The Pros and Cons of a Split Stay – Musings on Multiple Reservations

We all know just how important the planning process is when arranging a trip to Walt Disney World, and sometimes plans can change once you think you have everything settled!  This is the situation I found myself in during the later planning stages of my most recent trip.  After our room was booked and itinerary plans began to fall into place, I realized that flights into Orlando were remarkably less expensive on the day before we were due to arrive!  I went ahead and crunched the numbers, and as luck would have it, it was actually going to be a better economic decision to arrive one night ahead of what we had originally planned.  What could be better than spending an extra night at Disney World?

Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom

Guests choose to try out split stays for a variety of different reasons.  Flight availability and cost is a common one; however, I have done similar split stays in the past when looking at budgets, longer stays, and of course, resort availability at your time of booking.   Before jumping in with both feet, I like to take the time to examine the pros and cons to make sure I’m making the right choice for the trip in question!

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort

 

The Cons

Con #1:  Multiple check-ins required

A traditional vacation often begins with checking into your resort hotel and ends with the check-out experience.  When going on a split stay vacation, it’s not always quite so simple.  Because you will be staying in multiple rooms, your trip will involve going through this process multiple times.  DVC check-out time is 11am and check-in is not until 4pm.

Lobby seating area at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows

This means that once you have checked out of your first stay and have moved on to the second location, there is the possibility that your next room may not be ready for upwards of 5 hours.  If you need to have immediate access to your room (perhaps you’re traveling with little ones who need a midday nap), this may not be the ideal situation for your afternoon.  That being said, Disney does their very best to jumpstart and simplify the check-in and planning procedures, with features such as the advance online check-in using the My Disney Experience for Walt Disney World stays as well as assistance with moving your luggage from resort to resort!  As long as you’re prepared and have some flexibility in your plans, you should find the transition from one stay to another to be pretty seamless!

Disney’s Old Key West

Con#2:  A split stay may affect your itinerary and dining planning

If you’re anything like me, the main focus of your Disney trip is spending time in the parks.  When doing a split stay, planning your daily itineraries may be impacted by your need to change resorts during your trip.  Being sure to plan your Fastpass selections and dining reservations around the time you will be out of the park to check-out/check-in for your resorts stays is something that is important to consider during your planning process.  The great thing about being an on-property resort guest is being able to plan these elements of your trip well in advance!  Knowing that you will need to spend some time at the resorts means that you have the ability to schedule your meals and Fastpass return times around the parts of the day that you’re spending on other elements of your vacation.

Fast Pass sign for Slinky Dog Dash Coaster

When planning a possible split stay, you may want to consider whether or not you prefer to add a dining plan to one or more of your reservations.  This is certainly something that can be done; however, it should be noted that the credits will be split up between your stays, and cannot be combined through the full length of your trip.  In order to not forego any of your credits, they need to be used up before you have checked-in to your next reservation.  When making your advance dining reservations or meal plans, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how and when you are using your dining credits (in relation to your check-in and check-out times) to ensure there are no mix-ups.  With a little extra attention to details in your planning, this isn’t anything that can’t be managed!

Entrance to Disney’s Boardwalk Villas

Con #3:  Needing to pack-up your belongings in the middle of your vacation

If you’re traveling with a larger group or with small children, this is definitely something to keep in mind.  When looking at the piles of clothing, diapers, toys, electronics and more needed during your stay, packing and unpacking all of the supplies needed for your family can sometimes seem like a daunting task.  A great way to work around this is to figure out a packing system that helps to keep you organized!  I like to print out a couple of copies so I can use them as a checklist.  I also find them handy to work from as a way to make sure I have everything and am not missing any items once I am packing up to leave after my resort stay has come to an end.  Using packing cubes or large Ziploc bags to keep items organized within my luggage is also a packing method I am a big fan of.

The Pros

Pro #1:  A split stay offers the chance to experience multiple resorts and the benefits they offer!

If you’re anything like me, it’s on your Disney bucket list to stay at every resort, and a split stay is a great way to check off part of that goal!  One of the reasons I head back to Walt Disney World over and over again is that there is such a wide variety of experiences to be had, and this goes beyond new rides and attractions to include the resorts.  split stay can be a very advantageous way to get the most out of the different amenities the resorts have to offer.

Stormalong Bay Pool at Disney’s Beach Club Villas

Location can certainly be an essential factor to keep in mind when considering staying at multiple resorts.  Factoring in the travel time to and from each resort and park destination using the various modes of Disney transportation, it might be worth thinking about splitting up your stay between different property areas.  For example, imagine that the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom are your two favorite parks and you know that is where you will be spending most of your time.  As it can take upwards of 30 minutes to get from the Animal Kingdom Villas to the Magic Kingdom via bus transportation, some guests might consider staying at Animal Kingdom Villas for part of their visit, and finish up the duration of your trip at Bay Lake Tower (which offers a short walk or monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom), allowing you to lessen your time spent on transportation each day and maximize your time spent having fun!

Monorail

I like to begin each trip with a quieter night of shopping and dining at Disney Springs once I’ve arrived in Florida, so in the case of my most recent split stay I chose to secure a reservation at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.  Knowing that I could take advantage of the walking path or boat transportation and having such close proximity to Disney Springs was perfect and made for a relaxing and convenient evening of fun (and allowed me more time to shop!)

Disney’s Springs

 

Pro #2:  When your travel dates and/or travel party change, a split stay can be a great way to cover the different availability needed!

Sometimes larger groups may find that their schedules don’t sync up exactly and coordinating different lengths of stays may up being part of the planning process. In this case, some groups will choose to split up their stay into different room sizes.  Many families will opt to spend a portion of their stay in a smaller villa, and then have everyone stay in a more spacious room size for the travel dates that overlap.  This allows them to spend as much time together as possible in one larger villa.

kitchen area of a 1 bedroom villa at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower

On a recent trip, we booked our first resort stay right at the 11-month window.  By the time I had decided to add-on to that stay availability had diminished, and the resort and room type we had booked for our trip was not open for the extra night.  Lucky for us, we considered this the opportune time to get to check out another of their world-class hotels!

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

 

Pro #3: Disney’s top-notch service makes coordinating a split stay as simple as possible!

Disney is well-known for their customer service and Cast Members who go the extra mile, and I definitely experienced this during my recent split stay!  When checking out of our first stay, the Cast Member offered us tips on how best to travel to the next resort.  Not only that, Disney will also move your luggage from resort to resort for you!  Once you arrive at your next resort and your room is ready, just give Bell Services a call and the Cast Members will deliver your bags right to your villa as soon as they can!

Bell Services sign from Disney’s Old Key West

Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Anyone who has traveled to Walt Disney World in recent years knows that planning out many parts of your trip months in advance is now the norm.  While this may seem a little overwhelming at first, Disney is doing their best to make the different elements of pre-planning as stress-free as possible!  The planning process for a breaking up your stay between multiple resorts has become easier than ever with the My Disney Experience system, which helps guests work on their plans and itineraries ahead of their trips.  Until recently, those who were planning a split stay would have to deal with the complications of multiple booking windows for making Advance Dining Reservations and Fastpass+ selections.  Thankfully, this is no longer the case!  Guests dividing up their trip with a split stay can now make their Advance Dining Reservations and Fastpass+ choices when the window opens for their full length of stay, just as any other resort guests would (provided that the overall stay is 10 nights or less).

Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

 

Every family has different experiences and preferences, and as you can see, there are many things to consider when it comes to a possible split stay.  I hope these points have helped you to determine whether this is the right type of vacation for your group!

Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

 

 

~Stacy

 

 

Pocket