There was a time I thought I’d never stay anywhere on Disney property other than the Polynesian Resort. It was pretty close to perfection for my husband and me with its coveted spot on the monorail loop, walking path to the Transportation and Ticket Center for our nightly jaunts to Epcot’s World Showcase for dinner, lush tropical foliage throughout the grounds, and quiet and relaxing vibe.
Then our family grew and changed and so did our needs. The arcade and theming at the Contemporary a decade ago was a better fit for my young teenage stepson then the quiet serenity of the Polynesian. As our family grew with the addition of two more children, our budget shrank. Splurging on the Polynesian Resort wasn’t such an easy decision any longer. Proximity to quick-service restaurants and stroller-friendly walking paths to lull toddlers to sleep were of greater importance. Separate sleeping areas and the ability to prepare snacks and casual meals climbed to the list of must-haves. It was years in the making but the Disney Vacation Club villas took the title of best Disney lodging for our family.
Our “Home Resort” in the DVC has been pretty perfect for our larger family but things are shifting once again. My young children are now more confident in the water and pools are a larger consideration. For our next visit, we’re planning a stay at the Beach Club Villas with its access to Stormalong Bay, an elaborately themed pool complex.
No matter what your circumstances, Walt Disney World has a near-perfect resort for your vacation even if picking the right resort for your family is a multifaceted decision.
Budget. Budget is one of the larger, if not largest, consideration when selecting a Disney resort. When working our budget, I try to keep two things in mind. The first is not can I spend the money on a particular resort, but would I be comfortable doing so? I also consider trade-offs to help me decide if staying at a particular resort is worth it. For example, would I rather upgrade my resort or purchase Park Hoppers and tickets to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for my family? If I stay at a more budget-friendly resort, can I add an extra night or two to my vacation? There is no “bad” Disney resort so you’ll enjoy your stay whatever your budget allows.
Theming. Immersive resort theming is one of the best reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort property. Theming is also a matter of preference; there are a couple of resorts that I have no desire to stay at. I’m sure they are lovely and are favorites of many Disney guests but they have themes which do not appeal to me. With so many choices, pick a resort theme that really appeals to your family – it will make your vacation even more magical.
Restaurants. Proximity to food options, variety, and favored cuisine types are an important part of the resort selection for many guests. Some resorts, such as those in the Boardwalk area or on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop, offer many different quick- and table-service options that are easy to walk or ride to. Other resorts are more self-contained and guests are limited to food options on-site; Value Resorts only have food-courts while Moderate and Deluxe Resorts (except for Boardwalk Inn) also offer a table-service option. Many resort dining options mirror the theme of the restaurant so if your family doesn’t care for a particular type of cuisine, consider staying elsewhere.
Transportation. Disney offers a variety of ways to get to their theme parks from Walt Disney World Resorts. Guests can take a bus, watercraft, a monorail, or even walk – but not all resorts offer all options. All modes of transportation may be equal for your family or circumstances may favor a particular type of transportation. The monorail and walking, where our son can remain in his stroller, trumps bus transportation any day for my family.
Pools. All the Disney resorts have themed feature pools. Pool slides and quiet pools are where the differences between resort categories come into play; most Moderate and Deluxe resorts have both. Resorts like the Yacht and Beach Club and Art of Animation have pool complexes that are standouts and may tip the scales their way for guests who will be spending a lot of time relaxing at the pool.
I’ve stayed at many different Walt Disney World resorts now and I haven’t had a disappointing experience yet. They all have their own charm and selling points. I have no doubt that as my family grows and changes, Disney will have a resort that will be perfect for our new season in life.
Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers. When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You can follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer or become a fan of Beyond the Attractions on Facebook.