(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



49 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!

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

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?

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

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/

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

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/

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

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.

Follow yourfirstvisit.net on Facebook!

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…

Was this even remotely helpful? Then mosey on over to the home page, and like it on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest!

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/

Was this even remotely helpful?

Well then mosey on over to the home page, and like it on Facebook or pin it on Pinterest!

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/

35 Kerri { 04.24.14 at 10:50 am }

Hi Dave –
Your site is great! We are taking our first trip Oct 26-oct 31 with extended family who are seasoned Disney vacationers. They are all staying at POR (no kids). Our kids are 4 and 7. Our kids are AWFUL to sleep with and cannot share a bed. My husband and I are miserable if we sleep with them. So we are looking for a place where everyone has their own bed. Do all the rooms at Alligator Bayou at POR have a bunk or just select rooms? I called Disney a couple weeks ago and they said they cannot promise a bunk in POR. As alternatives they suggested AoA suites or bunk bed rooms at the Wilderness (our kids recently stayed at a hotel with bunk beds and they LOVED it). Both are more than we intended to spend for this visit, but not impossible. We realize there is more kid appeal at WL and AoA, but it would be nice if all the family were at the same resort. We intend to return in 3 or 4 years.
My questions are: Do all rooms at POR in the Alligator Bayou section have a bunk? What are our chances of getting a bunk? (POR is by far the least expensive of our options, so that’s a plus.) Between the Wilderness Resort or AoA which would you recommend? Lastly, which of the 3 is the best choice based on convenience of using Disney buses? I read that there are no direct buses for WL and some have found that very inconvenient.
Thanks,
Kerri

36 Kerri { 04.24.14 at 11:20 am }

ooops! My last question should be “Which of the 2 resorts (meaning AoA or WL) is the best choice based on convenience of using Disney buses?” Thanks! Kerri

37 Dave { 04.25.14 at 8:16 am }

Kerri, some of the Alligator Bayou rooms are adapted for access and don’t have the murphy bed. See this: http://www.portorleans.org/alligator-bayou.php One thing to consider is bringing a twin-sized air mattress…

Wilderness Lodge is not the resort with the buses problem–that’s Fort Wilderness! Between AofA and Wilderness Lodge, I’d grab Wilderness Lodge in a heartbeat, if you can afford it. But if I were you, with the other couple at POR I’d do Alligator Bayou with a back-up air mattress…

38 Kerri { 04.26.14 at 11:01 am }

Thanks, Dave! When I called Disney they couldn’t tell me how many rooms had bunks. You are great!!!
So for the week we are going, what do you think the chances are of getting a room in the Alligator Bayou with a bunk? I understand that families of 5 are booked in these rooms before we would be, so I know we’d be taking a chance (hence, the air mattress)… but any guesses? I know we are going at what is considered a moderately “low” time.

Also, any recommendations of what rooms/areas to request at the Wilderness Lodge? Are bunk rooms all located in a one area? Some reviews talk about being able to see fireworks at night from the balconies which the kids would love! I think we are going to book at WL and if we decide we can’t afford it switch to POR or AoA, which the Disney rep said we could do prior to Sept.
Thanks again!!!

Kerri

39 Dave { 04.26.14 at 12:04 pm }

Kerri, are you doing a room only reservation? If so, you can always add a fictitious child to your trip, and thus become 5… Otherwise there’s no way to quote the odds. WDW hotels fill even during low crowd periods (it’s people staying outside of WDW who drive variable crowds) so there’s no solace there.

At WL there’s a small group of fifth floor rooms on the NW corner of WL that can see a tiny bit of fireworks over the trees from a great distance. In other words…ignore this. The best places to stay there are near the end of this page. http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/01/07/review-disneys-wilderness-lodge-2/

40 Gemma { 05.27.14 at 2:33 pm }

Hi dave, How much is it to use the lockers in wdw?

