Our Top Five Recommended Resorts for Disney World in 2019 – Something For All Price Points
It’s no secret that once someone finds out that you run a Disney travel planning website that they immediately start asking you questions about the parks. Personally, I love answering those questions and in all reality it’s one of the main reasons I started this site in the first place. However, one of the first questions that always comes up is “What resort should I stay in?” or, and perhaps my favorite comment, “You really stay on property, isn’t that super expensive?” While both questions certainly have merit and I’m more that happy to answer them no matter who might be asking them, they both hold a certain place as the question that everyone asks but there’s really no good answer to when it comes right down to it.
The “What resort should I stay in?” question is perhaps the more straightforward and easier to answer of the two but inevitably there are so many facets and elements of answering the question that it’s often more difficult to answer that one may expect from the outside looking in. When you really dive into it, there are 25+ different resort options at Walt Disney World that are currently run by the Disney company. Combine that with the new resorts and the variety of Disney resort room types available across property and this question immediately starts to get more complex. To really nail down an answer, the simplest question I ask in return is “What is your budget?” That’s the question that matters the most. If you’re considering a trip, pick a budget and a number you are financially comfortable with before even pulling up the Disney website or doing anything else. Additionally, be aware that the total cost of your stay isn’t going to be your accommodation costs alone. You have to consider ticket prices, food budgets, souvenir budgets (which vary drastically from person to person), and ultimately figure out the big picture number of what you are comfortable spending. If you don’t know that going into it it’s incredibly easy to jump on the site and scroll through a page of deluxe resorts and quickly rack up a bill that will stagger you and immediately end your hopes of ever going to Walt Disney World.
So many people have walked up to me over the years at work and elsewhere and asked me how we afford to go to Disney so often. The key to it isn’t all that difficult to grasp. We are incredibly careful about what we spend throughout the year, and when we book our trips we do so with a budget in mind. We’re not staying at the Grand Floridian or the Boardwalk every trip. Then again, we’re not staying at the no-name motel on International Drive either (you may be seeing a whole different kind of Mouse if you do that). We watch the resort discount percentages that roll out constantly, we book what works with our budget, and we’ve even been known to share rooms with friends to shrink the costs of deluxe accommodations by booking villas and splitting up the costs.
You see, the booking equation isn’t really all that difficult if you go in with a set price ceiling in mind. That’s my first piece of advice when booking your resort accommodations and it likely always will be. Additionally you have to consider what you want out of your resort stay. Some people view a resort as simply a place to sleep for the night. Personally, I don’t buy into that philosophy. To me, an incredibly themed experience like the unique offerings you find at Disney’s deluxe resorts and the incredible attention to detail that those resorts encompass truly do change your vacation experience. It’s an intangible difference and one that you can never really measure but in the simplest of explanations it just feels different. At the same time though, if you’ve never stayed deluxe, or never even stayed on Disney property, you may not realize what you’re missing and you may be of that crowd that spends so little time at your resort that it may not matter near as much to you as it does to us. I always say the happy medium is trying a moderate resort. If you want theming but you also want a reasonable price to see what works for you, moderates tend to be the way to go. There’s nothing wrong with values and there’s nothing wrong with club level accommodations at the deluxe resorts, but I’d be lying if I said they create the same guest experience. I hope that point comes across here, but when it’s all said and done the key to the resort choice dilemma many guests face is a question I can never answer for you. It’s all about what you want out of your Disney vacation and obviously that’s something I can never choose for you.
In response to the “isn’t that super expensive?” remark, my go-to answer is always to compare what you’re getting at a Walt Disney World resort to what you’re getting at a non-Disney resort. Anyone that’s not just being incredibly and insistently stubborn will tell you that staying on property is undoubtedly different that staying off property. I’m never going to tell someone one is better that the other, but having done both many times, I will say that it is increasingly rare that you save a significant amount of money staying off property. It is certainly possible to save money when you do, but 99% of the time that reality comes with some serious trade offs and often once you add in resort fees to some of the nicer off property resorts of equivalent quality to onsite accommodations, the price differential is (usually) relatively negligible. Again, I’m not saying one way of doing things is better that the other because everyone’s preferences are going to vary drastically, but there are certainly trade offs. The main things you’re giving up are the free airport shuttle to/from MCO via the Magical Express, on site transportation by cast members (by means of bus, boat, and monorail), an obvious theming element, and most certainly the feeling of being encompassed in that Disney “bubble.”
