Navigating Our Disney Site
Where to stay for your Walt Disney World visit?
Disney offers a tremendous range of accomodations on-property, ranging (at high season) from the All-Star resorts under $90 per night, through several mid-price hotels under $150 - Caribbean Beach, Dixie Landings, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans; to the deluxe $250 range Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary, Boardwalk, and Fort Wilderness Homes; the $300 range Dolphin, Swan, Yacht, Beach and Polynesian Lodge; to the $330+ Grand Floridian. And then there are the hotels at the Hotel Plaza / Disney Village that run from the Courtyard, Grosvenor, Travelodge and Royal Plaza at about $100; through the Doubletree Guest Suites and Hilton at $200.
The answer is (of course), it depends. If you're going to spend every waking minute at the parks, will you get your money's worth from an on-property hotel if all you're going to do is crash overnight?
An on-property hotel is a good choice if different members of your party want to do their own thing. Because regular bus transportation is provided from all of the properties to each of the theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom; the specialty attractions Wide World of Sports, Discovery Island, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach; and Pleasure Island/Downtown Disney/and West End. This way, if some people want to get an early start, they can take off on their schedule. Another minor perq is that on-property guests get early admission to a specific park during peak times - an hour earlier than the public. Unfortunately, with possibly 40,000 hotel guests, this can cause a major crowd if many people take advantage of this. Also, Disney guests (except those at Hotel Plaza, Dolphin & Swan) can use their resort id cards to charge meals and shopping in the aforementioned parks and attractions. Finally, you don't have to pay the $5 parking charge at the attractions, and you probably won't forget where you parked the car.
So if you do decide to stay on-property, what do you get when you spend more money? Larger rooms and more expensive furniture. In the $90 and $150 categories, there isn't really that much difference between the hotels, other than Caribbean Beach has mini-bars and coffee makers; Dixie Landings has clock radios and some trundle beds. All-Star and Coronado (rooms) are fairly small. All have two double beds double sinks, hangars (not a closet), safes and exterior corridors. Rooms are brightly lit. They are all built in two and three story complexes around central courtyards/pools. If you don't have a car, you can get around quite well on the WDW bus system, but ask for a unit close to the bus depots, especially if you have young children. It is a long way (up to 1/2 a mile) from the bus to the furthest units at Dixie Landings and Coronado. As you move up-price, the room amenities don't change that much but the furnishings and the hotel facilities do. You get larger rooms, interior corridors, dining rooms (lower priced resorts have food courts and lounges) and room service. The Contemporary, Polynesian and Grand Floridian are, of course, on the monorail line to Magic Kingdom which is convenient when visiting that park.
Hotels in the Lake Buena Vista Hotel Plaza range from $110 to $300 per night, and are run by major chains - you can book them through their 800 numbers rather than 1-407-wdisney which is used for the Disney hotels. Be aware that there are many hotels just across the street from these Plaza hotels that advertise as "Lake Buena Vista". Most are on Palm Parkway or Apopka-Vineland Road. They are not considered on-property, but some (like the Comfort Inn Palm Parkway) have very low rates off-season ($29 per night). The Dolphin and Swan are anomalies - they are on Disney property but are operated by Sheraton and Westin, respectively. They don't have resort ID charging privileges but do have full shuttle bus service (on the same line & lake as the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk). Most of the large conventions are held here. If you are here on convention, ask for a Balcony room. Join Westin's Premier club and you get a continental breakfast voucher daily.
My recommendation? If you only want a place to sleep & meet, the All-Star resorts are fine. If you want a little
more room (or have 5 people), a beach and a coffeemaker, pick the Caribbean Beach. Of course, if everyone is on the same schedule, I'd suggest you stay off-property and save the money. There are a lot of basic motels on US192/W.Irlo
Bronson that are under $40 nightly and there are some suite properties (Travelodge, Days) under $50. You'll need a car, but you're surrounded by all the fast food and souvenirs you can think of.