“How do I save money on my vacation?” is unsurprisingly one of the most frequently asked questions when planning a Disney trip. 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.
So, if you’re budget-minded, what’s the easiest way to spend less money? Choose a value level resort. Choosing a resort in this category (the lowest price with fewer amenities) can decrease the cost immensely and take a little stress off the idea of going on vacation. There have been plenty of blogs that outline money saving tips and tricks. This is one of the easiest ways to do so. Which brings me to another frequently asked question: “Where should I stay?” Here’s a ranking of all the Disney World Value Resorts to help you decide.
Something To Remember: Value resorts are more often booked by large families with kids in an effort to save money and for a kid-friendly atmosphere. Just making this clear so you don’t expect a tranquil getaway. It is, after all, a Disney vacation.
But first, if you’re not sure what I mean when I say “on and off property…”
On Property vs. Off Property: Each on property resort (owned by Disney) features multiple pools, shuttles to the parks, free transportation to/from the airport, 1 quick service restaurant, use of the Magic Band system and the Disney touch. The off property resorts (not officially owned by Disney) are a little cheaper, have a few more food options, free shuttles to the parks, and offer a break from the magic if you’d rather not fully immerse yourself in the Disney experience.
Ranked Value Resorts
Best Western Lake Buena Vista (Off Property “Good Neighbor” Hotel): 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 The rooms and overall “décor” of the hotel are outdated and remind of the 90s and not in a nostalgic way. But, it’s still a decent place to stay because it’s a step above some other Best Western’s. This one has an onsite restaurant and lounge along with a quick service pot and a Pizza Hut Express. The pool is decent and provides free shuttles to the parks. I don’t think it’s a bad choice, just not the greatest.
Wyndham Garden Lake (Off Property “Good Neighbor” Hotel): The only reason I’m putting this one after the All-Stars is purely nostalgic reasons. I love staying on property because it reminds me of my childhood family trips. But, I’ve sent quite a few of my clients to this hotel because I think it’s quite nice for the cost and people really love it. The official Disney Value Resorts don’t have a poolside bar and grill, but this one sure does! The rooms seem to be updated recently, they have a 24-hour café, and a Lakeview Restaurant that features character dining on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays. What more could you possibly want?
Good news! They are renovating the All-Star Resort rooms as well! The insides are looking much better than what they used to be and the design is very similar to Pop Century’s upgrade. Note: The All-Star Resorts sometimes share buses during the day, but have their own bus in the morning and evening.
All-Star Sports (On Property): I rank this one last out of the All-Stars because it’s the least “Disney” of all the Disney Resorts. There are a few character statues throughout, but it doesn’t quite capture the magic. But, I do know plenty of people who like the sports atmosphere and stay here every visit. They have a large open “football field” to play on and I’m a big fan of the Mighty Ducks pool. Other than that, staying at Sports really isn’t my cup of Gatorade, so I’m putting it last. The biggest perk to this resort is that it’s the first stop on the bus line during the day.
All-Star Music (On Property): This resort is rumored to be slightly quieter than the other two, but I honestly can’t tell the difference. I prefer rooms in the Calypso building because you’re near my favorite pool featuring The Three Caballeros fountain. The Calypso rooms do cost a bit more because they’re also near the food court and bus stop, FYI.
All Star Movies (On Property): Movies is my go-to cheap Disney stay. I love the larger than life Toy Story statues and I always stay in the Herbie the Love Bug building. Mostly because it’s towards the back of the property and a little calmer, but also because Herbie himself sits back there. P.S. If you haven’t heard, you can ask for the “secret menu” at their 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 available. A fun thing to do with kids!
Pop Century (On Property): What’s the best inexpensive Disney Value Resort? 9 times out of 10 a Disney veteran will answer with “Pop Century.” It’s a newer value resort and most of the rooms have been recently renovated. You also have the added plus of having your own bus line rather than sharing a line at the All-Star Resorts. My favorite feature is that the “Generation Gap Bridge,” which had the original intent of connecting the current themed buildings (decades ranging from the 50s to the 90s), to future generation buildings (2000’s and beyond) on the other side. Instead, they decided to build Art of Animation in that place and kept the bridge up. Meaning, you can pop over to Art of Animation if you’re staying at Pop Century any time you want.
Art of Animation: Although Art of Animation is considered a value resort the prices do not reflect the same idea. The Little Mermaid Room, which is a standard non-suite, usually starts at about 165/night. Compare this to an All-Star that can sometimes go down to about $80/night. The family suite can be worth it if you’re traveling with a large group. The suites accommodate 6 people so that means you won’t have to purchase two rooms. If you love the atmosphere of this resort, but can’t afford a room, then stop by for a visit!
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. The least expensive DVC Resort is often Old Key West. For more on info about this resort, you can head over to Strangeness & Charm who will give you a full review Old Key West. To rent DVC points, David’s Vacation Rentals is a reliable 3rd party seller who can pull up quotes and availability for you.
Just because they’re easier on your wallet, doesn’t mean value resorts aren’t enjoyable places to stay. The amenities are generally good, onsite restaurants available, pools are nice, and the service is great. Besides, you’ll most likely be spending most of your vacation in the parks and only use your hotel to collapse after a long day.
If you’re looking for more ways to save money on vacation, feel free to contact me. As a Disney Travel Planner, I can help navigate current Disney World discounts and promos throughout the season.