The Deal Mommy

Disney World Resort Reviews: The 9 Disney World Resorts I Don’t Recommend

 

After close to two months at Disney World in the last eighteen (and over twenty Disney World Resorts stays) I’ve come to appreciate staying on site. Between extra magic hours, extravagant theming, amazing customer service and surprises even after you get home I understand the value of paying extra for on-site hotel stays. I also know there are SO many Disney World Resort reviews about there. 

WHICH Disney World Resort you pick will largely determine how much value you get for the extra cost. I visited this topic a year ago and have more hotels to add to my list of places to avoid. With that in mind I have written many Disney World Resort Reviews and now present eight Disney World Resorts that I DON’T recommend:

All Star Resorts (Music, Sports, and Movies)
I go back and forth on the All Star Resorts but have finally landed on “no”. Yes, there’s some theming and the staff is nice, but the rooms are tiny and the buses crowded. No amount of Disney art makes up for the plastic Motel 6 cups and budget feel. I’d either pay slightly more for a moderate or go off site.

I’m purposely leaving Pop Century off this list. I still wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it, but it’s the least Motel 6-y of the Value resorts. Dedicated buses and walk-ability to Art of Animation are other appreciated features. I also don’t count Art of Animation (full review) as a Value because the prices are closer to a Moderate.

The Grand Floridian: one of the Disney World Resort Reviews that I don't recommend.

Take a stroll around the Grand Floridian, just don’t shell out for an average room.

The Grand Floridian

I fully expect Grand Floridian lovers to be up in arms, but I stand behind my pick.  After two stays I can confidently state that the Grand Floridian is lovely, but the room is NOT a $600/night hotel room.  It. Just. Isn’t. I’ve stayed in Hyatt Places that were more thoughtfully appointed and better designed.

The public areas of the property are incredible, but available to anyone visiting for free.  Have lunch at the Grand Floridian Cafe or if you’re lucky snag a res for High Tea, take a stroll to Basin for their 1/2 price Mickey soaps at the register, and call it a day.

I get that the Monorail offers convenience that is available no where else. If you MUST have it, stay at the Polynesian or Contemporary.  At least both of those are unique enough to (kinda?) merit the exorbitant cost.

The Swan and Dolphin
I’m going to get some pushback on this one, but hear me out. The hotels are perfectly nice and in a normal circumstance I’d recommend them. But this is Disney and there is absolutely no theming in the rooms or at the pool. Even if you redeem points you’re on the hook for $18/night parking and $23/night resort fee. I just can’t justify 10,000-12,000 StarPoints (or 8,000-9,600 if you spend five nights as one is free) that could have such better uses. If you have to choose one, I don’t see any appreciable difference between the Dolphin and Swan so would choose the lower category Dolphin.

(PS: I’m fully aware Swan/Dolphin are Starwood properties. However, they show up in the Disney app, so to me they’re Disney.)

Saratoga Springs and Old Key West
Again, perfectly nice, but both hotels are WAY on the fringes on Disney Property and really only convenient to Disney Springs. Even in low season studios here can be over $300/night. I’ve stayed off property for 1/4 the price and gotten to the parks more quickly than from Saratoga or Old Key West.

Let me reiterate that I LIKE both hotels- Old Key West more than Saratoga.  I stayed at OKW recently before my parks visit and loved taking the boat to Disney Springs. Olivia’s Cafe is my favorite unsung Disney World restaurant. I’d even recommend staying there (especially if you rent DVC points and get all-in for under $200 night) on a Disney World without the parks adventure.  But both resorts are just too far from the parks for me to recommend for a visit that includes them.

Animal Kingdom Lodge: Kidani Village (Studio)

Before I see a revolt in the comments let me state that I LOVE Animal Kingdom lodge! You’re going to see below that Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo is my #1 recommendation. However, Kidani Village feels like an afterthought. 

 I’m actually typing this from Kidani Village while staying here and here’s why I don’t recommend it: for the same price or less Jambo is just much more convenient. Come over to Kidani for Sanaa and to use the kids pool area if you have small ones but I’d recommend using Jambo as your main base. 

Kidani lacks a limited service restaurant which is a big deal, especially at breakfast. Sanaa tries to fill the gap by doing a few grab and go items and there’s always the convenience store on site, but the average Disney vacationer is gonna feel it. 

View also matters a lot more at Kidani: at Jambo if you don’t get Savannah you’ll probably get a nice pool view. At Kidani it’s Savannah or Parking lot. Kidani is the first resort where my touring plans hack failed. 

