Choosing The Right Walt Disney World Resort For You

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Grand Floridian Sunset

We often receive comments from readers who, on one end of the spectrum, wonder why anyone would choose a resort other than a Value as the room is only for sleeping, and on the other end, question how anyone can truly have a relaxing vacation without the amenities of a Deluxe or Deluxe Villas Resort. Beyond the self-professed frugal travelers and luxury snobs lie the vast majority of other Walt Disney World Resort guests, who predicate their resort decisions based on value-for-money, resort amenities, room size and layout, theme, and a myriad of other factors.

Rather than provide a resort-by-resort amenity list for each of the 22 different Walt Disney World Resorts, below is an overview of what to expect at each tier:

Deluxe Resorts

  • 344-440 square feet (standard rooms)
  • Two queen beds or one king bed
  • Maximum occupancy: 4-5 people
  • Themed pools, gift shop, table service restaurants, health clubs, food court, and other amenities
  • Interior corridors
  • Wide range of transportation
  • Understated themes focused on relaxation and elegance
  • 2011 rates starting at $250/night

Deluxe Villa Resorts

  • 355-412 square feet (standard rooms)
  • Beds dependent on number of rooms
  • Maximum occupancy: varies
  • Themed pools, gift shop, table service restaurants, health clubs, food court, and other amenities
  • Wide range of transportation
  • Understated themes focused on relaxation and elegance
  • 2011 rates starting at $280/night

Moderate Resorts

  • 314-340 square feet (standard rooms)
  • Two double beds (updating to two queens in 2011)
  • Maximum occupancy: 4 people
  • Themed pools, gift shop, table service restaurants, food court, and other amenities
  • Wide range of transportation
  • Understated themes focused on relaxation and elegance
  • Exterior corridors
  • 2011 rates starting at $154/night

Value Resorts

  • 260 square feet (standard rooms)
  • Two double beds or one king bed
  • Maximum occupancy: 4 people
  • Themed pools, gift shop, and food court
  • Exterior corridors
  • No Table Service restaurants, lounges, health clubs, spas, valet parking, or water-recreation
  • Shared transportation with one another during some seasons (except Pop Century, which has its own transportation)
  • Vibrant color schemes and oversized ‘set piece’ decorations from Disney animated classics
  • 2011 rates starting at $82/night.

Old Key West Daydreamin'

In the end, there is no right or wrong answer to the question of which resort is “best.”  It’s highly subjective, and even those to whom money is no issue may find that the delightful oversized set pieces of the Value Resorts are more magical to their young children than the sometimes stuffy, albeit exquisite, atmosphere of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  Which resort is right for your party is a something only you can determine, but we hope this post has helped provide you with some objective (of course probably slanted with my own subjective bias) information to assist you in making the decision.


Florida Dreamin'

With that disclaimer in mind, I would recommend Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts to honeymooners, couples looking for a romantic resort, and those who like to spend considerable amounts of time enjoying their resort.  More specifically, I would recommend the monorail resorts (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, and Polynesian) and the Epcot resorts (Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and Swan & Dolphin (yes, even though it isn’t a Disney resort, I would recommend it)) to those who don’t plan on renting a car, or would like to utilize Disney transportation as much as possible.  I would also recommend these resorts for those who enjoy more adult theming, or those who are not concerned with cost.  With the exception of the Beach Club (for its pool) and the Polynesian, I would not recommend these resorts for parties with small children. My top pick among the Deluxes is the Polynesian, with any of the Epcot resorts in second. During the Christmas season, Wilderness Lodge climbs several positions to near the top of the list.

Moderate Resorts, in my mind, are in a bit of “no man’s land.” Personally, I am not too keen on any of the Table Service restaurants at these resorts, and the added amenities and additional room size are not appealing-enough to justify the increased cost.  Each of these resorts does have its own interesting and beautiful theme, so I would recommend these resorts to adults who find the Values too ostentatious or “motel-ish,” but who cannot justify the cost of a Deluxe or Deluxe Villa.  My pick here goes to Port Orleans Riverside, but that’s only because I prefer its bayou charm and plantation-style buildings. As far as aesthetics go, they’re all equally good.

