On-site vs. Off-site
There are more than a dozen hotels located within Walt Disney World, and they offer a variety of features for your consideration. Disney calls its hotels "resorts", and in some cases that is just what they are. On the other hand, terminology can be misleading. Some of the "resorts" are not the lap of luxury that you might expect at a resort. In this regard, you get what you pay for: the more expensive the resort, the more elegant the decor.
There is not a single "best" resort for all guests, but there is one that is best for you. With countless trips to Walt Disney World, and week-long stays at nearly all of the Disney resorts, we are well prepared to help you decide where to stay. One caveat: don't even ask us which resort we like the best; our reasons for liking a particular resort might not be important to you.
From experience, we know that you will have a much better trip if we explore the resort options together. We will describe all of the resorts, include some of our pictures, compare the features, and tell you what we liked and occasionally disliked and why. We can discuss the parks, answer your questions, and help you plan you vacation. In this way, you determine the resort best for your Disney World trip.
One of the first decisions, you will make is whether to stay at a hotel that
is on the Walt Disney World property or to stay off-site. Disney resort hotels
are the only on-site hotels. Guests staying at Disney resort hotels enjoy
the following advantages:
- closer to the parks,
- free use of the Disney transportation system,
- free parking,
- much shorter lines during exclusive Extra Magic Hours,
- length of stay park admission passes, and
- free delivery of park purchases to their hotel.
There are dozens of off-site hotels that claim to be nearby
- a debatable claim. They offer incentives to encourage you to stay there,
and for some visitors, there are good reasons to stay off-site. Reasons
to stay off-site are:
- cheaper rooms, and
- convenient to other Orlando area attractions.
Many of the off-site hotels provide a shuttle bus service
to the major parks, but our experience with this service has not been
satisfactory. The shuttles usually stop at several hotels along the way,
and during peak hours the buses fill up at the first stops on their route.
We stayed at an off-site hotel near the main gate and watched three shuttles
drive past our hotel because they were already full. After waiting nearly
an hour, we took a cab. The Disney transportation system does a much
better job of handling the peak loads.
If you are planning to visit other attractions in the Orlando
area and you are only spending a day or two at Walt Disney World, an
off-site hotel would be more convenient for your visits to the other
areas. You should plan to drive to the parks, renting a car if necessary,
and you should try to arrive at each park about thirty minutes before
it opens. Orlando certainly has a number of excellent attractions, and
this would be one way to see some of them.
If your primary interest is Walt Disney World, we urge
you to stay on-site. The exclusive Extra Magic Hours alone is worth the
extra cost. On busy days, the lines for popular attractions can be more
an hour long. If you stay on-site and plan your visit carefully, you
will see more attractions in four days than an off-site family will see
in a week. When families staying at a Disney resort hotel return to their
room, they never really leave the magic. The Disney theming
and whimsy stay with you.
If this is your first visit to Walt Disney World or you
are traveling with young children, you should not even consider an off-site
hotel. Trying to see and do everything from an off-site location can
exhaust you. For many families, this is supposed to be their "dream
vacation", and it can be, if you stay on site. Guests that stay
on-site can easily return to their hotels during the afternoon when the
lines in the park are longest. After relaxing by the pool, they can either
return to the park that evening or use their park hopper pass to visit
another park, for no additional charge. This really is the best way to
visit Walt Disney World. In most cases, it would be better to have a
four day dream vacation staying on-site than a five day vacation staying
off-site for the same cost.
Hotel ID Cards: All guests at Disney hotels
receive identification cards. These ID cards are required to use the
Disney transportation system. Guests who purchase length of stay passes
use their ID card for admission to the parks. Guests may also use their
ID card as a credit card at most of the stores and restaurants in Disney
World. The hotel ID card is a great convenience, but be careful not to
The DISNEY RESORT HOTELS
Disney resorts can be arranged into five groups: the Magic Kingdom Resorts,
the Epcot Resorts, the Wilderness Resorts, the Moderate Resorts, and the
Value Resorts. Each resort offers it own unique advantages.
