Choosing A Disney World Hotel: It’s All About the Bathroom

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A perennial question among Walt Disney World travelers is, “How do I decide where to stay?”

Over time, I’ve stayed at every Walt Disney World resort except the Fort Wilderness cabins, and I have toured those, so I am quite familiar with the pros and cons of each type of lodging. I can spend hours parsing the relative merits of room size, transportation options, location, pools, and restaurants, but I’ve finally concluded that deciding factor for me is the bathroom situation.

Spacious shower at the Saratoga Springs Tree House Villas.

I’m going to be elaborating here, the squeamish among you can move along.

During the past two years, here is a sampling of some of my Walt Disney World hotel stays:

  • Polynesian, two adjoining rooms, five people – myself, hubby and three daughters, two bathrooms
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani two bedroom villa, five people – myself, hubby and three daughters, three bathrooms
  • Old Key West, studio, four people – myself and three daughters, one bathroom
  • Contemporary, solo, one bathroom
  • Beach Club Villas one-bedroom, three people – myself and two daughters, one bathroom
  • Beach Club Villas studio, two people – myself and hubby, one bathroom
  • Pop Century, solo, one bathroom
  • Pop Century, two people – myself and one daughter, one bathroom
  • Caribbean Beach, solo, one bathroom

As you can see, I’ve recently experienced the full range of Disney hotel offerings, from living large to just the basics. Having so much variety within a relatively short of amount of time has allowed me to crystalize my thoughts on Disney hotel stays. Depending on the type of vacation I’m having, I’m equally as fine with cheap and simple as I am with posh and pricey. What I’m not fine with is waiting for the bathroom, or feeling pressured because someone else is waiting around while I use the bathroom. I’ve learned that when I’m at Walt Disney World, I want to be at Walt Disney World, not negotiating whose turn it is to use the toilet.

Two sinks at the Caribbean Beach resort

I have found that most hotel room features or resort amenities can be accommodated for in other ways. Don’t like waiting for a bus at the values? Rent a car. Don’t like the bargain shampoo/conditioner combo at a value? Bring your own toiletries. Want more/better meals than what they’re serving at the food court? Go ahead and eat at a different resort. But when you’re trying to get ready in the morning, the bathroom structure in your room is immutable and, well, impactful.

For example, staying solo at any level of resort works well for bathroom use. Obviously no one is fighting me for the facilities there. From this perspective, there is no difference to me between the value, moderate, and deluxe stays; as long as the facilities are clean and functional, I’m happy. If I’m busy doing research or otherwise “working,” saving money by staying at a value is all good in my book.

I’ve also been fine when staying in any level room with my husband or just one of my daughters. Two people can easily work out their morning routine to stay out of each other’s way during the, um, business portion of the morning.

Basic, but functional at the Pop Century

However, my most recent WDW stay was at in a studio the Beach Club villas with my husband. Most of the time we were okey-dokey sharing the one bathroom, but (not to put too fine a point on things) we really struggled on the morning of the half marathon, which we both ran. Our “timing” was off because of the 3:00 a.m. wake up call and our nervous first-race stomachs. Hubby ended up taking advantage of the facilities in the hotel lobby, but neither of us felt this was an ideal solution. Sometimes you just want to have your own space, ya know?

Things get further complicated when you’re sharing a bathroom with more people. My more challenging hotel stays have been when I’ve been in groups of three or more people sharing one bathroom. Perhaps this has to do with the composition of my particular family. My three daughters are all teens and tweens. And did I mention that they’re girls? And did I mention that they’re teens and tweens, with all the adolescent angst that goes along with this? Oh, and they all have really long hair, which needs to be washed, and dried, and styled, and maybe styled again depending on the weather. This means they each need a solid half hour minimumof quality bathroom time each morning, even if they’ve showered the night before.

More fancy at the Contemporary

Making rope drop ain’t gonna happen with this crew when we’re all competing for one commode or mirror. That’s a real problem for my touringplan-following, type-A personality.

Our recent stay with the most family conflict was in the studio at Old Key West. We had plenty of space for sleep, but when we four women tried to get washed and dressed in time for a Chef Mickey’s breakfast, more than a little chaos ensued. Conversely, our best stay was at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Not because of the huge amount of space (which there was) or the view of the zebras (super cool), but because we had three glorious bathrooms. The ALK situation worked better for us than even the two bedrooms at the, in my opinion, much better located Polynesian, all because we had an additional bathroom.

My new biggest criteria for deciding where to stay is our ability to keep our person to bathroom ratio low. If the five of us are traveling together, I would rather stay in a value resort family suite with two bathrooms than in a standard room in a deluxe with just the one bathroom. No amount of monorail access and complimentary H2O conditioner is worth a catfight. But maybe that’s just me.

