Differences in the Disney World Resort Levels: A Cheapskate Guide

resort level differences at Disney World

Updated for 2018!

Planning a Disney vacation? Perhaps the most important thing to decide, besides when to go and how long to stay, is where you will stay. Accommodations take up a large portion of a travel budget. If you are vacationing on property, there is a wide range in both price of the resorts and the amenities you get for your money.

Let’s take a look at the costs between Value, Moderate and Deluxe/ Villa resorts. Keep in mind these are starting prices, because you can pay for “upgrades” even with the least expensive Disney rooms, as in your view, room location, etc.

In this Cheapskate Princess Guide, we’ll also examine the basic perks everyone receives when you stay on property, and then we’ll see when your money begins to talk. And make no mistake, the more money you want to pay for a room, the louder those amenities holler!

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To price rooms, you simply enter your dates, because different times of month are considered different “seasons.”

All the following prices are for September 10-16, 2018, which make these Moderate Prices. Value prices are less expensive, but there are fewer of these dates available.  

 Value Resorts

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Moderate Resorts


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Deluxe Resort Hotels


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Disney Deluxe Villas

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 What are the free perks of staying on property at any Disney Resort?

  • Free transportation (bus, boat, monorail)
  • Free parking at WDW theme parks
  • Extra Magic Hours
  • Disney’s Magical Express (free transportation, plus luggage transfer to and from the airport)
  • Charging Priviledges- charge resort and park purchases to your MagicBand (room card)
  • Package Delivery- have your purchases delivered to your room
  • 180 days prior to check-in, you can make ADRs (Advanced Dining Reservations)
  • 60 days prior to check-in, you can make Fastpass+ selections
  • Complimentary wireless Internet (wi-fi) access in the rooms and some public areas
  • Mini-fridges in rooms

where to stay at Disney World

How do the resort levels compare in terms of amenities?

 Value Resorts

  • least expensive accommodations
  • bus transportation can take longer to get to  and from the parks, due to bus sharing between some resorts
  • smallest sized rooms (260 square feet excluding family suites)
  • meals: food courts, pizza delivery
  • two to three quiet and large pools per resort
  • other amenities: playgrounds, pool bar, video game room, gift shop
  • a lot of walking can be required to get to your room
  • can be really crowded during busy times of year

The newer Art of Animation Resort offers perks other Value Resorts do not have:

  • slightly larger rooms (277 square feet compared to 260)
  • upgraded food court
  • interior corridors to rooms

Moderate Resorts

  • medium priced rooms – nearly double the cost of Value Resorts per night
  • medium-sized rooms – 314 sq. ft (340 sq. ft. at Caribbean)
  • some rooms can accommodate 5 people without being considered a suite
  • bus and sometimes boat transportation to theme parks
  • meals: food courts, pizza delivery, table service (except POFQ) lounge bar
  • most offer quiet and large pools with slides, hot tubs, pool bar
  • also spread out – expect to walk a fair amount
  • other amenities: playgrounds, video game room, gift shop, boating
  • some resorts offer Business Club Level rooms, plus Pirate themed rooms, royal guest rooms

Deluxe/Deluxe Villas

  • most expensive accommodations – two to three times the cost of Moderate Resorts, and up to four times the cost of Value Resorts (using starting room prices)
  • concierge option (access extra services plus a private lounge serving continental breakfast, afternoon and evening snacks, and drinks)
  • deluxe suite options (which come with amazing prices as well as amenities)
  • interior corridors
  • compact locations, so less walking is required in most instances
  • largest sized standard rooms (344 to 440 square feet)
  • most standard rooms (except at AK Lodge) sleep 5 without being considered a suite
  • many resorts offer bus, boat and monorail transportation to theme parks (AK is bus service only)
  • you can walk to some theme parks from several resorts
  • meals: food courts, pizza delivery, room service, table service, fine dining, character meals
  • quiet and large pools with slides, hot tubs & spas,
  • other amenities: playgrounds, pool bar, boating, video game room, gift shop, kid clubs, babysitting, health clubs, valley parking, salons, some bunk beds,
  • amazing theming inside and out

 What do you get beyond this with the Deluxe Villas?

