While Disney’s value resorts are clearly popular (they fill up during the busy seasons, right?) they’re probably not a real favorite place to stay among Disney fans. (The exception to this may be Art of Animation, but even then I think a lot of that sentiment comes from people with kids who just love the characters represented there.) Still, I like them.
They’re certainly not my favorite–how could they be when resorts like the Grand Floridian or the Yacht Club exist? But I think they serve their purpose, and as their names suggest they really are the best “value” with perhaps just one exception (read to the end to see what this exception is). If you’re on the fence about staying at a value resort, hopefully this post helps you decipher some of the pros and cons before you book!
Pro: The price!
The most obvious reason to stay at Disney’s value resorts is the price. You can occasionally luck out and find rooms at Disney’s All Star Resorts as low as $105/night depending on available promotions and the time of year, with the higher rates being around $200/night, and the majority of the year falling somewhere in between. These rates are obviously not “cheap” by general standards, but for Disney resorts this is the lowest you’re going to get.
If you’re set on staying at a Disney resort, the All Star Resorts (followed by Pop Century then Art of Animation) are the cheapest way to go. So while I would not necessarily call these resorts “cheap” they are certainly on the more affordable end compared to Disney’s moderate resorts, which usually start at about $230+ or deluxe resorts which can easily be upwards of $400/night.
Pro/Con: The buses
For me, the buses at Disney’s value resorts largely fall into the “pro” category but I understand why this may not be the case for everyone. Other resorts at the same price point that have bus service to the parks are not Disney resorts, and the bus schedules are sometimes hit or miss since they only come at set times as opposed to the every 20-30 minutes that Disney’s buses come.
As someone who regularly takes public transportation at home, I’ve never had any real issues with Disney’s buses. Sure, the lines are horrific if you leave the parks immediately after they close, but I simply avoid doing this just to avoid the crowds anyway. In the off chance that I do leave the parks during the rush, I skip the long bus line and opt for an Uber instead. To me, value is a balance of time and money. So while I may choose to stay at a value resort because it’s stretching that dollar further, there is a point where I’ll pay for an Uber even though the bus is free. But doing this only a couple of times throughout my trip hardly makes a dent in the overall cost of my resort stay. If I do go for the crowded bus instead, it’s fine. No bus experience I’ve ever had in Disney has even remotely compared to rush hour on a bus at home. Of course though, I understand that I’m used to taking public transportation, and many other guests probably are not hence the differences in opinion here.
The common gripes that people have with value resort buses are as follows:
- Buses sometimes stop at multiple resorts (ie: all of the All Star Resorts)
- Large groups stay at the resorts and sometimes manage to all get on the bus with you
- The waiting areas for buses outside the resorts is in the sun
To me, none of these are deal breakers for staying at the resorts. Like I said earlier, I’ve never had any serious issues with the buses, and if I ever see a line I don’t want to wait in I just grab an Uber. To me, the cost of the occasional Uber with the lower cost of staying at a value resort while still being on Disney property all works out in my favor, but that’s certainly something to research and decide for yourself.
Depending on your feelings on how Disney’s value resorts are designed, the themes could be either a pro or a con. Personally, I’m indifferent. I’m not staying at these resorts for the theming, I’m staying there for the price. And while I will say the ‘larger than life’ icons and overall style of the resorts is not really my thing, I’m glad there is theming that at the least is uniquely Disney. While non-Disney resorts can be cheaper, I do really like feeling like I’m in Disney (and of course the close proximity to the parks and other perks help too!).
Con: Room size
Rooms at Disney’s value resorts are S M A L L. The exception to the rule here is the suites at Art of Animation or All Star Music which are understandably larger. Since I’m usually staying at these resorts either by myself or with one other person, the small size of the rooms isn’t really an issue. That being said, I have stayed with three adults in one room, and judging from that experience I imagine four people (especially if one or two are kids) could get really tight really fast.
I don’t spend that much time in the room while I’m in Disney, so I can get over the size, but it is noticeably smaller than other hotel rooms. If you’re looking for ample space in the room you may want to consider a moderate resort or similarly priced off property hotel or Disney Springs Resort instead.
Another complaint lots of anti-value resort guests tend to have is that groups visiting Disney stay there (including competitive cheerleaders, South American tour groups, high school band trips, etc…). This is true. Lots of groups stay at these resorts because it gives them the biggest bang for their buck to stay at the least expensive Disney resorts with a group rate.
If you’re looking into the value resorts, you’ve probably heard horror stories of the groups (that are usually teenagers) being extremely loud and obnoxious 100% of the time thereby making everyone else’s entire vacation completely miserable. From my experience, this isn’t the case. Sometimes the food court can get super busy because the whole group just went to get lunch at the same time (which is annoying but not totally unbearable). As far as the experience in your hotel room goes, I’ve never had a sleepness night due to a group, and in fact I’ve never even stayed in that close of proximity to them. They usually have a block of rooms in the resort so your chances of having a room next to them are really slim.
I’m annoyed when the queue for the bus is filled with cheerleaders who could easily fill their own motorcoach, and in my opinion they should be taking their own transportation in these cases. Usually when this happens, Disney’s bus dispatchers are on it and extra buses are diverted to move the line along quicker, but if I ever just don’t want to bother with that I’ll get an Uber instead.
Pro: Disney benefits
The best reason to stay at a Disney value resort is to take advantage of all the benefits that are only available to Disney resort guests. In addition to being right on Disney property close to all of the action, all Disney resort guests have access to complimentary transportation between their resorts and the parks as well as the Orlando International Airport.
You can also make your FastPass selections 60 days in advance (as opposed to 30) and you can make advanced dining reservations 180 days out from your trip. Additionally, Disney resort guests are able to attend Extra Magic Hours, which give you extra time in the theme parks and as well as services like complimentary package pick-up which allows you to ship purchases from the parks to your resort for free. If you’re thinking about adding the Disney Dining Plan to your reservation, you’ll also need to stay at a Disney resort to do so.
Still on the fence?
If you’re still not sure if the pros outweigh the cons, consider staying at a Disney Springs Resort. These resorts include chain hotels like Best Western and Holiday Inn along with B Resort & Spa, a boutique resort whose style is unique to Disney Springs. Each of these hotels come with the benefits mentioned above minus the Disney Dining Plan and airport transportation, and they come at a lower price point than Disney’s moderate and deluxe resorts making them a good compromise if you’re just not sure about the values still.
Have you stayed at a value resort? Have questions? Leave them below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.