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Is Your WDW Resort a Rookie Mistake?

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Do you remember your first visit to WDW? Did a seasoned WDW fan give you tips on where to stay and what to eat? Or maybe you did your own research. Or perhaps like too many people, you just booked whatever you happened upon first. Rookie mistake. We’ve been looking at resort satisfaction scores over the past few weeks. But we’re humans, and what humans say on a survey can differ from what humans would do in real life. So perhaps the surest way to figure out which resorts are really the best is by examining which resorts are more popular with repeat visitors.

This was the view from my room during a 2014 visit. Was my choice more like a rookie or a repeat visitor?

Explain the Math!

After each WDW visit, TouringPlans users can submit a post-visit survey. In that survey, they select their resort. And they also select how many times they’ve visited Disney World before. I can then calculate, based on how many times you’ve been to WDW, what the chances are that you’ll stay at each resort.

Rather than doing this for every single number, I came up with some logical groupings. So we’ll be looking at first-time visitors, folks on their 2nd through 5th visit, those on their 6th through 10th visit, and anyone with more than 10 visits under their belt.

After making those groups, we’ll be analyzing everything as percentages. For example, what percentage of first-time visitors stay at Value resorts? And how does that compare to those that have visited more than 10 times? What about specific resorts? Does the percentage of people that stay at Port Orleans – Riverside increase or decrease with the number of times you’ve visited WDW? Lots of interesting questions we can answer with this data. Let’s find some answers!

Overall Resort Patterns

Percentage of post-visit survey respondents that stayed at each resort type, sliced by the number of times they’ve visited WDW
  • The first thing that immediately jumps out at me and shouts “BOO!” from this visualization is that we’ve definitely got some selection bias. It’s pretty non-sensical to believe that 9% of first-time visitors stay at DVC resorts. I’d be willing to bet that not even 9% of first-time visitors know that DVC exists. But TouringPlans users are a totally different kind of beast. So our results aren’t representative of all WDW visitors. But if you’re a TouringPlans user, they’re at least representative of people like you.
  • Based on these results, it looks like the “rookie mistake” is staying at any Value or Moderate resort in general. 65% of first-time visitors are in those resorts, but that drops all of the way to 43% of visitors with more than 10 prior visits. Now, this could be based on what people are able to afford as a one-time trip. Or testing the waters before committing to something bigger for future visits. So although I’m throwing around the term “mistake”, know that overall satisfaction at any of these resorts is still well over 4 on a scale of 5. And you’re at Disney. The biggest mistake is just not going at all!
  • The big winner here is DVC. These results show me that DVC is a great repeat-visit sales engine. That makes sense – that’s the whole purpose of it. What surprised me a little is that I would expect increasing DVC stays to come along with a decrease in Deluxe stays. That’s supposedly the point of DVC. You’re staying in Deluxe resorts anyway, so you may as well buy in. But the percentage of Deluxe stays remains remarkably flat, no matter how many times you’ve visited before. If anything DVC stays are taking proportionally away from Value and Moderate stays – that’s some excellent business conversion for Disney.

Value Resort Patterns

Percentage of post-visit survey respondents that stayed at each value resort, split up by the number of times they’ve visited WDW
  • If I’ve trained you well, things like this distinctly plummeting yellow line should catch your attention and make you go “hmmmmmm”. In the overall patterns, we saw stays at value resorts drop by 11 percentage points from rookies to repeat visitors. All by itself, Art of Animation accounts for 10 of those 11 percentage points. I’m not opposed to staying at AOA, but it’s generally excluded from all discounts. So as a deal-conscious repeat visitor, I’m much less likely to book there.
  • Pop Century, on the other hand, doesn’t see the same remarkable drop. In fact, while about 11.5% of first-time visitors stay at Pop, just over 12% of the biggest repeat visitors stay there too. So if you’re visiting frequently, but still want a cheap place to stay on-property, it looks like Pop Century is the place to be.
  • All-Star Movies is the other interesting data point here. It commands a significantly bigger percentage of first-time visitors than either of the other All-Star resorts, but that lead immediately disappears as soon as any repeat visit is made. So maybe repeat visitors know that an All-Star is and All-Star, no matter the theme.

Moderate Resort Patterns

Percentage of post-visit survey respondents that stayed at each moderate resort, split up by the number of times they’ve visited WDW
  • We’ve got another big drop here, this time at Port Orleans – Riverside. I didn’t stay at Riverside on my first Disney visit, but I did stay there on my first non-Value Disney visit. And yes, the scenery is nice. Everything is quiet and peaceful. But that also comes with a LOT of walking within the resort, and not an ideal transportation situation. Things that I wouldn’t have known unless I had stayed there before, or if I had been a savvy TouringPlans user back then.
  • The other resort here that sees a decent drop is Caribbean Beach. Caribbean Beach consistently ranks pretty low on resort satisfaction comparisons, so this one makes sense to me.
  • Coronado Springs and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness both buck the trend of declining percentages with more visits. They seem to appeal to visitors no matter how many times you’ve been to WDW.