If you’re here with a car, in a large unit, and know what to expect, Kidani could be great. I admit “Welcome home” (because Kidani is a DVC resort) is a wonderful greeting. But for that once in five year/decade/lifetime traveler to Disney World? Jambo is a much better choice. 

 

A Disney World Resort review: I DO recommend the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is a terrific value when renting DVC points.

Where DO I recommend?

  • Animal Kingdom Lodge: Jambo House, the most elaborately themed and my absolute favorite on-site hotel.  It’s especially good value when renting DVC points and getting a room under $250/night all in. Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House will be my go-to from now on. I wouldn’t bother with the Savannah view- 1/2 the time you’ll get upgraded anyway and even if you don’t the pool view is lovely and animal viewing areas are everywhere.
  • Port Orleans- Riverside: Theming is solid (Princess and the Frog), rooms have Murphy beds that comfortably sleep up to a five foot teen, and the pool area is terrific. Great activities around the property, too, like renting Surrey bikes and fishing.
  • Coronado Springs is another solid moderate choice. Yes, it’s the “convention hotel” but that also means the rooms are a bit bigger and it has a spa and a better gym than the other moderates. Theming doesn’t hit you over the head (which is a downside IMHO for an on property hotel) but the 3 Caballeros are a personal favorite.
  • Disney Springs Hotels. I’d especially take a good look at the B Resort and the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower rooms if you’re considering shelling out for the Swan or Dolphin. The rooms are comparable and easily 1/2 the price and both properties have a Disney vibe and a nice pool.  I know you can’t walk to Epcot, but Disney Springs and its huge bus depot is literally across the street and the Disney Springs Hotels buses are frequent.
  • The Waldorf Astoria. I haven’t stayed here yet, but American Express FHR has frequent listings of the Waldorf around $250 with free breakfast and $100 resort credit. My friend and fellow Traveling Mom Robin of Luxe Recess has a comprehensive review I trust.

Otherwise?  Off-site in a weekly rental from Endless Vacation RentalsVacatia  or even Skyauction.

I’m sure in true Saverocity reader fashion you have thoughts on this topic (and many of you think I’m dead wrong).  I’d love to hear them in the comments.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network.

All of the Disney World Resort Reviews tell you where to stay. I'm here to tell you where NOT to.

 


89 thoughts on “Disney World Resort Reviews: The 9 Disney World Resorts I Don’t Recommend

  1. Sean

    I stayed at the neighboring Hilton and didn’t think they (Hilton/Waldorf) were on-site Disney hotels? I know they are super close (especially to Epcot) but not Disney Property hotels.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Sean,
      They are not. The Hilton is a Disney Springs hotel (same category as the Wyndham and the B) and the Waldorf Astoria runs its own transportation. They’re still closer than Saratoga and Old Key West. What did you think of the Hilton?

      1. Sandra

        I’m not Sean, but my family spent a night at the Hilton in March and it was wonderful. We had stayed at Art of Animation and PO French Quarter, but there were no rooms available on Disney property when we wanted to extend our stay for another day. Hilton has a lovely pool, view of Disney Springs, pizza and Starbucks on site, nice rooms and attentive staff. There is transportation provided to the parks, Disney merchandise in the gift shop and even a character breakfast. The rate was around $200/ night even during spring break.
        I prefer on property (I like my Disney bubble!), but if unavailable Hilton Buena Vista is my first choice and I’d definitely recommend it to someone wanting to stay off property.

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          Hi Sandra,
          I haven’t done the Hilton yet , but am at the B resort right now and love it! It may be my go to from now on.

          1. Patrck

            I am really not sure how you can state the B hotel or any hotel on Hotel Plaza is closer to parks than OKW or Saratoga. They are closer, just look at a map. They are my fave resorts too.

          2. thedealmommy Post author

            I think it depends on pricing. Disney Springs hotels are 1/2 the price, even with DVC points. I’m not willing to pay those prices for the commute but am willing to take 16 minutes to Epcot (as timed from B on a bus recently) at $100/night. At $200 (on points) or $300 (rack rate)? I just don’t see it.

          3. Patrick

            B resort has resort fees and you don’t have Magical Express or Disney transport. I know you said you take a car always, not everyone does – I know many friends with kids who don’t even own a driver license as they are City dwellers. Those services are included in your stay vs. Having to pay a limo to/from airport and be stuck with resort transport which is a lot less efficient. I am a DVC member and never pays rack rates. There are companies out there that rents points of DVC owners that can’t use their points at a significant discount price. But please don’t claim OKW and Saratoga are further than places you paid 1/4 the price, it’s simply not true, even all value resorts are further away and all off sites are absolutely further.. I also like at least a kitchenette, which regular resorts won’t provide and sometimes I like space and a full kitchen -especially when going with friends – then a 1 or 2 bedroomsis a must for me.

