After close to a month at Disney World in the last year (and ten 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.
However, 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 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 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.
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.
Where DO I recommend?
- Animal Kingdom Lodge, 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 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.
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