Disney's All Star Music Resort

I am an ardent defender of the Value Resorts. Maybe this is because I’m cheap, or get sticker shock when I see the rates at the Moderates and Deluxes, but I think many people are far too dismissive of the Values.  First and foremost, anyone taking children to Walt Disney World, regardless of their economic means, should give serious consideration to the Values. While I may not have children myself, I am essentially a 6 year old trapped in a 26 year old’s body, and the giant Disney ‘toys’ that scatter the courtyards and the vibrant colors of these resorts can’t help but make me smile.  No doubt, “real” kids have the same reaction. While the children in your party may be prodigies who would prefer to critique the visual stylization of Becket’s architectural work at the Contemporary, in general I think kids like that are few and far between.  Since a family trip to Walt Disney World is primarily taken for the enjoyment of children (this is not to say we adults can’t have fun, too!) it stands to reason that choosing a resort that kids would enjoy, rather than opting for an ornate yet stuffy resort such as the Yacht Club or Grand Floridian, might be advisable.  Besides anyone touring with kids, I recommend the Values to those who don’t spend much time in their rooms, those unconcerned with resort amenities, and those on a budget. My pick among the Values is Pop Century, although aesthetically, I’d choose All Star Music.

It should be noted that this post is not an exhaustive comparison of amenities available at the various tiers of resorts, but rather, a starting place. What other considerations do you take into account? Do you disagree with my assessment of the categories or specific resorts?

We’d love to hear our readers’ rationale for choosing particular resorts!

Tom Bricker

Tom is an amateur Walt Disney World photographer. He recently married his princess, Sarah, to whom he became engaged at WDW on the beach of the Polynesian Resort in 2007. Tom and Sarah have a miniature dachshund named Walter E. Dogsney and a yellow cat named Yossarian the Cat. Together, Sarah and Tom run the website Tom's photography can be found on his Flickr page ( and he can be contacted via Twitter (@wdwfigment) and Facebook (

78 thoughts on “Choosing The Right Walt Disney World Resort For You

  • March 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Do any of the values have suites? That is our BIG requirement. I do not and cannot sleep in the same room as our kids.

    • March 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      All Star Music has family suites and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (the “other” half of the Pop Century, re-purposed and expanded upon) will have a large number of family suites. Probably the best of both worlds for families who want larger rooms, yet enjoy the design of the Values.

    • March 5, 2011 at 2:49 pm

      We have 3 kids so we stay at the Poly and get 2 rooms with a connecting interior door. Much cheaper and more room then a Poly suite. I love the Poly, partly because you can either take the monorail to MK, or walk to the TTC and take the monorail to Epcot.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    That picture of the Grand Floridian has GOT TO BE one of the top ten prettiest Disney pictures of all time. I found it on your photo site a couple weeks ago and have been using it as my computer desktop background. Beautiful. Makes me happy. If you ever start selling prints let me know. Thanks. 🙂

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:50 pm

      Thanks, I have a few others taken from the Polynesian that same day. From a technical standpoint, it was an extremely difficult shot to accomplish. I believe the exposure time for this particular shot was 30 seconds.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Value Resorts? Respectfully, I could not disagree w you more. Have been to Disney World 5 times, number six begins in 27 days, and have lots of experience at different resorts. Pop Century was, by far, the worst experience ever. The Value Resorts are too far away from EVERYTHING. Too big, too spread out. Even at my resort I had a hike to get to the food court and gift shop. I felt abandoned w two kids in a surreal, cartoonish, nightmarish environment. Save your money a little longer and opt for the moderate resort. You will be glad you did.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:27 pm

      Like I said in the post, it’s highly subjective. We’ve stayed at Pop Century a few times, and each of the other Values, and while there is some walking, for me personally, it’s not bad.

      Some people might prefer to save longer and stay in a nicer resort. We like to keep expenses low and go as often as possible. I understand your preference, but I definitely think this is highly YMMV–some people will love the Values, some will hate them. They’re a very divisive topic. (At least, as divisive as Disney gets!)

    • March 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

      Respectfully,I could not disagree more. Have been to Disney 15 times,Have stayed at several resorts and would never again stay anywhere but Pop. Being at pop is like being in the Disney magic. I find the Moderate and Deluxe hotels to be to adult and stuffy for me.(after all I am only a kid(54 in non Disney years)maybe when I am 70 I will be ready for Moderates)

    • April 14, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Sherie! Which moderate resort do you recommend? We’ve always stayed deluxe, but looking to save more this time around =) Thank you!

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I agree with this unbiased & balanced view of the resorts. It truly is an individual decision and all of them are great, depending on what your family is looking for.

    I would add maybe three things in support of our “home” resort, the Beach Club Villas, as a place for small children. The author does not recommend the deluxe resorts for this family type, and in general I would agree they’re not for everyone; however, the Beach Club has three really good things going for it, in my opinion:

    1) Stormalong Bay, the 2-acre sand bottom pool. On “down” days – which you NEED at Disney World when you have young children – this pool area will keep them occupied, and you in your comfy deck chair, for an entire afternoon! We feel like we could have an enjoyable family holiday at this resort without ever going near a theme park.

