Last Updated February 2019
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. Benefits include 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. With that in mind I have written many Disney World Resort Reviews and now present twelve 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.
That said, once the rooms complete refurbishment, I’ll give them another test. I really like the new rooms at Pop Century (see below). As of Feb. 2019 All Star Movies is undergoing renovation. Then the rooms at All Star Music will begin, and then finally All Star Sports.
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 50,000 Bonvoy points that could have such better uses. If you have to choose one, the Swan is supposed to be a Westin and the Dolphin a Sheraton, so technically the Swan is nicer. To be honest, I don’t see much of a difference.
Beach/Yacht Club and Boardwalk Inn (Hotel)
Many Disney World regulars flock to the Boardwalk area deluxe resorts because of their proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The ability to walk to the “back door” of Epcot is especially liked. However you can get the same benefits by renting DVC points and staying in the timeshare units of the same properties. And you’ll save 50% or more in addition to getting a larger room.
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.
Where DO I recommend?
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.
Beach Club and Boardwalk Inn (DVC Units)
I can’t deny the appeal of walking to Epcot. I also can’t deny the charm of the Boardwalk area of Disney World. So I definitely do recommend the DVC units at these two hotels. Boardwalk Inn specifically is a great value: rooms go as low as 14 points a night or $200ish all in. Beach club units are a bit more (I’d expect around $300 all in) but the pool at Beach Club is among the best on property. Last trip we enjoyed both Epcot and Hollywood Studios fireworks- at the same time- while floating on the lazy river. Not a bad way to spend an evening!
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. Others rave about Port Orleans-French Quarter but I’m a fan of the Bayou. That said, if you want less walking French Quarter’s compact size may be for you.
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. It’s also the only moderate with a club. 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 and the Aztec pool waterslide is fantastic.
Pop Century Resort’s recently refurbished rooms impressed me, and I went there expecting to be somewhat disappointed.The rooms reminded me of a cruise ship cabin, with an ingenious Murphy bed that becomes a table during the day. I’d happily stay there again with up to three people. I can’t say that about the All-Stars Resort or even Art of Animation’s Little Mermaid rooms.
The rooms sleep four, at least on paper, and I know many families of four who have done it, but 260 square feet is tight for four people. In the same price range, if I didn’t need Magical Express, I would consider a Disney Springs hotel. If I could splurge, I would stay at a moderate resort, which are 314 square feet — those extra 54 square feet make a difference in comfort.
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.
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.