Are you still with me? I know, last week’s Budget Setting was a doosey. Hopefully, though, you’ll have a little less sticker shock when you make your reservations. In case you missed that fun little diddy, you can check it out HERE. If you’re just joining us please now this is the 4th installment in the Disney Vacation Planning series. You can catch up by clicking HERE, and you should – cause there’s free stuff!!!
This week we are talking about how to pick your ideal Disney World Hotel. There’s a ton to know about the Disney hotels, so I’m breaking this into 2 installments. Today we’ll look at resort areas and pricing tiers and next week will be more detail about the individual hotels.
On Site or Off Site
Just for the sake of giving you the complete picture – you don’t HAVE to stay on property at a Disney World Resort. But you should. I have 2 main reasons for this. First, it comes with great perks such as the Disney Dining Plan and Magic Hours. The second reason is, because that’s how Walt wanted it.
On Site Perks
The Disney Dining Plan is a convenient way to pre-pay for the meals on your vacation. We’ll look at this in more detail later in the series, but it’s a great option to have. You can read a bit about it in last weeks Setting a Budget. Staying on site also give you access to the parks an hour before it opens and 2-3 hours after it closes on select days. There will be 1 morning hours and 1 closing hours every day, but the park varies. Later in this series we’ll look at park strategies and how to best take advantage of these hours, but suffice it to say – they’re truly magical
This is a brief history lesson for ya; Disneyland came first. That’s right folks – Disneyland was built before Disney World, and before any of the Disneyland Resorts. The resorts were built after Walt witnessed guests leaving Disneyland early. He asked why, and they would say they had to hurry back home or to their hotel. So Walt built them a hotel. When it came time to build the next park, Walt wanted it to be completely immersive – so you never have to leave Disney. That’s how I like it, just how it was intended.
There are over 20 resorts at Disney World ranging in theming, pricing, and location. You could put them all on a dart board and hope for the best (that might be a fun way to plan a trip 1 day!), or we can break it all down. Disney World is a HUGE place, so let’s talk about where everything is. There are 5 main resort areas; Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, ESPN, and Disney Springs.
Magic Kingdom Area
Magic Kingdom is one of the more expensive areas to stay, unless you want to go camping. However, there are some perks. First and foremost you are right next to the Magic Kingdom, which is pretty far from the rest of the parks. This could be a pro or a con, depending on what your to-do list looks like. If you plan on sending a bulk of your time in MK though, you may want to consider this option. And while you are pretty far off from the rest of the World, you are near the transit station which is the main hub for getting around town.
Epcot is my favorite area to stay, for several reasons. This area tends to be pretty popular, because you are a stone’s throw away from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Most other locations, including MK, are just a short bus ride away. It’s really just a very central area. You also have the Boardwalk, which is a fun area with shops and restaurants. The con is that this area isn’t exactly cheap. Most of the resorts here are Deluxe, except for the Caribbean which is moderate.
Animal Kingdom Area
Animal Kingdom is the most versatile, with resorts from all of the price tiers and a range of theming. You will find the most budget friendly resorts in this area, and the most economical family suite (All Star Music Resort). It is closest to Animal Kingdom park (duh) and the waterparks, MK is about 40 minutes away.
Here you’ll find 2 of the newer value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century. This area is pretty distanced from any of the parks, but is has some of the best themed value accommodations.
Disney Springs Area
Some of the most noteworthy resorts are in the Disney Springs area. The hotels found here are very luxe and have a price tag to match, but they are well worth the money. It is not very close to any of the theme parks, but it is pretty close to Typhoon Lagoon and of course Disney Springs. I would recommend this most if you have visited before and are looking for a more relaxing trip.
By now you’re probably wondering what the difference is between a moderate and deluxe resort. Well there are actually 5 different pricing tiers, each with their own amenities.
This is by far the most economical choice when it comes to Disney World accommodations, starting at $53 per night and sleeping up to 10 people. The catch however is that you’ll need to bring your own room. Campground reservations will get you ground on which to camp, with an RV or tent. While this is definitely on my bucket list I wouldn’t recommend it for a first trip, unless you are on a REALLY tight budget.
The value results are a great choice for the price. My family and I stayed at a value resort on our first trip and were floored by how amazing the room was. We stayed at the All Star Music Resort, and I would recommend this tier to anyone budget or not. This is an especially good option if you are not planning to spend much time at the resort. Not because you won’t want to stay there, but because you will feel guilty if you pay for the higher tiers.
Theming in the value resorts is pretty heavy, so be prepared for that. I would equate this tier to a fancy motel 6. It’s much, much cleaner – because Disney, but lacks many amenities. There are pools, but they are fairly generic, and the food options leave something to be desired. I’m nit picking here to justify the lower cost, though. Pricing starts at $97 per night for a standard room.
Moderate resorts are where we start to get fancy! The hotels in this category start at $166 per night for a standard room. The still have strong theming, but it’s less campy. Rather than the bold bright colors and literal character pictures found in the value tier, there are architectural details that lend themselves to the theme. The rooms are comparable to a Hilton, and similar amenities. In this tier the pools get a lot more interesting! The pools are larger and have some kind of amusement factor, like a small slide. If you are planning to spend a more than 30% of your day at your hotel this is a great tier.
Deluxe resorts start at $327 per night for a standard room, but some hotels in this tier can start as high as $500 per night per room. These are the crème de la crème and I absolutely do not recommend these for a first trip, maybe even a second. These hotels are SO worth the money, but only if you are willing to devote at least 50% of your trip (aside from sleeping) to being at your hotel.
My family and I stayed at the Beach Club and devoted a break during each day and 1 full day to enjoy the hotel. On our last day we had planned to visit Epcot, but when we woke up we decided to have another pool day instead. That’s what happens when you stay in one of these gorgeous resorts. It’s great if you want to have a slow paced vacation and really enjoy every aspect. But if you are planning to go, go, go than this would just be a waste of money.
Deluxe Villa (DVC)
Deluxe villas start in the same price range as the standard Deluxe rooms, but they can get extremely expensive. These are the types of rooms you see on documentaries about the rich and famous. If you are traveling with a big group it could be a good option, because you could split the cost. You can also rent DVC points, but that’s a whole other article by itself. Let it be said just that these are expensive and worthwhile resorts, but quite a bit more research should be done before you book them.
Well, that was part 1 be sure to drop by next week for part 2.
Do you have more burning questions? Join me and some great Disney friends on Facebook in the #DisFanChat group, where we can fill you in on all you need to know!