Disney for Littles: Which Resort Should I Stay At?

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family IMG_3890

Choosing which Disney Resort to stay at for your family vacation can feel overwhelming. There’s so many factors to consider including budget, value for your money, transportation options, ambience, proximity to the theme parks, dining options, resort recreation, pool areas, and amenities.



When you’re traveling with littles, these factors become all the more important. Closeness to the parks means it’s easier to get back for afternoon naps. Great pool areas provide entertainment for littles on non-park days. Convenient transportation options like the Skyliner and Monorail save you time because you don’t have to fold down strollers.

Everyone has different priorities when it comes to what they are looking for in a resort. My goal is to provide you with a few family-friendly resort options that might work for you, but there are certainly other great choices as well. Let’s explore some of my favorite Disney resorts for littles in the value, moderate, and deluxe resort categories.



Value Resort Choice For Littles: Pop Century

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family Pop-Century-Resort-Pools-016

Pop Century is my go-to value resort recommendation both to clients and where I personally stay when I’m looking to save some money. It may seem surprising that I didn’t choose Art of Animation, particularly given how geared the theming is to little kids. But unless you are looking to stay in one of the family suites, I’m not a fan of the standard Little Mermaid rooms because of how far away they are. Pop Century is usually also a bit cheaper than Art of Animation.

Transportation

Pop Century has access to Disney’s Skyliner transportation system, which is the number one reason I recommend staying here. With service to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, the Skyliner is a fast, fun, and convenient way to get to 2 of Disney’s 4 main theme parks. The Skyliner alone makes the price increase from the All Star Resorts worth it to me.



When taking the bus, you have to take your baby or toddler out of their stroller and fold it up for the duration of the bus ride. This is super inconvenient, especially if you are the only one with your little. With the Skyliner you can roll the stroller right onto the gondola, allowing your little one to stay put, which is especially helpful if they are napping.

Theming & Recreation

I find the theming at Pop Century charming and my little loved all the bright colors and larger than life icons. The resort is also easy to maneuver around; I recommend booking a preferred room and requesting a room near transportation and the main building.



The main pool, the Hippy Dippy Pool, is fun for families and children of all ages. They do have a special area specifically for littles located just behind the main pool. They also have Petals, a fun pool bar, where the adults can enjoy cocktails, sangria or beer.

Pop Century offers a variety of fun, family-centered activities throughout the resort. Some of these include campfire activities, movies under the stars, a playground, and an arcade.



Dining Options

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family Pop-Century-Resort-Everything-Pop-Food-Court-1

Like all the value resorts, the only dining option is going to be a quick service location. Everything POP Shopping & Dining offers a variety of quick-service stations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve eaten here many times, and I do think it’s the best quick-service location of all the value resorts.

Resort Rooms

The rooms at Pop Century are pretty standard, but they do have some subtle Mickey Mouse theming. Unless you specifically request a king bed room, you’ll be given a room with 1 Queen Bed and 1 Queen-Size Table Bed.

The Table Bed is actually great for families with littles because it folds up during the day and gives your family more space to move around. I’ve slept on it and find it just as comfortable as the normal beds. If you require a crib or pack n’ play, the Table Bed allows you more space for that as well.

Overall Thoughts on Pop Century

Pop Century is not for everyone, a lot of people do not enjoy the larger-than-life theming and lack of table-service dining options. But little kids seem to love it and it will definitely save you money for other areas of your vacation.

If Disney theming and an exceptional pool area are important to you, I’d also recommend Art of Animation. It will cost you a bit more, but you’ll see extra touches of Disney, and they do have one of the best Splash Zones in all of Walt Disney World.


Moderate Resort Choice for Littles: Caribbean Beach

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family Caribbean-Beach-Recreation-0001

Before the addition of the Skyliner, Caribbean Beach may not have been my first choice moderate resort. I probably would have suggested Port Orleans Riverside, which is another great moderate option for families. The Skyliner really is that much of a game changer. Anytime you don’t have to get onto a bus with a baby or a toddler is a win. Caribbean Beach is where I stayed with my little during our last WDW stay, and we had a great experience start to finish.

Transportation

As I mentioned, Caribbean Beach has access to the Skyliner system, which can take you to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Caribbean Beach is actually the central hub for the Skyliner, which makes it even more convenient to get to the parks. Caribbean Beach is a rather large resort, so I do recommend requesting a room near the Skyliner for ease of transportation.

You will still have to take the bus to get to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, but being able to get to two parks without the busses will make your trip so much easier.