    2) That’s actually the second point – the proximity of Beach Club (and Yacht, Boardwalk Inn, Swan & Dolphin) to 2 of the 4 major theme parks, EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. First, because you can walk to both (or take a short boat ride), but also, because it is so close by, it’s easy to pop back to the resort in mid-afternoon for a rest with your little ones and still go back out later if you want to.

    3) A comment on the villas in general – the availability of fully-stocked kitchen and laundry facilities. With a large family and small children, this is a godsend and also a money saver – you never have to pay for breakfast, which most little kids don’t eat much of anyway. We order breakfast groceries online and have them delivered to our resort on our arrival day, and everyone can eat their cereal, toast, etc. while we’re all getting ready for the parks.

    These are just a few reasons why I would suggest this resort for a family with young kids; granted it is much more expensive than the Value & Moderate resorts so it’s not for everyone, but otherwise worth a look.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm

      Now hold on, I actually did recommend Beach Club specifically (along with the Poly) for families for exactly the reasons you state. 😉

      I didn’t have the space in my post to extol the benefits of DVC rooms/Deluxe Villas, but the #3 is a great reason to look into these rooms. Future family-planning is actually one of the reasons my wife and I purchased DVC (haven’t stayed at BCV yet, but we LOVED BWV) and proximity of the Epcot Villas to Epcot (walking) and the MK (leisurely stroll through Epcot, then monorail) is a strong argument in favor of these resorts! Thanks for articulating why you like BCV so much.

      • March 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm

        Oops, you’re right, I missed your comment about the Beach Club’s pool. My bad. 🙂

        We bought DVC in 2005 after staying in a 2-bedroom villa there for our first family trip. At that time, there were 8 of us going – me, my husband, 4 kids, and 2 grandparents. For a group that size, the bigger villas can actually be quite affordable when you factor in the cost of multiple rooms and then the ability to cook some of your own meals.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I also recommend if going to any of the resorts is to pay the extra for the preferred room and do not get a rental car if you are only doing Disney.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

      I can’t speak to the preferred room, but we also don’t do rental cars (don’t like to break the ‘illusion’ of escaping the real world), but you’ll find PLENTY of people who disagree with us on that. Probably another topic for another day! 🙂

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I think one thing that’s under represented at the Moderates are the elaborate and less crowded pools. If your kids love the pool and you can’t afford a Delux, a moderate would be a good choice.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Excellent point! The moderates do have some really cool pools.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Poor Animal Kingdom Lodge doesn’t even get a mention. It truly is the redheaded stepchild of the Deluxe resorts.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      If Animal Kingdom were to get a mention, it would get a mention as one of my least favorite resorts. While I love the dining there, one of the huge draws for a Deluxe (for me) is proximity to the parks. AKL and AKV aren’t near any worthwhile parks. 😉

      Now, if we’re talking a “weekend escape” trip in which you may not even visit ANY parks, then Animal Kingdom moves to the top of the list (right behind Poly and Beach Club).

      • March 4, 2011 at 4:37 pm

        I’m surprised, too, since you spefically recommend Monorail or Epcot resorts for “those who like to spend considerable amounts of time enjoying their resort.” I don’t think proximity to the parks is their top concern, and there is no resort that offers more to see and do on property than AKL/AKV.

        Then again, since you don’t think Animal Kingdom is a worthwhile park, maybe I’m not surprised.

        • March 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm

          I recommended the Epcot and monorail resorts for those not renting cars, and the Deluxes in general (without listing specific resorts) for those who like to take time enjoying their resort.

          Unquestionably, DAK is my least favorite park, so yes, that makes me biased. For us it’s a half day park, whereas MK and Epcot are 2-3 day parks and DHS is a 1.5 day park.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Are the studios at the Deluxe Villas really the same size as the standard rooms at the Values? We’ve booked a studio at Bay Lake Tower for later this year. But then we decided to go one day early and try a Value for a night. Aside to the proximity to the Magic Kingdom and the balcony, I am not sure it’s worth paying three times the price of the value to stay at a Villa for the same size room. Especially if the Villas are more expensive than the Deluxe, and you get a larger room with the Deluxe resorts.

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      Sorry – that was my error. The sizes are now accurate.

