Deciding where to stay at Disney World is a huge checklist item to tackle when planning your trip. Will you be staying on the Disney property at the Disney Resort or off the Disney property at a nearby hotel or rental property? If you choose to say at a Disney resort, which is a good fit for your family’s needs, preferences, and budget? Disney Value Resort, Disney Moderate Resort, or Disney Deluxe Resort are all resort categories that you need to understand before embarking on your indulgence.
Wondering what’s the difference between a luxury and upscale Disney resort? We get you, let’s talk about the differences between the Disney Resort categories.
Availability of dining service
Both the mid-range and luxury resorts have table service dining on the property. Nearby dining service can be a major convenience for families vacationing at the Walt Disney World Resort looking to find a great meal without venturing too far or without having to purchase a Park pass.
In terms of dining, the main differentiating factor between luxury and middling resorts is that luxury resorts have at least one fine dining option on the resort as well as another table service restaurant and a quick service dining option. A comparison of two resorts from each category will help highlight the differences.
At the Grand Floridian Resort 1900 Park Fare, Citricos, Victoria and Albert’s are all options for those looking for fine dining service. The Grand Floridian also offers less formal dining spots at Gasparilla Grill and Beaches Pool Bar & Grill. The temperate resort, Port Orleans Riverside, on the other hand, offers only one dining venue for table service, the Boatwright’s Food Court. If you’re looking for a quick bite to eat in this balmy resort, Riverside Mill Food Court is the place to go.
Related: Dining at Disney Resort Port Orleans – French Quarter
Additional resort activities
Temperate resorts offer great activities for guests ranging from campfires (Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground) and wagon rides (Port Orleans Riverside) to poolside karaoke (Yacht Club) and dance competitions (Polynesian Village Resort). Luxury resorts provide a little extra magic in this area with extra activities that guests can buy to try new things.
Guided fishing tours (Polynesian Village Resort), boat rentals, sunset boat rides (Beach Club) and babysitting (Animal Kingdom Lodge) are some of the amenities offered at some of the luxury resorts.
Related: Plan a toddler friendly trip to the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
Not surprisingly, the Walt Disney World Resort’s huge selling point is the magical, immersive guest experience when staying at the property. Resort rooms, pools, dining, and everything resort-related are always on point with Disney.
The princess and pirate themed rooms are a huge hit with few visitors. Princess rooms can be booked at the Port Orleans Riverside. Little pirates can lounge in their very own pirate ship at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort to experience pirate-themed rooms complete with ship-shaped beds.
Luxury resorts provide beautiful, luxurious rooms with more living space and an overall luxurious experience for guests. If you’re weighing the options and want to see if the cost of the room is worth it for your family, head over to YouTube to watch Disney’s vlogs of the resort rooms. You can literally tour the rooms at almost all Disney resorts.
Pros and Cons of Disney World Resorts Moderate (FYI – Port Orleans Resorts 2 is currently unavailable) #disneyworld
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While guest room sizes vary at each resort, there are accommodation options available for larger parties staying at luxury resorts. In fact, the BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Animal Kingdom Lodge are the only luxury resorts that can accommodate up to five guests in one room. For a luxury villa option that sleeps up to 9 people, try Tree House Villas at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort.
Related: Plan the perfect spa day at Disney’s Art of Animation
Resort luxury accommodations tend to have that extra bit of glitz, glamour, and drama that leaves guests with jaws dropping. Magnificent chandeliers, lavish resort rooms, and sparkling pools are just a few of the wow factors of luxury resorts. Temperate resorts are also very themed and incredibly relaxing, but the luxury resorts have a little extra charm.
Luxury Disney resorts tend to have additional serene pools, great landscaping, and sometimes spas, water features, and a concierge service available to guests. There’s no way to go wrong with a stay at a Disney property, but this is especially true when staying at a luxury resort.
Easy to transport
Transportation accessibility is an important factor to consider for many families deciding which resort to choose. All moderate resorts provide shuttle service to Disney Springs, the Disney water parks, and all four theme parks. The buses are efficient, comfortable and a great transportation option for guests. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, French Quarter and Saratoga Springs Resort all offer water taxi access to Disney Springs in addition to bus availability. Luxury resorts offer the best of the crop in Disney Transportation.
Resorts on the monorail such as Disney’s Polynesia Village Resort, Grand Floridian and Disney’s Contemporary Resort provide quick access to EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom as well as boat transfers for guests. The Yacht & Beach Club Resort and BoardWalk Inn are within walking distance of EPCOT and a boat ride from both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Inn is located next door to Animal Kingdom, while Wilderness Lodge is a ferry ride away from Magic Kingdom. Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort are two Disney SkyLiner resorts that give you easy access to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Regardless of whether you choose a luxury or mid-range resort, Disney will ensure that you arrive safely and quickly at your destination.
Related: Disney’s first post-pandemic vacation? Here is what you need to know
Sprawling resort design
Temperate resorts tend to be more popular than luxury resorts. It is not uncommon for temperate resorts to have multiple sectors spread out so that resort buses pick up guests from multiple bus stops within the resort. This means that there is more room for magic to explore in your resort.
It also means there is more walking around when traveling to parks, pools, or around the resort. Needless to say, a room away from the central dining hub may result in fewer trips to refill your resort cup than the sheer time and effort it takes to travel.
RelatedTips from a Disney Expert: Are Refillable Resort Cups Worth It?
The plus side of moderate size resorts is that the sectors are often divided into certain themes or groups which means room customization is fun. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is divided by the names of the Caribbean islands. Port Orleans Riverside is divided into Southern-themed room blocks with names like Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend. Separate sections feature different fun architecture and winding paths to explore. In general, luxury resorts tend to be more central with a less spacious layout, which means that guests spend less time walking around the resort.
Hotel room location
The basic but major difference in resort rooms in this comparison is that luxury resorts have rooms that open to interior hallways while moderate resorts open to the outside. These details may be important for guests traveling with young children. Heading out late at night to escape a cold winter’s evening or dodging a Florida rainstorm requires more tactical skill when staying at a temperate resort.
Luxury resorts tend to be a little closer to the major parks than moderate-value resorts. The Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and the Grand Floridian are located near the Magic Kingdom, while the BoardWalk Inn and Yacht & Beach Club are within walking distance of EPCOT.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Inn is of course located next to the Animal Kingdom theme park. The moderate resorts are still conveniently located on Disney property but require a slightly longer commute for guests heading to the parks.
The most obvious difference between mid-range and luxury resorts is, of course, the price. Prices fluctuate a lot based on the season you are visiting so it is difficult to determine a price range for resort categories. However, you can base your rate benchmark on the knowledge that luxury resorts often run as much as $300 more per night than moderate resorts. The best thing you can do is start planning early so you can keep an eye on resort prices and make an informed decision on which resort is best for your budget.
Don’t forget that splitting your vacation between multiple resorts is allowed. If you want a luxury experience but can’t afford it for the duration of your vacation, feel free to talk to a travel planner about booking two different resorts. You can save money by staying at a value or moderate resort during the days you have a hard time at the parks. Then save those relaxing spa days for your time at a luxury resort!
Don’t forget to check out our resort and dining guides for Walt Disney World resorts across Disney properties!