Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

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

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255 comments

1 Steph { 05.05.15 at 11:19 am }

Hi Dave! I posted on your site a few weeks ago but can’t seem to find it! We are booking a honeymoon in Disney the second week of December and cannot decide where to stay! My first instinct was Poly but I read about all the construction. Second was AKL but it seems like a hassle to get around?

Would love your help- I only stayed on site when I was ten so I am totally not familiar!

2 Dave { 05.06.15 at 7:28 am }

Steph, other than possibly some work on the east (smaller) pool, known Poly construction should be done by then!

3 jackie c. { 05.31.15 at 11:48 am }

Hi Dave: Love your website!! We are traveling first week of September 2015, and we are currently booked at the Beach Club (3 adults, 4 kids ages – 12,12,8,8). I’m sure you’ve answered this question before…but would you recommend a split stay? Thinking of splitting between BC and Poly or BC and WL. We’ll be there for 8 nights. Thanks!

4 Dave { 06.01.15 at 5:26 pm }

Jackie, split stays are great ways to deal with lots of opportunities!

5 Ashley Staggs { 06.01.15 at 5:32 pm }

Hi,
I have Poly booked for Oct for our first disney world trip. I currently have a standard view room but was considering switching to DVC studio standard view and I was wondering if you would recommend I keep my standard view room or do you think I should switch to DVC? Also any building recommendations?
Thank you for your help 🙂

6 michele { 06.03.15 at 6:40 pm }

Hi Dave Love Love Love your sight! This is our 2nd time going to wdw however I feel like a first timer with all the changes 🙂 Just wondering if you can help with our planning… I have it pinned down to doing a split stay in May 2016 for a family of 5 with 4 days at AOA family suite (for the kids) and 3 days at POR standard room (for the hubbys checkbook and sanity). I just was wondering if you think I should go ahead and reserve the 2 reservations at room only now? And then buy tickets later on closer to the dates of the discount? Or should I get the package through disney now with just the room and ticket so I can change the reservation without hassle if they add free dining at this time? Doesn’t look like they ever gave free dining in may and tell you the truth we weren’t big fans of it last time we had it. However my “tightwad” self says if they do i should get it 🙂 Thanks for your help!

7 Dave { 06.05.15 at 8:08 am }

Michele, thanks!!

I don’t expect to see free dining before August until the next recession. I do expect to see a room rate deal for your dates. It does not matter whether you book now or wait. Either way if/when a deal comes out you either need to book into it (if you haven’t booked) or chnage your reservation to it.

Right now you can only book rooms for 2016, and those only over the phone–and that’ll be true til the 2016 prices come out. See this.

8 Michele { 06.08.15 at 5:00 pm }

Just wanted to say Thank you for the quick reply and the article that you linked! Great article! Perfect summary of what I needed to know. I’m going with room only reservation because of the better terms however I believe I will wait for the web site to be updated so I can make sure I am not missing any other options. Thanks again for your help!

9 Dave { 06.09.15 at 7:54 am }

You bet, Michele!!

10 Bekah { 06.25.15 at 8:49 pm }

I think I have spent the last four hours perusing your site. It has such an abundance of helpful info. I’m also going to order your book shortly. I have six in my party (two adults and four children) and want to know is it permissible to stay at the Polynesian room that sleep 5 adults and just purchase an additional magic band, etc?

11 Dave { 06.26.15 at 7:55 am }

Bekah, unless one of the kids is three or younger, no. Disney won’t book more than the capacity in the room.

12 Scott { 07.20.15 at 4:33 pm }

Hi! Love your site. Looking for alittle help. We are going to Disney for the first time. Our group consists of me and my wife (33 years old each), my mother (70 years old) and our 2 kids (2 and 3). My mom lives 2 hours from Disney in St. Augustine FL. As such, we were planning on going for two nights (arrive around 4pm and just relax at resort, swim, eat) and then wake up and do the Magic Kingdom all day/night, go to sleep, wake up and leave. I am thinking of trying to stay on the monorail hotels for convenince but they are very expensive for a 2BDRM suite. I need 2-3 sleeping areas. One for me and my wife (kids can join if there is a pull out bed) and then one for my mom. Any thoughts on rooms/locations/finding a 2-3 private sleeping room? THANKS!!!!!

13 Dave { 07.21.15 at 5:53 pm }

Scott, yup they are wildly expensive. The least expensive way to get 2 sleeping areas is a family suite at All-Star Music.

