I have spent a lot of time planning our Disney vacations and something I’ve wanted to do for you is cut through all of the overwhelming information and make your own planning easier.
After figuring out your family’s budget and must-do’s, picking a Disney World Resort is one of the biggest Disney vacation decisions. Today, I’m sharing with you what I consider the 10 BEST Disney World Resorts for every budget category and the information you may need to make this decision easier.
First are foremost I cannot say enough – respect your budget. You are going to have an amazing time on your Disney World vacation regardless if you stay at Art of Animation for $118/night or rent a villa at the Polynesian for upwards of $2000/night. Figure out your budget, ticket costs and what other things you really want to do on your vacation, and then make a resort decision based on what’s left. Don’t blow your budget on the hotel room because chances are you’re going to spend the majority of your time at the parks or the pools.
Resort Hopping is a fun way to visit and experience all that the different Disney resorts have to offer without actually paying to stay there. The only things you don’t get access to are hotel rooms and the hotel pools, but other than that you can join in on special events and programming, movies on the beach, character meetings, restaurants, and more.
If you really love all that a specific Disney resort has to offer but it’s just not in your price range, consider resort hopping for the day.
Also, before we get to the list – I wanted to share an awesome resource with you that I use when booking my Disney World or Universal Studios vacations.
Undercover Tourist is a family-oriented travel agency that offers authorized, discounted park tickets for Disney World, Universal Studios, and over 40 other attractions in the Orlando area.
You can book your park tickets, hotels (Disney and off-property), transportation and more activities to fill up your vacation through them – and it doesn’t cost you anything extra. (You actually usually end up saving a ton more than if you were to try to book all of these things on your own.) They are fully accredited by Disney and I have also had the pleasure of meeting the owners while on vacation and they were just awesome, Disney-obsessed people dedicated to amazing customer service.
You will save way more money booking through them than booking directly withe Disney. The tickets also have a 90-day flexible return window,
Deluxe Disney World Resorts
4 of our top 10 Disney World Resorts are in the “Deluxe” category. If staying at a Deluxe resort is reasonable given your budget, you will have an amazing time.
However, if staying at a Deluxe resort is too expensive I highly advise you skip this section and move straight on to the Moderate or Value selections – you are still guaranteed to have an amazing vacation.
The difference between a deluxe resort and a moderate resort can be upwards of $130/night – a night at the Polynesian starts at $452 whereas a night at Port Orleans Riverside (my favorite moderate resort) starts at $206/night, a difference of $242 which can add up depending on your room preferences and length of stay.
Each Deluxe resort has different perks and many are on the Monorail Line or Epcot Circle (with the exceptions of Animal Kingdom and the Wilderness Lodge) which some feel keep them closer to the Disney magic. I’ve definitely enjoyed the ease of being walking distance to the parks!
DisneyWorld Polynesian Village Resort
Disney spared no expense setting up this amazing resort, from the beautiful tropical landscaping, to the outdoor Luau Cove, to the Tiki-themed “Lava” pool, amazing decor, and fun dining options.
There are TEN restaurants at the Polynesian as well as a twice-nightly Luau. Ohana is one of our favorite Disney World restaurants – with a Lilo & Stitch character breakfast and a delicious all-you-can eat Hawaiian supper, complete with fun and traditional Island games for the kids. (It’s worth noting that this is the only place at Disney World where kids can meet Lilo & Stitch – Stitch does make occasional character appearances at the parks.)
It also has an on-site spa, on-site childcare at Lilo’s Clubhouse, and the option between traditional rooms or villas (which are big enough to sleep 8 and have kitchenettes with complimentary dish washing, private back decks with barbecues, plunge pools).
Oh, and did I mention – Dole Whips are for sale just off of the lobby at the Pineapple Lanai.
This is our favorite Disney resort for so many reasons, but it definitely does come with a hefty price tag. If you want to experience staying here but can’t swing it for your whole vacation, I’d recommend booking a couple nights here and then switching to another Disney-owned hotel. (Disney will even take care of transferring your luggage over for free!)
DisneyWorld Contemporary Resort
I’ve stayed at the Contemporary Resort twice – once when I was 5 and again when my daughter was 5!
The best thing about this hotel – hands down – is it’s proximity to Magic Kingdom. It is right across the street! This is amazing if your family wants to attend an early morning breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle or Be Our Guest, or if you want to attend the opening of the park because Disney transportation doesn’t run early enough to get you there on time from any other resort (resulting in some hefty taxi bills).
