OK…let’s start off by saying your experience should definitely include staying on Disney property. Many people say that they need the room to spread out, and they want to rent a house or stay in a hotel outside of Disney…mistake in our opinion. The benefits of staying ON property outweigh any “space” you may gain by staying off property. The biggest perk is the Early (and now Late) Disney Magic Hours. Disney will open the park (different one each day) an hour early, and the same – up to 3 hours late at night – for resort guests only. The amount of rides that could be accomplished in this amount of time is worth the price of admission (pun intended!) Proof in the pudding – ask anyone who’s been to Disney who’s stayed outside the park what the longest line they waited in was…we guarantee you’ll get answers such as “45 minutes” or “an hour and a half”…how about doing FIVE rides in the first hour alone? Stay on Disney property!
OK…now where to stay on Disney property? Well, what’s your budget? Disney has something for all budgets. Our recommendations by budget…
Economy Resorts – economy resorts are about $79 per night…can’t beat that! OK, the rooms are small – like an average hotel room, but are you going to stay in the room? Nah, just need a place to crash, right? This will do for you! We’ve stayed at the All Star Movies (try and get the Toy Story section), but there are also All Star Sports and Music (stayed there too)…these resorts are quite adequate and there are 3 pools, food court, etc…great for any family.
Moderate Resorts – these run about $159/night. The rooms are definitely bigger, but other than that, these “middle of the road” resorts are almost interchangeable…just the themes are different. We stayed in Dixie Landings (now called Port Orleans) for our honeymoon. Beautiful, in our opinion. If you can afford a little more than the economy rooms, go for it…you do get more space, but again, it’s not necessary. The other Moderate Resorts are just what you like for a theme, i.e. Caribbean Beach…Coronado Springs, etc.
Deluxe Resorts – ok, this is where pricey begins…The Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and the Polynesian make up the circle that face Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom. We’ve only stayed at the Polynesian, which in our opinion – as far as “regular rooms”, is as good as it gets. The Contemporary Resort doesn’t have that “ambiance” that screams VACATION, and the Grand Floridian – overpriced. If you’re going to go this route, do the Polynesian…rooms are huge, perfect for a family of 4 or 5. One more thing, spend the extra $50 per night for the Lagoon View Room. You will wake up and stand out on your balcony FACING the castle. Gorgeous…these rooms can range anywhere up to $300 to $400 per night. The Wilderness Lodge is also part of the Deluxe resort category and is great. Although we’ve never stayed there, the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we’ve heard, is great for kids. Get the Savannah view room though…a little more costly, but you face the animals (giraffes, elephants, etc). If you can’t afford to stay in these resorts, go to dinner at one of them to get a taste of good living!
Homes Away from Home – ok, these are the DVC resorts. Old Key West, Boardwalk Villas, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas and Saratoga Springs all offer studios, 1, 2 and 3 bedroom grand villas. We usually stay in a 1-bedroom villa, which is HUGE! Master suite, living room, full kitchen, balcony, laundry in room, all the luxuries. Oh, and a Jacuzzi in the oversized bathroom! These are part of DVC, but you can book them without joining DVC (just join DVC – another plug!)…1 bedroom villas run around $450 - $500 per night, studios a little cheaper.
There is also Fort Wilderness Campground for those who dare (too close to ‘roughing it’ for the DeMarco family).
If you absolutely must stay out of the park, stay close. The Comfort Inn in Lake Buena Vista (Palm Parkway) is a very nice hotel close to Downtown Disney. It can run as cheap as $49 per night, but at that point, just go for the additional $30 and stay in an Economy Disney resort…. you don’t get the ‘perks’ at the Comfort Inn.
Oh, yes…forgot about the Dolphin and Swan – also on Disney Property – but this is where a lot of “conventioneers” stay….not a family destination if you ask us.
If you want more details about any of the resorts, just ask us…we’ve either stayed at – or have been to the grounds – of most of them.
To recap the DeMarco’s picks….
Economy – All Star Movies (Toy Story section)
Moderate – Port Orleans (Riverside)
Deluxe – Polynesian (Lagoon View)
Homes Away from Home – ANY OF THEM! JOIN DVC (another shameless plug…)