      • March 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm

        Whew! That makes me feel better. Although you can’t put a price on being able to just walk back to our room for a break with our two little ones, I was hoping for a bit more space with a pricier room. We do spend a decent amount of time in our rooms during the day to make sure the boys have a chance to nap. Thanks!

        • March 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm

          If it makes you feel any better, although I *think* Bay Lake Tower has some of the smaller rooms among the Villas, when we toured the rooms at the Doorway to Dreams store in Schaumburg, IL, I remarked at just how well all of the space was used in the room. They *seemed* almost as large as Old Key West’s rooms!

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    My family and I just recently returned from a week at Disney where we stayed at Pop. I would absolutely stay there again! The room was a bit small for four adults, but as we were out the door by 8am every morning and did not return until 10pm most nights (once it was even 1am!) the limited space was not a huge deal. I know Values are not for everyone, but for this ‘commando’ family, it could not have worked out better!

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Agreed. This is especially true in the summer. Some nights my wife and I get home after 4 am (evening EMH at Magic Kingdom!) and are out the door by 9 or 10 am the next morning.

  • March 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    We choose resort by what our main focus of the trip is for. If we’re just going for the parks, we choose value (Our fav is Pop). If we want to enjoy the resorts and pools we usually choose what appeals to us for that particular trip, for example last September we wanted a short get away pool weekend, we chose Caribbean Beach because of the pool alone. Yes, Beach Club would have been great, but it wasn’t in our budget for that trip. My advice is to research research research! :o)

    • March 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      I can’t reiterate your last few lines enough. Ultimately, you can read the opinions of others all day long, but that is no substitute for looking at the objective differences between each of the resorts. Amenity lists, specs, and (my favorite) resort photos are perfect for this!

  • March 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I completely agree! We prefer value, especially with little ones. We’re staying in Pop the first wk of May, and just don’t see the need to pay more to stay anywhere else. However, we do plan to stay at the Beach Club at least once when the kids are older (and maybe even for an adults only food and wine wknd!) You can’t beat the location or the pool, and Cape May is a family favorite! And Wilderness Lodge is a must during our December 2012 visit! I agree the moderate resorts are a waste. If we upgrade from value, we’re going deluxe for sure!

    We rely solely on Disney Transportation and will always and forever stay on property!

  • March 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Although I have never stayed at a value resort I did have a conversation with a woman once who I met at MK and she had a bit of a sad tale to tell about her stay at Pop. She was middle aged and she was with her mother and her mom got sick and stayed in for a day and didn’t leave the room because of the long walk to the cafeteria. Also when she herself left the room late-ish the night before to get her mom some medicine she got turned around and confused and spent over an hour walking around trying to re-orient herself and find the right building again. It gave me the impression that for “older” people it was not a great choice either.

  • March 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Maya Grill at Coronado Springs is an excellent Table Service restaurant.

    • March 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      Also the double queen beds are nice there.

  • March 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    We stayed at All Star Sports before we had kids. Prior to that, we had stayed at Riverside and French Quarter. We really disliked All Star Sports. I particularly remember the poor quality of the towels and the fact that you had to use your room towels at the pool. I think our kids would probably enjoy the Values, but it’s our vacation too, and we’d always rather stay at a Moderate. The pools, the landscaping, the amenities, the theme, the room size and furnishings, and yes, the towels!, are all nicer. We take breaks from park touring and enjoy what the hotel has to offer then. I guess if we were going to tour commando-style, we might consider Pop. I say “we”, but that’s probably really “I” — I think my husband would rather never stay at a Value ever again!

  • March 4, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    As you said, it really depends on the person. That is, both their personality type and budget. If you are at the parks 30 mins before rope drop and have to be dragged kicking and screaming out, then Value is right for you. If you want to take 1-2 days off, or just have the $$ to blow, Deluxe is a good way to go. I like Mods bc they’re in the middle (Coronado Springs and PO-FQ are my favs). I think they offer the best of both worlds. To me, the main points on the Deluxe’s are dining and transportation options.

  • March 4, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    You have max occupancy for deluxe as 4 but don’t the rooms at Contemporary have that day bed? I thought they fit 5.

  • March 4, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Just wanted to add that some moderates do have king rooms: including Coronado Springs, PO Riverside & French Quarter, which my wife and I had to decide between for our 1st anniversary trip last month. We chose French Quarter, which was great as we didn’t rent a car and wanted to use the buses to the parks and the ferry to Downtown Disney. It worked out pretty well for us, as waits or crowds weren’t bad at all. It was the value season, though!