However, what you give up with this resort is the amazing theming of the other Deluxe resorts. The Contemporary is pretty boring as far as Disney theming – to me, anyways. It’s still gorgeous and fun (the Monorail literally drives through the building!)
The Contemporary is home to one of Disney’s best restaurants (California Grill) and has a character breakfast with Chef Mickey and Friends. The pool is laid back with private cabanas, and there are nightly campfires, onsite childcare, complimentary yoga sessions, and a spa.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
If you have animal-lovers in your family, you should give serious consideration to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It boasts 4 wildlife savannas, visits with animal specialist, and a decadent Safari Dinner.
Ella loved all of the wonderful wildlife experiences (plus activities like daily drum circles and African-inspired face painting) but the Animal Kingdom Lodge wins me over with Jikko (another amazing restaurant) and the amazing Uzimi poo with waterslides and plenty of hot tubs. There’s also onsite childcare, a massage and fitness center, and regular drum circles in the lobby.
Just like with the Polynesian above, the Animal Kingdom offers both villas and hotel rooms, depending on your needs and party size.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Hands down, the best pool if you’re travelling with a variety of age groups. Lazy rivers, crazy waterslide, water activities for the kids, and a sandy shallow pool all complimented by a gorgeous view and some delicious eats.
The Beach Club shares the same accommodations and property as the Yacht Club – with the Yacht Club having a more “old school” feel, slightly darker lighting, and mature finishes, while the Beach Club feels younger, fresher and brighter. If you can’t get the room you want at the Beach Club, booking at the Yacht Club will give you a similar experience. (Though I didn’t really like the darker lighting or “old man” decor – when I booked the agent said the rooms were the same and I was looking at the Beach club’s pictures – they are not the same!)
The Beach Club is on the Epcot circle, so it’s a quick boat ride to Hollywood Studios and a short walk to Epcot or the Boardwalk. You really feel immersed in the Disney experience staying there.
Moderate Disney Resorts
Disney has 5 Moderate resorts to choose from but I picked the Caribbean Resort and Port Orleans to feature because they are absolutely on par with the above Deluxe offerings. And remember, you can still experience any attraction you love about a Deluxe resort (except for the actual rooms or pool) by resort hopping.
I’ll update this section once I’ve had the chance to visit more of the moderate resorts – the Coronoda Springs resort looks amazing from reviews and pictures that I’ve seen!
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Before we stayed at the Caribbean resort, I asked my friend Whitney over at Simplifying Family for her opinion:
“My daughter’s favorite part of staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort was the pirate themed rooms. She loved sleeping in a pirate ship each night. The dresser looked like cargo boxes stacked on top of each other, and the fridge was hidden in a barrel. At check-in, you will receive a calendar of events for each day. While we didn’t participate in these activities because of race weekend festivities, there is something for all ages.”
We ended up booking a pirate room, too, and now with the new Disney Skyliners that directly connect Caribbean Beach with Epcot and Hollywood Studios, I think Caribbean Beach is such an amazing way to combine a relaxing Caribbean-style vacation with a Disney trip!
Disney’s Port Orleans (Riverside)
Port Orleans was hands-down my favorite Disney moderate resort we’ve stayed at!
Port Orleans is divided into two resorts – Riverside is our favourite, especially for their gorgeous Princess rooms. (It would be our absolute favourite Disney resort if the location was closer to the parks. However, the bus comes every 15 minutes and being within walking distance to the parks comes with a hefty “Deluxe” price tag, so I’d rather take a bus and save the money.)
Port Orleans is styled to look like the French Quarter in New Orleans and is home to the only place on property that you can pick up beignets – our frequent trips to the Riverside Mill Food Court actually inspired our easy beignets recipe. There are also horse-led carriages (for a fee), two amazing cajun-inspired restaurants, six pools, fishing excursions and nightly campfires.
Disney’s Value Resorts
Disney’s Value Resorts are great for families who spend as much time as possible at the parks – like us. Honestly, we paid over $2000 to stay at the Yacht Club last year and really only enjoyed the resort’s facilities for one day of that.
Value Resorts have that amazing Disney service and theming with somewhat small and “basic” hotel rooms and limited dining options. (Adults may find the decor gaudy – not like the sophisticated theming at the Deluxe resorts – but it’s definitely more exciting for the kids.)
