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Beginner’s Guide to Disney World Hotels

March 25, 2022

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I'm Amanda — Your Disney-Specialized Travel Agent. I'm here to worry about the details so that you can maximize your memories and minimize your stress.

Meet Amanda

There are more than 30 hotels on property at Walt Disney World – a vast difference from the 3 at Disneyland, and once again your choices are endless. When it comes to determining your hotel, I recommend considering a few things: budget, resort location, resort transportation, and other amenities.

Alternatively, there are plenty of off-site options and pros and cons to staying on-site or off. In this post, I’m assuming that you’ve already weighed the pros and cons and have decided to stay on site and thus will not be exploring off-site hotels.

In this guide, I’ll be walking you through all of the above so that you can make the best hotel choice for your vacation. After you’ve made that decision, you might also want to check out my blog post: Beginner’s Guide to a Disney Vacation, for help on making all of the important decisions as you plan your trip!

From location, to budget, to amenities, to transportation options, there is much to consider when choosing from the Disney World Hotels!

Hotel Tiers

Let’s start by getting familiar with the various tiers of the Disney World hotels. There are three main tiers, but also a few offshoots.

Value Tier Resorts

These hotels are the most budget-friendly, but they also are typically the most lacking in transportation options and other amenities. They also have the smallest rooms on property – although some of them have gotten recent renovations and are quite nice as far as comfort and storage space.

Hotels in this tier are:

  • All Star Sports
  • All Star Music
  • All Star Movies
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Art of Animation Resort

My sister and I stayed at All Star Movies in December 2021, and while the room was small, we had ample storage space (even though my sister is a classic over-packer) and the environment in the room was lovely.

Moderate Tier Resorts

The moderate resorts are the next step up in the resort quality, which also means they are a step up in price as well. Typically, these resorts offer extra amenities like other transportation options and on-site restaurants instead of just food courts. That being said, their locations aren’t anything to shout about typically.

Hotels in the Moderate Tier:

  • Coronado Springs
  • Port Orleans – French Quarter
  • Port Orleans – Riverside
  • The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
From location, to budget, to amenities, to transportation options, there is much to consider when choosing from the Disney World Hotels!
There is something unbeatable about the atmosphere at Port Orleans French Quarter!

Deluxe Tier Resorts

Deluxe resorts take you many steps up from the moderate tier in price, but also in amenities and locations. Notably, deluxe resorts are (usually) very close to a park, they have many dining options, and larger rooms.

Hotels in the Deluxe Tier:

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Wilderness Lodge
  • BoardWalk Inn
  • Beach Club Resort
  • Yacht Club Resort
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Contemporary Resort
  • Polynesian Village Resort

Disney Vacation Club Villas

The Deluxe Villa Resorts are also known as the Disney Vacation Club Resorts. The DVC is Disney’s time share program, which I won’t get into today, but you can also stay at these hotels if you aren’t a DVC member. The big advantage of stay here is that they offers suites, and all rooms have at least a kitchenette (although some have full kitchens).

Hotels in this Tier:

  • Beach Club Villas
  • BoardWalk Villas
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village or Jambo House
  • Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
  • Riviera Resort
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins
  • Boulder Ridge Villas
  • Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  • The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Horse lovers will appreciate the Saratoga Springs theming!

More Great Accommodations

Technically, these hotels are off-site, but I want to mention them in this post anyways because they partner with Disney World and receive some perks that on-site hotel guests receive, like transportation to the parks (although a fee might apply), and a Disney Guest Services desk on site that will allow you to purchase your tickets, and get information.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser

Just opened in March 2022, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser is a 2-night immersive adventure. If your family is Star Wars obsessed, this experience may be worth looking into. The price tag is not cheap, but your two-night stay does include entry into Galaxy’s Edge (and the rest of Hollywood Studios), and your meals (excluding alcohol).

