New Jersey Family: There are over 25 Walt Disney World Resorts and finding the right one is so overwhelming. How can families begin to narrow their search for where to stay? What should they look for in a Disney resort property?
Kimberly Anwar: When families work with an experienced travel advisor and one that specializes in Disney destinations, our first step in the planning process is to arrange a call with them to review budgets, needs, first visit, amenities they would like to have and how much park vs. relaxing time they would like during their stay. Then together we narrow down based on location, pricing and availability.
One important thing we share with our guests is to look for the amenities they would like to have during their vacation. We review all of the amenities and offerings at each resort location. Perhaps they would like the pool with a waterslide and restaurants on site. They should also know the type of room they would like–villa with kitchen & washer and dryer or standard hotel room with two queen beds. We also ask them their preferences as far as a location on Disney property–this is a key factor in travel time to and from the parks. All of this helps factor in the decision for the best Disney resort for the family. When booking with Magic Family Getaways we truly take the time to share and explain the value guests receive by staying at one resort vs. another.
NJF: In general, how much should families expect to spend at a Walt Disney World® Resort property over a week? What is the range?
KA: Disney has a very wide variety of accommodations for every budget, the range of the cost per night depending on the travel dates can start from $150 into the thousands ++. Families should also factor in the cost of park tickets, transportation to Orlando and food.
NJF: Resorts are categorized by “value, moderate and deluxe” ratings. What do each of these mean, what do you get which each and do you have a favorite you recommend in each category and why?
KA: When you book at a value resort these properties have all the standard amenities along with special Disney touches. These resorts price the most economical for your stay. They all have pools, Disney themed” buildings & rooms, bedding in the rooms can vary from two double beds to a queen bed and pull-down queen-size murphy bed. The grounds at these resorts are beautiful. The restaurants will all be quick service style. Disney park transportation is always included at your stays at all Disney World resorts.
My personal favorite value resort is Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The resort has skyliner access and its theme is my favorite.
The moderate resort hotels at Walt Disney World ® Resort offer a good blend of amenities and affordability that makes sense for many families. These resorts will offer a bit more resort activities, pools with waterslides, convenience getting to the theme parks as well as table service restaurants. Rooms are thoughtfully designed with just the right touch of Disney theme. Most moderate resorts offer more room configurations ranging from a king bed for two adults to a room that sleeps five, with two queen beds and a pull-down child size twin size trundle. All resorts offer table service restaurants.
My favorite Disney Moderate resort is Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort! With its brand-new tower rooms some have magnificent views of the Disney World property and are so spacious and comfortable. This resort also has so many wonderful restaurants and bars to relax as well as great activities for the children.
Disney World Deluxe Resorts will offer guests the highest level of Disney amenities, service, proximity to parks as well as beautifully designed rooms with multiple accommodation types. These resorts not only provide wonderful accommodations, some are so close to the parks and worth every penny of your stay. They have the largest amount of children’s activities, some offer deluxe villa accommodations–there is nothing like spending a week at Disney in a 1,2 or 3 bedroom villa with separate bedrooms, multiple bathrooms, washer and dryer. Some resorts offer many more amenities such as tennis, upscale shopping, a full range of dining options, bars, motorized boat rentals, large expansive pools, water park playgrounds for the children and some offer cabana rentals.
In the evenings, some resorts have music from the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom piped into certain spots. Another favorite option for guests is that some deluxe resorts offer club level rooms. Staying club level gives families access to the club lounge offering continental breakfast, snacks, drinks and other magical surprises throughout the day for club level guests. The lounges are staffed by a concierge cast member to assist guests with questions and reservations.
The number one reason that most families select the deluxe resort is the location and convenient access in and out of the parks. Some deluxe resorts have multiple transportation options, such as boat or monorail, or skyliner and bus. The key point is that when it takes minutes to get in a faster moving line at the end of night when the parks let out, it’s truly wonderful to get back to your resort with ease and quickly for sleepy little ones.
The list goes on and on for staying at a deluxe resort and because these resorts offer so much to see and do I always recommend my clients factor in time to stay at the resort and enjoy these wonderful amenities.
My favorite resort is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa! As a mom of three boys, finally getting my first choice to stay at the Grand Floridian has been so relaxing and wonderful. Our family’s favorite has been Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge but something about the beauty, elegance and proximity to the Magic Kingdom has made the Grand Floridian my favorite this year. Not to mention the Enchanted Rose has the best cocktails on Disney property!
NJF: What are the biggest perks to look for in a Disney Resort, such as early park access among other perks?
KA: Early park access is key. Many more perks are beautiful themed resorts, safety, extra cleanliness, “Disney” service, amenities, movies under the stars, poolside activities run by experienced Disney cast members, games, complimentary Disney transportation inside the Walt Disney World Resort, delicious food at amazing restaurants, lovely lounges & bars, specialty ice cream, pools, lifeguards, life-vests, access to reserving bikes, boats, fishing tours – at an extra cost but all right at the guests doorstep of many Disney World resorts. The list just keeps growing! Disney truly takes care of their resort guests and truly has gone beyond my expectations in all of our resort stays.