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family disney-skyliner-over-caribbean-beach

Theming and Recreation

Caribbean Beach bills itself as a leisurely and relaxing paradise that captures the essence of 5 distinct islands: Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, Trinidad, and Aruba. The beaches, bright colored buildings, and Calypso-inspired rhythms make for a relaxing and fun atmosphere.

All the moderate resorts, including Caribbean Beach will be a step up in terms of sophistication of theming. While definitely still family-friendly, I would say they are less kid-centric and less over-the-top with their theming compared to the value resorts.

The resort’s main pool, Fuentes del Morro, is one of my favorite pool areas on property for families. The pool features 2 waterslides which are great for older kids, but they also have a zero entry section for the littles. My favorite thing about this pool is the shipwreck splash zone that is only for guests 48″ or under. In addition to this being an amazingly themed splash zone, it’s also completely fenced in away from the main pool. If your little is a runner like mine is, this is a huge plus. We spent several hours playing here and had to tear him away when it was time to leave.

Caribbean Beach also has 5 leisure pools, one located in each village if you don’t feel like making the trek up to the main pool area. Like Pop Century, Caribbean Beach also provides campfire activities and movies under the stars.

Dining Options

You’ll notice a step up in resort amenities from the value resorts to the moderate resorts when you look at the dining options. While the value resorts only have quick service options, all the moderate resorts will have at least one table service option available for you to enjoy.

Centertown Market is the quick service option at Caribbean Beach. They offer Latin and Caribbean-inspired menus, and this is a great option if you’re looking to grab something quick and go. Sebastian’s Bistro is one of the resort’s table service options and serves delightful family-style dishes infused with Latin flavor.

But my favorite restaurant at Caribbean Beach is Banana Cabana. This open-air restaurant located right near the Fuentes del Morro pool has such a fun vibe with great cocktails, music, and fun, tasty bites. This is a great option for a resort day or after some pool time. Banana Cabana doesn’t take reservations and is pretty small, so I recommend getting there early if you’re wanting to eat at peak meal times.

Resort Rooms

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family Preferred-Room-011

Caribbean Beach rooms will be slightly larger than rooms at the value resorts, they are also the largest of all the moderate resort rooms. The rooms are subtly themed to match the island vibe of the resort but do not feature a ton of Disney specific theming.



There are a couple different configurations of rooms you can book including rooms with 2 queens, 1 king, or 2 queens with a child-size pull down bed. If you’re a family of five this can be a huge advantage as none of the standard rooms at the value resorts can accommodate more than 4 guests per room.

Overall Thoughts on Caribbean Beach

If you’re looking for a resort with more features than the value resorts, but you’re still trying to be somewhat economical, Caribbean Beach is a great choice for families with littles. I’ve stayed here several times in the past few years and will continue to take my kids back to this resort.

The pool areas are fantastic, there is more than one dining option, and the Skyliner can help make transportation with littles so much easier. The one downside to this resort is that it’s quite large, so I do recommend looking at a map and figuring out where you’d like to be so you can put in requests. I typically request buildings in the Jamaica and Aruba sections because they are closest to the Skyliner stations.


Deluxe Resort Choice for Littles: Polynesian Village

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family poly-lobby-03

If money were no object, I would stay at the Polynesian Village Resort 10 times out of 10 with my family. Everything about the Poly screams family vacation from the complimentary leis at check-in, to the character dining, to the Moana inspired guest rooms, to the tropical oasis that the Lava Pool area provides.

The Polynesian is conveniently located in the Magic Kingdom resort area. This is perfect for families wanting to spend a good part of their trip at Magic Kingdom as it is only a short monorail ride away.



The tropical vibe isn’t for everyone, so I wanted to provide a couple honorable mentions in the deluxe resort category. The Beach Club is a fantastic choice for families with the best pool area on property and is only a short walk to EPCOT. Animal Kingdom Lodge is truly a special place if your littles are animal lovers and if the adults are food lovers. You really cannot go wrong with any of the deluxe resorts though, they all offer something special and unique for families to enjoy.

Transportation

The Polynesian offers Monorail, boat, and bus transportation to Disney’s theme parks and Disney Springs. The monorail can take you directly to Magic Kingdom or to the Ticket and Transportation Center where you can transfer to Epcot. Boat transportation is a fun and leisurely way to travel to Magic Kingdom, and the busses will take you to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs.

Like the Skyliner, the Monorail is a far superior transportation option to the busses. You can roll strollers directly onto the monorail and you can be inside the Magic Kingdom within 15 minutes. Being located this close to Magic Kingdom is also a huge benefit because you can quickly make it back to your room for a mid-day nap.

