/ Monday, August 27th, 2012

by Caitlin Corsello

Upon deciding to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World, some of the biggest decisions you will make concern selecting from Disney resorts and tickets. Both choices can be based upon several factors, including your budget and the way you prefer to vacation.

Let’s look at resorts first. Resorts at Walt Disney World are broken into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe with each level offering its own pros and cons. The most outstanding pro for any Disney resort is the conveniences offered for staying on property. As a resort guest, you will receive free transportation to and from the parks as well as Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours occur every day and allow special access for resort guests to enter a park one hour earlier than its public opening as well as remain in another park later than its public closing. This allows time for less crowds and shorter lines. You will only be able to experience these perks if you stay on property in a Disney resort.

Deluxe resorts include Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. As they are categorized as Deluxe, these resorts are the most expensive of the bunch. They can range in price from $250 to upwards of $400 for one night in a standard room depending on the date. Therefore, if you are following a strict budget these can be scratched off the list early on. However, if you tend to be a person who enjoys spending a solid amount of time at your resort, either lounging poolside or exploring dining options and ambiance, then it may be worth considering springing for the Deluxe level resort. If you tend to be a person who prefers spending less time at the resort, consider the following two categories as they present more inexpensive options. (My dream Deluxe resort pick? The Polynesian.)

Moderate resorts are the middle category offered and tend to range from $170 to around $230 for one night in a standard room. Moderate resorts offer plenty of ambiance and theme, but for a lower price than the Deluxe resorts. Moderate resorts include Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort (French Quarter and Riverside). The Moderate resorts can be a great choice for those looking to experience a more upscale ambiance, but also save as compared to the Deluxe level prices. (Port Orleans French Quarter is by far my favorite resort on property- hello fresh beignets!)

Finally, Value resorts are the most economical of the three resort levels. Such resorts include Disney’s All Star Movies, Music, and Sports Resorts and the brand new Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. These resorts tend to be the most family friendly as the décor is more heavily based upon Disney characters and themes than other resorts. For example, you can stay in the 101 Dalmatians section at the All Star Movies resort or opt for the Finding Nemo section at the Art of Animation resort. But don’t let the character vibes deter you from staying there without a family. Twenty-somethings will still enjoy this level of resorts as they are reasonably priced and fun in their own way. Prices for Value resorts can range from $90 to $160 for one night in a standard room depending on the date. Thus, the Value resort category offers a very reasonable price as compared to the Moderate and Deluxe levels. If you are looking to save money, a Value resort is your best option.

Keep in mind that whichever level of hotel you choose, you will receive complimentary Disney transportation to the parks, pool access, and other amenities such as a laundromat. With that being said, if you choose a Value resort based upon the price, you can still experience the atmosphere and offers of Moderate and Deluxe hotels. One simply has to board a bus from one of the parks to the resort of choice and enjoy the grounds, decorations, or dining options at leisure.

In addition to choosing a resort, ticket options should be examined. I recommend purchasing tickets for both the arrival and departure dates of your vacation if you can experience more than half a day’s worth of time in a park. Also keep in mind that the ticket price decreases for each day you attend- an example being that your first day would cost $80, the second $75, and so on. So if you are able to add additional half days, they can definitely be worth the reduced fee for several productive hours in a park.

Once you decide upon how many days you would like tickets for, you can choose the level of ticket you would like to purchase. There is a base ticket called Magic Your Way which allows you access to one park per day, the Park Hopper Option which allows access to multiple  parks per day, and the Water Park Fun and More Option which allows access to additional experiences including two water parks. If you have no desire to visit water parks or any additional on-property experiences, opt out of the Water Park Fun and More Option. It costs more for something you may not necessarily want to utilize.

I personally recommend opting for the Park Hopper Option. This allows you to visit multiple parks per day and most importantly to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. If you are able to visit a park for an early opening in the morning, another in the afternoon, and an additional one late at night you are greatly increasing the amount of attractions and entertainment you can experience and increasing the value of your ticket.

So while this all seems like a lot of information which can be complicated, keep in mind two things: what is your price range and what kind of experience are you looking for on your vacation? Knowing the answers to these two questions will help you to choose which level of resort and which ticket option will best fit your vacation style.

And once these decisions are made, all that’s left to do is start the countdown to your Disney vacation!

What is your favorite resort to stay in? What type of tickets do you prefer purchasing? Leave a comment below!