          4. thedealmommy Post author

            Actually, it is. I’ve paid $300/week through EVR for 2 bedroom units closer to MK than Saratoga.

          1. thedealmommy Post author

            Hi Kaitlyn,
            Saratoga is convenient to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) but as far as non-Disney owned Disney Springs hotels (which are also on park property and up to 75% less) from the parks.

  2. AMJ

    I completely agree with you about the Grand Floridian. It’s totally not worth it and I didn’t think it was terribly convenient either. For that expensive of a hotel, you shouldn’t have to share buses with other resorts (often GF, Poly, CR, and WL will share buses). The monorail is fun, but it is not quick when your the fourth stop on the resort loop.

    I’m going to disagree with you a bit on the Swolphin. You are absolutely right about the resort fee and parking charges. However, we used points to stay at the Swan last summer and really liked it. The location is the best and they sometimes have very good rates. We didn’t have a rental car (because of the crazy parking charges!) and that causes an additional expense for returning to the airport since Magical Express isn’t offered.

    I don’t care for SSR either, but I’m curious if it’s reputation is going to change in the next couple of years because of the changes with Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. It’s also interesting that Disney seems to be exercising it’s Right of First Refusal more heavily on SSR than other properties for DVC resale. I wonder if it will become more desirable.

    I also really like Coronado Springs. It is my first choice for a moderate. It is a HUGE resort though. We loved staying in the cabanas section, but one time we were stuck in the ranchos section and it was a solid 10 minute power walk back to the main building. Don’t purchase a refillable mug if you are in that section!

    We are big fans of Pop Century. Oddly, my kids would probably say that they prefer it over almost all the other resorts, including the deluxe resorts. It is gawdy, fun, has a great food court, and we have had the best bus service there (YMMV). We don’t spend much time in the room when we are at WDW so it really is the best bang for our buck. As our kids are getting older, my husband and I seem to be gravitating more to the deluxe properties, but my kids feel like Pop Century is home. We’ll often do a split stay between Pop at beginning of vacation when we just want to be at the parks and a deluxe at the end of the trip when we are more up for relaxing.

    I’ve only stayed at the All Stars once for a last minute weekend getaway. I’m not in a hurry to return, but it was clean. 🙂

    Have you stayed at Yacht Club/Beach Club? It’s probably the favorite of my husband and I, with AKL close behind. We LOVE being able to walk to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Really great pool too.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi AMJ,
      Thanks for your detailed comment. I haven’t stayed at Yacht/Beach so didn’t include them. I am curious to try them out, as well as Boardwalk which seems to have studios that are a great deal on DVC points.

      1. thedealmommy Post author

        Love to visit, just not to stay. Most of what is wonderful can be experienced without paying exorbitant room rates.

  3. Kathy

    I do not like the All-Stars. Period. However, if it’s the only way my friends or family can get to Disney, then fine. I can suck it up, but only in that circumstance.

    I have not stayed at Pop, but do plan to visit and get a feel for it and AOA.

    I love Coronada Springs. It’s my favorite moderate. I do not care at all for POR although I am in a minority on that. I’m from the South and It just didn’t wow me.

    My favorite of all – Animal Kingdom. Either Jambo or Kidani. LOVE love love it. My last visit was a 1 BR suite with full kitchen/washer and dryer for little more than a value – yes please !!!

      1. Sarah

        Oh no…..we are from New Orleans and have booked POR for a trip at the end of February 2017. Did we make a mistake? How are the dining options at POR?

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          LOL. French quarter might be a bit on point, but Riverside is more Bayou than creole. Coronado is another solid choice in the same price bracket (Disney usually lets you change/cancel this far out). Dining options might feel like home to you- a beignet shop, jazz piano bar, etc. Moderates have one sit down, a food court and other various quick service, and a bar.

        2. Mandy

          We love POR and live in Georgia. Very relaxing. We thought the food was pretty good too. Love the pasta bar!

  4. law

    Totally agree on OWK – nice resort, big rooms.. but way to far

    Boardwalk
    Stayed in a “2 bedroom” (a 1 bedroom and a studio with connecting doors) using rented DVC points.. did not notice anything special w/in the rooms. studio pretty much like your standard larger hotel room with small kitchenette area (mini-fridge, microwave) 1-bedroom side had a full kitchen (4 burners, dishwasher, full fridage) AND dryer/washing machine combo. helped immensely in packing light. Did not notice much theming within the rooms.
    Advantage of Boardwalk be the location: walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios can’t be beat.. no waiting for buses for those 2. Granted, entrance to Epcot is the back of the International Gateway, so tis a pretty long hike to get to the rides area.

