Note: As the parks reopen these hotels will be operating differently for a while. You can learn about all the changes here.
Today we’re talking all things Disney resorts…and how to choose between them!
Now, staying at ANY official Disney World Resort will get you some great perks — Extra Magic Hours, free transportation around the resort, free MagicBands, and early FastPass+ reservations are awesome.
So how do you narrow it down and choose the right place for YOUR family?? Well, we’re guessing there are many IMPORTANT features that you’re NOT thinking about when you choose a Disney hotel. So today, we’re filling you in on a few key details to keep in mind when you’re deciding where to drop your megabucks.
If you’re traveling with little ones, the pool at your resort could make or break your vacation. Every Disney World hotel has at least one pool, but they certainly are not all created equal. For starters, generally, the pools at the Value Resorts don’t feature slides, but the pools at the Moderate and Deluxe Resorts do!
Arguably the best pool on Disney World property is Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. The two resorts share this pool but don’t let that deter you. It’s HUGE and features a sandy bottom floor, a lazy river, and the longest slide at any Disney World resort pool!
Buuuut, Yacht and Beach Clubs are on the higher end of the $$$ spectrum in Disney World.
If you’re looking for a top-quality pool for the kids at a resort that won’t break the bank, consider staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Their Fuentas del Morro Pool is a LOT of fun for the whole family and features awesome pirate theming, water cannons, and slides. Plus, it’s in very close proximity to the great poolside bar, Banana Cabana.
Other stand-out pools include the Uzima Springs Pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Lava/Volcano Pool at The Polynesian Village Resort, the Copper Creek Springs Pool at Wilderness Lodge, and the Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation, which is the largest resort pool on property.
Check out our video on the 10 Best Hotel Pools in Disney World!
All Disney hotels offer tons of free transportation options around the property as well as the not-so-free Minnie Vans, which are a paid rideshare option through the Lyft App.
But, again, transportation is not created equally at all resorts. Some hotels offer DIRECT walking paths, monorail, or skyliner access to Disney parks, which means you’re ready to have fun for the day in MINUTES. Others only offer the Disney bus system to the theme parks, which can mean waiting, waiting, and more waiting…and then a 20-minute crowded bus ride…and then facing what could be hours of travel back to your hotel after the fireworks.
Let’s break it down.
First, there are the deluxe resorts along the Monorail line. These include The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, and The Contemporary. Hop on the monorail at any one of these resorts for direct access to the Magic Kingdom, or transfer at the Transportation & Ticket Center and hitch a ride to Epcot! The Monorail is a fast, efficient mode of transportation to two Disney theme parks, and having direct access to it can be a life-saver, especially for guests with limited mobility or small children and strollers.
The new Skyliner transportation system is a MEGA improvement for many Disney World resorts when it comes to quick transportation to theme parks. This one transports guests within minutes to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, serves The Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, Art of Animation Resort, and Pop Century Resort.
Also, with the Epcot Skyliner station located at the International Gateway, it’s a very short walking distance from Yacht Club, Beach Club, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts, and the BoardWalk Inn. These aren’t TECHNICALLY considered Skyliner resorts, but greatly benefit from their proximity to the Epcot station in getting to Hollywood Studios quickly.
Direct Walking Access
Speaking of walking distance, several hotels don’t even require transportation to get to the theme parks — just use your feet!
The Yacht Club, Beach Club, and BoardWalk are all minutes away from the International Gateway entrance to Epcot, and if you were feeling really inspired to get your steps in for the day, you could walk to Hollywood Studios within about 20 minutes from these resorts as well.
If you would like to walk to the Magic Kingdom, currently the Contemporary Resort is your only option for foot-only transportation. We are eagerly awaiting the completion of a potential new walkway at Grand Floridian, which should connect to the Magic Kingdom, opening up all three Monorail resorts to direct Magic Kingdom access via walking!
If your vacation plans include several trips to Disney Springs to soak in all the dining, shopping, and nightlife it has to offer, you might consider staying at Saratoga Springs Resort! The resort is located right across the river and is a short walk to the center of the action.
Disney World also offers boat transportation between several resorts and other destinations on property.
To get to the Magic Kingdom, The Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Resort, Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness Resort, and Wilderness Lodge, all have boat transportation across Seven Seas Lagoon (and/or Bay Lake).
For boat transportation to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, the Beach Club, Yacht Club, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, and BoardWalk Inn all have boat access.
Finally, to get to Disney Springs, you can hop on a boat at Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West Resort, and Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter Resorts. The boats aren’t always the quickest way to get around — there is more waiting involved than what you’d find with walking or taking the skyliner, and the boats likely take a bit longer than those two modes of transportation, depending on where you’re sailing — but they offer something different and totally relaxing if you aren’t in any rush!
Whether you’re visiting for your honeymoon, anniversary, or another special occasion, certain Disney World resorts have specific amenities to make your experience truly once-in-a-lifetime.
One way of upgrading your trip is by booking Club Level accommodations.
