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Choosing which Disney resort is right for you (and your pocketbook)

/ Source: a href="" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true"><p>The Washington Post</p></a

Disney owns and operates 22 resorts, from bare-bones to ultra-chic. To help vacation planners, the entertainment behemoth labels its properties Value, Moderate, Deluxe or Home Away from Home (units with kitchens). Stay on campus and you can use the WDW transportation system (or park for free if you drive among the parks); enter some parks earlier than the off-campus rabble; charge everything to your room; and generally have an easier time booking activities and making restaurant reservations. Details: 407-939-6244,

In addition, seven chain-run resorts ( sit near Dowtown Disney; while they don't have the same flourishes, you can use the Disney buses to get around. Here's how the hotels break down, and what you can expect.

Value Resorts:
: Rates from $77 a night double.
Best for: Cheapskates who want on-campus perks but don’t care about thread count and deluxe dining.
Hotels: Pop Century, All-Star Movies, All-Star Music, All-Star Sports.
What to expect: Disney's bargain-basement rooms are small and bland, with few ammenities (e.g. no hair dryers) and cheap linens. Properties have uninspired pools and crowded food courts instead of restaurants. Giant sculpted icons like Big Wheels and a "101 Dalmatians" pup try (with only partial success) to zip things up.

Moderate Resorts:
: Rates from $134 a night double.
Best for: Families and couples willing to splurge a bit for lodging with a lot of nice touches, inside and out.
Hotels: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, Port Orleans Resort Riverside.
What to expect: Perhaps Disney's best value, the Moderates feature larger rooms with nicer furniture, more amenities and snazzier pools, plus better-realized themes (the French Quarter oozes Crescent City charm, complete with Nawlins-style facades). All but the French Quarter have full-service restaurants.

Deluxe Resorts:
: Rates from $199 a night double.
Best for: Big spenders who want to see giraffes from their rooms each morning (Animal Kingdom Lodge) or watch monorails zip through the lobby (Contemporary).
Hotels: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Contemporary, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian, Wilderness, Yacht Club. Disney lumps the Dolphin and Swan properties into this category, but they're operated by Starwood.
What to expect: These are the cream of the Disney crop, with the Mouse theme machine in full throttle (the Beach Club and Yacht Club look like New England seaside grande dames, the Polynesian is Hawaii-lite, etc.) All have multiple restaurants (no need to settle for mass-produced burgers), plush rooms, grand lobbies, posh pools and/or beaches and facilities such as health clubs and tennis courts.

Home away from home
Prices: Rooms/cabins from $234 a night double, campsites from $38.
Best for: Those who've always dreamed of living at Disney World—and don't mind cooking while on vacation.
Hotels: Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, Beach Club Villas, Board-Walk Villas, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Old Key West and the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
What to expect: Great for families and groups, the HAFH collection features Disney's largest units, which have kitchens or kitchenettes and (in many cases)multiple bedrooms; lodging includes condos, cabins, multilevel villas and cottages. The 784 campsites at Fort Wilderness get high marks from the under-the-sky set.

Downtown Disney resort
: Rates very widely, but $100-plus a night isn't uncommon.
Best for: Mile hounds and affinity club members who want to be on Disney property and accumulate points.
Hotels: Hilton, Holiday Inn, Royal Plaza, Doubletree Guest Suites, Best Western Lake Buena Vista, Wyndham Palace, Grosvenor.
What to expect: Often cheaper than the Disney conterparts, these large but relatively flare-free hotels are clumped on the resort's edge near Downtown Disney. You can use Disney buses to shuttle around, but overall fewer WDW ammenities apply (one exception: Hilton guests can get into the parks earlier). Several hotels back up to 1-4, so ask for a room without an asphalt view.

Part 6: Choosing the right Disney resort for you