The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Cheap Disney World Hotels
With tickets, souvenirs, food and flights to pay for, a Disney vacation isn’t exactly what we’d call affordable, particularly when traveling as a family. However, for those trying to do Disney World on a shoestring, one of the easiest ways to save some cash is by choosing an inexpensive place to rest your head at night. After all, you’re probably planning on spending more time in the parks than you are back at the hotel anyway.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Disney World that’s easy on the budget, keep reading for our guide to the cheapest Disney resorts, as we break down the difference between Disney’s value and moderate resorts and help you choose which is best for you and your crew.
Which Disney Resort Is the Most Affordable?
When it comes to cheap Walt Disney World hotels, your best bet is one of the Disney value resorts. Short on price, space and amenities but long on perks and convenience, value resorts are the cheapest place to stay in Disney World. There are five value resorts to choose from: All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, Pop Century and Art of Animation.
For those looking to make their trip a bit more cost-effective without skimping on the creature comforts offered at other Disney World resorts, or for those planning to spend a little more time back at the hotel, another great option is the Disney moderate resorts. These sprawling hotels are in the Goldilocks zone of Disney resort room rates. Not too expensive and grand or not too cheap and sparse, they are just right. Moderate Disney World resorts include Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside.
Finally, for guests who aren’t afraid to rough it – and who happen to be the proud owners (or renters) of a tent or camper, there’s no better way to save some money than by booking a stay at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. We’ll delve into each of these options shortly, but first, let’s dig into the differences between these cheap Disney resort hotels.
What Is the Difference Between Value and Moderate Resorts?
Aside from the obvious, several things distinguish value resorts from moderate resorts. However, regardless of the price tag, there are also some benefits that every Disney World hotel shares.
Disney Vacation Planning Perks
Wondering why you should stay at a Disney-owned resort rather than one of the cheap hotels near Disney World? Along with the convenience of being on Disney property, guests staying at a Disney resort also benefit from an array of exclusive perks no matter which hotel you choose.
Disney resort guests get the first crack at booking advance dining reservations and new Lighting Lane reservations, giving them a considerable head start on those staying off-property. On top of that head start, hotel guests can also get into the parks before anyone else thanks to Early Theme Park Entry. Add in other incentives like the Disney Dining Plan, resort package delivery and room charging privileges, and you’ve got a pretty convincing case for staying at a Disney World hotel.
Location, Location, Location
One of the biggest selling points for staying on Disney property is being in the middle of the magic. However, don’t expect to walk to the theme parks from the cheaper Disney World hotels like you can from some of the deluxe resorts. Value and moderate resorts are around the same distance from each theme park, averaging around 3.6 miles away.
Not everyone travels to Disney with their own vehicle, and even if you do, there’s a good chance that you won’t want to be driving everywhere. Fortunately, Disney’s got you covered with their complimentary transportation. All Disney World resorts offer free bus service to the theme parks, and some also have access to the Monorail, water transportation or Disney Skyliner. Plus, if you do decide to drive to Walt Disney World, all Disney resort guests also receive free parking at their resort and the theme parks.
It is important to note that at the Disney All-Star Resorts, the only kind of Disney transportation available is the bus system, with the three hotels often sharing one bus route. In contrast, Pop Century and Art of Animation share a stop along the Disney Skyliner in addition to each having their own bus service.
Now that we’ve gone over the benefits that all Disney World hotel guests have access to, let’s break down the differences between the value and moderate resorts.
As we mentioned earlier, value hotels are the cheapest Disney World resorts, with rates as low as $125 per night during the low season or as high as $370 over the busy season for a standard room. Moderate resorts, meanwhile, are slightly more expensive though still relatively reasonable, offering rates as low as $240 or as much as $435 for a standard room over the holidays.
Size of Guestrooms & Beds
Depending on how many people you’re traveling with, the size of your room and the types of beds in it can be a major deciding factor in where you choose to stay at Disney World.