Staying Club Level offers several benefits that truly make your special occasion extra memorable. Guests have access to Club Level lounges with complimentary snacks, mini-meals, beverages (including complimentary alcoholic beverages), and hors d’oeuvres as well as access to Club Level Concierge Cast Members specifically dedicated to helping plan and facilitate the visits of those staying Club Level. If you’re looking to make your trip extra special, this can be a really nice (albeit pricey!) option. It usually runs about $100-200 more per night than staying in a regular room at the resort, and it could be a good deal if you’re happy snacking through the lounge instead of dining in a pricy Disney World restaurant for a couple of meals per day.
Most Deluxe Resorts offer Club Level accommodations, including Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, The Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club. The most price-friendly Club Level option will be at Coronado Springs, where the new Gran Destino Tower makes this resort the first Moderate Resort to offer Club Level accommodations.
Ya Got A BIG GROUP
Whether it’s a family reunion, a spring break trip with all of your closest friends, or you simply have a lot of friends and family in tow, it can be tricky to book hotel rooms that accommodate so many people.
Sometimes booking two adjoining rooms is your best bet, although there are some resorts that offer additional options.
Many Disney World Resort hotels have rooms that accommodate groups of five or more. If you’re looking to stick to a tighter budget, family suites are available at All Star Music and Art of Animation, which comfortably sleep up to six people, have master suites, and have full bathrooms.
The cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort also sleeps up to six guests. For a little bit more money, some suites at Coronado Springs feature two connecting rooms and sleep up to six guests.
Several Deluxe resorts have accommodations that fit up to parties of five, including the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, BoardWalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club. From there you can really splurge on Club Level deluxe rooms that can sleep up to six guests, which can be found at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, and BoardWalk Inn.
Disney Vacation Club also has a wide range of rooms available for parties of varying sizes. One, two, and three-bedroom villas are available and come with many of the comforts of home, including fully equipped kitchens, and in-room washers and dryers.
For those on the Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan can grant you many conveniences during your stay at Disney World. One of the most popular aspects of the Dining Plan is the included refillable drink mugs and drink filling stations at each resort.
Every resort offers at least one station where you can refill your souvenir mug, which comes included on every Disney Dining Plan. But it’s easier to fill that mug at some resorts than at others.
Picture coming back to your resort after a long day and extra evening magic hours. You’re eager to fill your mug up with a cold drink only to find…the location where you fill your mug at your resort is closed for the day. Bummer. A few resorts, like the Polynesian Village Resort and Grand Floridian Resort, have one quick-service location open 24 hours with refill stations available anytime — day or night.
Many resorts allow you to refill your mugs at the pool bars, but hours will be more limited to when the pool bars are open.
A few resorts, like Yacht and Beach Club, have access to multiple locations to fill your mug, meaning depending on where your room is located, you can choose the location closest to you.
Some more sprawling resorts, like Art of Animation, have one central mug filling location that quite possibly could be a substantial walk away from your room due to the layout of the resort.
If having access to the refillable stations is a priority, scope out where and when you can fill your mug at your chosen resort, and possibly consider asking for a room closer to a refill station.
Looking for the Best in Disney World Dining?
If the best in Disney World dining is high on your list, you may want to consider staying somewhere that allows you to indulge in signature dining without having to leave your resort! The one resort with multiple signature dining experiences is The Grand Floridian, which is home to Victoria and Alberts, one of the top-rated restaurants in the entire COUNTRY. At The Grand Floridian, you can also check out Citricos and Narcoossee’s, two other exceptional signature restaurants.
Other Fine Dining options at the resorts include Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Flying Fish (BoardWalk Inn), California Grill (Contemporary), Topolino’s Terrace (Riviera Resort), and Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club).
When You’re Visiting During the Holidays
Disney World is extra magical during the holiday season! One of the ways you can immerse yourself during this special time of year is by staying at a Disney World Resort hotel that goes all-out with decorations. Perhaps the most iconic example is The Grand Floridian, with its MASSIVE gingerbread house in the atrium (there’s even a shop inside it!).
The Beach Club erects its annual gingerbread carousel during the holidays as well, and you will definitely be able to smell it every time you walk through the main lobby!
Other resorts have notable gingerbread displays as well, like BoardWalk Inn, the Contemporary, and more.
Don’t forget that most of the Deluxe resorts also play host to some larger than life Christmas Trees in their lobbies; so even if you aren’t staying at these resorts, they’re worth a visit during the holidays!
A less direct but still good option for enjoying the holiday decor at Disney World would be Saratoga Springs. While the resort itself doesn’t have too many holiday decorations, its close proximity to Disney Springs means that you are just a few minutes and steps away from the Christmas Tree Trail.
Depending on your travel party and your unique interests and needs, considering some of these “perks” of each Disney World hotel could help you have an even better overall experience. Evaluating what your group wants most and seeing if you can find a resort that caters to those needs a bit more than others can make the difference between a good trip and a really great one!
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What’s your FAVORITE Disney World Resort hotel and why? Let us know in the comments!