“How do I save money on my vacation?” is THE most commonly asked question when planning a Disney trip. When it comes to Disney World, there are a lot of added costs that are out of your control. Park tickets are expensive, quick service meals cost too much, and you’re probably gonna want a pair of Mickey Ears to feel like you’re doing it right. One small way to save money is to eat outside of the parks and pack your lunches. But honestly, due to lines, parades, and FastPass reservations, you usually don’t have enough time to pop in and out for a cheap meal. That’s why I wanted to create a shortlist of all the properties near Disney World that will help you save a pretty penny when planning your vacation.
I can’t review every property near Disney World because it will make your head explode with all of the options. So, I’ve categorized the hotels by Disney onsite resorts, offsite Disney Springs resorts, and a few decent, dirt-cheap offsite hotels in the area. But first, let me define some Disney buzzwords and answer some FAQ’s.
What’s a Value Resort?
By Disney’s definition, a Value Resort is a hotel with lower nightly rates and fewer amenities than a Moderate or Deluxe Resort. Given that Disney includes free transportation to/from the parks, free airport shuttle transfers, and no hidden resort fees, I believe onsite resorts are more affordable than offsite resorts. If you plan to rent a car then staying offsite may save you some money in that sense. Just note that parking at Disney World is $19 a day for guests staying at an offsite hotel.
What is the difference between onsite and offsite hotels?
Onsite Value Resort Features & Know-Hows:
- The main difference is that an onsite resort is owned and operated entirely by Disney.
- Free Disney shuttles to the parks all day
- Free transportation to/from the airport via the Magical Express
- 1 Quick-Service restaurant available on the property
- Use of the Magic Band system like using your band as a hotel key and as a payment method for purchases in the parks
- Book dining reservations up to 190 days in advance of your vacation
- Ability to book the dining plan
- Disney theming in your room and everywhere else
- Parking is $13/night at any Value Resort
- Free parking included for any of the theme parks
Offsite Value Resort Features & Know-Hows:
- The resort is not officially owned by Disney but may be affiliated with the company. Disney Springs Resorts and Good Neighbor Hotels are examples of non-Disney resorts that are affiliated/in partnership with Disney but not owned by them. World Champions Resort is an example of an offsite hotel that is completely unaffiliated with Disney.
- Sometimes cheaper and you can usually find better deals and discounts
- Ability to use rewards programs at chain hotels like Hilton Honors
- Disney Springs Resorts and a few others provide free shuttles to the parks. Shuttle departure times may be limited, however.
- A break from the magic if you’d rather not fully immerse yourself in the Disney experience
- Resort and parking fees may be added to the total price
- Parking at all theme parks is $20/day for offsite guests
- Free continental breakfasts at some resorts
Are Value Resorts grown-up friendly?
For those of you familiar with my website, you know I write about adult experiences at theme parks, so I’ll be transparent about this one. Value Resorts are often booked by large families in their effort to save money and to stay in a kid-friendly atmosphere. Just making this clear so you don’t expect a tranquil getaway. It is, after all, a Disney vacation. I will say that I oftentimes prefer staying at a Value Resort because I love the Disney atmosphere and it’s easier on my bank account. Your experience at Disney Resort will all depend on what type of grown-up you are. If you want to stay in a higher-end resort and still cut down on costs head over to my post: 15 Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Disney World Vacation
All Onsite Disney Value Resorts Ranked
A Little Note: All three All-Star Resorts are incredibly similar when it comes to amenities and perks. The only real difference is the theming between them. They also share a bus route in the afternoons, so they can get a little crowded. The good thing is, they don’t share a bus route in the mornings when the parks open and at night when they close. Also, the rooms and quick-service restaurants are currently being renovated and all locations will have a clean and nicer look comparable to Pop Century.
