Tips On Choosing a Disney Resort: Don’t Go By Price Alone

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Before you choose a resort based on price alone, consider this: our reader surveys indicate you’ll be more satisfied with your hotel choice if it’s slightly more expensive than the hotels you typically stay at.

Since 2009 our Disney survey has asked readers to name the kinds of hotels they generally choose when on vacation somewhere other than Disney.  We list the top hotel chains in every category, from value choices such as Days Inn and Super 8, through high-end resorts including Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, and we provide a space for folks to name other resorts.

Next, we calculate how satisfied our readers are at their Disney hotel based on the kinds of hotels they typically stay at on trips excluding Walt Disney World.  For example, if you typically stay at a mid-priced hotel such as Holiday Inn, how satisfied are you likely to be with Disney’s moderate resorts?  The chart below shows the results.

If you typically stay at this kind of hotel… You’re most likely to be satisfied with this kind of Disney resort
Value Moderate (98%)
Moderate DVC (96%) or Moderate (93%)
Upscale Deluxe (97%)
Deluxe Deluxe (98%)
Vacation Home/Condo Moderate (98%)

In general, readers report that they’re most satisfied staying at a hotel one category “up” from their typical, non-Disney choices.  The Disney moderate resorts do particularly well overall.  Note that these results explicitly take into account the price differences among the resorts.  That is, even after taking into account that moderate resorts are more expensive than value resorts, readers who stay typically stay at value resorts are still more satisfied at a moderate than a value when at Disney.

We think that measuring satisfaction based on a reader’s background is more meaningful than simply reporting the satisfaction of all readers.  On the Web, you typically don’t know the basis by which other people judge hotels.  The result is a jumble of ratings which often make little sense in aggregate.  As we went to press, for example, TripAdvisor.com’s  reader rankings placed Disney’s Pop Century – a value resort – one spot higher than Disney’s flagship Grand Floridian, a deluxe resort.  Trip Advisor’s users also rated both as four-star hotels.  While there’s certainly nothing wrong with Pop Century, no objective review would place it on the same level as the Grand Floridian.

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Posted on May 1, 2011

24 Responses to “Tips On Choosing a Disney Resort: Don’t Go By Price Alone”

  • My answers to such a survey would be skewed by the fact that we usually stay at 3 & 4 star hotels on non Disney trips, but at a lower than usual cost because we use Priceline. At Disney, we’ve enjoyed the Port Orleans resorts and the Fort Wilderness Cabins because of the level of comfort AND the human scale of the developments and accommodations. However, the luxury of the Contemporary is undermined by the relative inconvenience of long, enclosed hallways, room distance from the central amenities, etc. Granted, the Contemporary wins top marks for its proximity to the Magic Kingdom, but I don’t see it as a relaxing resort destination.

    • That’s an interesting post. We normally stay at more upscale hotels when not at WDW and find the deluxe resorts at WDW not on par with a true upscale hotel. Granted you can’t beat proximity and “the Magic” of Disney. However, unless you stay concierge levels, you don’t get robes, water, twice daily housekeeping and the other amenities we enjoy while at the Ritz, 4 Seasons, etc. Keep in mind, we are paying about the same price! That being said, we love Disney and will continue to come back. We have just come to know we are getting 3 star hotels at 4/5 star prices.

    • Thanks for the comments. Are there any other Disney deluxe resorts you like more than the Contemporary?

      • As DVC members, we love our home resort AKV. But we also love BCV!

      • I’ll have more perspective on this by the end of the year, as we will spend Labor Day weekend at a BCV studio, and are planning a pre-Thanksgiving stay at a BLT studio. On a recent trip, we visited CS for breakfast and a walkabout. It looked nice, but seemed spread out and DH is not keen to return. Food service was slow and off-putting too. We also walked through Pop. DD7 LOVED the look of Pop, and begged to stay there. I’m hesitant because of the bed size & comfort issue (I don’t sleep well at Disney for some reason), and also the prominence of smokers at Pop. It seemed to be over-run with them.

        Our go-to resort is POR. We’ve stayed there 4 times in the past year. It’s hard to beat: relaxing environment, great pool options, good food court, access to DTD and relative comfort of rooms. I am looking forward to going back there (and POFQ) next year to check out the room upgrades.

        In our experience with deluxe resorts so far, Contemporary has been the most comfortable room, but we were underwhelmed by amenities (January ’10; pool was COLD!). We stayed at the FW cabins January ’11, and LOVED it – except for the beds. Oh, my aching back-LOL! We did not venture to the pools, but did enjoy the Hoop-de-Doo Review.

  • We typically stay at a Holiday Inn type. I find your blog rather interesting and right on target for us. First trip stayed at French Qtr. While it worked for our needs with 2 young children nearly 4 and 2 at the time, I wasn’t ‘wowed’. Last trip, we went to Polynesian. I did enjoy that experience as being more of a Disney experience. I don’t know I would stay at the Contemporary because of the comments left below (i had already thought of them). Poly though at least I am outside while walking around to the various ammentities and there are interesting things to look at which is a plus! Yes expensive but paying for the location! Room was nice but like another comment, not 5 star nice which we have done that too, just before kids!

    Now I know I would likely be disappointed with Value so really not going to consider that just to save a few bucks. Would rather skimp somewhere else I think.

