By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





d. Where to Stay at Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: WHERE TO STAY AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

Where to Stay at Walt Disney World from yourfirstvisit.netStay in Disney’s Polynesian Resort  if you can afford it, or in a standard room at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort if you are on a tight budget.

(Note: only 5 people can stay in one standard room at the Polynesian, and only 4 at Art of Animation. If your family is too large for a single room, see Large Families at Walt Disney World.)

If neither of these works for you, see Next Best Resort Choices.

STAY AT A WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT

You should stay at an official Walt Disney World resort hotel, as doing so gives you special privileges that your itinerary takes advantage of.

  • Most important is the ability to reserve FastPass+ 60 days ahead–everyone staying elsewhere except at the Swan or Dolphin gets only 30 days ahead to book their rides. This helps optimize your trip, and is crucial for a couple of high demand attractions–meeting Anna and Elsa, and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
  • Disney hotel guests can book dining for the next ten days once 180 days from their arrival date rolls around–everyone else can just book 180 days ahead. This can be a key to getting high demand meals like dinner at Be Our Guest.
  • Disney’s Magical Express will bring you back and forth from the Orlando airport (MCO) for free–which can save hundreds on rental car fees or taxi costs.
  • Another is access to the Disney Dining Plan, which may save you some money if you eat where this site’s itineraries suggest you do, and you have kids younger than ten. (See How to Eat.)

CRITERIA FOR PICKING AMONG DISNEY RESORTS

This site selects from among the 25 or so  possible Walt Disney World resort hotels based on two criteria:

  1. Appeal to kids (for obvious reasons) and
  2. Transportation convenience, because of all the trips you will be making back and forth from your resort to the various parks, attractions and shows.

KID APPEAL

Lobby Disney's Wilderness Lodge from yourfirstvisit.netKid appeal is principally visual, and it means whether the look of a resort has features that speak to kids of whimsy, playfulness, and adventure, signaling that that this resort was designed for them! (And not necessarily for their parents…)

The resorts with kid appeal are, in order

  1. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  2. (Near-tie with #1) Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  3. Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  4. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  5. (Near tied)  Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s All-Star MoviesAll-Star Sports,  and All Star Music  Resorts.

None of the other resorts has enduring, whimsical kid appeal. See this for more on kid appeal.

CONVENIENCE

Monorail From Polynesian from yourfirstvisit.netThese resorts noted above with kid appeal break into two categories.

  • The first 3 are classified by Walt Disney World as “Deluxe” resorts, and
  • The rest are classified by Disney as “Value” resorts

(See this for details on what you get in each resort category.)

Because the price difference between these categories is so high, separate hotels are recommended within each of the two categories. (Other categories exist, but are not recommended for first-time visitors–see Where Not to Stay for why.)

Within the kid-appealing Walt Disney World resorts, the tie breaker is transportation convenience, particularly to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks, as you will be making more trips to these parks than any others.

Of the three kid-appealing deluxe resorts, the Polynesian is far and away the most convenient.

  • It is one of only three resorts served by the resort monorail that directly connects to the Magic Kingdom, and the only one of the kid appealing resorts to do so
  • Is the only resort within easy walking distance of the Epcot monorail that directly serves Epcot, and
  • Is the only resort for which you can take the express monorail back from the Magic Kingdom, walking from where the monorail stops at the Transportation and Ticketing Center back to the hotel–and saving often 10 to 30 minutes.

Among the Walt Disney World value resorts with kid appeal–the All-Star Music, Movies and Sports Resorts, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation ResortArt of Animation and Pop Century tie as convenience winners, but the choice is not so clear cut.

Collectively, transportation is slightly less convenient at the All-Stars than at Pop Century and at Art of Animation, principally because during slower periods many of the buses at All-Stars serve more than one of these resorts–often all three of the All-Star Resorts.

This bus sharing, when it happens, both slows down and makes more variable the All Star round-trip time to and from the parks, and tends to make the buses and bus stops more crowded than at Pop and Art of Animation, each of which has just one bus stop, not shared with any other resorts.

Total travel times, over your entire vacation, likely would be nearly equivalent, but the time spent in Pop Century and Art of Animation transit seems more productive, more predictable, and less frustrating.

See this for more on convenience.

MORE ON WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD

The 2017 easy Guide

Kelly B Can Help You Book Your Trip

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251 comments

1 Michele { 08.14.16 at 10:14 pm }

Thank you, Dave!

2 Stephanie { 09.21.16 at 10:18 am }

Hi Dave! First of all, your site is amazing! I am trying to plan my family’s first (and probably only) trip to WDW fall of 2017. I want to take your advice and stay at the Poly because of all of your reasons, however I can’t help but think my 2 younger daughters (will be 7 & 10 when we go) would love the suites at Art of Animation due to the Nemo or Little Mermaid rooms. What would your thoughts be on splitting the trip and staying 4 nights at Poly & 4 nights at AOA?

