You don't need us to tell you that Orlando has a ton of toadally fun vacation options! Home to iconic theme parks such as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida, Orlando offers something for every member of the family! Maybe you're looking to visit several theme parks in the same trip. Or, maybe you'd like to get a feel for multiple hotels at the same resort in one visit. But how do you split up your stay?
We are big fans of the split stay, especially when we're visiting Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. But even if you are staying at only one resort, there are benefits to hotel hopping. Here's a look at everything to consider as you weigh the decision to make a split stay in Orlando.
Benefits of a Split Stay in Orlando
Take Advantage of On-Site Benefits
Generally, folks who split their visit over several hotels do it so they can take advantage of the on-site benefits, which become more valuable during the busiest times. At Disney World, hotel guests can visit the parks during Extra Magic Hours. More importantly, they have the ability to book FastPass+ reservations ahead of off-site guests, and they can book advance dining reservations (ADRs) earlier than off-site guests. Plus, getting around the resort is a breeze with complementary boat, bus, monorail and Skyliner transportation options!
At Universal Orlando Resort, hotel guests have access to Early Park Admission at one or both of its theme parks, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, plus early access to Universal's Volcano Bay each day of their stay. Additionally, guests staying at one of Universal's premier resorts (Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Universal's Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort) get Universal Express Unlimited ride access FREE with their stay! It's also easier to get to the resorts if you're staying on-site, and park transportation is free.
Explore More of the Resort Hotels
We love exploring the resort hotels, walking around and taking in the scenery, and enjoying the amenities. We especially love getting to experience two (or more!) different pool complexes. For us frogs, this is a big upside! The vibe and theming at all of the Disney and Universal hotels are each unique. A split stay is the easiest way to get to know multiple resort hotels.
What could be better enjoying than the relaxed Southwestern vibe, complete with sangria university and a 50-foot-tall Mayan pyramid pool at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort? Saying "adios" to Coronado Springs and "aloha" to a tropical getaway at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort! A split stay can make it seem like you're getting two distinct vacations in one.
Save a Little Green
This is especially true if you are staying on-site for part of the visit and off-site for the other, but it's also possible if you stay at one of the higher-end resorts for part of your time and a lesser category hotel for the other. For example, maybe you've been jumping for the chance to stay at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge (a deluxe hotel). Plan a few relaxed days to splurge on your safari staycation, and balance the remainder of your stay at a value resort, such as POP Century Resort, when you'll be spending less time in the room and more time hopping to the parks. The only suggestion I have if you're going to do this is to stay at the nicer hotel on the second half of the visit! If you stay at the best first, you're likely to be disappointed when you downgrade.
Enjoy Better Availability
Maybe it's been difficult to book a week straight at your dream resort ... but two days is toadally do-able! You may find that there's more availability when booking a split stay.
Cons of a Split Stay in Orlando
While Disney World offers complimentary transportation via Disney's Magical Express to and from the airport, Universal does not. Furthermore, there is no free transportation between the two resorts, which means you would need to rent a car, take a cab or utilize a ride share service such as Uber or Lyft to hop between the resorts. If your split stay is within the same resort, you can hop between hotels using the resort's free transportation.
Packing Up Twice
For a split stay, you may never get quite as comfortable as you would if you were staying at one hotel, because at some point you're going to have to pack it all up and schlep it to another hotel.
If you plan to head to theme parks on your day of check-out/check-in during the split stay, you'll need to do something with your luggage. If you rent a car, this isn't an issue as you just stow your bags in the trunk. If you're not renting and heading from one resort to the other, you'll need to stow your luggage at one of the hotels until you're ready to check-in. While both Disney and Universal hotels are happy to do it, it can be a little bit of a hassle. If you're doing a split stay at Disney World only, bell services will be happy to do the luggage transfer between hotels for you.
Who Is a Split Stay in Orlando Best For?
Overall, we think the pros of a split stay outweigh the cons. Anyone can make a split stay work, but generally we think it's best for ...
- People who would like to visit more than one resort.
- People who want to experience as much of the resort hotels as they can on vacation.
- Solo travelers, couples, smaller families and people traveling light.
- Families with older children. While it can be done with babies and toddlers, it will be more disruptive and there is more gear to move over, get set up, etc. Plus, older kids can with the packing :)
- People planning longer stays. This runs somewhat counter to the third bullet, as people staying longer usually have more luggage, but we think the shorter your stay, generally the more of a hassle transferring hotels becomes.
Considering a split stay in Orlando? What questions do you have? If you have made a split stay in Orlando, let us know how you made it work and anything you wish you had known. For more tips, hop over to the Where to Stay in Orlando page, part of our Orlando Planning Timeline!