Staying at Two Disney World Resorts in One Trip: Planning a Split Stay

by 31 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

Walt Disney World is so vast, with so many accommodation options, that making a final decision about where to stay can be quite a task. Some folks find the decision so challenging that they skip making a final call altogether and instead decide to divide their stay between two or more hotels. This not uncommon practice is called a “split stay” and it comes with a host of things to consider. We’ll help you decide whether a split stay will give you the best of both worlds or a double-size headache.

Sometimes you have Grand taste, but not the cash for a long stay.

Why might I consider having a split stay?

There are a number of reasons why you might consider bunking at two or more hotels during your Disney World visit:

  • Availability. You may have your heart set on a particular hotel, but rooms there are not available for your entire vacation.
  • Budgetary constraints. You have deluxe tastes, but not a deluxe wallet. You can satisfy both needs by staying at one more and one less expensive hotel during your trip.
  • Attractiveness of multiple hotels. You may simply like the location or amenities of more than one hotel. You can sample them all with a split stay.
  • Change in your party composition. If part of your vacation is alone and part is with the in-laws, you may have different resort priorities for each leg of the trip.
  • Arrival/departure time. If you’re arriving at WDW late at night, you can economize a bit, by staying at a lesser resort for your first “sleep only” night.
  • Business at one hotel, vacation at another. Some guests may arrive at WDW for a conference, wedding or other programed event, but stay on longer for vacation time. Different hotels may suit these different purposes.

How exactly do I make a split stay reservation?

If you’d like to reserve online, then simply make two completely separate reservations, having the second one start on the day that the first one ends. You’ll end up with two confirmation numbers and two sets of email/paperwork.

I’ve personally found it a bit easier to make split stay reservations over the phone (407-W-DISNEY). To me, there’s something comforting about taking to an actual person when I’m trying to make a reservation that’s even slightly complicated, but really that’s up to you.

You may need two types of accommodations if you'll have extended family with you for only part of your trip.

I won’t have a car with me, how can I move my bags from my first resort to my second?

No worries, Disney can take care of that for you. On the morning that you’re done with your first hotel (Hotel A), check out and bring your luggage to the Bell Services desk. Tell them that you’ll be moving to your second hotel (Hotel B). Bell Services will tag your bags for transfer and give you a receipt. You can then be off on your merry way to enjoy some park touring.

Later in the afternoon or evening, when you’re done with park touring or need a break, take Disney transportation directly to Hotel B. Check in there and then head to Hotel B Bell Services. Give them your luggage receipt and let them know that you had bags transferred from Hotel A. They’ll find your bags and either hand them over to you or ask you if you need assistance getting them to your room.

You should know that bag transfer from Hotel A to Hotel B usually takes several hours. In most cases, your luggage won’t arrive at Hotel B until mid to late afternoon, possibly even after check-in time. If there are items that you’ll need during the day, be sure to keep them with you while your luggage is being transferred. This may be one of those times when renting a theme park locker could be helpful.

If you’re doing close budgeting, you should factor in that you will have a few more people to tip when you hand over your bags for transfer and when you collect your bags at Hotel B.

Anything else I should consider about the physical move from Hotel A to Hotel B?

Even though Disney makes resort transfer pretty darn easy, you will use up at least a bit of time mid-trip with packing, checking in, and then unpacking again.

If your party consists of just an adult or two, with minimal gear, traveling during the off season, there may be less than an hour of “wasted” time. If you’ve got several small children, with loads of paraphernalia, traveling Christmas week, this might take three or four hours, or more.

Personally, when I’ve had a split stay traveling on my own, I’ve barely even registered the move because it all goes to seamlessly. But one of my worst Disney vacation memories ever was trying to repack the luggage of my three preschool daughters during a mid-trip resort transfer. Everyone wanted to go somewhere fun, but I was busy hunting for hairbands and socks that had migrated under the beds. Don’t even get me started about the worry that everyone’s stuffed animals, sticker books, and pressed pennies made the trip. I then had to unpack all this detritus at Hotel B and then repack again a few days later. For me, that particular split stay ended up being more trouble than it was worth.

Be sure to take advantage of the unique features of each hotel during your split stay.

I want to spend a few nights at a value resort and a few at a deluxe resort. Which order should I do them in?