    Beach Club
    Also stayed on rented DVC points, both in 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom. Again, both had full kitchen and dryer/washer. Did not notice much theming either inside the room (wonder if we just don’t pay attention to that?). The rooms we stayed at 3 years ago were showing some age, though heard that since then Disney has started doing some large-ish scale renovations.
    Same advantage as Boardwalk in that you can walk to Epcot and DHS and avoid bus for 2 of the parks. However, the BIG thing here is access to the Stormalong Bay pool. They check wristbands for this, and only Beach/Yacht Club people can access. Very well-done pool with lazy river and “sandy beaches” area. Cape May and Beaches n Cream restaurants are right there too.

    1. AMJ

      BCV is being renovated now. BWV was just renovated as well.

      Nice thing about the BWV reno is that they’ve added a Murphy bed to the studios so they can now sleep 5. I’m not sure if they are doing the same or not to BCV.

  5. Karen

    Great post – love reading your thoughts on the resorts.

    I just stayed at the Dolphin with my mom and I’d stay again for the convenience to Epcot and DHS. I just wrote a post on why we loved it and didn’t.. and theming and fees definitely made the list.

    I’ve stayed at the Boardwalk and Yacht Club and while they are more deluxe, I generally can’t justify the higher prices. I plan on trying the Dolphin again at some point. I’d be interested in trying the rent points for the Boardwalk Villas though too!

    I am also curious about the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista too, the property was nice Transportation would be my biggest concern, just because it’s offsite. But I still plan on staying there myself at some point to see how it works.

    We loved our Pop Century stay, cheap and had great experience with the bus service unlike our experience at some moderate and deluxe resorts.

    1. Karen

      Ooh and I agree about the Port Orleans Riverside – We stayed in the Princess rooms in Feb. My biggest complaint was transportation because it has several stops and we had crazy crowded experiences. It wouldn’t stop me from staying there again. The theming (love the almost New Orleans Square at Disneyland vibe), and extra entertainment options were some of my top reasons for why we loved that resort.

    2. AMJ

      What I really like about Pop Century’s bus service is that there is one stop and then you are off to the parks. The moderates all have multiple stops throughout the resort and deluxe resorts tend to share buses which all adds a lot of time to the ride.

      I also like that Pop has a line for their buses. There is nothing worse than being the person that has been waiting the longest only to have someone who has just arrived swoop in and get on before you. 🙂

  6. Shannon

    Now that the Caribbean Beach rooms have been renovated, it’s our go to resort for a family of 5. It’s a huge resort, but we’ve been happy staying there. The food court isn’t anything great, but we can usually stay for under $200 a night.

    I’ve stayed at the Swan twice on points, 5 night stay, during peak season. While the dumb resort fee is ridiculous, I still paid less than I would have staying at another Epcot resort. The newly renovated Swan rooms are lovely. I loved entering Epcot at the International Gateway, just so easy!

    Pop is too small for our family of 5, but still decent. Art of Animation mermaid rooms are too tiny.

    I like Riverside Alligator Bayou rooms better than the mansions with the princess rooms. I think the dining choices are better than CB

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Shannon,
      Sounds like CB is set up like Alligator Bayou with the Murphy bed. I like those rooms, too.

  7. Tiffany

    Thoughts on Riverside vs. French quarter. We don’t want to deal with a lot of crowded bus issues so we were thinking French quarter would be a better option due to the one stop. Thoughts?

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Depends on party size and kids’ ages. If you have bigger kids I’d lean towards riverside b/c of Murphy bed. Baby or toddler? FQ.

    2. AMJ

      If bus issues are a priority, FQ for sure! However, you do realize that they share bus service frequently with POR?

      Personally, I like the theming of POFQ better, too. 😉

  8. Laurie

    I agree with the Port Orleans – Riverside. My husband and I stayed there in March and were over-the-top thrilled. We’re not members of the DVC, but went all the way and included the Deluxe Dining Plan and the PhotoPass. We felt thoroughly spoiled, and it was worth every penny we spent. While the breakfast room seemed crowded, we rarely saw anyone on our walks around the property, and never once heard or saw another guest near our room. We would go back.

