Now that you've decided to make a family trip to Walt Disney World, it's time to start the real work: choosing your hotel. The variety of choices that modern visitors have and the array of add-ons can be overwhelming. To help guide you through finding just the right spot, here's a short primer on the lodging experience at the park.
The Resort. You start with two choices when it comes to Disney hotels: on the property or off the property. "On the property" means that you stay within the Disney World Resort complex that houses its hotels, the parks themselves, and some added visitor entertainment areas (such as Disney Springs shopping and Typhoon Lagoon). There are a few non-Disney hotels in this area operated by quality hotel companies like Hilton and Westin.
The Hotels. Disney's own resort hotels have a variety of themes—from upscale rustic to Polynesian kitsch—and are scattered throughout the property near different parks. The flagship is the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The Grand Floridian and the newest entry in the resort hotel club, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, fall into the most expensive category of on-site hotels. Each resort hotel within the family is designed to fit into one of four categories. They are:
- Deluxe. This is the most expensive set of resorts and features the most expansive or immersive lodging experiences.
- Moderate. Moderate resort hotels are still very well-decorated to their themes but at a lower price point than the deluxe locations.
- Value. The five value resort hotels are built in the style of a "motel" and generally use bold, oversize theme decoration to make them more appealing to kids and families. Themes include Disney animation, Disney movies, sports, or music.
- Villas. The Disney Vacation Club Villas are part of its timeshare program, so you'll need special arrangements to stay there.
The Amenities. All the Disney property hotels offer many similar amenities, including free airport transportation to and from Orlando's main hub. You can also travel free between your hotel and the theme parks as well as the on-site entertainment venues. Most hotels offer buses that travel back and forth, although some select boat rides are available. The Grand Floridian, for example, is situated on the water and so you can take a boat launch to the Magic Kingdom while traveling on buses to the other parks.
Most resort hotels offer at least one sit-down restaurant and one counter service restaurant. The Deluxe accommodations generally have larger and more exciting pool options for the kids, and some hotels have on-site spa services for the adults. Some have views of the parks as well.
The Decision. Which hotels are right for you ultimately comes down to which variables are most important to your family. These variables include:
- Which parks you will visit
- What themes appeal most to you
- How large your budget is
- How much time you want to save on transportation
- What hotel amenities you desire or need
You can do a lot of research about the look and feel of all the resort choices via their online websites. You can also check out their specific on-site amenities and even reserve some things (such as spa treatments) ahead of time.
To be sure, planning your Disney World vacation requires some time and research. Because things are complex and always changing on the property, it's a good idea to work with a professional Walt Disney World travel agent who can help guide you through the many variables and help you find just the right fit.