Best Hotels at Disney World with Kids on the Autism Spectrum

 In Travel Tips, USA

Taking a kid with autism to Walt Disney World can seem scary.  When I took my triplets (yes, triplets!) one of which is diagnosed with autism (yes, autism!) to Disney for the first time I researched for HOURS on where to stay, what to do, what to bring, etc… It was so stressful knowing that I was about to spend thousands of dollars to take this kid to the most overwhelming place on earth and not know how he was going to react.

Funny thing is, kids with autism LOVE Disney because Disney really knows how to help these kids and their parents enjoy their visit to the parks.

But where should you stay?

Disney World Autism Hotels

Where to stay with Autistic Kids at Disney World

The best piece of advice I can give is to consider the environment.  

  • What tends to overstimulate your child?
    • Loud noises?
    • Crowds?
  • What sort of location in or near the park will fit your needs?

With my family, I want to stay someplace that has easy access to the parks and is not so over stimulating that my son will not be able to handle the environment.  So, what Disney World resort is the best? That depends on your kid and your wallet. We’ve gathered a few of our favorites at multiple price points to help you get started.

There are five types of resorts on property:

  • Value
  • Moderate
  • Deluxe
  • The 4th type that we’ll just call “hybrid resorts” on Disney property but not owned by Disney.
  • DVC villas

Disney World Value Resorts

The value resorts include Disney’s All-Star Movie, Music, Sports, Pop Century and Art of Animation.  They are the cheapest resorts. Disney can be a very expensive vacation so staying in a value resort might be a good idea to keep costs down.  The Art of Animation offers suites that will fit more than four people so a larger family would not need to get two or more rooms.  

However, the value resorts are the hot spot for every cheerleading squad, pee-wee football team, little league, and senior class trip. They are crowded and noisy. There are bright colors and Disney images everywhere you look including very large statues of characters that some kids with autism could be afraid of, like a three-story tall Ursula. Transportation to the parks is via bus and can be a long process. Add in the crowd and noise and it can be very challenging for a kid with autism at Disney World.

Grab the best rates and availability on VALUE
Walt Disney World Resorts now!

Disney World Autism Hotels
Disney World Moderate Resorts

Some of the moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter and Fort Wilderness Resort. While more expensive than the value resorts, these are a bit quieter with a little less Disney decor.  All of these resorts have travel access via bus, but you can also travel via water taxi from Port Orleans which is seriously the best.  My kid loves the water and being on a boat always has a nice calming effect on him.

One resort that often gets overlooked in this category is Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Don’t have a tent or RV? Neither do I. Fort Wilderness has cabins that will accommodate up to 6 adults. Each cabin has a full kitchen which is perfect for picky eaters. You can even arrange for groceries to be delivered to your cabin. It really is more “glamping” than camping. Fort Wilderness is quiet and offers plenty of amenities including boating and horseback riding both of which are great experiences for kids on the autism spectrum.  If your kids need to burn of energy, no need to walk down a long hallway and take the elevator several floors, you just open the door and (gently) push them outside.  I would advise against staying here if your kid is a runner/wanderer. Once they are out the door there’s nothing stopping them.  

NOTE: Although we put Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground in the moderate section, it should be noted that if you do decide to camp the campground is less expensive and more of a value property than the resort.

Grab the best rates and availability on MODERATE
Walt Disney World Resorts now!

Disney World Autism Hotels

Disney World Deluxe Resorts

The deluxe resorts have all the bells and whistles and are typically the most convenient to get to from the parks. They are also typically the most expensive. The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian are all located on the monorail making it very easy to leave the Magic Kingdom or Epcot to go back to your resort for some downtime. The Yacht Club and Beach Club Resort are in easy walking distance of Epcot’s World Showcase too, which can be a lifesaver. Most of these resorts also have water taxi access as well. 

Now onto the 4th category of “hybrid resorts” that are on property that are not Disney resorts.  

Grab the best rates and availability on DELUXE
Walt Disney World Resorts now!

Disney World Autism HotelsHybrid Resorts in Walt Disney World

Three examples of these types of resorts are Shades of Green, The Swan and The Dolphin. There are also a number of “hybrid” properties over in Disney Springs. These resorts are on Disney property, but not owned by Disney. There are a few differences between these locations and the Disney owned resorts.  

