By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Picking Your Walt Disney World Resort Based on Convenience

By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: DISNEY WORLD RESORT CONVENIENCE

This site recommends Disney’s Polynesian and Art of Animation Resorts based on their combination of convenience and kid-appeal.  If you need to pick a different resort, this material addresses the convenience of all resorts.

The same material is organized in two different ways.

  • One list ranks all resorts in order of convenience. You’ll find it here.
  • Another list groups the resorts by price category (see this for what you get by price category), and then by convenience, so you can see the most convenient resorts within a price level, and can be found here.

The rest of this page gives the basis for these lists, and ends with a note on future visits.

CONVENIENCE IS RELATIVE

  • No Walt Disney World Resort is more than 6 miles from the furthest theme park.  Even so, differences in travel time can make a difference in your overall enjoyment of your first family trip, as depending on where you stay, you may be taking as many as 20 bus rides on the Walt Disney World transportation system over the course of your vacation.  A less convenient resort that adds an extra ten minutes per bus ride adds up to more than three hours of wasted time. That’s an afternoon at the pool lost, or two great naps!
  • Convenience is also relative to where you are going.  On your first family vacation, the key destination is the Magic Kingdom, and after that Epcot.  So times and convenience to the Magic Kingdom gets the heaviest weight, and Epcot the second heaviest.

NOT JUST TRAVEL TIMES BUT ALSO VARIABILITY

There are a number of sources in books and on the web for travel times. They are mutually inconsistent, and in some cases internally inconsistent.  So I rode and timed the trips of a lot of buses, and the recommendations below are partially based on this data, supplemented by what seem to be more reliable other sources, as well as a couple of other factors:

  • Beside total trip time, another key basis of my recommendations is that, given the small number of trips you are taking, normal variability can swamp any point estimates of total trip time.  Variability comes from three sources.
    • First, the buses, although typically expected every 15 to 20 minutes, are not on an exact schedule. Other transportation modes (boats and monorails) are also variable.  All of the instructions in the daily itineraries about when to be at a stop add extra time to account for this variability.
    • Second, buses can be delayed in loading from large crowds on or off the bus, and/or the need to load or unload wheelchairs and scooters.
    • Third, most buses serve more than one stop–multiple stops at one resort, or stops at multiple resorts, or both–and each added stop adds not just length but also variability to total trip time.
  • Also, different resorts are served by buses with wildly varying resort rooms potentially served per bus, ranging from around 700 to near 4,000. Larger numbers of potential guest rooms served per bus indicate that you may need to wait in line for a second bus because the people ahead of you in line fill up the first bus to drive up, and also hints at whether you are likely to have to stand on your trip.

The lists rank resorts by convenience in terms of total likely trip time (weighted based on trips in the Basic Itinerary), adjusted for variability and for (weighted) resort rooms served per bus.

  • One list ranks all resorts in order of convenience. You’ll find it here.
  • Another list groups the resorts by price category (see this for what you get by price category), and then by convenience, so you can see the most convenient resorts within a price level, and can be found here.

NOTE FOR FUTURE VISITS

Convenience varies based on what you plan to do, and you will do different things in your future vacations, which likely will make the Epcot resorts more convenient then than they are for your first family trip.

This is because the parks at Walt Disney World are laid out like a backwards L, with the Magic Kingdom at the top of the L, the Animal Kingdom at the end of the bottom of the backwards L, and Epcot and Hollywood studios at the corner of the backwards L.  One of the Epcot resorts will put you in the center of the action.

Resorts that will move up the convenience scale for future trips because of this include the Epcot Resorts the Beach Club, the Yacht Club and the BoardWalk Inn, and also the nearby Caribbean Beach, Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts.

MORE ON WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD



18 comments

1 Shikia { 08.30.11 at 7:17 pm }

I have changed my plans, now i’ll be taking 3 girls aged from 5 to 6 yrs old and 2 adults. I am aiming for August 13-17th 2012. I was thinking about the Art of Animation Hotel for oukr lodging. My concerns for lodgeing is convience with transportation for the kids. I know Pop Century would have been the best choice but I have too many in my group. I am also thinking of the magic your way plus dining plan. With this in mind I have to make reservations for our table meal each night. Should i just plan a meal in that park for that day? I ask this because of yet again convience and time. Since I only have a five day trip with us leaving on the fifth day would i be able to use the park ticket on the fifth day if im flying out since check out is at 11am. If I cant use the ticket that day i will only purchase a four day. Planning this trip is more work than i expected but i have plenty of time to get my ducks in a row as they say. Are there cerntain days to see the fireworks at majic kingdom or is it done daily? After we get over this lump i’ll have an entire diffiernt set of questions for you! Thaks so much!

