40 Tips for Disney World Resorts in 2023

When you’re planning your Disney World vacation, one of the most important aspects is to pick the right place to stay. Your Disney World resort accommodations will be one of the priciest parts of your trip. Luckily, Guide2WDW is here with Disney World Resort and Hotel tips and tricks for you.

Based on decades of experience, our tips will help you find the right place to stay, save money on hotels, and know which perks to take advantage of.

Want to make the most out of your Disney World Resort stay? Read on to find out the following tips.

  • Tips on Which Disney World Hotels to Choose: Know important WDW lingo, and what makes the difference between a good and great Disney hotel.
  • Tips for Saving Money on Disney World Hotels: Save big on WDW resorts, plus find out tips on how to score free upgrades.
  • Disney World Resort Perks Tips: Find out what advantages staying at Disney resorts can give you.
  • Tips on Dining at Disney World Hotels: The best places to dine at WDW resorts.

Tips on Which Disney World Hotels to Choose

Disney's Polynesian Resort - Moana Inspired Rooms

1) Should you stay on property or off property? Walt Disney World property is huge, and there are both official Disney resorts and third party hotels that would be considered on-property. If you are going to Disney World for the majority of your Orlando vacation, you should definitely stay on Disney World property. You’ll have plenty of options covering a variety of price points on WDW property — everything from a Holiday Inn to the Four Seasons. However, if Disney World is just one of your destinations, you may want to consider staying somewhere else in Orlando. You may be able to save some money that way.

2) Official Disney Resort vs. Third Party Hotels. Disney World’s official resorts will have the best access to the parks, great theming, and hotel guest perks like Early Entry. But these hotels will be the most expensive options. Off-property hotels will save you a lot of money, and they accept rewards points. However, they will have the most limited transportation options to the parks. There are also a few resorts that offer a more luxurious option than Disney, such as the Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons.

3) Disney Resort Classifications. Disney World has three levels of resorts: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Deluxe Resorts have the nicest rooms, hotel amenities, and closest proximity to the parks. Value Resorts are the furthest away from the parks, and their rooms are more akin to a hotel like Holiday Inn. Moderate is somewhere in between. If you see a hotel described as a Deluxe Villa, that is a DVC Resort, with many rooms that are akin to suites with kitchens and private rooms.

4) What is DVC? Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare. A simplified version: DVC members purchase real estate interest from Disney, and then get annual Vacation Points that they can use toward Disney Resort accommodations. You do not have to be a DVC member to stay at a DVC Deluxe Villa Resort.

5) Know what your resort is close to. You may think that just because you’re staying on Disney World property, you’ll be close to everything. That isn’t quite the case. Walt Disney World is massive, and the parks are spread apart. For example, if you stay at the Contemporary, you could walk to Magic Kingdom or take the monorail to EPCOT (with a transfer at the TTC). If you stay at the Boardwalk Resort, you could walk to either EPCOT or Hollywood Studios, or take a short boat ride to each park. If you stay at the All Star Resorts, you will need to take Disney’s busses, drive, or buy a ride share to get to any of the parks. Check out our Disney World Transportation Guide to find out exactly how to get to each park from each resort.

6) Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve take Bonvoy Points. The Swan Resort, Dolphin Resort, and Swan Reserve are all unique properties at Walt Disney World. They are third party hotels, but they have a preferred status above other Good Neighbor Hotels. These resorts are walking distance to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, plus they are some of the few non-Disney resorts to feature exclusive perks like Extended Evening Hours. We love staying at these resorts because they feature all of the perks of staying at a Disney Resort, but they are operated by Bonvoy/Marriott. Which means you can use Bonvoy Points at these resorts to save a lot of money on your Disney World vacation.

7) Know which resorts are Good Neighbor Hotels. While there are many perks to staying at a Disney World Resort, they come with a cost. Good Neighbor Hotels offer similar perks such as free transportation, Early Morning Entry, and proximity to the theme parks at a fraction of the price. Additionally, you can use hotel reward points at many of these locations.

Tips for Saving Money on Disney World Hotels

Yacht Club - Disney World Resort

8) Travel Agents can help you save on Disney hotels. Travel agents like our friends at Vacationeer have access to all the latest Disney World discounts. Plus, they often have access to block room rates that can save you even more money on your WDW Resort. They also are able to apply discounts to your vacation even after you’ve booked. You can reach out to one of the official travel agents of Guide2WDW here.