Deluxe Resort Patterns

Percentage of post-visit survey respondents that stayed at each deluxe resort, split up by the number of times they’ve visited WDW
  • The pictures get a bit busy from here, so stick with me. Let’s start at the bottom – the Swan and Dolphin both exhibit pretty straight-line behavior. So what drives people to stay there is probably something other than the number of times they’ve visited WDW.
  • Near the top of the graph, we have four resorts that behave like AOA or POR (to a lesser degree). AKL – Jambo, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Wilderness Lodge all see a decreasing percentage of visitors opting to stay there the more often they visit. But these drops are much smaller than the value and moderate resorts – generally only by about 1 percentage point.
  • In the middle of the graph, we see why the overall deluxe percentage stays pretty flat. Several resorts gain a bigger percentage of repeat visitors and balance out those that decline. Beach Club, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, and BoardWalk Inn all have higher percentages of the repeat visitor crowd than they do with first-timers. This is an interesting grouping to me. I know several annual (or more often) WDW visitors that are in LOVE with the resorts around the BoardWalk. And the data actually supports this being a real demographic. Perhaps if you visit frequently, the proximity to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios is the real winning combination.

DVC Resort Patterns

Percentage of post-visit survey respondents that stayed at each DVC resort, split up by the number of times they’ve visited WDW
  • Sorry for the colorful spaghetti explosion here. There are a lot of DVC resorts, and they all follow pretty similar patterns.
  • The most meaningful information in this graph comes if you focus on the right side of the image. Which lines gain the most elevation in those last two dots? Old Key West and Saratoga Springs make remarkable leaps from the 3rd category to the last one. This makes sense – those are the home resorts for many DVC owners, the folks that are the biggest frequent flyers that are going to make up that last category.
  • Once again, the Boardwalk resorts outpace many of their fellow DVC resorts. Beach Club Villas and BoardWalk Villas both start out near the middle of the pack with first-time visitors. BoardWalk flies ahead to be the second-most-popular resort with repeat visitors. And Beach Club sees a big increase as well.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. There are many, many factors that impact which resort people choose. One of those factors is how many times they’ve been before. Just looking through that lens, we can get an idea of what repeat visitors may tend to avoid.
  2. If you’re staying at a Value resort, many repeat visitors tend to eschew Art of Animation, but revisit rates at Pop Century stay pretty high.
  3. In the Moderate category, Port Orleans – Riverside and Caribbean Beach quickly lose their repeat customers. But Port Orleans – French Quarter and Coronado Springs seem to be safer repeatable bets.
  4. For the Deluxe and DVC crowd, the resorts around the Boardwalk are definitely winners for those that stay frequently.


Like me, were you surprised by any of these results? Did you expect some other resorts to dip down or rocket up? Do you have stories that help explain some of what we’re seeing? Let us know in the comments!


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Becky Gandillon

Becky Gandillon was trained in biomedical engineering, but is now a full-time data and analytics nerd. She loves problem solving and travelling. She and her husband, Jeff, live in St. Louis with their two daughters and they have Disney family movie night every Saturday. You can follow her on LinkedIn: or instagram @raisingminniemes

5 thoughts on “Is Your WDW Resort a Rookie Mistake?

  • I wonder if the stability at Coronado has to do with repeat convention-goers?

  • I wonder how much family income plays into this? It seems like multi-visit people who stay at deluxe or DVC locations are probably wealthier than those who only make one visit and stay at a value resort.
    Or it could just be that wealthier people are more likely use touring plans.
    Interesting summary regardless!

  • I wonder how having kids grow up changes this too. For example, younger families may need the space of AOA or, at Deluxes, to be close to MK. But as the kids grow, families may opt for an Epcot-area resort (kids being more able to make the walk to the parks) or may need space configured differently. I know when we’re looking ahead to our next trip as a family, my kids’ older ages will play a big part in what resorts we’ll consider or will work best!

    • I relate to this comment! Ha. We stayed in a studio at AKL – Kidani with a 4 year old and 1.5-year old, who used the crib. It was so hard to move around. We couldn’t use the table/chairs because the crib was in the way. We love that resort, but the space was cramped for our stage of life.

    • I definitely think things like traveling with kids or even family size has something to do with it. For our first trip that we paid for, my wife and I chose a Deluxe resorts for our first two trips. But then kids entered the picture, and because there were four of them, Value resorts became a necessity. Family Suites at All Star Music, and then AOA – mainly because Disney would not guarantee connecting rooms. Pop Century after that as the kids got older, and the rooms didn’t need to connect. Now we go without the kids, and its back to Deluxe. Our stay graph would look very weird by itself.


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