Many resorts off site will offer transportation for free or even occasionally for a fee but having used it myself I can guarantee you that it is by no means equivalent to onsite transportation. I’ve been on those buses and know how that system operates, and different is likely the understatement of the day. Overall, you may save a few dollars if you’re incredibly careful, but is it vastly more expensive to stay on property to the extent that it will be a huge deciding factor for most guests given the trade offs? Not likely.
So, to get back on topic a bit more and to actually answer the question we set out to answer today, here’s what I recommend for resort accommodations in 2019. This isn’t our favorite resorts list, but it is a list of places we highly recommend in the coming year. 2019 is going to be a big year for resorts. Caribbean Beach has changed drastically and continues to change, Coronado Springs is changing drastically as well, and there are more resort options to consider today that there have ever been before. So what do we recommend and why?
If you’re really just getting started in the booking process be sure to check out the posts mentioned in our full and all encompassing resort information page:
If you’re going to book a budget friendly Disney trip, there really is no better option that Art of Animation. It only narrowly beats out Pop Century but Pop Century fills up much quicker and is far more difficult to book that Art of Animation tends to be. The kicker on booking either one of these resort locations is that if a discounted room appears to be unavailable or only family suites are listed as available, select the resort you’d like to stay in, and then when the room selection option pops up click away from the discounted rate and select the “room” only offer option at the top of the page. In doing so, the system looks at non discounted rooms and often times availability pops up. More often that not availability is still present but the amount of rooms allocated for the given discount may have already filled or may not include the resort you are looking to book.
Art of Animation is the value resort I personally recommend because it not only has a great food court, a great shopping location, and some of the most impressive pools on property, but it also features theming that is quite a bit more enveloping and pointed towards intellectual property that guests are familiar with that the other value resorts. The new Pop Century rooms are debatably nicer, but if you’re traveling with kids they’re likely to prefer the Art of Animation in room theming.
As a final note, you may pay slightly more for Art of Animation that the other value tier resorts. In many ways it acts as a “value plus” style resort and you will pay a touch more for that, and you’ll likely pay a good deal more for it if you’re looking to book one of the family suites.
The Mid Tier Options
If you’re looking for something a little nicer, you’ll want to move up to the moderate tier resorts if your budget allows. Moderate resort accommodations have changed drastically in the last 3 to 5 years and what once used to be a sizable gap in level of luxury between deluxe and moderate is a much smaller difference that it once was. With the introduction of DVC accommodations to Caribbean Beach, the resort has transformed drastically over the last year. Truthfully, parts of it are indistinguishable from past years. The new dining offerings are far better that they once were, resort rooms have been overhauled and have a far more upscale feel that they once did, and with the exception of the vastly spread out nature of the resort and multiple bus stops to accompany that, there’s very little to complain about or that guests could be unhappy about staying at Caribbean Beach. Once the Skyline is operational in the fall of this year, prices will likely climb for this resort location, but at this point in time you can book Caribbean Beach during the construction and save a ton of money while getting to experience much of what has already debuted without paying the premium prices.
Characteristically, and in a similar way to Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs will be the next big resort to stay at in the moderate tier once the new multi story tower officially debuts in the summer of this year. Again, due to the construction, you can score some deeply discounted rooms here leading up to the debut of the additions. In my opinion it’s not a better option that Caribbean Beach but it’s an option nonetheless that should definitely be put under consideration if the price is right for your dates.
If you’re looking to avoid construction all together and are willing to pay a few dollars more per night, I would highly recommend looking into Port Orleans french Quarter or Riverside. The overall resort isn’t under any major construction at the moment and it’s been my “go-to” resort recommendation in the moderate tier for years. It is the closest thing you can get to a deluxe resort at the moderate price point. You not only get a better bus transportation experience with fewer bus stops, but you also get the opportunity to utilize boat transportation to Disney Springs. It’s a fairly long boat ride, but I can’t explain enough how valuable that option is considering how much has arrived and is available to enjoy at Disney Springs. From dining, to shopping, to late night entertainment, it’s insanely convenient to jump on the boat, ride a bit and be right there in the heart of Disney Springs.