Obviously this is a matter of personal preference and resort availability, but given the choice, I’d always make the nicer hotel my last hotel. To me, it’s a bit of let down to go from posh to pedestrian. If you stay at the nicest hotel last, then you’ve still got something to look forward to during the first part of your vacation. I’ve also found that the memories made toward the end of a trip are the ones that tend to stay with me the longest.

Can I use the Magical Express bus service if I have a split stay?

You sure can. However, this is slightly complicated to set up online. Your best bet is to call Magical Express directly to set up your airport transportation. The phone number is 866-599-0951.

When I’ve used Magical Express with a split stay, I’ve received two separate transportation voucher booklets in the mail, arriving several days apart, so don’t worry if yours don’t come all at once. If you have any doubts/questions about your pick-up from Hotel B, feel free to stop by the resort concierge desk or call Magical Express at any time.

Can I use the Disney Dining Plan if I have a split stay?

Use of the Disney Dining Plan is perhaps the most complicated part of a split stay.

Remember that the DDP can only be purchased as part of a package that includes a hotel stay, park tickets, and the Dining Plan. If you have a split stay, your packages will be completely separate. There is no “roll over” of Dining Plan credits from the first part of your trip to the second. You’ll have to keep close tabs on your credits to make sure that your meal selection doesn’t have you over- or under-spending credits during what Disney considers to be two totally separate vacations.

On the other hand, if you’re someone who’s been thinking about using the Dining Plan, but isn’t quite sure, then a split stay can be a good Dining Plan test experience. Get the DDP for just one half of your stay and then use the knowledge gained from that to inform future Dining Plan decisions.

A split stay may become more attractive during the holidays when the room rates are higher.

Wait, you said that if I get the Dining Plan, I have to get park tickets. How is my ticket situation impacted by a split stay?

First let’s discuss split stay park tickets without the Dining Plan. In the best of all possible worlds, you have an annual pass or have purchased park tickets for your entire stay from an outside vendor. This keeps your room key (Key to the World Card) and park tickets totally separate, thus cutting down on confusion. (Also, be aware that in most cases annual pass holders are not required to purchase additional park tickets when getting the Dining Plan.)

If you’d like to purchase park tickets through Disney, you’ll do this with the first room reservation of your split stay. Let’s say you’re staying for eight days, four at All Star Sports and four at the Polynesian. When you make your All Star reservation, add park tickets for the full eight days. It is MUCH cheaper to buy an eight day ticket rather than two four day tickets ($512 for two separate four day adult tickets vs. $298 for one eight day adult ticket). You can have the front desk at All Star Sports add your eight day ticket to your Key to the World Card. However, you’ll get a new KTTW Card when you check into the Poly. So, for the second half of your stay, your park tickets will be on your old room key, even though you’ve checked out. (This definitely works. I recently used a water park ticket that was encoded onto a KTTW Card from a stay at Port Orleans in 2003.)

If you want to use the Disney Dining Plan, the ticket situation becomes more complicated. If you have a bit of financial flexibility and you’ll be back at WDW for a visit in the future, then you should proceed as above, getting the All Star room, the eight day park ticket, and four nights of the DDP during your first stay. To get the DDP during the second half of your split stay, you’ll also need to buy a park ticket. (Remember, the DDP is only available as part of a package that includes a room, the Dining Plan, AND park tickets.) For the Polynesian part of your stay, get the room, the Dining Plan and one day of tickets. YOU WILL NOT USE THESE TICKETS NOW. Unused Disney park tickets do not expire. You can use that excess one day ticket for a one day visit in the future or apply its value to the purchase of a multi-day ticket.

If you want to use the DDP for both parts of your split stay, but won’t be returning to WDW, in the example above your best option would be to get a seven day park ticket at the All Stars and then a one day ticket at the Poly. This would cost you $377 in park tickets vs the $289 that you would have spent had you been able to get one ticket for all eight days. That’s a substantial jump, particularly if you have several people in your traveling party. You’ll want to think hard about whether any benefits of having the Dining Plan outweigh this cost. If I were in these hypothetical shoes, I’d get the DDP for only the first half of my split stay and pay out of pocket for food during the second half. The savings in park tickets alone is enough to cover the cost of a nice signature meal.

Are there other financial implications to a split stay?

If you're planning a split stay, consider booking the less expensive resort for the first leg of the trip.

