Doing a split stay at Walt Disney World is great for trying two hotels or splurging on a Deluxe Resort or Club Level. It can also be convenient, making transportation to the parks, Early Entry, Extended Evening Hours, and midday breaks all easier! This post covers strategy, tips & tricks, whether it’s worth the hassle, and more. (Updated June 18, 2023.)
A lot of readers have asked us about split stays, and the primary question is whether they’re worth the effort. We won’t bury the lede here: yes. We love the resorts at Walt Disney World almost as much as the theme parks, and staying at multiple hotels is a great way to experience different ‘thematic settings’ during a single trip.
Your resort can set the tone and atmosphere for the entire trip, so changing resorts makes it feel almost like a different vacation entirely–travel to both Fiji and the Pacific Northwest during your Florida trip. Right now, we’re even bigger advocates of split stays as a form of splurge that’ll allow you to take advantage of better on-site perks…
That’s because Walt Disney World is offering Early Entry and Extended Evening Hours through at least 2024 as a replacement to Extra Magic Hours. The former allows all on-site resort guests and those staying at select third party hotels to enjoy 30-minute access to any Walt Disney World theme park, every day before normal operating hours begin.
We’re big fans of Early Entry, as it essentially offer a couple of ride headstart for on-site guests, which can be pretty significant. (Learn more strategy in our Guide to Early Entry at Walt Disney World.) However, it’s not really relevant from a split stay perspective, since all on-site guests have access to this.
Where split stays come into play is with Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. This benefit is exclusively for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas (Disney Vacation Club units), or other select hotels (currently Swan & Dolphin, Swan Reserve, and Shades of Green). Guests staying at Value or Moderate Resorts are not eligible for Extended Evening Hours.
Extended Evening Theme Park Hours occur only two nights per week in total–typically Mondays at Epcot and Wednesdays at Magic Kingdom, with a 2-hour duration starting immediately after normal park closing. Two hours should allow eligible guests to accomplish more, but this is only a perk for those who book more expensive hotels.
Currently, the two newest attractions in Epcot and Magic Kingdom–Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle Run, respectively–both use virtual queues. This means you can only ride once per day via the virtual queue, assuming you score a spot, but Extended Evening Hours is an exception to that. On those evenings, there’s another chance to join the VQ. (See our Guide to the Virtual Queue at TRON Lightcycle Run for everything you need to know–same applies to Cosmic Rewind.)
Extended Evening Hours is a huge advantage. Crowds are virtually non-existent, as are lines for most attractions. It’s way better than Evening Extra Magic Hours were, which had become overcrowded due to expanded eligibility during its last few years. However, it’s only so blissfully unbusy because it excludes a large chunk of guests–everyone staying at Value and Moderate Resorts.
This is where a split stay comes into play. You’re eligible for these extra hours both on your checkin and checkout days, meaning that you could theoretically do a 2-night stay at a Deluxe Resort, checking in on Monday and checking out on Wednesday, and take advantage of Extended Evening Hours at both Magic Kingdom and Epcot. (See our Guide to Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney World for more rules, eligibility, strategy, etc.)
The same idea can be applied to a split stay and doing Club Level at Walt Disney World. You’re eligible to use the concierge lounge and all of the perks that come with staying Club Level on both your arrival and departure day, meaning that one night essentially enables you to access that lounge over the course of two days. Doing Club Level for a night or two, arriving early and leaving late gives you the most bang for your buck, and is a good way to get a taste of the Club Level life without breaking the bank.
Accordingly, we highly recommend Club Level as part of a ‘treat yourself’ split stay splurge. If you opt to do this, we highly recommend doing Club Level at the end of your vacation. This is partially because it’s tough to go back to normal accommodations once you’ve been in da club. More importantly, because you’ll spend the first portion of your trip racing around the parks doing everything that you want to get done, exhausting yourselves in the progress. Then at the end, you’ll have a Club Level stay to relax, rejuvenate, and actually vacation.
When we stay Club Level at Walt Disney World, we seldom leave the hotel–often bouncing between the lounge and the pool. For our favorite concierge lounges and recommendations, see our Guide to Club Level at Walt Disney World.
On a similar note, only do the Disney Dining Plan for a portion of the stay, if at all. As covered in our 2024 Disney Dining Plan Info & Tips post, we think it provides too much food and can take too much time. Only doing the Disney Dining Plan for one portion of the trip allows us to do an attractions-oriented half of the trip, and a food-oriented half.