How does your family cope with bathroom issues on vacation? Does it matter to you if the toilet and shower are in separate rooms? Does it matter if you have two sinks? Do you mind sharing a bathroom with non-nuclear-family traveling companions (like a friend, or your mother-in-law)? What odd things are the deciding factors for where you decide to stay? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posted on January 24, 2012

36 Responses to “Choosing A Disney World Hotel: It’s All About the Bathroom”

  • by Laurel Stewart on January 24, 2012, at 8:39 am EDT

    I LOVE this article! By the way, Ulta sells the same H2O sea salt toiletries that you get in club level at WDW and all DL resorts and on Disney Cruise Line (different from the blue stuff at the other deluxe levels and moderates). It makes me happy every time I see it on the shelf.

  • Thanks, Laurel. I recently discovered that there’s a entire H2O store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that carries all their products. They have a frequent-buyer program and occasional sales. It’s great stop if you’re in the City.

  • Last April we had 7 females…that’s right SEVEN…ranging in age from 14-64…all go to Disney together. Because of different financial situations and the fact that we are a retired military family, I found the best deal at the Lake Buena Vista Resort (Best Western) at Downtown Disney for a hotel. I got 2 connecting rooms. 3 adults in one room and 4 teenage girls in the other. The rooms were spacious and equipped with a small fridge and microwave. The bathroom was completely contained (toilet, bath/shower and sink) in one room. Fortunately, there was a large counter with an equally large mirror right outside the bathroom (wish there was an additional sink here). Knowing we would have 4 girls jockeying for bathrooms in the morning, we 3 adults made good use of the bathroom space in the evening. Then we could use the outside areas to finish our primping leaving the bathrooms for the girls. We were there for 5 days and didn’t have many issues with the bathroom availability.

    • You make a good point that sometimes off-site accommodations can be a way to get a better situation for your needs.

  • Thanks for the tip on the H20 store – that’s right by my office! I knew they carried it at Duane Reade but didn’t know there was an entire store in Manhattan!

  • I find the H2O products at my local Marshall’s! Very good prices…and it’s always great to see a little Disney reminder while out and about shopping in NY.

  • I agree re: bathrooms being important in deciding what room but for me its about storage rather than number. We’ve stayed at Port orleans Riverside and the double sinks were nice but as they were freestanding as opposed to built in, there was very little room to put away toiletries and things. Everything was precariously balanced and kept falling off the tiny ledge they supplied. However, at our recent stay at the Polynesian there was only one sink but a huge area surrounding it for everything as well as little cubbyholes underneath for more stuff. But thinking about it at POR the bathroom and toilet are a separate room which allows one person doing their morning ablutions whilst someone else can stand at the sink doing makeup/ hair etc. Some compromise is needed.

    • I often hear issues about counter space availability. Some guests bring a caddy or clear plastic shoe rack to hang over the door. They use this to contain items like brushes or deodorant. This keeps some of the non-wet stuff off the counter.

    • The remodeled rooms at Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter now have cabinetry around the sinks. The pedestal sinks are gone! Check out the picture in the article from the Caribbean Beach. It is similar in structure, but not style, to what is now at Port Orleans. And if you’re really curios, Deb has actual Port Orleans remodeling photo’s up on AllEars.net.

  • My wife and I have gotten very used to me being up first and waking her on my way to the Pop food court to grab coffe and fruit just to avoid the bathroom issue. I’ve often discovered this has saved some space fights and much better mornings. One of the only ways to make those value resort bathrooms work with the kids.

  • I love this article! Bathroom space is SO important. 4 years ago, I stayed in 1 room at Pop with my 3 sisters, and this May, we are doing it again. When 4 women between the ages of 16 and 29 share a bathroom, major compromise and planning are required. Half of us have to shower at night, and 2 or 3 of us go to the parks with wet hair. One sister can french braid so a couple of us line up at the foot of her bed every morning while Must See Disney plays in the background. Our morning routines become part of the fun, but we’re usually only there for 3 or 4 days. I don’t know if it would be fun for a week!

    • We had four adults: me, husband, brother, and my dad all in a room in Pop for a week. Thank goodness I’m a low maintenance girl! We had two breakfast people and two non-breakfast people. So the two early birds would shower the night before then in the morning get breakfast while the other two would shower and get ready. Worked out great for us, but we’re type A commando tourers, so I’m sure its different for everyone (especially teenagers!)

  • Love the bathrooms at Animal Kingdom Villas. We stayed in a one bedroom last year, and decided next time we’re using the master bath as a bedroom! It’s HUGE!

    • Agreed. I think the master bath at the AKL Kidani villas is bigger than my first apartment!

    • AKV Jambo house isn’t quite so impressive with the bathrooms. Since the rooms are just converted standard hotel rooms, they didn’t have the option to put in a nice walk in shower. The garden tub was decent size, but a tough climb to get in and out just for a shower.

      My favorite is still my home DVC resort(s)… Boardwalk Villas have a very nice walking shower big enough to share. The new Bay Lake shower is also nice. Bay Lake has multiple toilets in the 1BR suite, which could be an improvement for families with kids or two pre-race stomachs.

