Breaking Down the Differences Between Disney World Resorts

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If you're heading to Walt Disney World in Florida – also known as the most magical place on earth – one of your first vacation planning tasks is to figure out where you're staying. Here's a detailed breakout of the differences between Disney World Resorts: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas.

Breaking Down the Differences Between Disney World Resorts

Disney Castle next to Disney's Contemporary Resort.
Image credit: Walt Disney World.

Here's the scoop to help you decide where to stay when you visit Disney World. You might hear the phrases “On-property” versus “Off-property.” On-property generally refers to Walt Disney World branded resort hotels located within the boundaries of Walt Disney World. Some partner hotels that are within the Disney Bubble, such as the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista or Hilton Bonnet Creek, advertise as being “on-property” but they're not Disney hotels. 

Pro-Tip: Disney World resort hotels pricing fluctuates based on the time of year. Spring break and Christmas are typically very busy times and the rooms will usually cost more per night. 

1. Value Resorts

Disney Skyliner in front of Disney's Pop Century Resort.
Image credit: Walt Disney World.

Value resorts are perfect for families on a budget. These rooms will be the most affordable rooms at Walt Disney World. Value resorts include:

Value Resort features

  • Outside corridor rooms. Except for the family suites at Art of Amination, Disney value resorts are motel-style.
  • Larger-than-life Disney characters. The value resorts are really fun for kids because of this. There is absolutely no doubt where you are and kids love seeing their favorites. 
  • Centrally located pool without a slide. That's not to say the pools at the value resorts aren't fun or that they're not great pools but if the lack of a slide is a deal breaker, you might want to consider moving up. The Big Blue Pool at Art of Amination consistently appears on lists of best pools at Walt Disney World – there's music piped in underwater!
  • Quick service/food court-style dining. No table service dining or lounges, although you may find poolside bars. 
  • Bus or Skyliner transportation to the parks. Value resorts are the furthest, physical distance from the park. The Skyliner has solved a huge pain point for value resort guests traveling to and from the parks. 

Why stay at a Value Resort?

  • You're on a budget. 
  • Resort amenities aren't important. You're just there to sleep and don't care as much what your room looks like as long as it is clean and comfortable.
  • You're planning a short vacation and/or you're spending most of your time in the parks.
  • Your kids will LOVE staying here. Larger-than-life sculptures of beloved Disney favorites are going to wow your kids way more than subtle and fun-to-discover theming.

2. Moderate Resorts

Grand Destino Tower and Disney's Coronado Springs Resort.
Image credit: Walt Disney World.

As you'd expect, moderate resorts are at the middle-of-the-road price point. If you have a little more room in your budget and want a slightly larger room and some extra amenities, consider a moderate resort. 

Moderate resorts include:

  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (Including the Gran Destino Tower)
  • Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

Features of Moderate Resorts Include:

  • Rooms that open to the outside. One exception to that is the Gran Destino Tower at Disney's Coronado Springs, which has inside corridor rooms.
  • More adult and extensive theming. The moderate resorts tend to be more sprawling and may be situated around a lake or other water features. If details are important or if you enjoy a good back story, you might find the price increase to be worth it.
  • Slightly larger rooms, more comfortable beds, and better quality bed linens. 
  • All rooms will have queen beds and some have king bed options. 
  • Some rooms will sleep five. 
  • Sit-down restaurants, bars, and lounges consistent with the theming of the resort. Moderate resorts also have food court/quick service style dining in addition to the table service restaurants, so you have more options.
  • Centrally located pool with a water slide and spa/hot tub. Many moderate resorts will also offer additional pools.
  • Bus or Skyliner service to the parks. Moderate resorts are closer to the parks than value resorts, making transportation time a little bit faster. 

Why stay at a Moderate Resort? 

  • Resort amenities are important to you. 
  • You have a little extra room in your budget but perhaps not enough room to jump up to Deluxe.
  • You have a larger family.
  • You want a little more of an upscale experience.
  • You plan to have downtime at your resort or non-park day.

Moderate Resorts are a great compromise when you want something a little above what the Value Resorts offer but aren't ready to make that major jump up to a Deluxe Resort. It's a relatively small increase to go from Value to Moderate but a bigger jump to go all the way up. 

3. Deluxe Resorts

Disney's Beach Club Resort.
Image credit: Walt Disney World.

