What You Get for the Money – Resorts

Photo by Betsy Bates

We are all about quantifiable data here at TouringPlans.com World Headquarters (located on an uncharted island in the South Pacific). There are many things you can’t quantify about a Disney resort. The adventure of an African game reserve versus the cozy romance of a Pacific Northwest lodge. The convenience of 24-hour Dole Whip versus sushi with a view of Wishes. Rubik’s Cube versus a frighteningly large cowboy boot. Theming and location aside, you can absolutely quantify the amount of space you get when you book the different categories of onsite resorts at Walt Disney World.

Not content to merely give you, our readers, a chart of the room dimensions, we decided to see how the relative square footage of the three resort categories compare when you drop them on top of each other. One trip to Home Depot later, we were ready to map it out.

It was a nice sunny day here in the South Pacific as we taped out our driveway (where we store our, uh, canoe), dragged out some furniture and suitcases, and threw down some sheets to show the size of two full sized beds (we know that all Deluxe and most Moderate resorts have queens at this point).


As you can see, there is a substantial difference between the size of a value room and a deluxe room. So how does it play out when you run the numbers? You pay 2.7 times more per square foot for a deluxe room than a value. (We used rack rates for value season – weekdays – for our comparison, deluxe prices based on the Epcot area resorts.)

It’s been five years and prices have gone up. Here is an updated table using SummerΒ 2016 pricing. Rack Rate Per sq.ft. 2016

What do you think? Is the price for a more convenient location, nicer furnishings, and better amenities worth it? Are you surprised by the numbers? Will you always stay at your favorite resort, no matter what? How many Volkswagens can you fit in a Disney resort room?

Laurel Stewart

Laurel has been visiting Walt Disney World since 1971 when she was negative-15 years old and running the Disney races since 2007. Her favorite attraction is Big Thunder Mountain.

36 thoughts on “What You Get for the Money – Resorts

  • September 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    LOL so this is what the colored duct tape was for! Awesome! It’s great to see it in this kind of perspective, but then also to see the price per sq. footage! Does that make a difference to people…who knows! πŸ˜‰

  • September 12, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Wow, that is a genius way to demonstrate the room size. You guys are awesome.

  • September 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    We’ve stayed at 2 deluxe (Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge) and 1 value (Pop Century). Having more space is nice, especially when everyone is getting up and dressed – also when we decide to chill in the room in the afternoon or before bed. This is probably much more important to me than to the kids! I think location and how easy it is to get around is probably more important. On our upcoming trip we are splitting time among Contemporary, Boardwalk Inn and Polynesian. These choices are largely (though not entirely) due to how easy it is to get to the parks we will spend the most time in. My kids’ opinion of the swimming options (based on photos on the DW website) was also a big factor.

  • September 12, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I love data! And seeing it traced out like that is hugely helpful. We stayed for one day at a moderate resort before transferring to the Poly on our last trip. The difference in space felt significant, but next trip we’re going moderate. Now that I see the delta between Moderate and Deluxe, I am more confident than before that Moderate is the way to go since you get that magic feel from the Disney theming without the same level of fleecing. I’d go Value, but I’m a bit of a princess.

  • September 12, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    Great post! Especially love the pics- funny and very informative!

  • September 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    This post is beyond amazing. I’ve always thought that the difference between a Value and Mod wasn’t that much, but the Deluxe’s are SO much more. Extra space is nice, but the big selling point for them is location I think. I’m used to Mod, but am trying Pop next month. Maybe I’ll be a Value convert!

    And do I detect a Lost reference in this post?

    • September 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      Surprisingly, the first chart listed the dimensions as 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.
      Just kidding. πŸ™‚

  • September 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    I’m a compulsive number cruncher, too, and when I ran the numbers for my upcoming trip and realized that I could take two week-long trips at POP for the price of one week long stay at AKL Savannah view, I knew that POP was the place for me! We are a family of three, so we don’t need a ton of space. Heck, we are really only in the room to sleep anyway! We have tried all three classes of resorts and yet we keep going back to POP. You just can’t beat the bang for the buck! Great post, Len! What did your neighbors think of your newly decorated driveway?

    • September 13, 2011 at 4:47 am

      Thanks Jessica! I think the neighbors are used to us doing crazy things. Remind me to post the videos from “Fire Safety Day,” where we bought a bunch of fire extinguishers and taught the kids how to use them by burning cardboard boxes. It’s a wonder the HOA hasn’t sued. πŸ™‚

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    You should have mapped out the size of a 1bdr villa too. That’s where the size difference really pays off. Love DVC!

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I’ve only stayed Value and Moderate. I liked both pretty much equally and the size difference really wasn’t noticeable to me at all. But we’re just two people. If we were a family of three or four, I’d probably have a very different perspective. Not sure if I’ve ever fork over the cash for a deluxe or not unless I really liked the theme or amenities. I’d be more likely to pay the extra money for a Ft. Wilderness cabin than some place like the Grand Floridian.

    • September 13, 2011 at 6:49 am

      Ft. Wilderness cabins are brilliant! I highly recommend them.

    • September 13, 2011 at 7:17 am

      I 2nd the recommendation on the Ft Wilderness Cabins!! They are AMAZING and so much more affordable than a 2 bedroom DVC somewhere!! Our kids are still small now, but pretty soon we’ll be too big for a Value and we’ll be spending all our time then at Ft Wilderness.

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    I love the visual guide! Now, if only there was a similar reference for the DVC resorts-and a cover for the nice gentleman in the char. After all, it IS monsoon season!