  • one, two, and three bedroom accommodations
  • children’s water play area
  • microwaves in studios, full kitchens in larger units

Where is the Best Place for a Disney World Proposal?

how to pick a Disney World Resort

I have taken a lot of information and condensed it down for time and organizational purposes. If you have any questions on specific perks or amenities, we recommend you get more personalized service by phoning Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Picking out a resort comes down to one simple saying…you get what you pay for. The more you pay for accommodations, the more you get. And then you have to decide how much you are willing to pay.

It’s easy to say just be a cheapskate and stay at the Value Resorts. Lots of people who stay at the parks all day long for multiple days just need a bed to collapse in at night. And this style of Disney vacationing, go until you drop, works for a lot of families.  But the reality is that the Deluxe Resorts and Villas are some of the nicest hotels many people will stay in during their entire lives. And by people, I mean me, and also many of you. Once I set foot in the Grand Floridian, I had no desire to travel to California to see the original hotel, and sitting poolside at Wilderness Lodge, I lost all inclination to drive 40 hours away to stay in a “real” lodge out west. I was home. But I also feel at home standing next to that mammoth Buzz Lightyear statue at the All-Star Movies Resort. Money talks, but it’s sure nice to go home with some of that money in your wallet.

Should You Purchase the Disney Dining Plan?

best Disney Resorts

Deciding between resort levels will come down to budget, personal requirements, length of stay, and then it often circles back around to your budget.  Will you just be staying in your room from midnight until 6 a.m.? Will you have a free day to swim? Do you want fine dining and character meal options within walking distance of your room? Do you need to pay Deluxe prices to have access to a microwave in the room?  Will your kids long for a pool slide or will you swim at all? Do you want to stay more days in a Value or less days in a Moderate/Deluxe to stay within your budget?

You get what you pay for, so how much are you willing to pay?

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.  Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you with a calculator and a calendar, doing some adding and checking some dates.

Amanda, Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.


Should You Pull Kids Out of School for a Disney Vacation?

should you take kids out of school for vacation?

Updated for 2018!

Should we pull the kids out of school for a Disney vacation? We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Readers if they would take their kids out of school for a Disney trip, and the answer was a resounding yes and for several different reasons. [Read more…]

Is Disney World’s Tomorrowland Fireworks Dessert Party Worth the Money?

Disney Fireworks Dessert Party cost

Updated for 2016!

I have wanted to experience the Tomorrowland Fireworks Dessert Party since I first saw pictures of the desserts. The number one factor holding me back? The price, but given how yummy those desserts appear and having a private place to watch the Wishes fireworks after stuffing my face, I probably could have justified the price for a family of five. In fact, we made reservations for last December. And then I read some reviews online, and we cancelled our reservations.

We asked our Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans who had been to the Dessert Party to tell us what they thought. So let’s hear their opinions, because they’ve been there and eaten that! Did they feel this experience was worth the money?

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the cost of the Tomorrowland Fireworks Dessert party


Suzi,  “I’ve done it the past two years and just love it. It is worth the price for me simply to have assigned seats and a reserved spot to watch Wishes. With a grumpy husband having that space to ‘ourselves’ is totally worth it.  And the extra sugar actually helps us because we plan this for an Extra Magic Hours night, so its not like we are just going back to the resort for sleep after.  We need that energy.  Yes, it is true, people do run up to the railing when the show starts.  You just have to know that and get up yourself too. There is PLENTY of room along the railing for the 50-100 people in there.  I actually think there is a better view further down near the buffet.  Still way more room than on Main Street.”

Marissa, “We did it in December for the first time and we will do it again!”

Vonni,  “It’s so worth it! Awesome desserts, great location! We will do it every trip!”

Erin,  “This past October was our first time going to the dessert party, and I was afraid it wasn’t going to be worth it.  But it was worth every penny. Our 9-year-old son loved it also. He went back for more every time I turned around! And the view for the fireworks was perfect!”

Dawn, “We did it in August and had great seats. It was so good! We had front row viewing for Wishes fireworks on our first night. It was the perfect way to start our Disney vacation!”

