Hotel Room Sleep Strategies at Walt Disney World

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One of my most vivid memories was the first night of an impromptu family trip to Walt Disney World. It was about 9:00 p.m. After a full day of park touring we were exhausted and ready to snuggle in for a night of rest in our room at the Contemporary Resort. Hubby and I were winding down, reading the newspaper on one bed. My then 6-year-old twins were cuddled in the other bed. And their nine-year-old sister was camped out on the daybed. I was overcome by a feeling of peace and warmth. We were a family. Together. Safe and sound and peaceful.

Needless to say, this moment of zen was short-lived. Hubby started complaining that he wanted to sleep and my light was bothering him. The twins, not used to sharing a bed, began kicking each other and making cover-hog accusations. My older daughter screamed that she wanted the noise to stop. After several rounds of musical beds, trips to the bathroom, a call to housekeeping for extra blankets, and many threats of no-Space-Mountain-tomorrow-if-you-don’t-quiet-down-RIGHT-NOW, I think we finally settled down around 11:00 p.m. So much for togetherness.

Although our room was lovely, it wasn’t the best set-up for us getting the rest we needed. Disney may say that a particular hotel room sleeps four or five (or more) people, but how do you make sure that many people can actually, well, sleep in that room?

Get the Right Size Room

When choosing a Walt Disney World hotel, most people consider price, location, and room capacity to be the key data points. However, beyond simply the number of people allowed to stay in the room, you should also consider how many separate sleep surfaces are there. For example, there are rooms sized for four people at the Wilderness Lodge which are furnished with two queen-size beds. Other rooms at the same hotel have a queen-sized bed plus two bunk beds – three distinct sleep surfaces instead of two. For a family with children of different genders, or a blended family, the extra sleep surface could greatly improve the quality of their vacation. Additional sleep surfaces may also be important for unrelated adults or multigenerational families traveling together. Make sure you reserve the version that works for you.

Standard rooms at the Grand Floridian sleep five, on three surfaces

A family of five (two adults plus three children), could have each of the kids on a separate sleep surface at the Fort Wilderness cabins or the All Star Music Family Suites. The same result could be achieved by getting two rooms with a connecting door. Connecting rooms are available at all WDW hotels (this must be requested in advance). In my family of five, we can technically stay in one room at the deluxe resorts, many of which are equipped with two queen-sized beds plus a single daybed, but we’ve learned through hard experience that we’ll all be better rested if each of the three kids has her own sleep area. Maximizing sleep surfaces cost effectively may mean making concessions in other amenities. For example, getting two rooms at a value resort (four sleep surfaces) may be comparable in cost to one room at a deluxe resort (with three sleep surfaces). You’re trading monorail access and water slides for better sleep and access to two bathrooms. Different families will find each of these options more or less appealing.

Before booking your trip, take an honest assessment of your family’s sleep needs. Does one child go to sleep much earlier than the other? Do the parents want a door between them and the sleeping children? Can siblings share a bed without fighting? Do different family members have vastly different sleep environment needs for noise, light, or temperature level? Each of these factors may influence your room requirements.

For those with nonstandard needs, there are a number of unique room types at Walt Disney World: rooms with trundle beds at Port Orleans Riverside, junior and deluxe suites at many of the hotels, units with substantial outdoor space, and multi-room villas. It can be a challenge to figure out the exact configuration of each room type on the Walt Disney World website, sometimes picking up the phone and speaking with a reservationist be a quicker route to booking for guests with specific needs. Rooms can be booked by calling 407-W-DISNEY or through a travel agent.

Modify Your Space

You may sleep easier if you make some minor modifications to your room. All Walt Disney World hotel rooms contain at least one table and two chairs. During your stay, it may make sense to rearrange these items. For example, when my kids were small, they often had difficulty falling asleep if they could see me and tell that I was still awake. If this is your situation, try positioning a chair to block you child’s sight line to you. You can also move a chair into the bathroom for similar effect. I’ve done many a crossword puzzle on a chair in a hotel bathroom while I waited for a child to fall asleep. At the value and moderate resorts, it is also possible to move a chair just outside your room door to sit there while your children are dozing. In this situation, remember to keep your room key with you at all times and be courteous to guests in neighboring rooms.

