Walt Disney World visitors can skip the front desk during Direct to Room check-in test

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

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.



  1. By yedliw

    This could work at resorts like Kidani village (that are more like a traditional hotel). I see it being confusing for the sprawling resorts like Saratoga Springs.. especially for those not familiar with the layout. it could be quite a hike from the MDE stop to the room with all your carry-on bags. I would just as soon check in and hop on a bell hop's cart for a ride to the building where my room/suite is.

    As for the welcome folder.. why cant they be put in the room as part of making the room ready?

  2. By spectromen

    That separate credit cards for separate magic bands item was the key downfall for me. If they could add that in, I'd be thrilled to use this. I fully understand the personal greeting when checking in to WDW, but the last few times there have been issues where I end up standing there for 15 minutes for no reason (simple clerical errors on Disney's part). I'd be willing to sacrifice that to get to my room sooner.

  3. By Teddi

    While I get what the PP meant re: Kidani because it's one continuous never-ending hallway, with floors that correspond with 1-2-3-4 and numbers that only expand as you go, unless one was returning to a resort they knew WELL, I agree with AVP. I really DO think that it's important to stop by the front desk to check-in. It's great to grab park maps, showtimes/entertainment guides, and most of the WDW are so big with so many amenities that again the first two times you are staying there may still be about getting familiar with what services are offered and where.

    I suppose seasoned vets may see this as a nice thing, but I'm not so lucky to be among them yet.

  4. By carolinakid

    We're seasoned vets but this "amenity" doesn't really appeal to us. We're still gonna check in at the lobby and be "welcomed home"!

  5. By Tater

    I like this idea. For those with children or just other travel companions, they can go right to the room and start getting settled, leaving just one person to go to the lobby to get any check in packets or parking passes. Also maybe the resorts can just have the packet waiting in the room.

  6. By Niwel

    I like the thought of checking in at the front desk. Having a toddler and needing some room amenities, we like talking to a cast member - who also gives us our pins

  7. By jmb910

    We are seasoned vets and have 3 young children. This idea sounds wonderful! The thought of not having to stand there and wait for check in and just be able to go to my room is awesome! I hope this takes off and spreads to all resorts.

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