As you might expect, Disney value resorts are the smallest of the bunch, with standard rooms at the three All-Star Resorts and Pop Century clocking in at a meager 260 square feet. Art of Animation rooms are only slightly larger at 277 square feet. In contrast, moderate resorts average around 314 square feet for their standard rooms. For standard rooms, the maximum occupancy for each is four people (children below age 3 are also welcomed to stay in a crib).
If you do need more space and want to stay at a value resort, you aren’t out of luck. Both Art of Animation and All-Star Music also have family suites with considerably more room at 565 square feet and 520 square feet, respectively. At the moderate resorts, you will also find some options for larger groups in Coronado Springs’s one-bedroom suites and the Fort Wilderness Cabins. Up to six adults are allowed to stay in each of these room options.
Finally, when it comes to bed types, most resorts provide a mix of king and/or queen-sized beds to choose from. The only exception to this is All-Star Sports which only offers rooms with two double beds. However, we do expect this to change once the resort is refurbished.
Resort & Room Theming
Theming is one aspect that really sets the value resorts apart from the moderate resorts. With their larger-than-life icons and colorful exteriors, value resorts are the most overtly “Disney” of all the Disney World resorts. Inside, the rooms can be just as filled with pixie dust, especially at Art of Animation, with plenty of nods to Disney characters. This makes them an excellent pick for those traveling with kids.
In contrast, Disney moderate resorts tend to be more understated in their design, though there are some exceptions. Rather than in-your-face Disney details, moderate resorts immerse guests in different destinations, from the cobblestone streets of New Orleans to the white-sand beaches of the Caribbean. However, those staying with kiddos will especially enjoy Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach due to their elaborately themed Royal Guest Rooms and Pirate Rooms, respectively.
Amenities & Recreation Offerings
When staying at a Disney World hotel, or any hotel really, one of the things you’re paying for is access to the resort amenities. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas where value resorts are at a distinct disadvantage. Although you will find pools (no water slides, though) and other popular recreational activities like Movies Under the Stars, campfires, an arcade and a running path, there aren’t too many other things available to do there.
Of course, if you aren’t planning to spend too time back at your hotel, this isn’t a problem at all. After all, why pay for something if you aren’t going to use it? However, if you do think you’ll be hanging around at your resort, you’ll definitely want to consider staying at one of the moderate resorts. Here you’ll find everything that the value resorts offer, plus better-themed pools with waterslides, fun runs, group fitness classes, bike rentals, fishing, and more.
Finally, everyone’s gotta eat. Unfortunately, if you decide to stay at one of the value resorts, you won’t have too many places to choose from. Disney value hotels only have a quick-service food court and a pool bar; no table service or signature restaurants. That being said, you can still enjoy these dining options, but you’ll just need to go to another resort, the theme parks or Disney Springs to try them.
If you’re a family of budget-minded foodies who would prefer to keep a buffet of dining options close at hand, the moderate resorts are an excellent choice. All Disney moderate hotels offer an array of restaurants to choose from, from quick-service and table-service restaurants to can’t-miss Disney bars and even a Disney dinner show.
Save Some Cash by Staying at These Cheap Disney Hotels
So, you’re ready to secure a stay at one of the cheap hotels on Disney property. If you’re waffling between which one to book your reservation at, here are the most affordable Disney resorts ranked in price from lowest to highest.
Disney Value Resorts
With cheap and cheerful room rates, kid-friendly theming and a stripped-down slate of amenities, Disney World value resorts are a great option for those trying to do Disney on a budget, especially guests who’d rather be in the theme parks than back at their hotel.
Disney All-Star Movies Resort
For guests looking for a hotel that really feels like Disney (minus those steep Disney prices, of course), there’s no better place to stay than the Disney All-Star Movie Resort. Here you’ll find supersized versions of beloved Disney characters like 101 Dalmatians and Toy Story, which families with small children are sure to love. Rooms here have been renovated and feature clean, streamlined design with pops of art starring Mickey and the gang.
