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Disney Resorts Explained

By: Brian Harris
| February 23, 2021 |

I recently completed what I am estimating to be my 12th trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. I’ve also managed to make it to California 4 times to visit “Mecca” for Disney enthusiasts simply known as Disneyland. Maybe one day in the future I’ll write another post comparing the two and why I like one more than the other, but for today I want to talk about the hotels or resorts that you can stay at while in Disney World. 

On this last trip, I was able to stay in a deluxe resort due to a covid related bubble being built for the NBA G League. I had planned to stay in Pop Century, a value resort, but there was a discount available for Disney Visa Cardmembers. It was actually $10 less a night to go to Coronado Springs, a moderate resort. The NBA came calling and they took over Coronado Springs. Disney was gracious enough to move my family and our friends up to the Grand Floridian, a Deluxe resort. So yes, I stayed at a $950 a night deluxe resort for $10 a night less than a value resort. It’s only happened once. I don’t think it’ll happen again.

I keep mentioning these words like value, moderate, and deluxe. Each of these is a price category within the Disney system. I’ll tell you about each, what you’ll expect to find at each, along with a review of the hotels I’ve stayed at in this category. 

VALUE RESORT

Value is just what it implies, this is the least expensive category. With the least expensive you get the least amenities. You’ll generally find that more people are crammed into a smaller space. Less bus stops. The rooms are smaller. The pools don’t have the big slides. You don’t have the restaurant options but instead, you’ll find more of a cafeteria environment for the resorts eating options. 

Some may view a value resort negatively but I view this as budget-conscious. It’s where I fit in personally the best. 

We stayed at the Pop Century resort in September 2020 with 4 other families. This resort includes nearly 3000 rooms. The room we had included a queen size bed and then a fold-out murphy bed that was also another queen size bed. 

They were clean and Disney-themed and fit our budget. My only complaint was the amount of time it took to walk from where the bus dropped you off to our rooms. It was a hike. When you are worn out returning from a day in the parks – the additional walk can be painful. 

The new Skyliner gondolas were in action and took us to Hollywood Studios. The other morning we rode a bus to the Magic Kingdom. Both had lines early in the morning but they were manageable.

Expect to spend $150 to $250 a night here. Family suites are available at the Art of Animation resort and are in high demand drawing an above-average nightly rate in the $350-500 area. 

MODERATE RESORTS

Many will call this the sweet spot because the resorts tend to be slightly smaller, have more amenities like larger rooms, and more themed dining options in addition to the food court. For my kids – this is where the slides start for the pools too. 

In this price range, we’ve stayed at both Coronado Springs and Port Orleans. 

Coronado Springs was in November 2016 and was before they added on the recent 15 story tower addition and refurbished the nearly 2000 rooms. 

Truthfully, we weren’t impressed with the resort. It was a long walk to the dining options and our rooms were out of date. I was glad to hear that they have been recently refurbished them and had planned to give the resort a second chance. 

There were multiple bus stops but they were constantly full when they got to our stop. By the third day, we had realized what stop the bus goes to first and would walk there in order to gain early access to the buses. Others figured out the system too so you would experience long lines at the bus stop, but more likeliness to actually be picked up and taken to your desired destination. 

We didn’t have the opportunity to check out the pools but there were more of them than the value resort and they included the elusive slide our kids would have loved to ride down.

We visited Port Orleans in May 2014, specifically the Riverside portion of the two-piece complex. This is by far and still is our favorite resort.

We were able to park our car relatively close to our room which made for an easy journey with our luggage. Our bus stop was also located fairly close by too, a 1-2 minute walk. Multiple dining options were available. At the time I was running daily and the jog down the paths in the complex was quite enjoyable and convenient. 

The first night we arrived we were able to take a boat ride from our resort to the nearby Disney Springs shopping center. It made for a great way to begin our vacation.

