When you make the jump from 2 kids to 3 (or from 1 to 3 like I did) you lose some of your options in the world. 5 can’t fit in many restaurant booths, hotel rooms are built for 4 people. On some hotel websites they won’t even let you search for 5 people per room (I’m looking at you Hotwire!). Even your Disney resort options become slightly more limited.
Disney has expanded their options in the past few years by adding suites to some Values and opening up the almost all suite Art of Animation. They also added murphy beds to many other resorts, giving you more options than ever.
Here’s my thoughts on the best resort in each category for a family of five.
This one is easy, Art of Animation wins hands down. Actually, even if you don’t have a large family, Art of Animation is the best of the Value hotels. The hotel itself has 3 pools, including the much hyped Finding Nemo Pool-which more than earns its high praise. The lifeguards are top notch (but you should still keep an eye on your kids), there are always Castmember led contests and dance parties going on, there’s a Splash Pad area for the littles and the pool theming is over the top. In some spots you can even hear Nemo and his friends under the water! There are also quiet pools in the Little Mermaid and Cars section. Speaking of the Cars section, it is one of my favorites as far as theming goes. The pool has giant traffic cone cabanas for relaxing. The walkways are painted to look like roads, every one of your friends from Cars is there and the buildings are made to look like sunset in Radiator Springs.
Your other options for “Family Suites” are in the Nemo or Lion King Section. Nemo suites are considered prime due to the pool and cost slightly more. You can also book a generic Family Suite and you will be placed where available. The Lion King suites are between the Little Mermaid Section and Nemo. The Little Mermaid section houses typical size value rooms, 2 full beds and 1 bathroom with out door walkways between rooms.
All suites have 2 bathrooms,2 televisions, 1 bedroom with queen bed, 1 sleeper sofa and a dining table that converts to a pull down bed. They also have a kitchenette, with a small fridge, microwave, sink and coffee maker. All space is utilized, stools double as nightstands for the murphy bed, tv stands in both rooms are dressers, and the kitchenette has shelves for storage. We slept 1 adult and 1 kid in both the bed and on the sleeper sofa, with my then 9 year old on the murphy bed. She LOVED that bed. The sofa bed was surprisingly comfortable to me. Unlike the other values, each suite section has interior walkways like the deluxe resorts. Even at prime hours we didn’t hear much noise coming from the hallways or other rooms.
The Landscape of Flavors is the best quick service dining at any resort I’ve been to, including the Moderate and Deluxe locations. They have more options then most other quick service locations including a fantastic create your own pasta bar.
For a family of 5 (or 6) I would recommend the Cabins at Fort Wilderness they win for most bang for your buck resort. Each cabin has a queen bed, bunk bed and sleeper sofa. They also have a kitchen, complete witha 2 burner stove, microwave/convection oven, dishwasher and full size fridge. The cabin has enough space to feel like you’re not on top of your family throughout the trip. They also include 2 TVs and a DVD player. The deck outside has a grill and picnic table. Housekeeping will even do your dishes!
There is so much to do at Fort Wilderness. Dining options are Trails End, which is consistently listed as the best place no one knows about at WDW. PJ’s Southern Take Out which has quick service items and the Meadow Outpost Snack bar also has, you guessed it, snacks. There are also two dinner shows at this resort. Both Micky’s Backyard BBQ and The Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue are popular shows.
Looking for some free bonuses to staying at Fort Wilderness? How about a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale? There are also 2 pools one with a splash zone and slide. For a fee you can rent a golf cart, go on a wagon, carriage or Segway tour. There are guided fishing trips, archery, boats, bikes and more.
Fort Wilderness is like a wilderness oasis in all the brightness that is Disney. You could make a trip out of just visiting there. But when you do decide to check out the parks you can take a boat to Magic Kingdom or other resorts. Buses are available to other parks (or take a boat to the Contemporary and hop on the monorail).
There are quite a few resorts that have a standard room that added a daybed to accommodate 5 people. The winner in this category is the Beach Club Resort. While the rooms are a tighter fit for 5 they amenities make this one an easy sell. The pool, Stormalong Bay is the best of all the Disney Resorts. Not only does it have a shipwreck with a giant slide running into the pool, but the rest of the three acre water area is full of surprises. There are whirlpools and a relaxing lagoon. Another has currents and a sandy bottom pool with zero entry. It’s like the beach but without any fear of “WHAT TOUCHED MY FOOT!?!” There’s a beach volley ball court and gorgeous views of the marina.
Right near the pool is Beaches and Cream. Admittedly a hard reservation for families of 5 or more-not many tables accommodate them. But you can get ice cream from their walk up window. There’s the Beach Club Marketplace and Hurricane Hanna’s Waterside Bar and Grill for Quickservice. Cape May Cafe and Captain’s Grill both have buffets for breakfast. Cape May’s includes Micky and friends in their beach best! At dinner you can order off the menu at the Captain’s Grill or indulge in the seafood buffet at Cape May. You can grab a beer or cocktail at the poolside bar, or 3 other lounges-Ale and Compass, Crew’s Cup and Martha’s Vineyard.
Looking for more to do? Check out the Ship Shape Health Club, Lafferty Place Arcade or rent a boot at the marina. There’s the Sandcastle Club if you want to drop off the kids for an adult night out. Not to mention it’s a quick walk to the Boardwalk for out of this world treats at the Boardwalk Bakery or a night of fun for adults at Jellyroll’s.
You can walk to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios from the Beach Club, or take a boat. Buses take you to the other parks and Disney Springs.
For a little more look into renting DVC points (David’s Vacation Club Rental or DVC Rental Store are both good) and upgrading to the Beach Club Villas. You’ll have access to everything in the resort, plus a quiet pool near the Villas and more space. The Villas range from studios to two bedrooms, with more than enough room to host the whole family. They have a full kitchen which makes meals in room easy and save a bit of money.