NJF: Why is the Polynesian everyone’s favorite resort?
KA: For some it’s nostalgia–many guests visited as a child and ask to return to this resort with their families. For others it’s the rooms! All the hotel rooms have recently been re-imagined with Moana themed rooms. The new rooms are bright, fresh, clean and modern with just the right touch of “Moana”. There is monorail access, beautiful grounds with two large pools–one has a slide with play area. For others and maybe everyone, I would say it’s the evening activities and a great splash area for younger ones. You can watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom on the beach and the music from the show is pumped into the beach area. It has a beautiful marina. You can schedule a fireworks cruise departing from the marina.
The restaurants are amazing. Ohana is one of the most sought after for dining reservations as its been consistent quality, menu, recipe and theme keeps guest returning time after time. There is a sushi bar, wonderful quick service restaurant and Trader Sam’s lounge offering specialty drinks and cocktails with a themed or “magical” background.
Getting to MK by monorail and boat is a big plus. The list goes on and on about the endless activities and amenities at this resort!
NJF: What is Skyliner and which resorts have access?
KA: The skyliner at Walt Disney World resort is in fact a themed aerial gondola system, featuring special Disney touches and details. This gondola system brings guests from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT to four Disney Resort hotels: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Riviera Resort.
NJF: What if a family is leaning towards staying at one resort over another and they are both in the moderate category. How should they decide where to stay? For example, say they are weighing the Caribbean Beach Resort vs. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Can you explain the differences between these two moderate resorts?
KA: Location, room design and transportation to the parks are what differentiates these two resorts. Caribbean Beach Resort has skyliner access to Epcot and Magic Kingdom which is important for many guests. Coronado has recently built a brand-new tower with gorgeous rooms so for a tiny bit higher cost, the rooms in the tower are almost equivalent to a deluxe resort. Most have lovely views of the resort, the rooms are spacious and just about brand new.
NJF: How early should you book your Disney resort stay and do these resorts offer deals with park access as well as airfare?
KA: As soon as you know your dates it’s best to hold a package right away. These packages will include park tickets, as guests plan with an advisor from Magic Family Getaways we explain the tickets, magical extras included with a package as well as any available offers. Our advisors will inform our guests if Disney releases a booking offer before they travel, if the offer can be applied, we will apply it and notify our clients. It’s one of the benefits of working with an advisor from our team. Disney does not offer airfare linked to packages however most of our clients’ book air on their own and we assist with transportation.
NJF: What should we know about resorts when it comes to family meals. How can we research dining options?
KA: Your travel advisor can review all the dining options with you at the resort you select as well as make recommendations for other restaurants. Keep in mind the moderate and deluxe Disney World resorts will offer sit down table service restaurants whereas the value resorts will have more take away and what Disney calls quick service options available.
NJF: Any parting advice for families planning a trip this year?
KA: Walt Disney World Resort truly has so much for families to see, do and experience this year. From wonderful activity packed accommodations to the four theme-parks, golf and spa. If it’s your first trip to Disney World or the 50th and you are considering traveling this year, contact a travel advisor to assist you and put something on hold. It costs very little to put a resort package on hold with a $200 deposit and it’s fully refundable if anything should change.
Travel advisors are trained and ready to help you plan a Disney vacation of your dreams. It truly feels wonderful and sometimes life changing to have a vacation to look forward to with your loved ones…. Not to mention it really feels so good to say “I’m going to Disney World”!
Fifty years ago, the Walt Disney World® Resort opened its gates. And now the magic is calling everyone to The World’s Most Magical Celebration. The Theme Parks will shine like never before as the four Walt Disney World® Park icons transform nightly into magnificent Beacons of Magic. Throughout the celebration, you’ll be immersed in shimmering EARidescence and experience special touches, including ornate embellishments on Cinderella Castle and décor throughout the Theme Parks and beyond. And at the heart of everything, Cast Members will be sharing magic across Walt Disney World® Resort, ready to create unforgettable memories that last a lifetime.
Plan, book and save on your next Disney vacation with Magic Family Getaways.
Kimberly Anwar is the owner and founder of Magic Family Getaways. She resides in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, married and is the mom of three active boys. Her favorite Disney character is Moana, and she embraces Walt Disney’s quote, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”
At Magic Family Getaways, advisors plan and design unforgettable vacation experiences for families who want the confidence that every step is handled. Magic Family Getaways is a family-run travel agency and an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, meaning you benefit from its expert service, destination knowledge and training. Magic Family Getaways is licensed, bonded and insured to book travel with its head office in Montclair, NJ and travel advisors around the state to service clients.