Magic Kingdom Resorts are located around
The Seven Seas Lagoon, and they are on the monorail loop that serves
the Magic Kingdom. These resorts are the Contemporary, the Polynesian,
and the Grand Floridian resorts, and they have the most convenient access
to the Magic Kingdom. For families with young children who would spend
most of their time in Fantasyland or looking for the Disney characters,
these resorts are an excellent choice.
Epcot Resorts are located along the waterway
that connects Epcot to the Disney Studios. These resorts are the
Beach Club, the Yacht Club, the Boardwalk, the Swan, and the Dolphin
resorts. Guests at these resorts have the best access to Disney Studios
and to Epcot; in fact they can walk from their room into Epcot via the
Wilderness Lodges And Resorts evoke the
feeling of the great outdoors, whether it's the Pacific Northwest or
Two are in the woods along the shore of Bay Lake, which connects to the
Seven Seas Lagoon for access to the Magic Kingdom. The third resort is
adjacent to a savannah near the Animal Kingdom. The resorts are the Wilderness
Lodge, the Fort Wilderness Campground, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
They are entirely different properties. The Wilderness Lodge evokes the
of a National Park Service hotel, such as the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone
National Park. The campground is a rustic, wooded setting, with individual
cabins or campsites for you accommodations. The cabins have separate
sleeping areas, a full kitchen, and a seating area - more spacious than
most of the other resorts. The atmosphere is very laid back, no hustle
and bustle here. The Animal Kingdom Lodge uses the dark colors of the
African woodwork to take you on safari. Most of the rooms overlook a
savannah where animals roam throughout the day.
Moderate Resorts are more popular for
their lower prices than their location, and they lack the excitement
of the monorail or launch access to any of the parks, and their rooms
are smaller. The moderate resorts are the Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs,
and Port Orleans.They are farther from the Magic Kingdom than other Disney
resort hotels, but they are closer to the other parks than the Magic
Kingdom resorts. They are all nice hotels with the characteristic Disney
theming, heated pools, and legendary customer service. In lieu of gourmet
restaurants, they have food courts and more casual dining rooms. Guests
have all of the privileges of other Disney hotel guests. The access to
all of the parks is by bus.
Value Resorts are the three separate All-Star
hotels. They offer value with imaginative movie, music, and sports themes,
economical food courts, bizarre pools, and the same privileges as other
Disney guests. They are one of the closest resorts to Animal Kingdom
and Blizzard Beach. Access to all parks is by bus. These resorts are
designed for value conscious guests, and they are very popular - we suggest
that you make reservations at least six months in advance.
AMENITIES AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
Concierge Service: A few hotels offer concierge service
for guests who are willing to pay more for a higher level of service.
At the concierge room, guests have help with information and dinner
reservations. Snacks are available.
Convenience: The time spent traveling
to and from the parks reduces the time available to enjoy them. There
is no "best" hotel that is close to all of the parks; guests
must decide which hotels are more convenient to the parks they plan to
visit. Guests with small children who expect to spend most of their time
at the Magic Kingdom should consider staying at a Magic Kingdom resort.
Guests who plan to spend more time at Epcot or Disney Studios should consider an
Room Configuration: When a family is trying
to determine how many rooms it will need, the configuration can be especially
important. The Value Resorts have two double beds in each room. In Alligator
Bayou at Port Orleans, the rooms also have a trundle bed for a fifth
person. The Epcot and Magic Kingdom Resorts have two queen beds and some
of their rooms have a day bed that is suitable for a small child. The
Wilderness Lodge offers an interesting option: bunk beds with a double
bed; in a family of four, the children don't have to share a bed. For
more room, consider Fort Wilderness, Old Key West, or one of the villas
where you can have multi-room suites. The suites are more expensive than
two rooms at a Value Resort, but they are great for larger families.
Most resorts have double sinks outside of the bathroom; only the Contemporary
and some of the Polynesian rooms lack this convenience.
View: Disney hotels offer a variety of room views from
the standard no view to the top-of-the-line lagoon view; there
are also garden views, water views, pool views, and marina views.
Of course, better views are more expensive. Because guests spend
only a few waking hours in their room, the view might not be that
important. One exception is the lagoon view from Tuvalu at the
Polynesian. Here guests have an unobstructed view of the Seven
Seas Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, and the other hotels. Views vary,
however, and most are not this good.
HOTEL COMPARISON CHART