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Interesting! Since we’re Cabin fans, I priced that out at $0.54/sqft ($270 value season for ~500 sqft). Considering that includes a separate bedroom AND a full kitchen, that’s a great deal looking at this chart.

    Per other posts, I think the hotel selection comes down to many factors: family size, traveling style, commando or leisure, proximity to parks, and budget. And probably a ton more. With 2 young kids space and downtime are important now. As they age and we can be more commando, value will make more sense.

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Love it! Still room left to tape off the Disneyland hotel sizes ;o)

  • September 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    What about the family suites?

    • September 13, 2011 at 6:47 am

      A family suite is the size of two value rooms (since that’s what they were made from in the refurb). They start at $194/night, so $0.37/sq. ft. That’s not bad.

  • September 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I can’t believe you went through all that work and missed the perfect opportunity to set out a toilet! Now that’d be a great picture.

    • September 13, 2011 at 6:48 am

      That might be pushing the limits of the HOA’s patience, even in the laid back South Pacific.

  • September 12, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    I’ve stayed at all types of resorts,(Contemporary wings, Wilderness Lodge, both Port Orleans, Coronado, Caribbean Beach, POP, and all 3 All-Stars). While the Deluxes are great, I claim I stay at the Values since we’re rarely at the hotel. Fact is, I would only be at WDW a fraction of the time I go now if it weren’t for the “Ghetto Resorts”.

  • September 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

    This is amazing…thanks for appealing to us visual learners with your experiment!

    For me, if I’m not staying at a value resort to save $, then I’m springing for a deluxe, not necessarily for more space, but for the convenience of walking to the parks. I feel like even if the rooms at the Beach Club were the same size as the rooms at Pop, I would still spring for the BC once in awhile because nothing beats being able to walk to and from two of the four main parks.

    Of course, it’s also easy not to place any value on square footage when you’re two childless adults who only travel with carry on luggage. My attitude may change if someday I’m trying to squeeze a couple kids into 260 sq feet…

  • September 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    We’ve done moderate and deluxe. I much prefer the convenience of the deluxes to the parks – I don’t mind paying for that. I don’t want to sound snobbish, but I don’t think I’d stay at a value. The price difference for a moderate is not that much more and the amenities are so much nicer. However, if budget is truly a concern than value it is. As long as we’re at Disney, it’s all good!!

  • September 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    The pictures make this post. I’ve been hearing Len recommend this for years on the podcast. Very funny and useful!!!

  • September 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Awesome! And is that Len in the chair reading the unofficial guide? Hee hee!

  • September 14, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Just came back from 6 days at Pop Century yesterday. The resort, food court, and outside areas were great, but the rooms were indeed small.

    They were workable for two adults and two young kids (9 and 7), but when we go back in a few years, we’ll have to bump up to the moderate. There is very little room to maneuver around the beds, furniture and bathroom. Also no real way to sneak out the door in the morning while others are sleeping. The clearance between the open door and the bed is just a few inches, and the room gets flooded with sunlight when you open the door.

  • September 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Awesome post, love the pictures!

  • September 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Great post. I love your visual guide. We are middle of the road people, so we go for the moderate. A little more space, a little more price. Port Orleans French Quarter was perfect for our family of four.

  • September 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Good basis for compariso as a start. Another factor is the “best” room in a Moderate (e.g. preferred room at Port Orleans Riverside with water view or close to the main building) vs the cheapest room at the Contemporary (Garden Bldg, parking lot view) and still was about $120 more per night. Even factoring Contemporary benefits (on monorail line, restaurants), couldn’t justify spending the extra dollars. And when we got into our room at POR, I was quite happy with the size, even with family of five (the split off curtain at the back with two sinks really helps). I think one is getting more than just more sq ft at the Deluxe resorts, but for dollar value of having a bed in a resort at DL, moderate met our needs. Other factors include food choices, pool area

  • September 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    LOL! Love the pics! Glad to finally find out what the duct tape was for! I too wondered what the neighbors thought! Thanks so much for the visual! It really brings it into perspective! Glad we are doing two rooms at Pop for our family of 5. If we get connecting rooms, we’ll be set with our own little suite.

  • September 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Just back from 7 days at the Wilderness Lodge with 2 and 4 yr old boys in the woods view/bunk bed. Loved it! We had a view of the MK fireworks each night and the monorail, quiet end of the lodge and a view of the lake. I was able to walk in/out at night or at naptime while the kids (and my husband) napped and didn’t bother anyone. The transportation was great to the MK via the boat and buses were always available. I’ve stayed previously at the Pop twice and considered staying there the next time, but we’ll wait a little longer between visits to be able to afford the WL. Also considered the Contemporary or Poly but could never afford a theme park view, but with the room we had, we wouldn’t need to. Just stay at the WL. And I can’t say enough about the bunk beds. Didn’t want the kids sharing a bed and I didn’t want to share with them. This deluxe was worth it for us because of the bunk beds and location.

  • September 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    This is awesome! Great idea and a great visual reference. And hilarious. Thanks!

  • October 19, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    It’s been over a month since you published this post and I still think it’s one of the best of the entire blog! πŸ™‚ I love the visual to see the differences. We’ve done deluxe, we just did moderate and our next trip will be value. Should be interesting with three adults, a small service dog and a wheelchair.

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  • March 11, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Ahhh… thanks for the visual. We stayed at CSR and it was perfect for us. Going back this October and was going to look at a Value Resort, so we could stay more nights and maybe get a park hopper, but no way after this picture. Hello – French Quarter in October 2012!

  • August 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Time to get a new color tape!! I’d love a visual of the AoA family suites!

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