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Considering a Split Stay in Orlando? Here Are the Pros and Cons!

by Mommy Frog on March 26, 2015 37 Orlando

So you're headed to Orlando and thinking about a split stay while you're spending your time at the parks? Maybe you're thinking of spending a few days at the Walt Disney World Resort and a few days at the Universal Orlando Resort? And maybe even a day or two at SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND Florida? This post is for you!

Split Stay in Orlando - Disney's Wilderness Lodge Resort

We are big fans of the split stay, especially when we're visiting Disney and Universal. But even if you are staying at only one resort, there are benefits to hotel hopping. Today we'll be looking at the things to consider as you weigh the decision to make a split stay in Orlando.

Benefits of a Split Stay in Orlando

Ability to take advantage of resort benefits for staying on-site. 

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. At Universal Orlando, hotel guests have access to Early Park Admission in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at one or both of its theme parks. Additionally, guests staying at one of Universal's deluxe resorts (Loews Portofino, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific) get Universal Express Unlimited ride access. It's also easier to get to the resorts if you're staying on-site, and park transportation is free.

Exploring more of the resorts.

Split Stay in Orlando - Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

We love exploring the resorts, 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.  The split stay is the easiest way to experience more of what the resorts have to offer.

Making the vacation potentially more affordable.

Split Stay in Orlando - Disney's All-Star Movies Resort

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 deluxe resorts for part of your time and a lesser category hotel for the other. 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.

Availability.

Sometimes you just can't get your preferred hotel for the length of days you would like, but you can with a split stay.

Cons of a Split Stay in Orlando

More logistics in arranging transportation.

Split Stay in Orlando - Disney's Art of Animation Lobby

While Disney World offers complimentary transportation via Magical Express to and from the airport, but Universal does not. Furthermore, there is no free transportation between the two resorts, which means you would need to rent a car, or take a cab or shuttle.

Hassle of 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.

More logistics in stowing luggage.

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?

Split Stay in Orlando - Hard Rock Hotel Standard Room

Overall, we think the pros of split stay outweigh the cons. Anyone can make a split stay work, but generally we think it's best for ...

  • Split Stay in Orlando - Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Bowling AlleyPeople who are visiting 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 help be part of the packing :)
  • People planning longer stays. This runs somewhat counter to the first bullet, as people staying longer usually have more luggage, but we think the shorter your stay, generally the more of a hassle transfering 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!

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
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Aug 21, 2017 at 10:55 p.m. Lynne Says...

We're doing our first and probably only trip to Orlando in Dec. We plan on doing 4 nights at a Disney property, then checking out and moving over to the Hard Rock at Universal. My question is, on the day we check in to Universal, can we arrive early (before official check in which is what, like 3pm?) drop our bags, and still have all the amenities of being a hotel guest at the park (express pass) even though technically we are not checked in as guests yet?

Reply
Aug 22, 2017 at 6:50 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Lynne,

You may arrive at your hotel before check in and receive your Express passes, as well as bag storage and use of the amenities.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Jul 20, 2017 at 3:27 p.m. H Moore Says...

I was quite lucky when finding a split stay for my Disney trip cause a friend of mine had used a company called Nightly for her split stay earlier in the year and recommended them - I was't disappointed

Reply
Feb 27, 2017 at 9:51 p.m. Cindy Says...

If you book airline outside of Disney resort, how can you get the ride back to airport?

Is it included without booking thru disney?

Reply
Feb 27, 2017 at 4:48 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Cindy,

Guests who stay at select Disney Resort hotels may use Disney's Magical Express to travel to and from Orlando International Airport. If you're not staying at Disney, we have great information about Getting Around Orlando right here!

Keep Hopping!

Leap

Reply
Dec 14, 2016 at 3:29 a.m. talina907 Says...

If you check out of a Universal Hotel and plan at staying a different hotel that night, will the Universal Hotel hold onto your bags during the day of check-out? We will be checking out of a Universal Hotel (Cabana Bay), going straight to Universal Studios theme park, then after the them park picking up our bags and heading to our new hotel that night.

Reply
Dec 20, 2016 at 10:20 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi there,

Yes, the hotel will hold your bags.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Oct 26, 2016 at 1:43 p.m. Jack Davidowitz Says...

if I have a split stay between a Disney and non-Disney resort, can I get advance fp+ reservation for my entire trip?

Reply
Nov 3, 2016 at 12:49 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jack,

Yes, you can. If you're doing Disney hotel first, you should be able to book your entire stay at 60 days.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Apr 11, 2017 at 2:08 a.m. Jamie Says...

