Affordable Disney Vacations Step by Step. Part Eight: What to Know if You Want to Stay at a Walt Disney World Resort

This is part eight in my blog series: Affordable Disney Vacations Step by Step. You can read the rest of the posts here.

I get many questions from people who are thinking about visiting Walt Disney World and want Disney World vacation tips and suggestions. Disney vacation planning can be very involved and confusing as well, so the goal of this series is to start at the beginning, and look at everything you need to think about, in the general order you need to think about it. Each week’s post will be numbered and link to all the others so that, when complete, you will have a guide with all the steps and information you need to plan your own Disney magic.

100_0827OK, so you are going to Walt Disney World, and you need to figure out where you are going to stay. You have looked at rental properties, and non-Disney hotels. What if you want to stay in the heart of the “magic”?

Well, you have a lot of choices! 🙂

Briefly, Disney basically has four categories of hotel accommodations: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villas.

While there are clearly some differences among these categories in terms of size, location, amenities, and cost, all Disney resort properties share in a number of “perks”. Disney resort guests all have access to free transportation to and from Orlando International airport, and between theme parks and hotels. In addition, resort guests can participate in Disney’s “Extra Magic Hours” at the parks, as well as the Disney Dining Plans. And depending on the time of year, Disney may also offer some very attractive package deals that include free days, park tickets, and even free dining….all of which can weigh very heavily when planning affordable Disney vacations.

As to the resorts themselves, Value resorts such as All-Star Music, or Pop Century offer fun themes, food courts, smaller rooms, and the lowest prices on Disney properties. They are also typically located farthest away from the theme parks.

The Moderate resort category, as the name implies, is “in-between”. These resorts, like the Caribbean Beach, or Port Orleans also have food courts, have slightly larger rooms, and are usually a little closer to the parks.

The Deluxe category hotels, which includes properties such as the Polynesian, Yacht and Beach Club, and Disney’s flagship Grand Floridian, are the closest to the parks, have the largest rooms and most luxurious amenities, and do not typically include the “food court” option. They are also the most expensive….most of the time. I say this because they are also the properties that, when Disney offers resort discount promotions, are most likely to be discounted the heaviest because they do not book up as quickly. This is where having some flexibility as to when you are traveling can be beneficial: it is not unusual to be able to stay at a deluxe resort during non-peak times for less money than a moderate during peak times.

The final category is the Deluxe Villas which are really a “different” category entirely, because they are Disney Vacation Club properties that are not booked by vacation club owners. These properties can be perfect for larger families since they include one and two bedroom villas that have kitchens. Again, depending on the time of year and potential promotion available, a Deluxe Villa can be the most affordable option for your family.

So as you begin to finalize this part of the process, compare your needs as to size, location, and budget with the options available for the time of year and promotions that are available. It is really important, if you want to have the most affordable Disney vacation possible, to do this part of your research and do the math. You may be surprised about what is actually the most cost-effective: it is not always the option you think it will be. 🙂

Finally, your last stop before booking, should be to compare different pricing options…no matter if you are staying on or off Disney property.

You should always check sites like Expedia,, Priceline and Travelocity to see if you can get a better price than the one offered directly by Disney or the off-site hotel: frequently you can. Be sure to also check for discounts through organizations like AAA, AARP, and if you are a teacher look into that as well: the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin often offer good promotions for teachers.

So there you have it. Lots of options for where to stay on your Walt Disney World vacation. Explore your options, compare your choices, see where you can get the best price, and then get it booked!  We have more planning to do! 🙂

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