If you find it impossible to choose the right Disney resort for you, I’m here to present you with another option: stay at more than one. We love to book split stays at Disney World for all of our trips!
About our Split Stay Experiences
When we started planning our Disney trip to celebrate our daughter’s third birthday, it turned out to be a challenge to find the right room for all three phases of our trip (by ourselves, then joined by our best friends, and then joined by my cousin). Our needs and travel party were going to be different during each phase. This meant that they’d each need a separate reservation anyway, which meant potentially changing rooms each time. That’s when our brilliant travel agent suggested that we consider changing resorts at some point. She knew that we wanted to soak in all that Disney has to offer, so this option really made sense to us!
We really wanted to experience a Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside for our princess-obsessed birthday girl, but we wanted to stay together with our friends when they joined us. So, that made our first choice really easy.
We had weighed our options for when our travel party would expand to 7 guests and thought the Cabins at Fort Wilderness would be perfect for our combined budget and desire to spend quality time together outside of the parks too.
When my cousin joined us and friends left, we decided to splurge on adjoining rooms at the Grand Floridian. She was pregnant and wanted her own bathroom and space, but also to feel connected to us. We also wanted convenience and short travel distances, since a pregnant body, toddler, and infant can be unpredictable.
Changing resorts three times with two kids in tow? I know. It sounded crazy. But it wasn’t nearly as stressful as we expected it to be! In fact, that’s how we’ve planned every Disney trip since!
Advantages of a Split Stay at Disney
Experience more than one resort within one trip’s budget
This was a big attraction for us. We really like being able to try different things all in one trip. It also allows us to experience deluxe resorts on a smaller budget, by balancing it with a value or lower cost moderate resort, without having to shorten our total stay.
Try different Disney Dining Plans
Since each reservation requires its own DDP, we were able to use different plans. For instance, we used the regular dining plan while at Fort Wilderness. When we moved to the Grand Floridian for Ruby’s actual birthday, we upgraded to the deluxe dining plan to cover all of our character and signature dining experiences.
Plan around transportation convenience
We planned our park days in part around the convenience of transportation from each resort. For instance, when we did our Art of Animation/Beach Club trip, we did Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while at AOA (since our options were only buses or driving from either resort). Then, we did Epcot and Hollywood Studios while at Beach Club (since we could walk or take the boat).
Potential Disadvantages of a Split Stay
Losing Park Time
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when we talk about switching resorts. I understand the concern. If you’re really packing in the action, there’s a good chance you’ll lose a little time in the transition. In our experience, we have spent about an hour total switching rooms (from leaving the first room to getting to the parks). Your “lost time” is only as long as you take loading your luggage and moving your vehicle to the next resort or taking your luggage to Bell Services and heading to transportation. If you’re an early riser, you could easily handle the room switch before the parks are even open. If you’re not (we’re not), you can get packed up and ready the night before to minimize your time lost. You can even skip the front desk with online check-in! Just make sure to stop for your luggage.
Luggage and Room Space not Accessible During the Transition
If you plan to use Bell Services to move your luggage (more about this below), expect to be without your stuff or a “place to land” until check-in at the next resort. This can be a deal breaker for families with small children, if they regularly go back to the room mid-day. We’ve had great luck with our rooms being ready early, but it’s not something to count on.
Phone Calls may be Required
If you’re using a travel agent, they’ll likely take care of these phone calls for you. If not, you may need to place them yourself. The first phone call is to add the Disney Dining Plan, should you choose to use it and if you aren’t an Annual Passholder. You’ll likely purchase your park tickets on only one of your reservations, so you’ll need to call to add the dining plan to your “ticketless” room, as this can’t be done online. The other phone call could be to Magical Express, just to notify them of when you’ll actually be using the service. You should be able to handle all of this online, but some people find it easier to call in and confirm their ride to the airport!
How We Managed the Logistics
Each resort will require its own reservation and they won’t be “linked” in any special way. That means that each reservation will also require its own deposit. Your deposit is applied to your balance, but it is more expense upfront when you book your trip. Above, I discussed the additional phone calls that may need to be made to work out logistics in advance.
The success of split stays at Disney can start with a good packing job. I’m known for my detailed and organized packing, so this was a fun challenge. (You can read more about packing for infants and toddlers too!)
We aim for streamlined packing, so that things can stay organized through the transitions. This is accomplished by small changes, like packing a single toiletries bag for the entire family, so that everything goes out and back into a single bag in the bathroom. We also pack a large bag (or plastic bin) for all the miscellaneous stuff (phone chargers, baby wipes, snacks, etc).
My husband and I both bring our own suitcases, as you usually would, but we divide up our daughters’ suitcases by stay, instead of by kid. So, all of the clothing for one resort stay is in one suitcase, the next in another suitcase, and so on.
If we’re only staying at a resort for one night (which we’ve done twice), we’ll pack our entire family’s clothing for the next day in a single tote bag. Then, it’s just that bag and our toiletries bag that need to be touched.
Think about where you’ll store dirty laundry too. For us, we usually ended up condensing our suitcases into one “clean” and one “dirty”. For the girls, we’d just put all their dirty laundry back in that “stay’s” suitcase, not to be touched again until we get home.
Again, since we drove, it was as easy as packing the car up and moving to the next leg of our split stay at Disney. If you wont have your own vehicle, it can still be easy! You just bring your luggage to Bell Services and they’ll handle the transfer for you.
The night before we moved rooms, I’d put the laundry back in the suitcases, pack up snacks and miscellaneous stuff, and lay out the next day’s clothes. When we got up on “moving day”, we just had to pack our pajamas and head out.
Sometimes, we drive to the next resort and take transportation from there. For instance, when we moved to the Grand Floridian, it made sense to go straight there and take the monorail to Magic Kingdom. And sometimes we just drive straight to the parks and check in at the resort later, like when we moved to Fort Wilderness and were headed to Animal Kingdom that day. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can just use Disney transportation to head to the parks and back to your new resort!
Have you done a Split Stay at Disney? Tell us about it or ask questions in the comments below!