My family and I purchased into Disney Vacation Club right after my son turned 1. Even though my husband and I had been coming to Walt Disney World since we were kids, we realized that having amenities such as a kitchen was a game changer and made our trips much more enjoyable.
In researching our first visit as DVC members, I read so many articles and blog posts about best DVC resorts for families. However, now with 8 DVC stays under our belt, I realize that “families” doesn’t necessarily mean a family with a toddler. And traveling with a toddler makes things very different. So, with that said, this list may be controversial. These are not my personal top 5 DVC resorts, these are my top 5 simply because I am traveling with a toddler.
So how did I come up with this list? Well, there are many factors, but simply put, resorts with a playground and/or community hall are among our favorites. In my opinion, a resort with a playground is a must when traveling with preschoolers and toddlers. There are times when you need to let your little ones burn off their excess energy at a playground. We realized this more than ever last December at the Polynesian. We had a planned resort day and it was too cold for the pool. We quickly found there was not much else for our son to do at the resort except play in the sand near the waterfront. So, we ended up going to the Magic Kingdom and going to the Dumbo playground JUST so my son could play. Not really ideal.
I will also add that in considering this list, I am using a deluxe studio villa to compare all resorts since that is the most popular room category.
If you haven’t stayed at the original DVC resort, you are missing out. This has quickly become one of our favorite resorts…when staying in a one bedroom. However, the studio is less than ideal when traveling with a toddler, as it’s the only studio that has 2 Queen beds. Not a deal breaker, as my son will happily sleep in a queen bed, but this does drop it down a bit on our list. The studio rooms do have a lot of space to roam around even with the 2 beds.
However, this resort has other great amenities that keeps it in the Top 5. Several pools throughout the property. The main pool has a great slide and a playground attached. There is a community hall at the Hospitality House and several other playgrounds throughout the resort.
The other downside is that the only free transportation to the parks is a bus. If you asked me two years ago which was more important, proximity to the parks or a playground I would have said the first no question. Now with a 3 ½ year old, a playground is BY FAR more important to us.
Now we LOVE the Poly. It was a dream of ours to stay here and somehow I was able to get 9 nights in a standard studio villa last December even though we do not own here. We loved our stay. The monorail was great. Many times we would walk to the TTC and take the monorail or ferry straight from there which we found more convenient than walking to the ceremonial house. The pool and splash pad is amazing. My son isn’t a big fan of splash pads, but this one he loved. However, during our 9 night stay, there was only one morning where the weather was decent enough for us to use it. We had planned for several resort days which we had to improvise because there was simply NOTHING for our son to do. No playground, no community hall, just the beach area where he could play in the sand. We did this one morning and he quickly got bored.
The rooms however are awesome. The two bathrooms made it easy to get ready in the morning and the murphy bed was perfect for our son. We tend to do 1 bedrooms during our long December stay, but with organization, this studio was great and we didn’t feel cramped.
Obviously, the proximity to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot via the Monorail is a huge plus for this resort and yes it was amazing. This was especially true the morning we did Early Morning Magic. However, in the afternoon, the monorail was less predictable and many times I felt a bus from another resort would have been faster. But not having to fold up the stroller is always a plus. We will stay here again, yes, but probably for more park intensive, shorter trips. If you have a longer vacation planned during the winter months or rainy season, just be aware that you will have limited of options on how to entertain your toddler.
I’m pretty sure I am going to get a lot of push back for putting this resort so high on my list, but it has many of the features I feel are needed when traveling with a toddler such as a splash pad, playgrounds and a community hall. The major downsides for this resort is how large it is and that the only free transportation option to the parks is a bus, so it may be worth the extra points to get a preferred view room to be closer to Disney Springs. Disney Springs is also only a walk or boat ride away.
However, even with these downsides, I still think it ranks high when traveling with a toddler, especially if you have planned resort days. There are plenty of options for activities even if weather does not cooperate. Also, the large open spaces give a toddler some room to just run. This, combined with the new room refurbishments going on now, makes it my #3.