      • I agree that the best bathroom situations are at the newer DVC sites. The Bay Lake 2 BR also has 3 bathrooms. Fingers crossed that the new DVC Villas at the Grand Floridian keep up this trend.

  • One of my biggest gripes about Disney resort hotel bathrooms are the showers…namely the fixed shower heads with low flow. I found those to be an absolute nightmare when trying to shower short little toddlers who hate getting water and soap in their eyes as the shower just sprays over their heads, you can’t remove the shower head from the wall mount and hose the kid down. Do you know which if any of the Disney resorts have adjustable shower heads? (As in the ones that’s attached to a hose so you can pull it off the wall and it’s not spraying overhead.)

  • There are a few rooms at WDW that have hose-style shower sprayers. The photo above of the Saratoga Springs Tree House shower shows one. However most of the rooms like this are configured for handicapped guests. You could request one of these rooms, but most have only a single king bed, and I hesitate to have you take a room that is intended for a disabled guest.

    I do have a solution. For less than $20, you could buy a portable adapter that turns a regular tub faucet into a shower wand. Easy peasy. http://www.amazon.com/Holmz-Selfix-04430201-04-Slip-On-Portable-Shower/dp/B001AZHM1O/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&qid=1327439331&sr=8-26

    • I didn’t even think to get my own adapter. It’s one more thing to pack, but it seems compact enough. Thank you for the tip! I wouldn’t want to take up a room for a disabled guest either. They need the accommodations more than I do.

  • Oh, one more thing. :) Are all of the bathrooms low flow? I understand it’s greener to do so, but I was wondering if maybe the “higher tier” resorts might not be. I remember using one of the bathrooms in the lobby of the Yacht Club a few months ago and their sinks weren’t low flow. I wondered if their rooms are that way too.

    • I don’t know what the official word on water pressure is, but from my own experience the pressure is pretty consistent throughout the hotels. I’ve stayed at all the deluxes and all the values and never noticed a difference.

  • Yes, fancy at contemporary but VERY dirty. Never again on the concierge floor or the contemporary. Love WDW though.

  • Love this article! It is so true. We are looking into booking our 3rd trip to Disney for this summer. This time instead of small children, we have 2 teens and a tween. We are thrilled to find family suites that have 2 bathrooms. I don’t care if the hotel amenities aren’t as nice as long as I have a clean place to sleep and enough room for all of us to get ready. The one downside that I did see is that all the bathrooms have just one sink.

  • This is the single most amazing thing I’ve ever read. Honestly. My Disney twin and I are planning a trip together next month, and this was our giant sticking point. We need our own bathrooms. And, even though it’s more expensive, two rooms (each with their own bathroom) were essential.

  • This is an excellent article. We have 3 in our family (Mom, Dad, and 8yr old son). The bathroom is always a top priority for me when selecting a hotel room, especially at Disney.

    We like the bathroom layout at the Contemporary. The toilet is separate and the vanity area is very spacious. We are trying a one-bedroom at the Beach Club villas in May. I wanted to book at Bay Lake just for the bathroom. The showers look amazing. But my husband and son really wanted Beach Club due to the location and pool. Maybe I’ll get to Bay Lake one day.

    • My hubby and I are having the exact same negotiation for our trip this coming Christmas. The Beach Club pool is the BEST, the walk to Epcot is fantastic, but the bathrooms are better elsewhere. Sigh.

  • Erin:

    I couldn’t agree more with the bathroom being a huge part of where we choose to stay. We stayed Grand Floridian (thanks 40% off pin code!) in October 2009 and my wife loved it, because she had a sitting area to get ready. We stayed at the Poly in August 2011 and there was no such area, so she was really disappointed. Now if I can just figure out a way to get another 40% off pin code for our next trip.

    Thanks again. Looking forward to your next article.

    Alex Cenac
    @ajcenac – twitter

    • I’ve only received one pin code and I wasn’t able to take advantage of it. Have another trip planned for April and hoping for one :)

  • Such a great article! Turn away now if you’re squeamish…2 years ago we booked a 1 bed at AKL Kidani reluctantly because the studios were full. My husband and I both came down with the norovirus within hours of each other! Let’s just say I spent the entire night thanking the DVC powers that be for providing us with 2 toilets! I do think families who live in a house with numerous bathrooms don’t take this into account enough.

    • The DVC gods knew what you would need. So sorry that happened to you, but glad you had a bathroom situation that would accommodate.

      Another component of the issue is that at home, while two of my girls share a bathroom, they have different schedules and get up/dressed at different times. On vacation, we’re all going to the same place at the same time, thus all trying to get ready at the same time. Personally, I’m fine with getting up a bit earlier to make way for others, but then the girls complaint that the flush and shower wake them up. My crew is definitely not low-maintenance. :-(