We cannot tell you how many times we hear this! Choosing where to stay on your Disney vacation is a BIG decision. It can be stressful researching all the many options, especially because there are so many great places to stay! This is why we absolutely recommend working with a travel agent specializing in Disney (even if it isn't us). A good travel agent can really narrow down your resort list and help you make the right choice for your family.
We will eventually feature all the many resort options at Disney World because we love them all for different reasons. Today, we want to focus on families with young children. We always recommend families with littles stay as close to the magic as possible for obvious reasons. Your time in the parks is already more limited with younger kids, they just don't have the stamina to stay in the parks (and heat) forever. Staying close allows you to return to your resort for breaks and cuts down on time waste both to and from the parks.
Another common request we hear from young families is space. Many families with a napping toddler or baby really want more of a separated sleep space than a traditional hotel room provides. Unfortunately, Disney cannot guarantee connecting rooms unless your family exceeds the maximum occupancy (think 2 adults and 3 kids), so if you are a family of 4 and just want the extra space connecting rooms can provide you can make the request, but it is not guaranteed.
HOWEVER The Swan and Dolphin resorts WILL guarantee connecting rooms! The Swan and Dolphin are not Disney owned resorts, but they are on property (in a highly desirable location as well) and receive most of the same perks as the Disney Resorts. The main difference is they use Mears bus transportation (drops off at the Ticket and Transportation Center rather than the main entrance of Magic Kingdom like the Disney buses) to and from the parks and you cannot use magic bands at their resort. If those two things are important to you then go ahead and cross Swan and Dolphin off your list, and skip ahead. If you are cool with different bus transportation and don't mind that magic bands will not work here then read on. The
all pictures from swandolphin.com
Swan and Dolphin are located at the Disney Boardwalk area. This is a HUGE perk. Not only do you have access to all the shopping, dining, and entertainment on the Boardwalk, but you are also walkable to TWO parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Remember what we said about being close to the parks with littles?? The Swan and Dolphin resorts tick that box. They also offer another interesting option worth exploring called family suites. These rooms are either larger than a standard hotel room, or have a partition that divides the bed from the living room (with sofa bed). Overall, with the room options and proximity to two Disney theme parks, we rank the Swan and Dolphin resorts as a solid choice for families with young children.
Venture over to the Swan and Dolphin website or discuss with your travel agent if interested to price out your options. We find prices to be incredibly variable based on travel dates, but as a general rule rooms are going to be more expensive here than your Disney value and moderate category resorts, but cheaper than a Disney deluxe resort.
Want a less expensive option? Then head on over to Disney's Art of Animation! Previously, we would have left this one off our list, but with the addition of the Disney Skyliner the family suites at Art of Animation have become a strong contender. The Disney Skyliner can be used to take you to TWO theme parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. While not as convenient as being able to walk or hop on the monorail, the Skyliner makes for a fun journey to the theme park. We always appreciate having a second method of transportation option, which is why we are featuring the family suites at Art of Animation over All Star Music.
all pictures from Disneyworld.go.com
Now let's get to the rooms! The theming at AofA is perfect for youngsters. They will be in awe of the bright colors and fun designs, and should recognize many of the characters. Family suites are either themed as Finding Nemo, Lion King, or Cars. The Little Mermaid rooms are adorable (and much cheaper), but are NOT family suites. The layout of the family suite is similar to a one bedroom apartment. You will have one bedroom with a queen sized bed and double sized murphy bed, and then a sofa bed in the living room where you can also find a kitchenette. It is a great set-up for families! Fun fact, Art of Animation actually has the largest pool on Disney property. Your kids will love it!
You can check out prices for your dates on the Disney World website, or talk to your travel agent for quotes. Even though Art of Animation is categorized as a value resort, the family suites are actually often more expensive than many standard rooms at a moderate resort. That being said, we still think the room set-up and Skyliner access make Art of Animation a resort you should consider.
Still not happy with the prices? Then perhaps you might want to look at the Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness resort. Before you dismiss this idea because you are not coming to Disney World to "rough it" please listen to why we think the Cabins at Fort Wilderness are a dark horse for the best family resort at Disney World.
all pictures from disneyworld.go.com
Fort Wilderness is a short boat ride away from Magic Kingdom, which is most likely the park you are going to want to spend the most time in if you have small children. Being close to Magic Kingdom also gives you the ability to hop on the monorail relatively easily and take a ride over to Epcot.
The Cabins at Fort Wilderness give you more privacy than a hotel room, which is nice if your kids are easily roused by the busy sounds of a crowded resort. The layout, as you can see pictured above, has one bedroom with a queen sized bed and twin bunk beds. The living room has a sofa bed AND a full size kitchen! Plus you also have your own private porch. The recreation options at Fort Wilderness are excellent with horseback riding, archery, wagon rides, pool, and all kinds of water sports. Two of Disney's most popular entertainment options are located at Fort Wilderness, The Hoop Dee Do Musical Review and Mickey's Backyard BBQ (returning 2022).
The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness are typically less than the family suites at Art of Animation, but this is of course subject to availability and you should check rates for your selected dates. We think the Cabins are an excellent choice for families with young kids because of proximity to Magic Kingdom and additional space for your family. The resort recreational amenities are also an added plus.
Are there not closer resort options with more flexible room layouts, you ask? Why yes! You just need to be prepared to spend a pretty penny. Every deluxe resort also has Disney Vacation Club villas, or as they are more commonly known as, DVC resorts. The Disney Vacation Club is a timeshare program, but a certain number of villas are still bookable through Disney to regular guests. Disney has studio, 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, and 3 bedroom villas.
all pictures from Disneyworld.go.com
While there are many DVC villa resorts, for the purpose of this post we are focusing on the villas that are the best for families with young children. For this reason, Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Resort Villas and Bungalows, and the Villas at the Grand Floridian are our top picks. All resorts are walkable (would be a long walk from the Poly, but doable!) to Magic Kingdom and on the monorail. This makes TWO parks easily accessible to the monorail resorts. Important to note, however; is the Polynesian Resort only offers studio villas and does not have 1, 2, or 3 bedroom villas. So why did we put the Polynesian on the list? Because the Poly has something better! Bungalows!! If money really is no issue then book yourself an over the water bungalow with multiple bedrooms, full kitchen, and living spaces.
While certainly the most expensive on the list, the monorail resorts definitely check all the boxes with their villas and bungalows. If separate sleeping spaces are important for your family vacation and you want to be as close to the magic as possible, you can't beat the convenience and luxury of the monorail resorts. Also, every 1 bedroom and larger villa has a washer and dryer and a full size kitchen.
It is worth noting that the Boardwalk area villa resorts are also accessible to two theme parks and have the same flexible room layouts as the monorail villa resorts. While we absolutely love the Boardwalk and Beach Club Villas, when planning a vacation with small children we find one of the monorail resorts to be the better choice. That being said, if your family loves Epcot or Hollywood Studios then we would re-evaluate that decision!
In conclusion, there are many great resort options for families with small children at Disney World. We focused on two specific criteria when choosing the resorts on this list, 1. proximity to parks and 2. separate sleeping spaces. We hope this helps you make a more informed resort stay decision for your next Disney World vacation with young kids!
Are you going to Disney World with small children? Where do you want to stay? Or have you already traveled to Disney with littles and have advice to share? Please comment down below, we'd love to hear from you!