    • March 4, 2011 at 8:23 pm

      I”ve stayed at PO-FQ and loved it also. Regarding the boat to DTD, one word of advice: it only fits 37 people. The breakdown is something like 25 from PO-R and 12 from PO-FQ. So if you’re waiting at FQ and have more than a dozen people in front of you, you could be in for a long wait. I went in late Sept last year (value season) and had to wait 45 mins for a boat on a Thurs afternoon

      • March 5, 2011 at 12:09 am

        Oh wow! We went in early February. The one time we did ride the ferry from FQ we were the first in line, so that probably helped too. Coming back from Downtown Disney was easier, as it drops off at FQ first.

  • March 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Wow, this is such a personal decision – everyone has their favorite (ours is AKL). I will say (have not read the comments) for our family with 2 adults, one small child, and a baby, the room at AKL was barely large enough. We had to move furniture to fit the pack ‘n’ play. The Contemporary was by far more comfortable for us to fit in (and there was a ton there for our daughter to enjoy, plus you can’t beat walking home from MK after the fireworks – not having to stress about the buses was wonderful). Having the separate bathroom area is crucial for us for after the kids go to bed.

  • March 5, 2011 at 12:43 am

    I have to comment on this one. I spent all but one day at Saratoga Springs and one night at Caribbean Beach Resort last year. The beds in both resorts were hard as a rock.

    The Caribbean resort was like a Motel 6. I expected a Hyatt like experience for a moderate resort. My room had a heater/AC under the window that smelled like it was burning when I turned it on, it used a shower curtain to separate the sinks from the beds, it smelled nasty (I had to change rooms), it wasn’t well cleaned (found a q-tip under one of the pillows), it had walls so thin that you could hear folks above you and in both rooms next to you (good luck sleeping; luckily that it was my last night), and it had the most awful nemo theme done in orange. And even the buses that serviced that resort weren’t well kept up as those for Saratoga Springs. I highly suggest folks avoid the Caribbean Resort at all costs.

    Yes, Disney is far from perfect. There are resorts you want to avoid, and that is one of them.

    Saratoga Springs was better, but the bed was awful. Again, I had to change rooms to get a more used bed. Both resorts used the same brand and type of mattress. Another big surprise. I thought a villa would at least use a better mattress.

    I had a much better experience staying at the Disneyland Hotel in CA. And Disneyland is far better maintained. I’m recommending folks just go there instead of WDW at least until the resorts and parks can be refurbished. They both need a lot of work.

    • March 6, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      In all fairness, I wouldn’t dismiss an entire resort because of one or a couple of bad rooms in said resort. My wife and I had a TERRIBLE room at Old Key West during our honeymoon (so bad that our DVC points for the stay were actually refunded to us), but I’ve read so many positive accounts that I’m willing to accept that my anecdotal experience is the exception, and not the rule.

      Interesting that you found Disneyland Hotel so much better. I’ve heard a lot of negatives about that hotel, but all of the modernization work currently going on there is making it look great. We look forward to staying there in the next year or so.

      The Disneyland v. WDW maintenance debate has been one that has raged for a few years. While I agree that DLR is better maintained in general, I do think WDW has made great strides in the last couple of years. In any case, I wouldn’t advise avoiding it. I think both coasts have a lot to offer.

      • March 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

        I had to change rooms at the Disneyland Hotel due to a bad mildew smell. This is because the resort turns off the AC when the room is unoccupied. My new room smelled better, and after running the AC while at the park, the room was fine.

        But what made the Disneyland Hotel stand out was the comfortable bed. After a long day of walking through the parks, a comfortable bed and a quiet room is awesome.

        But besides the perk of being able to walk (but a monorail is coming soon) to the theme park from the room and early admission, the Hyatt down the street from Disneyland has a lot nicer rooms and beds for a fraction of the cost. Of course, dealing with the traffic and parking garage makes staying on the property worthwhile for all but the last night.

        Concerning maintenance, I’d say Disney has pulled back on maintenance since the economic downtown of 2008. In the past couple of months, we have seen electrical failures causing the shutdown of rides. We have seen the Tiki Room set on fire.

        But it looks like this is the year when they polish up their attractions for the post recession blitz into the parks. And since there is tons of construction going on, I’d avoid the parks this year or at least try to find times when the least amount of construction is taking place.

        If I was going to hit the east coast again, I’d honestly spend more time at Universal or just go for a weekend. The only reason to spend a week at WDW is because everything is so spread out. And I have to admit: WDW has much better food than DL/CA.