We recently returned from a staycation at Animal Kingdom Villas and it was amazing. We did end up going into the parks one night (because we couldn’t resist). However, we easily could have stayed at the resort and never left. Personally, we prefer Jambo House over Kidani Village, but I think either resort is great with a toddler and since amenities are shared, I will group them together as the #2 Best DVC resort for families with toddlers. Both resorts have fabulous pools and Kidani has an amazing splash pad if your child likes them (ours does not). Kidani also has a nice mini slide which is perfect for toddlers and doesn’t require the parents to walk up and down with them….BONUS! The slide at Jambo House is smaller but has been one of our son’s favorites. We also loved it because since we could see him from the pool the whole time, it didn’t require us to go up with him once he got the hang of it.
Both resorts have their own playgrounds and Kidani Village has a community hall. There are numerous activities to do throughout the day such as animal tracking and a primal parade which is a favorite of our son’s. The only real downside to this resort is its proximity to the parks and that a bus is the only free transportation option available. So for shorter, park intensive trips, this is probably not the best resort.
Oh and the animals! Both times we have stayed here, we have booked standard view rooms. Yet both times, we had partial savanna views. We were not upgraded, there are just some standard rooms that do sit on the savanna. However, even without a savanna view, animals can be viewed throughout the resort, so never feel like a savanna view is an absolute MUST.
I have often heard that the Boardwalk is a resort best suited for couples, but I would also add families with toddlers to that list. This resort has it all, a playground, a kiddie pool and a community hall. That combined with being walking distance to both Epcot AND Hollywood Studios makes it our favorite resort to stay at. Our son absolutely loves the clown slide and will go up and down it for hours if we let him. The playground is also the perfect place for him to expel some energy before heading to dinner at one of the many Epcot restaurants. And of course, there is Village Green, the wide-open green space located near the Boardwalk. Often you will see a dozen kids just running and playing in this open area. Then there’s the community hall. During a visit in April, it was pouring rain and my son was restless in our room. I was so thankful to have a space like the community hall to go to. A simple 5-minute walk from our room and our son was doing arts and crafts for a nominal fee. Another added bonus at the Boardwalk are kid sized murphy beds under the TV in the studios. These are the perfect size for a toddler and fold up easily when not in use.
I often see people recommend Bay Lake Tower as the best resort for a family with a toddler and I respectively disagree. Yes, it is walking distance to the Magic Kingdom which is AMAZING! However, keep in mind that I am basing my rankings on studio villas. That is the biggest downside of Bay Lake Tower for us and why we won’t stay in a studio villa here again when traveling with our son. We felt completely claustrophobic. The studios are the smallest on property and their layout makes them feel even smaller. We were fortunate to be on the ground floor and opened the patio door to let our son run around a bit. For a couple though, I think they are great.
There is also no playground, however there is a community hall which we did enjoy. The pool is decent with no theming, but our toddler could care less about theming. If I were basing these rankings on 1 bedrooms, this resort would probably rank #3 or #4, but if you have a toddler, I do not recommend this resort if staying in a studio.
Now, the Beach Club is personally our favorite resort. We stayed here when my son was 14 months and again at 2 (26 months). However, it was during the second stay when we realized that this resort is geared more towards older kids (and kids at heart). Stormalong Bay is incredible. However, it’s just okay for toddlers. The toddler area is across the walkway near the lake and our son had no interest in it. Also, the slide is huge which is great if your children are older and can go by themselves. Not so much if you need to go with them. It’s also pretty scary for toddlers.
Obviously, the Beach Club is within walking distance to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, but again, there are no playgrounds and no community hall. We can’t wait to stay at Beach Club again, but we will do so when our son is older (and hopefully can get a reservation at the 7 month mark).
So do you agree? disagree? What are your favorite resorts to stay at with a toddler?