14 Dan { 08.24.15 at 11:50 am }

Thanks for the site! Have ordered the book….just about to book for April 7th 2016 for 9 nights, 2 adults, girls 6 & 8. First trip! Animal kingdom club level room coming in about 25% more than Port Orleans, quite a good deal as low season and free dining for both. Worth the upgrade do you think? Or is it to far out perhaps? Wanted to split to 2 resorts but will loose the dining so probably not worth it.

15 Dave { 08.25.15 at 11:21 am }

Hey Dan! You are in the UK I am guessing? I’d spend the extra money in a minute. The bedroom sizes are comparable, but the setting is a ton better, as is the dining, plus you get a balcony.

16 Dan { 08.26.15 at 7:08 am }

Sorry should have said we’re in the UK. Thanks for the advice, we’ll take it!

17 Donna { 09.18.15 at 10:41 am }

Dave,

Again many thanks for your website, for sharing the magic and ensuring folks get the most in their first trip.

We are just getting started planning our first trip, tentatively for the third or fourth week of 10/2016 (2 adults/2 kids, ages 6 and 8). We are starting a year out and hope to take advantage of renting a DVC resort since it seems this can be equal or, in some cases, less expensive than a value resort which is surprising to me.

As of this post, the cost to stay a week at Animal Kingdom (a value studio using rented DVC points) cost about the same or less than any standard room at a value resort. A week at the Animal Kingdom (again using points) is also about $900-$1000 less than a deluxe studio at the Poly (also using DVC points).

Based on this information, I am leaning toward the Animal Kingdom (using DVC points) as it has good kid appeal, it is comparable or even less expensive that the value resorts, it’s buses are not shared and is at least $900-$1000 less than the Poly (using DVC points). It is not as convenient as the Poly but is the extra convenience is worth an extra $850-$1000?

Wondering if I am missing anything? Is there any other compelling reason to spend the extra $850-$1000 to stay at Poly over Animal Kingdom other than convenience? Is the convenience so much better that we’d wish we’d spent that much to be that close to MK?

Also, are you aware of any bad experience with renting DVC points that would make us reconsider?

Thanks for all your advice.
Donna

18 Dave { 09.19.15 at 1:14 pm }

Donna, the “value” studios at AK are small and not recommended. The DVC studios I recommend there are the standard sized ones with savanna views, which likely would be closer to the Poly rates. With kids that age, a location closer to MK would indeed be a better choice. Bay Lake Tower studios are too small. The Poly studios are fine. Villas at the Wilderness Lodge and at the Grand Floridian are also good choices.

If you rent your points through a reputable third party e.g. http://www.dvcmagicresales.com/web/index.php

19 Donna { 09.19.15 at 10:29 pm }

Dave,

Thanks! I had not gotten that deep into your review of Animal Kingdom to see that on the last page of your review it mentions the value studios are smaller and shorter than a standard studio. Also, since my last post I’ve learned that AK value studios go very, very fast and are really hard to get at 11 months out – so I may not have gotten it even if I wanted too. And you are right – you must get that a lot 🙂 – anything better and might as well be in a Poly studio.

The Polynesian (or any other comparable deluxe studio) is not within our budget unless we rent DVC points. Soooo . . . still weighing our options – it will either be value resort or renting DVC. Thanks for your direct advice.

The link you provided linked to a DVC resale site – but there was another link for DVC Dream Rentals which is what I assume you where suggesting? Thanks.

BTW – on average, how many post do you respond to a day? You are quite generous with your time and advice – it is very nice.

Donna

20 Dave { 09.21.15 at 6:50 am }

Hi Donna and thanks! I get between 5 and 20 questions a day…

21 Andrea { 01.23.16 at 9:06 pm }

Hi, Dave! I’m helping my sister plan her family’s first WDW trip. They’re going in Nov. A friend has given them their time share at Bonnet Creek free for the week, and they couldn’t pass that up. I suggested that they spend one day on WDW property to at least get a few benefits of staying on-site. I know that they will get 2 days of FP+ at 60 days out. Do those two days have to be on their checkin/out dates or can they be anywhere within that 10 day window?