Since you have two reservations, you’ll have to pay two deposits up front, and will have to be aware of two sets of cancellation policies, etc. If the initial deposit outlay is an issue, then a split stay might not be right for you.

On a related note … I have fixed travel dates. I’d like to take advantage of a promotion (discount rate, free dining, etc.) that’s only available for part of my visit. Can I do this? Can I do this and stay at the same hotel?

Possibly, but it may entail making two separate bookings, one for the part of your trip where the promotion is available and one for the part where it is not. This will bring up some of the same issues as a split stay, even if you’re staying at the same resort. You’ll have to check out/in during the middle of your trip, for example.

Since you will come up in the computer system as having two bookings, the room assignment office might inadvertently put you in two different rooms for the different parts of your trip. If you’d like to stay in the same room, be sure to make this request in advance. You should also have a nice long chat with the front desk of your hotel up arrival. Be aware that there may be some circumstances where you will have to change rooms mid-stay.

Anything else to think about?

When having a split stay, it probably makes sense to tailor your park touring around your resort location. For example, if you’re spending a few days at the Pop then a few days at the Contemporary, make your Chef Mickey’s reservation during the Contemporary part of your stay. Similarly, if you have some time at an Epcot area resort, be sure to do your touring of Epcot and Hollywood Studios during that part of your trip. Smart planning like this can easily making up for any touring time you lost in the resort transfer process.

Also remember that having two “arrival dates” and confirmation numbers may impact your ability to make dining reservations. I have a split stay arranged for this coming Christmas. We’re arriving late and thus have made our first night at a less expensive resort and then will move to a deluxe. At the 180 day mark from our arrival, I was all set to make dining reservation for the full seven days of our stay. However, given that my first confirmation number only covered a one-day stay, the computer system only allowed me to make reservations for the first day of the trip, effectively boxing me out of the “180 + 10″ benefit of booking at a Disney resort. I had to come back the next day to make the meal reservations for the rest of the trip. (I did get the 180+10 benefit then because my second resort confirmation number covered more days.)

So my weary travelers, have you ever split your stay between two Disney resorts? Did you find it easy or challenging? What have your experiences been? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
Posted on September 13, 2012

31 Responses to “Staying at Two Disney World Resorts in One Trip: Planning a Split Stay”

  • We have split our vacation several times. I have teenage kids so they can pack up there own stuff. Its also great if you want to try the delux dining plan this way we get to try some of the high end dining. The second half of the trip we usually get a cheaper dining plan or just use tables in Wonderland.

  • by Danielle Gagnon on September 13, 2012, at 9:34 am EDT

    We have done a split stay multiple times. We did a split between 5 resorts on our last stay. We were there for 17 days. It was fun. We live out of our suitcases so that was never a problem. We are DVC so the tickets and dining plan was not an issue. It was great trying different resorts.

  • I and my daughters (then ages 9 and 11) did a split stay – 3 resorts over 7 nights. It was fun getting to experience different resorts, although if we do it again, I would only do 2 resorts in that length of time.

  • We’ll be doing our first split stay in November so this article was helpful!

  • I Concur with your comment about split reservations being more complicated to make. My last trip was split between 4 days of business and 6 days of fun. Even though my whole trip was spent staying at the beach club, since I needed it to be under two reservations for two different payment methods, it was a NIGHTMARE. Everything from receiving 6 reservation booklets in the mail for magical express (then arriving at the magical express counter in the airport and being told I have no reservation), my park passes not working, being given a hard time about staying in the same room for the whole 10 day stay even though I pre arranged it when making my reservation- and last but not least- my billing statement was a nightmare resulting in 6 hours of combined time spent on the phone with guest services.

    Lesson: If you do this- be prepared to invest a lot of time and energy into it.

    • It sounds like you had a worse experience than most. I have a feeling that if you had been paying for both stays yourself, then the billing would not have been an issue. But still, it’s a good word of warning for those who are in a similar situation.

  • My wife, 3 boys (9,7,1), and I are checking in 12/9 at All Star Music for one night, then checking in to the Caribbean beach resort on 12/10 (to get the “free” dining). We are hoping with only one day we can leave our luggage untouched and live out of carry on/backpacks for one day. I was thinking of spending the $25 or so on a cab to get from one resort to the other, so we can get straight to the park and onto baby’s first hair cut. Do you think this is a faster option or should I rely on Disney to move my bags?