3 Dave { 09.22.16 at 10:48 am }

Stephanie, splitting is a fine idea! Note, though that there are no Little Mermaid suites–the only suites are Cars Lion King and Nemo. Little Mermaid rooms are standard rooms.

4 Eric { 09.22.16 at 11:11 am }

^^If splitting the trip to two hotels, does Disney “take care of” all your bags? Or are we left to transport them independently?

5 Dave { 09.24.16 at 7:19 am }

Eric, yes Disney will move your bags–check with the concierge the night before to get specifics.

6 Nikki { 12.09.16 at 1:43 am }

Hi again,

Loving all this info and reading all questions! The internet and blogs have me on info overload. We are planning for our 1st trip with our little guy for his 3rd birthday . We are really thinking we will only be able to afford the All Star Resort(AoA was my pick, but for the $, mightest well upgrade). I like the the theming outside of Movie. However, I have heard so many mixed reviews! Im getting nervous. We will also have my parents with us, so 4 adults and a toddler. Will these rooms suffice? Just want all of our 1st trips especially little guys (who is Mickey obsessed) to be magical. Thoughts?

7 Dave { 12.09.16 at 8:23 am }

Nikki, I don’t know anyone who thinks the All Stars are an upgrade over AofA. Four adults and a toddler will be quite cramped in any value resort standard room, especially if anyone is over 5′ 9″, as the beds are full-sized. It’s been done, a lot, and you won’t be in your room much.

Note also that Disney only allows 4 people 3 or older to be booked into these rooms.

8 Tom LJ { 01.13.17 at 11:20 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the site, it is amazing. I am planning a trips for 3 families for mid-September 2017, or possibly later recommended weeks. 7 adults, 4 kids, 6,9,9,11 yrs. We are considering Boulder Ridge DVC, and I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding construction status at that point?

Thanks in advance.
tom

9 Dave { 01.15.17 at 8:18 am }

Tom, I’ll have a point of view after my visit there at the end of this month.

10 Tom { 01.16.17 at 2:17 pm }

Thanks a Dave, i noticed that you were headed there the end of the month after seeing another post. At this point we are looking at either 3 studios at the Poly, or sharing a 3 bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower as potential alternatives.

11 Jen { 01.17.17 at 10:05 am }

Hi Dave, Great site! I have been reading so much! lol
I plan on doing a first, and possibly only Disney vacation this coming Dec. with my 8 yo daughter and 12 yo son. I am going to try and get free dining when it is released, and am contemplating the Cabins at FW. My son is getting into being a lazy teen (lol) but likes fishing and fires ect. We think this might be a good resort to get a camping trip and a Disney vacation all in one; as we talked about renting a cottage for a summer vacation as well this year. Do you think this would be worth it for us? I plan on an 8 night trip, with 2 days to hang out at the resort, 6 days for parks. I welcome any recommendations! Thank you 🙂

12 Dave { 01.17.17 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Jen, see my review of the cabins here. These work much better if you have a car!

13 Tom LJ { 01.28.17 at 6:19 pm }

Welcome back from the trip Dave.

Hope is was great. I have been doing more reading with regard to various room options for our group of 11. I am dazed and confused at the moment. I’d like to have tried the Poly with 3 studios, but we are looking for one room with a stove, since we have some people with food challenges. Given the Poly doesn’t have stoves, I suppose we could bring a couple of hot plates along.

Apart from that option, I am leaning Bay Lake Tower, getting a dedicated 2 bedroom for convenience more than kid appeal, followed by Boulder Creek for kid appeal then convenience. We ride buses every day, so either a launch or monorail would make it a bit more special. I am expecting Boulder Creek will still have significant construction, given they are building the lakeside cabins? At least that is the rumor I have heard.

Looking forward to your follow up.

Tom

14 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 01.28.17 at 8:23 pm }

HI Tom –

I’m Kelly, the dedicated Destinations in Florida Travel agent for Your First Visit. I would love to help you and your family plan your upcoming Disney Vacation.

If you are staying in a standard room/Studio, hot plates are not allowed in the rooms. In order to have a stove top, you would need to get villas, like the ones you mentioned.

The Disney Dining plan is a great option and can save lots of time and money. While the monorail will bring you back and forth quickly to the resort you mentioned, that isn’t the case for AK, EP or HS. That quick “back to the room for lunch/dinner”, takes a lot longer than you think. Depending if you catch the bus in time it could take about an hour one way. Hour to eat, hour to return. So that “quick” lunch just turned it 3 hours out of your day.

Wilderness lodge still is experiencing renovations, with no guarantee the will be done when you visit. Switching to standard rooms, could decrease your price. With the savings you could purchase the dining plan and not need the stove top.