  9. Karen

    Wow! I can’t believe what I’m reading about Pop Century! We stayed there two years ago and absolutely hated the hour long rides with all the stops to get from the parks to our resort. The buses were crowded, also. If the moderate and deluxes are worse, we can never stay at one of them.
    Earlier this month we stayed off-site and were home in 15 minutes every night. It was wonderful!
    If we ever stay on-site again, we will use our car instead of WDW transportation. Unless we find out there’s a way to shorten those rides.

    1. Rebecca

      Karen, I am really surprised about your experience with POP bus service. We stayed there last August and had quick efficient rides. We also love POP because it is affordable (couldn’t come otherwise) and being able to just walk over the bridge to Art of Annimation was like having two food courts and gift shops. My daughter and I are coming back in October and can’t wait.

    2. AMJ

      What “stops” are you referring to on your rides from Pop Century to the parks?

      What I like about Pop Century’s bus transportation is that you have one centralized bus stop and then you are off to the park directly. At the moderates (and many of the deluxes), you will have multiple stops around the resort (or resorts you share bus services with, in the case of the deluxes) before leaving for the park. I think CBR has six or seven stops!

      The only time you would have multiple stops on a bus ride at Pop would be if you were going to Animal Kingdom or Disney Springs. During certain times of the day, those buses service both AK/Blizzard Beach and DS/Typhoon Lagoon and that is the case for all the Disney resorts, not just Pop Century.

      As for the crowds…well, I hate to tell you, but it will be the same at pretty much all of the resorts if you are traveling during peak times. I still prefer utilizing the bus transportation than driving.

  10. Aimee

    I think its crazy that so many people put Animal Kingdom Lodge as a favorite! We have only been to Disney one time and that’s where we stayed with kids age 5, 3, and 1. Maybe we just have nothing else to compare it to or our expectations are too high (I don’t think so though), and we will NEVER stay there again or even recommend it for families with kids our kids’ age. I thought it was more adult-ly themed than what I expected for Disney and it was so far from everything but Animal Kingdom where we spent 1/2 day out of 6. I thought the rooms were extremely small for a deluxe resort and I was very disappointed overall. The staff was nice and very friendly so it wasn’t that. There was nothing Disney about it in our opinion. Maybe our kids were just way too young to appreciate the theming, I could see older kids or adults liking it a lot. Just my two cents though, I’m clearly in the minority or just a very inexperienced Disney goer! Also we ended up there because of an error with our Disney planner, so it wasn’t that we ever wanted to stay there, she made a mistake and it was the best we could get after that. We are planning to stay at Port Orleans Riverside this year so hopefully it will be a much better experience.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      I wonder if it’s because my kids are older? Maybe AK loses its charm with a baby who can’t appreciate the animals and activities.

    2. AMJ

      We stayed there when my daughter was just shy of 3 and she loved it. How can you not love walking out on your balcony and seeing a zebra? It is without doubt one of the most beautifully themed resorts at WDW. Even when we don’t stay there, we will go to the resort for dinner almost every trip.

      You state that “there was nothing Disney” about the hotel. Are you looking for an experience that is overtly Disney with pictures, music, etc? If so, I’m not sure if POR is a good fit for you either. I find that to be less Disney-ish than AKL. It’s a nice, peaceful resort, but it doesn’t feel particularly “Disney” to me. The rooms are also going to be smaller than AKL (314 sq. ft. v. 344 sq. ft.).

      Have you considered Art of Animation (suites would give you more space), or even Pop Century? If space is a concern and you are looking for a resort that has a “Disney” feel to it, I think those resorts would be a much better fit. Our kids have always loved the over the top theming of Pop Century. In fact, they prefer it to the deluxe hotels.

      1. Aimee

        We did not have a balcony with a view of the animals, I don’t really remember our view, but I think I would remember waking up to animals! That would have been cool! We were actually only able to see a couple of animals from the resort at all. As far as the theming everything seemed really dark even in the daylight. We also stay at a waterpark near our home every year that has an African theme to the whole resort including the rooms, and maybe that’s why it didn’t feel special because it was nearly the same thing we see every year? I don’t think we need anything over the top, just something my kids can relate to a little. I know so many people who love Port Orleans that I think we will be ok. I know that Port Orleans will be smaller, but that is the resort we wanted to stay at last time and couldn’t because of our planner’s error. We have young fourth child this time (eek even less space!) and this will be the last time we will have a chance to stay there. I had also expected more from the extra cost of a deluxe resort, so I feel a little more prepared for the small space of a moderate, I just assumed a deluxe resort would be roomier, something to make it worth the extra cost, and I don’t feel there was anyhing to make it worth staying there again. But like I said, we are not experienced Disney goers, that was our first trip. The other resort we are considering this time is Caribbean Beach since we heard it was newly renovated, but since we are going in Dec, I wasn’t sure if the awesome pools would even be something my kids would use or not. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion based on their own experiences so I was just surprised to hear that so many had much better experiences there than we did and obviously my opinion is in the clear minority! AKL was fine, just no where we would stay again. And maybe I would have felt different if I had CHOSEN AKL instead of kind of being forced there. We will likely only be able to go one more time when our youngest is old enough to remember the trip and that will be it. We are already planning to stay at somewhere like Art of Animation next time and would like to visit it while we are there just to check it out!