Campgrounds

There is one campground site – at the Fort Wilderness Resort. There are 4 types of campsites that can accommodate everything from tents to RVs, and if you love camping this may be the place for you.

Budget Considerations

Now that we’ve got an understanding of all of the different types of hotels on property, the first thing to consider is your budget. Typically, there are three types of Disney vacationers when it comes to budgets (while staying on-site).

First, there are the vacationers that want to do it as cheap as possible, and view the hotel as merely a place to sleep. If this is you – stick to the value resorts. If you need some extra space and are in this category, check out All Star Music and Art of Animation. Both of these hotels have family suites that can accommodate up to 6 guests.

Second, there are the vacationers that have no budget and/or are more interested in the amenities that can be offered from a resort than the money in the bank. Often, those in this category have a specific resort in mind already, but if this is you, and you don’t have an interest in a particular resort – I’d suggest looking more closely and the location considerations below.

Finally, you’ve got those vacationers that fall somewhere in the middle. They’re budget conscious, but also open to paying for more perks like better transportation and hotel amenities. If this is you – Moderate resorts are going to be more your speed.

Location Considerations

Once you’ve determined where you fall in terms of budget, you’re going to want to consider location. If you plan to split your time fairly evenly throughout your trip, it’s likely that this consideration won’t matter to you. However, if you are going to spend a large chunk of time in a particular park, it might be worth it to choose a resort based on location.

Resort Locations are broken down into 5 Categories: Magic Kingdom Area, EPCOT Area, Animal Kingdom Area, Hollywood Studios Area, and Disney Springs Area.

Magic Kingdom Area Resorts

  • The Campsites at Fort Wilderness Resort
  • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort (Moderate Resort)
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge (DVC Resort)
  • Wilderness Lodge (Deluxe Resort)
  • Contemporary Resort (Deluxe Resort & DVC)
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Deluxe Resort & DVC)
  • Copper Creek Villas & Cabins (DVC)
From location, to budget, to amenities, to transportation options, there is much to consider when choosing from the Disney World Hotels!
A peek at the Grand Floridian from the Monorail

EPCOT Area Resorts

  • Caribbean Beach Resort (Moderate Resort)
  • BoardWalk Inn (DVC)
  • Riviera Resort (DVC)
  • BoardWalk Villas (DVC)
  • Yacht Club Resort (DVC)
  • Beach Club Resort (DVC)

Animal Kingdom Area Resorts

  • All Star Movies, Music, Sports (Value Resort)
  • Coronado Springs (Moderate Resort)
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge (Deluxe & DVC)

Hollywood Studio Area Resorts

  • Pop Century (Value Resort)
  • Art of Animation (Value Resort)

Disney Springs Area Resorts

  • Port Orleans – French Quarter (Moderate Resort)
  • Port Orleans – Riverside (Moderate Resort)
  • Old Key West Resort (DVC)
  • Saratoga Springs Resort (DVC)

Transportation Options

In addition to looking at location, you’ll also want to consider transportation options as resorts within the same resort area have varying ways of getting around. For example, in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area you have some resorts that have a walking path into Magic Kingdom, and others that don’t.

A side note: none of the Animal Kingdom Resort hotels give you special transportation into Animal Kingdom. In fact, the only way to get there is either a bus, or driving your own car in.

For more on Disney transportation and using it to get around – be sure to check out my post: Beginner’s Guide to Disney World Transportation.

Disney Buses

Every single resort offers complimentary bus service to and from the parks, as well as Disney Springs. No matter which on-site hotel you choose, you’ll have this option for getting around.

Monorail

If you’re unfamiliar with the Monorail – it’s essentially an elevated train, that connects resort guests with Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.

Only a small handful of hotels (all of which are Deluxe) are on the monorail loop – the Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, and the Contemporary. This monorail loop takes you directly to Magic Kingdom, or you can transfer to the EPCOT loop at the Magic Kingdom depot.

Skyliner

If you haven’t seen the Skyliner, it’s made up of gondolas and connects you to Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.

