(Next Best Resort Choices)

By Dave Shute

NEXT BEST CHOICES FOR WHERE TO STAY AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

This site recommends here the Polynesian for those who can afford it, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort for those who can’t.

For those who can’t, or won’t, stay at one of these two resorts, below are the next best options, in order, by price category.

See this for details on the features of the various resort price categories (Deluxe, Moderate, Value).

SUMMARY: BEST WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT CHOICES IN ORDER

Value Resorts:

Standard 4-person rooms:

  1. Art of Animation
  2. Pop Century
  3. All-Star Movies
  4. All-Star Sports
  5. All-Star-Music

Six-person “Family Suites”

  1. The Family Suites at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  2. The Family Suites at All-Star Music

Moderate resorts (not recommended for first time visitors, see this for why):

(The first four rankings are close, especially 3 and 4.)

Deluxe Resorts:

  1. BoardWalk Inn

(These rankings are NOT close.)

Disney Vacation Club resorts (not recommended for first time visitors, see this for why):

  1. The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Jambo House
  3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas–Kidani Village
  4. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  5. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
  6. Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  7. Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  8. Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  9. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, main resort
  10. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Treehouse Villas area.

(These rankings are NOT close.)

Campgrounds: (not recommended for first time visitors, see this for why)

WHY THESE ARE THE BEST CHOICES

The thumbnail (click to open, when open click again one or two times to enlarge) shows the basis of these recommendations: the resorts grouped by rankings of convenience and kid appeal.

See this for more on kid appeal, and this for more on convenience.

See this for details on the features of the various resort price categories (Deluxe, Moderate, Value).

REALLY GEEKY SUPPLEMENT

Also see How Many Square Feet in a Square Foot? for a review of Walt Disney World Resort room sizes compared to industry standards.

MORE ON WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD



34 comments

1 Jamie { 01.24.11 at 12:55 pm }

Hi, we’re a military family and the WDW Swan and Dolphin are offering discounted rooms at $109-$139. Where do they rank compared to the other resorts?

Thanks!!
Jamie

2 Dave { 01.24.11 at 4:32 pm }

Jamie–compared to the Disney owned and operated resorts, you are missing access to a couple of perks–Disney’s Dining Plan and Magical Express–but get to use Disney’s transport system and extra magic hours. The Swan and Dolphin are nicer than anything you can get from Disney in that price range, but are not as fun and kid friendly and “Disneyfied” as the Disney resorts. Their shared pools are to die for!

Compared to Shades of Green, you are paying more at S&D than you likely would at Shades, and the rooms are no nicer than those at Shades. Shades is much more convenient to the Magic Kingdom (the S&D are very convenient to Epcot and the Studios). Shades is also missing access to the perks the S&D don’t have. The ambiance of the hotel outside of the rooms is nicer at the Swan and Dolphin than at Shades. You will spend less on food, or not dine as well, depending on how you see it, at Shades compared to the Swan and Dolphin.

Note: if some of these phrases (“extra magic hours”) are a mystery, see the FAQ page!!

3 Carrie { 04.26.12 at 11:08 pm }

Do you know enough on AoA to be able to recommend that vs. Pop Century? The price diff between Polynesian and value resorts is just too much to justify (in my cheap eyes)…at least not when my kids are 5 and 8 and would think any hotel room is awesome ;) Thanks in advance!

4 Carrie { 04.26.12 at 11:10 pm }

PS: We are thinking of going Oct 26-Nov 2. We have to travel on either a Mon or Fri as Allegiant runs flights straight from our town to Orlando on those days (for about $300 round trip).

5 Dave { 04.27.12 at 6:30 am }

Hi Carrie, I expect that I’ll end up rating the 4 person rooms at AofA with, or ahead of, Pop Century…

6 Dave { 04.27.12 at 6:34 am }

Carrie–you probably know this, but Allegiant flies into Sanford, which is about 25 miles further away than the Orlando airport (MCO)

7 Carrie { 04.27.12 at 8:33 pm }

I did NOT know that! Thank you!!! I guess we won’t be getting the free shuttle service to and from the airport! Oops!

8 Sharon { 06.20.12 at 7:51 am }

Hi Dave! I LOVE your site – thank you for all your information!! Back in April, I booked our family of 4 at Pop Century for our first WDW trip 9/28-10/6 and requested a fourth floor room on the lake side of the ’70s area per your advice on this site! We have since moved our reservations to the AOA Little Mermaid standard room…Disney let us change for basically the same price – sooo excited! Do you have any advice on which building to stay at AOA? We would love to have a view of any fireworks (Epcot or Hollywood Studios). THANKS!!

