The trend in families has moved from two children to three. This offers a unique problem when taking a Walt Disney World vacation; most resort rooms only accommodate four people by order of the fire marshal. So what is a family of 5 (or more) to do? They must choose one of the following options for their Disney World vacation.
Two Rooms Anywhere
This seems rather obvious. Of course you may book more than one room at any resort. It can get rather expensive if you choose some of the higher rated (deluxe or even moderate) resorts. Most people who choose this option prefer to do this at any of the value resorts: Pop Century, All Stars Sports, All Stars Movies, or All Stars Music. This means that a family of up to 8 will be able to stay. If you choose certain higher end resort rooms, up to 10 people may be accommodated.
There are two things of importance to note whenever booking two rooms, regardless of the resort. First, you must ask for “connecting rooms.” If you ask for adjoining rooms, your rooms might be next to each other, but there might not be a door between them giving you a connecting room. Only a limited number of rooms at Walt Disney World connect to another room.
This leads to the second important thing. Connecting rooms, even when requested, are NOT guaranteed. Disney will do their best to honor all requests, but it is not always possible; the number of connecting rooms is limited. Priority will be first given to those that have only one adult aged 18 or more in their traveling party. Next, requests will be honored for those that have more children than adults. After that, it is simply luck of the draw; it does not matter how much you are paying or how long ago you made your reservation.
Port Orleans French Quarter Alligator Bayou
A little known secret is that the moderate resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, has a few rooms in the Alligator Bayou section that will sleep 5. There are two double beds and a small trundle bed. The trundle bed will only accommodate a child; Disney will not book it for teenagers or adults.
All Stars Music Family Suites
The family suites located in the All Stars Music Resort at Disney in the Jazz Inn and Calypso buildings can accommodate up to 6 people. These suites are basically connecting rooms that have been converted. There is one bedroom with a queen bed. There is also a pull-out couch and a convertible ottoman and chair sleeper in the living room. The benefit to the family suites is that you have two TVs, two bathrooms and a small kitchenette (microwave, sink and a dorm-sized refrigerator). You also do not need to worry about whether or not you will get connecting rooms. Connecting family suites are not available.
Art of Animation Resort
This is a new resort with a summer 2012 opening; booking began the summer 2011. It has been built from the ground up to be all family suites and each suite will sleep up to 6 people. Each suite will feature a separate master bedroom with one bed and then a living room with three other sleeping areas (all convertible furniture—including a dining/work table). There will be two bathrooms, two TVs and a kitchenette in each suite. The unique twist on these suites is that each suite is themed around a movie. There are 864 suites dedicated to The Little Mermaid. The remaining 1,120 suites are split between The Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo. Connecting suites are not available.
Fort Wilderness Cabins
Located in one of the most family orientated resorts, Fort Wilderness Campgrounds are cabins that sleep up to 6 people. Each cabin is a standalone building, or rather, a small trailer made to look like a cabin. Each Cabin has a private bedroom with one full bed and two bunk beds that will sleep four people total. Additionally, there is a separate living room with a pull down full size Murphy bed that will sleep another two people. As a bonus, there is a couch in the living room and you have access to a full size kitchen complete with microwave, oven, stovetop, dishwasher (housekeeping will do the dishes for you!) and a full-size refrigerator. The kitchen table and chairs comfortably seat 6 people at once.
Perks to the cabins continue outside. Guests staying in the cabins have a large private deck with a picnic table. There is also a BBQ grill for you to use. Parking for the cabins is located steps from your door. Each cabin is several feet from the next cabin offering the ultimate experience in privacy.
Many of the deluxe resorts also sleep 5 in a single room. The deluxe resorts that do so are The Grand Floridian, The Contemporary, The Polynesian, Boardwalk Inn, The Beach Club, and The Yacht Club. Deluxe resorts are highly themed, offer a higher level of service/amenities, and are usually located closer to the theme parks than the value and moderate resorts. The deluxe resorts also offer a variety of special suites. A basic room can be over $300 per night in value season to over $2000 per night for specialty suites.
Disney Vacation Club Resorts
Disney also offers Deluxe Villas which are part of their Disney Vacation Club (DVC) program. You do not need to be a DVC owner to stay in these resort rooms at Disney World. There are separate villas located at the following resorts: The Beach Club, The Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Boardwalk Inn. Bay Lake Towers is located next to The Contemporary Resort. Additionally, there are two standalone DVC properties—Old Key West Resort and Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa.
Each DVC property offers a small studio up to a three bedroom grand villa. Saratoga Springs also offers the unique choice of a three bedroom tree house. The studios only sleep four, except at Bay Lake Towers and some Animal Kingdom Villas. They are just a general room with a kitchenette. One bedroom villas sleep 4 people at The Beach Club Villas, The Villas at Wilderness Lodge, and Saratoga Springs and the Villas at Boardwalk Inn. A two bedroom villa at these resorts sleeps up to 8 people. Animal Kingdom Villas, Bay Lake Towers and Old Key West Resort all sleep 5 people in a one bedroom villa and 9 in a two bedroom villa. All three bedroom villas sleep up to 12 people.
The tree houses at Saratoga Springs can offer a nice price break because they are three bedrooms, but cost the same as the two bedroom villas. You have two options for reserving and paying for DVC rooms. You can book directly with Disney and pay the published rate (unless able to obtain a discount) or you may “rent” DVC points from a DVC owner.
Renting points is a rather simple process, but does take a leap of faith. Owners are allowed to “rent” out the points for non-DVC owners to use. In a nutshell, based on availability, you enter into a contract with an owner to pay x amount of dollars per point. The number of points depends on where you are staying and when. Each villa, depending on the calendar, costs a certain amount of points. Points usually rent for $8 - $13 per point. There are a couple of rental point companies that can help you in obtaining DVC points, or you can search around message boards looking for an individual owner. Payment is usually due 4 – 8 weeks prior to your check-in date. It’s always a wise idea to check-out the DVC owner. Renting points is usually a much more cost effective way for non-owners to stay in DVC accommodations.
Remember when deciding on where to stay, at a Walt Disney World Resort, one child under the age of three years old does not count towards your room occupancy numbers. If you have multiple children (twins or triplets, for example) under the age of three, any past the first child (the second, third, fourth, etc child) will count in your room occupancy limits.
Of course, taking a Walt Disney World vacation does not mean you have to stay onsite. Larger families often choose to stay in a hotel or vacation home offsite, near Disney. There are lots of advantages to staying offsite. You frequently get a lot more room for a lot less money, and can be closer to Disney theme parks than value or moderate resorts. Staying offsite should seriously be considered.