AKL) request to stay near the elevators and near the center. Otherwise you walk FOREVER to get to all the places you want to be. 

Kidani again, the pool is nearly impossible to get to. The signs that are there are dumb and don’t help. 

OKW has lots of bus stops, so be ready to ride around them all when you’re going to/from parks. It’ll take you a minute or 20. 

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