Walt Disney World Resorts; Which One Fits Your Needs – The Pros and Cons of Each Tier

Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be overwhelming. There’s the transportation, hotels, tickets, food, packing, and everything else that pops up. One of the most overwhelming parts can be determining what resort to stay at. Walt Disney World has over 30 different resorts across 4 tiers, ensuring there is a resort that will fit anyone’s needs. With all the options though comes the task of picking which one is right for your party.

To help narrow down your search, I have outlined each tier, including a description, a list of all resorts in that category, and the pros and cons of each tier of Walt Disney World Resorts.

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Deluxe Villas – Starting at $456/night

Deluxe Villas are exactly what their title suggests – a spacious, often multi-room, villa that includes a kitchen/kitchenette, washer and dryer in most units, and many other amenities that aren’t available at other resorts on property. All Deluxe Villas are Disney Vacation Club Resorts (DVC), Disney’s timeshare program, but accept reservations from non-members, space permitting.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Deluxe Villa Locations:

  1. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  2. Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  3. Copper Creek Villas and Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  4. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  5. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  6. Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  7. Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  8. Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  9. Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
  10. Disney’s Riviera Resort
  11. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (includes Tree House Villas)
  12. Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Pros:

  • Spacious – Deluxe Villas can accommodate anywhere from 4 to 10 guests based on the villa you book. Many villas offer separate bedrooms and bathrooms, with some even having multiple entrances.
  • Kitchen – A full kitchen/kitchenette is available in all Deluxe Villas. Each kitchen is stocked with dishes, flatware, pots, and pans.
  • Washer and Dryer – Washer and dryer units are in all Deluxe Villas other than Studios.
  • Multiple Pools – Deluxe Villas often have multiple pools that guests can take advantage of. Be sure to check the resort you are interest in to verify the pool locations.
  • On-site Grills – Grills are available in a common area near the pools.
  • Multiple Forms of Transportation – All but a couple Deluxe Villa Resorts offer guests multiple modes of transportation, including buses, monorails, boats, and soon, the Gondola system.
  • Food Options – Each Deluxe Villa offers at least one Table Service and one Quick Service dining location at the Resort.

Cons:

  • Cost – The biggest con is the price tag. Deluxe Villas start at $456 per night and can be much more based on the time of year, size of the villa, and room location.
  • Bus Service – Buses seem to run less frequently to the Deluxe Villa Resorts than others.
  • Availability – If you are not a DVC Member staying at your “home resort” (the resort which you own points at), you may face a more difficult time booking. Disney maintains a select number of rooms that are available to be booked through the Central Reservations Office.
  • Quick Service Offerings – While this has been changing in past years, many Deluxe Villas Resorts do not have a wide offering in their Quick Service location.
  • Parking – Depending on the Resort, parking can be quite a far walk.

Deluxe– Starting at $363/night

Deluxe Resorts are the “cream of the crop,” offering guests amenities, atmosphere, and service that is second to none. You will notice that many of the Deluxe Resorts also offer Deluxe Villas, and therefore, have many of the same pros and cons. However, staying at a Deluxe Resort and not booking a Villa will provide a different experience.

The lobby at Disney’s Polynesian Village

Deluxe Resort Locations:

  1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  2. Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  3. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  4. Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  5. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  6. Disney’s Polynesian Village
  7. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  8. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Pros:

  • Concierge – While all guests of Deluxe Resorts will receive the highest level of service, guests have the opportunity to heighten their experience by booking a room on the Concierge Level. Concierge Level guests have access to the exclusive Club Level Lounge, offering continental breakfast, hot samples from Resort restaurants, evening wine and beer selections, and desserts and cordials.
  • Lobby – You’ll know you’ve entered a Deluxe Resort from the first step you take into the Resort. Each lobby is expertly themed, from the furniture to the scent wafting through the area. Many offer special activities and entertainment throughout the day, including live music, lei making, and some of the best people watching you’ll find.
  • Proximity to Parks – Most Deluxe Resorts are within walking distance (or have monorail access) to a park.
  • Multiple Forms of Transportation – All but Animal Kingdom Lodge offers guests multiple modes of transportation, including buses, monorails, and boats.
  • Food Options – Each Deluxe Resort offers at least one Table Service and one Quick Service dining location at the Resort.