    • March 7, 2011 at 9:59 am

      I actually had the opposite experience at Caribbean Beach Resort. My family and I stayed there in mid-January and our room was excellent. The Nemo theming was pretty low key, with just the bed cover and some trim at the ceiling. Didn’t get to enjoy the pool, since it was mid-January, but I can see their pool being a great place to cool off in the warmer months. Add in the very large gift shop and adequate food court and we had everything we could have wanted. It is very spread out, so if you aren’t up for walking I wouldn’t recommend this resort.

  • March 5, 2011 at 7:38 am

    I absolutely agree with you with regards to Value reorts. We can afford to go more often and can stay for more days by staying Value, the themes are so much fun and the central location of the Pop Century makes transportation pretty good most of the time (we never rent a car either). With regards to the Pop Century for older people, my husband and I stayed there with my parents last year, and although there is a lot of walking, they both enjoyed the resort. We rented an ECV for my mother, which worked really well both at the parks and the resort. I would thoroughly recommend this resort to anyone who is there primarily to enjoy the parks. We will never stay anywhere else! Btw – totally disagree about AK as a park- I rode Expedition Everst 10 times on my last trip 🙂

    • March 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Did you ride Expedition Everest 10 times on your last trip because DAK offered so little else worth doing? 😉 Just kidding.

      I am critical of DAK, but I do think it has the infrastructure in place to be a great park–I just don’t think it’s there yet.

      I think it markets itself heavily as “nahtazu” (pronounced “not a zoo”), yet in reality, many of the attractions bear a striking resemble to what you’d find at a zoo. As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Clever marketing doesn’t change the fact that it’s still very similar to a zoo. When I’m visiting a theme park, I want a theme park–not a zoo. I want dark rides–and really, rides in general. DAK is lacking in that regard, although the park’s theming is exquisite.

      But, this is another subject for another day.

      • March 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm

        I couldn’t agree more. The AKL is a great place to check out when on that end of the property (and Boma is good), but the only reason to go to AK is for Expedition Everest, period.

        In fact, on our last visit with another couple, we made a list of all of the things we wanted to do on the last day. We hit all four parks (exhausting) to get everyone’s choices, but only went to AK because of Everest (which we rode 3 times). Each of the other parks had at least 3 attractions each (MK had 9 – I could spend days there), but none of us wanted to do the Safari or Dinosaur or a show or anything else they offer at AK as a “last day” experience. So, we zipped in, rode the heck out of Everest, and wished AK farewell.

        I would also argue that DHS is substandard compared to Epcot and the MK and is definitely third on the list. For my day at HS, I only really want to ride Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Roller Coaster and then I’m pretty much done. I know some of the shows are good and the theming is great, but I am a ride guy and DHS is lacking in sheer number of rides (though the Grapefruit Cake at Brown Derby is worth the trip alone). But, as you stated, that is another argument for another thread.

        Thanks, Tom!

      • March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm

        Just go to Busch Gardens over in Tampa. You’ll get the animals (more of them) and outstanding roller coasters.

        It is so obvious that Disney tried to copy Busch Gardens but failed. Its a pretty park, don’t get me wrong, but if it wasn’t for my season passes there is NO WAY I would pay for the admission to get in there and if I did I would be piiiiiiiiisssed!

  • March 5, 2011 at 9:31 am

    What takes Wilderness Lodge to the top of the list during the holidays?

    • March 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm

      I would love to hear that answer as well since we’ll be there in December…

    • March 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

      The holiday decorations and the theme of the resort add up to a classic Christmasy feel. The swags of greenery and Christmas lights, the giant wreath on the fireplace, the huge Christmas tree… set in the atmosphere of all that timber and comfy chairs and the cozy fireplace… it just all fits the holiday mood really well.

      • March 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

        RS hit the nail on the head. As a Michigander, the feel of the Wilderness Lodge at Christmas reminds me of a warm Northern Christmas at home. The atmosphere is unmatched.

  • March 5, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Your maximum occupancies are incorrect. Almost all deluxe rooms are for 5 people (the exceptions are Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge), and there is one moderate, Port Orleans – Riverside, that also has trundle beds for a 5th person.

    • March 6, 2011 at 11:50 am

      With the limited character space of the blog post, it was tough to post specifics for each resort, so I erred on the side of the lower limits of each resort. In retrospect, I can see how that could be confusing, so I’ve added a range (4-5 people) for the Deluxes. Hopefully anyone reading the article also reads the comments to see that Riverside accommodates 5 people. Thanks!