The best part though was the complex was in a circle pattern with an island in the middle. The island featured a large swimming pool with a long slide. The kids and I had a great time playing in this pool after a long morning in the parks.  

Expect to spend $250 to $400 a night to enjoy the moderate resorts. 

DELUXE RESORTS

Deluxe resorts are the most expensive and luxurious resorts in the parks. Most include spas, character dining options, and some even include monorail access that will drop you off at the door of the Magic Kingdom. The rooms tend to be the largest with many featuring two queen beds and a sleeper sofa.

Our most recent stay was at the Grand Floridian in February 2021. The 867 room flagship hotel for Disney has been deemed as the nicest one in the park.

Our room had a vaulted ceiling reaching 12 feet in height (though not all rooms come with this standard). Our balcony looked over the pool while the other side of our building had views of the Magic Kingdom. 

The Grand Floridian is a monorail resort with direct access to the Magic Kingdom. Our first night we rode the monorail for fun to just get the views of the park at night. Our friend’s child was having their first visit to the parks and it was an excellent way to introduce them. 

The dining options were great and we were able to enjoy an amazing meal at the Grand Floridian cafe the first night. Our other meals were at the food court space which was extremely small in comparison to moderate and value resorts. 

When you arrive you are picked up via golf cart in the lobby and driven to your room with all your luggage. Have cash on hand and be prepared to tip. You are not able to drive your car close to your room. It’s the same when you leave though and if you are in-patient at times like me, you just lug your luggage across the complex. It was quite the sight. 

In the end – I would not choose personally to pay to stay at this resort. The full price for this room would have been $750 more a night compared to what I actually paid. The fact we were able to stay here was a great blessing. The rooms were above average, with more space, and an extra bed. The bathroom included two sinks separate from the washroom. As much as I enjoyed the luxuries – they were in my opinion not worth the great price.  

OTHER RESORTS

We’ve had the opportunity to stay at two other resorts on property. 

My father is retired from the National Guard which earns him the opportunity to stay at the Shades of Green resort. The land the resort resides on is owned by Disney, while the building themselves are owned by the Department of Defense and only available to active duty and retired military. Veterans are also allowed to use the facility during certain months of the year.

We stayed here in December 2013 and enjoyed the stay. The rooms are larger than most other resorts. The buses are a little complex as they run different schedules than those of the traditional Disney resorts.  

Shades of Green does not have all the Disney luxuries but comes at a reduced cost in comparison to other resorts. Disney does require the DoD to keep the complex up to its standards. Also, the complex is self-sustaining and uses the money from room rentals for maintenance, etc. 

If you have the required previous or current service record it’s definitely worth checking out if it is available for you and your family. 

In December 2001 was stayed at the Disney Institute in their vacation villas. It was a two-bedroom townhome and it was quite an amazing place and great value for the money. There’s a long storied history about how they came to be but sadly where we stayed was torn down in 2003. The Tree House Villas, the only original part of this complex that was not torn down, were included in the new Saratoga Springs Resort – now part of the Disney Vacation Club. 

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

As much information as I have included in this I would say it’s not much in comparison to my friend Jason Davis’s knowledge of all things Disney. Jason is my go-to-guy when planning our Disney vacation. He not only knows the stuff about the trip, but he goes constantly to Disney and Universal himself. He has the experience. 

Jason is the reason I booked a moderate at less than value resort price which ended up landing me at a deluxe resort. He won’t guarantee anything like that to happen for you – but it’s still nice to know you have someone like him watching for the deals to help those types of things happen for you. 

While there he texted me to make sure we got everything we needed. I texted him back pictures of course of what we were doing just to make him jealous. Before other trips, he has even come to my office to help me set up our My Disney experience app. 

Shoot him an email when you are ready to plan your next Disney vacation!

My hope is that you’ll be able to take from my experience a little more information that can help you in making decisions about your next Disney vacation. Enjoy the trip and don’t forget to take lots of pics!

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