        1. AMJ

          It sounds like you were placed in one of the standard (parking lot view) rooms and that would probably be a very different experience! I can understand being frustrated if it was were you wanted to stay as well. I’m not a huge fan of Disney travel agents/planners because I’ve heard far too many stories like this. I hope you are using someone different or are booking it yourself this time. 🙂

          Try to request a room near the main building. The resort is very spread out. If you are looking for more information about the resort this is a good website: http://www.portorleans.org/ Also, the Disboards has very long threads on each WDW resort that is full of helpful, detailed information.

          1. Aimee

            Thank you! I will check those links out! So if the pools are 82 deg will the air be too chilly or will kids not care? We are planning one day off from the parks and thought we could definitely check out the pools. I’m from where winters are super cold so its weird for me to think of swimming outside in the winter! Would you recommend POR or CBR? We debated a long time over this and the decision was made pretty much because of the weather, that I thought it might be too cold to use the awesome pools. We are using another person to plan it this time, and she has so far been much better!

          2. thedealmommy Post author

            Hi Aimee,
            CB and POR are pretty similar in amenities. I’d go POR for girls (Tiana) and CB for boys (pirates)but either is good. I’d lean towards POR if I’m taking days off from parks as there’s survey bikes, fishing, etc. My kids will swim anytime so my guess is that yours might, too. It really depends on the year. I’ve been at Disney in Jan when it’s 70 and when it’s 50.

  11. Susan

    I guess there’s something for everyone at Disney. We’ve stayed at almost every resort. Not a huge fan of the All-Stars, but did enjoy our Cars suite at Art of Animation. Also, we love Saratoga AND Boardwalk, AND AKL -which we consider far from everything- depending on our mood. We also love Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary. We’ve stayed at Beach Club and it’s my husband’s pick for best lobby and pool. I’m not on board with the pool, though. Have to agree on Swolphin, for sure. I’d say figure out where you most want to be close to, and how much you’re willing to spend, but stay on site.

  12. Nanette

    I have stayed twice at Caribbean Beach twice this year, and found it amazing. The buses were prompt, and the one time there was a problem, they provided a fast pass for all of us to the park of our choice. The buses around the property were not shared with other resorts. The food court is not amazing, but which one is? The room was nice, and the facilities were nice and the staff was wonderful.

      1. Alice

        I stayed at CBR will never again. Too large a property. I had room in back took 40 minutes from pickup to get to the lobby, food court, main pool and transportation pickup to the parks.

  13. Debbie

    Love reading all the comments! We stayed at Caribbean beach with our two grandsons, ages 6 & 8. It was great! We went with a regular room that was right by the bridge over to the food court. Kids loved the pirate themed pool & transportation was awesome – we never waited more than 5-10 minutes.
    We took our big family to Art of Animation March 2015. Again – perfect! We put 13 people (one infant) in 2 Nemo suites. Main pool was right outside our doors & everyone loved it!
    Free dining plan = winning!

  14. Kay

    Seasoned Disney viewpoint : All-Stars (least favorite, but cheap for college students), Dolphin (good for adults only), Pop Century (perfect short weekend trip), Boardwalk (nice location), Saratoga Springs (huge rooms – great for little kids & has laundry), and Fort Wilderness Cabins (lots of activities with a confusing busing system). Thank goodness Disney offers lots of options for everyone!

      1. Ashley

        The cabins are a must! We are big time Disney fans. I think we’ve stayed in every hotel except the Contemporary and the cabins are definitely our favorite. We love meeting back at the room in the evening to cook dinner together. Each cabin comes with a fully equipped kitchen and a grill outside. Helpful tip: you will definitely want to rent a golf cart to get around the resort. They have buses within the resort to get you from one place to the next, but the golf carts are half the fun for us.

  15. Mike

    I stayed at All Star Movies, Toy Story, back in 2001. I thought it was fine. At the time i was 25 and it was my fiance and I. We were only in the room to sleep and spent the entire time there at the parks. So for two 25year olds looking to enjoy the parks on spring break, it was all we needed.

