Looking to save some money on your next Disney trip?
Resort room you want isn’t available?
Want to stay at one of the fancy resorts but the $500/night price makes you a little queasy?
No worries. I am here to bring you some thoughts and solutions! In this post, I’ll go over the what, the why and the how of a split stay.
This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure statement.
What is a split stay?
A split stay simply means you’re staying at more than one resort during your Disney stay. Maybe you’re even staying off-property, which works great too. In this specific post though, I’ll be covering split stays for on-property resorts.
Why would you do this?
Usually to save money, for a number of reasons.
Maybe you want to experience the luxury of a Deluxe resort stay at Disney, but can’t afford to for your entire trip. Or you don’t want to pay the hefty price tag. You’d rather have your dollars go elsewhere. I personally fit this description. I prefer to splurge on dining rather than accommodations when I travel.
Perhaps there’s a room-only discount Disney just released. But, of course, it’s not available the entire length of your 6-night stay. You play around on the website and find it’s available four nights.
You stay at another hotel the other two nights. And still save yourself much more money than if you didn’t apply it for your entire stay.
Or maybe you just want to stay at different resorts! You can’t decide between the Polynesian or Animal Kingdom Lodge. Two great hotels with very different theming. Why not stay at both?
Or maybe you finally want to try renting DVC points but there’s not availability for all the dates of your trip.
You still want to take advantage of renting those points and getting that discount.
Split your stay!
Other not as obvious benefits
We all know watching a bus pull away as you’re walking up is a much worse feeling than watching the monorail pull away.
If you’re staying at more than one resort, you can use the split stay to your advantage for transportation.
Planning parks days based around your resorts and what type of transportation is offered there can save you hours during a week at Disney.
For my upcoming trip, I’m staying at four resorts. FOUR!
Yes, I’m a bit of an anomaly since I’m a blogger and part of my job is to hit different resorts so I can maintain an opinion on them. For most people, a split stay means two resorts. Don’t think I’m advocating four resorts.
But for the more “leisure” part of this trip, our two resorts are Wilderness Lodge and then a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation (those are the non-suite rooms that are much cheaper than the suites).
While keeping crowd calendar predictions in mind, we’ll be doing most of our Magic Kingdom touring while we’re staying at Wilderness (easy boat ride).
And then our EPCOT and Hollywood Studios days while staying at AoA (easy Skyliner ride). I won’t rag on the bus system too much, but having a more efficient alternative makes me very happy.
Strategizing the Dining Plan (my favorite Split Stay benefit of all)
Want to know my favorite split stay advantage?
One that would likely save families who are on the fence about the dining plan hundreds of dollars.
Using the Dining Plan during only one part of your vacation!
The dining plan requires adding it to the length of your stay. You can’t just pick a few nights out of your stay.
But if your stay IS only a few nights because of your split stay…ding ding ding!
You can add the dining plan to just one of your reservations!
And don’t forget, your dining plan is just per night, and credits are also good until midnight the day of check-out. For our two night stay at Wilderness, this means we’ll actually have three full days to use them since none of those days will be travel days for us. Not bad!
Most know how I feel about the dining plan. You’ll lose if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, some simple arithmetic can go a long way if you take the time.
And you absolutely can save with Disney’s sky-high character meal prices if you’re already planning on this.
Again: pricey character meals and buffets are often a good reason to consider the dining plan. But you may not be doing them every day. So consider the split stay and make your reservations accordingly.
Most people want to save money, but then they don’t want to do the work. They want a coupon. Discounted things.
But one of the easiest ways to save money at Disney is to renegotiate the dining plan. Do the math. This is one of the nice things in life that is objective. It shouldn’t take you too long to figure out if the dining plan will be worth it or not.
And if you’re on the fence, consider a split stay so you can dining plan it up just a few nights.
My biggest priority as a Disney blogger is keeping you out of lines. But my next is making sure you’re not getting ripped off on the dining plan like so many are.
Milk those credits, people!
This mouth-watering meal at Polite Pig where we used a QS credit would have totaled $34 out of pocket! Not too shabby, guys.
Here’s our example played out:
This upcoming trip, we know we want to dine at Storybook Dining and Biergarten (dinners).
Storybook Dining is currently $59.00 per adult for the prix fixe menu. And it probably went up in price 10% since I drafted this post. Ha ha ha, a little sarcastic Disney pricing humor for you.
I also drink wine with dinner. Let’s add my $14 glass of wine, and we’re at $73 for my Storybook Dining total if I pay out of pocket.
The DDP cost for an adult per day in 2020 is roughly $78.
So with my one dinner and drink, I’m just $5 short. This doesn’t include my quick-service credit or two snacks for the day, which I’m pretty confident I can bridge that $5 difference.
So for this particular day, the dining plan works beautifully for me.
We also want to do dinner at Biergarten, which is currently $46 per adult.
I’ll be ordering a delicious and mouth-watering grapefruit beer with my meal, which will be about $11.
So we’re at $57 if I pay out of pocket.
Between my snack credits and quick-service meal, I’ll cover the rest of the difference this day as well. Not as quickly valuable of a day as with Storybook Dining, but still worthwhile vs. paying out of pocket.
Now, I can’t and don’t want to eat like this every day of my vacation. This is the main reason why I don’t like to do the dining plan the whole trip.
So the split stay works perfectly in this situation. We just have to plan our meals so we use our credits during that part of the stay. Not too bad.
Anytime we plan on doing any meal that’s over $50/pp we’ll probably split stay and add the dining plan. Meals like Chef Mickey’s, Akershus, and Storybook Dining are no brainers. These are pricey experiences.