Call housekeeping if you need extra blankets or pillows

Disney does not advertise the availability of rollaway beds, but there are a very limited number of them for use in rooms that are large enough to accommodate their size. This means that you won’t be able to get a rollaway in a value resort room – there simply isn’t enough square footage – but if you need one in a deluxe room, this might be possible. While you shouldn’t count on having a rollaway, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

If a room with an extra bed isn’t available or isn’t in the budget, it may make sense to bring your own “furniture” in the form of a sleeping bag. My oldest daughter would much rather sleep on the floor than with either of her squirmy sisters. Most airlines will allow you bring an extra bag for less than $25. This fee is substantially less than any room upgrade would be. Just be sure to straighten up in the morning so that housekeeping can do their work. Also, safety dictates that you not use items such as sleeping bags to circumvent the fire code maximum number of persons per room.

Even the most minor of room modifications can help. Disney housekeeping is happy to provide extra pillows or blankets for your room. When my children have shared a bed, we’ve made good use of this service by creating a pillow “wall” between the kids and giving them each their own blanket. We’ve had more success getting them to sleep in a timely manner when they don’t have to struggle for control over the covers.

Ask for the Right Room Location and Configuration

I’ve often been asked which is the best room location at various WDW hotels. The answer to this varies greatly depending on your goals. If you want to save walk time, then being close to the food court, bus stop or pool may make sense. If you want to sleep soundly, then you may have more luck being away from the hotel’s amenities. My husband always requests a room far away from the elevator banks so that we are not disturbed by other guests speaking in the halls on their way to the parks.

You can sit right outside your hotel room door while baby falls asleep. Bring a monitor.

If you are traveling in warmer months, try asking for a room on the first floor with patio space or on an upper floor with a balcony. These outdoor areas can serve as a parental retreat while the children settle down for the evening.

Special Considerations for Babies

All Walt Disney World resort hotels allow an additional guest in each room if that guest is a child under the age of three sleeping in a Pack ‘n Play crib. Disney provides these cribs and associated bedding free of charge. However, my experience is that the younger the child, the more sensitive he or she is to variation in the sleep environment. Bringing a familiar crib sheet and blanket from home may provide an extra measure of comfort for a little one.

Many guests with crib-age children find that they can create a makeshift private room for baby in the moderate resorts. Many rooms at this price level have a feature which allows the vanity area near the bath to be enclosed via a sliding door or curtain. Setting up the crib behind the curtain may prevent the baby from being awakened by light or noise in the rest of the room. This can be especially helpful when attempting to get children to nap during the day.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

There are a number of small electronics that may improve your sleep experience in any hotel room:

  • Nightlight: Children who are wary of unfamiliar surroundings or afraid of the dark may sleep better with a nightlight on.
  • Booklight: Allows adults to stay up and read while children are falling asleep.
  • Baby monitor: If you’re planning to sit on your room’s patio or balcony while your children fall asleep, a baby monitor can keep you fully apprised of their activity level.
  • iPad, iPod, or other smart device: Download a noise machine app (I like Ambiance) to muffle ambient room sounds. Watching a stored movie on the iPad keeps the room light level lower than turning on the TV.

Explore Off-Site Alternatives

I am a strong proponent of staying inside the Disney bubble when on vacation. However, families with complicated sleep needs will likely find more varied room configurations offsite. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World includes extensive reviews of and recommendations for offsite hotels.

What’s Your Best Tip?

Is your family always able to sleep well together in one hotel room? What strategies have you used to make everyone’s nighttime routine more relaxing? Let me know in the comments below.

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Posted on June 23, 2011

33 Responses to “Hotel Room Sleep Strategies at Walt Disney World”

  • Totally a great idea. We are a family of 6 (the baby doesn’t yet need a real bed) We have been in rooms where we had the girls in one bed, one on the couch and hubby and I in another bed. This lasted the first night, we ended up having to have each of us sleep with one of the girls.

