Starting this week, Walt Disney World is testing a new hotel check-in option called Direct to Room. As the name implies, the new program allows select hotel guests to skip the front desk and go directly to their room upon arrival. The new offering is part of MyMagic+, Disney's billion-dollar technology initiative.
The test is taking place through June 28, and guests who are selected to participate are contacted by e-mail with instructions on how to take advantage of the opportunity if they want. Participating hotels include these Value, Moderate, and Deluxe hotels, as well as Disney Vacation Club properties:
- Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas
- Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower Villas
- Pop Century Resort
- Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter and Riverside
To participate in the Direct to Room check in, visitors must first complete a number of steps to set up their online Disney profile, including creating a My Disney Experience account, linking their hotel reservation and ordering MagicBands.
Prior to arrival, participants must use Disney's online resort check-in system and pay for any outstanding balance due on their reservation. In addition, participants have up to one hour before their anticipated arrival time to leave a credit card on file in the check-in process to cover any room charges.
Once participants complete this check-in process, they just wait for an e-mail and/or text message (depending on the notification preferences set up during check-in) that notifies them that their room is ready, and provides the room number. The MagicBand device acts as the room key, so there is no need to go to the hotel lobby before heading to the room.
If participants opt to receive an e-mail notification, the message includes a copy of the resort map marked with room number maps. Those who opt only for text message notifications receive a message that says simply, "Your room number XXXX is ready," and invites them to go directly to their room.
I've been told that a future upgrade of the system will allow Disney cast members monitoring the notification system to send a resort map to a guest on request, which will likely prove handy for guests who opt only for text alerts and cannot find their room based on number alone.
Although this new system saves a bit time at the very start of the trip, there are still reasons you may want to visit the front desk even if you are eligible for Direct to Room check-in. For example, guests who need to park a personal or rental car must go to the front desk to obtain a parking permit, and people travelling together who want to use separate credit cards for their individual room charges need to visit the front desk to set that up, as the online check-in system cannot handle multiple forms of payment.
In my mind, the time savings comes at the price of missing out on the personal welcome to Walt Disney World—that "welcome to the World" moment which, at least now, is not replaced by any other aspect of the My Disney Experience offering. Those first few moments in the intricately themed hotel lobbies are meant to help transition you into vacation mode, and transport you to a certain time and place.
The welcome packet guests now receive at check-in contains information that is especially useful to first-time visitors, and the lobby is where you go to learn about resort activities like resort tours, outdoor movies, pool parties, and campfire events. During this test, welcome packets are still created as soon as the online check-in process is complete, but guests still have to visit the front desk to pick up the folder. First-time visitors likely won't even know to do so.
In the future, perhaps the My Disney Experience application will have more information about hotel activities, with online tools rendering the welcome packet redundant. But there's still something about that first "welcome to the World" that helps get my vacation off on the right foot, and I hope Disney doesn't forget that the human element is one of the hallmarks of the Disney guest experience.