    This past Easter, I returned with my girlfriend and our 2 children, both 9. We stayed in the AOA. It was perfect for us. Rooms are a little tight, but we chose to not take a suite with the extra room because of the increase in price. We were also in the little mermaid buildings… Which are a HIKE from the main building! That walk to catch the bus was crazy, even worse when you’ve spent all day walking around the parks. Also i don’t think there was very much sound insulation, we could hear everything that was going on outside. And we were right in front of the pool on the ground floor.
    I’m actually sad, because we were considering the animal kingdom resort, but opted for the AOA for the same reason we didn’t get the larger suite.

  16. Patrck

    You realize that Port Orleans is literally 2 minutes drive than Old Key West? It’s so fast to go to Epcot (I timed 7 minutes) or Magic Kingdom (9 minutes). I don’t understand why you don’t recommend OKW but recommend Port Orleans.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Price, theming, buses, and activities. (Although price less so if you get a deal on DVC points.) Port Orleans just feels more “Disney” to me.

  17. Violet

    My question is my boyfriend and I (both huge Disney fans at 22 & 26 respectively), are planning a trip for next spring (May) or early fall (September) so the slower months. I was thinking Contemporary because I KNOW we will spend the most time at Magic Kingdom so it’s closest and I’ve always heard a lot of flack about Disney’s bus system from further out hotels. I’ve heard the recommendation of coronado springs a few times as well and also port of orleans – riverside. I’m not concerned with the room much since we will be spending so much time outside of it but I would like a comfortable and happy first trip. I want to love Disney not come home wishing we would have stayed somewhere else.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Violet,
      What you’re asking is so apples and oranges in terms of budget. The contemporary will cost 2 if not 3 times more than a moderate like CS or POR. For instance, 9/15-21 POR is $203 a night and Contemporary is $412, before taxes which are 20%+. Can I justify $200+ more a night for Contemporary? Personally, no. A car rental is max $20/day and parking is free if you’re a resort guest. If you really want a blow out experience, go for Contemporary. But I don’t think you’ll feel slighted if you choose a moderate and go crazy on dining and experiences with the money you save.

      If you’re looking for an option closer to MK consider the Fort Wilderness Cabins (ferry to MK) or possibly Wilderness Lodge (a deluxe that has a ferry to MK but is often more reasonable).

      1. Violet

        Thanks! I knew price wise I was comparing apples and oranges, I was wondering more on experience wise. I looked into cabins but a place that fits 6 seems overkill for 2. And since we aren’t driving, and aren’t using photopass and using the plain dining option, I felt as though maybe it would be productive to spend a little extra on location. 🙂

    2. AMJ

      Considering your ages and no kids, you might be surprised at how much you will enjoy the other parks. I would highly recommend getting a park hopper. Our family prefers to spend mornings/early afternoon at MK and then hop to one of the other parks. MK gets crazy busy (even during slow season) and because of the small footprint of the park, it feels very congested. Epcot and Animal Kingdom (especially with the new night entertainment) are so much more pleasant to spend a late afternoon and evening visiting.

      I actually think that Coronado might be a great choice for you. It is the most centrally located moderate and has a little bit more of an “adult” feel to it. We were pleasantly surprised at how close the resort was to all four parks. It’s definitely my top pick for a moderate. The only downside is that the resort is very spread out. If you stay there, request a room in the Cabanas section.

    3. AMJ

      One more thing…consider a late January visit if you are looking for low crowds. The parks close earlier, but I like that because the nighttime entertainment is earlier. It is much more of a “rope drop friendly” schedule. The weather is cooler, but that is a plus to me.

      Early May crowds aren’t bad, but they aren’t the lowest and the weather is going to be getting pretty hot. September has low crowds, but it is still summer weather (HOT! HUMID!). Keep an eye out for the free dining promotion that they’ve had every September for the past 10 years. It would likely be your best deal if staying at a moderate (at a deluxe, room discounts are usually better).

  18. G McGraw

    I have been an AP holder over 10 years and have stayed at most of the resorts, and out of the 5 I haven’t stayed at, AoA is the only one I haven’t been inside a room. OKW is often overlooked, but it’s FL themed with the same quiet Disney touches any DVC resort has. It should be compared with Kidani not AKL, SSR, and the DVC sections of the other deluxe results. Kidani isn’t as grand as AKL (have stayed at both multiple times). OKW is the same drive to MK as PO as they are next door neighbors, and the 2 bedroom suites are very spacious, more so than 2 bedroom accommodations at other DVC resorts.