  • We are Comfort Inn type. Our next trip, we are trying out Pop Century, which is fine with us. We have two rooms for our party of 5, it is cheaper and larger than one room at Port Orleans Riverside or the Fort Wilderness Cabins (which we have stayed at before and loved). I’m not picky about my room. We have a pop up camper, if I can handle that, then a value resort is luxury to me. As long as it’s clean and has a place for me to sleep and shower, I’m good! Hopefully, someday we will be able to afford something like the Polynesian, but for right now, I just can’t justify spending that kind of money. I would rather skimp on my accommodations and take my savings and use it for something special, like tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

    • Ah, two rooms is a great idea. Also, a good point about saving the money to do other things. That might be a good follow-up question for the next survey!

    • by StereoJack on May 4, 2011, at 3:10 pm EDT

      This August will be our third time at The Pop Century. While not the Ritz, it’s clean, fun and affordable. Most of our time is in the World, not the room. It also has the best bus service by far!

  • Interesting. I would also be interested in knowing the satisfaction rate for the same level (i.e. value hotel to value Disney). We have stayed at Wilderness Lodge 2x before, but this time I put my foot down and said we couldn’t afford it (unless we waited another year), so we will be staying at Pop Century instead. We don’t in general travel as a family, and previously I always stayed at Comfort Inn-type places. In this case, as long as the hotel is clean, I don’t mind bringing my own pool towels or hiking to the food court to save money. The full-size vs. a queen may be a deal-breaker, but at least I know that going in…

    • Hey Beth,

      For value-to-value, the satisfaction rate is 88%. Good, but not close to value-to-moderates. Great point on the Hilton, too. I’ve seen some crazy deals for that.

  • We have stayed at the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans French Quarter, All Star Sports, Swan and Dolphin, and we preferred the Dolphin because of the price point and location. We got discounts of some sort at all of the deluxe hotels so it was worth it to stay there but we would never pay full price. Now we prefer to stay off property at the Hilton Grand Vacations Club or the Sheraton Vistana Resort where we pay a quarter of the deluxe price but get ten times the amenities such as a full kitchen, in-room laundry, jacuzzi tub, private bedroom for mom and dad, free wifi and a ton of space…over 800 square feet! Plus, we can stay longer for less money even with the cost of a rental car.

  • by Isabelle Boivin on May 2, 2011, at 7:41 am EDT

    I’m sure I’ll prefer moderate ressort, but when you travel alone and pay the bill, it doubble the cost of one trip. So the bottom line is always the price.

  • by John Grigas on May 2, 2011, at 9:35 am EDT

    We just stayed in a 3 bedroom condo from All Star Vacation Homes on the week before Easter. I was fascinated by the stat that a Vacation Home/Condo guest would be 98% satisfied by a Moderate.
    I agree, but only because of how the Magic Kingdom is managed. We would have had a better chance staying off site, but Disney set every morning of the week as an EMH morning. In hindsight, we’d have probably still stayed in the Vacation Home (just since we spent so much time outside the parks due to crowds, so we wanted the elbow room), but we’d have booked at least one night at Carribbean Beach Resort to take advantage of the EMH at least one morning. Huh. Sounds like we’re statistically relevant.

    • Hey John, I think the people who’re going from vacation home to moderate may be more experienced travelers who know they’re making a tradeoff. That’s just a hunch.

  • We usually stay at the Holiday Inn/Courtyard Marriott type hotels, so nothing extravagant. I’ve stayed at nice hotels before on business (Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton) and maybe I’m just not a hotel person. Yes, nicer hotels are nice, but at the end of the day, its still just a place to sleep and shower. I will always choose Values or Moderates and spend an extra day at Disney!

  • We are heading to Disney in June and are staying at Comfort Suites Maingate and have stayed at Coronado Springs in the past. For this family of 4, its about bed size. Staying for a week at a value resort which features mostly double beds, we can stay at Comfort for the same price or less and get queen beds. For 1 or 2 nights, this is not a big deal, but for a week, that extra room makes a difference. So to me, that is why a moderate resort equals a value-type resort off property. Thanks for all the info on the blog. Love it.

  • Great report – I totally agree with the findings. We typically stay at moderate to upscale at non-Disney hotels, and find the moderates are only “okay” at Disney, with the Deluxe definitely winning out. You just can’t beat the amenities, location and the general feel of the deluxe hotels.
    I always chuckle when I hear someone comment that the room is just a place to “shower & sleep”. That’s like saying the Magic Kingdom is just a place to walk through to get to a ride. For me, the hotel is part of the adventure and continues the escape from reality. When the hotel theme is carried out to the extent of a Grand Floridian or Animal Kingdom Lodge, it’s hard not be completely immersed in the magic. Of course, that total escape comes at a premium price, so it’s not for everyone.

    • I agree that the room is more than a place to shower and sleep! Touring the parks is exhausting, so I like a comfortable place to sleep and freshen up.

  • We usually stay in Holiday Inn or Embassy Suites level of hotels. We stayed at Pop last time we went to Disney and were fine with the pools and room qualities. We are debating on moving up to a Moderate but really thing that we are focusing on as a tipping point is if the transportation from say Coronodo Springs or the other Moderates are quicker than the Value resorts. It seems like we spent a lot of time waiting on busses to and from Pop Century. Can anyone comment on if that is improved at the Moderates.