When planning your Walt Disney World vacation you will find resorts are categorized into three different groups: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. While you can easily guess the Value resorts are the least expensive and the Deluxe resorts are the most pricey, today we want to break down all the differences in each resort category.
Let's start with VALUE resorts:
If you want to stay on Disney property and enjoy the added bonus of being inside the magic, but want to stick to a lower price point then a Value resort is your best option. Your choices of Value resorts are All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation (we consider AofA to be a Value Plus resort, we'll explain more later). Value resorts are known for their over-the-top, fun theming with large characters and bright colors. The style is appealing to most young children (our kids love the Value resorts), but not always a fan favorite for adults. The resorts are large and spread out with exterior room entry, which is probably our least favorite thing about the Values simply because it results in more noise filtering into your hotel room. The rooms themselves are smaller than rooms at a Moderate resort by about 50 square feet. All Value resort rooms now have a beverage cooler and queen sized beds except for All-Star Sports. One bed is often a pull-down Murphy style bed to save on space. You can request (not guaranteed) a King sized bed at the Value resorts, but cannot pay extra to have a King bed reserved like at the Moderates or Deluxe resorts. Your resort dining is food court style only, there are no table service restaurants at the Value resorts. As for transportation, the All-Stars are limited to bus only transport while Pop Century and Art of Animation have access to the Skyliner system for Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
The All-Star resorts are mostly the same, except All-Star Music now offers family suites. The family suites give you about 150 extra square feet with an additional room, and can hold a family of 6 plus a child under 3. There is one bedroom with two queen sized beds (both pull-downs) and another room with a standard queen bed. The suites have two full bathrooms and a kitchenette with a refrigerator. Art of Animation also offers family suites at a higher price point, but larger in size and in a better location. We consider Art of Animation to be a Value Plus resort because the resort itself is newer, the pool more expansive, and the food court has more options. The family suites actually face an interior hallway, which is also a nice added perk. The price reflects the upgrades of Art of Animation as well, as the cost is more on par with the Moderate resorts. It is a favorite of our kids because they love staying in a Finding Nemo, Lion King, or Cars themed family suite.
Our choice- If we have to choose a Value resort then we will choose Pop Century every time (even if our kids would pick Art of Animation). We like Pop Century because the recently refurbished rooms make good use of the space, the resort is smaller than the other Values, and we love the Skyliner access. Be sure to check out our post on Pop Century for more details on this resort.
On to the MODERATE resorts:
The moderate resorts will give you more interior room space, more dining options, more refined theming, and more amenities. Depending on your time of travel, a stay at a Moderate resort may cost you anywhere from $25 to $200 more a night than a Value resort. Many times we find the amount to be worth it, but it really comes down to what is most important to you and your vacation. The Moderate resorts are Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans- Riverside, Port Orleans- French Quarter, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. All the Moderate resorts have an elaborately themed pool with a slide, and at least one table service dining restaurant in addition to a quick service (you will have to walk to Riverside from French Quarter for table service). The resorts are still large and spread out, but offer a more upscale feel than the Values. Transportation is mostly bus, however the Port Orleans resorts have boat transportation to Disney Springs and Caribbean Beach has Skyliner access.
Rooms do vary between the Moderates with more options to choose. Coronado Springs now has Gran Destino Tower with larger rooms and suites available. It is worth noting as well that Gran Destino Tower rooms are the only Moderate resort rooms with an interior corridor, all other Moderates have exterior entry like the Values. Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans-Riverside offer rooms with an additional twin size bed for a child. These two resorts also offer additional themed rooms such as pirate rooms at Caribbean Beach and royal themed rooms at Port Orleans-Riverside.
Fort Wilderness is unique and difficult to compare to the other Moderates. The cabins feature a living room area with a full kitchen, and a bedroom with a queen sized bed and bunk beds. The couch in the living room is also a sleeper sofa. Fort Wilderness doubles as a campground, so if you are good with a more woodsy vibe then this may be the place for you. There is good dining, entertainment, and recreational options, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness are the only Moderate to offer boat transportation to a theme park (Magic Kingdom).