Do you know if this is still the case? We are doing 2 parks while on property then 3 parks off property in June. I have only been able to book fast passes for 2 parks. Will I have to wait until 30 days out to book the rest of my fast passes?

Reply
Apr 11, 2017 at 8:03 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jamie,

When your next 30-day window opens, you'll be able to book FastPass+ for that part of your stay.

Keep Hopping!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Oct 16, 2016 at 1:34 a.m. Anna Says...

Hi there

We're planning our first and probably only visit to WDW in April 17 and want to do a split stay. We are thinking 2 nights LEGOLAND, 2 nights Hard Rock, 6 nights Beach Club and 3 night Animal Kingdom. Does this sound ok?

Thanks

Reply
Oct 21, 2016 at 10:08 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Anna,

This sounds good. It really depends on what you want to do. I would consider taking a day away from the Beach Club and adding it to Hard Rock, so you could do three days at Universal to really see all that the resort offers.

Keep hopping!

Leap

Reply
Oct 3, 2016 at 12:11 p.m. Kate Says...

Hi there, planning a 6 day trip to parks - was thinking 2 Universal, 4 Disney in that order based on crowds but just saw post about no airport transport to Universal hotels so may rethink. If doing split stay is it best to check out early, get over to new hotel, leave bags there and come back to check into room later? Thanks

Reply
Oct 3, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Kate,

Generally, we think it is easier to check out early and hop to the other hotel and leave bags, especially if you are visiting a park that day. While Universal does not offer free shuttles, you could take a Mears shuttle, rent a car or try a ride service.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Aug 19, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. Erin Says...

I am planning a Disney vacation for me and my fiance for May 2017. This will be his christmas gift. We are going to go for 8 days Fri to Fri. He, as we talk just in general about always wanting to go to Disney wants to stay half in Disney, half in Universal. My friend just got back from 5 days at Cabana Bay and just went to Universal and said it can be done in one day. I was going to book the Carribbean Beach Resort on Disney property and stay there the entire time. We are in our thirties and although the packing and moving to universal dont bother me too much. Im worried if we move to universal lets say for 4 days its going to be the same rides etc over and over versues staying in Disney, with all thats there and maybe going to Universal only for a day or two and not staying. Someone please help! Thank you!

Reply
Aug 22, 2016 at 9 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Erin,

This really depends on when you are going in May. Check out the crowd calendar:

https://www.undercovertourist.com/orlando/crowd-calendar/May-2017/

If it's during a busier time, you will need more days at Universal. One day isn't enough to see everything in its two parks. If you don't mind splitting, I would do two to three days at Universal, stay at Universal, and the other days at Disney.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Jul 31, 2016 at 3:27 p.m. Diane Says...

I am planning a trip to Universal for my daughter and I when we are dropping off my older daughter at college in Daytona. I am wanting to stay at Cabana Bay to get the benefits, but am also trying to save money. (for tuition!!)

If we plan to go to HPW on the day we check out, and store our luggage in our car, can we leave our car in the parking lot and use the shuttle that day back to our car? We will be going to a cheaper hotel that night since we will be leaving the next morning early to head back home.

Thanks for your help!

Reply
Aug 9, 2016 at 11:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Diane,

How exciting for you and your daughter! Yes, you can do that.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Jul 25, 2016 at 6:15 a.m. Beverly Says...

Thank you for your advice. i learned alot and i am grateful. i was wondering does the walkway to universal have just stairs or can a motor wheelchair be used? Also, Does Cabana Bay have a billards table? Or is there any other Universal hotel that had billards? Thank you.

Reply
Aug 8, 2016 at 9:14 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Beverly,

The walkway to Universal Orlando is completely accessible for wheelchairs/ECVs or motor wheelchairs. But make sure to not use the wheelchair on the moving walkways.Cabana Bay does not have a billiards table. Crossing our fingers for one in the future!

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Jun 21, 2016 at 11:32 p.m. Ryan Says...

Do you know if there is a service that will pick up just your bags from a Disney Resort hotel and deliver them to a Universal Hotel, so you could drop your bags off at the front desk on the day of check out and still be free to go to a park without having to come back to the hotel to get you bags, and just cab (or uber) directly from the park to Universal and meet your bags there?

Reply
Sep 25, 2017 at 3:33 p.m. Logan Brown Says...

Bags VIP or Bags Inc.

