If you’re planning a vacation to the Walt Disney World Resort with a large group, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of which resorts will meet your groups’ needs. The following article will provide useful information on Disney and non-Disney options from multiple price groups to give you the information you need to make a wise decision on where to stay.
Staying on Property at Disney – the Perks and Drawbacks
For most family vacations, I recommend visitors stay off Disney property to save some money. Disney has been increasing all of its prices to the point where the cost simply does not meet the quality of experience you’re getting.
The first is the resort parking fees. To park your car at a Disney hotel, you’ll have to pay about $20 per day. Though this does excuse you from having to pay for parking again at the parks, it’s an annoying fee.
Secondly, Disney doesn’t offer world-class service anymore. Things like daily housekeeping cleaning are no longer the standard at Disney – which can really put a damper on the magic.
Lastly, Disney’s Magical Express transportation to and from the airport has been discontinues, meaning you’ll have to pay for your own transportation. If you were planning on getting a rental car or driving, this isn’t an issue… but an extra $120 for the to and from airport trips can be frustrating.
Speaking of whether or not to get a rental car, this decision should be a big factor on whether or not you’re staying on Disney property. A rental car gives you easy access to and from the parks, allowing you to control the times you come and go. If you’re looking to get the most out of your Disney vacation, it’s more efficient to arrive at the parks just before opening, leave in the middle of the day when it’s busy if you need a break, and stay later at night. Having access to a rental car makes staying off Disney property a solid option. If you won’t have a car, you must stay on Disney property with a large group.
Staying on-site at the Disney resort solves most transportation issues. The entire resort is connected via busses, monorails, a gondola system, and boat transportation, all of which can efficiently move you from point A to point B. All the transportation is completely free! For the most part, it is reliable (though the timing of busses can sometimes cause up to a 30-minute wait) and can get you to your destination within 15 minutes. If you’re visiting with a large group, this transportation can make a huge difference. Often times with a large group, everyone wants to do something different. The kids will be up early with excitement but might crash in the afternoons. Grandparents might try to stick to early bedtimes while everyone else wants to stay in the park at night to see the fireworks.
Disney transportation makes it easy to split up a large group to ensure everyone has the opportunity to do what they want when they want. Since this is so important, this makes staying at a Disney resort the best plan for large groups. Even if the costs are too high, the convenience ameliorates all sorts of potential issues that may arise while trying to please everyone in a large group.
Theme Park Extra Hours
If this benefit isn’t enough, Disney resorts also grant you a little bit of extra time in the theme parks themselves. Each day, Disney’s 4 theme parks each open an extra half hour early. That means visitors who arrive early can get a head start on their day, riding their top pick attraction before the day even starts.
In summary, despite the costs, staying on Disney property is the easiest stress-free option when visiting with a large group. It’s simply far more convenient and saves you all sorts of trouble during the trip that could derail a successful vacation. If you take a look at Disney resort prices and simply can’t manage to drop that kind of money, it’s best to rent an entire house off of AirBnB.
There are plenty of great rental properties with amazing pools, tons of space, and anything else you need that are within 20 minutes of the Disney resort. Splitting the cost of 6-bedroom house will get way more personal space at a far lower cost per person than a Disney hotel can manage, even when factoring in rental car and parking costs. Take a look anywhere along US 192 or even US 27 to be on the quieter side of Disney. However, since you’re planning a Disney vacation with a large group, I assume you’re willing to spend the money to have a great time. Here are the best picks for Disney resorts that will ensure your vacation is pure magic:
Best Deluxe and Overall Pick: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Bungalows
The best spot to stay across all of Disney’s hotels is directly across the lake from Disney’s premier park. There are 3 Magic Kingdom area resort hotels, but one is far superior to the others: the Polynesian. As the name suggests, it is themed after a lush tropical island paradise. Its paths are lined with tiki torches and beautiful plants. The main pool has a huge volcano feature with a water slide. The entire resort is right up against the Seven Seas Lagoon, where you’ll have views of Cinderella Castle. You can literally watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from your room’s balcony (if you’re facing the correct side) or from the hot tub by the pool.
The best thing about the Magic Kingdom resort area hotels is their location. It’s easy access to Magic Kingdom (via a boat or monorail directly from the resort lobby), Epcot (via the monorail), and the other top-tier resorts. Taking an afternoon break won’t cost much travel time since you’ll be able to get to your room within 15 minutes of leaving the park! Again, this ability to quickly hop back and forth from your resort to the parks makes traveling with a large group far less stressful.
For dining, the Polynesian has an excellent quick service restaurant called Captain Cook’s, which has some amazing Thai Coconut Meatballs. It has two full-service restaurants: Ohana and Kona Café. Ohana’s all-you-can-eat style grilled meats, noodles, and other southeastern Asian favorites can really hit the spot after a long day in the parks. The restaurant also features live musicians who periodically teach willing participants how to Hula dance! Since you’re just a walk or monorail stop away from the Grand Floridian and Contemporary resorts, you also have easy access to their dining offerings. A character meal at Chef Mickey’s or world-class dining experience at Victoria and Albert’s Chefs Table might be on the bucket list for someone in your group!
Lastly, the Polynesian has some deluxe resort rooms which are far larger than a standard hotel room. Though they have many of the same amenities, they usually come with a Murphy Bed, two showers, and a kitchenette to better serve large groups.
In case you’re not quite feeling the magic of the best-of-the-best pick, you might also want to consider the Wilderness Lodge, which is a boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom. It also has an amazing, relaxed atmosphere and is a great spot for large groups. The Yacht or Beach Club in the Epcot resort area are similarly great picks which offer easy access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Best Mid-Tier Pick: Art of Animation
The best thing about Disney’s Art of Animation resort is its easy access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios via the Disney Skyliner. The Skyliner is a gondola system connecting the two parks with Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and the Riviera resorts, giving your family great access to a variety of places to explore. The Skyliner stop is located on a bridge which connects the Art of Animation resort to Pop Century.
The resort is split up into 4 different sections themed after classic Disney and Pixar films. My favorite sections are the Cars area and the Lion King area, but you could also stay in Finding Nemo or the Little Mermaid themed rooms. Some of the rooms are considered “suites” and are slightly larger with doors dividing up the room, offering some privacy for larger groups or families.
Other solid picks are Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Port Orleans resorts, both of which are a bit further away from the parks but have lots of space and are very relaxing.
Best Cost-Saving Pick: Rental Homes via AirBnB, VRBO, or other home rental site
As considered earlier, if costs are a big consideration for your trip, it might be best to stay off property at a rental house. Despite not being in the center of the magic, you’ll have extra space, everyone can have their own rooms, and you can have your own private pool. Make sure you have a rental car and everyone is on the same page of when to arrive and depart from the parks each day!