However, there are a few caveats to staying here. Part of the Disney All-Star Resort complex, All-Star Movies sits at the rear of the complex. The three All-Star Resorts frequently share buses and, due to the hotel’s location, it is the last bus stop before heading to the parks. This means that while All-Star Movies guests have a quicker trip to the theme parks, they also have the longest bus ride back. In fact, should the buses fill up, it’s also possible that they will skip the All-Star Movies bus stop, though this likely doesn’t happen very often. Needless to say, there are some tradeoffs that come with choosing the cheapest Disney World resort.
The Disney All-Star Sports Resort boasts some of the more unique theming of any Disney World resort hotel. Rather than stories-high Disney characters towering over you from above, this athletically inclined resort sports over-the-top designs inspired by football, basketball, baseball, tennis and surfing. Think, a courtyard styled after a football field complete with sidelines and field goal uprights. Unfortunately, rooms here haven’t been refurbished yet, although a renovation is in the works.
Like All-Star Movies, there are a few things to keep in mind before booking a stay here. Due to the theming, All-Star Sports often gets overrun by school groups and athletic teams competing at the nearby ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. This means the resort can be loud. On the bright side, the hotel is the first resort on the All-Stars bus route, so you’ll never need to worry about finding a seat.
Like the other All-Star hotels, the Disney All-Star Music Resort offers quirky theming on a massive scale. As you can probably guess, each section of the resort is inspired by a different genre of music like rock, jazz, country and even musical theater and calypso. So, depending on which area you’re in, you’ll be walking past giant maracas or beneath a massive Broadway marquee.
Rooms here are refurbished, with the interiors receiving the same updates as All-Star Movies. Additionally, unlike All-Star Sports and Movies, All-Star Music offers family suites. And while they are smaller (and pretty plain in terms of theming) than those over at Art of Animation, the significantly cheaper room rates more than make up for it.
When it comes to pleasing both grown-ups and kids, the Disney Pop Century Resort has it all. This nostalgic hotel combines pop culture icons from the 1950s to the 1990s like Play-Doh, Rubik’s Cubes and Mickey Mouse rotary phones with classic Disney characters like Lady and the Tramp and Baloo and Mowgli from The Jungle Book.
Pop Century rooms have been renovated and, similar to the refurbished All-Star Resorts, feature sleek, contemporary design with a splash of Mickey Mouse-inspired pop art. Aside from the theming, one of the highlights here is the resort’s unbeatable location along the Disney Skyliner. However, if you’d rather keep your feet closer to the ground, the hotel also offers its own bus route.
The Disney Art of Animation Resort is Disney World’s newest value hotel. As the name implies, the resort is inspired by some of Disney’s most beloved animated movies. So naturally, this makes for some of the most elaborate design of any Disney World hotel. Building exteriors get the full animator treatment, transporting guests to Radiator Springs, the Pridelands, Nemo’s reef and more. The theming even continues inside, with rooms in each area featuring tons of magical touches styled after its movie muse.
Located just across the Generation Gap Bridge from Pop Century, Art of Animation shares a Disney Skyliner station with its neighboring resort, a huge selling point for an already excellent resort. Add in the massive, adorably designed Big Blue Pool and the tasty Landscape of Flavors Food Court, and this is one value resort that you’ll be happy to stay at. Its only downfall? The highest room rates of the Disney World value hotels bunch.
Ok with spending a little more dough for a lot more amenities? Then the Disney World moderate resorts are for you.
Disney Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort may be the cheapest of the Disney World moderate hotels, but its relatively affordable price tag definitely packs a punch. This expansive resort is styled after the architecture of Mexico, Spain, and the American Southwest, with adobe-esque buildings surrounding quaint courtyards and the Mesoamerican pyramid of the Lost City of Cibola Pool. The centerpiece of the hotel, however, is the Antoni Gaudí-inspired Gran Destino Tower which is home to the only Disney concierge club at a moderate resort.