9) Ask if upgrades are available. Guide2WDW reader Bruce shares why it never hurts to ask for an upgrade. He got upgraded to a nicer resort without having to pay much more.

“I recently booked a 10 day trip to WDW for our July visit. I made reservations at the Caribbean Beach through Disney directly. With a little prodding I was upgraded to the Polynesian for almost the same price as the Caribbean Beach (I’m paying about $25.00 more per night). The nice WDW representative said that you have to ask if invitational upgrades are available, they won’t offer it to you unless asked. These “invitations” aren’t always available, but if they are they’ll bump you up one class of Resort: Value to moderate or moderate to deluxe. It never hurts to ask!”

10) Don’t be afraid to ask for a better view. We recently stayed three nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge but had booked a room overlooking the pool (about $70/night less than a Savannah room, overlooking the animals). When we arrived we asked the very polite person behind the counter if we could get an upgrade to a Savannah room. She looked into and said yes. We saved $200 by asking that question AND had a much better room for three nights!

11) Sometimes it really pays be thorough about your vacation. Beth writes,

“Since I am obsessive in nature, I have been calling the 407-WDW-MAGIC line every day the last four days since I made my WDW reservation. I get new information regarding my reservation every time I call, depending on who I talk to. First, I asked if I could apply my AAA discount and was told I couldn’t since I have a package deal. Don’t assume they are saving you money with package deal! I got a Magic Your Way package for four nights, and three base passes for the park. When I asked for the break down, the person said she didn’t have one. I needed to just add it myself and figure it out. I was too trusting at the moment and didn’t bother. I then did my homework and saw no savings! Even worse, I found the vacation insurance they include as part of the package costs over $100. I called the next day to take it off and the representative admitted that I wasn’t saving anything with this package–it comes out the same (only when I asked her about it). I called again today, got someone else, and told her that I would like to purchase rooms and tickets separately so that I could apply my AAA discount. I saved $220 by changing this. In just two days, I have saved myself $320 dollars by just being a pest and calling them each day.”

12) Calling can have its advantages over doing everything online. Guide2WDW reader Blaine advises to always call before you book your trip:

“I was just reading an article stating to book everything online… Not so fast! Get the information and prices for your trip online, but call directly. They always have special codes that are not published to the general public if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort. You have to ask for them. I found out a month before the Magic Your Way Tickets were upgraded for free to include the park hopper and more just by asking. ALWAYS CALL, either Walt Disney World Travel or your travel agent.”

13) Consider the DVC resale market. If you’re thinking about buying a DVC timeshare at one of the Disney resorts, look into purchasing on the resale market. Becoming a Disney Vacation Club member can save you a lot in the long-haul, but when you purchase directly from the resort the upfront expense is quite costly. A Disney timeshare resale can cost 65 percent less, which translates to thousands of dollars in savings. Just be aware that you might not be eligible for certain DVC perks if you buy from the reselling market.

14) Stay at DVC resorts for less by “renting” someone’s DVC points. Buying a DVC isn’t the only way to enjoy staying at a DVC resort. DVC members will sell points they aren’t using for one-time stays through sites like David’s Vacation Club Rentals. You can find rooms at Disney World Deluxe Villa Resorts for much cheaper than booking directly through Disney by going this route.

Tips on What to Do at the Hotels

Pool at Disney All Stars Resort - Guide2WDW

15) Know your hotel’s amenities. Disney World hotels feature a ton of great amenities and activities that are well worth checking out during your vacation. From highly-themed pools to world class restaurants to outdoor movie nights, be sure to find out everything you can do at your hotel. We highly recommend taking breaks throughout your WDW vacation to enjoy what your hotel has to offer.

16) Chip and Dale Campfire Sing-a-long. One of the best activities at any Disney World resort for families is the Chip and Dale Campfire Sing-a-long at Fort Wilderness. You can roast marshmallows, sing songs around a campfire, and meet Chip and Dale. The evening also includes an outdoor movie.

17) Watch the fireworks from your resort. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village Resort, and Contemporary Resort all feature fantastic views of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. The Boardwalk, Beach Club, and Yacht Club offer similarly great views of EPCOT’s fireworks, while the rooftops of the Gran Destino Tower and Riviera Resort can see both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. One of our tips below features a list of restaurants that are great options for having dinner while watching the fireworks at Disney World Resorts.

