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Mommy, there's a giraffe outside my window. (Pictured: Disney's Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas)

By Maria Mora

As a teen, I spent dozens of weekends traveling to the Walt Disney World resorts as a babysitter for my little cousins. In the years since those frequent Orlando vacations, Walt Disney World has revamped older properties and introduced many new options. As a mom, I’m picky when it comes to finding the best  Disney hotels. Here’s an insider’s guide to staying at a Disney resort property.

Why stay at a Disney hotel?
On average, most of the Disney hotels are more expensive than the budget options located just off the Walt Disney World property. Why pay the extra price? First of all, each resort is heavily themed and super kid-friendly. They feature dining on site, elaborate swimming pools and familiar characters.

The perks aren’t just for the kids. I stay on site for the conveniences. The free transportation alone makes it worth it to me — Disney parking lots can get crowded, hot and expensive. In addition, resort guests can receive free airport transportation, extended park hours, package delivery and special-occasion voice mails from Disney characters.

How do I decide where to stay?
Walt Disney World Resort offers six types of hotels, with accommodations ranging from value hotel rooms to luxury villas. When choosing a Disney hotel, I consider the following:

  • How many are in my party?
  • Do I prefer to be close to a specific park?
  • Do I require extras like a full kitchen or multiple bedrooms?
  • Do I want to be entertained on the resort property?
  • What is my budget?

Based on this information, I decide between the value resorts, which are the cheapest and the more upscale options that include amenities like kitchens and suites. Keep in mind that when staying with a group, the suites and villas are generally the best value.

My personal favorites are located within walking distance to Epcot, allowing for convenient access to the little-known back entrance of that park. This location also provides ferry access to Hollywood Studios. The Disney hotels in this area include Disney’s Beach Club ResortDisney’s BoardWalk Inn and the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

What’s the difference between the resorts?
Each Walt Disney World resort has a theme. The classic Polynesian Resort is a great example. Located near the Magic Kingdom, the Polynesianis considered one of the deluxe resorts. The South Pacific theme puts guests in the middle of an oasis with easy monorail access to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom and the transportation and ticket center.

Some of the newest properties are located around Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas and Animal Kingdom Lodge are located amidst a wildlife preserve. A great deal of effort went into the decor and details of this property, from the service itself down to the hand-carved furnishings. I recommend these properties to guestswilling to splurge a little. For most people, waking up with a giraffe outside the window is worth it.

If you’re staying with active kids and you want to spend a lot of time by the pool, the Caribbean Beach ResortCoronado Springs Resort and Yacht Club Resort are great choices. I love the dining options at these properties, especially the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet at Cape May Café at the Yacht Club Resort.

Disney hotel tips

  • Remember to make dinner reservations when you book your stay.
  • Ask about the meal plan. This option often saves families a lot of money on food at the resorts and parks.
  • Tell a cast member if you’re celebrating a special event or birthday.
  • Travel on weekdays for the best rates.
  • Each resort comes to life around the holidays. Consider visiting in December for amazing light displays.

Spring break vacation savings: Get up to 35 percent off on a stay at a Walt Disney World resort by March 27 for travel through April 16.

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Maria Mora is a memoir blogger and wannabe photographer. She travels extensively throughout Florida and the Caribbean with her two young sons.

Tagged: Disney, Family time, Hotels

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Angie Jaime

Angie Jaime

Angie Jaime is a writer at Orbitz. She has a habit of stopping at Cinnabon stands in airports across the country.

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