So, you’ve decided to stay on-site at Walt Disney World.  Now comes the fun part (for some of you)…where to stay?  There are three levels of resort at Walt Disney World, with the deluxe level offering standard hotel rooms, as well as villas.  All levels are very distinct and have their pros and cons.  Let’s take a look at Disney World hotel categories.

Disney World Value Resorts

There are five value resorts at Walt Disney World, All-Star Music, Movies and Sports; Pop Century and the newest member of the resort family, Art of Animation.  Family suites aside, these will offer the lowest priced rooms on property.  However, they will also be the smallest and most basic.  Family suites tend to be priced closer to moderate level rooms but offer more space and two bathrooms.  Having two bathrooms can definitely justify the higher price tag for some travelers.

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Standard room at Art of Animation

As far as resort amenities, these properties feature larger than life, colorful icons throughout the grounds.  You definitely know you’re at Disney when you come face to face with Crush or Lightning McQueen.  This can be a huge draw for families with young kids.  Pools will feature a few fun options and, again, the larger-than-life theming (hello, giant bowling pin pool!), but you won’t find water slides at the values.  Recreation options are typically limited to the pools and a playground here and there.  Dining options at the values consist of a food court that gives a variety of options, and the typically all-pleasing pizza delivery is available.

Guitar Pool at All-Star Music
Guitar Pool at All-Star Music

Another big factor in the values is their proximity to the parks.  Unless you have your own vehicle, your only option when staying at a value resort is to use the bus system.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan.  I’d hop one if I had to, but, especially when leaving the parks in the evening, the buses can be a disaster.  That said, in the mornings and afternoons, we’ve had decent luck with timeliness and comfort when having to use them.

Get Resort Wise: While the price tags are smaller, so are the rooms.  Remember this when packing for your vacation.  There are no actual closets and very little space to store luggage in the standard rooms, so pack light.

Disney World Moderate Resorts

The four moderate resorts at Walt Disney World include Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter; Coronado Springs; and Caribbean Beach.  Disney also includes the Cabins at Fort Wilderness in their moderate category, although they are quite a bit different than the typical moderate resorts.  Moderate resort prices are in the median range, and the rooms offer a little more comfort.  Beds are bigger, decor is nicer and you do get a little more space.

Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside
Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside

These resorts offer quite a bit more in terms of amenities than the values.  The grounds are larger and offer more to do.  With water as a feature, boating and water craft rental are available, as well as biking.  Of course, the pools at the moderate level are well-themed, and the main pools will feature a water slide.  Dining options are more varied with at least one table service in addition to a food court.

Again, the main transportation source here is the bus system.  However, both Port Orleans resorts offer boat transportation to Downtown Disney.

Coronado Springs
Coronado Springs

ŸGet Resort Wise: The moderate resorts cover a lot of space and rooms tend to be very spread out.  This may seem ok at first but will look a whole lot different at 10:30 P.M. with two sleeping toddlers.  Consider bringing or renting your own stroller if you‘re planning to use one in the parks.  Anyone with kids knows that once they reach that limp noodle stage of sleep, it’s a struggle to get anywhere much less hike across your resort in the Florida heat after a day at Magic Kingdom.  Likewise, if a member of your party has mobility issues, consider a scooter or request/book a preferable room location.

Disney World Deluxe Resorts

For our purposes, again, I’m combining both the typical rooms and the villa resorts.  The deluxe category features the largest variety of hotels boasting the Grand Floridian/Villas (coming soon!), the Polynesian, the Contemporary Resort/Bay Lake Tower, Wilderness Lodge/Villas, Beach Club/Villas, Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn/Villas, Animal Kingdom Lodge/Villas, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs.  These resorts feature the largest standard rooms on property, as well as the largest price tags.  Standard rooms will typically offer queen beds and possibly bunk beds or daybeds depending on the resort and room booked.  Villas will offer one or two bedrooms, as well as studios and grand villas, and kitchenettes/kitchens.  The rooms also feature patios or balconies and indoor corridors.

Master bedroom at Boardwalk Villas
Master bedroom at Boardwalk Villas

You will find the most amenities at the deluxe resorts.  All feature pools will showcase a water slide and some pools offer cabana rentals.  Rental of water crafts and bikes, including those oh-so-fun surry bikes, is available at most resorts.  Dining options at the deluxes typically consist of a couple table service locations with a counter service restaurant, too.  Villa resorts will tend to have a larger variety of grocery-type items in their gift shops.  Private dining aka room service is also offered at these hotels.

Standard room at the Contemporary
Standard room at the Contemporary

Deluxes also offer some of the nicest views on property.  Can’t get much more magical than gazing at Cinderella Castle from your patio.  For those resorts not theme park adjacent, such as Animal Kingdom Lodge, they have their own special brand of room views.  Waking up to giraffes nibbling leaves outside your balcony isn’t too bad, either.

Location is the main selling point for us as far as deluxe resorts go.  The ability to catch a monorail, boat or even walk to a theme park is invaluable to our family.  Depending on your resort, you may have to rely on bus transportation to the parks, but you have the ability to choose not to with more than half of the deluxe properties offering multiple transportation options.

Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Get Resort Wise: Deluxe properties can cost a pretty penny, so if you choose to stay at one, take some time to enjoy your home away from home and soak up the atmosphere.  There’s plenty to keep the family busy (or not) for an afternoon at these hotels, so schedule a down day and relax.

What’s your favorite resort at Walt Disney World?  Why?