    Now because we are 6 we have to have 2 rooms, but that way each child will get their own bed. We have tried the staying ofsite where each kid had their own room, but missed being close to Disney and the advantages that brings.

  • We travel with 2 essentials for our son (now 5 and veteran of numerous World trips as well as other outings, including moving several times). First is the Aerobed for Kids- blows up in 30 seconds, folds into its own little bag (about 1 ft long, 6-8 in wide), uses std twin sheets. It’s perfect for him- he can’t roll out, since it has a well in the center to sleep more “cozy”, and pack a “fun” Lightning McQueen sheet set to use on it (which he doesn’t get to use at home)- adding in the extra room blanket and pillow to complete the set. Much better than a strange bed he’ll fall out of, and packs surprising small. In most rooms you can find a way to squeeze it in, even if you have to rearrange the table/chair combo. The funniest thing is that often housekeeping will make up his little bed :) The other is the Oxo Candela Zoom- a rechargeable rocket-shaped night-light that lights when you take it off its base, and does NOT get hot or even warm. Stays lit all night long- well worth the 6inx2 in of packing space. I admit, mom and dad use it to get in that late-night shower or early-morning packing, rather than turn on a light and wake him up!

    • by Erin Foster on June 25, 2011, at 11:32 am EDT

      I decided to avoid mentioning air mattresses because their large size usually makes them problematic in small hotel rooms, but I had forgotten about child-sized air beds. You make a good point about this being an option for little ones.

  • For my family, we’ve found that the Ft Wilderness cabins are our best bet. They sleep six with two double beds and a set of bunk beds. We usually travel with three adults and two kids, so everyone gets a space to sleep. And since there is a separate bedroom, it would be a great choice for grown-ups who want to put the kids to sleep and hang out in the living room.

    The cabins also have the added bonus of a full kitchen (for picky eaters, dietary restrictions, etc) and a parking space right out front (for anyone who is wary of taking small children on a bus without cars eats or seat belts, or for people with mobility disabilities).

  • Another consideration is the kind of sleep surface. We like one bedroom villas because of the kitchen and washer/drier. There is a separate master bedroom with a king, and a queen sofa bed in the main living room area giving you a total occupancy of four. However, since the sofa bed is in the middle of everything, whoever sleeps there is guaranteed to be the first up in the morning and the last to bed at night, whether they want to or not. Similar rooms will have the same challenge. I found that with younger kids it’s better to give them the master suite because it’s isolated in it’s own room and they sleep longer, earlier, sooner than if they are out in the common area.

    • by Erin Foster on June 25, 2011, at 11:34 am EDT

      Also a good point. We are now DVC owners and have frequent stays in the villas. When we’re in a 1BR, we often put the girls in the bedroom, for just the reason you mention. This means that mom and dad end up on the pull-out :-(

  • Excellent topic, Erin. And great comments, too! We struggle with this every time we go on vacation – to Disney and elsewhere. We’ve concocted all sorts of ways to screen-off our son so that he doesn’t realize we’re in the same room with him, but it always leads to us having to be super quiet, etc. And, if he happens to wake up in the middle of the night, we are all out of luck as far as a good night’s sleep goes. I love the idea of the kid’s Aerobed and special Disney sheets – we’ll certainly have to try that when he gets older (still in crib now). The technology tips are spot on, Erin!

    While I was very fortunate to stay on-property whenever we went to Disney as a kid, we’ve recently been staying off-property where we can get a full 2-bedroom condo for a fraction of what it would cost to stay on property. Can’t wait for my wife and son to experience staying on-property, but until he’s old enough for us all to sleep comfortably/soundly in one room, it’s off-property for us! I’ll be sure to take note of these recommendations when deciding where on-property to stay when that time comes!

    • We’re the exact same way. I’ve stayed on-property twice and have really loved it, but when the whole family goes it just isn’t an option, we can’t all sleep in one space. We’ve found several condo properties that can have you to the park gates in minutes and with a little patience, read as looking for last-minute cancellation deals, we’ve gotten a 3-bedroom condo for a week for less than a single night at even a value resort.

