One question I get a lot from clients is “How convenient is this resort?” Believe it or not, the answer depends less on where you’re staying than where you plan on eating and playing, but the truth is this: Unless you’re staying at a monorail resort, all the resorts have pretty much the same level of transportation advantages and disadvantages, so paying more for a resort doesn’t necessarily get you a more convenient trip to the parks.
Convenience-wise, you can’t beat the Magic Kingdom monorail resorts, which include the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian. This is particularly true if you plan on spending a great deal of your vacation in the Magic Kingdom, which is just a monorail ride away. For added measure, you’ll get boat access to the Magic Kingdom as well, but keep in mind that wheel chairs won’t fit onto these small boats and strollers will need to be folded up. You can easily reach Epcot from your monorail resort by switching monorails at the Transportation and Ticket Center as well, making these resorts ideal. Finally, for pure convenience, you can’t beat the Contemporary Resort, which has a walkway to the Magic Kingdom. It’s a short stroll, about 10 – 15 minutes and for this reason alone, it’s my choice for the most convenient resort on property.
Next to the Magic Kingdom monorail resorts, the Epcot resorts around Crescent lake are the most convenient if you’re going to be spending a lot of time at Epcot or Hollywood Studios (DHS). For those staying at the Yacht and Beach Club or Boardwalk (as well as the non-Disney resorts known, the Dolphin and the Swan), you can easily walk to either park or take a Friendship boat. Expect either one to take around 20 – 25 minutes, depending on your location; I find walking to be a lot faster. On the other hand, getting to the Magic Kingdom from these resorts can be pretty inconvenient because they often make multiple stops the various Epcot area resorts. For this reason alone, I don’t consider them to be as ideal as the Magic Kingdom resorts, but they’re pretty close to it and having stayed at Yacht Club recently and spent a lot of time at DHS, I was really pleased at how convenient it was.
To me, the rest of the resorts (save one) are all fairly equal as far as transportation is concerned. I do give a slight edge to Pop Century because it only has one bus stop, whereas many of the other resorts make multiple stops, but even you’ll only add a few minutes to your trip. Obviously, some resorts have little transportation perks: You can take a boat to Downtown Disney from Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter, for example. But as far as getting to the parks goes, once you get beyond the Epcot and Magic Kingdom resorts, it’s all pretty equal.
So what’s the most inconvenient resort? Well, I love Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s beautifully themed and feels like it’s cut off from the rest of the world, with gorgeous pools, lush landscaping, and subtle, African-inspired music. In fact, that’s part of the problem: It is cut off from the rest of Disney World–you’re practically off site. If you’re paying for a deluxe resort, you don’t expect to share a bus with Blizzard Beach on your already long ride back from the parks. And since there are two bus stops at the resort, you’ll add time to your trip, either coming or going. If you plan on staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, make sure you weigh these issues against the cost of staying there. It’s my favorite resort, but when I stay there, I rent a car.
I have a lot of clients who upgrade from a value to a moderate because they think that transportation will be easier at a more expensive resort. Don’t do it. Stay at a moderate because you love the theming or because you want access to better dining or a larger bed, not because you think it will get you to the parks faster. At best, the uprade will get you a few extra minutes, probably not enough to justify the higher cost.
We all complain about Disney buses, but the truth is, they work really well, moving thousands of people every day. Good planning can minimize your time on the buses but sometimes, you just have to surrender to the fact that you’re stuck on a Disney bus. When this happens, I try to remember that even though I’m stuck, I’m still visiting the happiest place on earth.