#5 Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
I rank this one last because it’s the least “Disney” of all the Disney Value Resorts. There are a few character statues throughout, but it doesn’t quite capture the magic. That said, I know plenty of people who like sports theming and stay here every visit. They have a large, open “football field” with plenty of sports balls and equipment to occupy yourself with. I will say that I’m a big fan of the Mighty Ducks pool! Other than that, All-Star Sports really isn’t my cup of Gatorade. Can you tell I majored in Musical Theatre, yet? The biggest perk to this resort is that it’s the first stop on the bus line during the day!
#4 Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
Much like All-Star Music Resort is physically nestled between All-Star Sports and All-Star Movies, it’s also nestled between the two hotels in this ranking. The theming is more “Disney” than All-Star Sports, but it still has some elements of generic and less appealing theming. Most guests love the Preferred Rooms in the Calypso Building because you’re placed near the most awesome pool at any All-Star Resort, The Three Caballeros Fountain Pool. When I toured the property last, I noticed the atmosphere was slightly more serene and not quite as frantic as the other All-Star Resorts as well. Also, there’s an entire section devoted to Disney on Broadway, so if you’re a Disney musical buff like me, you’ll love this area.
#3 Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
All-Star Movies is my go-to cheap Disney stay. The theming has the extra Disney touch and it also seems to have the buzzing energy that other the two don’t have. This can be a perk or a deterrence depending on what you’re looking for. The resort’s motif includes larger than life Toy Story statues, a replica of Herbie the Love Bug that was once used in Disney parades, and a 101 Dalmatians area that is sure to warm any villain’s heart. P.S. If you haven’t heard, ask for the “secret menu” at the quick-service spot. The Cast Member will pull out a briefcase equipped with a couple of old View-Masters inside. The pictures you’ll see inside the View-Master are of the secret menu items.
#2 Pop Century
What’s the best and inexpensive Disney Value Resort? 9 times out of 10 a Disney veteran will answer with “Pop Century.” It’s a newer value resort, the atmosphere is adorable and the rooms are recently renovated. The reason why Pop Century gets second place is simply due to the fact that when it comes to theming, Art of Animation knocks it out of the park. The two are very close in my book and if you’re looking to save money, Pop Century is the way to go. Much like AoA, you also have the added plus of having your own bus lines. My favorite feature is that you have access to the “Generation Gap Bridge.” The original intent of the bridge was to connect the current buildings (with theming from decades ranging from the 50s to the 90s) to future generation buildings (from the 2000’s and beyond). Instead, they decided to build Art of Animation where the new millennium buildings would have gone and kept the bridge up. Meaning, you can pop over to Art of Animation any time you want!
#1 Disney’s Art of Animation
Art of Animation is my #1 Value Resort because the theming is incredibly detailed and delightfully Disney. It’s also the most expensive, but the price can be worth it if you’re looking for a resort that accommodates large groups. The majority of the resort consists of suites that accommodate up to 6 people. That means you don’t have to purchase two rooms to provide for everyone. The thing is, there have been plenty of times that I’ve seen two rooms at All- Star Resort end up being cheaper than one suite at AoA. However, the standard, Little Mermaid rooms fit 4 people and rates usually start at 165/night. Compare this to an All-Star Resort that can range from about $80-$140/night. In all honesty, you’re paying for the spectacular theming and gorgeous rooms here. If you love the atmosphere of this resort, but can’t afford a room, then just stop by for a visit! PLUS, both Pop Century and Art of Animation will be connected to the new Gondola system when it opens in Fall of 2019. This new transportation will carry guests to Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Disney Springs Offsite Value Resorts Ranked
By staying at a Disney Springs resort, you get some of the same perks like booking FastPasses 60 days in advance and the use of Extra Magic Hours. You get nicer accommodations that most other hotels do not offer as well. The shuttles to/from the parks are fine, but they stop at neighboring Disney Springs hotels, which makes your commute longer. Once in a while, I opted to take a Lyft to the parks when I didn’t feel like waiting. Another con is that the prices you see on their websites do not factor in the added nightly resort fees. Be sure to factor in these fees when budgeting.