9 Dave { 06.20.12 at 8:45 am }

Hi Sharon and thanks! Judging by the map, some building 9 rooms may have a view of Epcot/Studios–ask for a room facing the studios, or on the east side. Building 7 has lake views on one side, but you won’t be able to see anything re fireworks from there.

10 Kandy { 07.05.12 at 8:56 pm }

Dave, I wished I’d seen your website 2 years ago when we were planning our first trip to DW!! This information is amazing!! For our next trip, our family of 5 (2 parents, kids 3, 6, 9) is considering the Polynesian or the new Animation Resort. I’ve stayed at Polynesian, Dolphin, Animal Kingdom & Double Tree Suites at DTD. The pictures for AOA look fantastic & my age kiddos, would love it, plus the “newness” of it makes it more attractive. The Polynesian option is pushing our budget but I’m a true believer that you get what you pay for. So my question: what would you do? How much would we save going 11/24 vs 4/28? Thanks!

11 Dave { 07.06.12 at 7:24 am }

Kandy, thanks for the kind words! That’s a tough one, but if the Poly is pushing your budget, go with AA of A. You lose a lot–balconies, nice dining, pool slides, the monorail–but gain space and livability… Based on 2012 rates, A of A will be ~$50-60 (plus tax) more expensive per night in April vs November

12 Julie McQuitty { 07.19.12 at 6:51 am }

Hi Dave, Just seen your site, very helpful for our first trip to WDW this December.
My main question to you is we are a family of 2 normal sized adults and 2 teens aged 16 & 17 both tall and slim. The girls would like to stay at Pop (AOA mermaid rooms all booked out) but I am very concerned about the bed size.
Do you think we could all share the 2 double beds comfortably or too difficult? I know getting 2 rooms would be better but I guess if possible I would prefer to stay the money for other things. Things to consider are that we will only be in the rooms to sleep etc but still I don’t want to spoil the trip by everyone being disappointed. Though if you think it would certainly make the holiday a lot more comfortable by booking 2 rooms I will. I really just want an honest opinion.
Many thanks

13 Dave { 07.19.12 at 7:47 am }

Hi Julie…it’s hard for me to say whether the full beds will work for you, as it depends a lot on what you are all used to. One thing to consider is that if you just want queen beds, consider Port Orleans French Quarter or Coronado Springs (links to them are here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/10/28/the-moderate-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/ ) These are less expensive than two rooms at Pop…

14 Shana { 01.03.13 at 8:59 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are booked at Fort Wilderness Lodge in October. The resort looks great and your review was very complimentary. My question is….is the resort really loud? From what I can tell, it looks like your rooms may be off of the huge open lobby. We are generally light sleepers! I keep seeing notes about how noisy the Whispering Canyon Cafe is. Is that true for the rest of the resort? Do you have a recommendation on where to stay at this resort in order to be in a fairly quiet location? Thanks!

15 Dave { 01.04.13 at 7:33 am }

Hi Shana! If you are a light sleeper, you want to request a “Woods View,” which will insure you avoid both lobby and pool noise!

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16 aimee { 01.04.13 at 8:20 am }

Honeymooning in disney and recent discounts have given us more options. Would you stay at Animal Kingdom in a pool view and have extra money for a fire works cruise and room service or would staying at Boardwalk with no extra money for room service or a cruise be worth it?

17 Dave { 01.04.13 at 8:46 am }

Hiya Aimee! I really like your AKL idea. Not sure I’d spend the saved money on the fireworks cruise, though…maybe instead an extra spacial dinner–at Jiko at AKL, or Narcosseess, Citricos or Victoria and Albert at GF?

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18 Shana { 01.04.13 at 8:48 am }

Thanks, Dave. I booked a standard room with our package. Do I need to change that now or do you think they will honor the woods view request at check-in?

19 Dave { 01.04.13 at 9:22 am }

Shana, the Woods view has an upcharge of about $30/night so I would re-book if you can–otherwise you would be counting on a free upgrade–not impossible, but not likely either. See this for prices: http://www.mousesavers.com/2013-wilderness-lodge-room-rates-season-dates/

20 how to find a place for 2 families of 8 - 4 adults and 4 kids below 12 { 02.28.13 at 10:22 pm }

we are looking for a two-bedrooms suite which can hold two families – 4 kids all under 12; which one would you recommend? thank you very much! Should we look for vacation rental outside of Disney?

21 Dave { 03.01.13 at 7:06 am }

Hi, for large family options on-site, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/ and its links.

