Disney has made it pretty simple for virtually everyone to enjoy a trip to WDW and affordable enough to stay “on property”. They have four resort classifications: Value, Moderates, Deluxe and Deluxe Villas. All rooms are good enough for most people. I usually stay at the Value resorts simply because I know that I’m only going to be in the rooms at night just to sleep. But with kids, or if you know you’ll be spending more time in your room, moving up the food chain is sometimes preferred. But all resorts have at least one pool, places to eat and non-creepy rooms.
Value Resorts: All Star Sports (ASS), All Star Movies (ASMo), All Star Music (ASMu), Pop Century (PC) and The Art of Animation Resort (AAR). My wife and I like ASS and PC simply because they each have a dedicated bus to take people from the Resort to the various parks. But ASMo and ASMu are also good… and depending on the time of year, might be less crowded. However, they share a bus, so it’s possible that you might not get a seat if your bus stopped at the other resort first. This is frustrating, but there’s nothing you can do about it other than to stay somewhere else. As of 2013, the cost for values is from $84-$395 (AAR is up to as much as $425/night for Family Suites).
Moderates: Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Cabins at Fort Wilderness (CFW), Coronado Springs Resort (CSR), Port Orleans – French Quarter (POFQ), and Port Orleans – Riverside (POR). We’ve stayed at: CBR, CSR and, most recently, CFW… never at any of the others. But they’re all VERY similar. What you will find on Disney’s website is that they’re grouped by location. For example, they say that CSR is in the “Animal Kingdom (AK) area”. This simply means that, generally speaking, a bus trip to that part of the property is going to be fastest. It doesn’t get you any special privileges or anything. The 2013 cost for moderates is between $164-$1330/night (the higher end are the suites).
We like the moderates when we have a few extra dollars to spend – it starts anywhere from 25-50% more than the Value prices. But, like the Value resorts, the doors to each room open to the outside world. The only difference is that you might not have as many kids running down the hallways at the Moderates.
Our recent trip to CFW was also very interesting. The cabins are essentially themed single-wide trailers set within the FW Campground. With more than 700 acres of land dedicated to FW, it’s one of the most quiet resorts on property. They have two pools, an internal bus route system, two convenience stores and just about everything you could ever want in terms of entertainment (besides being the location of the Hoop-de-Hoo Review, the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and the only resort that rents golf carts to get around within the resort, they even do a free movie and smores every night with Chip & Dale out on the lawn). It takes a little longer to get anywhere from within the resort as you have an extra bus ride to wait on. But check it out if you have kids that need a separate sleeping area (the cabin is nearly the size of a suite within any other resort) or if you’re looking to save costs by using each cabin’s full-size kitchen and food prep areas.
Deluxe: If this is going to be your ONE TRIP TO DISNEY for awhile, some people really love to stay “on the Monorail line”… and this is how. The Polynesian Resort (the Poly), the Contemporary Resort (CR) and the Grand Floridian (GF) are all on the monorail line. The Wilderness Lodge (WL) isn’t on the monorail line, but is close to the Magic Kingdom (MK) as well and is also a Deluxe. The Animal Kingdom Lodge (AKL) also isn’t on the monorail line, but it’s one of only two resorts you can wake up and see animals grazing from your room. In addition, there are also the Beach Club Resort, the Boardwalk Inn, and the Yacht Club Resort. The 2013 cost for Deluxe: between $265-$3,210/night.
Being on the monorail line has some perks, especially if you think you’re going to spend a lot of time at the MK. Additionally, some people think that it’s easier if you have children because you don’t have to ride the bus and can get back to your resort quickly. It is faster, convenient and heck, it’s still a pretty cool way to travel. Disney geeks are also fascinated by the monorail spiel: “Por favor, mantenganse alejados de las puertas.” (Please stand clear of the doors.) It’s repeated at every stop. Oh, but while the monorail also goes to Epcot, it’s not THAT much faster than the bus.
Deluxe Villas: If you really have money to burn, you can stay at places that are typically reserved for Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members: the Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas, Old Key West, AK Villas (Jambo House and Kidani Village), Bay Lake Tower at the CR, Saratoga Springs (including the Treehouse Villas) and Villas at WL. These are the uber-expensive rooms … which typically only make sense if you have a lot of people going to split the cost. The 2013 cost for DV’s: $300-$2605/night. Additionally, there is a known-but-not-Disney-sanctioned process of “renting points” from DVC members so as to get a week or so in a DVC property without spending the amount of money typically required – and without having to become a DVC member. Read my DVC page and check out www.allears.net to learn more about DVC.
Fort Wilderness: Really in a category by itself, Fort Wilderness is often overlooked, to YOUR detriment. As I noted above for the CFW, there’s also an expansive campground for people who want to pitch a tent (yes, really) or bring their campers or RVs onto the property. Disney charges a site/hookup fee (very modest, in many cases, <$30/day) for water and power. They have bath houses for showering/bathing, bathroom visits and washing clothes. And if you don’t have a tent, no worries. Disney will rent one to you for $30-35/night. In fact, if you want to rent a camper, you can do that, too from several places (just make sure that Disney approves your rental firm), as they come to FW to drop off and set-up your camper before you even arrive. You are a complete resort guest, of course, so you have full access to everything Disney has to offer.
Lastly, for anyone staying on Disney property, you also now have the extra ability to book your FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days prior to the START of your trip for your ENTIRE stay. This is noticeably different than for off-property guests, who only have a 30-day advanced booking window and only on a rolling 30-day basis.