As Disney World’s main convention resort, Coronado Springs touts an impressive slate of amenities rivaled only by the deluxe resorts. Several restaurants are available, including a rooftop steakhouse with bird’s-eye views of the Epcot and Hollywood Studios fireworks. Plus, with a fun run, two gyms, and several group exercise classes, there’s also no better resort for fitness fanatics
Cotton-candy-colored buildings, sandy beaches and relaxing hammocks make the Disney Caribbean Beach Resort a picturesque place for your next Disney World vacation. Each section of this massive moderate resort is named for a different Caribbean island. And to top it all off, the hotel even has its own island you can explore in the middle of Barefoot Bay. Most of the rooms here are filled with, no surprise here, even more pastels. Decidedly not pastel, however, are the Caribbean Beach Pirate Rooms – complete with beds shaped like pirate ships.
With such a beautiful setting, it’s no surprise that Caribbean Beach has some great outdoor activities to enjoy. Along with the requisite campfire and Movies Under the Stars, guests can also rent bikes, go fishing, or, for the little ones, even go on a Pirate Adventure Cruise.
The romance of New Orleans is alive and well at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. Nestled along the Sassagoula River, Port Orleans French Quarter whisks guests away to The Big Easy, from the wrought iron railings to its cobblestone streets. There’s even a Mardi Gras parade float in the pool. Guestrooms here are equally enchanting and feature French-inspired stylings, elegant parquet accents, and other fitting details.
Just like NOLA itself, dining here is a joy. Cajun and Creole classics are available at the resort’s quick service restaurant. Best of all, right next door is one of the best Disney bars, Scat Cat’s Club, where you can find both booze-infused beignets and live jazz. Of course, there are also plenty of activities to enjoy when you’re not eating, including horse-drawn carriage rides, a painting class, and a fun run.
Heading further up the Sassagoula River, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside oozes southern charm. This moderate resort features two distinct areas, the grand mansions of Magnolia Bend and the rustic appeal of Alligator Bayou, with guestrooms every bit as delightful as the exterior. However, those with kids will probably want to go with one of the Princess and the Frog-inspired Royal Guest Rooms, which feature nods to everything Aladdin’s flying carpet to the dog-turned-footrest from Beauty and the Beast.
When you aren’t hanging out in your room, you’ll also want to take advantage of the resort’s many thoughtful amenities. Both a table-service and quick-service restaurant are available here, each serving up Louisiana favorites. Like French Quarter, there’s also a fun bar to experience, shaking up smooth cocktails and musical antics from Yehaa Bob. After indulging in some comfort food, make your way to Ol’ Man Island for some old-fashioned cane pole fishing or a dip in the swimmin’ hole.
Have a Tent or Camper? Stay at the Disney Fort Wilderness Campground
Finally, for those looking for an adventure (and a good deal), consider making your way to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Part of the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Fort Wilderness rests on 750 wooded acres, feeling a whole lot farther away from Cinderella Castle than just across Bay Lake. Guests can choose to bring their own accommodations in the form of a tent or camper or stay in one of the Fort Wilderness cabins.
Now, with rates starting out at $429 per night up to $816 during the holidays, we’ll admit that the cabins aren’t exactly cheap. The real way to save is with one of the campsites, which start out at a reasonable $91 a night for a tent or pop-up campsite.
Not to mention, the amenities here are arguably the best of any Disney World hotel. Trail, carriage and wagon rides are all run out of the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, home to the Central Florida resort’s stable of horses. You’ll also find archery lessons, fishing, boat rentals, a Segway tour, the only Disney World campfire with Disney characters… Need we go on?
How Do You Get Discounts on Disney Resorts?
We’ve gone over the most affordable Disney resorts, but what if you’d like to stay at other Disney hotels for cheap? Or you want to save even more on one of those value or moderate resorts? Your best bet is to travel during the off-season.
Not only is this when room rates are at their lowest, but also when Disney will offer special hotel discounts from time to time. Disney World resort discounts are typically announced 2-6 months ahead of time. Needless to say, if you have some flexibility with your travel dates, you can end up saving a pretty penny.
Well, that wraps up our guide to the cheapest Disney World resorts. We hope we’ve helped shed some light on where you’d like to stay – and maybe saved you some cash in the process. If you’d like to make your next Disney vacation even more friendly on the wallet, don’t miss out on our discounted Walt Disney World tickets.
Have you stayed at one of the value or moderate resorts? Which one is your favorite?