2 Dave { 08.31.11 at 1:23 pm }

Hi Shikia, I haven’t rated Art of Animation yet, but when I do I’m sure it’ll be on top. It’s right next to Pop Century and will be just fine!

August calendars won’t be out until Jan or Feb 2012, but typically at that time of year the MK fireworks will be on every night.

In all honesty, for a trip as short as yours I would not do a sit down meal every day, and thus would skip the dining plan.

Your time would be better spent on the rides than at that many sit-down meals. You may want to pick just one or two special meals and pay cash…e.g. Cinderella’s Royal Table…

You can use tix on the fifth day even if you are checking out that day. If you want, you can buy four days and on day 4 add the fifth day if you decide you need it. Doing it that way costs no more than buying all five days now, but means you don’t pay until you are sure you want it. Note that you have to add day 5 beforeday 4 ends or otherwise it’ll cost a heck more! (Thisd is a recent policy change by Disney.)

Hope this helps and keep your questions coming!

Dave

3 Monica M. { 11.27.11 at 9:04 am }

Hi Dave,
If you’ve already answered this somewhere else, feel free to direct me! First of all, we used a travel agent from Destinations in Florida as per your advice and I am so thankful! She has been incredible and has lifted a huge burden off my mind! (We will be doing 6 nights the first week of March.) My question is about transportation/busing around the parks. Do the buses not shuttle from park to park? We will have the Park Hopper Option, and I don’t see us doing much “hopping”, except for special events/dinners. Should we just figure out which resort is closest and ride the shuttle there, then walk to the park? Is an hour enough time to alott for this?
Thanks in advance! ~Monica M.

4 Dave { 11.27.11 at 12:42 pm }

Hi Monica!

Glad the crew at Destination is being a big help!

And yes, there’s always transport from one park to another.

At MK, you have to go to the ticket and transportation center (via ferry or monorail) and there get a bus to AK or HS, or the monorail to Epcot. At Epcot, you bus to AK, walk or take aboat from the International Gateway in World showcase to get to HS, and do the monorail/monorail or monorail/ferry for MK. AK is all buses. and HS is buses to AK and MK, but boat or walk to Epcot.

Note that for Epcot/HS there’s often a bus too…

5 Jaime { 06.10.12 at 3:33 pm }

Hi Dave! Your site has been invaluable as I have been planning our trip!
I’m looking into the nitty gritty of distances because we are traveling with 2 little ones and 2 grandparents (my mom has mobility issues and will probably use a wheelchair once we are in the parks). We are debating between The Villas at WL or Bay Lake Tower. We want quick access to MK but not sure if my mom could even do the walk from Contemporary to MK. Which is quicker: Walking from BLT to Contemporary to take monorail to MK or walking from Villas to main Wilderness Lodge and taking boat or bus? Also (I know these are picky questions), do you know how long the walk is from BLT to food/pool at Contemporary? What about Villas at WL to main WL? Which would you recommend overall based on our needs for minimal walking?
Thanks so much!
Jaime

6 Dave { 06.10.12 at 5:18 pm }

Hi Jaime, and glad the site is helping!

Just to be clear, I’m assuming “quicker” = “less walking or rolling.”

I’d go with BLT. It’s longer from BLT to the Contemporary than from the Villas at WL to the WL, but once you are in the Contemporary, the monorail/buses are right there. At WL, it’s another hike from the main building to the boat dock for MK…

7 Brooke { 03.12.13 at 3:42 pm }

Hi Dave…more questions! (Third one in the last week!) We will likely stay at either Pop Century or AoA when we go in 11 months. (Leaning towards AoA if we can get a room there.) A couple things I was wondering about in relation to the convenience factor. We will be driving to WDW and so will have our car available on the trip. Is it worth considering driving to and from the parks each day rather than taking the Disney buses? And, a somewhat related question, if we do drive to the parks each morning but want to eat first at Landscape of Flavors, could we drive from our room (it would be a Little Mermaid room) and have a place to park near Animation Hall? Or is that area pretty much reserved for buses and guests checking in? The 10 minute walk to breakfast would be fine, but then having to walk back to the room to get our car and go to the parks seems silly. Maybe it’s not worth driving anywhere once we’re on property, but from numerous reviews I’ve read, the buses seem like they could be an issue. I don’t want to spend alot of time waiting around for a bus if we have our own car and it would be easier to take that. Just curious…thanks for your help!