Theming and Recreation

The Polynesian is themed after the spirit of the South Pacific. The grounds are covered in tropical palms and lush vegetation, and you’ll find some uniquely Disney touches throughout the resort. The relaxed, tropical vibe makes you feel like you’ve started your vacation from the moment you enter the lobby.

As with all Deluxe resorts, you will see an upgrade in terms of the sophistication of the theming compared to the moderate and value resorts. The Polynesian has the feel of a luxurious resort from the attentiveness of the cast members to the grandness of the lobby, to the wide array of dining options.

The Polynesian has so much to offer families with littles, including their incredible Lava Pool area which features a towering volcano, a 142 foot-long waterslide, and a zero-depth entry. Kiki Tikis can also be found at the Lava Pool area, which is one of Disney’s most exciting Splash Zones for littles.

In addition to the main pool, the Polynesian also has a leisure pool for those looking for a quieter swim time experience. There are endless recreation options at this resort including campfires, movies, boat rentals, and volleyball courts. You can also take a short walk next door and unwind at Sense, a full-service spa located at the Grand Floridian resort.

Dining Options

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family trader-sams-polynesian-22

The quality and variety of food options is one of the things that sets the deluxe resorts apart, and the Polynesian has some of the best dining experiences on property. Captain Cook’s is the main quick-service option located at the Polynesian and has some of my favorite creations (I seriously cannot go to Walt Disney World without stopping here to get the meatballs!) You can also grab and go quick breakfast options at Kona Island or enjoy some Hawaiian-inspired appetizers at Tambu Lounge.

The Polynesian also has the crowd favorite restaurant, ‘Ohana. The Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch is a blast for littles and was actually my toddler’s first character dining experience. The characters spent so much time with him and were so patient with him as he tried to feed them his pineapple bread. They also offer a very popular dinner filled with Hawaiian specialties, although this has not typically been my favorite dinner at Walt Disney World.

Kona Cafe, another table service restaurant at the Polynesian, is underrated and is a must-do if you’re staying here. The Tonga Toast and Pineapple-Macadamia Nut Pancakes are two of the best breakfast options on property, and we’ve tried several times to recreate them at home.

Lastly, The Polynesian is home to Trader Sam’s, a tropical tiki bar with magical concoctions that have a cult-like following. This is a very popular spot and people will sometimes line up hours in advance of opening to grab their place in line. If you can’t get in, you can always try the Tiki Terrace outside which offers the same drinks but in an outdoor patio setting.

Resort Rooms

Disney for Littles: Choosing a Resort for Your Family new-poly-moana-queen-bedroom

The Polynesian Resort rooms were recently refurbished and re-themed to reflect a Moana theme. I personally think they did an excellent job with this re-theming. It makes the rooms uniquely Disney, but it isn’t over-the-top.

Most standard rooms at the Polynesian will come with 2 queen beds and a day bed and can sleep up to 5 adults. Rooms will also come with a patio or balcony, which is an awesome feature for the adults to have some time to relax when the kiddos are sleeping. The Polynesian offers a variety of view types including resort, water, and theme park view as well as club level offerings and suites.

Overall Thoughts on Polynesian Village Resort

In my opinion you cannot beat the location, vibe, and magic that Disney’s Polynesian Village provides. Yes, it is expensive, and because of the price, I will often opt to stay somewhere cheaper like Caribbean Beach or Pop Century. But the proximity to Magic Kingdom, the ease of transporting littles on the Monorail, and the special memories you can make watching the fireworks from the Polynesian beach is hard to put a tangible price tag on.

The Polynesian is probably Disney’s most popular resort, it is the one I most consistently see sold out when booking reservations for clients. If you think this is somewhere you might want to stay on your next vacation, I highly recommend booking at least 6-8 months in advance, if not even further out.


If you’re planning a trip to Disney with littles and would like help navigating all the challenges that come with that, I’d be thrilled to assist you. When you book with Dreams Unlimited Travel, our services are always free to you, and we’re here to help you find the perfect resort for your family’s needs.

Mel Dupell is a Dreams Unlimited Travel Agent who lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband Hayden and toddler son, Micah. She has been a lover of all things Disney since she was a little kid and has experienced the magic of Disney as a baby, a little, a pre-teen, a teenager, a young adult, and now as an adult with littles of her own.

Join Mel as she shares tips, tricks, and insights on traveling to Disney Destinations with littles.













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