The High Price Yet High Value Options
For the more high priced options, I always tend to recommend the villas over standard rooms. In most cases villa accommodations are equal in price or even sometimes more budget friendly that standard rooms, especially when booking on discounted percentage offers. Even if you have to book a studio room, the bonuses of the studios tend to be the better option due to different room layouts. If you are going to splurge a little bit but don’t want to really break the bank I highly recommend the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or the Boardwalk Villas. Both can be found at what I consider reasonable prices if you’re careful about when you book.
The Boulder Ridge Villas have consistently been some of the best “value for the money” villas anywhere on property over the last year. The prices for Boulder Ridge do appear to be creeping up slightly in the summer months of this year, but if that is the case for your dates, consider looking into a room at the Boardwalk Villas. For some reason or another this summer one bedroom villas in particular at the Boardwalk are popping up at incredibly reasonable prices that can be near $370 nightly. The proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios is unbeatable and the resort itself is one of the best layouts on property. The views alone are worth a stay here and I can guarantee you that if you spend a week here you’ll witness one of the greatest sunsets of your life overlooking Crescent Lake.
At this point you may be wondering why I don’t recommend the usual picks of Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian. Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. In my opinion, the value for your dollar at those resorts can’t compare to these other deluxe tier resorts. It’s not unusual to pay nearly twice what you would pay at Wilderness Lodge for a resort room at any of those other three resorts (obviously depending on your travel dates). To me, the trade offs in savings don’t add up to a great enough difference in the level of experience to pay more for the other three. I’m not saying they’re bad resorts. They are in fact incredible resorts and some of the best resorts in the nation, but if you’re looking for a good value for your money in comparison to other offerings, it’s hard to put them anywhere near the top of my list. If you’re not worried about the costs, by all means book a fireworks view room at any of those resorts and it will blow your mind! If it’s a once in a lifetime trip, it’s worth every penny, but if you’re looking for an excellent resort, put our two recommended options high on your list and you wont be disappointed.
For More On Both of These Recommended Resorts – Check Out:
In wrapping up this article I hope these options give you a few things to consider. Next years list may look entirely different that this list and that’s inevitably the nature of Disney resort accommodations. The parks and resorts are constantly changing. In recent years Disney has been moving towards a more premium experience but they’re not alone in doing that. Even the experience at some seemingly simple resorts of the past like the classic Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Hotels have moved towards a more premium array of offerings for guests. It’s the nature of the hospitality business. Guests are demanding more and so many different groups are rising to the occasion.
There’s no hiding the fact that a Disney vacation is expensive, but there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s worth every penny. The entire booking process depends on so many different things, and they’re elements of the booking process that I certainly can’t decide for you. So much of all of this is a matter of preference but making an educated decision is all part of the process and the first step in making your Disney dream a reality. No matter what happens, be sure to make the most of every minute of your stay. If you’re staying deluxe or staying in the most budget friendly resort you can find, it’s all about what you make of it.
Often times the guests touring Disney for one day and savoring every minute of the one day that they may ever get to spend in the parks are the guests who do this better that anyone. It’s a difficult thought process for many of us lifelong Disney fans and repeat guests to fully grasp, but it’s one of those incredible things to keep in mind. So many times I’ve caught myself getting bummed out on the last day of our trips and then you you take a step back and look around you. So many people you’re standing in line with, or eating lunch with, or even riding a bus with, this may be their only day at Walt Disney World. It really puts things in perspective and helps you realize that so many aspects of the Disney experience are all a matter of perspective. That’s the true message behind all of this. Everyones perspective is going to differ slightly and I can give recommendations all day, but you have to figure out what works best for your desired vacation experience! As always, if you ever have questions, feel free to shoot me an email or message me directly on Facebook!
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!