We almost always do the food half of the trip second, when we’re ready to slow down, relax, and focus more on eating. This also allows you to maximize savings by booking ADRs for the Best Uses of Disney Dining Plan Credits during the second half of your trip, while focusing on your favorite ‘good value’ restaurants during the first half. This isn’t something often discussed when it comes to split stays, but we wholeheartedly recommend it.
With that said, do NOT do the Disney Dining Plan at the same time as Club Level. It’s one or the other, not both. However, if you have a really long Walt Disney World vacation and really want to get creative and have fun, consider splitting your trip into thirds. This does allow you to do both the DDP and Club Level, just not at the same time.
Here’s our ‘formula’ for this:
Start with 3-4 nights at a lower tier resort and go hard on the parks
Switch to a nicer resort, get the Disney Dining Plan, and slow down for the next few nights
End it all with a couple days for rest and recovery with Club Level accommodations.
Numbers 2 and 3 could even be at the same resort if you don’t want to hassle with transfering your luggage repeatedly. We’ve done trips like the above, and they’re a ton of fun. It sounds more complicated than it really is!
If you’re worried about split stays wasting too much time, don’t. They actually offer a number of other different strategic advantages. One is in leveraging location for more efficient transportation to the theme parks near your hotel. This is of particular relevance when it allows you to avoid Disney buses, which aren’t typically as efficient as the non-bus transportation.
If you do a stay at Crescent Lake or at one of the Skyliner resorts, you have easy transportation–either via gondola or your feet–to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you follow that up with a Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake resort stay, you have non-bus transportation to Magic Kingdom. That leaves only Animal Kingdom, and you could probably just deal with the buses for that.
The benefits of a convenient location cannot be overstated. This is especially true for Early Entry–walking to Epcot or Magic Kingdom, or taking the Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot is far more efficient and easier first thing than relying on a bus. The time you save during Early Entry in turn gives you the freedom to leave the park–avoiding crowds in the middle of the day by taking breaks for pool time, afternoon naps, etc. Seriously, split stays open up a world of time-saving opportunities that you probably never imagined existed.
This approach also opens up more opportunities for enjoying and comparing a variety of amenities. For instance, you could do a head-to-head comparison and settle the Polynesian v. Caribbean Beach Resort debate once and for all. Or, you could simply enjoy a greater range of restaurants, pools, and other entertainment that’s unique to each resort.
If you’re going to be spending more time at the pools or eating breakfast and dinner at your hotel, this helps you mix things up. Doing a split stay opens up more options–variety is the spice of life and all that.
As you can probably tell, we are huge fans of split stays. We change hotels frequently at Walt Disney World. Part because we really enjoy it and part because it’s necessary to keep our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews updated. There were times in the past when we’ve done as many as 6 hotels in a single trip! While I definitely wouldn’t recommend that, changing once over the course of a week is really no big deal at all.
For our own sanity, we’ve developed a few more ‘rules’ when it comes to split stays…
First, never do just a single night at any hotel. We’ve done that several times, and it can become exhausting. Unpacking and packing, settling in, and getting acclimated, only to do it all over again the next day. Plus, one night is simply not enough time to ‘get to know’ a resort and even partially enjoy its amenities.
Second, coordinate park days with resort stays. If we’re staying at the Contemporary or another monorail resort for one part of the trip, that’s when we go to Magic Kingdom. If we’re staying at Beach Club or another Crescent Lake Resort, that’s when we go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
This may seem like a minor or even odd thing, but it’s strategically huge. Walking between the Contemporary and Magic Kingdom is a pleasant stroll of less than 10 minutes, with the shortest security check you’ll encounter for the park. Waiting for and taking a bus, then going through the main bag check, can take over an hour. Ditto walking to and from Epcot or DHS.
Finally, go low to high if at all possible. This is to say, start at the lowest tier hotel and end at the highest. This is kind of implied above with the Club Level recommendation, but applies even beyond that. One big motivation for doing split stays is to splurge on something nice without breaking the bank on a full week there. You probably do not want to go from the Grand Floridian for 2 nights to All Star Sports for the next 5 nights.
That’s simply too jarring of a change, and in the wrong direction. Experiencing the nicer properties first really amplifies the shortcomings of the lower tier ones, and will make you less comfortable. It might sound silly, but beginning at a Value and ending at a Deluxe is a far superior approach, and will help you appreciate the Deluxe more.
However, this low to high “rule” can be difficult to reconcile with the above advice about Extended Evening Hours, since those happen Monday and Wednesday and most vacations start over a weekend. If it comes down to one or the other, err on the side of Extended Evening Hours. It’s better to take advantage of those and deal with going from a Deluxe to a Value Resort if push comes to shove.