The hotels that have Skyliner access are the Caribbean Beach Resort (Moderate), Art of Animation (Value), Pop Century (Value), and the Riviera Resort (DVC).

Additionally, Beach Club (DVC), Yacht Club (DVC), and the Boardwalk Inn (DVC) are not connected to the Skyliner, but they are within walking distance to the EPCOT one.

Boat/Water Taxi

There are several different water taxis in the Disney World Resort area.

In the Magic Kingdom area, you can take a water taxi from Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds (Moderate), the Grand Floridian (DVC), the Polynesian (DVC), and the Wilderness lodge (Deluxe) right to Magic Kingdom.

Over in the EPCOT and Hollywood Studio Resort areas, you can take a water taxi from the BoardWalk Inn, the Beach Club, and the Yacht Club Resorts (all DVC) to the parks.

And finally, the Old Key West resort (DVC), Saratoga Springs (DVC), and both Port Orleans (Moderate) offer water taxis into Disney Springs. (This water taxi was one of my husband and I’s favorite ways to end the day when we stayed at Port Orleans on our honeymoon!)

From location, to budget, to amenities, to transportation options, there is much to consider when choosing from the Disney World Hotels!

Walking Paths

If you’re staying at the Monorail hotels, you also have a walking path to your hotel from Magic Kingdom. This is incredibly convenient for those post-firework crowds trying to get out of there. Notably, the Polynesian is the farthest away from Magic Kingdom with about a mile and a half walk.

Over at the Boardwalk area (BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club), you have the ability to walk into EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, making it a favorite area for many adult trips and families with older children.

Additionally, Saratoga Springs is worth mentioning, as they have a walking path to Disney Springs. Not a park, but still worth knowing if you plan to spend a decent amount of time over there!

Your Own Car

And, of course, you can always just drive yourself to and from wherever it is you’re going and pay for parking instead of taking the complimentary transportation. Although, if you’re staying on site, parking is complimentary at the parks since you pay to park at the hotel each night. Personally, before I had my annual pass (which has a perk of free parking), we would suck it up and pay the parking fee each day just to avoid the buses because they make me motion sick. But, to each their own!

Additional Amenities

And finally, you’ll want to consider other amenities and their importance to you. Amenities vary by resort, but three particular standouts are pools, theming, and dining.

Hotel Pools

If you plan to spend a significant amount of time by the pool at your resort, this might be a consideration for you. Stormalong Bay at the Beach & Yacht Club resorts (DVC) is the best rated pool on property. Other beloved pools include the ones at the Polynesian (DVC) and Art of Animation (Value).

However, I also want to throw it out there that if you’d like some variety with your pool time, you might want to consider staying at either of the Port Orleans resorts (moderate) or the All Star resorts (value). When you stay at one of these, you also get access to your sister resort’s pool! So if you’d rather prioritize more experiences over higher quality pools, that might be a good fit for you.

Hotel Theming

Each hotel on property has its own theming, so if there’s a character or movie that you or a member of your party REALLY loves, it might be worth looking into that resort.

When it comes to value resorts – at All Star Movies you’ll find 101 Dalmatians, Toy Story, Fantasia, The Mighty Ducks, and Herbie: The Love Bug, and at Art of Animation, you’ll find Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid theming.

For moderate resorts, in some rooms at Port Orleans Riverside, you’ll find Princess and the Frog theming.

And at those deluxe/DVC resorts you’ll find Moana theming at the Polynesian, and The Incredibles theming at the Contemporary.

Of course, I have to mention the Star Wars theming at the Galactic Starcruiser, but that really takes things to an entirely new level.

The rest of the resorts also have themes, but they aren’t outspokenly Disney property themed (yet).

And there you have it! Everything you need to know to choose your Disney World resort hotel! If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and I’ll help you out. And if you’re gearing up to plan your next magical escape, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Disney Vacation blog post!

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