Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Tiers
So, you're going to Walt Disney World - congrats! You've decided on the time of year you're going to visit and have narrowed down your dates so now the fun begins. The first major decision you'll be faced with is where to stay. There truly is no wrong answer here because there are tons of great hotel options in and around WDW and they're all amazing! Here, I'll provide an overview the different WDW Resort Hotel "tiers" and discuss what sets them apart.
The on-property accommodations of the Walt Disney World Resort are broken up into three main tiers: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value resort hotels are typically the most cost-efficient, while Deluxe resort hotels have the most amenities, with Moderate resort hotels living up to their name and falling right in between! The main benefit of staying on-property for me, is the convenience. I love having access to the complimentary transportation options to get around. The last thing I want to worry about on vacation is dealing with a rental car and navigating around an unfamiliar city. Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests also have access to perks you wouldn't have if you were staying off-property - like more time in the parks, early vacation planning, and a more magically immersive experience overall.
Value Resorts are intended to be just that - an economic value. These are the most budget-friendly options, for the families hoping to stretch their dollars. The buildings of the Value Resorts are set up "motel" style, meaning, your room opens to an exterior corridor rather than an interior hallway (with the exception of the buildings that house the family suites at Art of Animation. Bus is the main method of transportation for Value Resort guests, but if you're staying at Pop Century or Art of Animation, you'll have access to the Skyliner - the new aerial gondola system that leads to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Value Resorts tend to be situated at a greater distance from the theme parks, so you can expect to spend up to 30 minutes on the bus from your hotel to the furthest park. Each Value Resort has a main pool, a kiddie pool or sprayground, and at least one quiet pool. You'll find a pool bar at the main pool of each of these resorts as well as a Quick Service dining option. The QS restaurant is typically designed food court style and while the entrees available tend to be a little generic, anything you have will be delicious and fuel you up for your day in the parks!
Value Resort Hotels
- • All-Star Movies
- • All-Star Music
- • All-Star Sports
- • Art of Animation
- • Pop Century
Moderate Resorts are the mid-level tier, so they cost a little more than the Value Resorts, but also have a few more amenities. For the most part, moderate resorts are also "motel" style, where each room opens to an exterior corridor. The exceptions being the new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs, whose rooms open to interior hallways, and The Cabins at Fort Wilderness which are, as its name suggests, individual cabins. Again, bus is the main source of transportation from these hotels. Guests of either Port Orleans resort can take a boat to get to Disney Springs and Caribbean Beach is a stop on the Disney Skyliner. Moderate Resort hotels tend to be a little closer to the magic, with your longest bus ride being around 20 minutes from the furthest theme park. Swimming at the Moderate Resorts get a noticeable upgrade from Value Resorts: water slides! The main pool at each Moderate Resort has a water slide matching the theme of the hotel. You'll also find hot tubs, leisure pools, kiddie pools, and of course pool bars! In addition to a Quick Service food court, Moderate Resorts each has its own Table Service restaurant (with the exception of Port Orleans French Quarter, but it's just a short walk to its sister resort Port Orleans Riverside).
Moderate Resort Hotels
- • Caribbean Beach
- • Coronado Springs
- • Port Orleans French Quarter
- • Port Orleans Riverside
- • The Cabins at Fort Wilderness
The highest-level tier for hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort are the Deluxe Resorts. These hotel options come with the highest price tags, but also have the most amenities. All Deluxe Resorts are arranged "hotel" style, so all rooms open to an interior hallway. While bus transportation is available between Deluxe Resorts and each theme park, guests of these hotels will have at least one other option for getting to at least one of the theme parks - including the monorail, water taxis, the skyliner, and even just walking. Yes, Deluxe Resorts are so close to the parks, you can get to the magic by foot! You may want to save a day to just stay at your Deluxe Resort hotel. You'll find some of the best pools on property (Stormalong Bay at the Beach Club comes immediately to mind) with their impressive water slides, hot tubs, quiet pools, and pool bars/restaurants to keep you going. Dining at Deluxe Resorts is second to none. Each hotel in this tier has a food court and a table service restaurant, but in addition each has its own fine or signature dining experience as well as character dining. That means you can get your daily fill of character interaction without even stepping foot in a park.
Deluxe Resort Hotels
- • Animal Kingdom Lodge
- • Beach Club Resort
- • Boardwalk Inn
- • Contemporary Resort
- • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- • Polynesian Village Resort
- • Wilderness Lodge
- • Yacht Club Resort
If you can't find a suitable resort amongst these tiers, I'd be shocked. BUT, if you're still interested in other options - there are plenty! Even if you are not a member of Disney Vacation Club, you may still be able to stay in a Deluxe Villa which is especially nice if you're traveling with a larger party. If you're not looking for a fully-immersive experience and prefer to stay off-property, that's an option too. There are plenty of "Good Neighbor Hotels" that meet Disney's high standard for customer service. Prefer a larger option like the villas but still hoping to stay off-property? Maybe a vacation rental (like the cottages of Margaritaville Resort Orlando) are more your style. I know there are a lot of options here, but I've said it before and I'll say it again - there's no wrong answer! So, which resort will you call "home" on your next trip?
Kelly is an independent travel consultant and proud affiliate of Academy Travel and MickeyVacations.com, an award-winning agency with over 25 years of booking magical vacations! Academy Travel is a Platinum level agency with Universal Orlando and a Diamond level Disney EarMarked Agency, the highest travel industry designation bestowed by Disney Destinations. They are also a Travel Leaders Network-designated President's Circle agency, which the highest possible recognition from the largest association of Travel Suppliers and Travel Agencies in the world.
Kelly Acevedo is an independent travel consultant. She has been a proud affiliate of Academy Travel & MickeyVacations.com since 2014.
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