  • You cannot book any of these hotels through Walt Disney World Vacations.  Contact them independently to make a reservation.  
  • You cannot use Magic Bands to open your hotel room door
  • The Disney Dining plan does not work at these resorts.
  •  You also cannot take advantage of the Magical Express (free shuttle service from the resorts to the airport).  

So, why stay there?  These resorts can be much less expensive than the others on property and can offer discounts that Disney does not. For one thing, The Swan and Dolphin offer discounted rates to teachers and nurses!  You also get to use on property perks such as extra Magic Hours and sending purchases from the parks to your hotel so you don’t have to lug everything you buy around with you.  

The Swan and The Dolphin  are on Disney property and are located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They are so close to these two parks that you could walk to them if you wanted.  You can also take a water taxi. You will take a bus to get to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.  The Dolphin does offer connecting rooms for larger families.  

Grab the best rates and availability on
NON-DISNEY Resorts now!

Disney World Military Resort Benefits

If you are in the military, you have probably heard of Shades of Green.  This is a military-only hotel, which requires a military ID to stay here. Don’t have a military ID? Do you have a relative or a friend that is and would like to travel with you? Anyone with a military ID can book up to two rooms at one time at Shades of Green.

These rooms are typically the least expensive place to stay and have the biggest standard rooms of any resort on property. Shades of Green is located across the road from the Polynesian. They provide shuttle buses to all parks and will even drive you to the Polynesian so you can use the monorail.  Another perk of having a military ID: you can get a 5-day Disney Parkhopper pass for $224!  

These non-Disney, on property resorts are nice because they are not overwhelming with the Disney decor. You might see a Mickey here or there, but, unlike the value hotels it’s not everywhere and on everything. The decor is typically very neutral and not overstimulating which could make these resorts a good choice for kids with autism at Disney.  

Grab the best rates and availability on
SHADES OF GREEN now!

Disney World Autism Hotels

Bonus DVC Option

The Disney Vacation club can also be a great option for families with children on the autism spectrum visiting Walt Disney World. There are DVC villas connected to many of the deluxe resort properties. These villas include full kitchens and condo-style accomodations, which can give you the added space and quiet time you need.

Final tip for deciding where to stay

As your kid with autism knows, the internet is your best friend.  Go on the Disney Vacation website and look up the resorts with your kid.  Most resorts have photos and video tours of the facilities.  If you can, ask your child questions while watching the videos.

  • Do you think that’s scary?
  • Does that look like fun?
  • Do you want to stay here?

After you decide where you want to stay, occasionally go back and look at the videos and pictures of the resort to get your child familiar with the place.  The first time my family went to Disney we requested their vacation planning DVD. I put it in the DVD player in the minivan and the kids watched it over and over.  When we finally got there they recognized places from the video and said, “I remember that!”  Since then, we’ve been back a few times and all three of my kids always have a blast.  

While this is not an exhaustive list of all of the amazing Walt Disney World resorts on and off property, these are some of the best we have found while traveling with our son with autism. Does your family have a favorite Disney resort? Share with us in the comments!

PIN IT FOR LATER

Traveling with kids on the Autism spectrum is possible, but you need to pick your Disney World hotel wisely. Use these tips to get the one that fits your family and budget.
Disney World with kids on the Autism spectrum begins with the best Walt Disney World Hotel. Use these tips and our pre-approved hotel list to book the best hotel for your family on any budget.
Traveling with kids on the Autism spectrum to Disney World is easier with these tips on picking the best Disney World Hotel with Kids.

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney World Resorts and The Swan Resort

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Showing 3 comments
  • KERRI OMALLEY
    Reply

    great article, Karen. I’ve shared with some of the Florida people, I’m hoping people can comment if they have stayed other places and can share their experiences.

  • Katie
    Reply

    I have triplets too with one on the spectrum! 🙂

  • Nat - Awaybies kids travel
    Reply

    Triplets wow!! This seems like a really useful post. Thank you. We love disney and hope to visit the Florida one in the near future. What’s the best time of year to go I wonder?

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