Caitlin Corsello was born and raised in New York. She graduated from Adelphi University with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling in 2012. Her love for Disney started as an infant and has continued to grow with family vacations to Disney parks almost every year since. She holds a particular interest in WDW’s parks and attractions, never passing up an opportunity to visit. She looks forward to continuing to explore and learn about all things Disney and to share that passion with readers.

9 Responses to "Disney from the Twenty-Something: Choosing Disney Resorts and Tickets"

  1. What a great, informative post! As a fellow twenty-something-er, I personally ALWAYS stay at one of the All Stars! I’m always on the go in the parks, so don’t worry about all the extras I might need from the more expensive resorts! THough I would LOVE to stay at AKL! Maybe I’ll do it one night out of a 7 night stay sometime.
    As for tickets, we always go for an 8-10 day MYW base ticket. We never do the hopper, because we don’t feel the need to see too much in one day since we plan on spending 2 full days or so in each park anyway! Sometimes we’ll do waterparks and disneyquest, but I could take it or leave it…

  2. Only stayed at All Star Movies and Music. Of the two, I liked Movies themeing better. In fact I’m staying there again in 2 weeks!

    As for tickets I always get the park hopper. Don’t always use it but the freedom of knowing that if crowd levels are high at one park I could always go to another is worth the cost.

  3. We stay at POP when it is just the Adults. It has just what we need and the guys love all the old computer stuff that they have. So for the tickets I buy them through the mousesavers. com web page I then go to undercover tourist and buy the tickets cheaper and they are shipped for free to my house. We always do the park hopper because I love to go at night and take pictures. As well we might be in one park in the morning and then eat in a different park at night. Some nights I have been to three different parks.. So we make it worth it..

  4. Terrific article! I’m waaay past my twenties, but this information is valuable to all ages! :)

  5. Gosh, Stayed at the Polynesian last trip, BEST HOTEL I HAVE EVER STAYED AT! Felt so relaxed and layed back and the cast members were among the friendliest I had met that trip! The resort it self was beautiful and I found my self wandering about the grounds for 3 hours one morning just taking it all in (and burning off the 5 mickey waffles I had at the Ohana Character breakfast). The beaches are great for a nice relaxing morning especially the one in front of the main pool, great views of the grand floridian, Cinderella castle, and Space Mountain. Spent another 3 hour morning there on a hammock planing my day on my iPad just watching the boats sail across the water. Loved it there even if it cost us the same price as two trips staying at the port orleans resort for 2 more days than we stayed at the Polynesian. ALOOOOOOOOOHA!

  6. Caitlin Corsello says:

    Thanks for the replies everyone!! While my “home resort” is Port Orleans French Quarter, I’ve stayed everywhere from Coronado Springs, to Pop Century, to Caribbean Beach. But I have to say my dream resorts are the Polynesian and the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I’ve actually stayed at the Polynesian with my family, but I was too young to remember it. (Talk about unfortunate!!)

    In terms of tickets, I personally always choose the Park Hopper option because I am one of those people who are constantly moving in the parks. I will get up early, go to the park with morning Extra Magic Hours, visit another park during the day, and usually go to a third park to visit during the evening Extra Magic Hours. So more often than not, I visit two, sometimes three parks in a day. So if your park touring is similar to mine, the Park Hopper option is the most economical to you in order to increase the value of your ticket and visit more parks and attractions in a shorter period of time.

    I would love to hear what everyone considers their “home” and “dream” resorts. Where would you stay if you had unlimited funds? My choice would either be a suite overlooking the Magic Kingdom at the Polynesian or a suite at the Animal Kingdom Lodge overlooking the savannah.

  7. Christy Viszoki says:

    That’s a great question, Caitlin–home v. dream resort. As a DVC member, I have an “official” home resort–Old Key West. My dream resort, though, is the Polynesian–I love the laid-back style there. Would love to see a DVC property there someday. I always know I am in Disney when I “smell” the lobby of the Poly. <3 :D

  8. Thanks for such a broad, but detailed, brief of what to consider in planning a trip to Disney! It makes me feel like I have spent an afternoon with Tinker Bell flitting around for an overview of the parks.

  9. Caitlin Corsello says:

    Christy- I definitely agree on the smell of the Poly’s lobby! One of my favorite things in all of WDW.

    Jeff K- Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

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