Our choice- This is a really tough one! Meghan loves the cabins for her family of five. The space, amenities, and price are hard to beat. Allyson has a hard time choosing anything other than Coronado (she did work here after all)!. With the addition of Gran Destino Tower, Coronado is even harder to pass up. We do admit each Moderate resort has something special to offer. The Port Orleans resorts are smaller and more intimate in feel, which many guests find appealing. Caribbean Beach offers Skyliner access and is also only a walk away from Disney's new Deluxe Villa resort, The Riviera.
Finally, the DELUXE resorts:
Disney's Deluxe resorts are truly something special. Immersive theming, beautifully decorated, and they offer more luxurious accommodations. The resorts in the Deluxe category are the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. All Deluxe resorts, except for Animal Kingdom Lodge, are conveniently located close to a theme park. The rooms themselves are larger, most can sleep up to five plus a child under 3, and all rooms face an interior hallway. You will find many restaurant options at each Deluxe resort, most also offering a character dining experience (once all re-open), along with room service available to order. Every Deluxe resort also has club level rooms and suites. The pools and common areas are a highlight of the Deluxe properties, and most offer at least a partial park view. It is worth mentioning that Deluxe guests actually receive more extra magic hours than the other resort categories. Twice a week in the evening, the parks stay open later for Deluxe guests only, which is a huge perk.
The Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian resorts are located on the monorail, which gives them easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. All three monorail resorts have views of Magic Kingdom, with the Contemporary actually offering theme park view rooms. Wilderness Lodge is a short boat ride away from Magic Kingdom, but is not on the monorail. The Boardwalk area resorts consist of Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club. All three are in close proximity to one another, with Beach and Yacht actually sharing amenities including Stormalong Bay, arguably the best pool area on Disney property. Boardwalk resorts are walkable to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, or just a short boat ride away. As previously mentioned, Animal Kingdom Lodge is more isolated and requires bus transportation to all four theme parks. That being said, Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of the most unique resorts with animal view rooms and incredibly immersive theming.
Our choice- Another hard decision. We do not actually think there is a bad choice in the Deluxe category. All the resorts have something special. Of the Magic Kingdom area resorts, Polynesian is probably our favorite. The pool area is a huge hit with our kids, the rooms are gorgeous and spacious, and we love the location. It is difficult to pass up the closeness to Magic Kingdom that the Contemporary resort offers, but we love the rooms and theming of the Polynesian more. We have an even harder time choosing between the Boardwalk area resorts. If based on rooms and theming then the award goes to Boardwalk Inn, but we much prefer the Stormalong Bay pool area to Boardwalk Inn's Luna Park Pool.
There is a sneaky fourth category of resorts called Deluxe Villas. All Deluxe Villas are sold as timeshares in Disney's Vacation Club (DVC), but can be booked directly through Disney. There are studio, one, two , and three bedroom sized villas. The amenities and theming are similar to the Deluxe resorts, and many actually share accommodations with the Deluxe resorts. The idea behind the Deluxe Villas is to be more "homelike," and you will find washers and dryers and full kitchens in many (one bedrooms and larger). There are eleven Deluxe Villa resorts: Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary, Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, Villas at Grand Floridian, Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Animal Kingdom Villas (Kidani Village and Jambo House), Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, and the Riviera Resort.
In our opinion, staying on Disney property is always better than staying outside the magic. We love being in the Disney bubble when we are on vacation. We would choose a Value resort over any off property resort every single time. While the Values may not have the luxury or extra amenities, they are still Disney World resorts. We also think it speaks volumes that when we ask our kids which resort they want to stay, more often than not, they will choose a Value resort. Of course, if not concerned about budget then we would choose a Deluxe.
Have you stayed at the different Walt Disney World resort categories? Which is your favorite and why? Please comment below, we'd love to hear from you!