    When we want location, square footage, jacuzzi tub, and 2 bedrooms but don’t care about extra magic hours, we go across the street from OKW to Wyndham Bonnet Creek, a non-Disney resort surrounded by Disney property. They do have their own Disney shuttle, but we like to drive. I go through private owners to get the best rates and have paid $90-$150/nt for a 2 bedroom that is comparable more to deluxe resorts than moderates.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Nice! I’d also consider EVR and Vacatia- easier than private owners and prices should be similar.

  19. Susan

    Wow,I actually agree with you! My 2 faves are Port Orleans Riverside and Pop Century! Been to all the All Stars,Carribean Beach,etc. And we keep going back to our 2 faves! We are never in our room,being just 2 adults,we are out all day! When we did take kids, it was still the above mentioned! Good article.

  20. Sharon

    I’m thinking about taking 2 granddaughters around mid October. I’m new with the Disney properties etc. where can I get the best bang for my buck. I’m on somewhat on a budget.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Sharon,
      As I’m sure you’ve noticed there are a TON of opinions on this topic! I will say October is a great time of year to visit.

      I’ll just tell you what I would do: if I were going for a week I’d look at a condo rental through EVR. Factor in $25.00/day for parking at the parks. Otherwise I’d compare the moderates to Disney Springs hotels – keeping in mind free parking and no resort fee on property.

  21. April

    Thank you for the honest reviews and insight.

    Are any other properties mentioned available with points from any hotel chains’ credit cards (besides your mention of Swan / Dolphin being Starwood)?

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi April,
      Check out the Hilton Disney Springs properties. Readers in comments have good things to say.

  22. Janet

    We were there in May and stayed at POR for the first time. We absolutely loved it, the kids loved the pools, the surrey bikes, fishing and taking a boat over to POFQ to explore their pool and food choices. My hubby and I loved that it wasn’t over the top Disney, a nice little break from the parks, you could relax and get some much appreciated quiet! I think it’s funny how much people complain about the buses. Isn’t everyone aware that it’s always crowded and there are always waits? Money can’t buy everything, sometimes you just have to wait, IMHO.

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  24. Angi

    I fully agree that Swan and Dolphin are not worth staying at if you want the Disney experience. We just got back from 8 days there. Don’t get me wrong- it was a perfectly nice hotel with great scenery, hospitality, location, and looks. But it just doesn’t have the Disney bling. Hands down, the most amazing resort is Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s huge, adorned with one of the world’s largest collection of African art, and who doesn’t get a thrill by waking up to a giraffe outside the window!

  25. Sam

    I disagree about SSR and OKW’s location.

    While not near a theme park, they are so centrally located on WDW property that they are closer to all 4 theme parks than any other resorts.

    If you plan to visit all four parks you can’t find a better location.

      1. Sam

        If you rent from a DVC member many times you can get SSR and OKW for the cost of a moderate and get all the benefits of staying with Disney that the Hotel Plaza Blvd hotels don’t offer especially booking Fastpasses at 60 days out instead of 30.

        Also many times both resorts are included in discounts offered by Disney.

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          I agree you can get a discount renting points- I’ve gotten as low as $182 all-in last minute at OKW. However doing that you lose the ability to cancel if your plans change- a deal killer for recommending for the average family in my book.

  26. Beth

    I completely disagree about the Swalphin. For 5 nights, your talking 50,000 points ttl and @ $150 in resort fees. You can’t stay at a Sheraton in Birmingham AL for those points and at that price, it cost more for one night on property at other resorts. The location is great! Also, if you have SPG status the upgrades are great, and I’ll take staying in a suite any night over most of the small rooms on property. Also, if you are platinum you get a breakfast amenity, so you can eat for free. The buffet at the Swan is a character buffet on the weekends too, we eat there everyday with the kids so we can opt for other character experiences at lunch or dinner. There are also several great restaurants at the hotel for dinner. I guess if you are spending a lot of time at the hotel then yes, it is missing the magic. We pretty much sleep there and that’s about it.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Beth,
      Thanks for your comment. Swalphin may work for Starwood Platinums, but that’s a small subset of the Disney visiting public. For that cost I’d rather not pay for parking and/or get Magical Express Benefits.

  27. missi in texas

    I like Port Orleans. Small and cozy. Great restaurant, easy access to all rooms, pool, etc.
    It is definitely a top-pick and I have stayed almost everywhere.

    I disagree with the post about All-Star Music value resort. The pools are GREAT, as was the restaurant, and we got the most amazing deal. If you are on a budget, I recommend this one for sure.

    My highest recommendation is Contemporary. Monorail access and also walkable. This is worth the money if you aren’t budget-conscious.

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