When are Disney World Monorail Resorts Worth the Price?

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Last year I indulged a decades-old travel dream and stayed at the Walt Disney World Polynesian Village Resort that is located right on the Disney monorail loop. We could get to the Magic Kingdom by just hopping on the crowd-pleasing monorail and between trips into the parks, we got to enjoy one of the original resorts imagined by Walt himself. I quickly realized this was a dangerous decision and warned others to stay away. That warning wasn’t because of anything that the deluxe monorail resort did wrong, it was because of everything it did right. After years of staying at other hotels in the Walt Disney World area in order to use hotel points or keep costs down, after our first night at the Polynesian, I knew I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere other than a Disney monorail resort in the near future.

 

The Polynesian Village Resort

Fast forward about nine months and I am again strongly considering another summer trip to Walt Disney World this year, and while my budget would strongly prefer I stay somewhere like the Art of Animation, or Caribbean Beach Resort, or use hotel points at the Disney Dolphin or nearby Hyatt Grand Cypress, my head and heart simply don’t want to do that. I know just how magical Disney can be with young kids when you stay at a monorail resort, and now I’m in a quandary of making Disney even more expensive or staying somewhere that I don’t really want to be.

While prices do vary and there are some ways to save a lot of money when staying at a deluxe monorail resort, it can easily cost double to triple the amount to stay at a monorail resort such as Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, or Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, over some of other Disney Resorts or area hotels. I’ve only personally stayed at the Polynesian Village Resort, but I think much of that experience would translate into similar stays at the Contemporary or Floridian, so here are some examples of when staying at a Disney monorail may be worth the extra cost.

Disney Monorail Resorts are more worth it for young families

So when would it be worth it to pay 2x – 3x the price of staying at another Disney hotel just to stay at a deluxe resort on the monorail? If you are working with a very large budget, then just go for it and don’t look back as you are in for a treat staying at a cream of the crop Disney hotel in a great location. However, if you are considering it, but the $350 – $600 per night going rate to stay at one of these resorts will be a real hit to your bottom line, then to me, it primarily comes down to the ages of your kids and what you plan to do at Disney World.

Little kids (and tired parents) just can’t do full days in the parks and will likely need to retreat to the hotel for a nap at some point unless you plan to just keep going while they pass out in the stroller. Even if your child is beyond the age where they reliably take an afternoon nap at home, by the second or third day or your Disney trip, they will probably need an afternoon nap because of all the excitement and activities. Being able to just walk back to your hotel or push the stroller on to an air-conditioned monorail makes it feel like much less of a chore to work in an afternoon nap or swim than schlepping around on a bus.

I have a two and an eight-year-old, and I think that if I was only traveling with the eight-year-old we would probably be just beyond the point where I think the monorail resorts are absolutely worth it, as hopping on and off a bus with her is not a big deal and an afternoon nap is not always essential. However, with my two-year-old, I absolutely think we are in the sweet spot where spending the extra money to stay at a monorail resort pays off in terms of increased convenience.

We will be spending a good part of our Disney time at the Magic Kingdom and being able to just walk back to nap at the Contemporary whenever we wanted would be worth the extra in my mind, especially for a shorter trip. The same can be said about retreating to bed as soon as we are finished in the park in the evening. There is no magic cut-off age when it isn’t worth it to stay at the monorail resorts, but I think by about the time your youngest kid is in first or second grade, the advantage of being so close to the Magic Kingdom is often not worth quite as high a premium as before that time.

Disney Monorail Resorts are more worth it for trips to the Magic Kingdom

Of course, how easy it is to get back to a monorail resort all depends on where you are spending your Disney days since Walt Disney World is a large and spread out place. If you plan to spend a good chunk of your time at the Magic Kingdom, and to a lesser extent EPCOT, then the monorail resorts have a distinct location advantage since getting there on a monorail ride is way more fun and efficient than a bus. Additionally, you can easily walk to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary and getting to EPCOT from the Polynesian is a simple short walk and then a monorail ride. If you are spending a good bit of your time away from those parks, then the location advantage drops significantly.

