Staying at a Disney Hotel or Universal Resort Hotel: Is It Worth It?

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Credit: Universal (Left)

The tourism district in Orlando, Florida never ceases.

There is always something to do in the area, but the two major places that draw millions of Guests from all around the world each year are Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort.

Walt Disney World Resort is by far the largest in terms of theme parks and Resort options– with four distinct Parks in Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as two fun Water Parks in Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon– but that doesn’t mean that Universal Orlando Resort– with Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal’s Volcano Bay– doesn’t have much to offer.

Disney and Universal
Credit: Universal (right)

If you’re mulling a Resort stay at either of the two locations, here’s a look at the major benefits and things to know about staying onsite at either Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort.

Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

We’ll start our list with Walt Disney World Resort Hotel options. Walt Disney World Resort offers a plethora of options for hotel stays in four different categories: Value, Moderate, Deluxe, and Villas.

There are currently more than 25 Disney World Resort hotels to choose from in the Disney Resorts Collection, from budget-conscious accommodations to our luxurious deluxe Resort hotels, including:

pop century
Credit: Disney

What are the ‘Value’ Disney Resorts?

The ‘Value Resorts’ are: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. These hotels have distinct themes and larger-than-life decorations that set them apart. They are more budget-conscious and have the most bookings. These rooms are designed smaller and the standard room typically has two double beds.

Related:Save Up to $500 at Select Disney World Resort Hotels This Spring

ariel art of animation
Credit: Disney

What are the ‘Moderate’ Disney Resorts?

Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Cabins are considered the ‘Moderate’ Disney Resorts. These Resorts have more amenities, including larger room sizes and queen beds in the standard room, but are more costly than the Value Resorts. They are typically less busy than the Value Resorts, which also makes transportation to and from the Disney Parks a little easier.

disneys caribbean beach
Credit: Disney

What are the ‘Deluxe’ Disney Resorts?

Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Wilderness Lodge are considered the ‘Deluxe’ Resorts. These Resorts come with the most amenities, but are the most expensive. For example, a stay at Disney’s Contemporary Resort may cost more than $1,000 per night depending on what time of year you book your trip.

contemporary resort exterior
Credit: Disney

What is a Disney Partner Hotel and do you have theme park perks?

The participating Official Disney Partner Hotels are: B Resort & Spa Lake Buena Vista, Best Western Lake Buena Vista, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando, Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, Holiday Inn Orlando, Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, Waldorf Astoria Orlando Bonnet Creek, Four Seasons Resort Orlando.

Related: Disney’s Stunning New Resort Is Now Open

While most of these Resorts do not offer transportation to the Disney Parks, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel and Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, as well as Four Seasons Resort Orlando and Disney Springs Hotels do offer transportation for Guests.

Swan and Dolphin at night
Credit: Disney

Universal Orlando Resort Hotels

Universal Orlando Resort is home to eight distinct hotels that offer a little something different at each one.

These include:

  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort– Dockside Inn and Suites
  • Universal’s Endless Summer Resort– Surfside Inn and Suites
  • Universal’s Aventura Hotel
  • Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
  • Loews Sapphire Falls Resort
  • Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  • Hard Rock Hotel
  • Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Credit: Universal

Just like Disney, Universal offers three tiers of Resorts with unique benefits: Value Resorts, Prime Value Resorts, and Preferred Resorts.

The Value Resorts are Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Dockside Inn and Suites and Universal’s Endless Summer Resort – Surfside Inn and Suites. These Resorts offer transportation to and from the Universal Parks and Early Park Admission. The rooms are smaller and these are the busiest.

Related: A Complete Guide to Universal Orlando Resort Benefits

The Prime Value Resorts are Universal’s Aventura Hotel and Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. These also have transportation to and from the Parks, Early Park Admission, and have upgraded amenities.

cabana bay orlando
Credit: Universal Orlando

The Preferred Resorts are Loews Sapphire Falls Resort, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. These have the most amenities, but also cost the most. Guests who stay at Royal Pacific, Hard Rock Hotel, or Portofino Bay Hotel are also treated with Universal Unlimited Express, which allows them to bypass the regular line as often as they’d like on participating attractions.

Hard Rock Hotel
Credit: Universal

Comparing Benefits for Walt Disney World Resort & Universal Orlando Resort Stays

Both Disney World and Universal Orlando offer unique benefits for their Resort Guests that can’t be found elsewhere.

At Walt Disney World Resort, Guests are able to immerse themselves in the magic that comes with Resorts that offer the same legendary detail, care, service, and storytelling that Guests love in the Disney Parks. In addition to this unique atmosphere, the Disney Transportation System makes getting to and from the Parks– Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach, and Typhoon Lagoon– easy and convenient. Guests don’t have to wait in parking lot lines or pay to park at the theme parks.

Each Disney Resort– from Value all the way up through Deluxe– offers unique events, decorations, theming, and amenities that can’t be found elsewhere.

Credit: Disney

Right now, Disney is also offering Extending Evening Hours for select Guests. The Extended Evening Theme Park Hours are available at this time for only those staying at the Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas (as well as a few hotels that aren’t owned or operated by Disney).

Related: Disney World Adds New Park To Extended Evening Hours

Keep in mind that not all attractions are available during this time and hours are subject to change. For now through the end of March, Magic Kingdom has Extended Evening Hours on Wednesdays and EPCOT has Extended Evening Hours on Mondays.

The following attractions are the ones announced to be open during this time, which is typically either 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. depending on when the Parks close.

Magic Kingdom Park

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

EPCOT

Spaceship Earth
Credit: Disney

Why stay at a Disney World Resort Hotel? Disney’s description for benefits of staying at one of its Resorts reads:

Our unique Disney Resort hotels feature the same legendary storytelling, detail and Guest service found in the theme parks. Enjoy the ease and convenience of getting around and enjoy more time in the parks!