Kristi, “Our main objective was to see the show in a relaxed, comfortable, and non- crowded atmosphere. The desserts were an added perk. It was much a much more pleasant way to enjoy the show.”

Karen“We all loved it! The desserts were great and the view is fantastic!”

Lisa, “We did it last year and loved it, and we’re doing it again this year and any other year after this that we go! Great desserts, great view! I’d pay the $22 again.”

Susan, “I did the dessert party last September. Great location, no crowd to deal with, and the desserts were good. They were still out after the fireworks for a while too. By the time we left the terrace most of the crowd was gone. Ww would do it again.”

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Tomorrowland dessert party


Jeri, “We did this last April – except at Epcot. I was not impressed!”

Kaitlin“Did this in September.  It was cool, but I would not do it a second time.”

Traci,  “We did this way back when they first started. I won’t do it again. We waited in line for a long time and were seated at a great table upfront. As soon as the show started, everyone ran up to the railing in front of our table. We couldn’t see much or get one picture without half the fireworks cut off by people sanding in front of us. Also the dessert bar was like vultures at feeding time, and they were not quick to refill either. Kind of like a first come first served situation, and I didn’t care for it.”

Crystal, “I felt it was over priced. There were too many people in that small space, but they ran out of food and drinks. And people fight over standing at the railing. We did it once but never again.”

Caoimhne, “We did this in October, and it was the worst Disney experience ever. The coffee and tea was cold, the desserts were only OK,  and a lot them looked different but tasted exactly the same, which was weird! The Cast Members didn’t seem to know what they were doing.  They ran out of plates, and we waited ten minutes for them to bring out more. It’s true, people rush and  push to get to the railing, so we stayed at our table as my toddler had fallen asleep in her stroller. But the Cast Member’s insisted on walking over and back to clear tables.  We asked one Cast Member to please stop blocking our view, and her response was, ‘I don’t see what your problem is the show is in the sky.‘”

Sarah, “We did this once and while we mostly enjoyed it, we don’t have much desire to do it again. We lined up way early, and we had great seats, but when the Cast Member seated us, she told us to stand at the railing when the fireworks began. We did what she said, and the people at the front row table behind us took it very personally. The first several minutes of the show was spent listening to nasty comments at our backs. Also, we were not prepared for the way people would overload multiple plates with desserts, leaving nothing for the more civilized, who got a couple things with hopes to go back. They ran out of many dessert items, and it was disappointing to miss out on trying new things while seeing piles of uneaten items being bused away from greedy tables who were just interested in grabbing as much as they could as fast as they could.”

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Disney dessert party

Maybe Not Again

Sharon, “We actually just did this on Friday evening. It was our first trip to Disney, and my parents went with us. Unfortunately, it was about 40 degrees out, so I don’t think I enjoyed the desserts as much as if it were warmer out. Though I certainly ate my fair share. I am glad we did it at least once, it made for some fantastic memories. I don’t know if we would do it again, we’d probably try for some other experiences we haven’t had.”

Allyson,In my opinion, the dessert is exceptional, however, I didn’t feel that the view was spectacular.  A side view is not the same as a view straight on. Also, I am basing it on the fact that even though we had a front row view from our table, we still had to ‘line up’ at the railing about an hour before the fireworks started to make sure we were able to see. I am also basing my opinion on the fact that we had to deal with an extremely rude mother who was trying to take the spot from our children. If I am going to pay that much for a good view and a dessert, that I don’t want to have to deal with other rude people, as we all pay the same amount to get in. I think standing on Main Street, U.S.A., is just as nice, and you have a much better view of the castle. And it’s FREE!!!  This is a great one-time experience for the desserts though!”

How much will this experience cost and what’s on the menu? We have that info. for you!

Can You Afford the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party at Disney World?

And there you have what some of our  Cheapskate Princess Facebook Fans thought about the dessert party.  So let us know…have you been, and what did you think?! 

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess


Disney’s Cheapskate Princess


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Mike Ellis, our Disney Vacation Planner with Pixie Vacations.

Call Mike at 919-606-6725 or e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Travel Consultant with Pixie Vacations, Mike Ellis. You can also e-mail him at mike@pixievacations.com.