With that said, consider “rethinking” your vacation time frame if at all possible. Resorts tend to be more expensive over the weekends, so it can be savvy to do a Value Resort Friday through Sunday to pay the (comparatively) lower rates for those as opposed to a Moderate or Deluxe Resort.
Equally as significant, crowds on Saturday and Sunday are lower than Monday through Thursday. Accordingly, you can do ‘commando style’ park touring over the weekend, then take things slower Monday through Wednesday, enjoying the nicer resort more before doing Extended Evening Hours to end the night! (See the ‘Wonky Weekends’ section in our updated Best & Worst Days to Visit Every Park at Walt Disney World in 2023.)
The resort transfer itself is pretty easy. On the morning you check out of your first resort, take your luggage down to Bell Services and indicate that you’re transferring resorts. They’ll ask where you’re going, at which point you’ll want to specify the full name of the resort to which you’re going.
As we cover in our Tipping at Walt Disney World: Info & FAQ, you’ll need to tip the Cast Member to whom you give your luggage. After that, you can head to the bus stop/monorail/etc. and start your day. Only a few minutes of extra effort, and you can be on your way to the theme parks.
Most transfers occur in the mid-afternoon, so plan on not receiving your luggage at the next resort until as late as 5 p.m. At your new resort, you’ll almost always have to either go down to Bell Services to retrieve your luggage or call down to have it delivered again. Again, you’ll need to tip.
One thing we’d caution against is opting to ‘do it yourself’ and transfer resorts via Uber, Lyft, or (worst of all) Disney transportation. There are several exceptions to this: those with a rental car, transferring between monorail resorts, or any hotels within walking distance of one another.
Additionally, it can be easier at resorts that are spread out among multiple buildings (like Caribbean Beach), or between off-site and on-site hotels (at which point doing it yourself is necessary). In these cases, Uber or Lyft can pose an advantage.
We understand that some of you may be apprehensive about the luggage transfer, but we have done split stays dozens of times (probably nearly 100 times–so many we’ve lost count) and have had zero issues with the luggage transfer. This doesn’t mean they don’t happen, but they so infrequent it’s not worth worrying about.
More importantly, doing it yourself is a complete waste of time and money. You’ll have to take the time to go to the new resort and spend the money on a ride. You’ll most likely still have to drop your luggage off with Bell Services at the new hotel, because you’ll be arriving there by about noon at the latest and your room is unlikely to be ready.
With the greatness of split stays established, let’s turn to some of the potentially unpleasant logistics. Some Walt Disney World visitors make a huge deal about the planning “hurdles” that come with a split stay, but in fairness, people make a huge deal about everything Walt Disney World-related. It’s not that much additional coordination at all.
First, no matter how you want to do the split stay, you’re going to be stuck booking multiple reservations. This is irrespective of whether you’re doing a vacation package, room-only reservation, Disney Vacation Club booking. Unfortunately, Disney’s system is not sufficiently sophisticated to allow for a single reservation to encompass multiple hotel stays.
From our perspective, tickets are the most important element to discuss, and you’ll want to purchase tickets for the full duration of your stay with the first stay. The reason for this is, quite simply, that one 7-day or 10-day ticket is cheaper than two shorter tickets. This also assumes you’re doing a package, rather than following the strategies in our Money-Saving Tips for Buying Walt Disney World Tickets.
There are potential hiccups and exceptions (you know, the usual when it comes to Walt Disney World planning), but that’s essentially it. For most visitors, booking a split stay and planning all components shouldn’t be much of a challenge, particularly if you’re a more laid back planner. If you want more thorough guidance or assistance navigating the ‘split stay’ planning waters, we’d highly recommend contacting an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
Overall, hopefully this helps you understand the ins and outs of how to do a split stay and, much more importantly, the upsides of doing one. In case you can’t tell, we love split stays. There’s something truly special about sleeping in the rustic seclusion of Fort Wilderness for a night, and then flipping a switch to the grandiosity and elegance of the Grand Floridian the next.
Likewise, staying within walking distance of Magic Kingdom at the Contemporary for a couple of nights, and then walking distance of DHS and Epcot at BoardWalk a few nights is both a ton of fun and smart strategy. Those are just a couple of examples, but the options for changing from one richly-themed environment and ‘region’ of Walt Disney World to another are pretty much boundless.
Have you done a split stay at Walt Disney World? What’s your favorite approach to doing different resorts during the same WDW vacation? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any hotel combos you particularly like? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!