When planning your Walt Disney World vacation, one of the most fun and exciting parts is deciding on which Disney resort you want to stay! Your resort will be your home base through out your trip, and choosing where you want to spend your time outside of the theme parks is an important decision. As you begin your research, or perhaps begin discussing options with your travel agent, you will quickly discover resorts are categorized into three different groups: Value, Moderate and Deluxe. As you can probably guess, Value resorts are the least expensive, Deluxe resorts are the most expensive, and Moderate resorts are somewhere in the middle. Less obvious, are all the similarities and differences between the three resort categories. But do not despair! We have you covered with all the most important need-to-know information when considering your Walt Disney World resort options.
Let's start with the 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. 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, but not always a fan favorite for adults. The resorts are large and spread out with exterior room entry through outdoor corridors. 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, as 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 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. Art of Animation is the newest of the Value resorts, has a more expansive pool (the largest on property), and the food court has more options. The family suites actually face an interior hallway, which is a nice added perk for a Value resort. The price reflects the upgrades of Art of Animation as well, as the cost of a family suite is more on par with the Moderate resorts.
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 from. 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. 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).
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 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, many also offering a character dining experience. Every Deluxe resort also has club level rooms and suites. The pools and common areas are a highlight of the Deluxe properties, and many offer partial theme park or fireworks view rooms. It is worth mentioning that Deluxe guests actually receive Extended Evening Theme Park hours at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, which is a huge benefit available to Deluxe guests only. 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 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. Animal Kingdom Lodge is the most isolated of the Deluxe resorts and requires bus transportation to all four theme parks.
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 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. That being said, while the price tag of the Deluxe resorts is high, the benefits of staying at a Disney World Deluxe property can be incredibly valuable for your overall vacation experience.