We've talked a lot on this blog about the cost of a Walt Disney World trip, and for good reason - it's one of the major determining factors in how long your trip will be, where you'll stay or even whether you can go at all. One of the biggest costs on any trip will be your resort hotel stay - we devoted a whole post to the question of on property or off a while back. We won't rehash all that here, but it is a good starting point if you're still deciding.
Instead, today's post is going to talk specifically about staying on property. Whether that's at a value, moderate or deluxe resort is a different question, and again, one that has been addressed on this site numerous times. Today we're going to get a little more granular - whichever category of resort you choose, there are other decisions that need to be made about what room type you're interested in. And here I'm not talking about a studio versus a one bedroom (and beyond) - I trust that you've done the math of how many people are in your party and what kind of accommodations you need.
No, today we're going to look at the "upgrades" that Disney offers to their rooms. I'll use studio as my base here, because that's what I'm most familiar with and is almost always the least expensive option (there are some minor exceptions but rather than confuse things further, let's just say that a standard view studio is our starting point, with everything else costing more money).
The word "standard" is the important part here. There is a standard room category at every resort, no matter the level. It's from there that things begin to differ. The various upgrades offered by Disney amount to one of two things (and sometimes both in one) - the view and the location. We'll talk about each of these here and give some examples, then talk about whether an upgrade is worth it.
Let's start with the value resorts. All of the All Star Resorts (Sports, Music and Movies) have standard rooms or preferred. The preferred option offers a location close to the main Hall (whichever it may be), dining, shopping and transportation. In sprawling resorts like these, this is likely a good option for an upgrade. The difference appears to be roughly $20 a night (give or take) and while you're likely trying to save money by staying at the All Stars, the proximity to the lobby and especially the (singular) bus stop is a big advantage. The less walking you have to do around your resort, the better (since you'll be walking a lot at the parks as it is).
POP Century has a few different levels of room that are all approximately $10 a night apart - standard, pool view, preferred, and preferred pool view. This one is a little bit trickier and your mileage may vary, but I don't think pool view is an upgrade, personally. The regular preferred option, with views of "courtyard or landscaping" is more appealing to me, and the proximity to the bus stop again is a big plus. However, given that there's a skyliner stop at this resort, you might want to be closer to that, rather than the lobby and bus stop. This will be more of an individual choice. I'm leaving out Art of Animation, as their rooms are either standard or family suites, so they're not really comparable for the sake of this post.
Next we come to the moderate resorts. For Port Orleans (both French Quarter and Riverside), there is no preferred room option. but instead have various upgrades related to view only (pool, river, garden, woods). All of those (besides pool) are an upgrade on looking at the parking lot, but it's hard to say whether that is worth the extra cost. I tend to think it is, particularly if you're going to be spending some time at your resort and not just the parks.
Caribbean Beach Resort offers standard, preferred and water or pool view. The also offer the elusive "fifth sleeper" option for a pull down bed, which could be exactly what you need if you have three kids, for example. Coronado Springs has standard, preferred and water view. For both Caribbean and Coronado, preferred is closer to the lobby and the main bus stop. I can tell you from experience that this was absolutely worth it at Coronado. Unlike the values, the moderates often have multiple bus stops. If you know which one picks up first (often the main one, but not always), this can be a huge advantage at busy times of day (and year), all but guaranteeing a seat on the bus. If you're at one of the further stops, the bus could be full by the time it makes its way to you, and you wouldn't get on. Of all the "upgraded" options so far, this is the one I would recommend the most.
When it comes to deluxe resorts, there is usually no option for a preferred location. Instead, you can upgrade to a better view. This is probably the murkiest in terms of recommendations - if you're staying at a deluxe resort (or renting DVC points to stay at a deluxe villa), you're obviously willing to spend more money for better accommodations. If that's the case, is is worth the extra money for the sake of a view?
One resort where the answer to that is likely "yes" would be Animal Kingdom Lodge, specifically the savanna view. This is one of the most unique options you'll find at a Disney resort, where your room literally overlooks the savanna that houses wild animals. What's cooler than that?? Also, Animal Kingdom Lodge is often the least expensive of the deluxe resorts, so the upgrade puts it in line with a standard view in many of the other deluxes.
For the Epcot area resorts (Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk), we again find that the upgrade relates to your view. While a view of Crescent Lake (and potentially glimpsing Spaceship Earth) is worth something, you might not always get what you want. A "water view" room at Yacht Club, for example, offers views of Crescent Lake or the quiet pool. To me, the lake view would be "worth it" while the pool wouldn't, but there's no guarantee that you would end up with what you are looking for. You can always request a specific view but that's subject to availability. Is it worth the extra money for a gamble? A similar situation arises when it comes to the preferred view at the Riviera, another Epcot-area resort.
For Saratoga Springs, there is a preferred option that puts you closer to Disney Springs. If you're going to be spending a lot of time there, that could be an option, but again, I tend to favor anything parks-related over everything else. Old Key West doesn't have a preferred option of either type, so I'm omitting them from this post as well.
Finally, we get to the Magic Kingdom area resorts. The Wilderness Lodge offers various levels of views, including "partial" views of the fireworks. I'd rather just watch in the parks or from a more direct view (more on that in a bit). This resort, as well as the others, all offer lake or lagoon views, of either Bay Lake or Seven Seas Lagoon. This can be a beautiful view - it's one of my favorites on property - and again, would come down to personal preference when selecting a room.
The biggest selling point of the Seven Seas Lagoon (Contemporary/Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian and Grand Floridian) resorts is the elusive "theme park view", where you can see directly into Magic Kingdom from your room (the Polynesian Villas list only a "lake view", but effectively, that IS a theme park view). This is, not surprisingly, the most expensive category at the most expensive resorts (of this room size I mean - the bungalows at the Poly are the most expensive, period).
I love the idea of a theme park view, but we've never pulled the trigger on it, opting instead for the standard view at the Poly and Grand Floridian. The difference in cost is steep, and one of the best things about staying in these resorts is that you can just walk out to the beach and get a theme park view from there. You don't even have to stay at these resorts to get that view - pop on over to the Poly for a dole whip and gaze upon Cinderella castle from afar.
Like all of these "worth it" posts I've done, any answer is highly subjective. I've discussed above a lot of what I would consider to be worth the splurge and others where I think you can use your money better elsewhere. But your priorities may be totally different from mine, which is great - this is why there are so many options.
As a general rule, we spend a lot of time at the parks, so spending extra for a view, no matter how lovely, seems like an unnecessary indulgence. On the other hand, if you can physically position yourself to be closer to the transportation to get a jump on other guests (and/or save your tired feet), I tend to think it makes more sense to spend a little more. Whatever you decide, just remember to give it some thought before you book. It's not your biggest decision when trip planning, but it might make a difference when deciding between two similar resorts.
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