Choosing your accommodation is probably the second most important decision you will make when planning your Walt Disney World holiday; the first being the colour of your MagicBand, obviously.
Where you stay at this monolith of a theme park greatly impacts your itinerary. At 103 square kilometres, any thoughts you may have had of casually strolling from your accommodation to the Magic Kingdom will need to be readjusted.
The park is serviced by its own network of buses, as well as a monorail to select hotels, a few ferries, and several parking lots, the size of which boggles the mind. The entire Disneyland Anaheim park could fit in the Magic Kingdom parking lot alone!
While there are more than 20 hotels to choose from with literally tens of thousands of rooms between them, Walt Disney World does book out – especially during peak season from Christmas through to New Years and during summer vacation in June and July.
There are three categories of hotels at Walt Disney World: value, moderate and deluxe. The following accommodation options are a great place to start when it comes to picking your perfect lodging.
Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
Rooms from: $US98 per night
The first thing to know about the All-Star Resort is that it's actually three resorts in one: All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports and All-Star Music. All-Star is a short bus ride to the Animal Kingdom Park, as well as Blizzard Beach, Hollywood Studios and the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Eighty per cent of rooms are adjoining, making it perfect for big families or parents who want some space.
The All-Star Movies Resort is the most popular accommodation option at Walt Disney World, with 'larger than life' Dalmatians standing guard outside rooms and a Fantasia-themed pool. Dining options at All-Star Movies includes a quick-service food court (yes, Mickey-shaped waffles are on the menu), a pool bar and pizza delivery.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Rooms from: $US321 per night
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is quickly becoming one of the most popular choices in Walt Disney World accommodation. It's unique selling point is that 80% of the rooms boast a savannah view, where more than 30 species of African wildlife roam freely. There's even a wildlife spotting list in your room to tick off zebra, giraffe, ostrich and other animals casually strolling across the plains.
While it's not walking distance to the Animal Kingdom Park, it's the closest you can get. Dining on-site at Animal Kingdom Lodge is a cut above the rest as well, with three mouth-watering African restaurants Jiko, Sanaa and Boma, plus quick-service dining options and a fabulous watering-hole-themed pool. Consider upgrading to the self-contained Animal Kingdom Villas if you're planning a longer stay.
Need to Know:
Aussie travellers often stay off-site in Orlando, but if your primary purpose is to see Disney World you should definitely stay within the park. Staying at a Disney hotel gives you free transport to and from the airport as well as around the parks.
Another benefit is the on-site airline check-in, available at all resorts, where you'll receive a boarding pass and have your luggage taken to the airport so you can go straight to the gate.
If you want to go to other theme parks or the shopping outlets outside Walt Disney World, renting a car is the best way to go – especially if you're staying at a resort that offers parking.
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Rooms from: $US531
The newest and most lavish of all Walt Disney World hotels is the Grand Floridian. Set on the lakeside just one monorail stop (or five-minute ferry) from the Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian Resort harks back to the golden era of Florida's popular Palm Beach area. It's not uncommon to see brides and grooms saying their 'I dos' around the grounds of the Grand Floridian.
On-site dining includes a character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, high tea, and waterfront pavilion Narcoossee's. Stylish boutiques and a beauty spa are found within the resort, along with a man-made beach and the option to hire boats to zip around the lake at your leisure. Some rooms are even granted a view of the nightly fireworks show from the Magic Kingdom.
Disney's Art of Animation Resort
Rooms from: $US126 per night
Decked out with sketches and sculptures of Disney's most iconic characters, the Art of Animation Resort is easily one of the most fun and vibrant places to stay. It's family-friendly to the max, with spacious rooms that can accommodate parties of up to six people and the largest resort pool of all Walt Disney World Resorts.
Dining is limited to a quick-service dining hall and pizza delivery, but Downtown Disney is a short bus trip away if you want to make dinner reservations. The resort is split into Cars land – with life-size models of Mater, Lightning McQueen and the entire Radiator Springs township – Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, the last of which hosts the park's most booked-out rooms. Turns out every wants to be under the sea!
More accommodation options:
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort (Moderate)
Best for: self drivers. The resort is so big you can take a bus to your room!
Tip: Book a 'preferred room' close to the food area.
Disney's Yacht Club Resort (Deluxe)
Best for: Epcot (walking distance or boat) and Hollywood Studios.
Tip: This resort is refined but still very family oriented. It's like being on a cruise ship with much bigger rooms!
Disney's Coronado Springs (Moderate)
Best for: Conventions. The whole Mexican-themed resort is known to book-out for business shindigs.
Tip: Other resorts ideal for business travellers include the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Boardwalk, and Yacht Club.
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort (Deluxe)
Best for: The Magic Kingdom (a quick monorail or boat trip away) and history. Along with the Contemporary, this was the first hotel to open in 1971.
Tip: Book an overwater bungalow for something a little bit more special!