There are 4 factors that should enter into your decision:
For most people no one factor drives your decision, but rather a combination of all 4 factors based upon your individual preferences and how you like to spend your vacation.
Disney World has broken down the choices into 4 groupings: Value Resorts, Moderate Resorts, Deluxe Resorts, & Deluxe Villas.
Disney Resort Privileges
No matter which category of Disney World Resort you choose there are a number of privileges enjoyed by all Disney Resort guests:
• Free transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) through Disney’s Magical Express Service.
• Free Theme Park Parking (if you drove yourself.)
• Extended Park hours on certain days. This perk is called Extra Magic Hours and gives you access to the theme parks one hour early and up to 3 hours later than normal park hours.
• Free Disney World Transportation.
• Earlier access to Dining Reservations and other Reservations like Golf Tee Times.
Disney World Value Resorts
There are currently 4 Disney World Value Resorts to chose from: All-Star Sports(12), All-Star Music(11), All-Star Movies(10), & Pop Century(26). (Numbers in parenthesis refer to location on Disney World Resort Map shown above.)
The Value Resort rooms are priced as low as $82 per night during the lower priced season and with discounts can be as low as $62 per night + tax. If you are looking to stick to a budget, but still get all of the benefits of staying on the Walt Disney World Property this is the way to go.
The rooms are approximately 260 sqft, which is about the same size as a typical hotel room with most rooms configured with 2 double beds. They can accomodate up to 4 people.
The Value Resort rooms are decorated in bright colors and the Resorts have oversized statues representative of the particular resort's theme. These resorts work well for families with young children or people who do not plan on spending a lot of time in their room.
Of the Value Resorts, Pop Century appears to get the highest marks. All-Star Music has added 214 Family Suites that can accomodate 6 people and includes a mini-kitchen starting at $190 per night.
I have personally stayed at the All-Star Sports and All-Star Music Resorts. The Value Resorts are noisier than the other resorts and feel more like typical hotel rooms. They work great when you really won't be spending a lot of time in your hotel room anyway. You get all of the benefits of being on Disney Property and are not treated any differently because you are at a Value Resort.
Disney World Moderate Resorts
There are 4 Disney World Moderate Resorts: Caribbean Beach Resort(18), Coronado Springs Resort(20), Port Orleans Riverside Resort(28), & Port Orleans French Quarter Resort(27). The Cabins at Ft. Wilderness are also considered to be in the Moderate Class.
The Disney Moderate Resorts have the feeling of being at a "Resort" as opposed to staying in a hotel. Each Moderate Resort is a large sprawling campus with lush landscaping and themed water/pool areas.
The Disney Moderate Rooms are priced as low as $149 during the lowest priced seasons and with discounts can be as low as $104 + tax.
The larger sized rooms in the Moderate Resorts work well for families with older children and if you plan to spend more time at the pool and enjoying the resort. Each Moderate Resort (except French Quarter) also has a Table Service Restaurant in addition to a Food Court.
I have personally enjoyed staying at all of these Resorts, but Port Orleans Riverside is my personal favorite with the beautiful landscaping and free boat ride to Downtown Disney. When my kids got older, I felt that the extra money to stay at the Moderate Resorts was well worth it to get the extra space and nicer pool areas. Also upgrading to Moderates also has benefits during FREE DINING season getting the Disney Dining Plan instead of the Quick Service Dinig Plan.
Disney World Deluxe Resorts
There are 8 Disney World Deluxe Resorts: Contemporary Resort(19), Animal Kingdom Lodge(13), Polynesian Resort(25), Grand Floridian Resort(23), Yacht Club Resort(33), Beach Club Resort(14), Boardwalk Inn(14), & Wilderness Lodge(22).
As you get to the Disney Deluxe Resorts the resort theming and amenities increase along with the room size and the room prices.
To stay in a Disney Deluxe Resort you will pay from $240 per night and up. Discounts of 25% or more can be had to lower the amount spent.
When staying at the Disney Deluxe Resorts, you are receiving a highly themed experience. Each Resort is unique and can be considered a vacation destination unto itself. Each has themed pool areas, top notch dining experiences, and beautiful resort landscaping and theming. The rooms are larger at 344 sqft and up. The decorations and furniture in the rooms is noticably nicer than the Moderate Resorts. Even the towels are noticably better.
The Deluxe Resorts also have the premier locations nearest to the Disney World Theme Parks. The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian are on the Monorail line connecting them to the Magic Kingdom, while the Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk Inn are all within walking distance to Epcot.
Disney World Deluxe Villas
There are currently 8 Disney World Deluxe Villas that you can stay at. These are also considered Disney Vacation Club Properties, but each can also be booked through Disney Reservations: Animal Kingdom Villas(13) & Kidani Village(34), Old Key West Resort(24), Boardwalk Villas(17), Beach Club Villas(15), Saratoga Springs Resort(29), Bay Lake Towers at the Contemporary Resort(35), Wilderness Lodge Villas(22).
The Disney Vacation Club properties are meant to be "home away from home" type accomodations, so they are larger than more other room categories and have kitchen facilities that you will not find elsewhere.
Each Resort has its own personality ranging from the relaxing Old Key West to the adventurous Animal Kingdom Villas.
Even non-DVC members can rent these rooms through Disney Reservations. Often discounts are offered, especially at Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. The larger rooms work well for larger families or familes with high school age children.
Choose The Disney Resort That Fits Your Needs
There are Disney Resorts to fit your budget and to fit your needs. Whether you just need a place to sleep while you spend long hours at the parks, or you are looking for a true resort experience, there is a Disney Resort for you.
I have found that different resorts fit needs for different trips. I have had enjoyable trips over the last 15 years in each of the classifications. One of the fun is having so many different places to stay, yet still be on Walt Disney World Resort property and get all of the resort benefits.
Although you are sure to develop favorites, don't forget to give some of the other great Disney Resorts a try.