Disney Monorail Resorts are more worth it on shorter trips

Another factor to consider when determining if the monorail resorts are worth it is how long is your trip. If you are going to be at Disney World for at least five to seven days, then you have more time to work with and probably won’t need to cram quite as much into each day. In that case, staying at a hotel a little further from the parks isn’t as big of a deal. Additionally, the cost to stay at a monorail resort for two or three nights is obviously less than for a full week. I think the monorail resorts get an edge on being worth it for shorter trips when every Disney minute counts a little bit more.

Disney Monorail Resorts are more worth it for special Disney trips

While we didn’t mean for this to happen, my family takes a trip Disney World at least every year or two, so there is not going to be a just one “once in a lifetime” Disney trip for us. However, if you do plan to take just one Disney trip with your family, and you want to spend at least part of your time at a monorail resort, then that is a worthy goal. Take your one shot and make it as magical as possible! You don’t even have to spend your full time at a monorail resort, but instead could align your nights at a monorail property with when you are at the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT, and then move to a different property for your days at the Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

If I’m being honest, it isn’t just the location that makes the monorail resorts special. When we are at the Polynesian, it is like we were in another world. I know that all of the Disney Resorts are strong on theming, but some themes are stronger than others. This resort specifically one was one of Walt’s initial visions and the lava pools, the tropical music, the view of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, the evening Electrical Water Pageant, and the food, oh my gosh the food, were all just beyond anything else I had experienced in the Disney World area. Frankly, we needed time just to be at the resort instead of the parks because it was that good.

The Minnie Van factor

There is a new variable to consider if the main reason you are considering a monorail resort is for convenience, and that is the Minnie Van factor. The Minnie Vans were introduced in 2017, but are only growing in popularity and availability. Minnie Vans can take up to six people, including two complimentary car seats, pretty much anywhere on Disney property, including right up to the Magic Kingdom for a flat $25. If you are staying at an eligible Disney property, this means no waiting for crowded buses, or extra stops, and instead, having private, cool, safe, and comfortable ride directly to where you want to go.

If you used a Minne Van coming and going to the parks, then for $50 per day you can have much of the convenience of the monorail resorts for a much smaller price. Even if you used it for two round trips per day, you would still often be saving over the premium cost of staying at a monorail resort. It wasn’t around yet on our last visit, but I’ve heard nothing but good things from those who have used the service.

However, there is a little catch. The Minnie Vans are currently only available at the deluxe Walt Disney World resorts and Old Key West. The Deluxe resorts include: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, BoardWalk, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and the Yacht Club. Word is that the deluxe villas and Disney Vacation Club resorts will be the next ones served by the Minnie Vans. If or when the Minnie Vans do become available at the value and moderate resorts, that could tip the scales for the monorails not being worth it as often for families who were primarily looking for added convenience getting to and from the parks.

The monorail reliability factor

A final thing to factor into your decision making on whether the monorail resorts are worth the added cost is that the monorail is getting older and isn’t always functioning at 100%. This was not a problem on our stay, but I have heard reports from people who paid the big bucks to stay at a monorail resort only to find that the monorail was frequently not working as intended on their stay and was not a totally reliable way to get to and from the parks.

When are the Disney World Monorail Resorts worth the price?

So, when are the Disney World monorail resorts worth the added price? Of course, that is a very subjective decision and the honest answer is sometimes they are just simply out of range due to their high cost. That’s okay as there are many ways to enjoy Walt Disney World without staying at a resort on the monorail. However, if you can make the budget work, they are most worth it when the kids are younger, your trip is shorter, you are spending more of your time in the Magic Kingdom, and you just want the cream-of-the-crop, all-in, Disney World experience, just as Walt intended.