41 Dave { 05.28.14 at 8:26 am }

Gemma $7 to $9 plus a $5 refundable key deposit. See https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/locker-rentals/

42 Deb { 06.02.14 at 10:55 pm }

Hello, need your opinion for this first timer. I won a trip for 4 nights – 5 days. I have to pick my hotel accommodations which are the number 2 through 8 on your deluxe resort list. They all sound good..so i am thinking about my husband with the bad back. I want to make it easy traveling back and forth to the parks from the resort. Which are the top 3 in your opinion for someone who can’t walk all day?

43 Dave { 06.03.14 at 7:16 am }

Deb, there’s so much walking in the parks at WDW that the walks in the hotels pale in comparison…the most compact footprint is the Contemporary, and nothing else really comes close. Cool prize BTW!

44 Tiffany { 06.19.14 at 2:34 pm }

Hi, I need some advice. We are planning a disney trip for december (like the first, second, or third week). Last time we went my youngest child was 1 so we were able to get a one bedroom villa and share with my parents. EVERYONE LOVED IT. We had our hearts set on doing the same but somewhere else of the same value (like the floridian or contemporary) just to move around and see what else there is. We are trying to rent through DVC rental store but cannot find anything. I did not notice this until now but most of the one bedrooms allow only five people to a room (with my youngest now being three we have an issue). We sleep with our kids on the king bed and my parents sleep on the queen pull out. What are my options? What would you do or where would you rent?
Thank you in advance.

45 Dave { 06.20.14 at 7:56 am }

Tiffany, experienced visitors know that’s a great time to go. DVC owners, by definition, are experienced visitors, so it can be very hard to rent points for then. Moreover only a few one bedroom spaces allow 5–OKW, BLT, GF, and the Animal Kingdom Villas. Of these, you’ll see the most availability at Old Key West, and the least at BLT and GF.

46 Heather { 06.27.14 at 10:28 am }

Hey Dave,
We are staying at the Contemporary the first week of December (Your #1 pick for a week YAY!!! ). While the crowd calender says that it should be lower crowds, Our entire hotel and the BLT are booked up (and has been for a while), as well as others are getting crowded as well. Will the hotel be that busy at this time of the year? Or are the crowd calenders just for the parks? I am worried about crowds for Dining at the resort, pool crowds, etc!
Thanks for the advice!

47 Dave { 06.27.14 at 12:24 pm }

Heather, the crowd claendar is for waits in the parks, and nothing else. It’s routine for the Disney hotels to be fully booked during low crowd weeks. This is because experienced Disney visitors know that a. that’s a great time to go, and b. that it’s more fun to stay in a Disney hotel than off-site. Low crowd weeks have their biggest impact on off-site hotels. On-site hotels can be mobbed, as can dining. But the rides, not so much!

48 Gayle { 06.29.14 at 11:48 am }

Dave, We’re going to WDW the early part of Feb. 2015. Our daughter, son-in-law and their 3 year old will be with us. We’ve made reservations at the Polynesian, but our daughter is having second thoughts due to the fact that she thinks there will be better dining options for them at the Contemporary, since they’re all vegetarians. Also, she thinks the Contemporary will be just as convenient (important with a 3-yr-old) and less expensive than the Polynesian. What do you think? Also, I’ve read that Contemporary is noisier. Also, I’m worried it’s too late to change our reservations and still get desirable rooms should we decide to change. Help!

49 Dave { 06.30.14 at 7:19 am }

Hi Gayle! The Contemporary is more convenient for MK, and less typically expensive–though it varies by view and season, and 2015 prices aren’t out yet.

I don’t have an opinion on vegetarian options, but see this: http://goflorida.about.com/od/wheretoeat/a/wdw_Vegetarians-Guide-to-Disney-World-Resorts.htm

Moreover, construction at the Poly likely won’t be done then.

All things considered, for the specifics of your group, I agree with your daughter! I don’t foresee an issue in getting a great room that far from now…

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem Easy Guide Banner

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2014 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.