Just some ideas. I would love to discuss more details. Please feel free to contact me at 980-429-4499 or by email at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com

15 Dave { 01.29.17 at 7:58 pm }

Tom, Kelly is my travel agent partner. She’s right about both the hot plate (fire code) and the time back and forth to the room. I’m not as keen on the dining plan as she is, but if you have a ton of kids along 3-9 years old and plan a lot of one credit character buffets, it can save some fair change.

I walked about WL on Wednesday, and the bungalow exteriors are largely done, the new quick service will open any day now, and the pool has its bones in. The pool could be done anytime from March through July (later is more likely). It’s hard to tell when the villas being built in the main lodge will be done, but I’m sure the “noisy” part of that will be done soon.

16 Tom LJ { 01.30.17 at 4:23 pm }

Hello Dave and Kelly,

Thanks for the very speedy update, Dave. You set the bar high in terms of response and it is appreciated that you also deliver. The hot plate is not a surprise, now that I think about it. We have discussed the room situation in a bit more detail with each family and having a stove is pretty important. Two of the kids have pretty strong allergies, so Disney Dining is probably not an option. The littlest boy – 6 when we visit – cannot have any grains, so finding food without corn, wheat, rice is always a challenge. Gluten and sugar are relatively easy when compared to that. Essentially he has to eat a ‘paleo’ diet, but not by choice. Pools are not a huge concern as our daughter has a severe chlorine allergy. An hour at the pool equals anywhere from 1-4 days in the hospital.

I will follow up with you via email, Kelly, and see what options you can think of. We are pretty much expecting to rent DVC points and have a school friend whose home resort is BLT. She has 220 points she is trying to sell and is okay working through David’s Vacation Club Rentals.

I will follow up later today.

Thanks to you both!
Tom

17 Linda { 04.18.17 at 10:51 am }

Hi Dave,
I’ve been to WDW three times now and still turn to your site for advice! Thanks!

I’m helping my brother plan a trip from the UK for two weeks. He is on a tight budget so the Poly is out of the question. I have no experience of the value resorts and am concerned regarding the size of the rooms for a family of four when staying for that length of time (and all the extra luggage that will involve).
Would Art of Animation still be your resort of choice for a budget trip or is it worth the stretch on finances for a slightly bigger room at a moderate resort?
Another factor to consider is that the current UK offer includes QS dining plan in the moderate resorts or free breakfast in the values (I feel as if a free breakfast is only going to slow you down making rope drop harder to achieve).
Thanks in advance,
Linda

18 Dave { 04.19.17 at 8:21 am }

Hi Linda, that is a great question. A moderate would make sense in the circumstances, especially if anyone is tall and this can’t fit as full bed. Or, if that stretches budgets too much, half the time in a a value and half in a moderate would work. Have them do the moderate second, as otherwise there will be too much whining when they move from a larger to a smaller room.

19 Jesus N. { 06.08.17 at 7:40 pm }

Hello Dave,

We cant decide where to stay, if the Art of Animations or Caribbean Beach Resort. we are traveling 4 adults (27 yo)
I have read some of your tips and you recommended AoA as the best (Polysian is out of our budget),

In your experience, is there a difference between AoA and Caribbean about how many kids are in each resort?

Thanks in advance,
Jesus

20 Dave { 06.09.17 at 2:11 pm }

Jesus, for four adults I’d recommend neither. Art of Animation rooms will be too small, Caribbean Beach is undergoing a major construction project. Take a look at Coronado Springs.

21 Jesus { 06.09.17 at 6:02 pm }

Thanks Dave!

Do you know when the construction in Caribbean Beach will be ended?
Our trip will be on May’18

22 Dave { 06.11.17 at 12:01 pm }

Jesus, 2019.

23 Caitlin { 12.27.17 at 12:09 pm }

A year ago after reading your website, I couldn’t imagine how anyone would opt for a value resort over a moderate. When we first stayed at the Poly, I thought the rooms felt so dated. We had the annual passes this year and tried almost every resort on property and now after my initial skepticism of your reviews, I am coming back here to say that I now understand and wholeheartedly agree with your hotel advise! It’s spot on!

The only moderate I’d return to is French Quarter, and I don’t see that happening because I’m not getting much more there than at a value. My family surprisingly loved AOA’s lion king suite and I would consider returning there. Honestly, I didn’t hate All Stars Movies either. Dare I say the values were more fun for my family than any moderate?