My girls enjoying Disney Magic at The Poly

I hope to stay at the Contemporary for our short trip this summer so we can quickly and easily get in and out of Magic Kingdom and make the most of our time at one of the happiest places on earth. Unless we stumble on a lower than anticipated rate, we will likely rent Disney Vacation Club points to keep costs as low as possible during a peak travel time. To learn more about our stay on the monorail at the Polynesian, you can watch the video below or read this article comparing a standard room to a deluxe studio.

Is staying at a Disney monorail resort ever worth it to your family? If it is sometimes worth the cost, what all plays into how you make that decision?

 

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The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. We own the DVC timeshare and our home resort is Bay Lake Tower (at the Contemporary). While not the most themed resort, being able to walk from the Magic Kingdom to back to the room in 5 minutes is priceless w/ little guys. We’ve used points to stay at both Polynesian and Grand Floridian and being on the monorail is really great. The only time we don’t is when we do our adult trips during Food and Wine, when we stay at Boardwalk Resort.

    The best way to experience the monorail at a lower cost is to rent DVC points. The main broker that does this is David’s rentals https://www.dvcrequest.com/. They charge a set charge per point and each room type/resort requires a different amount. Just as an example, let say you want to stay September 1-8. If David has point availability at Bay Lake Tower in a lake view studio, the all in cost is $1975 ($282/night). The same nights thru Disney are $503-Polynesian, $488-Bay Lake Tower, $456-Contemporary, and $632-Grand Floridian. Those Disney prices DO NOT include tax. Renting points can save a ton!

    The key is to make the request for points EARLY! DVC, like other timeshares, has booking windows for owners of a specific resort. The earlier you can get David a request the better the chance of getting filled. I would suggest booking a REFUNDABLE cash/points booking while waiting for your request to come thru. Also, some of the DVC room types are very hard to get…even as owners booking on day 1 of the booking window. Even though it’s cheaper, the Bay LAke Tower Standard View is almost impossible to rent where as the lake view is much more widely available.

    The Disboards.com DVC forum is a wealth of knowledge in all things Disney and DVC, so check there to for tips on renting points.

  2. I agree. I’ve only stayed at a monorail resort once (for my high school graduation trip) and it was a magical experience. I haven’t been able to swing it since then but I know it would be a huge advantage with having to get four kids to and from MK so I am hoping for the day we can do it! Staying at the Grand Floridian is a definite bucket list item for me!

  3. We stayed at the Polynesian on our last trip and may never go back to moderate resorts again. For families with young ones, the ability to go from your room to the Magic Kingdom (or vice versa) without collapsing the stroller is fantastic for those mid-day breaks.

    Plus, you can get Dole Whip (with or without alcohol) at the Polynesian.

  4. It can be worth it when you rent points from DVC so that the cost is no more that what a Disney Moderate would cost. Or if you get an agency exclusive deal from Magical Vacations Travel (and no, I’m not associated with them in any way, other than being a customer).

    I have to say, afternoon naps can make all the difference to older kids and adults as well as younger ones, especially in the hotter months. Not only are you refreshed and de-grumpified for late night fireworks, you’re also napping during the most crowded part of the day.

    If you don’t need a car seat, you can take a LOT of Uber and Lyft rides for the price difference between a Deluxe resort and all other options (including out-of-the-world).

  5. My kids are almost-8 and 6 and we have been to WDW a number of times staying at Pop Century. We made it work, but I think for our next WDW vacation (in 2020, which we are thinking might be the last for a while) we will splurge and stay at the Contemporary. Looking forward in following your trip planning journey on how to save money.

    • We’ve staying at Pop Century many times. Maybe my kids are weird, but they almost like it better than some of the deluxe resorts and have been asking if we could stay there again. They have a nice food court and a great arcade. I like how they have you line up for the buses so there isn’t the mad scramble when a bus pulls up. Our problem is that the room is getting a little tight for our family of four at this point.