  • March 5, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    My two cents worth…
    I agree that the Moderates generally aren’t worth it. When we’re on a tight budget, we stay at a Value. When we have more money, we stay at a Deluxe. But what we often do is get the best of both worlds. We’ll split our stay, spending the first half at a Value (to save money), then moving up to a Deluxe (for the amenities). It’s really easy, Disney does the moving while we’re at the park.
    And let me put in a shout-out to Wilderness Lodge (anytime of year). It’s cheaper than any other Deluxe and only a short, enjoyable boat ride from the best park–Magic Kingdom. Also close to Ft. Wilderness campground and all of its activities. Pool is great and theming is among the best of any resort. Haven’t eaten at Artist’s Point yet, but Whispering Canyon Cafe is great.

    • March 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

      Fort Wilderness is an awesome choice (I love the cabins) and great for families. I agree that Whispering Canyon Cafe is great!

  • March 5, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    While I would love to save the money and stay in a value, the thought of sleeping in a double bed does not sound appealing. Both of my kids are kickers and my spouse and I are used to sleeping in a king. If the rooms are mainly used for sleeping, I want to get the best rest possible after (and before) a long day at the park. This is our first visit to WDW and I was surprised to see that the value resorts only offered full size beds. The values looked like a lot of fun to stay at and I am sure my kids would have loved them, but the bed situation is the only reason we ended up booking at a deluxe villa.

    • March 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Great point–definitely something people should consider before booking a Value!

  • March 6, 2011 at 9:04 am

    With respectful disagreement, I think the monorail deluxe resorts are great for young families, for a couple simple reasons.

    Young kids can enjoy themselves anywhere, they don’t need the bright colors of the value resorts. But the monorail deluxe resorts offer a couple big advantages.

    A quick monorail ride to Magic Kingdom, and efficient transportation to all the parks, is great for impatient young children. I couldn’t imagine returning to Magic Kingdom in the evening with a worn-out 5 year old, if it was a matter of a 40 minute bus commute.

    Secondly, bigger rooms are a great benefits for younger families.

    Money aside, I see the value resorts as perhaps being better for tween-aged kids, who may play around resort common areas with a little bit of independence.

    • March 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

      I agree with your assessment of the monorail resorts for ease of transportation (I also would say the same about the Epcot resorts). You also make a good point about young kids being entertained by just about anything (who among us didn’t enjoy playing with a box as a child?!).

    • March 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      I second Adam here. We just got back from 5 days at the Contemporary with two boys (8 & 4), and I never once heard them complain about the lack of theming. 🙂

      Seriously, the easy in-and-out from the parks was a huge selling point for us. And the proximity to MK had the added bonus of allowing them to watch Wishes in their pajamas every night and get to bed by 9pm, which made for well-rested kids rarin’ to go to Rope Drop the next morning.

      I think when the kids are older and they have more stamina for touring, we’ll stay somewhere outside of the monorail loop. But for now, it’s all about location, location, location for us, and we’re willing to pay for that convenience.

    • March 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      The bus transportation system needs a lot of work. If I had kids, I would opt for a monorail resort, if I knew I was spending most of my time at Magic Kingdom or Epcot, which is highly likely. Magic Kingdom for the classic rides, and Epcot for the great food.

      Both Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios need a lot of work. Animal Kingdom has very short hours, and a good wild life park is a better alternative. But the food at Animal Kingdom is great. Hollywood Studios has a handful of good attractions. If you have kids, the big one is Toy Story Mania with its insane wait times even in the off season: over an hour wait. But with the whole MGM craziness going on, I’d expect this park to reinvent itself soon.

      Without kids, I’d say to get a rental car. While the bus from the airport is convenient, the Disney bus system is not, especially if you want to hit Downtown Disney. It’s only accessible from the resorts, not the theme parks, so let’s say you just finished watching the fireworks and want to hit up Downtown Disney. Now, you have to fight the crowds to get to a resort and then transfer. It’s a lot easier to just jump into a rental car.

  • March 6, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Great article and posts! For myself, I stayed at CBR, and wasn’t impressed, too spread out. Would love to stay at Poly or Wilderness Lodge, but as we are on a budget, we prefer Movies. I love the Disney magic in these resorts. We also prefer to save a little on resort so we can play longer. This year, we are staying at Movies in preferred room to be able to stay for 10 days rather than upgrading to higher end resort and stay for only 7. I love the Suites at Music, wish they would do this at Movies as that is my fave. For me, I’d rather pay less for room to just be able to go to WDW. Sorry if I offend the rich, but just because we aren’t among the richy rich doesn’t mean our family shouldn’t be able to take vacations too.

