I find the more I talk with Disney fans, the more it becomes clear that choosing your resort is as specialized as your own style of clothing.
Every person, every family, has their favorite place to stay, and that doesn’t necessarily match up with many others.
It’s like cilantro. Some think it’s a FANTASTIC flavor in anything, others will run away screaming from a dish with even one leaf.
Planning for a resort to book on Disney property isn’t just finding where you’ll sleep. Any parent of Littles will tell you that you NEED a break in your day to head back to the hotel and nap or swim or just relax away from the crowds and mid-day heat.
You want your resort to be as special as everything else you have planned on the DADventure.
For the purpose of this story, I’m going to stick to ON PROPERTY resorts. I know there are some great spots off-property and even some “non-Disney” spots ON property, but I’m not going to talk about those today – mostly because they weren’t in consideration for our 2019 DADventure.
My four cornerstones of choosing your Disney Resort: Price | Amenities | Feel | Dining
Walt Disney World Resort Hotels are divided into Deluxe, Moderate and Value categories.
All Star Resorts (Music, Movies, & Sports) – Starting around $99/night
Disney’s Pop Century Resort – Starting around $131/night
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Starting around $157/night
Coronado Springs Resort – $198/night
Caribbean Beach Resort – $204/night
Port Orleans French Quarter – $219/night
Port Orleans Riverside – $219/night
The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort – $341/night
Wilderness Lodge – $339/night
Animal Kingdom Lodge – $353/night
Beach Club Resort – $411/night
Yacht Club Resort – $411/night
Contemporary Resort – $421/night
Boardwalk Inn – $450/night
Polynesian Village Resort – $495/night
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – $597/night
Every one of these resorts has something special – some have, just a whole lot more than others. That leads us to…
Pools. These aren’t your Grandma’s rectangular hole in the ground in the Catskills – these pools are adventures in their own! Focusing on the enjoyment of our Littles, especially, let’s look at the best ones!
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World With Kids ranks their Top 10 Resort Pools as: 1. Beach Club Resorts 2. Grand Floridian 3. Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village) 4. Wilderness Lodge 5. Port Orleans 6. Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) 7. Coronado Springs 8. Caribbean Beach 9. Polynesian Village 10. Boardwalk Inn
Since swimming and keeping cool is SO important to your plan with little kids, we have an entire post list our scientific Top 10 Pools!
Travel. Every resort can get you to the theme parks. But some are more fun than others! The Disney Bus Line is great and runs all day for you to get where you need.
However, if you’re at Port Orleans, you can take a boat to Disney Springs. Yacht Club, Beach Club and Boardwalk can take a boat ride to Epcot.
Wilderness Lodge boats to Magic Kingdom, too.
If you’re at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian – you can take the Monorail to Magic Kingdom or Epcot. GF and Poly have boats too!
And coming this fall, just in time for our DADventure – the new SKYLINER!
Character themed gondolas whisking you through the air over the crowds, buses and highways. The Skyliner will link Epcot and Hollywood Studios with Caribbean Beach Resort, Riviera Resort (NEW), Art of Animation, and Pop Century.
(DisneyFoodBlog.com recently posted a story and video with everything you need to know about the Skyliner.)
Many of the resorts have playgrounds, running paths, scavenger hunts, arcades, shopping, walking paths, beaches, and so so much more.
You can find golf, spas and more adult-friendly extras at a lot of the deluxe resorts too.
This is Walt Disney World. So, every little detail is important and the resorts are no exception. Every resort is themed in their own way and then done RIGHT to each theme.
The All-Star Resorts are your most affordable resorts. They have fun themes of music, sports and movies. While the theming is nice, it’s not really that “DISNEY” magic. I stayed at All-Star Sports in the past and aside from the stairs being shielded by a giant football, it kind of felt like I was staying at a Marriott… with a giant football.
Art of Animation celebrates just that – the animation of Disney. PERFECT for inspiration of the Littles. The Coronado Springs has a Latin America feel. The Polynesian is the islands. Port Orleans feels like old time America on the bayou. Yacht and Beach clubs feel like you’re on the Hamptons, Animal Kingdom lodge is on a safari and Fort Wilderness is deluxe camping. A little something for everyone.
When my wife and I were looking to take our honeymoon, years ago, she wanted the Caribbean islands. I wanted Disney. We comprised and ended up at, duh, the Caribbean Beach Resort. The feel of the islands with the Pirates of the Caribbean a bus ride away! 😊
This is the most important part for me. If you’re relaxing at the hotel – can you eat well?
A lot of the Value resorts have a food court setup, if they have any.
The moderate resorts usually have a food court AND more. Many of them have added quality table service offerings along with the quick service feel.
The other dining consideration to add into your planning is too look how close are you to the other resorts or parks to get food there. Can you get to Disney Springs for the many many offerings quickly? Can you take a boat to Epcot? Think with your stomach when making your resort reservations – it will help.
DADventure Tip: Pretty much every Disney Resort room has a fridge. You can bring home leftovers or even AmazonPrime yourself snacks to keep in the hotel room.
When I researched everything, I made some early ‘easy’ calls:
– I didn’t want to stay with the kids at a glorified Marriott. So, the All-Star Resorts were out.
– I can’t afford a Deluxe resort (or Cabins at Fort Wilderness – not sure why this is a Moderate at $341), so let’s check those all off the list.
With a bit more research I decided:
– Port Orleans looks cool to me, but the rooms are bit provincial and the Littles will want a more “Disney” feel to the room.
– Art of Animation looked cool, with great Pixar-themed pools. But the small rooms are few and far between, they usually book more family suites – which is a bit out of our price range.
– Pop Century focuses on pop culture and this would go over my kids’ head a bit. Not Disney enough.
That brings us to:
– Caribbean Beach Resort
– Coronado Springs
Coronado Springs has some great little villas, but the affordable rooms are in the new tower on site at this resort. The rooms are nice, but being in that tower with a ton of people all around, waiting for elevators all day – not what I’m looking for.
So, eliminating everything else, I’m still in love with Caribbean Beach from my honeymoon.
Amazing Pirate Pool!
Also – if the Pirate Pool is ROCKING with people and contests and loud music, each ‘island’ at the resort has their own basic pool for more quiet soaking.
Sand toys and hammocks – yup, relaxing.
For me, that’s just fine. It’s a VERY large resort as far as acreage, but the individual buildings aren’t big, making it feel more intimate.
Under the Sea!
The Rooms have a a relaxed Disney on vacation feel to them, or some have a Finding Nemo subtle effect.
If you want to pay a little more, you can sleep in a Pirate Bed!
(The pirate rooms are on the FREE Disney Dining Plan for this fall, by the way!)
Researching the Caribbean again for this DADventure, I was excited to see new options with the Spy Glass Grill Quick Service spot as well as Sebastian’s Bistro Table Service restaurant.
Direct access to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Hollywood Studios with my awaiting turn to pilot the Millennium Falcon.
To my family, Caribbean Beach Resort was the no-brainer for this fall’s DADventure to Walt Disney World.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the DADventure!