Staying in a Disney resort is an exciting experience. It’s a chance for your theme park days to continue through to your accommodations with theming, food, and a general sense of novelty. If you’re booking a Walt Disney World resort, you have probably looked at most of the pictures the internet has to offer, so what can you do to enhance your experience when staying on Disney property?
Let’s look at ten ways to up your Disney Resort Game during your stay.
#10: Room requests
Most Disney resorts in Orlando are spread over a series of buildings, and some may be more appealing for your stay than others. While the closest buildings to the main lobby areas are generally reserved for those with preferred bookings, others can be requested as a preference for your stay.
If you are driving to the parks on the day, you might like to consider an area that is closer to where you are able to park. If you are using Disney transportation, you may wish to request your room be closer to the pickup zone for your resort. There may also be certain areas that offer rooms with different accommodations like the Bayou Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside that contain an additional Murphy Bed to sleep a younger 5th member of your family. For more information, read this article to help you choose the right resort for your family.
Get yourself a map of your resort from The DIS website and see what works for your style of travel.
#9: Understanding transportation
It’s easy to picture Disney transportation in your mind and simply imagine a bus; however, the truth is that Disney offers many different transport options throughout the resorts, and your quickest exit may be behind you.
In several of the resorts, boat transportation can often be the fastest and simplest mode of transport. They are only able to connect with other locations along the same waterway, so check in advance that your desired destination is on the list.
The brand new Disney Skyliner is now also available, and it certainly shortens what would be longer commutes on the roads. The Skyliner links Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios with Pop Century, Art of Animation, the all-new Riviera Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. In a scenic few minutes of flight time, you can move around this area of Walt Disney World with ease.
Another option that is commonly overlooked? Walking.
Many of the resorts are within walking distance of a park or two, and walking may even be a faster option if the bus or boat line is a mile long. For instance, Disney’s Beach Club, Disney’s Yacht Club, Disney’s Boardwalk, Walt Disney World Swan & Walt Disney World Dolphin are all within walking distance to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. On average, the walk time is between 6 and 20 minutes from any one place to another, which can be far quicker than waiting in a line for the bus or boat.
#8: Know your pools
Even in the supposed ‘cooler’ months, you can find time to enjoy the pool at your Walt Disney World resort, and the primary featured pool at your resort may not be the best one. If you are trying to find the right fit for your kids or trying to avoid other people’s kids, know where your swimming options are.
On our most recent trip, we skipped the main pool completely. We instead opted for the empty one behind our accommodation block that was quiet. Our kids found it was much easier to use the time to cool off and calm down in the quiet pool rather than getting amped up by activities and noise before bed in the main pool.
#7 Show the cast some love
This one doesn’t mean that you have to tip every cast member you make eye contact with, but smiles are free, and they can go along way in the way of improving humanity. If you walk past housekeeping, gardeners, or valet during your stay, throw them a smile. If they greet you, always make an effort to respond.
Be sure to remember and thank cast members equally. If you would thank your server for delivering the food to your table, you should also muster a thank you when the busboy or girl comes to clear it. And always, always remember to clap for the band.
These little interactions can make all the difference in building a rapport with the resort and feeling good about your time there.
#6: Familiarize yourself with your resort’s dining options
Not all resort dining options are created equal. With many opinions on what are the best and worst offerings in Walt Disney World, one could easily find themselves ignoring the table service and quick service locations in their resort, or conversely, relying on them when something much better is close by.
Even when you don’t have a reservation in place, know what is around you for those quick breakfasts before hitting the park.
Make use of your resort amenities by knowing what is on offer and planning to utilize any option that might enhance your experience. Some resorts even offer free outdoor family movie nights where you can lay in the grass and watch the movie of the week with your loved ones.
If you are staying at your resort for more than a couple of days, take 10 minutes when you arrive to unpack. Unpacking can help keep your visit organized and on track, leaving the late nights and early mornings stress-free.
Making sure that everyone in your room has their own dedicated space for their belongings can help to keep the peace as well.
There should be a reason why we pay the extra money to stay at a Disney resort instead of camping out at the cheapest something-and-suites, so why not take advantage of all the goodness your resort has to offer and start exploring.
You might fancy a stroll after dinner around the grounds or perhaps making a day of it and resort hopping to see what is in your immediate area. Whatever your approach, make sure you take the time to see the sights, explore gardens, enjoy recreation areas or scout out restaurants or resorts for your next trip.
#2: Appreciate the details
The truth is, in this day and age, a large majority of tourists approach their vacations with a sense of entitlement rather than gratitude. It’s a bit of an I-paid-good-money-for-this threat of impending dissatisfaction rather than putting in the work to make your experience the best it can be. Of course, that doesn’t apply to all of you lovely people reading along, so no need to take that onboard as a personal attack, it’s just an observation.
Your value for money can often be found in the details and personal interactions along the way. For example, on our last trip to Aulani Resort in O’ahu, I fell in love with the attention to detail in everything, from the Mickey-shaped fruit pieces in the water dispenser, to the Polynesian-inspired design choices in the lobby.
When you take the time to stop and notice the little things, the bigger picture becomes a lot brighter.
#1: Check-In using the My Disney Experience app
If you are an avid traveler, you will know that the check-in process can be a nightmare at any hotel. If you have my luck, you’ll arrive just after a few oversized buses that are traveling in convoy, then need to wait a substantial period of time, standing in the stuffy, crowded lobby getting knocked and clobbered by suitcases from every angle.
So, instead, why not just hit a few buttons on your smartphone and bypass all the drama?
Now, this can be a little more complicated if you are traveling from overseas and wanting to pick up your MagicBands, however we were told that these can be collected at a later time once the bus traffic in the lobby dies down. You can use the “Unlock Door” option on the app to enter your room without your MagicBands, and then return to the front desk to pick them up later on.
This can save you a lot of hassle, and, in the meantime, I’ve already accessed my room, unpacked my stuff, double-checked my surrounding area, planned my activities, found my favorite pool, appreciated the art on the walls and smiled at all of the cast members along the way.
Not bad, right?
What are your best tips to help make the most out of your Disney Days away from the parks?
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.