  • March 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for this post! We are currently planning our trip for October, looking at Pop Century, and have come to find out that 2 rooms for our party of 5 at a value resort are (1) just a tad more than one room at Port Orleans Riverside and (2) less expensive than a family suite at the All Star Music. This way we will have more room to move around, more beds for everyone and have a little more $ for other activities at the World. We have never been into paying lots for hotel stays, so Value works best for us.

  • March 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    Just curious as to the note about the Moderate resort bedding. There was mention that the Moderates would be upgrading to two queen beds in 2011. Has this change started to take place yet? If not, is there word on when? Heading to Caribbean Beach at the end of May/early June and would love the extra space!!

    • March 7, 2011 at 7:32 am

      At some places, yes. Coronado Springs is done. PO-FQ is almost done. PO-R starts in May. I haven’t heard anything about CB though, sorry.

  • March 7, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Is the commute from the Animal Kingdom Lodge really that bad to MK and Epcot? Why is it so bad? Are there multiple stops on the bus? I’m planning to stay there in early May with 2 preschoolers.

    • March 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

      It’s not THAT much longer, but it seems that, invariably, whenever we go, I end up standing on the bus. On top of that, I’m always squished in between others, making for an uncomfortable ride. It may only take 5 minutes more, but it FEELS like 15!

  • March 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    This was a great post…I completely agree with your view of the Mods/Values…I took two very short trips to the World over the past year or so and stayed at 2 new (for me) resorts – POFQ and Pop Century. I had a great time at FQ and thought it was lovely, but it was probably my one and only stay there. For me, for the $, I don’t get enough at the Mods to make it worth it. In the future, I will definitely stay at Pop or an All-Star from now on unless I am planning a trip that warrants a Deluxe.

    Thanks for the interesting post and great pictures!

  • March 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I have to agree with Adam on deluxe resorts for young kids. Starting when my older daughter was 3, we’ve taken 3 trips to WDW — two at moderate resorts, 1 off property. She’s never even noticed the theming (or lack thereof) at any of the resorts. But she sure noticed the 20 minutes to an hour it takes to get anywhere from the non-monorail resorts. You just can’t beat the 10-minute walk from the Contemporary to the MK.

  • March 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Speaking of transportation, would it be quicker to take the boat or bus from Wilderness Lodge to get to MK and Epcot? We love the idea of the ferry but want to be there when the parks open. TIA!

    • March 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      I’m sorry if this is in the wrong thread…

    • March 8, 2011 at 10:00 am

      There is no definite answer there, but boats seem (to me) to be more consistent than buses. I would take a boat to the MK, and a bus to Epcot.

      • March 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm

        or you could take the boat to MK and the monorail to TTC and switch to the epcot monorail

        errrr maybe the bus would be easier lol

  • March 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Our decision was simple after we realized there was no way around the Disney 5th Person Scam: 5th person doubles the cost per night. We wanted to stay onsite and didn’t want 2 rooms at a Value.

    5 people + 1 room + budget = Riverside Bayou

  • March 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    I’m a semi-local (live in Tampa) and have season passes so our trips are usually weekend stays 2-3 nights. I have stayed at multiple hotels on Disney property and off.

    I stayed at the all star music, contemporary, coronodo springs, and most recently the All Star Movies. I have also stayed at the Buena Vista Palace hotel which is across the street from downtown (I love this one) and the Regal Sun (sucks dont stay here).

    I was just at the All Star Movies this past weekend and I LOVED it. My daughter loves Toy Story so we stayed at in the Toy Story themed building. She loved it the play area outside our building was so fun with the giant statues of Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Bo-peep, and the Dinosaur. The room was IMMACULATE and also fun, it had a large toy story poster and a toy story trim around the ceiling. The tv was crappy and there was no fridge but who cares? We loved it!

    It was a short walk to the buses and we only waited 15 minutes for our buses. I love that my tables in wonderland card works at the food court and for drinks at the bar 🙂

    The pool looked lovely (too cold for us warm weather floridians)

    I will definately stay at the all star movies again or any that give me the best passholder/florida resident rate 🙂

  • March 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    My parents are DVC members, so we’ve stayed at most of the DVC resorts with them (with my now 5yo). IMO the deluxe resorts have one key feature you have left off – LOCATION! They recently stayed at Caribbean Beach & returning to the room midday was at least an hour if not two in lost time between waiting for buses, riding the bus, etc. Much faster to walk from Epcot or DHS to Yacht, Beach or Boardwalk. Or to Poly or Contemporary with monorail or walking.

    Saratoga is by far the worst location of the DVC resorts unless you spend a lot of time at Downtown.

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