Question: My family of six is planning our first trip to Disney World, and we're so excited! We're driving from Pennsylvania with our four kids (ages 5 to 9). We want to stay at a Disney World resort that can accommodate our large family in one room. We would rather stay together and not have to get a second room. We were thinking of staying at Beach Club Villas, but then I read about the new Art of Animation resort. Would that be a better choice for us? -- Gloria from West Deer, PA
Answer: As a mother of three, I know where you're coming from. The hotel industry seems to have decided that a standard room should accommodate four people, which can make larger families feel like they're out in the cold. Luckily, many family-friendly brands are coming to understand that larger families need options, too. A great example is Disney's new Art of Animation Resort, which was built as a response to families who want to see more rooms that slept six people. When complete, this brand-new resort will offer 1,120 family suites and 864 standard rooms for families of four.
Let's start with the big picture. There are several lodging options for larger families visiting Disney World, at different price points and levels of luxury. The most luxe and priciest are Disney's deluxe villa properties, which offer plush suites with fully-equipped kitchens. The villa floorplans and maximum occupancies differ by property, so it pays to compare properties to find a floorplan and price tag that works for your family. For example, at the Animal Kingdom Villas at Jambo House, a one-bedroom villa sleeps up to five (from $575 per night); at the Beach Club Villas, a two-bedroom villa sleeps up to eight people (from $800 per night). Compare those options to the Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort, a one-bedroom villa that sleeps five (from $515 per night). A two-bedroom villa that sleeps nine starts at $700 per night.
In the moderate category, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort (from $285 per night) can accommodate up to six people, with a double bed and bunk bed in one bedroom and a pull-down double bed in the living area. Each cabin has a fully-equipped kitchen, including a full-size fridge, stove, and dishwasher.
Last month I got a sneak peek at the brand-new Art of Animation Resort, a value-category property that will open officially at the end of this month. For moms like me with more than two kids, the most compelling reason to choose this resort is that its suites can accommodate up to six people. Enjoy three sleeping areas and two bathrooms -- all at prices that begin at $249 per night. (Standard rooms for families of four will be available by mid-September, starting around $100 per night.)
For larger families on a budget, the Art of Animation Resort is the new go-to choice at Disney World. While not as luxurious as the deluxe villas, the Art of Animation Resort delivers a more immersive Disney experience, bringing guests right into film storylines without sacrificing attention to detail.
This resort pays homage to the art of animation by focusing on four beloved Disney and Disney/Pixar films from recent years: Finding Nemo, Cars, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King. I just love the enormous wall in the lobby devoted to concept art from the films.
The four sections of the resort will roll out as follows: Finding Nemo Family Suites on May 31; Cars Family Suites on June 18; Lion King Family Suites on Aug. 10; and Little Mermaid Standard Rooms on Sept. 15. The resort is already accepting bookings for suites and rooms in every film theme.
Families who love these films will appreciate that the suites are highly themed, but also highly functional, with a smart use of space. In the Finding Nemo Family Suites, for instance, you'll find custom sea-inspired carpet and fun jellyfish lamps alongside flatscreen TVs, kitchenettes, and dining areas that transform into sleeping quarters with a Murphy bed.
So much of the fun happens in the pool courtyards. Each section of the resort has its own pool area with incredible theming around one of the four films. The Finding Nemo courtyard has the largest pool at any Disney World resort, with oversized characters and sculptures to make guests feel Nemo-sized. The coolest thing about this pool? Swimmers can hear the voices of Dory, Crush, and other characters through the underwater sound system.
If you want the resort that offers large families the most bang for their bucks, I would definitely go with the Art of Animation Resort. Please let me know what you decide.
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