22 Dave { 01.25.16 at 9:09 am }

Andrea, it’s the check-in/checkout dates

23 Nat { 03.11.16 at 10:03 pm }

Dave my first visit to Disney with my husband three boys ages 8-4-3. So I’m leaning toward art of animation because of room and the first time experience.. My husband absolutely dreading this trip and I was thinking maybe if we satiated in a more adult tolerable place that it would make his stay more pleasurable especially with the monorail access planning on coming sept 12 2016 help me ? Is poly that much more

24 Dave { 03.12.16 at 10:15 am }

Nat, what a great question! Even people who love the parks can want to get away from all the Disney at times, so this might be a wise move. However, I’d pick the Contemporary rather than the Poly, because of its thinner theming, and the ability to walk back and forth from the Magic Kingdom, which gives him a safety valve..at least when you are in that park.

25 Sean { 05.06.16 at 9:27 am }

Dave,
A lot if great info, thanks. I wish I found this site before we booked. My wife and I planned our first family trip with a 4 and 1 y/o for late October. We wanted a suite style so we could put the kids to bed and still have a place to relax without being in the same room as the sleeping kids. With that and our budget in mind we decided on Ft. Wilderness cabin, but after finding this site I feel like I might regret that decision due to the time wasted on travel.
Do you have any suggestions? Would I be able to change my reservations?

26 Dave { 05.07.16 at 6:07 am }

Sean sure you can try to chnage. Note that if you will have a car, getting to the parks (except MK, where you should use FW transport) from the Cabins is much easier…

27 Eric { 05.06.16 at 9:53 am }

@Sean, it can never hurt to call and ask. Also, unless you gave a non-refundable deposit, You could have your wife try to book a totally separate trip, and if it all works in your favor, then cancel yours after hers is confirmed. I think they are running sales for Oct at the moment, so you might save quite a bit!

28 Eric { 05.16.16 at 12:36 pm }

Hi Dave,
Sorry to keep bugging…I’m still leaning towards YC/BC for our trip because I feel like the pool is one of the best (I think you rank it as best) and that’s a big factor to my kids’ appeal. However, I just saw that YC is undergoing a refurb starting this summer and into 2017. We’re going Oct 2017 so I’m not worried, but wondering if you know of all future refurb plans. For all I know, BC could be next. I’d hate to book and then find out…

29 Dave { 05.17.16 at 7:13 am }

Eric, keep the questions coming! BC has finished its refurb, so you will be fine targeting it.

30 Terri { 06.05.16 at 3:39 pm }

Me and my daughter are thinking of doing Christmas
We are both adults so looking for any helpful suggestions

31 Dave { 06.06.16 at 8:34 am }

Terri, sorry, can you be a little more specific?

32 Kathleen { 07.10.16 at 1:42 am }

Hi Dave-

I love your site. I’m wondering what value or moderate resort you might suggest for an adult couple traveling in early December? We have both visited multiple times previously but we are having a hard time deciding. We normally have a rental car as well. Thank you.

33 Dave { 07.11.16 at 8:58 am }

Hi Kathleen, generally among the values for adults I’d recommend All-Star Music, and among the moderates Port Orleans French Quarter.

However, depending on when you go you may run into Pop Warner crowds at Music, and a food court refurb at French Quarter. So also consider Art of Animation among values and Port Orleans Riverside among moderates.

34 Michele { 08.12.16 at 1:21 pm }

Hi Dave! Thanks for providing such wonderful advice over the past year. Thanks in large part to you, my family enjoyed an incredible Disney vacation, staying at the GF, last April. We are now planning a Disney cruise for next year. Before you remind me that you do not focus on cruises (I think), I would actually appreciate your advice about where we should stay the night before we leave. We’ll be there during one of the busiest weeks of the year, April 8, so we have no interest in going to a park, especially bc we won’t be getting into Orlando until after lunch. I am currently thinking that a resort in the Disney Springs area would be a good bet. My kids (6 and 4) love to swim, and we couldn’t get them off the pool slide at the GF, so that is a major consideration. Any suggestions? I see that the Port Orleans resort recently added some new water features. What do you think? Thank you!!

35 Dave { 08.13.16 at 6:57 am }

Hi Michele! In your situation, Port Orleans French Quarter (not Port Orleans Riverside) would be a great choice. It has the new splash play area you indicate, you can’t see a park from it, and it has such a compact layout that your rooms will be reasonably close to the Cruise Line bus.

36 Michele { 08.12.16 at 1:38 pm }

Hi Dave, me again. I forgot to mention something in the question I just posted. Pretty important for us NOT to be able to see a park from our resort because my kids will never stop complaining if they can’t go in. So we wouldn’t want to stay some place like the GF on this trip, even though we loved it. If you are wondering why we would pick a Disney resort, then, they have sold me on the idea that ground transportation will be so much easier than trying to coordinate on our own.

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