Walt Disney World (FL)

Which WDW Resorts Will My Young Kids Enjoy?

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Making a decision about where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World is one of the most expensive and important choices of your vacation planning. The right resort will give you a restful place to reenergize, places to refuel before and after your day of touring, and even a great place to explore when you’re not in the parks. The wrong resort could keep you up at night or generate stressful mornings as everyone tries to get ready for the day.

Space is always important in WDW rooms, whether you use it for suitcases … or hide and seek.

For parties with young kids, the choice becomes even more important. Space becomes an even bigger issue if you need a crib or pack-n-play. Volume of noise around the room in the middle of the afternoon is more important if you have napping kiddos. And is there a place for parents to spend their time when the kids collapse into bed? My family has bounced around to a few different resorts with our young kids, and little things sometime make a big difference. So what things have other parties with young kids experienced, and which resorts do they rate significantly higher or lower than other party types?

Explain the Math!

We collect resort satisfaction data in our post-visit surveys from WDW visitors that use TouringPlans. One part of that survey asks you to rate your resort (and room) on a large variety of different factors. There is an overall satisfaction score that we use to compare different resorts. That score ranges from “Very Dissatisfied” to “Very Satisfied”, with five total options. To compare scores statistically, we can convert each answer to its number equivalent. Very Dissatisfied = 1, Very Satisfied = 5, etc. So average satisfaction at a resort is expressed as a number that’s an average of all of these scores at each resort.

But we also want to acknowledge that resorts change. Refurbishments happen, food offerings change, things might get more rundown, etc. So I’d love to emphasize survey responses that came in more recently compared to those from months or years ago. To do that, I have two options. Option one is to just limit the responses I’m pulling to a specific timeframe. But that ignores some history that might be interesting, and it decreases my sample size. Option two is a weighted average, where I still consider all resorts from all time but weight older ones “less”.

For today’s analysis, I’m going to keep the weighting pretty simple. I let any review from the past 3 months keep its full weight. It counts as a whole response. But if anything was older than that, I start taking weight away. I’ll go with the following weighting system:

  • 3 to 6 months ago? 1/2 weight
  • 6 to 9 months ago? 1/3 weight
  • 9 to 12 months ago? 1/4 weight
  • 12 to 15 months ago? 1/5 weight
  • 15 to 18 months ago? 1/6 weight
  • Etc

So reviews from the past 3 months are 6 times more “important” than the reviews from 15-18 months ago. That means the overall score is going to reflect recent scores much more heavily, but still won’t totally ignore the past.

I also have to figure out how these scores are different for parties with young kids, which means that I have to know which scores belong to those parties. When anyone fills out a post-visit survey, they can also tell us the genders and ages of their party members. I created two different groups – any surveys from parties that had someone under the age of six went into the “parties with young kids” group, and every other survey gets grouped together under “everyone else”.

Resorts that Parties with Young Kids Enjoy More

  1. Swan + Dolphin (4.76 and 4.63 for parties with young kids; 4.41 and 4.23 for everyone else)
    The Swan and Dolphin pop to the top of the list where satisfaction scores from parties with young kids show the biggest difference from parties that don’t. A lot of this likely comes down to price and space. Rooms at Swan and Dolphin are bigger than Disney moderate resorts (and roughly on par with the “lodge” rooms at some of the deluxe resorts). But you can use deals or Marriott rewards to stay at Swan and Dolphin and still get all of the perks of being onsite and near EPCOT.
  2. Your kids get the rest they need an you get to watch the fireworks from your balcony!

    Riviera Resort (4.92 for parties with young kids; 4.46 for everyone else)
    4.92?! Riviera must be doing something right with young kids. Space is probably once again a factor, with deluxe studios coming in at a relatively large 423 square feet (that’s larger than any other deluxe studio other than the Polynesian). And if your kids can never stay up late enough for fireworks, no sweat, because a lot of the studios at Riviera have fireworks views (use the room finder to find and request one)! There are also plenty of other outdoor activities and easy access to the Skyliner, which makes for quick trips to and from parks if you need to come back for naptime.

  3. Contemporary Resort (4.66 for parties with young kids; 4.51 for everyone else)
    Real talk. Which young kid doesn’t love the monorail? I have two girls, and they love new and interesting forms of transportation. So a resort where they can regularly watch that monorail, plus have a meal with all of their favorite classic characters is a win. And to have that easy access to Magic Kingdom with most of their favorite rides? Recipe for success right there.
  4. The Poly has my young kids’ favorite water play area. Much fun is had here.

    Polynesian Resort (4.75 for parties with young kids; 4.61 for everyone else)
    The standard rooms at the Poly are the biggest of any standard room other than the Grand Floridian. For reference, value rooms are 260 square feet. Good luck even cramming a crib in there. A room at the Poly, though, is 415 square feet. Much better. And the pool area is legitimately cool, with a whole water play area that is perfect for smaller kids. As with other Magic Kingdom resorts, you have that quick access to many of the rides that are made for that age group too.

