One of the biggest decisions in planning your Disney World vacation is where you’re going to rest your weary head at the end of the night! That’s right — we’re talking about all things accommodations today.
There are some big factors we’ve always recommended you consider when making a decision on where to stay, but there are plenty of NEW factors you have to think about if you’re planning a Disney World vacation in 2022. It can be an overwhelming decision to make, so we’re breaking down all the important factors you should consider when deciding where to book your overnight accommodations.
Some of the earliest decisions you’ll make when planning your Disney World vacation is where you’re going to stay. There are dozens of Disney-owned and operated resort hotels on property, as well as hundreds of off-property hotels and vacation rentals across Central Florida! How do YOU know what’s perfect for YOU? Don’t sweat it. We’re here to help.
Our first two points will go hand-in-hand: know what you’re paying and what you’re getting for your money. Staying on Disney World property comes with plenty of perks (more on those later!) but baseline, you’ll likely be shelling out much more cash than you likely would for comparable accommodations offsite.
But before we chat about off-property options, it’s important to stress that Disney World has hotel accommodations at MANY different price points for all different kinds of vacation budgets.
The Deluxe Resorts
There are your Deluxe Resorts (like Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), filled with tons of amenities, health and fitness centers (and in many instances full-service spas), not to mention some of the best dining on Disney World property.
All of that luxury will cost you BIG time — be prepared to sell a kidney or two! The most standard of rooms at Deluxe Resorts will run you hundreds of dollars per night, and the price only goes up from there if you want preferred views, king beds, multiple bedrooms, or villas. There’s no doubt, however, that you’ll be staying in top tier accommodations.
The Moderate Resorts
Then there are the Moderate Resorts. These resorts will have less amenities than what you’ll find at the Deluxe Resorts, but they will still have plenty of dining options, including at least one table service restaurant. Essentially, the Moderates are perfectly fine mid-range options for mid-range price points.
They’re kind of the Goldilocks of the Disney World hotels when it comes to price: not too high, but you can definitely find cheaper options, too. On average, it’s not uncommon to find rooms at these resorts in the mid-$200 range per night.
The Value Resorts
The third category of Disney World Resort hotels are the Value Resorts. These, like Disney’s Pop Century Resort, will offer essentially the barebones when it comes to hotels: a reliable place to rest your sleepy head at the end of the day. Dining is limited to large counter service cafeteria-like options, but you’ll still have a couple of pools to enjoy and all your basic hotel amenities.
Rooms at the Value Resorts are also smaller, but, as the name implies, these will be your VALUE options where you can save some serious money if staying on Disney World property is a must for your travel party. Rooms at these resorts can get as low as approximately $150 per night, but they can creep up into the $200 range depending on the time of year you’re visiting.
Now let’s talk about what your options are should you choose to NOT stay at a Disney owned- and operated-hotel. The two major off-property categories you’ll choose from are hotels and vacation home rentals. In general, odds are high you’ll get more bang for your buck staying off-property in that rooms are typically cheaper for more square footage, including both hotels and vacation homes. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll be sacrificing certain things. Namely: location, location, location.
Of course, there’s more than just your overnight room rate to consider when calculating the accommodations portion of your vacation budget. If you drive and are staying at a Disney World hotel, you will have to pay overnight resort parking (as of this writing, that’ll cost you $15 per night at a Value Resort, $20 per night at Moderates, and $25 per night at Deluxe). But if you are staying off-property and drive to the parks, you will be paying $25 per day to park in the theme park lots.
Check our Disney Discounts and Deals page — there are always savings to be had! There’s no reason you should EVER pay full price for a Disney World hotel room, so do your research for those savings!
Space and Amenities
Another thing to keep in mind is that Disney World resort rooms are preeeeetty small compared to off-property options — essentially, you’re paying more money for less space (which could be key if you’re traveling with more than two people! If you are parents traveling with a couple of kids, you may feel like you need more space than what many of Disney’s resorts offer.)
See that photo above of the newly-renovated Pop Century Resort rooms? Yeah, you really won’t have ALL that space. The way the room looks when you check in on your first day will NOT be how it looks one, two, three days into your vacation. After losing seating space for your suitcases, figuring out where everyone is going to sleep, and the signature pile of dirty clothes growing day after day, these rooms will feel TIGHT for a party of four.
You’re also paying that Disney premium for amenities that you might not necessarily use! Will you REALLY use that super awesome-looking pool, or will your spend all of your time at the parks? Consider this, especially if you’re looking into staying at a Deluxe resort. Are you actually planning on using those fancy amenities, or does your hotel only need to serve as a place to “crash” at the end of the night?
If you’re looking for all the comforts of home, a vacation home might be a great option to consider. You can find a decent-sized home with multiple private bedrooms and bathrooms, your own washer and dryer, a pool (plus jacuzzi in some cases!), kitchen, and MORE priced at less than some Disney hotel rooms. This is especially true if you’re looking to do a larger family vacation where you can split the cost of the home!
With ALL of that said, there is still a TON of value in staying at a Disney World Resort hotel. When you recover from the sticker shock at comes with many of their resorts, they come with a number of exclusive perks (which we’ll dive into in just a sec!).
Many of Disney’s hotels have amazing sit-down restaurants on site, even some that rival what you’ll find in the parks. If you want to know that your accommodations are doing the most FOR YOU, then you’ll have a really hard time finding something better than Disney’s hotels.
One of the HUGE draws to staying on Disney World property is that, despite the higher cost, you get a lot of nifty perks for staying at a Disney-owned hotel, and these often–exclusive bonuses made the price tag worth it for a lot of families.