Over at Universal Orlando Resort, Guests are also treated to an immersive world with unique themes at each Resort Hotel.

All who stay at a Universal Orlando Resort are treated to Early Park Admission, which gives them access to select attractions in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as select others that are subject to change based on date and availability, one hour before the Park opens.

Harry Potter
Credit: Universal Studios

In addition, transportation allows Universal Orlando Resort Guests to skip finding a parking place in Universal’s CityWalk parking garage. Most hotels have buses that shuttle Guests back-and-forth, but the four premiere Resorts– Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Resort– have water taxis that take Guests directly inside of Universal’s CityWalk.

As mentioned above, if you stay at Hard Rock Hotel, Portofino, or Royal Pacific, you are given Universal Express Unlimited, which allows you to skip the regular line at participating attractions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios Florida, and Universal’s Volcano Bay.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort
Credit: Universal

The current participating attractions for Universal Express include:

Universal Studios Florida

  • The Bourne Stuntacular
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • E.T. Adventure
  • Fast & Furious – Supercharged
  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts™
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit
  • Hogwarts™ Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • MEN IN BLACK™ Alien Attack™
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • The Simpsons Ride™
  • TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D
  • Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
Credit: Universal

Universal’s Islands Of Adventure

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man®
  • Caro-Seuss-el™
  • Doctor Doom’s Fearfall®
  • Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls®
  • Flight of the Hippogriff™
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey™
  • The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride!™
  • Hogwarts™ Express (Park-to-Park admission ticket required)
  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster®
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Storm Force Accelatron®
Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure
Credit: Universal

Universal’s Volcano Bay

  • Honu of Honu ika Moana
  • ika Moana of Honu ika Moana
  • Krakatau Aqua Coaster
  • Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Punga Racers
  • Taniwha Tubes

Additional Rides Available with Express PLUS:

  • Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge
  • Ohno of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
  • Ohyah of Ohyah & Ohno Drop Slides
Credit: Universal

Why stay at a Universal Orlando Resort Hotel? Universal’s description for benefits of staying at one of its Resorts reads:

Stay in the Awesome

Hotels are too often just a place to sleep. Our hotels turn up the fun the moment you arrive and keep it coming. Exclusive theme park perks. Location oh-so-close to the parks. Accommodations that make you say “Am I really staying here?! ‘Cause wow” That’s what you get when you stay with us.

Credit: Universal

Disney Springs or CityWalk when deciding Disney vs Universal

In addition to the theme parks and Resort stays, you’ll likely want to weigh entertainment options for your stay, as well.

Both Disney and Universal have shopping and dining districts within their Resorts that can be accessed through their own transportation.

Disney Springs is massive and home to 103 shops, 64 dining options that include quick-service, table-service, and lounging, and 25 attractions that include shows and events. Some of the most popular Disney Spring shops and restaurants include World of Disney, Disney’s Days of Christmas, The LEGO Store, Basin, Super Hero Quarters, Vera Bradley, Happy Hound, Goofy’s Candy Company, Lilly Pulitzer, One Upon a Toy, Ron Jon Surf Shop, Sanuk, AMC Disney Springs Dine-In Theater, Coca-Cola Store, Earl of Sandwich, House of Blues Restaurant & Bar, Rain Forest Cafe, The BOATHOUSE, and many others.

world of disney at disney springs, night
Credit: Disney

Universal’s CityWalk is smaller than Disney Springs, but still has much to offer.

Universal’s CityWalk is located in the same area as Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Guests walk through CityWalk to get to the Parks. This means that the restaurants, shops, and attractions are just a short walk away when you finish your day at the Park.

Hard Rock Cafe, Bigfire American Fare, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium, Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, Margaritaville, Bob Marley: A Tribute To Freedom, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. are all restaurants you’ll find at CityWalk. There are also other fun experiences and attractions like the Universal Studios Store, Universal Studios Tribute Store, Hollywood Drive-In Golf, Universal Cinemark movie theater, as well as dance clubs and much more.

Credit: Universal

No matter which you choose, it’s clear that the entire family will have plenty to enjoy at both Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort when it comes to entertainment.

When is the best time to visit Disney World or Universal Orlando?

Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have something going on all year-round.

While there used to seemingly be a “slow season” where crowds would drop during the winter and for a short portion in the fall after the summer, this does not seem to be the case anymore.

mickey mouse in front of cinderella castle
Credit: Disney

During the holidays, both Disney World and Universal have unique decorations that are sure to take your breathe away. Universal hosts three major events during the year– Mardi Gras Celebration, Halloween Horror Nights, and Holidays at Universal Orlando– while Disney also has major seasonal offerings, including the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, Halloween at Walt Disney World, and Holidays at Walt Disney World.

Universal Orlando Mardi Gras
Credit; Universal

No matter what time of year you choose to go, know that there will be plenty for the entire family to enjoy whether that be through attractions, experiences, entertainment, and special events!

Have you stayed at both Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort? What tips would you give? Let us know in the comments.

Let the expert team at Academy Travel help you plan your next magical vacation to Walt Disney World Resort’s four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios — and the Disney Springs shopping and dining district! Or, how about Disneyland Resort for a trip to enjoy Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure? 

If you want to visit Universal Orlando Resort, you can today! Click here to get your vacation started! You can go to Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, then eat some dinner and grab a drink at CityWalk. Want to take a splash? Volcano Bay is ready for you. With so many fun events like Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights, and more, Universal will give you an action-packed adventure like you are in the movies and don’t forget about the epic Wizarding World of Harry Potter! The Epic Universe, Universal’s newest theme park, is also under construction and slated to be finished in 2025. Or, how about a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood to experience the movies?

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