As you’d expect, the Deluxe Resorts are at the tip-top end of the price spectrum. You'll find more extensive, immersive theming, and more dining options, including character dining, and some even have spas and fitness centers. 

Even if you opt not to stay in a deluxe-level resort, they're very fun to explore. You don't have to be a registered guest to check out the lobbies, restaurants, and lounges. In most instances, you do have to be a registered guest to use the pool.

Deluxe Resorts Include:

  • Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Disney’s Beach Club Resort
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Features of a Deluxe Resort Include:

  • Inside corridor rooms. 
  • Many more dining options. A Deluxe Resort will have sit-down and quick-service dining as well as signature dining and character dining. You'll find lounges, bars, ice cream parlors, and tea rooms. Not all resorts will have everything and the dining options are tied to the resort's theme, such as the Pineapple Lanai at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. Most deluxe resorts also offer character dining. Even if you don’t stay in a deluxe resort, there are so many fun dining options. You don't need to be a guest at that resort to eat or have drinks, but I do recommend dining reservations.
  • More extensive theming. Deluxe resorts tell a story and that's evident in the lobby and room decor as well as the outdoor areas. 
  • Larger, more extensively themed pools with water features. More choices in pools per resort. 
  • More extensive amenities, such as gyms and spas. 
  • Larger, more luxuriously appointed rooms with upscale bedding. 
  • Deluxe resorts will have larger and more luxuriously appointed rooms, more on-site amenities, and activities, such as gyms and spas.
  • Deluxe resorts are closer to the parks, cutting down your transportation time. You'll also have at least one transportation option besides the buses. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge is the exception to both of these. It sits a little bit away from the other resorts and the only Walt Disney World transportation to the parks is a bus. Also, staying in a Monorail Resort (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian) may be easier if you use a stroller. You can push the stroller onto the monorail or walk right into Epcot. This is much easier than folding a stroller or carrying your sleeping child. 

Why stay in a Deluxe Resort? 

  • You have a larger budget.
  • Luxury accommodations are important to you.
  • You want to splurge – this is a great way to celebrate a special occasion. 
  • You plan to spend more time at the resort and less time in the parks. If you're going to be hitting the parks for 8-10 hours a day and just want someplace to shower and sleep, a Deluxe Resort price tag might not make sense. However, the resorts at this level are so wonderful, you'll find yourself scheduling downtime just to enjoy them. 

Deluxe resorts are great for multi-generational or multi-family vacations, provided everyone is comfortable with the price point. If you've got older adults or moms with babies or anyone else who wants to hang back at the resort versus party hearty in the parks, a deluxe resort offers lots of comfort and activity choices. 

4. Deluxe Villas

Disney's Old Key West Resort.
Image credit: Shutterstock.

If you're looking for the ultimate in amenities and space, a Deluxe Villa might be for you. Deluxe Villas are part of the Disney Vacation Club. You do not have to be a DVC member to book in this category. 

Here s a list of the resorts offering deluxe villas:

  • Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Copper Creek Cabins & Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Vilas – Jambo House
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas
  • Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
  • Disney’s Riviera Resort
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
  • The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Members get first dibs on reservations but these villas are routinely released to the general public and you can reserve them on Disney World's reservations website just like any other resort hotel room.

A deluxe villa comes in 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms. There's also a deluxe studio, which is larger than a standard hotel room with some extra amenities. You can also book larger, standalone accommodations such as the bungalows at the Polynesian and the cabins at the Copper Creek (Wilderness Lodge.)

A deluxe villa will have amenities such as a full kitchen, laundry facilities and living room space, jetted tubs, a balcony or patio, and more. The deluxe studios have a wet bar with a mini fridge, coffee pot, and toaster versus a full kitchen. We typically stay in a 1 bedroom villa and love it because the bedroom and living room are separate, giving us room to spread out plus privacy. 

Free Baggage Transfers Between Disney Resorts

woman holding small suitcase.
Image credit: Deposit Photos.

Can't choose? The good news is, you don't have to. You can do a multi-resort stay at Walt Disney World.

If you want the deluxe resort experience but don't have the budget to spend your entire vacation in one, you can break it up and move from resort to resort during your stay. You can also book a split reservation at resorts within the same category, just to have a change of scenery and experience a different resort. Contact bell services and they'll move your bags to your next stop at no charge, although a tip is always appreciated. 

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