Planning your vacation at Walt Disney World should not be as stressful as it is. A big part of that stress is deciding where to stay at Disney for your vacation. If you have made the determination that it will be easier to stay on Disney property, then it is time to select one of their resorts. To make that selection easier, here are the most important factors to consider to make the best choice for your family.
Price and Budget
The price of your vacation can set the whole thing up for failure if you are trying to stretch the budget out too thin. While at Disney, the last thing you want to worry about is how much money you’re spending. You don’t want to be constantly thinking about if you are getting enough value out of the money you spent. As such, price is the absolute most important factor when selecting a resort. Note that Disney’s resort prices keep ticking up and up, so it is definitely worth considering staying off of Disney property to save money if you are trying to keep the budget as low as possible. However, even within Disney, there is a huge range of resort prices that can fulfill or break a budget.
How much time you plan to spend at the resort itself should be a major factor when making your room reservations. Are you planning to spend all day at the parks? Do you want to head back to your resort in the afternoons to relax? Do you have rest days planned where you can take time to relax at the resort? All of these questions should be answered before making a resort selection. If you are planning to move as fast as possible and try to fit in as much time in the parks as you can, you won’t have any time set aside to relax and actually enjoy the amenities at the resort you are staying at. On the other hand, if you have lots of extra time on your hands or members of your family who plan on taking lots of time relaxing by the pool, it may be worth selecting a resort with greater amenities.
A huge part of whether or not you will enjoy a resort is simply based on if you enjoy the theming. Since each Disney resort is themed after a different place or time, you need to ensure that you’re a fan of that topic! If you have young kids, they’re probably going to be more impressed with the big bold characters they recognize at Disney’s Art of Animation resort instead of the frozen in time 50’s years ago feeling of the Boardwalk. Or maybe your family would enjoy the great outdoor feeling of the Wilderness lodge (or the fancy feeling of the Grand Floridian)? Be sure to pick a resort that you feel comfortable with!
The amenities available at each Disney resort should be another major factor to consider. Though any Disney resort will provide you with all the basics, some offer better amenities than others. For example, if you are bringing a large family, you may want to stay in a large room with multiple different areas and a kitchen to cook in. You could also pick a resort that has joining rooms, so even though you’re staying in separate spots, the doors can be opened so you can visit each other.
You may also be desiring more amenities like spa treatments, enhanced room service, or other factors (like maybe having views of African animals outside your window at the Animal Kingdom Lodge). Deluxe resorts have better amenities, though it is up to you to determine whether access to the perks is worth the added price!
Location and Transportation
Speaking of amenities, the location of a resort can make a huge difference in your selection. Though all of the Disney resorts are within 15-20 minutes of anything on property, what you’re closer to can mean a lot. Obviously less time is spent on travel visiting locations that are close to you, but the ease of access to the transportation is a big part of the what locations are best and worst.
In general, buses connect everything on Disney Property. However, Disney also has other modes of transportation to get you from place to place. These include boats, the new Skyliner gondola system, and Disney’s famous monorail. These methods are much more entertaining and require far less waiting (buses can sometimes take a while to show up). Resorts are grouped into different areas that are connected via the aforementioned transportation methods. Here is a summary of what each method of transportation connects:
Buses connect everything. Buses from a resort will take you anywhere on property, and buses from anywhere on property will take you back to your resort. The only exceptions are if you plan on taking a bus directly from a park to Disney springs or a water park.
Boats connect different locations via different waterways. Depending on where you’re going, here are your options:
Disney Springs: The Disney resorts of Port Orleans, Old Key West, and Saratoga Springs are connected to Disney Springs via a 15-minute ride.
Magic Kingdom: Polynesian and Grand Floridian are a quick 5-minute boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom. Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge also connect to Magic Kingdom but require a slightly longer trip.
EPCOT and Hollywood Studios: The Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin all connect to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios via boat transportation.
Walking: Many of the trips made by boat above are also accessible via walking paths, though walking may take longer. However, you can easily walk from the Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan, and Dolphin over to EPCOT, or the Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom.
Monorail: The Monorail connects the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian resorts directly to Magic Kingdom, and requires a short transfer to hop on the monorail over to EPCOT.
Skyliner: The Skyliner connects Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the Riviera Resort to both EPCOT and Hollywood studios. The resorts along the EPCOT boardwalk area (Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach, and Swan and Dolphin) also have this access, though they may require a short walk to get to the Skyliner station located just outside of the International Gateway EPCOT entrance.
Generally, transportation is great at Disney and extremely reliable. It allows you to get anywhere you need to go without much effort, and allows you to visit all the other resorts in Disney even if you are not staying at them.
Dining options at your resort (and the ones nearby via methods of transportation described above) can also be a big factor in selecting a resort. If you are planning to spend time at your resort for meals, you will want the location you are staying at to offer good options to match your appetite. Disney’s value and moderate resorts usually only have food courts with basic fast-food options, while deluxe resorts offer more interesting quick service options and full-service restaurant choices.
Dining also applies to lounges and bars if you’re one who enjoys to drink. Value resorts offer pool bars, while deluxe resorts have intricately themed full-service lounge areas.
Keep in mind that dining is lower on the list of considerations because it ties in a lot with the other things you should be thinking about. If you are in the parks all day, you will be eating there and having a nice restaurant at your resort won’t matter. If you are connected to nearby resorts via Skyliner or Monorail, you can practically consider the neighboring resort dining options part of your resort as well.
A big draw for many of the Disney resorts are their pools. Almost all of Disney’s resorts have one main themed pool and other smaller pools scattered throughout the rest of the resort that may be closer to your room. These pools feature Disney activities and entertainment throughout the day, may have water slides and/or splash pads, and could be more relaxing or chaotic depending on the resort you’re staying at. Some moderate and all deluxe resorts also have hot tubs by the pool, which can be a great way to unwind at the end of a busy park day. Many guests consider how cool the pool is at the resort before considering the other factors, but it is very important to consider everything else before taking into account the pool. Remember, if you don’t have time to relax at the resort, you won’t have time to enjoy the pool!
When making a selection of which Disney resort to stay at, you need to break down all the options into a more manageable list to choose from. If you start at the top of this list and narrow down your options based on the most important considerations, you’ll surely end up at a resort you thoroughly enjoy! When your accommodations are stress-free, your vacation is set up for success!