One of the first decisions you’ll have to make when planning a Disney vacation is choosing your hotel. There are pros and cons to most accommodation options. I’ve had great experiences at All-Star Sports, the Grand Floridian, and everything in between, but not every hotel is right for every situation. Here are some things to think about as you embark on your planning.
- What is my budget? Budget is, of course, key to most vacation planning. There’s no sense in planning a deluxe hotel stay if your budget is tiny. However, there are many ways to slice and dice vacation spending. So, given the total amount you want to spend on your trip, think about whether you might want to splurge on accommodations but skimp on dining; or skimp on accommodations but go all out with meals, park hoppers, and a shopping spree; or find a happy medium. Whichever route you choose, keep your overall vacation budget in mind.
- How long are you planning to stay at Disney World? Consider if your length of stay will be impacted by your hotel. For example, if you’re visiting for a two-night visit when you’ll be at the parks from sunup to sundown, you might be perfectly okay at All-Star Sports, but if you’re staying for two weeks and planning leisurely non-park days, then a hotel with larger rooms and more amenities might be a better fit.
- How many people are in my travel party? Larger parties who want to stay in one room will have to avoid places like the regular rooms at the value resorts. Be sure to look at maximum room capacity.
- Are the people in my travel party comfortable sharing a bed? There are many situations where you’re comfortable sharing a room with people, but might not want to sleep in the same bed with them: unrelated adult friends, opposite gender siblings, siblings from blended families, in-laws, etc. In those cases you’ll want to look at not just the capacity of the room, but also at the number of sleep surfaces (beds, daybeds, trundles, and so on) in the room. For example, the standard rooms at All-Star Music have a capacity of four guests, but only two separate sleep surfaces. If you’re a party of three who don’t want to share beds, you could be better off in, say, a deluxe hotel room with two beds and a daybed.
- Are there issues with sharing a bathroom? When I travel with my three young adult daughters, we’re fine sharing beds, but encounter issues with four people sharing a bathroom. Getting ready in the morning takes an absurd amount of time when we all have to share one commode, shower, and hair dryer. If I’m traveling with all of my girls, for about the same price I’d opt for two rooms at a value resort (or a family suite) thus having access to two bathrooms, rather than one room with one bathroom in a deluxe.
- What are the ages of people in my travel party? While every Disney hotel is appropriate for small children, some are more appropriate than others. Think about whether your kids would be excited to see a giant Dalmatian at their hotel or to go down a twisty water slide at the pool. On the other hand, older adults might prefer a resort with a smaller physical footprint that would allow them to enjoy the amenities with minimal walking.
- Does anyone in my group have any physical limitations? Guests with mobility issues might appreciate staying at a resort, such as the Wilderness Lodge, where there’s no need to navigate a wheelchair or walker outdoors when visiting the hotel restaurants and shops.
- What are the park hours during the time of my visit? During some times of the year, the theme parks close early. If you like to be active in the later part of the evening, you might like to have a hotel that’s near Disney Springs for easier access to nighttime activities.
- Am I planning to visit a theme park every day? If you’ll be at the parks all day, every day, then where you stay might not be particularly important. If you’re planning a leisurely day off from park touring, then you may want to look at a hotel with a more interesting pool or a wider range of recreational opportunities.
- Will I be at one theme park more than the others? Disney World encompasses about 40 square miles of property. At some times of the year, getting from your hotel to a distant theme park could take nearly an hour. If you’re planning to spend most of your time at a particular theme park, you could save transportation time by staying at one of the hotels closer that park.
- What form of transportation will I be using to get to the parks and resorts? If you’re driving your own car, staying at a huge resort like Coronado Springs might not be a big deal, but you could be frustrated there if you’re relying on a bus that makes multiple stops before you even leave hotel property. Similarly, if you have stroller-age children, staying at a resort which uses Disney busses at the primary form of transportation could be frustrating due to constant need to fold the stroller. A monorail or Skyliner resort might make your life easier.
- Is there a reason why I need to be in the same room with everyone in my party? Some hotel-related issues (like the crowded bathroom scenario above) can be solved by breaking a party into two rooms. With adults, the two rooms could be near each other, but not connected, and still work. But if, for example, you’re an adult traveling with several minors, the rooms would have to connect for the two-room strategy to work. While Disney can often make connecting rooms happen, they do not guarantee that you’ll have connecting rooms if you request them. I personally have been in a situation where connecting rooms were requested but not received. If you’re an adult with more than three minors, you’ll have to look at accommodations like the Art of Animation or All-Star Music family suites, a multi-room DVC villa, or a deluxe resort that sleeps five.
- Is there a reason why I want or need to cook my own food? Regular hotel rooms at Walt Disney World do not include microwave ovens or any other in-room means to cook food. If cooking is important to you (due to allergies, cost savings, or other issues), then you’ll want to look at the family suites or DVC studio villas, which have a microwave and toaster, or a larger DVC villas equipped with a full kitchen.
- Will I need to work during my stay at WDW? If you’re combining your WDW visit with some work from “home,” you may want to stay somewhere with a real desk or an extra room for quieter Zoom calls. The larger DVC villas might fit the bill for this.
- How loud is my party? If you know that members of your party are loud, for example a fussy baby prone to extended nighttime crying, you might prefer accommodations that are isolated from other guests such as a Fort Wilderness cabin or a Saratoga Springs treehouse villa.
- What time do we go to sleep? Parties with kids that go to bed early and are light sleepers might want to avoid the hotels within close proximity to evening fireworks.
- Will my participation in an event be easier if I stay in a particular location? If you’re visiting WDW for a runDisney race, you might want to be at a hotel that’s close to race starting line. If you’re mostly visiting for the Food & Wine festival, you may want stay at a hotel within walking distance to EPCOT.
- Am I willing to change hotels during my Disney World stay? Some of the “where do I stay” issues can be resolved by staying at two different places. For example, staying at a value resort for part of your stay can save money making a few nights at a deluxe possible. Or staying at a Magic Kingdom area resort when you’re visiting the Magic Kingdom and then moving to an EPCOT resort when you’re visiting EPCOT could save some transportation time.
- Does anyone in your party have an obsession that matches a resort theme? Many children go through a particular animal obsession phase, for example. If you’re in that zone, a stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with a view of the savannah might be the best choice. Or if you love Hawaii, the Polynesian Village resort might be your best choice.
- How often do I visit Disney World? If you’re a frequent visitor, you may want to change things up by visiting a different resort every time, or you may want to stick with a tried and true favorite.
- Am I celebrating anything? If you’re visiting WDW on a honeymoon, anniversary, big birthday, or other special event, you may want to consider whether the occasion will feel more festive if you’re at one of the more posh hotels.
What issues do you consider when you make your hotel selection. How do you make your decision? Let us know!
First published June 29, 2020. Updated July 17, 2021.