18) Resort Hopping is a fun and free activity. Not everything at Disney World has to cost you lots of money. If you would like a great activity that is inexpensive, try Resort-hopping! If you stay on property, then you have unlimited access to all the Disney resorts. All the resorts are unique, and it’s worth checking out each hotel’s lobby. Take the time to Resort-hop and scope where your next stay might be. You might have some fun along the way!

19) Look out for Gingerbread Houses during the Holidays. Disney World goes all out with decorations for the Holidays, and the Disney World Resorts are no exception. Many of the Deluxe Resorts will feature a giant and intricate gingerbread house in their lobby. Getting your picture taken in front of these Gingerbread Houses can be a great family tradition!

20) Swan and Dolphin has their own Food and Wine Festival. During October or November each year, the Swan and Dolphin resorts host the Food & Wine Classic, running for only a couple of nights. From 5:30-9 pm, the causeway between the resorts will be full of food booths with offerings from award winning chefs. Find out information about this year’s Swan Dolphin Food & Wine Classic here.

Disney World Resort Perks Tips

Disney World Art of Animation Resort - WDW Resort Tips

21) Disney World Resort guests can make all of their dining reservations at once. Official Disney World resort guests and guests at Good Neighbor Hotels can make dining reservations for their entire vacation starting 60 days ahead of the first day of their trip. So if you’re staying 10 days at Disney World, you can make a reservation for the last day of your trip 69 days ahead of time. Plus, you only have to get up early to make reservations one day, since you can make the reservations all in one session. Find out more about making Disney World dining reservations here.

22) Extra Hours are one of the best Disney World Resort perks. When choosing your Disney World Resort, strongly consider a resort that has access to extra hours. Both Early Morning Entry and Extended Evening Hours are great ways to experience shorter lines for popular WDW rides.

23) Not all resorts have the same perks. Disney World Resorts used to all feature the same perks, but now there is one important distinction. While all Disney World Resorts and Good Neighbor Hotels have access to Early Morning Entry, only Deluxe Resorts and a handful of third party resorts have access to Extended Evening Hours. Find out more about extra hours at Disney World Resorts here, including the full list of participating resorts for each perk.

24) MagicBands are leveled up at Disney World Resorts. If you are staying at a Disney World Resort, you can use your Magic Band as your room key. Also, you can use your Magic Band to make purchases at the resort and in the parks. These purchases will be charged to your room.

25) Resort Guests can buy discounted MagicBands. Disney World Resort Guests can purchase MagicBands at a discount before their vacation. This discount is typically $10 per band. Once you have your reservation linked to your Disney World account, open the MyDisneyExperience app, select My MagicBands and Cards, and then you can order discounted MagicBands to have shipped to you before your vacation.

26) Free Luggage Tag. While Disney World used to send Resort Guests a pre-vacation package that included some goodies, including a Luggage Tag. While Disney no longer mails this to guests, you can still get a free luggage tag from your hotel. Just go to the front desk and ask for a luggage tag for a fun freebie.

27) Take advantage of merchandise delivery. Don’t lug your merchandise purchases all around the parks all day. If you are staying at a Disney World Resort, you can have merchandise you purchase from the gift shops shipped to your resort free of charge. You will be able to pick up your items from your hotel’s store.

28) Don’t overlook coupon books from your hotel. When I stayed at the B Resort, they gave me a booklet of coupons. Usually, I toss something like this, but there were actually a ton of great coupons for Disney Springs restaurants, including a free giant pretzel from the Polite Pig. If your hotel has a booklet of coupons, you may find some great offers for nearby shops and restaurants.

Tips on Dining at Disney World Hotels

Trader Sams Grog Grotto Tiki Bar 2 - Disney World's Best Bars - Guide2WDW

29) Get to Trader Sam’s before it opens. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Resort is our favorite bar at Disney World. However, it can be hard to get into the tiki-themed bar, especially later at night. Our trick is to show up right before opening. Either we’ll get in, or get our names on the waitlist for a short wait. Trader Sam’s will text you once your wait is up.

