The most important thing to decide after you determine WHEN you’re going to Disney World is WHERE you’re going to stay during your Disney holiday. The best advice I can offer: stay at a Disney property. Disney has a variety of options at every price point to accommodate your budget. While the lower cost hotels are further from the Magic Kingdom (seemingly and not shockingly the most crowded and popular of the parks in WDW), you still get the benefits of staying at a Disney resort. These benefits include access to the Extra Magic Hours where the parks are open either an hour early or a couple hours later only to those who are staying a Disney hotel. Also, you can make your Fast Pass selections 60 days in advance instead of 30 days. For those of you who don’t know what a Fast Pass is, it’s essentially a “reservation” to meet a character, see a show, or ride a ride at a set time in order to minimize waiting. The Fast Pass gives you a small window of time (an hour for some rides or character meetings and a shorter window for a show or parade).
After much debate, we opted to stay at the Contemporary Resort. With little kids who still need naps, and the Contemporary being the only hotel that is walking distance to the Magic Kingdom, the choice was an easy one. Obviously, the Contemporary doesn’t fit all budgets. But in my view, if you can afford it, it’s well worth it. Here’s why: my friends stayed at a moderate hotel called the Port Orleans Riverside. It’s a moderate hotel (not a motel-style budget place and not a deluxe resort) and the rooms were nice. BUT, my friends were beholden to a bus schedule in order to get to and from the parks. And if the bus was running late or traffic was heavy, that meant more time on the bus and less time in the parks. On the short end, the bus ride was 15 minutes from the hotel to the Magic Kingdom ; on the longer side, on two occasions, the journey was 45 minutes due to traffic and waiting.
The long wait time and/or bus ride discouraged my friends from leaving the parks in the middle of the day to have their kids nap. Thus, when the kids were “done” by mid-late afternoon, their Disney day was pretty much over. Yes, they could spend the post-nap evening at the pool, but who spends all that money to go to Disney to swim in a pool?!?! For me, it was a 10 minute walk or a 3 minute monorail ride (more on the monorail below) back to our hotel, and I could let my daughter sleep for an hour or two and then walk back into the Magic Kingdom at night and get more bang for my buck.