When it comes to most of my travels in foreign cities, the decision of where to stay comes down to several factors. As most people would agree, pricing plays a considerable role in the final choice; however, so do the little things like safety, location and bed configurations for the kids — with a preference for a large enough space where you can lock yourself in the bathroom with a book in case you need an escape from your travel party.
Choosing where to stay at Walt Disney World can be a little more complicated. Unlike in many other tourist destinations around the world, we are all basically staying at Disney for the same reason. You may have a few people that just want to take in the local resort-life, but the rest of us are heading to the Parks. If you compare that to say Manhattan or San Francisco, being similarly sized areas as Walt Disney World, visitors scatter to all ends of the city limits as the draw is different for everyone — different interests, different intentions, different agendas. At Disney, we all have the mouse on our minds.
Today we are going to cover a few of the crucial factors in deciding which Disney World Resort is right for you and take a more in-depth look at a few common scenarios that might feel less than straightforward.
Wheelchairs, Strollers and EVC Access.
If you are new to Disney you might not realize that just because a resort has lift access to most of their rooms, doesn’t mean it makes life much easier. Your proximity to the closest elevator may be a lot further than expected.
Most of us would assume that all buildings in each resort have elevator access to each floor to start with, however, often this isn’t the case. Some resorts have stair-only access in certain areas, so be sure to know what you are booking.
If you have any questions, ask your travel agent or call Disney directly to make sure that you have the access you need where you are staying.
A family of five?
Are you a family of five wondering when there will be a time that you don’t have to find yourselves two adjoining rooms or splurge on a suite? Walk this way.
There are a few of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels that have sleeping arrangements for five people in a standard room. For instance, booking yourself a standard Aligator Bayou room at the Port Orleans Riverside will actually accommodate five people, as long as one of them is a child. These rooms come with two queens beds and a pull-down Murphy bed, allowing your smallest family member to have their own space.
Carribean Beach Resort also offers a “5th Sleeper” room that has your two queen beds as well as a child-sized pull-down bed. Disney’s Beach Club, Contemporary, Boardwalk Inn and Yacht Club all have the option of a standard room 2 Queen Beds and 1 Day Bed configuration. If this is a deal-breaker for you, make sure you have booked the correct one as there are a few different configuration options on offer, and without specific instructions you won’t be given a five-sleeper room automatically.
If you are interested in spending a bit more for a suite or second room, there are many other resorts and room types that can accommodate you; however, those are my favorite go-to resorts for sleeping a family of five or in desperation to separate my two children at bedtime.
A family with special needs?
I completely understand that when you have special needs in your family, your requirements for accommodation tend to be a little bit different. We contend with autism and ADHD, among other things, which means that a calm environment that isn’t too noisy or overwhelming is a must at the end of an overstimulating Disney day.
Ask for the top floor of your accommodation, even if it is less convenient to get to. This means that there will be no one staying above you which will save you from those noisy footsteps back and forth in the middle of the night when other guests get home from the fireworks.
Choose a resort with a calmer aesthetic. There are several moderate resorts that can give you a break from the endless theming of 100% Disney, 100% of the time. Check out the Swan and Dolphin resorts, which are close to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, have great transport options and also tend to be a little quieter
A family that travels with their dog?
Personally, I don’t get it. When I go to Disney, the last thing I would want to be thinking about is the needs of my over-excitable Labrador in all his beautiful stupidity. Traveling with service animals is one thing, but vacationing with the family pet makes me wonder why on earth you’d choose Disney as your destination. That said, I know you are out there somewhere and if you are going to bring your pooch to visit the mouse then you might as well know where to start.
Thanks to the introduction of an ongoing pilot program, there are now four Disney Resorts that have fancy dog-friendly accommodations:
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort
These rooms are specially allocated to have easy access to the outdoors for walks or to get your business done in a timely manner. The Disney website also goes on to mention a cute little welcome kit for the pilot program participants.
“Upon arrival, dogs and their owners will be greeted with a complimentary Pluto’s Welcome Kit.”
As of when this was written, dogs are the only pets allowed and only a maximum of two per room. I feel it is important to stress this so that someone doesn’t turn up with their eight cats ready to get their Disney on. Only dogs; no more than two.
It is important to also note the following message from Disney about allocated resort areas for your furry friend.
“While certain floors or sections of these Disney Resort hotels are designated as dog-friendly, the majority of areas remain canine-free to protect Guests with allergies. Other than service animals, dogs are not permitted in theme parks, water parks or common areas such as restaurants, pools and recreational spaces.”
It might also be worth having a look at Disney’s Best Freinds Pet Care to find out more about taking care of your pet on your vacation. Additional pet cleaning fees may apply to resort bookings.
Want to avoid transportation?
We all know how frustrating it can be to wait for your bus to come before you can start your Disney day in the parks. If you are a fan of spending that time on the move instead of standing in line, have a look at some of the resorts that are within walking distance to your favorite parks.
Even though Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter might look close enough on the map, there is no walking path to Epcot, and you can not travel between the two on foot.
If you are planning on a lot of Magic Kingdom time, you may be looking for a way to avoid the crowds and travel time associated with buses. For a closer stay, trade in that bus line for the monorail by staying in any of the following hotels:
Want to go a step further? For walking access to the Magic Kingdom, stay at the Contemporary Resort. This resort is the only one that gives you walking access to the park allowing you to skip the buses, boats, monorails, and carpark. It may appear in maps that the Polynesian is within walking distance; however, much like Port Orleans and Epcot, there is no walking track available.
Are you picky pool people?
If you are traveling to The World in the midst of summer, or any time apart from about two weeks in January when it can be a little brisk, adding in some pool time is usually a given. Some guests like to choose their accommodation based on the type of pool access available and its suitability to their traveling family.
If you have children that love swimming, water play, and water slides, there are many resorts in the lower price ranges that can make your time magical. On the other hand, if you have much younger children, you may prefer a quieter environment for them to cool down and enjoy the water.
Since many of the resorts offer multiple pools and buildings, consider where your room will be located compared to where you want your pool time to be spent. You may prefer to be further away from the action if the sanity of your afternoon relies on little ones getting a midday nap. Alternatively, you may have older children that you would allow to visit the pool alone but would like to be close by or in eyesight of them.
There are many options available, and while Disney doesn’t guarantee which building you want to be in, special requests can be made, and if needed, preferred buildings can be booked.
Where will you spend most of your time?
This one is often overlooked but can be the biggest factor worth considering when deciding between that big splurge for something fancy and saving that money to bank for the next trip. If you are planning to spend most of your time in the parks, don’t be too tempted to up the budget for a fancier resort. Instead, you might like to do what I do and consider the quality of the bedding and configurations available.
When planning a dawn-till-dusk park day, it is far more important to come back to a comfortable bed that allows you to recover from the day than it is to make sure you have a mural of The Little Mermaid in your bathroom. Spend that extra money on dining experiences or special mementos instead.
Think twice before sleeping on a table for the sake of the theming.
Prioritize the comfort of your family over all the fancy features. Convenient restaurant access and pretty colors don’t make up for lost sleep.
That will do it for today. If you have any questions about your accommodation, ask your agent and put your question to the brain trust of the DisBoards to make sure you have covered all the bases.
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.