30) Resort restaurants offer great views of fireworks. California Grill, Ohana, Narcoossee’s each have fantastic viewing for Magic Kingdom fireworks, plus they pipe in the music. Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera and Toledo at Gran Destino Tower both offer views of EPCOT and Hollywood Studios fireworks. You can also see Magic Kingdom from Topolino’s Terrace.

31) California Grill fireworks tip. You are welcome to view the fireworks from California Grill’s balconies if you dine there at any point in the evening. So if you had an early dinner, you can return later in the evening to watch the fireworks from their outdoor viewing areas. (Just bring a light jacket because it can get windy/chilly there).

32) California Grill Lounge offers the full menu. California Grill is another in-demand reservation, but their lounge is first-come first-serve. The lounge offers the entire California Grill menu, so this is a great way to dine here without a reservation. Plus, you have same access to the fireworks viewing as guests eating at the restaurant.

33) Resorts are the go-to for a fancy dinner. The resorts have some of the best date night dining destinations. We recommend Victoria & Alberts, California Grill, Narcoossee’s, Topolino’s Terrace, and Shula’s for special occasions and dates.

34) Get a free steak at Shula’s. Shula’s at the Dolphin Resort is an underrated gem of a steakhouse, and it’s even better if you dine around your birthday. As noted in our Best Free Things at Disney World guide, you can get a free entree within two weeks of your birthday once you receive an email from Shula’s via their Team Shula Rewards program.

35) Ohana – You will leave stuffed! Ohana is a beast of a feast. With all you can eat salad, noodles, wings, chicken, steak, and shrimp, you’ll barely be able to make room for the amazing bread pudding. (But somehow I always find room). Don’t eat anything before you get to Ohana, because you should arrive hungry.

36) You can order Ohana dinner via room service. If you’re staying at the Polynesian Village Resort, you can order the multi-course Ohana dinner to be delivered to your room. It won’t be all you can eat, but it should be plenty of food.

37) Consider Kona Cafe instead of Ohana. If you couldn’t get an Ohana reservation, consider dining at Kona Cafe instead. They offer a really good a la carte menu, and the reservation is much easier to secure than its all you can eat neighbor.

38) For ice cream, head to the Beach Club. Guide2WDW reader Sam recommends going to Beaches and Cream for some delectable desserts.

The Beach Club has a great Ice Cream Shop called “Beaches and Cream.” Awesome!!! Try the Kitchen Sink or the Reese’s Pieces Sundae.

39) Send a package of snacks to your room. Guide2WDW reader Johnny shares a way to stock your hotel room with snacks if you don’t have a car.

Since we fly down to Orlando, it is not feasible to pack any great amount of food, and we never rent a car since Disney provides ample transportation to the parks. So, to get groceries we send ourselves a care package of non perishable snacks like juice boxes, bottled water (an expensive Disney World commodity), crackers, cookies, and gum (you can’t buy gum in Disney World). I call the resort in advance and ask what I need to do to mail myself a package there and we have it delivered to our room upon check in. It works out great for those poolside snacks at the hotel. Just make sure you send the heavy stuff separate from the chips! We tried packing them together but the chips get crushed. (However, Pringles work well). Note: Some hotels will have a small fee for a package delivery. Just check to make sure before sending, as it still might be worth the money to have these essentials.

40) Alternate to sending a package of snacks to your room. Guide2WDW reader Molly provides a different plan for bringing snacks to Disney World.

I have read several tips about sending packages to your hotel with snacks and other treats in the package. This is very costly even in comparison to buying treats at Disney World. What I have done in the past is pack another suitcase filled with snacks, crackers, candy, cereal bars, or whatever my children like for that moment. This way I haven’t spent any money sending a package to the resort AND I have an extra empty suitcase for all the trinkets that are purchased in Disney World.

How To Plan a Disney World Vacation

Spaceship Earth - EPCOT's Best Rides and Attractions

Planning a trip to Disney World? These Disney World Resort and Hotel tips are just the beginning. Get in touch with our friends at Vacationeer for free Disney World vacation planning. Their travel agents can help you plan your vacation for no extra cost, including booking Disney World resorts at the best price. They are Disney experts, so they’ll have their own recommendations and advice.

If you want to be as prepared as possible, check out our Disney World Guides, including an in-depth Disney Genie Guide. Our resources will help you plan your Disney World trip and get the most out of your vacation. And don’t miss our other Disney World Tips and Tricks. We have hundreds of quick bits of advice for visiting WDW.