#3 Best Western Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Resort
Most of us have an idea of what a Best Western is like. You can trust that this hotel will be clean and have decent service. The rooms and overall “décor” of the hotel are a bit outdated and reminds me of the 90s though. The pool is kinda sad, so if your group is really into hanging by the pools, this won’t be the best choice. Despite this, it’s a fine place to stay, very clean, free shuttle to the parks, and the proximity to Disney Springs is worth it. They also have a restaurant, bar, and Pizza Hut Expres for late-night breadstick bingeing.
#2 Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Resort
Wyndham Garden Lake is decently priced and features more amenities than most others in the area. In the lobby, you’re greeted to a bar, Joffrey’s Coffee stand, and 24/7 convenience cafe that serves ice cream all hours of the day. The pool is especially nice with a poolside bar, water features, and a jacuzzi. The sit-down restaurant features a lake view and character dining.
#1 B Resort and Spa – Disney Springs Resort
B Resort is not technically a Value Resort because it offers more amenities and classy furnishings in comparison to the other Value Resorts. I’m noting it here because in the past I’ve seen it run cheaper than a stay at an All-Star Resort. This, of course, depends on the kinds of deals the hotel is running throughout the year. This resort is a dream come true for grown-ups traveling to Disney World. The decor is Vegas-chic with a zero entry pool, lounge, and sit-down restaurant onsite. It’s my favorite Disney Springs Resort and the perfect getaway when you’re tired from a long day in the parks.
Dirt-Cheap Hotels Near Disney World
All of the hotels I’ve mentioned above usually don’t dip below $90/night. If you’re thinking “That ain’t cheap!” I have two more options to throw out here. Now, I obviously don’t know your standards of good hospitality so I advise watching some reviews on YouTube to get an idea as to what you’re getting into. Cheap hotels are awesome if they’re only meant for a crash pad, but your expectations should be lowered when booking. For low prices and decent rooms, I recommend looking into the following hotels.
#2 The Red Lion Hotel Orlando Kissimmee Maingate
When in doubt, choose a hotel with a brand name. The Red Lion is a decent hotel that doesn’t break the bank. The rooms are clean, fairly updated, and they also have large suites available if you need extra room. The pool is pretty nice with sunbathing chairs, patio umbrellas, and a small playground for the kids. There’s also a shuttle to Disney provided at this resort, but the scheduled pick-ups are infrequent.
#1 Champions World Resort
The property at Champions World Resort is actually pretty nice! The grounds are lush with Florida foliage and ponds framed with hammocks and fire pits. There are three pools on the property including one with a covered area where they show outdoor movies occasionally. The rooms are decent and clean with tile flooring and some suites are available too. They also have a shuttle that runs you to the Disney parks, but again, the schedule is sparse. For my full review of Champions World Resort, watch the video below for a walk-through of the property.
When choosing a place to stay at Disney World, there a ton of factors to consider. Is the resort close to Disney? Is a shuttle provided? Are there restaurants onsite? My plan of attack usually goes like this: check on Priceline for the lowest prices available and research the hotels that look decent on Trip Advisor and YouTube. After that, I look at the hotel’s official website to check if they charge parking and resort fees. Once I’ve considered the added fees and inconveniences of staying offsite, I make a decision whether it really is a good deal in the end. Whatever way you decide, there is absolutely no shame in staying in the cheapest hotel available to you. You’re on vacation to create memories at Disney World and not stay cooped up in your hotel room anyway!
Bonus Option: Rent DVC Points
If you’re used to more luxurious experiences, you can opt to rent Disney Vacation Club villas and suites. It’s still quite the investment, but it will end up being cheaper than booking a Deluxe Resort directly through Disney. To rent DVC points, David’s Vacation Rentals is a reliable 3rd party seller who can pull up quotes and availability for you. The least expensive DVC Resort is often Old Key West. For more info about this resort, you can head over to Strangeness & Charm who will give you a full review Old Key West.