Cons:

  • Cost – The biggest con is the price tag. Deluxe Resort start at $363 per night and can be much more based on the time of year, size of the room, and room location.
  • Bus Service – Buses seem to run less frequently to the Deluxe Resorts than others.
  • Business Travel – Many conferences held at Walt Disney World will provide room blocks in Deluxe Resorts, as Contemporary Resort includes a large conference center. While this may not be a “con,” it is something to be aware of when booking.
  • Quick Service Offerings – While this has been changing in past years, many Deluxe Resorts do not have a wide offering in their Quick Service location.
  • Parking – Depending on the Resort, parking can be quite a far walk.

Moderate – Starting at $198/night

Moderate Resorts offer the best of both worlds – additional amenities for a reasonable price. These Resorts are expansive and include larger rooms than Value Resorts, but lack the atmosphere of a Deluxe Resort.

Royal Guest Room at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Moderate Resort Locations:

  1. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  2. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
  3. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  4. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  5. The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Pros:

  • Price – Moderate Resorts are reasonably priced, offering guests an upgrade from a Value Resort for a nominal fee.
  • Theming – While all Disney Resorts provide exceptional theming, Moderate Resorts take it a step further with extra special themed rooms. Caribbean Beach Resort offers themed Pirate rooms, while Port Orleans Resort – Riverside offers Royal Guest Rooms (Princess themed).
  • Dining Options – All Moderate Resorts offer a large cafeteria style Quick Service dining location as well as a Table Service location.

Cons:

  • Expansive – Moderate Resort guests may find themselves walking quite a bit to get from their room to the lobby. However, you can hop on an internal bus to skip the walk.
  • Buses – Due to the size of the properties and the multiple bus stops throughout, buses can often seem to be a longer wait.

Value – Starting at $99/night

Value Resorts provide guests the opportunity to save a few dollars, while still benefiting from the perks available to Walt Disney World Resort guests. Starting at $99 per night, Value Resorts have a large number of rooms across an expansive property.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Value Resort Locations:

  1. Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  2. Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  3. Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  4. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  5. Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  6. The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Pros:

  • Price – Value Resorts offers guests the opportunity to stay on property and take advantage of all benefits available to Resort guests, while being economical. Resort stays start at $99 per night.
  • Quick Service Options – Value Resorts offer a wide variety of quick service offerings at the cafeteria style dining locations.
  • Large Number of Rooms – While other Resorts may fill up quickly, you will probably be able to find a room at Value Resorts. Resorts have anywhere between 1,000 to 3,000 rooms.
  • Bus Transportation – While you will probably share the bus with a large crowd, bus service is more frequent than at other Resorts, making your wait shorter.

Cons:

  • Amenities – As a Value Resort guest you will receive the basic amenities – access to the pool, housekeeping, etc. You will not however have access to the same amenities that Deluxe or Moderate Resort guests do at their Resort.
  • Atmosphere – If you are planning to spend an extended amount of time exploring your Resort, Value Resorts do not have a great deal to offer.
  • Space – Rooms at Value Resorts provide the bare minimum and have less space than other Resorts. You will be provided an in-room refrigerator, coffee maker, iron, hair dryer, and toiletries.
  • Table Service Dining – Value Resorts, other than the Campsite at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, do not have Table Service dining locations on property.
  • Size – With the large number of rooms, some guests may have a long walk to their room.
  • Groups – Groups traveling to Walt Disney World often stay at Value Resorts due to the price point. While this may not be a “con,” it is important to note that rates and availability may be impacted by special events taking place at Walt Disney World, such at youth sports competitions.

For more information about all of the Resorts, check out Birnbaum’s 2019 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide (Birnbaum Guides).