Switching Resortsby Steve Russo, staff writer
“You are sheeshing da bells?”
I had no idea what this cast member was asking, and judging by the quizzical look on my wife’s face, neither did she. This was in 2008 and we had just landed at Orlando International Airport and made our way to Disney’s Magical Express counter—this was back in the day when you needed to check in at the counter before being directed to a queue for your resort bus. A young female cast member was checking us in and her supervisor was looking over her shoulder and asked us that question: “You are sheeshing da bells?”
She was from Bogota, Columbia and had a very thick accent—and I admit that thick accents have always given me problems. Heck, when a toddler says something to me, I’m the guy that stares blankly at his mom waiting for a translation. “He asked if you heard that they found the Higgs Boson…” Sheesh!
What made this situation comical was that Barb and I, in unison, swiveled our heads, looked hopefully at each other, shrugged, then swiveled back to her. She must have sensed our confusion and asked again, this time loudly and with exaggerated enunciation, “You are sweetching hotels?” Ahhh… yes, we are.
That was our first experience with splitting a Walt Disney World vacation between two resorts. We had originally planned a Sunday to Friday stay at our DVC home resort, the Boardwalk Villas—staying on points. When we booked our flights, we made the decision to come in a day earlier—after all, why spend a winter Saturday in Upstate New York when you could be at Epcot instead? There was no chance to extend our stay at the Boardwalk with so little notice so we opted instead to spend one night, on cash, at Port Orleans Riverside, a resort where we had yet to stay.
After that trial, we’ve split our stays several more times and have lived to tell the tale. I know you’re scratching your head, questioning my sanity and asking “why in the world would anyone want to change hotels?” Allow me to explain.
First, you all know by now that I am a card-carrying member of the Crescent Lake Snobs (CLS). We’re a small but tight group of Disney World fanatics that have an inordinate affection for the Crescent Lake resorts—the Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Clubs. Why? As Albert Einstein once said, “Location, location, location.” OK, maybe it wasn’t Einstein but I’m fairly certain it was someone smart and famous. At any rate, a stay at any of these resorts means you can walk to two of the four major parks at Walt Disney World: Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This means you only need to avail yourself of Disney transportation for Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom (where good sense says you should take the bus anyway).
So, Steve (I hear you asking), if you love the Crescent Lake area so much, why are you splitting your stay with another resort? There are two reasons:
- Frugality – as a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member, I stay at DVC resorts using my points. There is a higher point cost for Friday and Saturday nights versus Sunday to Thursday. If I’m coming in on a Saturday, I might opt to spend my first night in another resort, paying cash, if I’m short on points or just need to conserve them for a future stay. Disney also charges a bit more for weekend nights when paying cash at non-DVC resorts. If you’ve booked a week at a Deluxe resort, you might opt to spend your arrival night in a Value or Moderate to save a few bucks, then move into the Deluxe on your first full day.
- Theming – if I’m counting correctly, Walt Disney World offers 21 on-site resorts for you to choose from. Each of them is themed differently and they can be as much fun to visit as the parks themselves. You can immerse yourself in the extravagant theming of the Value resorts, gain a feel for New Orleans’ French Quarter or a Caribbean island, or bask in the turn-of-the-century Victorian splendor of the Grand Floridian. And speaking of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where else can you take your morning coffee to your room balcony and sip while watching giraffe, zebra and wildebeest have their breakfast?
I’m betting more than a few of you share my goal of staying at least one night in each Walt Disney World resort. I’m not sure I’ll ever complete this task but I’ve been gradually checking off my list for a few years now.
Now that I have your interest, I’m sure your next question concerns the logistics of a resort change. How does this work? Easy-peasy. On the day you’re switching resorts, you simply check out of the first resort as you normally would. You then have three options for getting yourself, your loved ones and your luggage to your new resort:
- Let Disney handle it – simply check your bags with Bell Services and inform them that you’d like them sent to your new resort. Disney will transport them free of charge and you’re free to head out to breakfast and/or a theme park. Whenever you’re in the mood, take Disney transportation to your new resort, check in and let Bell Services there know and ask them to bring your luggage to the room. From my experience, it will be a few hours before your luggage makes the trip so the theme park visit may be a good idea.
- Taxi – if you would prefer not to trust Disney with your bags, check out and catch a taxi to bring you and your luggage to your new resort. Taxis are readily available and the cost should be in the $10 to $20 range depending on the specific resorts involved.
- Drive – if you have access to your personal vehicle or a have a rental car, driving yourself and your luggage between resorts is the easiest and quickest way to accomplish the move.
What’s the downside?
The picture is not all rosy. Switching resorts does carry a few inconveniences. Let’s be honest, very few of us relish the process of packing a suitcase. Switching resorts means you get to do it twice. I know there’s a certain satisfaction to tossing my Hanes collection into a drawer and my toothbrush onto a bathroom shelf and knowing that I’m set for a week. Switching resorts throws a wrench into that, but assuming I have a one or two day stay before the switch, a little intelligent packing can make this relatively painless.
There’s also the issue of being homeless for part of a day. We all know Disney’s check in time is 4:00 pm and you may not have a room available until then. We all have to deal with that possibility on our arrival day but now we’ve also signed up for that risk in the middle of our trip.
So what’s the verdict? Should you switch resorts or not? I can tell you that I’ve done it successfully several times now and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it with the caveats mentioned above.
Our next trip is broken in half: the first part of our stay will be at the Boardwalk Villas, my home resort and also my favorite based on the location benefits I spoke of earlier. At midweek, we’re moving to the Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village. This beautiful resort offers so much that there’s no doubt it would be my favorite—if it was built on Crescent Lake.
So we’ll spend half our vacation enjoying easy access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and all the entertainment the Boardwalk area has to offer. There’s a lot to be said for watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, and when it’s ended, strolling out through the International Gateway to arrive back at your resort in mere minutes.
The second half will focus on the two Kingdoms—Animal and Magic—because we’ll be utilizing Disney’s bus transportation (something we’d be doing from the Boardwalk as well). We’ll also spend ample time at the resort enjoying its architecture, dining options, and taking advantage of its many features including the unique savannas.
I’ll be the first to say that switching resorts is not for everyone. If your idea of a perfect vacation is unloading your luggage and kicking back for the length of your stay, you may not like the disruption. However, if you fall into the category of wanting to experience the different flavor and theming of two (or more) Walt Disney World resorts on a single trip, give it a try.
If you feel strongly one way or the other, or have had multi-resort stays, I’d love to hear about it—both pro and con. As always, thanks for reading.