One of the biggest perks that can change the game for your park days is that Disney Resort Guests get extra time in the parks! On-property guests can now take advantage of Early Theme Park Access, which will grant early entry to all four theme parks, every single day, thirty minutes prior to that park’s opening time. And, guests of Disney World Deluxe Resorts and certain other hotels also get Extended Evening Hours — a few extra hours in a particular park offered a couple of nights a week.
Another perk that can change the game for your park days is that Disney resort guests can book Pay-Per-Ride Attractions beginning at 7AM, while those staying off-property have to wait until the time the park opens. That means if you choose to pay to skip the line to ride Disney World’s most popular rides, like Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you will get a jump on reserving your desired time slot.
One other perk that many Disney guests love is the Disney Dining Plan. It is currently suspended, but Disney has said that the plan will return. The Dining Plan is a pre-purchased set of dining “credits” that make your vacation feel a little more “all-inclusive.” These vacation package add-ons offer convenience in knowing that your dining is already “taken care of,” so to speak (note that gratuity is not included). Without the Dining Plan these days, you’re still able to make all the same dining reservations as before, but you’ll be paying out of pocket instead..
But the BIGGEST perk of all for many Disney World guests choosing to stay onsite is transportation.
A nice hotel with all the amenities is one thing, but how are you going to get around while on vacation? One of Disney’s best-selling perks is the large amount of complimentary transportation options, and that still holds true today!
Basically, if you don’t want to lift a FINGER when it comes to transportation, there’s truly nothing better than staying on Disney World property.
Disney’s Magical Express
First thing’s first: we gotta talk about Disney’s Magical Express. This complimentary bus service that shuttled guests to and from Orlando International Airport upon arrival was discontinued at the end of 2021.
Complimentary Disney World resort transportation options once you’ve arrived include buses, boats, the Monorail, the Disney Skyliner, and good old pedestrian walkways. Each and every Disney World Resort hotel will have bus access to the four theme parks as well as Disney Springs. From there, additional transportation options will depend on where you’re staying.
The three Monorail Resorts include Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. These are the ONLY resorts with designated Monorail stations, taking guests to both Magic Kingdom as well as the Transportation & Ticket Center, with transfer service to EPCOT. The Monorail is also a great way to get around if you’re in one of those parks and want to visit one of the Monorail Resorts (taking a mid-day break from Magic Kingdom to grab a quiet lunch at one of these resorts is a top tip!).
You can also walk from each of the Monorail Resorts to Magic Kingdom via pedestrian walkway. Disney recently completed their Grand Floridian walkway, making all three resorts easily accessible to Magic Kingdom by foot.
Riding the Monorail is a quintessential Disney World experience, so what better way to experience it than as your primary mode of transportation? If you’re planning on spending a ton of time in Magic Kingdom, there’s really no better way to get around than the Monorail.
The Disney Skyliner
Disney World’s newest transportation system is the Skyliner! The gondola in the sky opened in 2019 and provides guests with a quick, effortless way to get around certain areas of the Disney World Resort.
The Disney World Resort hotels situated along the Skyliner route include Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and technically Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts as well as Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. These resorts have gondola access to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
The three Crescent Lake Hotels (Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn) are also walking distance (we’re talking STEPS away) from EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance to World Showcase.
Then there are the boats! The Monorail Resorts (with the exception of the Contemporary) along with Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and the Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort have boat access to Magic Kingdom. The Crescent Lake Resorts have boat access to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you want to spend a good deal of time at Disney Springs, select Disney World Resorts have boat access to the shopping district. These include both of Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts, as well as Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
Now that we have a basic groundwork for what complimentary transportation options are available and where you’ll find them across the Disney World Resort hotels, let’s chat about certain things to keep in mind when deciding where you want to stay from a transportation point of view. Complimentary transportation is a HUGE perk when staying at a Disney World Resort, but there may be a couple of drawbacks here and there.
For example, resorts with Skyliner access tend to have less frequent buses to EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Also, if you’re afraid of heights, you may want to avoid situations where your transportation options could be limited to the Skyliner.
Staying on property? Location is STILL key!
In many instances, it’s not enough to just decide that you want to stay on property. Disney World is HUGE and picking the wrong resort could mean you’re far, far away from where you want to be.
Are you a die-hard EPCOT fan? Consider staying at Disney’s Yacht or Beach Club Resorts, or Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. If you’re looking to spend extra time in Magic Kingdom, consider staying in one of the Monorail resorts (remember, all three Monorail resorts now have walking access to Magic Kingdom!).
If you want a little more nightlife on your trip and want to spend your evenings in Disney Springs, you can be just minutes away by staying at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Make sure you look into which resort area you’re staying in to know how long it will take to get from point A to point B. You may be minutes away from Magic Kingdom when staying at the Grand Floridian, but you’re pretty far from the other three parks.
Will you travel outside of Disney World?
A final factor to consider has very little to do with Disney World, but could have a huge impact on whether or not you decide to stay on Disney World property. Are you planning on visiting any of the other theme parks in Orlando? If so, then staying off property may be a better option. It’s tricky to get off of Disney World property if you don’t have your own car (you’re basically limited to taxis or ride share), and remember, it’s pricey to keep a car overnight at your Disney World resort hotel.
Be sure to do your research, crunch the numbers, and weigh ALL of the pros and cons when making your decision on where to stay on your next Disney World vacation! These decisions are not simply financial, although the price is definitely a priority. Think about what you want your vacation to look and feel like, too!