      • Then my kids are weird too because they also love Pop Century 🙂 I didn’t know that other resorts don’t have to line up for the buses, and I can see how that can be chaotic! I also agree that the room is getting tight for our family too. Double beds just won’t do anymore. This is one of the main reasons that we are upgrading for our next trip.

  6. Back in 2010 we stayed at the concierge in the Polynesian and we had a blast. One of the few places that could handle 3 kids with a small bed for the 3rd. At that time I had a 40% off code due to the recession. All the stars aligned for that trip and we could afford to splurge at that time. Since then the kids have grown up and the prices of just about everything Disney has skyrocketed to the point that staying at the deluxe resorts are prohibitive for families of 5 or more.

    There is no doubt, however, with smaller children who want to see magic kingdom the most that a monorail resort will make the trip most pleasant and memorable.

    I never heard about the Minnie Van. I would have certainly used that to avoid some of the harder connections during our trip back then.

  7. I stayed at Boardwalk last month with my mom, 1 year old, and 2 year old and taking the bus with a stroller sucks. You have to hold the kids and collapse the stroller which also means taking all of your junk out of the stroller. It’s as bad as going through airport security. Going to Epcot wasn’t as bad because you don’t have to collapse the stroller on the boat. Staying at a monorail resort would be soooo much easier.

  8. We did WDW in Jan, Apr, and Dec last year (It was a weird year, and we won’t be going again for a while!). We had several previous trips, all offsite condos.

    Jan we did Polynesian as part of a 12-strong contingent. Can’t be beat, but tough to justify the $$.

    Apr was Hyatt Grand Cypress on points, just me and my wife. Very nice place, lots of activities, but I always felt like I was missing the ‘Disney.’ I don’t know why…anywhere else in the wolrd and I would’ve been 100% happy there.

    Dec, we did one night park view at Contemporary, then moved to Caribbean Beach. That was a mistake! NEVER do the good room first! 🙂

    We were able to get a Minnie Van from CBR, no problem. I’ve heard it’s only when they’re ‘available,’ will they go to a Mod. I’ve also heard they are expanding the service to all Mods.

    We also used regular Uber/Lyft quite a bit, and it was great for everything except MK. They still drop you at TTC, so you still have to boat/monorail to get to Main St. But for the most part, much better than the buses, and I had a $5 off coupon for 5 rides, so some of them were only $3-4.

    Happy planning, but I am glad I don’t have to do another one of those trips for a while….getting tired just thinking about the planning!

  9. We stayed Garden Wing at the Contemporary. Walking was nice but the hotel was very meh.
    Much prefer any of the Epcot area resorts but we spend a lot more time at Epcot. Magic Kingdom is just too much for me after about 1-2 PM.

  10. A couple extra suggestions:

    Citi prestige card gets 4th night free at the Disney resorts and stacks with other room discounts and free dining. That may help close the cost gap esp if DVC points aren’t an option.

    A couple times, we have done the first or the last four nights at the monorail resort. During those days we go only to Magic Kingdom or Epcot. We then move to another offsite resort with points and visit AK, HS, water park, Disney springs…

  11. When I was looking for a hotel last year, Contemporary had a great price that was showing thru UR for $379/night that we could have used our Reserve card to purchase but decided to go with the Beach Club. I haven’t seen the Poly/GF go down to that price range where UR may not make sense especially in light of Magical Vacations Travel. We used them for our November trip and the price is substantially lower anywhere else. With that, we thought Poly was going to be tops of our list but, we find ourselves staying at the Beach/Yacht club area on the past couple of trips. Next month, we have the Swan booked on points. While it would be nice to stay on the monorail for MK, the walking to 2 parks and continuing thru Epcot to hop on the monorail to MK seals the deal for us. Then we use the Minnie Vans on the trips back to the epcot resort area. It will be curious to see how popular the Minnie Vans stay with their $5 cost increase.

