A great number of families have a trip to Disney World as part of their future plans. If this is you, here are a few pointers on selecting accommodations.
First, the “World” is more than four theme parks. There is Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney) with more shops and restaurants than you can count. There are two water parks, a sports complex and an entertainment area associated with the Boardwalk Hotel. In addition a number of the on property hotels are worth a visit just to see, like The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Grand Floridian. There are also dinner shows at the Wilderness Camp Grounds and the Polynesian Village as well as Cirque de Soleil, and night life at Disney Springs with the soon to open “NBA Experience”.
Throughout the Disney property there is a range of accommodations at various price points. Like most resort areas, the pricing varies by season and there are numerous specials and packages available. Average room rates at Disney properties are around $250 to $300 with economy rooms being in the $125 to $170 range. The premium resorts without specials run $450 and up per night. Even though often listed on the reservation site, many of the units are not readily available because they are part of the Disney Vacation Club system.
The economy range includes the “All-Star” hotels and are priced near what you are used to paying for travel around the U.S. You can also save a considerable amount by selecting a motel “off property”. The huge supply around Disney World usually keeps prices remarkably low compared to Disney hotels and hotels in general. The biggest disadvantage to staying “off property” is the hassle and cost of parking at the theme parks and missing access to the Disney transportation system. Staying at a Disney World resort lets you park at the inside hotels and gives you the ability to travel around the “World” as you wish until very late at night. Also, if you are booking a resort off-property be aware that many hotels apply a daily “resort fee” on top of the room rate (usually $12 to $20) that may not be quoted as part of the listed room rate.
Inside the World and going up a bit in cost is Port Orleans, Riverside, Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach, each with its own theme and character. In a similar price range, or maybe a bit higher, are two hotels not actually operated by Disney located in the Boardwalk area. They are the Swan and the Dolphin and come with almost as many perks but no magic bands*.
At the higher end in resorts are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where animals roam past your balcony, The Boardwalk with its entertainment area and Wilderness Lodge near The Magic Kingdom. Even higher in price are two of the original hotels with monorail stations at their door, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. The crown jewel of Disney World is the Grand Floridian also on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.
In addition to the Disney operated hotels, there are three areas inside the “World” which feature hotels. They include the Buena Vista area near Disney Springs, the Bonnet Creek area which includes the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club and the exclusive Golden Oaks neighborhood with its Four Seasons Resort. In these areas bus service, if available, is limited.
The transportation system and being close to all there is to offer are two of the main reasons for staying “on property” but the Magic Band system is also a consideration. These bands are connected to your vacation account so you can enter the parks, select FastPass rides, open your hotel door, access your dining plan and charge at many gift shops and restaurants.See our separate article on Magic Bands (link coming).
Following is a complete list of hotels and features:
Disney’s All-Star Resorts (each with its own matching theme)
- Movies Resort
- Music Resort
- Sports Resort
- Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (family suites only)
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (set on an African savannah with live animals).
- Jambo House
- Kidani Village
Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our favorite places to stay at Disney World. Really pricey but perhaps worth the expense. See our review HERE (link coming).
The Boardwalk area with restaurants, entertainment venues, roaming entertainers, access to Epcot and Disney Studios Disney’s Beach Club Resort & Villas
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- The Swan & Dolphin hotels (Not Disney operated)
Seven Seas Lagoon area (access to Magic Kingdom, view nightly fireworks)
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort (monorail loop running thru it)
- Disney’s Grand Floridian (monorail loop running thru it)
- Disney’s Polynesian Resort (monorail loop running thru it)
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (boat service to Magic Kingdom)
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside (boat service to Disney Springs)
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (near Disney Springs with bus and boat service to Disney Springs)
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (boat service to Magic Kingdom).
If you are booking a Disney hotel and are going to visit the parks, it is strongly recommended that you purchase the tickets, set up an account at My Disney Experience website and begin to reserve FastPass for rides.