The All-Star Value resorts share buses with other resorts which can make transportation a bit more time-consuming, especially at peak times.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Hands down, the BEST Disney Value Resort, Art of Animation offers the cutest Value rooms and the most affordable suites on Disney property. (Okay, fine, the All-Star Music Resort offers a family suite for $11 less, but you cannot even compare them – the theming for the Art of Animation one is worth way more than the $11/night difference.)
There are animation sessions with actual Disney illustrators in the lobby and the food court is arguably the best of the Value hotels, as are the standard rooms and the pools. For some reason, it’s also the only place where Cars is featured prominently at Disney World so if you have a Cars fan, it’s a must-do.
It’s also one of the most affordable options for families larger than 4 people thanks to it’s family suites.
All-Star Sports Resort
Alright, let’s be clear: this resort makes the list for it’s price. $100/night – you CAN NOT beat that, even at most non-Disney resorts or hotels. Add in the fact that you still get free Disney transportation (from the airport and around the parks), top-notch Disney service and fun theming and you can see why this resort still gives you a great bang for your buck.
The other two All-Star resorts (Music or Movies) are also in this price range and offer similar experiences, so if you like one’s theming more than the others it’s not a big change. All-Star Sports has better dining reviews and less transportation complaints. There are at least two pools in each resort and while they are somewhat boring compared to moderate or deluxe pools and don’t feature waterslides, they are still much more fun than most non-Disney resort pools! (And a fun perk of the Value hotels is that you can pool-hop at 4 of them.)
We have stayed at all three All-Star resorts and had positive experiences. If you are open to staying at a non-Disney property, I’d personally recommend staying at Wyndham Gardens Lake Beuna Vista over an All-Star resort for a few reasons:
- Better dining options – Wyndham offers an on-site character breakfast and way more dining options than any of the All-Star resorts (including a pool-side bar and grill)
- Proximity to Disney Springs – all three of the All-Star resorts are far from any of the parks or entertainment, while Wyndham is literally a 2 minute walk away from Disney Springs, so you have easy access to dining, entertainment and shopping on your non-park days
- Cost – you still get the perks of extra magic hours and free transportation to the parks, but with a lower price tag than any Disney property
- Hotel layout – the All-Star resorts are really spread out and there are no rooms in the main building, so if it’s raining or the kids are tired, you have a bit of a trek from the check-in/bus drop off area to your room. At Wyndham, all of the rooms are in the building so there’s no waiting on your luggage or making a mad dash in the rain to your room (Disney won’t deliver luggage to rooms if there are any lightning warnings – which is awful if you get soaking wet and want a change of clothes)
Campgrounds at Fort Wilderness
Okay, so… not a resort. But the ability to camp at Disney is so overlooked yet amazing and the price cannot be beat. Starting at $53/night, you get electrical hook-ups, a charcoal grill, picnic bench, parking right outside your tent, city water, etc. You can even rent your tents and equipment if you don’t want to bring your own and you can bring an approved campfire container to have your own campfires at night.
There’s also 5 restaurants, childcare services, carriages and wagon rides, a ranch you can visit or take horseback rides at, fishing, canoe and kayak rentals, and the Hoopy-De-Doo Musical Revue dinner theatre show.
If your family is equal parts campers and Disney fans, this is a perfect option for a low-cost Disney stay that combines both passions.
My friend Cris from Kiss My Tulle stayed at Fort Wilderness campgrounds and you can read her review here.
Not Disney But…
The Swan and Dolphin hotels located on the Epcot Circle are amazing non-Disney owned properties that are in the same location as the Deluxe Yacht and Beach Club resorts.
We had an amazing 3-day stay here last year and for future I would rather save the $150/night difference between the Swan and Disney’s Yacht Club given our Disney vacation style of spending the most of our time in the pool and at the parks (however, the customer service at the Yacht Club was worlds above our Swan experience). The pools were comparable and they are the same distance to Epcot, Boardwalk, and share the same free Disney transportation within the parks.
We also had an amazing visit at the Wyndham Gardens property which is a two-minute walk away from Disney Springs.
This property is priced like a value (about $105/night) but it has all of the amenities of a moderate hotel. Plus, the location is awesome for non-park days – you can enjoy all of the dining, entertainment and shopping of Disney Springs and then be back in your hotel room in minutes.
Pin this collection of the Ten BEST Disney Resorts for your Disney planning:
Do you have a different opinion of the ten best Disney resorts? Is there a resort I’ve left off that you think should be added – or did you have a bad experience at any of the above locations?