A lot of the messages in my inbox lately have been about Disney vacations! It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Disney, especially since becoming a mother. There is seriously no joy, no wonder, no awe like when your child meets their favorite characters! They are starstruck, and as cliche as it is to say it, it is one of the more magical moments I’ve experienced.
When it comes to a Disney vacation, I cannot recommend enough staying on Disney property. Transportation becomes a no-brainer, you get extra hours in the parks, and you get the incomparable Disney experience and service throughout your time there. That being said, Disney can be a completely overwhelming trip in terms of planning. There are many details that need to be thought of, so many things that need to be planned WAY in advance. (Deciding where you want to eat 6 months in advance for example…)
So when I begin, I always start with where I want to stay. Disney has a lot of options depending on your budget, what transportation you like best, what age groups you are traveling with, and which of the four theme parks you want to be closest to. My mother and sister have stayed at literally EVERY hotel on Disney property, and I have stayed at 3/4 of them. Here are my recs on where to stay based upon the categories above!
Best Themed Resort For Families
Art of Animation– If you are traveling with children, and want to stay somewhere that feels like DISNEY, then the best is Art of Animation! With favorites that parents and children will love equally– The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Cars, & Finding Nemo– it is always a family favorite. We stayed in The Little Mermaid Room on my daughter’s first visit, and even at 1 years old, she loved it! It is a value resort as well, so it fits nicely into any budget. Although, since adding the skyliner as part of its resort transportation, rates can be almost $100 more than other value resorts. It also is in the Wide World of Sports area, which means it is a ride to any of the four theme parks.
All-Star Movies— I personally think this one is a well-kept secret (until now!) With Toy Story being a the height of it’s popularity, many visitors forget that an entire section of this resort is Toy Story themed! It also tends to be $75-$100 less per night than Art of Animation, and is considered part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom area. SCORE!
Port Orleans/Riverside— If you have a little Princess like I do, then this resort is perfection. The majestic rooms at Riverside feature a portrait wall of Disney Princesses, as well as headboards that double as fireworks for your good-night. My daughter woke up every morning saying she was in her “castle” and greeted each Princess by name. This is a moderate resort, but it can still be at the lower end, only costing about $50 more than Art of Animation on average per night.
Animal Kingdom Lodge— If your child loves animals, then this resort is unbeatable! To quote my father, who is tough to impress, “You literally look out your window and see giraffes and zebras. It’s unreal.” This resort is THEMED and is the closest my family is getting to an African Safari for the time being. However, it is definitely one of the pricier resorts for that reason and can be a bit out of the way for any of the other theme parks other than the Animal Kingdom.
Wanyama Safari – Animal Kingdom Lodge, Arusha Rock
Best Resort Location for Families
Disney’s Contemporary Resort— You can walk to the Magic Kingdom. You can see the castle from the resort. You can watch the fireworks from the rooftop. In terms of location, I do not think this resort can be beat! Then there is the monorail which can take you directly to Epcot. These ease so many of your plans, not to mention not having to wait in the heat and crowds for the buses. When your child is younger and Magic Kingdom is your main focus, this resort location in invaluable. Which is good, because it is definitely one of the most expensive to stay at. That, along with its lack of a strong family theme, are the only downsides here. Added Bonus: Chef Mickey’s is at this resort!
Best Resort Location for Adults
Beach Club- This was a tough one. I chose Beach Club because it tends to be the least expensive, but any of the three resorts located on the Disney Boardwalk would be my top choice. Boardwalk Resort (Expensive) & Yacht Club (MOST expensive) are the others. This is my top choice because you can walk to two of the parks here– Epcot & Hollywood Studios! Since Epcot’s World Showcase has become the adult mecca of Walt Disney World, this resort group was an easy choice. Not to mention the Boardwalk is the best place for Disney nightlife, with the Abracadabra Bar right below, Jellyrolls Dueling Pianos around the corner, and ESPN zone along the way. It is pricier, but if you are going without children, you can hopefully afford a little splurge!
Disney’s Polynesian Resort— I don’t know about you, but a Hawaiian vacation is always at the top of my list. This resort gives off all the Big Island vibes while still keeping it Disney-focused. It also has the monorail, which means easy access to Magic Kingdom & Epcot. It is DEFINITELY one of the priciest options out there, especially since they added the Resort “Village”. There is a great sushi place in the resort, as well as a very entertaining luau. My mother and I’s favorite part is of course the tropical drink selection we love to indulge in.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort- If you are looking for Victorian era fancy, with a spa-like zen, then this resort was literally designed for you. It is one of the most expensive resorts (only topped by Yacht Club), but it is close by to the Magic Kingdom, and has monorail access to both MK and Epcot. There are tea parties, Mary Poppins style theming, which makes me lean towards this option if I’m going on a Girls Trip.
Honorable Mentions (aka Resorts I love for no real reason):
Wilderness Lodge: Maybe it is because its theme is the Pacific-Northwest, to which I still long to journey, or maybe it is because I had a an amazing wine and cheese flight at the Territory Lounge, but this resort has a solid space in my heart. You can dine with Snow White at Artist Point, or enjoy the amazing pool and water play area at this resort. It is considered a Deluxe resort, but it is usually on the inexpensive side of that grouping!
Riviera Resort– I can’t help it, I’m attracted to sparkly new things and this resort is all that. This place is gorgeous. It has the Disney magic, with an adult twist. Think mosaics of familiar Disney scenes. It keeps the European/Mediterranean vibe that just feels classic. Sleek lines, Art Deco Design, all with the hint of Disney that keeps it fun. Oh, and the new Skyliner runs through so easy access to Hollywood Studios and Epcot!