Any links in this post to a merchant may contain an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link and then buy something, I may earn a commission from it. However, all opinions in this link are 100% mine and 100% honest. If I didn't believe in a particular product, I wouldn't recommend it to you.
One of the first steps in planning a trip to Disney World is choosing where to stay. But there are so many choices! How do you decide, especially on your first trip?!?!? Don’t worry! I’m here to help. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide to finding the right resort for your family so you can feel confident in your decision of where to stay at Disney World.
Step #1: What’s your budget?
The first thing you need to do when choosing where to stay at Disney World is to determine your budget. How much can you afford to spend on accommodations? You can find lodging in just about every price range, so you are sure to find a place that works for your family. But, knowing your budget will make finding a place to stay easier because it will narrow down your choices. For instance, there are three price levels of resorts on Disney World property: deluxe, moderate, and value. So, if your budget is somewhat tight, you can save some time by immediately eliminating the deluxe and moderate resorts from your list.
Step #2: How many people are in your party?
Next, you need to decide how many people are going with you on your trip and how many of them are adults. This will also help you to narrow down your options. Most hotel rooms have a maximum occupancy rate of 4 people. If you have more than that in your party, you will need to look at the few places that sleep more than four, plan to get two or more rooms, or look at renting a vacation home through Airbnb or VRBO to accommodate your family.
Step #3: On site or off?
Once you’ve decided on a budget and party size, you need to decide whether you want to stay on Disney property or not. Deciding whether to stay on or off site is not as simple as comparing prices. While staying offsite is usually cheaper, there are quite a few benefits to staying on property. And many times, once you figure in resort fees, parking fees, gas, rental car, and the time spent getting to and from the parks each day, the savings from staying offsite are minimal to nonexistent. So, be sure to consider cost, time, transportation, and convenience when deciding.
Step #4: Onsite Considerations
If you have decided to stay on property, there are a few things you want to think about when deciding exactly where to stay. While you can’t really go wrong with any Disney resort, some resorts will appeal to your family more than others. So, think about the following things when picking a Disney resort:
There are three different price levels to Disney resorts: value, moderate, and deluxe. Within these levels, there is some variance in prices. First, you should consider which price level best matches your budget. Then, look at the various resorts within that level. This will help you to greatly reduce the options so you can more easily make a decision.
One of the advantages of staying at a Disney resort is the highly themed environments they create. Each Disney hotel has a specific theme that drives all of the design choices of the space. The themes of the value resorts are bright and colorful, while those of the deluxe and moderate resorts are more subtle. For example, Pop Century is themed around pop culture, while Port Orleans French Quarter is themed to the French Quarter district of New Orleans. Once you decide on a price level, look at the various themes within that category and find one that speaks to you and your family.
Amenities & Offerings
Amenities are something you should always look at when choosing a hotel. But, at Disney, it is not as big of a factor as it is with offsite hotels because all of the Disney resorts have the same basic list of amenities. However, some of the hotels have extra offerings, such as spas, boat rentals, or fishing. Animal Kingdom Lodge, for example, has animal viewing areas to watch the animals out on the savannah. (There are tons of things to do at the resorts and outside the parks.) So, when picking where to stay at Disney World, think about if there is a specific offering that your family wants to try.
Dining at your Disney hotel should not be a deal breaker because you can easily eat at any of the resorts on property, whether you are staying there or not. My family rarely eats at the hotel we stay at. But, if you want the convenience of being able to eat at your resort, take a look at the dining options when deciding where to stay at Disney World.
One of the benefits of staying onsite at Disney World is the free transportation, not only to and from the parks, but also to and from the airport. All of the Disney resorts offer free transportation. And you can easily get from any resort to anywhere else on Disney property using their transportation. Disney transportation includes buses, boats, the monorail, and the new Skyliner. If you want to be able to use a specific type of transportation to get to the parks, then consider this when booking your hotel because not all resorts offer all transportation types.
Step #5: Offsite Considerations
If you’ve decided to stay off property, choosing where to stay at Disney World is pretty wide open. Regardless of whether you choose a vacation home or a hotel, take the following factors into account when picking a place to stay:
Trust me, if Disney World is the primary reason for your trip, you want to stay as close as you possibly can. The closer you are, the less traffic you have to fight and the less time you spend getting to and from the parks each day. The last thing you want to do at the end of a long day is to spend an hour or more in the car driving back to your hotel.
You want to have enough space that your family isn’t climbing over each other getting ready in the mornings. Be sure to think about party size, the number of adults in the room, privacy needs of everyone, and varying sleeping habits when choosing where to stay at Disney World.
If you will not have a car on your trip, make sure to pick a hotel that offers a shuttle to the parks. However, not all shuttles are created equal. So, make sure you look at the operating hours of the shuttle and any associated costs before deciding which hotel is right for you.
If you plan to spend time at the resort, look at the amenities offered when making your decision. Does the hotel have a pool? Is there a playground? What are the onsite dining options? If, however, you plan to only use the hotel for sleeping and showering, then you don’t want to pay for a bunch of amenities that you won’t be using.
Lastly, consider price when deciding where to stay at Disney World. And be sure to look at all of the hidden fees too. Many resorts offer great prices, but hit you with lots of fees that make your overall price much higher than advertised. When comparing Disney resorts to off site properties, be sure to calculate these fees into your comparison.
Step #6: Book your lodging
Once you have thought through all the various considerations, you are ready to book your perfect lodging. By this point, I’m sure you have found the accommodations that match your budget, needs, and your family’s personality. So, book that room and get excited about your trip! It’s going to be a great one!
Choosing where to stay at Disney World can be overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be! The above steps will help you to find the perfect resort for your family without all the stress. For more planning help, see our step-by-step planning guide, best resources, and quick tips. Happy travels!
P.S. Want even more trip planning help for your Disney World vacation? Get our FREE Disney trip planning tools, including our Trip Planning Worksheet and Disney Packing List, in our Travel Resource Library. See the box below for details on how to get the password to the library.