8 Dave { 03.12.13 at 5:41 pm }

Hi Brooke, for three of the four parks driving is always better than the buses. The exception is the Magic Kingdom, where it’s always better to take the bus!

And yes, there’s central parking at both Pop and AofA to which you can drive from your room, park, eat, and then drive to the parks…

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9 Brooke { 03.13.13 at 1:14 am }

Thanks so much Dave…I appreciate the advice! Just due to my own curiosity, why is it so much better to take the buses to MK?

10 Dave { 03.13.13 at 6:38 am }

Brooke, at MK, the parking lot is at the TTC, and after you park, you still have to take either a monorail or the ferry to get to the park entrance. This adds another 15-30 minutes to travel time for cars vs WDW buses, which drop you off right outside the MK entrance…

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11 Walt Disney World v. Disneyland - Disney Tourist Blog { 09.08.13 at 6:34 pm }

[…] As far as in-park costs go, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World are comparably priced. Ticket prices are about the same, as are food prices and souvenirs. Disneyland Resort does not have multiple hotel tiers, so if you stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels, expect to pay a lot per night of your stay (about as much as you’d pay at a Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort). Walt Disney World’s Moderate and Value Resorts are less expensive. However, off-site hotels are Disneyland Resort are much more conveniently located to the parks than off-site Walt Disney World hotels. We typically pay less for our off-site hotel at Disneyland Resort than we do for our on-site Walt Disney World hotel, and that off-site hotel is closer to the parks at Disneyland Resort than the hotels at which we stay in Walt Disney World! It’s touched upon above, but it’s important to know that not all Walt Disney World hotels are conveniently located. […]

12 Jane { 10.02.14 at 10:46 am }

Not sure where is the best place on the site to ask this Q: I am interested in using taxis a few times to spare us the ordeal of moving the car or getting on the bus. If you get a taxi to go from one park to another, can you get one easily? Can you get dropped off right at the gates of the MK, or do you have to go through the transportation center still? I want to avoid the transportation center, as it sounds like a madhouse. Specifically, we have one night with a babysitter where we will leave HS and then have to get back to HS for a dining res. Then later that night we may want to go to MK.

13 Dave { 10.03.14 at 6:57 am }

Jane the axis drop you off near the parks except, as you feared, at MK. At Mk it is indeed at TTC. Usually they are easy to get…

14 Diana { 02.19.17 at 11:12 am }

I want to make sure we are located by a pool with a hot tub and close to bus stop we booked one bedroom villa what do u reccomendi have special needs for my foot so need to be close to pool to soak my foot

15 Diana { 02.19.17 at 11:13 am }

Hi im staying at Saratoga Springs resort one bedroom villa which the best for close to pool and bus stop..
Diana

16 Dave { 02.19.17 at 2:44 pm }

Diana, there are multiple bus stops and multiple pools. All of them have hot tubs. Take a look at this, part of this review.

17 Rachel { 06.30.17 at 8:51 pm }

We have always stayed at Deluxes (first at Wilderness for 3 trips, then 3 at Contemporary, and staying at Beach Club this summer). Looking at a trip early March 2018, and considering Port Orleans Riverside. We do not rely on Disney transporation. Will I be annoyed/disappointed at a Moderate? I kind of have sticker shock on the rates for the dates I am looking at for the Wilderness…

18 Dave { 07.01.17 at 8:12 am }

Rachel, as long as your expectations are reasonable (smaller rooms–though comparable to WL; less kid appeal; less interesting pools; more sprawl) it’s a great idea. If you end up finding moderates adequate, then in future years you’ll save a lot of money.

You could also get deluxe style spaces at moderate prices by renting DVC points for a studio. See this.

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