Off site will likely be much cheaper, but not nearly as much fun. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/01/27/the-tightwads-guide-to-staying-off-site-at-walt-disney-world/

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22 Kristy { 04.05.13 at 3:21 pm }

where would you suggest staying for a first time couple without kids. Preferably as cheap as possible.

23 Dave { 04.06.13 at 9:10 am }

Hi Kristy! The best answer for couples and cheap is All-Star Music. See this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/27/review-disneys-all-star-music-resort/ and also this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/06/26/the-most-romantic-walt-disney-world-resorts/

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24 Kimm { 05.05.13 at 3:11 pm }

Hello. Sounds like asking you is easier than searching 5000 sites!!! We are going early june and want to visit harry potter/universal for a day and WDW for a day. What is the most reasonable way to do this and where to stay. Thanks for your insight.

25 Dave { 05.06.13 at 12:04 pm }

Hi Kimm–a day is fine for Harry Potter–see this–http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/12/13/summary-of-instructions-for-your-first-family-visit-to-the-wizarding-world-of-harry-potter/ which also has thoughts on where to stay, but for WDW about 6 days would be better. If you can do only one, focus it on the Magic Kingdom.

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26 Emily { 08.31.13 at 9:33 pm }

So much great advice here!! We are first time visitors going with a 9 and 6 yr old in Feb/march 2014. We are staying for a week and need to take one day to visit universal for my Harry potter obsessed son. I’m definitely into convenience but am afraid of all the construction at the Polynesian. Lots of people I know also rave about Animal Kingdom, but then are telling me that’s the one park to skip if we need to. Would it be crazy to stay there so we can experience the park without actually going? Or is staying near Epcot better? Wilderness Lodge doesn’t interest us because we go great wolf lodge every year so we don’t need the faux-wilderness theme. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

27 Dave { 09.02.13 at 8:44 am }

Hi Emily, a couple of things! First for your 6 year old, the one park to skip is Epcot, not the Animal Kingdom (your 9 year old is old enough to fully enjoy them all); second, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is near, but not in, the Animal Kingdom park. So if the Poly construction is troublesome to you–I don’t expect it to be that big a deal–and you have ruled out the Wilderness Lodge, I’d vote for the Animal Kingdom Lodge…

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28 Emily { 09.02.13 at 12:19 pm }

Am I overreacting to the construction? It sounds like many of the rooms have already been redone, right? Is there an better option C I’m not considering?

29 Dave { 09.03.13 at 6:57 am }

Emily the reason to stay at the Poly is its combination of kid appeal and convenience. The construction–and frankly, no one knows what will be happening your dates–does not affect that…

30 Jason { 09.17.13 at 3:30 pm }

So if the Polynesian becomes less appealing in the near future (Tahiti, Rapa Nu unavaialble as they become DVC; pool is unavailable for construction), I assume your next best recommendation is Wilderness Lodge for the Deluxe Resort catagory? Also, are their any pros/cons of the Villas at WL versus the lodge itself – if we did WL we are considering a 1 bedroom villa (still would be cheaper than a lagoon or MK view at the Poly)?

31 Dave { 09.17.13 at 5:47 pm }

Jason, I’m not sure…Poly gets its ranking for kid appeal and convenience, and the DVC conversion (and construction) won’t change that much. Moreover, some of the Tokelau and Rapa Nui conversions will be to studios…which will be just fine substitutes for traditional Poly rooms.

A one bedroom villa at the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, however, is a wonderful choice. Overall you have more kid appeal than the Poly, less convenience–especially for Epcot–and much more, and more livable, space. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/02/07/review-the-villas-at-disneys-wilderness-lodge/

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32 Rachel { 03.12.14 at 8:14 am }

Good Morning Dave!
OK, so I have a bit of a dilemma. My family of 4 is booked to stay @ AOA (Little Mermaid Room) from 8/10-8/17. This will be our first and likely last trip for awhile. With the new room deal out should I switch to a different hotel so I can take advantage of the 35% off discount?? We’d ideally love to stay at Wilderness but I don’t know how much more expensive that’d make it. We are already staying an additional two nights @ Royal Pacific to end our trip so don’t want to completely blow our budget.
So the question is…should we keep our reservation @ AOA or switch it to somewhere else?

Thanks so much, your sight is fabulous!! Can’t wait to buy your book :)

33 Rachel { 03.12.14 at 1:31 pm }

Scratch that…just heard from my travel agent that the site that mentioned the deal was wrong! Bummer!! Hopefully something will come out soon.

34 Dave { 03.13.14 at 7:31 am }

Rachel, you can find the base prices–to which the discounts will be applied–here: http://www.mousesavers.com/2014-disney-world-resort-room-rates-season-dates/

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