DISNEY RESORT HOTEL OVERVIEW

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.

On-site vs. Off-site
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 than 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 lose it.

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 International Gateway.

Wilderness Lodges And Resorts evoke the feeling of the great outdoors, whether it's the Pacific Northwest or the serengeti. 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 look 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 Epcot Resort.

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.

The 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

RESORTS
ROOM
SIZE
CONVENIENCE TO PARKS
ROOM
COST
TOTAL
GUESTS
VANITY
AREA
MK
EPCOT
STUDIO
AK
ALL STARS
260
35
20
15
15
$
4
YES
POP CENTURY
260
35
20
25
15
$
4
YES
CARIBBEAN BEACH
314
30
10
10
30
$$
4
YES
CORONADO SPRINGS
314
20
30
10
20
$$
4
YES
PORT ORLEANS
314
25
10
25
35
$$
4+
YES
ANIMAL KINGDOM
344
40
35
30
10
$$$
4+
YES
WILDERNESS LODGE
344
10
30
30
35
$$$
4
YES
FORT WILDERNESS
504
15
35
35
40
$$$
6
NO
BOARDWALK
385
25
5
10
25
$$$$
4+
YES
BEACH CLUB
400
25
5
10
25
$$$$
4+
YES
YACHT CLUB
400
25
5
10
25
$$$$
4+
YES
SWAN
450
25
10
10
25
$$$$
4
YES
DOLPHIN
450
25
10
10
25
$$$$
4
YES
CONTEMPORARY
394
10
20
20
15
$$$$
4+
NO
POLYNESIAN
407
5
25
25
35
$$$$
4+
*
GRAND FLORIDIAN
403
5
25
25
35
$$$$
4+
YES
VILLAS (1 BEDROOM SUITES - STUDIOS AND LARGER SUITES ARE AVAILABLE)
OLD KEY WEST RESORT
942
30
10
15
35
$$$$$
4
NO
WILDERNESS LODGE VILLAS
814
15
30
30
35
$$$$$
4
YES
BOARDWALK VILLAS
814
25
5
10
25
$$$$$
4
NO
BEACH CLUB VILLAS
726
25
5
10
25
$$$$$
4
NO
SARATOGA SPRINGS
714
40
15
20
40
$$$$$
4
NO
ANIMAL KINGDOM VILLAS
710
40
35
30
10
$$$$$
5
NO
BAY LAKE TOWER
?
10
20
20
15
$$$$$
5
NO
Room Size Square Feet
Convenience Minutes To Park (excludes any waiting)
Room Cost Standard Room Price Per Day, Value Season
Total Guests A Crib Is Also Available for A Child Under Age 3
 + A Room With A Day Bed Or Trundle Bed for A Child Is Available On Request
In The Alligator Bayou Section of Port Orleans, A Trundle Bed for an Additional Guest is Available On Request
Vanity Area Counter and Sink Are Separate From The Bathroom
 * Available On Request
 

CONCLUSION
Your Decision: There are four factors to consider in selecting a hotel: availability, price, convenience, and atmosphere. If you wait too long to start your planning, your choices may be limited by availability. Consider price and convenience to select a group of hotels that satisfy your requirements. Consider atmosphere when making your final selection.

Subjective Factors: The most careful analysis often gives way to more subjective factors. Some guests select the Grand Floridian because they love the grand hotel decor; others choose the Yacht Club or Beach Club because of the pool. Subjective factors can be just as important as any methodical analysis. The trick is first to identify the factors that are important to you and then to select your hotel accordingly.