Resort Hopping at Walt Disney World

[by Amanda Baunber, Me and the Magic]  I love resort hopping at Walt Disney World!

What is resort hopping, you may ask? I define resort hopping as splitting your vacation into two or more resort stays. I started resort hopping a few years ago (more on why later!). In a way, resort hopping feels like more than one vacation. I especially like resort hopping for longer trips, it helps to break up the trip.

Here are my pros and cons for Walt Disney World resort hopping.

Pros of Disney Resort Hopping

Maximize Your Valuable Vacation Time

Vacation time is very precious because you’re spending your hard earned money to have fun on limited time, so we want to maximize that valuable time as much as possible! When you stay at two or more Walt Disney World resorts during the same vacation, you can stay close to different parks in the same trip. Plan your itinerary around the closest parks and restaurants to each resort to minimize your travel time and maximize your fun time at the parks and at each resort.

If you stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, take full advantage of being 5 minutes away from the Animal Kingdom Park. If you stay in the Boardwalk area, it’s a quick walk or boat ride to both EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So maximize your time in those parks, and enjoy exploring the Boardwalk area while you’re staying there.

What About the Luggage?

Disney will move your bags for you, from your first resort to your next resort, free of charge. Note that your bags may not be available until later in the day at your new resort. I prefer to move my own bags from one resort to the next. You can take your bags on Disney transportation. I’ll either drive or take a car service to my next resort. If my room isn’t ready, then I’ll store my bags at Bell Services and either explore the resort, or head to the parks or Disney Springs. If you want to truly maximize your time, head to the parks while Disney moves your bags for you. Then make your way to your new resort, where your bags will be waiting for you!

Experience Fully the Different Resorts

When I lived in New York and only went to Walt Disney World once a year (if that), I really enjoyed resort hopping as a way to learn more about different resorts on the same trip. It’s great to visit a resort during your WDW vacation, but I think you learn so much more about the resort by staying there and really experiencing it firsthand overnight. Now that I live in central Florida, it’s not as important to me to resort hop because it’s much easier for me to go to WDW for a 1-night stay at a different resort each time.

Take full advantage of your resort stays whenever possible, and build some time into your itinerary to simply explore the resort. Most resorts have special activities at different times of day – some are published, and some are not.

Around 4:00 PM at the Grand Floridian, often Cinderella and Prince Charming descend the grand staircase into the lobby and waltz, as the Grand Society Orchestra plays. Then they invite others to join in the waltz. It was such a sweet unexpected moment!

Non-Parks Days

It’s very easy to spend a non-park day at many resorts. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can take a culinary tour of restaurants; explore the different paths along the savanna; and watch animals on the savanna from the paths or one of the many higher up viewing areas that have relaxing rocking chairs and binocular machines. You can explore the amazing Zawadi Marketplace gift shop, where often people are creating their crafts – I’ve seen woodcarvers whittling away their creations, really amazing! I’ll be writing more soon about resort ideas for non-park days.

Amanda’s advice… For split-stays, start with the lower category resort.  When you move to the higher category resort, it feels like an upgrade. 

Cons of Disney Resort Hopping

No Home Base for at Least 5 Hours

Check-out is usually 11:00 AM at WDW Resorts. You can request a late check-out, but usually only until 12:00 PM (and your request isn’t always granted). Then you have to wait until at least 4:00 PM to check into the next resort. If you head to the parks or Disney Springs in the morning and don’t need your room until that evening, then this won’t affect you. However, I’ve found that there are many days when I wanted to go swimming in the afternoon, or just go back to my resort room for a breather to take a break from the heat. If I was in between resort stays, that wouldn’t work, unless my new resort room was ready before 4:00 PM official check-in time.

Amanda’s advice… Sometimes, rooms won’t be ready until after 4:00 PM, so be prepared for that. Unfortunately, this happened to me on my last 2 stays at the Beach Club, when all I wanted to do was change into my swimsuit and enjoy every moment possible at the amazing Stormalong Bay! I could have planned better and packed my swimsuit in my day bag.

You Have to Pack More than Once

There’s no way around it – if you move resorts, you have to pack up your resort room more than once. This may not be a big deal if you’re traveling solo, but it may be more difficult with more people in your party.

You Will Not Be Able To Reserve All Dining At Once

If you are going on a long trip to WDW and are staying at the same resort, you have a better chance of snagging the really popular dining reservations 60 days out from your arrival date. If you do a split-stay, you can only make dining reservations 60 days from each resort arrival date, so you lose that advantage. One way to still resort-hop and have a better chance of securing the dining reservations you want is just to spend your last 1-2 nights of a longer trip at a second resort.

Be Aware Of Some Disney Reservation System Technicalities

This is more for all resort stays with multiple people and multiple credit cards in one room… If you have 2 or more people in one room on separate credit cards, and one person leaves before the others, the last person who vacates the room has to be the one to check out. Otherwise, the remaining people can’t get back into the room if the first person leaving checks out. This applies even if someone leaves a day or more earlier than the scheduled last day on the reservation. We found this out the hard way. When one person left a day early, we still had a day left on our room reservation. After she checked out, our MagicBands would not work to let us back into our room because she had stopped at the front desk to close out her account with her charge card. When she checked out, the Disney reservation system automatically marked us as having checked out of the room. For a split stay, this is important if, for example, you stay with a friend at All Star Movies, then you resort hop to Wilderness Lodge for a night, but your friend continues to stay at All Star Movies.

Final Thoughts on Disney Resort Hopping

I fully recommend resort hopping. Try it at least once, and then decide if it’s right for you and your travel party. Resort hopping probably isn’t ideal for every single trip. Plan what you think will be best for you if traveling solo, or for you and your travel party if going as a group.

Thanks for connecting with me!

Let me know how I can help you, or share your story with me here. — Amanda