One of the first decisions you’ll have to make when you book your Walt Disney World Resort Vacation is where to stay. Disney World offers over 25 different resort hotel options to choose from, and they keep building more! Allow me break down the differences for you!
What are the common Walt Disney World resort benefits?
First, let’s talk about what’s included with any Disney World Resort stay. All resorts have free Magical Express service to and from the Orlando International Airport. You can even check your luggage through to your home destination from your Disney resort (with select airlines). Magical Express is a complimentary, large coach bus which transports you to and from the resort. You can reserve ahead of time. Try to set it up at least 3 weeks before traveling so you receive your yellow luggage tags!
When you tag your bag with the provided yellow tags, Disney picks up your luggage for you and delivers it to your resort room within about 4 hours. If you don’t get luggage tags, don’t fret! You can just give the Magical Express agent your bag claim check slips when you check in. This free service is one of the many reasons I do mom and me trips to Disney World with my son: no need to carry our bags and no need to drive around!
All of the Disney resorts also include the opportunity to book your Fastpass+ selections 60 days from your check in date. I use Kenny’s Character Locator crowd calendar to check my date and set an alarm on my phone for 7 a.m. You can book your entire stay that morning, whereas offsite guests must book at 30 days for each day of their trip and can only book one day at a time. For dining, you can book your selections at 180 days from check-in all at once and you’ll also find the date on the crowd calendar!
Walt Disney World resort pricing
As the names of the categories suggest, Value resorts are the least expensive and Deluxe are the priciest. We decide on our accommodations based on the time of year we are booking. Disney resort pricing is quite variable based on demand. So, if we go over a holiday break, we lean towards Value or Moderate stays. But for our traditional end of August trip, when most kids are back in school, we always go for Deluxe. The same room might vary by hundreds of dollars a night based on whether its a low or high season, so we are content with All Star Movies (Value) for Thanksgiving or Port Orleans French Quarter (Moderate) for Christmas.
Walt Disney World resort amenities
All resorts have pools, recreation and food courts.
Moderate resorts also have a table service restaurant (Port Orleans has only one table service restaurant at Riverside, but amenities are shared between Riverside and French Quarter). Most Deluxe resorts have more than one table service option. While all resorts have pizza delivery, only Deluxe resorts offer full room service.
In terms of layout, the majority of Value and Moderate resorts are set up “motel style” with exterior hallways. Some people feel less secure with this set up, although the Disney resorts are very safe. The new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs (Moderate) and the Family Suites at Art of Animation (Value) have interior hallways.
One thing to keep in mind is that Value and Moderate resorts hold a lot of people. While they tend to keep the buses coming quickly, the value resorts have uncovered, outdoor queues in which to stand to board the bus. Moderate and Deluxe resorts have covered bus stops with benches and fans. I prefer not to book Value resorts during the summer in part because of the bus stops and the somewhat lackluster pools.
Moving from Value to Moderate also gets you some pool upgrades, in the form of water slides and hot tubs. Moderate and Deluxe resorts have a water slide and often include “splash pads” for the younger set. So, if pool time is important to you, you may lean towards booking a Moderate or Deluxe resort. The Deluxe resorts tend to offer more structured recreation options, but do not have playgrounds like the Value and Moderates do. All resorts have an arcade. Tip: Look for “Arcade games” on the recreation schedule to find a FREE hour of arcade time! Its not always offered, but doesn’t hurt to check!
The playground at All Star Movies.
I always advise people to consider adding the “plus” option to their park hopper tickets if they are booking a Value resort package with park hopper, because it isn’t much of an up charge and then you can use the Disney water parks as your pool! This works especially well for the All Star resorts + Blizzard Beach because they are so close to one another!
*Saratoga Springs and the Grand Floridian have full service spas. Wilderness Lodge and Yacht and Beach Club have salons. Some of the other Deluxe resorts offer massages or nail services.
Many of us describe the theming at the value resorts as more “in-your-face” than the Moderates or Deluxes. Disney states that the statues outside of each building are “larger than life”!
Theming inside the rooms is a bit more tame.
The Moderate level resorts generally have subtle touches reminiscent of their respective themes. The interiors of the rooms are similarly light on theming.
The Deluxe resorts tend to be more immersive. At the Wilderness Lodge, you wont see any palm trees. In fact, the entire property looks and feels like it is in the Pacific Northwest. The nearby Polynesian resort features the sights, sounds and smells of the islands.
Those are the main differences between the Value, Moderate and Deluxe resort options. They all have their charm, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our stays in all categories!
What’s your favorite resort? Are the amenities worth booking Deluxe or do you prefer to spend that money on park experiences?