      Now for the one-on-one trips I take with my kids (try to take one kid on a father-son trip each year) on site rocks! :)

  • by Robin Casey on June 24, 2011, at 9:51 am EDT

    This is the exact reason we do not stay on property. We go to Disney World every year and use our time share property to exchange into a 3 bedroom unit at on off-site resort. My husband is a horrible snorer (we even have separate bedrooms at home!), so there is no way all 4 of us could sleep in one hotel room for a week. So, for the price of our maintenance fee (around $600) & an exchange fee ($79), we get a 3 bedroom condo with a full kitchen and a happy well-rested mama!

  • We’ve been taking the kids since they were infants, and the sleep strategy that we always employ is — wear ourselves out. :-) None of us ever has trouble falling asleep because we’ve been on the go all day long. We used to try to get them to nap but gave that up when it became an exercise in futility. Now our afternoon breaks mostly happen at the hotel pool but sometimes we just find a shady bench in the park and enjoy a drink or treat.

    Last year we stayed at Wilderness Lodge for the first time (usually stayed at Moderates) and we weren’t used to being able to hear boat toots and fireworks while trying to get to sleep. At that point we wished we had a small fan to provide a little white noise. Even still, we didn’t have trouble falling asleep.

    • by Erin Foster on June 25, 2011, at 11:37 am EDT

      Good point about the noise at the deluxe resorts (both those near the MK and those near Epcot). At the values, you may have noise from other guests flushing toilets, etc. But at certain times at the deluxes, you will hear fireworks and other outdoor noises. I find these comforting – adding to the mystique of the “Disney bubble” but if you’re trying to sleep at that precise time, it could be trouble.

  • A baby monitor is convenient to have, but to save packing space, we usually just use our cell phones — put one in the room and take the other with us on “mute” so we can still talk without being heard on the other end. I usually plug my bluetooth headset in so I can hear better. We get free mobile-to-mobile minutes, so it doesn’t cost a thing. The kids know that if they wake up and we’re not there, to look for the phone and we’re right on the other end (though we’re really only just outside the door). Using the outdoor tables and benches as our evening “living room” makes staying in a Value Resort for a week with two kids a little more bearable!

    • by Erin Foster on June 25, 2011, at 11:38 am EDT

      Interesting, I hadn’t considered this idea. Would work if you have the right cell plan.

    • That’s a really great idea. We are traveling with our a lost three year who won’t fall asleep if we are in the room. Luckily we are sharing a suite with my parents.

  • We re DVC members now since 2005 so love the 1 or 2 bedroom villas! But, prior to this our 3 girls favorite place to stay was Port Orleans Riverside or Dixie Landing as I still like to call it!!! The Alligator Bayou section has a trundle bed and the girls loved this when they were younger!! Still a bit small for a family of 5, but we enjoyed it and the girls still talk about it! I wouldnt even consider staying of property as I go to have the “magic” 24-7!!!!! It is a moderate priced resort that sleeps 5!!!

  • We will be going to Disney in two weeks with a party of 6, three children. One of the reasons we chose to get two rooms at the Polynesian was the day bed option. Now everyone will get their own bed and no one has to sleep with a child, which is never good for actual sleeping! It may be an expensive way to go, but I will enjoy my vacation much better with a good nights sleep.

  • I wish more people would post as to whether the pack-n-play would fit in the bathroom! All of mine needed the door shut to go to sleep with the others around. The only one I found to be good fit is BLT studio with their funky doors everyone dislikes. The Poly also works since they have the larger bathroom. Of course this does make middle of the night potty trips a bit difficult. I have been known to go to the pool, lobby etc to avoid waking them up during naptime.

    • by Erin Foster on June 28, 2011, at 11:42 am EDT

      I have found that the bathrooms at the Animal Kingdom Lodge villas are HUGE.

      On a related note, I had initially been hopeful that we could pull the sleeper chair (in some villas) into another room, but we’ve found that they are too large to fit through doorways.

  • Great advice. Fortunately it’s just me and my other half in hotel rooms when we go, but at least we know what to expect when children arrive.

    When I was younger, my parents booked a villa for us including my brother and grandmother which was a good option to go for if you are with extended family.

