That decision can depend on a number of things based on your priorities for accommodations. And yes: it does matter where you stay, especially if certain amenities or hotel features are important to you.
We’re outlining all the reasons why this matters and how you can go about making the best decision you can about your Disney World accommodations.
Why Staying On Disney World Property Matters
First of all, staying at a Disney World Resort hotel means that you have access to Early Theme Park Entry as well as Extended Evening Hours if you’re staying at a Deluxe Resort. You’ll also get free transportation from your Resort to and from the theme parks.
Extended Evening Hours
If getting extra time in the evenings at the parks is important to you, you’ll want to book a Deluxe Resort because only Disney World’s Deluxe Resorts will have access to that perk — all other hotel guests only get Early Theme Park Entry.
Staying at a Deluxe Resort gets you more time in the parks than you would get while staying at other hotels on property — but you pay for the perk, and many won’t find 2-4 hours per week worth the extra money.
If you’re on a limited budget but looking to stay on-property, Disney’s Value Resorts might be your best option, and if you need the cheapest hotel room on property, you’ll want to check out the All-Star Resorts. However, keep in mind that not all Value Resorts are created equal. If you can spring for a little more, you might enjoy the theming, amenities, and pools at Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort more.
Value Resorts are just what they say they are: a good value compared to the other categories of Disney World’s on-site Resorts, and if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time at your Resort, they might be just what you need for your Disney World vacation.
The good news is that staying at a Disney World Resort means that you get free transportation to and from pretty much anywhere on property. But some hotels have better transportation and more transpo options than others. Monorail Resorts give you an extra and EASY way to get to Magic Kingdom via the Monorail.
And Skyliner Resorts offer a fun and unique way to travel to and from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT as well as to other Skyliner resorts. If you’re visiting EPCOT during a festival, a Skyliner Resort (Caribbean Beach, Riviera Resort, Pop Century, and Art of Animation) might be just what you’re looking for so you can enjoy as much of the festival as possible.
If there’s a park that’s a priority for you, location will be an important factor in where you stay at Disney World. If you plan on spending a lot of time at Magic Kingdom, many of the Resorts in that area (including Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa) have walking paths to get you there.
But if EPCOT is your priority (again, this is especially true during a festival), you might want to stay in the EPCOT Resort area, which includes Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and Disney’s Beach Club Resort, along with the Walt Disney World Swan, Swan Reserve, and Dolphin hotels. These hotels are all about a 5-10 minute walk to ECPOT and a 20-minute walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
If you plan on hitting up Disney Springs often (maybe for dinner each night), Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort is within walking distance. Note that Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is pretty much one of the farthest resorts out on-property, and the only thing it’s close to is Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And you’ll only have access to Disney buses when you stay at this Resort.
If you plan on eating in and around your Resort during your Disney World trip, you’ll want to skip Value Resorts unless you’re in the mood for Quick Service food court fare every night. If dining is important to you, the Deluxe Resorts generally have better dining variety as well as more restaurants.
Likewise, if you stay at an EPCOT-area Resort, you’ll have access to restaurants at the four resorts around Crescent Lake, which opens up your options even more (plus you’ll have EPCOT’s amazing restaurants nearby, too).
If you’re looking to relax a bit at your resort with a great pool, some are better than others. And if you want to visit what many believe to be the #1 pool at Disney World, you’ll want to stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort or Disney’s Beach Club Resort because they share the incredible Stormalong Bay that has a sand-bottom floor, a lazy river, three whirlpools, and a 230-foot-long water slide.
Some of our readers’ other favorites include pools at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. This list includes Value, Moderate, and Deluxe Resort accommodations, so you can get a great pool at almost any price point.
Amount of Walking
If you have mobility issues or are concerned about long walking distances at resorts, where you stay matters. Some hotels are so spread out that you might find yourself with a 10 to 15 minute walk just to and from your room to the hotel lobby or to transportation pick-up areas. However, many Disney World resorts will allow you to pay extra for preferred rooms, which are generally closer to those amenities.
Hotels that are the most spread out include much of Disney’s Pop Century Resort, The Little Mermaid rooms section of Disney’s Art of Animation, and much of Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Likewise, smaller hotels like Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter will involve a lot less walking. The bigger the hotel, the more walking you may have to do.
If you want a hotel with a lot of Disney theming, you’ll be more interested in stays at places like Art of Animation, All-Star Movies, and the Polynesian (which recently got a Moana-inspired upgrade). However, if you DON’T want to stay somewhere with in-your-face Disney theming, you might want to avoid those resorts.
Other resorts, like Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, and Animal Kingdom Lodge are light on the Disney details but still heavy on their individual themes. So depending on what kind of theming you have in mind could determine where you want to stay at Disney World.
Many Disney World travelers want to make the most of hotel and credit card programs, such as Marriott Rewards. But you can’t use those rewards for a Disney World hotel…
…or can you? Marriott operates the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts, so you can book your stays there with your rewards points and still be right in the middle of the action!
If you want a room with a great view, you’ll have to choose your Resort carefully. If seeing Magic Kingdom fireworks from your room is important, you’ll want to consider Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian, and Wilderness Lodge. Likewise, you can view EPCOT’s fireworks from the Resorts near EPCOT that we mentioned earlier (though you may not see much of Spaceship Earth’s effects unless you’re on an upper floor).
However, you might want a view of something else. If it’s nature that calls to you and you want to wake up and see it every day, you might consider staying at Wilderness Lodge. But if you’re looking for a view that includes animals, you’ll want to consider the savanna-view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge (tip: you can book a standard room and request a partial savanna room, and Disney will do its best to meet your request).
So when you get ready to book your Disney World vacation, we recommend making a list of your priorities and doing a little reading up on each resort to see which one best suits your wants and needs. And we’ll keep sharing all our great tips and advice to help you make the most of your Disney World vacation!
What’s your favorite Disney World resort, and why? Let us know in the comments.