If you have the Insider’s Guide and want to do the dining, make sure to use the Dining Plan Optimizer. This is a great tool to use whether you split stay or not.
Split Stay Logistics: Transferring Luggage, Magical Express, MagicBands, FastPass
I’m going to try and cover some FAQ here, but don’t be afraid to quickly refer to DisneyWorld.com for official policies or do a quick Google Search.
What’s the biggest downfall to split stay?
The actual day you transfer resorts.
Packing and unpacking is usually found next to going to the post office or getting a cavity filled on the list of “Fun Things I Enjoy Doing in Life”. So yes, meh to the packing part of your split stay. But maybe it’s not as bad as the dentist.
The other disadvantage is that you potentially may not have a room for around five hours of your transfer day. You have to be checked out around 11am, and Disney technically does not have to have your room available until 4pm.
Although, you can request an early check-in. Depending on how booked the hotel is, Disney can be really accommodating with early check-ins. But don’t ever depend on it, especially not during busy season or if you’re staying in a DVC villa.
So if you are the type of group that takes a midday nap or break at the pool every day without fail, this is a good reason not to split stay.
Otherwise, transferring luggage and resorts is easy. Head to bell service the morning of your checkout and tell them you’re transferring resorts. Know that luggage transfers are often not complete until 4-5 pm in the afternoon. So you’ll want to be prepared for this on your split stay day. If you’re good potentially not having a room but plan on using the pool, just make sure you have your gear on you before handing over your luggage to bell services.
If you have your own vehicle, the process is even easier. Put your luggage in your car and then decide what time of day you want to drive to the resort. That’s up to you if you want to take care of things in the morning before heading to the parks, or later in the evening.
Magical Express Tips
For Magical Express, I fill out the form two separate times – one for my arrival, one for my departure.
Because Magical Express is linked to the confirmation number for each resort, you’ll also need to fill out two forms. An extra annoying step, but only takes 3-5 minutes total.
The system will see your stays as separate and ask you about MagicBands for both stays. Some people love this, they can get two different colors. Woo!
But if you want to be environmentally friendly or simply don’t care about having two MagicBands, there’s an option to decline the second stay MagicBands when you look under “My Plans” on your Disney account.
No worries here – as long as your split stay doesn’t have gaps in it, Disney’s system recognizes it as an entire length of stay.
This means if you’re booked at All-Star Music from 10/15-10/18 and the Beach Club from 10/18-10/21, you’ll be able to book FP for your entire stay starting on 10/15. You won’t need to do it twice.
Now, let’s say you do have a gap. Maybe you go to Universal for a few days and stay off-property in the middle of your WDW stay. In this instance, you would have to book your FastPasses on the two separate eligible days.
My Upcoming Split Stay Processes
I’ll be heading to WDW the last week of January. Here’s how my split stay looks and why.
Don’t forget that YMMV! I’m a blogger that needs to be all over the place when I go to Disney. And I may just be different with my money than you are. It doesn’t matter if you stay in a hostel off-property for $30 a night or stay at a Polynesian Bungalow for $2000 a night.
Do what works for you. This is just some insight into my personal strategies.
All-Star Movies and Sports my first two nights
Since my flight doesn’t touch down until 9:30pm on my arrival night, I don’t want to spend money on staying at a nicer resort. I’m also solo, and this is the working part of my trip and I won’t be at the resort except to sleep. So I’ll stay at the Values.
Wilderness Lodge mid-week
We’ve been planning a Wilderness Lodge stay this winter trip. While I’d love to stay at a Deluxe resort every night of every stay, I’m not at the resort enough.
Nor do I want to spend that kind of money on accommodations (like I said, I’m foremost a food person when it comes to splurging ;P).
Two nights at Wilderness is a good amount for us. We will plan on spending more time at our resort these days of our vacation.
We’ll also add the Dining Plan these two nights and not the rest of the stay. We’ll plan our most expensive meals while on the Dining Plan, of course.
Another reason we’re booking in the middle of the week is because rates are cheaper, and the room-only discount was still available these days.
While room rates go up for every Disney resort come the weekend time, it will still make sense to save the cheaper resorts for the weekend and stay at the pricier ones Sunday through Thursday nights. This goes for renting DVC points as well.
Art of Animation on weekend nights
We also wanted to stay at the Art of Animation in a Little Mermaid room this trip since it’s something we haven’t done yet. Another bonus: Skyliner!
Note: I’m scared of heights but since I’m physically enclosed on the Skyliner and it’s Disney, I’m not bothered much. Sort of like airplanes. Not the same as standing on a cliff, yeeks! It’s also just incredibly efficient, and efficiency outweighs my arguably irrational fear. It’s also not as jerky as other gondolas I’ve been on. No worries, fellow acrophobes.
We’ll plan our time at EPCOT and Hollywood Studios these days since we can get there easily.
I also could not for the life of me find a Value resort with any discount these last two nights of our stay. Everything was sold out.
I just kept checking once or twice a day starting about 30 days before my trip. AoA popped up one day with the room-only discount about three weeks before the dates.
Don’t forget to check back periodically if you’re looking for a specific room or discount. I don’t ever book as soon as discounts are released and miss out on them. I’ll often just leave the search on the DisneyWorld.com website open in it’s own browser somewhere on my computer and recheck a few times a day. I find something about 80% of the time if I’m on top of it.
And that’s my advice on how to strategize a split stay! Feel free to post any questions or strategies you have in the comments or in one of the Facebook groups.