With over 20 resort hotels at Walt Disney World, choosing where you’re going to sleep at night on your Disney vacation can be one of the most overwhelming steps while planning your trip. This clear and concise Disney resort hotel guide is here to save you time and frustration! If you’re a family of four with school age kids that wants a quiet place to rest your head each night after a long park day, then I have recommendations for you!
Let me begin by stating the obvious: This is probably not the first Disney resort hotel guide you have found on the interwebs (but, if it is, thanks for finding me and welcome!). If you search long enough, you will find enough hotel guides to tell you that every Disney resort is the best AND the worst. After all, everyone travels to Disney World with different family needs, preferences, and vacation styles.
I’m writing this guide for you with your family of school age kids. Your needs are different than a family with preschoolers or a solo traveler.
Parents with school age kids like us are looking for different hotel amenities and room features than parents of toddlers or teens. We aren’t schlepping a stroller all over Disney World anymore. We don’t need to go back to the hotel room every afternoon and stay for hours while the kids nap. Our kids are now awake longer during the day and can stay out later at night so we don’t spend as much time in the room. And our kids need real beds now, preferably not shared, since we can’t just pull in a crib or set up a pack-and-play.
On the other end of the parenting spectrum, our kids aren’t grown teenagers so we don’t quite need a larger suite yet that would give a family ample personal space. We sleep nearly the same hours as our kids at night so having separate sleeping areas isn’t a top priority yet. We just need a comfortable space for everyone to sleep and recharge from the hustle and bustle of the parks.
Disney Resort Must-Have’s For Our Family of 4
So let me share the criteria I use when choosing a resort for my family’s Disney vacations. These go beyond the obvious kid-appeal of theming and pools. These are my must-have’s for my family of four with school age kids to have a comfortable stay while on vacation:
Comfortable sleeping space for four // This means at least two queen beds. My boys are too big to share a double now and we don’t want anyone to have to sleep on an uncomfortable pull-out sofa bed while on vacation. Two real queen beds are the minimum for us.
Peace and quiet // Disney parks are hectic and crowded and loud and overstimulating and … you get the picture. Oh, we love it, for sure, but beginning and ending the day in a more serene location is ideal.
Budget-Friendly // The hotel stay will be one of the largest chunks of the Disney vacation budget so we aim to keep the hotel cost low so we can stay longer and visit more often.
These are our deal-breakers. We don’t even consider resorts that don’t meet these criteria.
Those are our deal-breakers. We don’t even consider resorts that don’t meet those three criteria. We also consider these extras when choosing a resort:
Extra Disney Resort Features We Consider
We also consider these extra amenities and features when choosing a Disney World hotel:
3rd sleeping space // Our boys will share, but everyone has a better night’s sleep if they have their own sleeping space. I mentioned avoiding pull-out sofa beds earlier, but many Disney resort rooms have murphy beds and convertible daybeds that are much nicer so these are what we look for.
Close proximity to at least one Disney theme park // Saving time by walking, boating, or riding the monorail to at least one park instead of driving or taking a bus is a convenience that’s hard to resist once you’ve experienced it!
Table with chairs // We have breakfast in the hotel room most mornings so we prefer a place where both boys to sit and eat at the same time. They also love to draw, write, and play with Legos back in the room at the end of day so a table with two chairs is ideal … and not as common as you might expect.
Fun pool // We often visit Disney World in winter, but the resort’s pool is a definite consideration when choosing a resort any other time of year.
Private outdoor space // Hotel rooms with private balconies or patios come with higher price tags, but they’re definitely a consideration when we’re including a deluxe stay.
What About Food?
Note that I don’t mention dining options at all.
We don’t actually eat much food AT the resort where we are guests. We might grab a few Mickey waffles for breakfast (and those are available at EVERY resort), but we’re usually in the parks or otherwise away from our resort at lunch and dinnertime. It’s only important to consider dining options at a resort if you plan on staying there most of the day.
Besides, non-guests can dine at any resort restaurant, so we escape from Animal Kingdom crowds to eat lunch at nearby Sanaa or take the quick walk from Epcot to Beaches and Cream for dinner. Being a hotel guest at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or Beach Club isn’t necessary in both of those examples.
Disney Resort Categories
One last primer before we get to the recommendations. I promise those are coming up!
Disney places resorts into four categories: value, moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas (those are the Disney Vacation Club – DVC rooms). Room features and amenities can vary greatly within each category, but the main differentiators are price, building arrangement, pool features, and dining.
All Disney resort hotels have quick service or take-away dining locations, pools, free bus service to the parks, and complimentary Magical Express airport transportation. Here’s where they differ:
||Deluxe & Deluxe Villas
|pools without slides
||pools with slides
||pools with slides
||spas at pool
||spas at pool
|outdoor-entry rooms with motel corridors
||outdoor-entry rooms in smaller buildings
|not adjacent to any parks – must drive or use bus
||not adjacent to any parks – must drive or use bus
||usually adjacent to at least one park
|theming is bright with oversized characters
||beautiful theming with lush landscaping
||gorgeously-themed buildings and grounds
|no table service restaurants
||table service restaurant
||extensive dining options including signature dining and character meals
|no club level
||no club level
||club level rooms available
Disney Resort Hotel Recommendations
OK, now let’s get on to the recommendations! Using the criteria above, let’s take a look at each Disney resort hotel and whether we personally recommend them for families of four with school age kids.