The deluxe resorts are our favorites and we always stay club level. Because we don’t eat quick service, we get a good value on club level with breakfast and dinner in the lounge and only one dining reservation a day for lunch. I cannot say the Poly is my number one favorite because I like different resorts for different reasons—GF is probably our favorite overall, but costly. Contemporary has the best location because nothing beats walking to MK. Plus its garden wing is a great value. I love AKL’s theming and restaurants the best. If I am going to my favorite park, Epcot, I will only stay at the Boardwalk (or Epcot resort). However, overall the Poly offers the nicest club level for families. The lounge at the poly has a direct view (not as close as others, but the best angle) of the fireworks. It’s the most family friendly and offers a lot of great amenities. The poly’s club level cast members were the best and everything there is just so much fun. My mother has always refused to stay anywhere but GF, but now, despite the rooms being more casual than she would like, she only wants to stay at the Poly for their wonderful club level and fireworks viewing.

We just booked a last minute room at the Poly for next week to end our year of APs and we won’t be back again until we do it again for Disney’s 50th anniversary. Maybe the new transportation system they are building will be a game changer, but for now, your advice about where to stay is truly accurate. Thank you for sharing your insight!

24 Dave { 12.29.17 at 9:08 am }

Caitlin, thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed post!! One nuance is that I advise against the moderates only for first timers–for returning visitors they can be a great choice, as they are so much more affordable than most deluxes, and more spacious than most values. I personally agree with your take on POFQ!!

25 Amanda { 02.23.18 at 2:44 pm }

Hi Dave!
We are planning a trip to WDW for the end of August and are considering renting DVC points. We are a family of 4, with 2 boys- 5 and 7. My husband and I have always stayed at POR, but are now wanting to do a Deluxe Villa Studio since we are celebrating a birthday and anniversary. My kids are very into pools, architecture and the monorail. My hubby is leaning to the Bay Lake Tower as both he and my eldest love modern designs and monorails. I love the look of AKL, but worry about the heat in August and cranky kids. I figure a close by resort might be a lifesaver on humid days when we need to retreat. What would you recommend for a 8 night stay?

26 Dave { 02.26.18 at 9:19 am }

Amanda, because of the booking calendar for DVC point owners (because of which one tranches of rooms disappears into reservations eleven months before, and another tranche 7 months before), and the popularity of studios in general and BLT in particular among them, the odds are not inn your favor for getting a BLT studio on such (by DVC standards) short notice. Go ahead and try, but have some alternatives–of which AKL would be a fine one…

27 M Wood { 04.05.18 at 5:55 pm }

Dear Dave,

If availability were not an issue which would you recommend AKL or BLT. We are doing a first time visit for the 6 year old girl and first big girl visit for 9 yr old. I am not comfortable with buses and considering a car rental. My main focus after the transportation would be the best experience for the girls. POLY seems like it would be my first choice after reading your advice but our points don’t pay for more than 2 studios which are not guaranteed to be together.

28 Dave { 04.06.18 at 10:13 am }

Hiya M! The only park you don’t want to drive to is MK, as the parking lot for it is distant from the park itself and requires another transport (ferry or monorail) to get to the park. For that reason alone, based on your preferences I’d rent a car, do Bay Lake Tower, walk or take the monorail to MK, and use your car for the other parks.

29 Amy { 06.26.18 at 3:24 am }

Hi Dave,

I am planning my first trip to Disney World and I am trying to figure out the best of everything. I lived in California for 10 years and went to Disney at least 2x/week. Obsessed! So my husband and I are planning to go for our first time to Disney world and I don’t even know where to start or how long we should go for. I want to go around this December so I can see it decorated for Christmas. So I’m thinking around the first week or second of December, hoping to go before the big rush and kids being out of school. I want see everything and not be rushed at any of the parks. If you have any recommendations on when and the length of time we should stay and go to each park? Also which hotel and room is the BEST to stay in and has the best Disney theme and feel? Also any help and recommendations on need to know stuff please let me know. Thank you for your time and your site, it has really helped me.

30 Dave { 06.26.18 at 12:34 pm }

Hi Amy! On when to go, see this. You’ll note I highly approve of your choices!

For an example itinerary for those two weeks, see this.

For where to stay, see this! Best is highly subjective, though…Full reviews of each of the options begin here.

31 Wade { 09.27.18 at 8:01 pm }

Hi Dave! This website is so helpful! We’ve been planning for awhile and we’ve saved quite a bit. So, with the prices not being an issue, we are torn between the Polynesian or the Art of Animation for a first/possibly only trip for a five year old. We are doing 9 days and want to be as comfortable as possible. What are your thoughts? We want our son to fall in love with the resort/room and the Art rooms look like a lot of fun. Thanks for your help.

32 Dave { 09.28.18 at 9:46 am }

Wade, assuming you are talking about a family suite, that’s a tough call. The AofA family suites blow the Poly’s rooms away. You lose however on dining and convenience. The Poly’s pools are also better. I think there’s no question that AofA is the better choice for your daughter, and she won’t care about the pool difference. Particularly if she’s a big fan of one of three movies that the suites are framed around, I’d do AofA, but maybe plan some babysitter time and a date night or two with some of the fine dining options elsewhere.

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