Thursday, August 23, 2012

Resorts for Newbies

Recently, I had a friend tell me he wanted to start planning a Disney vacation for his family.  He knows little to nothing - I think he visited once as a child - same for his wife.  They're not Disney people.  In fact, they're the ones that mock my love for Disney.  But really, who doesn't, other than my fellow Disney-addicts!

Several months ago, I posted my Top 3 Tips for Disney Newbies.  I ever wrote a simple article about the different resort options.  Now, I'm going to take the resort process one step further.

Since the late 80's/early 90's, the Walt Disney World Resort has been booming with resorts on Disney property.  There are a few non-Disney-owned resorts (the Swan/Dolphin, a Wyndham, etc...), but I'm mostly concerned with the ones that Disney owns and operates.  These resorts are a must for first timers - especially those with little kids.

I will break down the different resorts based on their category (pricing!!)

Deluxe: Most have more than only bus option between at least 1 park and resort. Varied dining options, many have "signature" and excellent dining experiences.  Several have character meals available.

  • Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
    • Most expensive on property
    • Gorgeous in an old Floridian way
    • Disney's Flagship resort
    • On the monorail line with ferry option to the Magic Kingdom
    • Great restaurants
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort
    • One of the 3 original resorts on Disney property
    • A favorite among Disney fans
    • On the monorail line with ferry option to the Magic Kingdom
    • Hawaiian feel
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort
    • One of the 3 original resorts on Disney property
    • On the monorail line and walking distance to the Magic Kingdom
    • Monorail goes thru the main building making it very loud, but there are smaller buildings that won't have that same problem
  • Disney's Wilderness Lodge (and Villas)
    • Boat access to the Magic Kingdom
    • Designed like the Great American Northwest
    • Same designers as Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (and Villas)
    • Possibly the least expensive of the deluxe resorts, due to distance from parks
    • Savannah behind resort - for extra fee, you can wake up to the animals outside your window
  • Disney's Beach Club Resort (and Villas)
    • Has possibly the best pool, Stormalong Bay, with a sandy zero entry.
    • Boat or walkway to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
    • New England Style relaxed beach atmosphere
  • Disney's Yacht Club Resort (and Villas)
    • Slightly fancier than the Beach club, still with the New England feel
    • Boat and walkway to Epcot and Hollywood studios
  • Disney's Boardwalk Resort (and Villas)
    • Designed after 1940's Atlantic City 
    • **One of my favorite resorts to visit for dinner, walking around**
    • Boat or walkway to Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Moderate Resorts  - 
  • The Cabins at Ft. Wilderness
    • A more rustic and woodsy feel
    • Sleeps 6 - a bedroom with a living area and full kitchen
    • Large area - most recommend renting a golf cart ($$) to get around the resort
    • More dining options and large group activities than other moderates
  • Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
  • A Pirates of the Caribbean themed room
    • Large resort with many buildings and bus stops 
    • Some rooms themed as Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Disney's Coronado PopSprings Resort
    • Often home to many conferences; has a business feel
    • Slightly further away and takes a little more time to travel between resort and park
    • Mayan/Spanish colonial Mexican feel
  • Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside
    • Connected, but two separate resorts
    • P.O.R. considered by many to be the most serene Moderate resort
    • Celebrates Mardi Gras!
    • Serves beignets (french donuts)
    • Small resort - least amount of rooms   on property
    • Boats to Downtown Disney
Value Resorts - Bus only to all theme parks, no sit down dining options
  • All Star Music/Movies/Sports
    • Least expensive resorts on property
    • Small rooms
    • Less inclusively themed - large icons and minimal inside room decorations
    • Have family suites - master bedroom/living area/kitchen with 2 bathrooms
    • 3 separate resorts - often share buses
  • Pop Century
    • Inexpensive rooms - same or slightly higher rates than the All Star Resorts
    • Fun, oversized outside theme, buildings decorated as a decade/generation
  • Art of Animation
    • Brand new - mostly family suites (under 600 sq feet) themed as Cars, Lion King, and Finding Nemo
    • Non-suite rooms are themed with the Little Mermaid
    • Beautiful decor and theming
    • More expensive than the other values

Your Room Key -

Now, everything is contained on your Magic Band! Make sure to pack it in your carry on for access to Disney's Magical Express and to expedite check in!

Want more help? 

Contact me for free travel planning and so much more!


  1. We stayed at Wilderness Lodge on our first visit and absolutely loved it! Great post Jenn!

  2. We've stayed at all of the deluxe resorts with children and they were all wonderful.

  3. Great overview of all the resorts! We love the moderates, but now as a family of 5 (and limited resorts) we have stayed at a deluxe and absolutely love it! There are so many activities for kids and though I never though I would say this, the upgrade to a deluxe from a moderate is worth every penny for us!