Reply
Jul 22, 2016 at 1:31 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Ryan,

To our knowledge, there is no service that will do this, but perhaps others reading this have ideas or can share things that have worked for them.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Jun 3, 2016 at 11:06 a.m. Chris Says...

So if we decided to spend The first few days of our 7 day stay at a Disney resort BEFORE we move off property completely, BUT would be spending all of our days at the Disney parks regardless, would we still be able to take advantage of the ADR 180 + 10 for on property guests? Or would we be cut off from making dining reservations after our Disney hotel stay ends? For example if we arrive on a sun and stay on property until tues, can I still book all of my dining through sat with the 180 + 10?? Thanks!

Reply
Jun 17, 2016 at 10:06 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Chris,

You would be limited to the days you are staying on property, and please make sure that your Disney World hotel reservation is linked in My Disney Experience.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Apr 14, 2016 at 3:48 p.m. Erin Crozier Says...

We are doing a split stay next month, with 7 nights in Bonnet Creek and then 2 in Caribbean Beach. We have 7 days in the WDW parks. So, I have a question- do any of the benefits like free parking, EMH, and charging to our magic bands kick in our earlier days in the parks, or do they only start the day of our check in at CB? We have already enjoyed the 60 day FP+ reservations, so at least that was a nice perk! :)

Reply
Apr 25, 2016 at 1:24 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Erin,

The particular benefits you listed only apply to your stay on site.

Hoppy planning!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Sep 15, 2015 at 5:15 a.m. richie cole Says...

we will be staying in orlando for 6 nights and will be having 1 night in All Star Sports, 1 night in All Star Music, 1 night at All Star Movies & 3 nights at the Grand Floridian Main Building Concierge!

Reply
Apr 16, 2015 at 4:21 a.m. dundey Says...

Almost always split our stays because we like Universal alot, but never spend more than 2 or 3 days there. Usually we'll stay at Portofino for 3 nights then the rest at a DVC or Marriott timeshare

Reply
Apr 15, 2015 at 9:11 p.m. Jenny Says...

We are planning on doing a split stay this summer, for the reasons mentioned in your article - to get the benefits from staying at an onsite resort hotel. We thought about renting a car for the two days we would be spending at Universal and then returning it and using Magical Express, but the cost difference to keep the car for the whole week was less than $100. This seemed worth the hassle and vacation time lost to us, so we will keep the car until the end of our vacation. We hope that keeping the car will also give us a little more park time on our last day - normally you have to be back at your resort 3 hours before your flight to take the Magical Express back to the airport. In prior visits to the World, we had stayed at monorail hotels to make transportation easier. Keeping the car made us feel adventurous enough to try a Disney hotel that would normally have a longer ride to the parks. Parking at the parks is free for resort guests, so we can drive to them.

Reply
Apr 16, 2015 at 7:25 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Jenny,

I think this is a smart move. It's sometimes nice not to have to think about transportation, especially if it's a first time visiting a new destination, but we always rent a car now when we visit Orlando. It just to give us more convenience. And, yes, it does save time.

Mommy Frog

Reply
Mar 27, 2015 at 4:19 p.m. Danial Says...

We did a split stay several years ago. We rented a car and did several non Disney things (Universal, Gatorland, Space Center) then returned the rental car and took the Magical Express to Disneyworld. Worked well and saved rental car days.

Reply
Mar 26, 2015 at 8:49 p.m. Deborah Says...

We are doing a split stay. I am planning on packing our bags by days instead of by people. So day one clothing will all go in one bag. This way we can pack it up and leave it in the car when we go to the next hotel and we won't have to rummage through 4 suitcases each day.

Reply
Mar 27, 2015 at 7:13 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Deborah,

Smart thinking. Thanks for sharing!

Mommy Frog

Reply
Mar 26, 2015 at 12:58 p.m. BrendaKim Says...

My brother and I recently (last October) did a split stay 3 days at Universal's Cabana Bay and 3 days at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. The taxi in between resorts was only $23.00. This article is certainly correct in using the benefits of both locations, without staying at Cabana Bay, we would not have gotten early access to Diagon Alley, a must see for us and special line for Halloween Horror Nights, which saved us at least an hour. Then at Disney being able to reserve fast pass plus 30 days earlier than non resort guest ensured us a fast pass for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Truly the best of both worlds in one vacation and it was logistically easier than I anticipated.

Reply
Mar 28, 2015 at 3 p.m. Laurie Says...

What cab company did you use? I've priced a shuttle for $20 per person round trip from Port Orleans at Disney World to Universal and there are 3 of us but your taxi sounds better

Reply
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