    • If you’re looking to get going quicker in the morning, then having Disney move your bags may actually be your better option.

      All you would have to do at ASM is drop your bags at Bell Services. Then you can take the bus directly from there to the MK and be first in line for your cutie’s visit with the barber. At the end of the day, you’ll take the bus from the MK to CBR, where you’ll check in and reclaim your bags.

      Taking the cab to CBR will add a step. You’ll have to check in to CBR and then leave your bags with their Bell Services, since your room will likely not be ready yet. Then you’ll have to board the CBR bus to the MK. You’d be making your morning activities take at least half an hour longer.

      Just my opinion. Do any readers have other ideas?

      • Erin how would I go about getting my park tickets if I haven’t checked into CBR yet? We have no tickets associated with our one day stay at ASM, that is why I thought I needed to check in to CBR in the AM.

        • Ah. The tickets. Didn’t know about that part. Then yes, you’re going to have to take the cab over to CBR and register. They’ll get your tickets and you can store your bags with the CBR bell staff.

          You can go over to CBR as early in the morning as you like. They’ll even preregister you at 5:00 a.m.

          I suppose if you wanted to be a hero and a half to your family, you could go just yourself at the crack of dawn and get the Key To The World cards with the tickets, letting them sleep in.

          One thing to think about with the cab. If the whole family is going in the cab, you should have bell services call ahead for one with a car seat. You may actually need a mini-van cab with five people. The price is the same, but again, you may need to have ASM call one specifically for you.

      • You could also consider renting a car for a day. There’s a rental car location on site at the car care center. They’ll come pick you up on a shuttle so you can get the car the night before (they close at 6pm, though). You could then use the car to make the transfer (and maybe run for groceries and skip waiting for a bus to the park, too). The downside would be someone going to pickup and drop off the car.

  • I stayed at POP with two grandsons for two nights last month and moved to AOA-Cars for two nights when my son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter joined us. Bell services at POP picked our bags up in our room as we headed to Epcot for the day and and delivered them promptly after check in when we returned to AoA. It could not have been easier. I attribute it to pixie dust.

  • I travel a ton for work and am very accustomed to packing and upacking quickly, so I’ve considered using multiple resorts as a way of experiencing a bunch of different resorts and seriously cutting down on my transit time over the course of a trip. Example:

    Day 1: Check in to BLT, go to MK.
    Day 2: Check out of BLT, drop bags at bell desk, go to EPCOT. At end of day, go to BC.
    Day 3: Check out of BC, drop bags at bell desk, go to AK. At end of day, go to AKV.
    etc.

    Obviously a bit hectic, but I do think it might be fun to try some time…

  • The other reason you want to have the less expensive resort come first in a split stay is that it’s generally a more enjoyable experience to move up in resort quality, rather than down. Speaking from personal experience here…our first split stay was a week at AKL Jambo followed by a weekend at Pop. (This was before DVC smoothed out the big differences between weeknight and weekend point costs, so we were trying to save some points.) Moving to Pop after six nights on a Jambo savanna view was a bit of a letdown, to say the least. Since then, we’ve done a split stay between BLT and Kidani, which worked out a lot better, and we’re going to be splitting between Riverside and Kidani on our next trip.

  • Planning to do a split for our last night (AoA to AKL) so we should already be packed and really won’t need much on our final day.

  • We have a split stay coming up in October as we added on an extra day in the begining of our vacation that was not planned before. We are staying at SSR on Friday and then BLT for the rest of the stay. When we bought our park tickets we attached them to the SSR stay as we needed to get to Hollywood Studios for EMH on Saturday morning and worried that it would take too long at BLT to get checked in to get the tickets. So, I added them to the SSR reservation and now we will use our SSR Key to the World for our park tickets and our BLT Key to the World for our room key. Yes, it will be a pain carrying around two cards but worth it when I don’t have to get up in the early morning to get our tickets from BLT.

  • I would think it would be more common to split stay from off-site to on-site (or vice versa) than within a site. Re: split stay on site, I wonder if Disney made it easier, would they have more people who normally stay cheaper start to add a few more expensive nights, or would it be the reverse – people would try to make their expensive vacation a little more economical by having some nights cheaper? I know I would have loved to have a few nights in the Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian instead of all seven nights at Port Orleans.