  12. I’ll be a dissenting voice and say that I don’t think it’s worth it. For the last 13 years, we’ve made multiple WDW trips a year, have been annual passholders more years than I can count or remember, and own DVC. I’ve stayed at all three monorail resorts as well as the vast majority of the other resorts on property, so I’m pretty well versed in WDW.

    I’m going to start by saying that despite what I am going to say, I really do like the Polynesian. The theming is great, we like the restaurants on property, and the pool and the grounds are beautiful. It’s a resort that I wouldn’t mind staying at on vacation elsewhere, but at WDW, I think there are better options.

    The monorail is really not all that it is cracked up to be. It’s often broken or the hours are limited. It also isn’t all that fast. For example, if you are staying at the Grand Floridian, the ride back to the resort can easily take 20 minutes, which is about the same amount of time on the buses back to the other resorts. That’s if the monorail is running. Also, if you want to go to Epcot, you have to take the monorail to the TTC and transfer. It’s a long trip back at night from Epcot if you are staying, for example, at the Contemporary.

    I’m also not a fan of how isolated the monorail resorts are from the other parks, and the monorail resorts typically share buses to the other parks (which is very frustrating considering the prices at these resorts). I prefer to be more centrally located to all the parks since we frequent them all. I suppose some families might want to spend most of their time at MK, but we don’t. We love MK, but honestly, my kids enjoy Animal Kingdom and Epcot the most. We like to rope drop MK and move to another park later in the day when the crowds become unbearable.

    Our favorite location to stay at is the Yacht Club/Beach Club/Boardwalk/Swolphin area because we would much, much more prefer to spend our evenings at Epcot (so nice in the evenings), or even Hollywood Studios, and have an easy walk back. You are also 10-15 minutes to MK and AK.

  13. Im in the minority but I don’t get even staying on site Disney. Although I will admit I did it last month when it was just my daughter(who is 17 now) and I and we had one day to hit all 4 parks. We decided on Dolphin to use SPG points. I only did it get so I can have early morning access to AK to hit the new Pandora area with no wait. We still drove to each park, much faster and not a problem at at all then taking the bus. But the dolphin was nothing to write home about, Resort fees and pay for parking on top of high cost for food. It served our purpose for the two nights. When my 4 kids were younger and we went all the time .. We always stayed at the Marriott Harbour Lakes 2 bedrooms. I could not understand why people paid so much more for onsite small rooms.. My kids did not want to leave the hotel for the parks. Plus the hotel has one site mini golf , waterpark and slides. tons of activities. It was like a vacation within a vacation. The drive was simple into the park. In fact I was back with my 3 adult son last December and we stayed there again. Just to have the room. Everyone I have sent then has yet to go back and stay on site.

    • I’m with you on staying off site. We stay at Orange Lake in a 2 or 3 bedroom and the kids love it. A lot more space for everyone and the drive to the parks is very short.

  14. I live two hours from Disney World, and it is so expensive these days that on 2/28 my friend and I are flying to Asia to go to Tokyo and Shanghai Disneyland. Hotels and admissions there are cheaper and we can’t wait for a familiar but different experience. Be sure to check out the toy story hotel, and though not Disney, I could not resist the Godzilla hotel in Tokyo!

  15. We were sucked into the WDW experience when our three girls were young and have loved it. By renting points from a DVC member our family of five could stay at a deluxe resort for $300 a night. This was a 1bedroom with a full kitchen, washer and dryer at Boardwalk villa. There are times of the year that a studio at BWV are 10pts a night which would be $150 a night through most renters. They go for over $500 a night with Disney. We loved it so much we bought 150pts about ten years ago.

    They poly now has studios that can be rented and they hold five. For a family of five disney studios are a sweet spot.

    Minnie van are nice especially if you have anyone with a scooter. I had a fall before our New Years trip and ended up in a boot for six weeks. Not having to deal with the buses with a scooter was wonderful. They have two accessible minnie vans. In the past we always use uber for regular rides, they are more reasonable .

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