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  • I just don’t know why Disney has not thought of this very thing for larger families. How hard would it be to make a hotel room with a queen bed and two sets of bunks so every child can have their own bed with no fighting. They need to look at the room layouts of Great Wolf Lodge. It would bring peace of mind to a lot of parents minds I believe.

  • Hi All,

    I am looking into a Disney World trip this summer and with our twins who will be ~10months. I would like to put them in separate pak n’ plays, but have two concerns: 1. will I be able to get 2 pak n’ plays at a WDW resort (I spoke to a rep and they told me they can’t guarantee two..I don’t understand that given families of multiples), 2. what hotel rooms can fit two pak n’ plays comfortably? Bottom line…any advice or experience on reserving/using two pak n’ plays at Disney would be great! Thanks, Lisa

    • by Erin Foster on May 8, 2012, at 8:46 am EDT

      Lisa, I also have twins. They made their first WDW visit when they were about 10 months old. You should know that Disney NEVER guarantees room related requests. That’s just their standard operating procedure. The odds are 99.999% that they would have two pack n’ plays for you, but their go-to position is that they don’t guarantee. I made several WDW trips when my twins were crib age. There were always two Pack n’ Plays for us. However, if you’re concerned, you could always rent from an outside agency. There are many that rent cribs to the WDW hotel area. One reputable agency is kingdomstrollers.com, but there are many others as well. As for room selection, the key word I’m reading in your question is “comfortably.” Really the only rooms where you could comfortably fit two cribs would be the deluxe and villa resorts, the family suites at All Star Music or Art of Animation, or a Fort Wilderness cabin. In your situation, I’d go for a one-bedroom villa. This will give you a separate sleeping area for the babies, allowing you and hubby your own space to relax while they’re napping. You could also accomplish this at a family suite or cabin, but the transporation situation there is not ideal with multiple small children.

  • I found some inexpensive privacy screens when we took our family vacation. The company actually shipped them ahead to the hotel and they were waiting for us when we got there.
    The hotel actually loved these things and asked where we got them.
    We were able to put these up to have a little extra privacy in the room.
    They were inexpensive enough that we didn’t mind leaving them behind. Boy, are the next guests in that room lucky!
    Look up: http://www.PrivateSpacers.com

  • We like the space of off-site condos, but our family of 5 fits perfectly in a WL cabin. The problem I have is that Disney charges extra as soon as the kids turned 18. Well, we had a disabled son who was over 18 plus a high school senior who was 18 in addition to a 12 yr old. All 3 of them were our dependents. This situation is not at all equivalent to us sharing a room with, say, my dh’s sister and her dh. In that case we would expect to pay extra, as we overall we would be saving money on the room. However, when we are paying for our kids, at whatever age, of whom we are still the sole support, I find it totally unsatisfactory. Thus, we cancelled our reservations at the Beach Club.

  • We are a family of 6 and want to stay in one room on the monorail. When we make a reservation should we tell Disney that we are a family of 5 and just bring an air mattress or 6 and ask for a rollaway?

    • You can stay legally in any monorail hotel room with a family of six only if one of those six is a child under the age of three sleeping in a Pack’n Play crib. Disney will not allow six guests over the age of three to stay in any regular hotel room, regardless of the sleeping configuration. Theywont bring you a rollaway to get six in the room.

      Your only monorail option for a family of six would be a two or three bedroom villa at the Bay Lake Tower portion of the Contemporary resort.

      If you’re thinking of fudging (which I do not recommend) and bringing an air mattress to get an extra person in the room, please be aware that you will not be able to get package tickets or meal plans for the “extra” person. Also, if Disney figures out what you’re doing, it could be grounds for expulsion from the resort.

      If Bay Lake Tower is too expensive for your budget, The Fort Wilderness cabins are quite close to the Magic Kingdom and are less expensive.

  • Hi there, I am from Perth Australia, and have been researching for the best place to stay in Disneyworld. We are a family of 5, and have a 16,14 and 8 year old.
    Can you recommend a good resort for us at all?
    Thank you for your time.

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  • Very cool giveaway! As for sleeping, I need it to be cool too. I also need to be wearing comfortable clothes.

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