Hooray! Your family is going to Walt Disney World! You’ve decided to stay in a Disney resort hotel to take advantage of the various on-property Disney perks. But which one is the right choice for your family? As with many things at Disney, the right answer is: it depends.
Walt Disney World offers a wide variety of on-property hotel options. A total of 25 to be exact. These are divided into category tiers – value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas. Figuring out which one is right for which trip can be a bit overwhelming.
I know many families would never be caught dead in anything but a deluxe. I know many other families who could easily afford a deluxe but who opt for the values or moderates every time because they don’t feel they receive enough value for the deluxe price. And there are lots of families in between – splurging some trips and doing Disney on a budget on others. Knowing which family yours is helps you make the most of your money and have the best vacations.
Over the past two years alone, I have stayed in multiple resorts in each of these tiers on five different Walt Disney World vacations. My verdict? I would consider staying at each of these tiers again. There were none that I would say just don’t work at all for my family. I do, of course, have my favorites.
What I also learned is that some of these resort tiers are undoubtedly a better fit depending on who was traveling with me, my budget, and what we planned to do and see on a given trip. In short, giving some thought to a particular vacation’s variables is crucial to making the right choice.
So, it’s time to break it down. What amenities does each level of resort offer? And what are the pro and cons of each?
Disney Value Resorts
Disney value resorts offer motel-style accommodations at the lowest price on Disney property – often about $100-150 a night. Standard rooms are basic, with two double beds, a single vanity, small table, and mini-fridge.
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Pros of Disney Value Resorts
- A cheap, clean, and fairly well-located place to crash for guests who spend all their time in the parks anyway.
- All of the on-property benefits of a Disney resort at a lower price point – Disney’s Magical Express, 60 day advance Fastpass reservations, free parking, and Extra Magic Hours.
- Bright and colorful Disney theming that is especially captivating to young kids.
Cons of Disney Value Resorts
- Standard rooms sleep only 4 guests so they don’t work for larger families.
- Double beds may be a tight fit for families sharing beds.
- Value resorts are often filled with traveling high school groups who can sometimes be loud at night or flood food courts at peak times.
- Only curtains separate bathroom sink area from beds, which can create noise and light problems with sleeping kiddos.
- No table service restaurants.
- No water slides at pools.
- Very large geographical footprints, which can mean long walks to pool, lobby, or park shuttles.
Disney Moderate Resorts
Moderate resorts go up in price (often about $170-300 a night for standard rooms) but with a corresponding increase in room space and quality. The on-site amenities and resort sizes vary a bit from resort to resort, so choosing between them requires a little more of a deep dive.
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Pros of Disney Moderate Resorts
- Rooms with two queen beds available for families.
- Some moderate resorts can accommodate a 5th person in a single room.
- Nicer pools than value resorts, with a few true hidden gems like Coronado Springs’ Dig Site.
- Both table service and quick service dining.
- More subdued but immersive and elegant Disney theming.
Cons of Disney Moderate Resorts
- Some moderate resorts are also very large, which can mean long walks to pool, lobby, or park shuttles.
- Transportation options not necessarily an improvement over the value resorts.
- High on-property premium: comparable hotel rooms with the same quality, space, and amenities can often be had off-property around $100 per night.
- A significant increase in pricing over the value resorts, especially for longer trips.
Disney Deluxe Resorts
Disney’s deluxe resorts are the ultimate in Disney luxury. Of course, they are a further step up in price. Even more amenities come with that – amazing pools, concierge levels, multiple dining choices, etc. Deluxe resort room pricing can vary quite a bit depending on season and resort, from $350-800.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Pros of Disney Deluxe Resorts
- Some of the best locations mean easier and quicker transportation options – like walking distance to parks or monorails or ferries instead of buses.
- Well-reviewed table service restaurants in addition to quick service options.
- Character dining in most hotels.
- Very nice pools, with waterslides and a variety of amenities.
- Concierge levels.
- Resort footprints are smaller, so less walking while you are within the resort grounds.
Cons of Disney Deluxe Resorts
- Expensive, expensive, expensive.
- Service and amenities perhaps not quite up to true luxury resort hotel standards (Ritz, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental), even though the price matches or exceeds those kinds of hotels.
Disney Deluxe Villas
Disney has a fourth category of sorts – deluxe villas. These are in separate buildings at many of the deluxe resorts and offer condo-like accommodations. Most are usually rented through Disney’s timeshare program, Disney Vacation Club, although they can be booked by non-owners through Disney directly or by renting someone else’s DVC points.
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- (Copper Creek Villas & Cabins – Opening July 17, 2017)
Pros of Disney Deluxe Villas
- All the benefits of the deluxe resorts – location, restaurants, top quality pools, etc.
- Can sometimes be snagged at a major discount by renting Disney Vacation Club points (most often during low or shoulder season).
- More space for bigger families.
- Kitchenettes to cook and save money on food.
Cons of Disney Deluxe Villas
- Often very, very expensive.
- Limited availability to non-owners.
Factors to Consider in Choosing Value, Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resorts at Disney World
So now that you know what each tier of resort offers, what are the factors that should matter to you? This is where the rubber meets the road.
The almighty vacation budget is always first and foremost. Deluxe resorts and many moderates – especially on a longer vacation – are often just out of reach for the average traveling family. Ultimately, do what you can afford. None of the Disney resorts are worth going into debt over.
For families of 5 or more who cannot fit into a single standard room at a value resort, family size really matters. A moderate resort isn’t quite double the price of a value resort, so families of 5 may be better served to pay up for a moderate room that fits 5 rather than spring for two value rooms.
Of course, two value rooms are normally going to be a major savings over a single deluxe room. Larger families who value extra space and want to save may do better splitting up into two value rooms.
Age of Your Kids
Which resort is right for you often depends on the ages and interests of your kids at the time of your visit. I personally think a deluxe resort is better for families with school aged kids who can take advantage of the extra amenities the resorts offer. These include themed pools with waterslides, lots of on-site dining options, or the kids clubs that several deluxe resorts have.
For families with babies and toddlers, a value or moderate is often a smart choice. Travelers who are the type to take little ones to Disney World are rarely making once in a lifetime visits to Disney. They are the type of guest who returns again and again. If this describes your family, maybe wait to splurge until you can take full advantage of the pricier deluxe resort options.
That said, the deluxe hotels make logistics of traveling with young kids incredibly easy due to their location and service. If you are a parent and traveler skittish about logistics, paying more for a deluxe may make sense for you.
Touring Habits & Transportation
If you are the type of family who spends all your time out exploring the parks, you probably don’t need an expensive hotel. The value resorts offer a clean place to crash. Or the moderates will serve you well if you just want a few extra amenities. If you love luxuriating in a nice room and spending hours by the pool, however, deluxe is definitely more your family’s speed.
Similarly, if you are a family who likes to take a mid-day break and park hop elsewhere in the evenings, choosing a deluxe resort with more transportation options can be very smart. I personally really like Yacht and Beach Club for that very reason. Our family spends the first part of the day in a park and then comes back for a rest before walking over to Epcot for dinner. Don’t underestimate the value of not having to wait on Disney transportation on your vacation.
What factors matter most to your family? Do you save at value resorts, splurge at deluxe ones, or get some of the best of both worlds at moderates?
Disclosure: Some of my stays at the Disney resort hotels mentioned in this post were provided for review purposes for free or at a media discount. I paid for other stays completely out of pocket. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.