Walt Disney World Veterans instinctively understand the differences between Disney’s resort classification system: value, moderate, deluxe, and villa. But new Disney travelers, or folks who’ve previously only stayed off site, are often confused by the terminology. Sure deluxe sounds, well, deluxe, but what exactly makes it that way. What makes it more deluxe than a moderate resort? What does moderate mean, anyway? And why is moderate more deluxe than value when there are some value rooms that cost more than moderate rooms? To help you sort it all out, here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet detailing the differences in the Disney resort categories.
But before we get going, it may be helpful to list the hotels that fall into each of the classification categories.
The deluxe resorts are: Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, and Wilderness Lodge. The moderate resorts are: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Cabins. The value resorts are: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. The dedicated villa resorts are Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. Additionally, there are villa rooms at the Beach Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary (Bay Lake Tower) resorts. The amenities of those villas are shared with the deluxe resorts that host them. The Fort Wilderness campground remains unclassified. Campground guests have all the privileges of Fort Wilderness cabin guests except, of course, having a Disney roof over their head.
Value resort accomodations are fairly basic.
- Value resorts: The typical standard room, sleeping up to four guests plus a baby in a crib, is approximately 260 square feet. The typical family suite, sleeping up to six guests plus a baby in a crib is approximately 520 square feet.
- Moderate resorts: Typical standard rooms at Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans are approximately 314 square feet. These rooms sleep up to four guests, plus a baby in a crib. There are some rooms at Port Orleans Riverside equipped to sleep up to five guests plus a baby. There are some suites at Coronado Springs. The Fort Wilderness cabins, which sleep up to six guests plus a baby, are approximately 504 square feet.
- Deluxe resorts: There are a variety of room types and sizes at the deluxe hotels. These range from standad rooms of about 344 square feet at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge (rooms sleeping four plus a baby) on up suites of more than a thousand square feet. Typical rooms at the Grand Floridian sleep up to five guests plus a baby in 440 square feet.
- Villa resorts: There are studio, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom villas. These range in size from a 316 square foot studio at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, to a nearly 2,500 square foot three bedroom grand villa at the Boardwalk. Most studio rooms sleep up to four guests plus a baby. The grand villas sleep up to 12 guests plus a baby.
- Things to think about: Not surprisingly, the rooms get larger as you move up in the resort classification level. However, the square footage of your room may not matter to you if you’ll only be spending time in your room to sleep.
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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.