Deciding which Disney resort is right for you

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that after weighing the pros and cons of staying on the Disney property, I’m a huge proponent of staying ON the property!  The premise of this entire blog is about the magic of staying ‘in the bubble’ and you just can’t get that staying off the property.

After deciding to stay at a Disney resort comes the big decision – which resort is right for you? With nearly 30 resort options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to stay.  The first thing to consider is budget.  There are 3 main levels of hotel according to price, categorized as Value, Moderate and Deluxe.  I say 3 ‘main’ levels because there’s also a campground option at the Fort Wilderness Resort where you pay for your campground space if you have a camper or tent (yikes!)  I’m not the camping type so this kind of resort is pretty much never on my radar when deciding where to stay.  At the other end of the spectrum are the Deluxe Villas, which are larger spaces than deluxe rooms, so they’re a notch up in price from deluxe resorts.

Value Resorts

Value resort pricing starts at around $100 per night.  There are certain options you can select, such as a pool view or a preferred room which will increase the price.  I’ve stayed at 3 of the value resorts and my #1 recommendation if you choose to go with value is this: UPGRADE TO THE PREFERRED ROOM!  If you pick the standard room, you risk being far from the main building, bus stop and the main pool area. One year, we were in a room that was in the furthest building from the entrance, around the backside, so far that if we took 10 steps from our room I think we would have been off the hotel’s grounds!  It took a long time to walk to the main building to grab a coffee in the morning and after a long day it was torture to walk back to the room when we were exhausted.  The preferred upgrade charge is well worth it – I’ll never do standard again!

We’ve stayed at All Star Sports, All Star Music and Pop Century.  By far my favorite is Pop Century, mostly because it has a dedicated bus.  The All Stars sometimes loop to all the All Star resorts, making it a longer trip when you just want to get to the park (or more importantly, get home from the park!)  We’ve stood in long lines at the end of the night to get on a bus only to wait through a stop or two before getting back to the resort.  Couple that with a far-away standard room and it’s prime time for a meltdown!

All Star Sports Resort

Pop Century Resort bowling pin pool

Pop Century Resort bowling pin pool

Overall what you get at the value resorts is just that – value.  What you miss out on are the bells and whistles of added amenities but if you plan on being at the parks most of the time, then you’re not missing a whole lot.  The first few years we went to Disney we stayed exclusively at value resorts because we spent so much time in the parks that the resort was really was just a place to sleep.  Value resorts still offer the perks that are included with every resort stay like Magical Express, park bus service, friendly staff and Mickey waffles for breakfast – what else can you ask for?

Moderate Resorts

I’ve only stayed at one moderate resort and that was the Caribbean Beach resort.  However, just today I booked a stay at Port Orleans – Riverside, which is also a moderate, so I’m excited to get there and check it out!

Caribbean Beach Resort

Caribbean Beach Resort

The differences I noticed most at the Caribbean Beach vs. value resorts were:

  • Atmosphere: The feel was relaxed with more space and less of the crowded hustle and bustle of the value resorts
  • Room: The room and decor was a little nicer than a value room and had a mini-fridge
  • Pool: The pool was a definite step up from a standard pool at the value resorts.  The theme of this pool was impressive – a pirate fortress, water cannons, and most importantly, a waterslide!   The waterslide really does add to the entertainment value for kids (or adults like my husband) who never seem to tire of running up and sliding down.

Activities:

    There is more to do around the moderate resorts like evening campfires, boat rental, bike rental, fishing, and fitness centers.  We took advantage of the paddle boat rental and it was a beautiful scenic cruise along the lake (if you don’t mind the work of paddling!)
View from the paddle boat at Caribbean Beach Resort

View from the paddle boat at Caribbean Beach Resort

Moderate is great if you plan on spending time just hanging around the resort and want some entertainment options without splurging on the deluxe resorts.

Deluxe Resorts

I’ve also only stayed at one deluxe resort, it was actually a villa!  My husband and I went to Disney to celebrate our 10 year anniversary this past November and decided to go all out and stay at a deluxe resort.  We got a good deal because of the time of year (we went the week after Thanksgiving, before the Christmas/New Year’s rush) and we chose the BoardWalk Villas.   Our room had a kitchenette (which included a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and dishes,) a couch, and a balcony that overlooked the pool.  Unfortunately it wasn’t very warm so we didn’t get to swim but it was still a nice view – yes, that is the Tower of Terror!

View of Tower of Terror from BoardWalk Villas

View of Tower of Terror from BoardWalk Villas

I’m not sure what I was expecting from the room, but I wouldn’t say there was anything about it that was really spectacular.  The best thing about the resort wasn’t the room – it was the location!  Right next to the resort is Disney’s BoardWalk, which has shops, restaurants, and live performers along the picturesque boardwalk.  One night we ate at the Big River Grille & Brewing Works where we watched the Illuminations fireworks from Epcot AND the Fantasmic fireworks from Hollywood Studios!

Dinner and two shows!

Beer Tasting - Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Beer Tasting – Big River Grille & Brewing Works

Hands down the best part about the location was the walkway leading right into Epcot’s World Showcase!  Since Epcot is our favorite park, this was definitely a huge perk of staying at the resort.

Disney's Boardwalk at night

Disney’s Boardwalk at night

Disney's Boardwalk

Disney’s Boardwalk

Several of the deluxe resorts are within viewing distance of the Magic Kingdom fireworks (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian) and the Animal Kingdom Lodge has rooms with a savanna view where you can watch the animals roam – so like they say, location is everything! That’s one of the primary amenities you’re paying for when you stay at a deluxe resort.

There’s a lot to consider when picking which Disney resort is right for you.  My recommendation is to figure out your budget first, then decide if you want to pay around $1,000 for a week (value), $1,600 for a week (moderate) or $2,800 for a week (deluxe) – these are just rough estimates, as prices vary throughout the year.

A few final tips

  • Plan your vacation in the off-peak season – you can get room discounts if you’re willing take your vacation in the slow season and you could probably stay at a resort that you couldn’t afford during peak season.
  • Look for free meal deals – Disney usually offers a free meal plan at certain times in the spring and fall which could help offset dining costs, allowing you to afford a better resort.

No matter where you stay, there’s no bad place to be as long as you’re in the bubble!

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