When are Disney World Monorail Resorts Worth the Price?
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.
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.
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.
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?