  • Just working on completing my first stay renting points through Dave’s Disney Vacation Club Point rentals. I am thrilled with the price and also with being able to get free tickets using my airmiles, yet still take advantage of the dining plan. Only 3 of my eight nights were available at Boardwalk Villas, so I am also staying the first two nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge and the last three at Old key West. If I hadn’t recently read this blog post, I never would have thought to try to arrange it this way, so I am grateful to Touring Plans for yet another reason.

    One great advantage I just realized is that because it is three separate reservations, I can take different dining plans. I am going to start with the deluxe for just two nights. I will use one table service for Boma the evening we arrive, and then two at Animal Kingdom the next day (Tusker’s Donald Duck Safari breakfast and Yak and Yeti for dinner, with snacks for lunch. That leaves three table service for Monday, which means I won’t even touch my basic plan until Tuesday. We leave crack of dawn Sunday morning, so I will be able to have an extra table service one day and an extra counter service another day. I am thrilled!

    Plus, we are doing as another reader suggested and visiting the more convenient parks located closer to our resort. As long as Disney moves the luggage properly, we will check out and head to a park each of the two moving mornings, arriving at the new resort when we are ready.

  • Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information about this subject for a while and yours is the greatest I have found out so far. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you certain in regards to the supply?|What i don’t understood is in reality how you’re now not really a lot more well-appreciated than you might be now. You’re so intelligent.

  • As I just commented on your annual pass blog, we are planning on a big “dream” holiday from Australia consisting of a week at WDW, then a DCL cruise then another week at a different WDW hotel. Our showstopper for a split-visit (even though the middle is also Disney) is that tickets expire after 14 days. WDW don’t seem very interested in making this easy for we O/S visitors – considering our air-fares are about $8000 just to get there!

  • I’m planning a group trip with about 5 families with young kids, most of the are 6 and the youngest 2. This would be our first visit to Disney. Would you not recommend a split stay based on it being our first trip with a large group that includes young children?

    • While others may disagree, I wouldn’t do a split stay in the circumstances you describe. With so many moving parts (multiple families, small kids), things are bound to be very hectic during the move. In my experience, it takes a while for kids to sort out their sleep arrangements/comforts in a new environment. I’d be hesitant to get them settled and them move them a few days later.

    • I have done many split trip with my family of 6. My children are ages 15-25,I don’t think I would recommend a split trip with that many families and such young children. My youngest was probably around 9 the first time we did it. They do love to try different resorts now though. Good luck!

    • While I just did another 3-way, 10-day split stay with my own small family, the logistics of moving that many people with many young children sounds horrific. Plus, you aren’t the only adult and the others may not be too thrilled. Remember, there will be at least 5 hours (11 a.m. check-out to 4 p.m. check-in) during which you will not have any hotel rooms. If people need to nap during the day, it would have to be on the run in strollers or by the pool.If someone is unwell, they will be in a lobby waiting for a room. I wouldn’t chance it. Stay in one spot and have loads of fun.

  • I did a split stay on our last trip, Art of Animation followed by Polynesian and loved it!! Very easy to do , and enjoyed both resorts. (The adults enjoyed the Poly more and the kids loved both) I am wanting to do another split stay on our next trip. Thinking about POR and then AKV, Beach Club , or Poly (depending on discounts). Would it be possible to purchase the tickets and dining plan with the second part of our trip? Are you able to pick up the park tickets ahead of time and use them on the first days of the trip this way?

  • Hi!

    Does anyone know how a split stay would work with the new Magic Bands? Would there be 2 sets? The tickets would stay on the 1st?

    What about if we did part of the stay thru a Disney package and the other part renting DVC points? How would the bands work?

    Thank you!! :)

    • Yes, you would get a second set of Magic Bands. We just used the same Magic Bands throughout our stay, although I believe you can change to the other bands mid-stay if you’d prefer. It’s very easy for them to link whatever needs to be linked up to a band.

  • Hello,

    We were thinking we’d like to try a split stay since we have 4 young kids and don’t want to spend tons of time on and waiting for buses (Were thinking 3 nights at a MK/monorail resort, and 3 nights at an EPCOT area resort). Then I saw this article and am admittedly a bit nervous about splitting our time now! ;) We’re looking at renting DVC points, but also purchasing a dining plan. Would that make the split at all easier?

Leave a reply, your thoughts are welcome!

Want a cool avatar next to your comments? Add one at Gravatar