  5. Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani (4.70 for parties with young kids; 4.60 for everyone else)
    Animals! Most of the themes of the other resorts that made this list are space and location. Neither of those are factors at Animal Kingdom Lodge. You have a short bus ride to Animal Kingdom, but everything else is more of a haul, especially if you don’t have your own car. And studios aren’t particularly spacious, at 366 square feet. But there are animals everywhere. And if your toddler is exclaiming excitedly about the “canteloupes” they can see from their porch, are you really living your best life? Ha!

Resorts that Parties with Young Kids Enjoy Less

  1. BoardWalk Inn (4.34 for parties with young kids; 4.60 for everyone else)
    At the “bottom” of the list for parties with young kids is BoardWalk Inn. It’s the resort with the biggest negative difference between the two groups. If you ask me, it was definitely impacted by the clown pool. But even recently it’s not performing as well. It does have smaller rooms than other Crescent Lake resorts, and even though the clown is gone, its pool does pale in comparison to Stormalong Bay. So if you’ve got young kids, you almost definitely want to stay at Beach Club or Yacht Club rather than BoardWalk.
  2. Imagineering has shown us all what awesome things can be done with a Toy Story theme. This is … not it.

    All-Star Movies (4.07 for parties with young kids; 4.25 for everyone else)
    The All-Stars already typically show up near the bottom of the pack of WDW resorts for satisfaction. So for them to drop even lower when young kids is involved is frankly pretty impressive. It’s interesting that Movies in particular exhibits this decline in satisfaction, while Music and Sports do not. This probably comes down to expectations more than anything else. There is so much potential for the Movies theme! And instead, the most exciting section is probably Toy Story. And even that feels a little phoned in. More potential = more potential disappointment.

  3. Pop Century (4.43 for parties with young kids; 4.53 for everyone else)
    Pop Century is a really great resorts for cost-conscious adults. The theme is fun, but not really important. There’s the Skyliner. The food court … used to be good. For young kids, the theme probably doesn’t hold the same appeal as Art of Animation right across the lagoon with its much more kid-friendly theming. The rooms have more space now after the redesign, but they’re still small-ish. But if you’re going to stay in a Value room with young kids, Art of Animation is the way to go.

What Does This Mean For You?

  1. Theme number one for resorts that are a hit with parties that have young kids? Space. All of the space, please. Small humans are small, but they require a LOT of space. Research room size before you book. Or use the lovely travel agents here at TouringPlans to do that research for you!
  2. Theme number two is definitely location. If you’re touring with young kids, chances are higher that you’ll need to pop back to the room more frequently. So if you can get a resort with walking, monorail, or Skyliner access to a park your life will be a lot easier.
  3. Theme number three is … theme. It may not come across at a high level. But if you have a young mermaid fan, a stay at the Little Mermaid section of Art of Animation will probably blow everything else out of the water. Young kids have some things that they just latch on to, and if you can hit that interest while vacationing at WDW, it makes everything even more magical.


Have you had a spectacular resort stay with young kids? A place that you all fit and felt comfortable in? Or some place you’d suggest that parties with young kids avoid? 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: https://www.linkedin.com/in/becky-gandillon/ or instagram @raisingminniemes

6 thoughts on “Which WDW Resorts Will My Young Kids Enjoy?

  • Another great analysis from Becky! Love your blog posts. I’m not surprised that the Grand Floridian is not on the top of the list, but it has a special place in our vacation history. When my kids were young, I usually upgraded to a theme park view at the GF so we could watch the evening fireworks from our balcony in our pajamas, then go right to bed afterward. Now with teenagers, we can manage the crowds in the parks late into the evening, and even stay there for the fireworks or watch from a dessert party … but the kids still rate our best vacation as the one where we watched the 4th of July fireworks of the Magic Kingdom from the balcony.

    • Thanks Angela! And thank you so much for that story – I love that those vacations still stand out for your kids. What a cool thing as they grow up and remember the special things that you did for them when they were little.

  • Sometimes it is the little random things that make memories and increase satisfaction. The first time our son went to WDW (at 4 yrs old) we stayed at Shades of Green, the military resort. Size was ok, location good but ok, only minimal mouse theming… What did he talk about for months? A giant promotional blow up Heinz pickle that was outside! Sgt Pickle was literally over 2 stories tall. It was there each of the next few years when we visited.

    • What a great story! Thank you for sharing. And I totally agree – sometimes you don’t know what will become that “thing” that kids latch on to. But it definitely makes for great memories 🙂

  • “Small humans are small, but they require a LOT of space.” I love this line – so true! When DS was small, our first onsite stay was at CBR. Three reasons that didn’t work out well. 1) We were so far away from food, pool, and transportation. 2) No elevator. Not fun for me or Grandma. 3) Got to bed early…and woke up to Epcot fireworks soon after.

    • Oh man, I hadn’t even considered the elevator part. Yeah, no elevator would be a non-starter for us with the stroller full of two kids and all of their necessary things.


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