So you finally decide it’s time to start planning that amazing vacation to Disney. First stop is done: you beg and plead and persuade your boss that it’s okay to give you a week’s vacation. It’s only a week, you say while smiling very sweetly, what could go wrong? You then excitedly go to your favorite website (Chip & Co, of course!) to start doing your research to figure out where you are going to stay. Here is when you realize quickly that this task is not as easy as it seems. With all of the different options available – from the budget-friendly value resorts to the beautiful moderate resorts to the one-of-a-kind experience of the deluxe resorts, it’s hard to pick just one!
Well, as Mrs. Jumbo would say, baby mine, don’t you cry! Luckily, you don’t have to pick just one.
Many Disney vets will tell you that there is something known as a split stay. What is a split stay, you ask? It’s when you check in to a resort for the beginning portion of your stay, and then switch to a different resort for the latter part of your vacation. What’s great about this is that it allows people to experience more than one resort in a single vacation. It’s like two vacations in one!
Here’s how it works:
Booking Your Reservation: For a split stay, Disney recognizes the first and second leg of your trip as two separate reservations altogether. For example, if you wanted to stay at Art of Animation for 4 nights, and then end with a bang at the Grand Floridian for another 2 nights, you will need to secure two separate bookings. This means you will receive two reservations numbers which is entered separately in My Disney Experience. This also means you will need to put down two deposits, and note different cancellation windows for each reservation.
Luggage Transfers: What makes a split stay a fantastic option is that Disney makes transferring your luggage from one resort to the next easy peasy! On check-out day at the Art of Animation, you will simply drop off your luggage with Bell Services and let them know that you have a split stay and your next destination is the Grand. They will then label and tag your luggage (and give you a receipt!) and send it off to the Grand Floridian. Later in the day, Bell Services at the Grand Floridian will receive your luggage and store it until you are ready for them to deliver it to your new room. So you see, you don’t have to worry about renting a car or carrying all that luggage aboard Disney transportation. Disney will do all of that behind the scenes, while you can spend the day being at the parks or Disney Springs. Just remember that it will take a few hours for your luggage to be delivered to your new resort. If you are planning to go to the pool after checking in at the Grand, it might be a good idea to bring a separate carry-on bag with your swimming supplies and other important items just in case your bags are not at your new resort yet.
Disney’s Magical Express: When you are adding Disney’s Magical Express to your reservation, don’t forget to let them know that you have a planned split stay. They will need your reservation from Art of Animation so they know when you will be arriving and where to drop you off from the airport, but they will also use your reservation at the Grand Floridian so they know where to pick you up at the end of your trip **sniff sniff** to go back to the airport.
Magic Bands: Because Disney recognizes two separate reservations, you will also have the opportunity to select two sets of Magic Bands. Keep in mind that your Magic Band is tied to your profile in My Disney Experience, so you don’t need to switch bands halfway through you stay. Only one set of Magic Bands is required to unlock your room at the Art of Animation, and later, at the Grand Floridian. Remember too that you have the option to decline your second Magic Band order if you’d like.
Fast Pass+ Reservations: The rule of thumb is that if you are staying onsite, you can start booking your FP+ reservations 60 days prior to your check-in date. In the case of a split stay, there are two dates you will have to keep in mind: 60 days prior to your Art of Animation reservation, and 60 days prior to your Grand Floridian stay. Unfortunately, My Disney Experience will not allow you to plan FP+ for the days covering your Grand Floridian stay at the 60-day mark of your Art of Animation check-in date. So if you are looking to book some hard-to-get FP+, like Wishes or the Elsa and Anna Meet and Greet, you need to be ready to plan on two separate dates. If most of your selections are readily available, then you can just wait for the 60-day mark of your second resort check-in date and plan for your entire stay.
Advanced Dining Reservations: So here’s the thing with ADRs. It should also work the same as FP+ reservations above – meaning you can plan dining reservations for the first leg of your trip at 180 days prior to check in (for the entirety of your first stay) and then do the same thing for your second leg at 180 days prior to the check in date of your second reservation (for the entirety of the second stay). With that said, we have had readers tell us they were able to plan dining reservations for their entire trip – it might have been a system glitch or maybe they got lucky, but regardless be prepared for the possibility of planning your dining reservations twice.
Theme Park Tickets: If you are looking to book a package that includes theme park tickets, always include them in the first leg of your stay and buy tickets for as many days as you need for your entire vacation. So for your week-long vacation, let’s say you are thinking about going to the parks for a total of 6 days. You wouldn’t want to buy 4-day tickets for your Art of Animation stay and then buy another set of 2-day tickets with your Grand Floridian stay. The total for these two separate sets is higher than what it would cost to purchase one set of 6-day tickets (because the more days you purchase, the less cost you pay per day). In this case, you would want to buy the 6-day tickets with your Art of Animation booking (and book your Grand Floridian stay as room only). Don’t worry, the tickets will be tied to your profile and won’t disappear when you check in to the Grand.
Dining Plan: If you are considering taking advantage of, say, the Free Dining promotion (if or when it comes out for 2016!), it can be done but it’s more complicated. Let’s assume in our example that we’ve met the length of stay criteria for Free Dining at both resorts. Usually, Free Dining also requires you buy tickets with a certain number of days. For the Art of Animation stay, you can easily be eligible for Free Dining because you are already purchasing the 6-day tickets on that booking. However, you have no tickets attached to the Grand Floridian booking. My recommendation would be to only get the dining plan for the first portion of your stay – in this case, you would buy the 6-day ticket and get a free dining plan for your stay at Art of Animation. Otherwise, you will need to buy tickets for each stay in order to add Free Dining, which will add to your costs. Each situation is different, of course, so you will have to weigh the costs of the various options available to you.
So there you go – are you now ready to book a split stay for your next trip to Disney? If you have booked a split stay before, how did it go? What other tips & tricks have we missed? Sound off in the comments below!
Split stays provide guests with opportunities to enjoy more of Walt Disney World for sure, but on the flipside, there is going to be more planning involved to make it happen. If you are interested in looking into a split stay for your next vacation, send me an email or call/text at (920) 526-0809 and I can help plan the details, anywhere from arranging Disney’s Magical Express to making reservations for dining and FP+. As an independent travel agent at World of Magic Travel, Chip & Co’s preferred travel agency, my services are always free to you!