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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 ...
- People 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!