What’s the best Disney hotel? Or, for many visitors: “What’s the best Disney hotel I can afford?”
Assuming you already made a decision to stay within Walt Disney World (See “Should you stay at a Disney hotel (resort)?”), how do you pick a specific property? First, the fifty-foot view: Disney has three general levels for its hotels: economy, moderate, and luxury. In addition, a few hotels on Disney property don’t fit a general description.
With rare exception, you get what you pay for. Disney runs occasional specials in slow times, and a large convention may negotiate a good deal; but room prices at Disney resorts don’t fluctuate wildly like they do at most hotels. Crunch vacation budget numbers first and see which level appeals to you, then check the “Other hotels at Disney” to see if some unique characteristic impacts that decision. From there, narrow the choice down, but don’t get excited until you check availability. The popular ones fill up early during busy seasons. Note also that these hotels (resorts) are big – like 2,000 rooms each. While Disney uses design and architectural features to make some of the higher-end ones feel elegantly small, expect crowds in the public areas, and noticeably more so in the lower-end resorts.
Price quotes are general. A deal could drop it lower or it could be higher. Also budget about 15 percent more than any final number to include local hotel taxes.
Every All-Star Resort plus Pop Century, about $100 per night
Positive side: For considerable per-night savings, Disney offers economy guests the resort-wide perks every other guest enjoys, such as free system-wide transportation, a bill-to-the-room charge account, etc.
Negative side: Each economy resort is identical once you ignore the giant décor. They each feel different based on some theme, which Disney creates using huge statue-like recreations of smaller, brightly-colored objects, such as three-story cowboy boots or Coke cups. Every economy resort connects to the transportation system by bus only, and they’re generally farther from the parks than other resorts.
For more info on each economy resort, go to Disney’s economy resorts.
Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans (two parts), and Coronado Springs
Room nights come perilously close to $200, though it depends on room location and view. Cheapest rooms in the cheapest season start at $150.
Positive side: While rooms generally have the same size and shape at each moderate resort, they have true themes, similar to Disney’s more expensive resorts, and rooms (unlike economy resorts) fit the theme of the hotel. Some moderate resorts also offer a unique transportation option, such as a Port Orleans boat taxi that connects to Downtown Disney.
Negative side: Moderate resorts don’t have access to parks as easily as luxury resorts. Rooms are a bit smaller. Coronado Springs also hosts conventions, which could interfere with a family vacation.
For more info on each moderate resort, go to Disney’s moderate resorts.
Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, and Animal Kingdom Lodge
Within the set of luxury hotels is also a subset. The Grand Floridian (over $400 per night), for example, is generally considered the must luxurious of the bunch. Wilderness Lodge (over $300 per night) is, arguably, closer to the bottom.
Positive side: The luxury resorts aren’t as easily described because they’re not one-size-fits-all. Themes, many times, include more than décor. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, for example, the horseshoe-shaped hotel surrounds a savannah with giraffes and other animals. Room sizes and styles vary from hotel to hotel.
Negative side: Price.
For more info on each luxury resort, go to Disney’s luxury resorts.
Other hotels at Disney
- Villas: At about $300-plus per night, Disney-owned villas contain more apartment-like amenities, such as microwaves and coffee makers. Many are attached to existing hotels. Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Saratoga Springs fit here, though arguably could be in the “luxury” category.
- Swan and Dolphin: Non-Disney-owned hotels yet close to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. They’re owned by Starwood, which itself operates Sheratons and Westins.
- Campground trailers: Similar to villas in amenities, but each has its own little section of woods within Fort Wilderness. Close to $300 per night.
- Shades of Green: Close to the Magic Kingdom, Shades of Green offers special rates to veterans and those currently serving in the U.S. military. Not owned or operated by Disney.
- Non-Disney hotels on Disney property: When it opened, Disney relied on a handful of non-Disney hotels located on the northeast corner of its property near Downtown Disney. However, they’ve become less Disney-like and more independent over the years.
For more info on the above, go to Disney’s other resorts.