Top Five Questions to Ask When Choosing a Walt Disney World Resort

Even though there are a number of Disney resorts to choose from, picking one should not overwhelm you. Just like being at the resort itself, choosing a resort for me has become part of the excitement of the vacation.
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My parents started taking us to Walt Disney World four months after the park first opened. At that time, and for many years afterwards, we did very little advanced trip planning. We would show up, check-in and start our vacation. The only things you typically booked ahead were hotel reservations and a car service to and from the airport. Nowadays you need to start planning a Walt Disney World vacation as early as possible.

One of the questions I get asked often is which Walt Disney World resort hotel should I stay at? It would seem that this might be an easy question to answer, but with over 25 resort hotels, it's not.

There are a number of questions to ask when choosing a resort and in many cases the answer to one will quickly answer other questions. The five questions I ask are:

What is your budget?

This one is fairly simple and in many cases the first factor that determines the resort. Walt Disney World has three resort categories: value, moderate and deluxe.

Photo: Corey Martin /

Resort rates vary depending on the season. Typically Disney's value resorts start at $85 per night and include Pop Century, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, All-Star Music and the Art of Animation.

Photo: Corey Martin /

Disney's moderate resorts start at $162 per night and include Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside. Disney also offers the Fort Wilderness Campground and Cabins for the camping aficionado. Campground rates start at $48 per night and the Cabins, which will sleep up to six people, start at $289 per night.

Disney's Yacht Club Resort
Photo: Corey Martin /

Disney's deluxe resorts start at $279 per night and include Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club Resort, Boardwalk Inn Resort, Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge Resort and the Yacht Club Resort. The deluxe villa resort rates start at $313 and include Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom Villas: Jambo House and Kidani Village, Beach Club Villas Resort, Boardwalk Villas Resort, Old Key West Resort, the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and the Treehouse Villas.

The above rates are the starting rack rates for each category, however Disney offers discounted room rate specials throughout the year. In addition to a variety of other discounts that can be had including purchasing an all-inclusive package, being an annual passholder, a Florida resident, a Disney Visa cardholder, an active or retired member of the Armed Forces and select associations (like AAA).

When are you planning your visit?

Disney prices their rooms depending on the time of year. They typically fall under value, regular, peak or holiday pricing categories. Depending on when you are traveling determines the room rate. For example, value rates, which are the lowest rates, are available on select dates in January, February, August and September while regular season rates, typically available on select dates in February, March, April, May, September and October, are the next lowest rate category.

If I am visiting during a less crowded time then I may consider upgrading to the next level resort that might not otherwise fit into my budget.

Why are you visiting Walt Disney World?

Photo: Corey Martin /

The 'why' for me is also a determining factor. Is this trip a vacation or am I going down for a special event? For example, going down for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, which is held in the Magic Kingdom, I'd consider a resort near that park. Since the Food & Wine Festival is held in Epcot, I'd consider staying at an Epcot resort. If you have children who love animals then Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge might be for you.

Who are you traveling with?

Who you are traveling with, their personalities and interests will factor in your decision. Are you traveling with or without children? If yes, how old are the children? If you're traveling with adults, do they have endless amounts of energy or do they need some down time during the day?

When I travel with friends to attend a special event at The Magic Kingdom, we stay either at one of the monorail loop hotels (The Contemporary, The Polynesian or The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa) or Disney's Wilderness Lodge.

When traveling with children consider their ages and personalities. Perhaps one of Disney's All-Star resorts or Disney's Art of Animation Resort works better for you. For a large family, a villa resort that offers multiple sleeping arrangements and other options might be ideal for your crew.

What resort amenities are important?

Varying degrees of amenities are offered at each level of Disney resort. The higher the resort level, the more amenities offered. The following amenities are included, regardless of which category resort you stay at:
•Complimentary resort transportation
•Complimentary Parking
•Extra Magic Hours
•Advance Dining Reservations (ADR)
•Package delivery service
•Room charging privileges
•Complimentary Wi-Fi
•Disney's Magical Express
•Mini refrigerator
•Pak-n-Play cribs

One of the biggest factors in determining which resort I will stay at is access to transportation. For me, the easier the better. I stay where I can get the most transportation options as possible.

The Contemporary Resort Hotel

Staying at The Contemporary Resort gives me use of the monorail to three resorts, the Ticket and Transportation Center, the boats, buses and a walking path to The Magic Kingdom. If I am staying at an Epcot resort not only do I have bus transportation, but also boat transportation goes to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and I can also walk to either of those theme parks. You can compare all of Walt Disney World's resorts by clicking here.

Even though there are a number of Disney resorts to choose from, picking one should not overwhelm you. Just like being at the resort itself, choosing a resort for me has become part of the excitement of the vacation.

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