By Heather Lewis
While planning our fall trip to Walt Disney World, my husband and I were having trouble deciding which one of the many resorts to stay at. After looking at all our options, we decided to try a split stay and spend time at two different resorts. We would spend the first two nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge and four nights at Pop Century. We choose Animal Kingdom Lodge as a special treat for ourselves for our anniversary. Pop Century seemed like a good choice as a resort for our small children to enjoy.
When booking a split stay, guests are making two reservations, one at each resort. This can be complicated if you are booking a package, rather than making a room-only reservation. A package has tickets and possibly a dining plan added on to the room reservation. Meals on the package are only available for the nights you are at one specific resort, then those meals will expire. You cannot book a dining plan to cover the entire stay; instead you would have to book two separate packages, each susceptible to Disney’s package rules, fees, and policies.
For our trip, if we had booked a dining plan for Animal Kingdom Lodge, then those meals would have expired at midnight on the day we checked out of the Lodge. We also would have had a new set of meals added on the same day as we checked in to Pop Century. This doubles up the meals on one day. Since I have an annual pass, we decided to book two room-only stays using the annual pass discount rate. This made it easier to avoid losing any meals we had paid for. We booked a room-only stay for both parts of our split trip.
Another consideration when booking a split stay is what night of the week you will be at which location. Since weekend nights are more expensive, it may be wiser to spend those nights at your less expensive resort choice. Our nights at animal Kingdom Lodge fell during mid-week to ensure we were getting the best possible rate.
We spent the first two nights of our trip at Animal Kingdom Lodge. An advantage to this was how easy it made planning our park visits and dining choices. We planned to have our time at Animal Kingdom park while we were staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I had been wanting to try Boma for dinner and since we knew we’d be at the right resort, I didn’t have to worry about planning transportation to and from an out-of-the-way resort.
Disney will move your luggage from one resort to the other for you at no charge. When leaving your first resort, just take your bags to the bell desk and tell them which resort you are switching to. Watch to make sure each piece of luggage gets labeled properly with the destination resort and your name. As with Disney’s Magical Express, be aware it could take several hours before your bags are in your room.
There can be drawbacks to a split stay. You have to check in and out twice, once at each resort, though this can be made easier by using the online check-in. You also have to pack and unpack at least a few items twice. Also if you have anyone in your party who does not adapt to change easily, a split stay may be a bad idea.
A split stay can fill a trip with variety, especially for a veteran Disney traveler. It can allow you to splurge for a couple of nights and enjoy a resort that you normally couldn’t choose at all. If you are booking a package but don’t want to pay for a dining plan or tickets for your first or last night, then you can book a room-only night at another resort to enjoy. You get a chance to experience a wider variety of restaurants and amenities that the resorts have to offer.
Pros & Cons of Split Stay
Lets you experience two resorts, their restaurants, and amenities.
More affordable to spend a couple nights at a deluxe, then switch to a less costly resort.
Makes park choices easier (visit Animal Kingdom while at AKL, Magic Kingdom while at monorail resorts, Epcot while at Yacht & Beach Club, etc.).
Easy way to take advantage of special discounts on room-only rates.
Stay in different resorts to please various members of your travel party.
Pack and unpack twice.
Check in and out twice.
Have to have luggage moved (although not by you!).
Can only have dining plan all nights if booking two packages.
Have to adjust to changes in room and location.