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Disney in a Minute: What is Direct-to-Room Check-In?

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We’re here with a series of quick posts, “Disney in a Minute,” bite-sized nuggets of information that can better help you understand a Disney term or planning topic. Enjoy!

When you make a reservation at a Walt Disney World resort hotel and link it to your My Disney Experience Account, you will be asked to complete online check-in. This is not required, but it can save you time (wheeee, you’re off to parks more quickly) and, of particular interest during the COVID era, reduce the number of people you have to interact with in person.

Online check-in can be found on the My Disney Experience tab on the Disney World website. If you’re less than 60 days out from your arrival date, you should see the option.

Online check-in asks you for basic name, phone number, address, and credit card information, and to create a four-digit PIN that you might use in some payment situations in the parks and resorts. You should also input your projected arrival time at Disney World.

The example above shows the check-in process on the website, but you can also check in on your phone using the My Disney Experience app. Start at your reservation and tap on it, then follow the similar workflow.

After you’ve done this, you will have access to Direct-to-Room Check-In. This service allows you to completely bypass the lobby and front desk of your hotel and instead head directly to your room upon arrival at Walt Disney World. A bit in advance of your selected arrival time, you will receive a text and/or email (whichever you’ve selected) informing you either that room is not yet ready, or that your room is ready, along with your room number and a link to a map of your resort. [Note: The official check-in time is 3:00 or 4:00, depending on your resort, but they make every effort to get you into your room earlier, if possible.]

After you get the “your room is ready” notification, you can then go straight to your room, without stopping at the lobby. You don’t need to show any documentation or provide any additional paperwork.

Additionally, you don’t need the front desk to provide you with a key to your room, because you’re already holding one – in the form of your smartphone. To turn your smartphone into a key, first download the Disney World app and log in to link the app to your account. You can do this in advance of your trip.

Open the app and click on the “hamburger” [three stripe] button on the lower right to access the main navigation screen. Click on the “Resort Hotel” button.

Scroll down the next screen until you see the Unlock Door button. Tap that and your phone becomes a key. [Make sure bluetooth is activated.] Hover your phone next to the touchpad on your room door and it will unlock.

Now you’ve gone Direct-to-Room without stopping at the hotel lobby!

And as an added bonus, that same room-opening feature will also open the gate to your hotel pool, if it has one.

You could also access your room with a linked MagicBand, but those since those are no longer free and no longer automatically mailed to your home, fewer guests will have them on hand. If you happen to want a physical key later in your trip, you can go to the front desk and they will provide you with a key card.

Have you used Direct-to-Room check-in? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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Erin Foster

Erin Foster is an original member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (now PlanDisney), a regular contributor to TouringPlans.com, and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Disney Cruise Line. She's been to WDW, DL, DL Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, Aulani, DVC Vero Beach, and DVC Hilton Head. She's a Platinum DCL cruiser and veteran of 10 Adventures by Disney trips. Erin lives near New York City, where she can often be found indulging in her other obsession - Broadway theater.

13 thoughts on “Disney in a Minute: What is Direct-to-Room Check-In?

  • Hi Erin, we will be arriving at 7:30 AM. If I note an early arrival time, do they charge for early check-in?

    • I’ve never seen anyone charged at WDW for early check-in.

      That said, I’d say that it’s somewhat unlikely that your room will be ready at 7:30 a.m. Official check-in time is 3:00 or 4:00 p.m., depending on you resort and room type.

      I often arrive at my hotel in the 10:30 a.m. range and I’d say my room is ready maybe 30% of the time.

      If you arrive at 7:30, you’re welcome to leave your bags with Bell Service (no fee other than a customary tip). You can then use all the amenities of the resort or head out to the theme parks. You can have your hotel text or email you when your room is ready.

  • I have tried several times to check in early the day we arrive, but it always asks time of arrival and the only options are 11 pm or after midnight. I’m always afraid our room will never be ready and end up going to the desk.

    • You need to select an early arrival time a few days in advance of your trip, not on the day of. By doing this, I’ve been able to select times as early as 7:00 am.

  • I have always enjoyed getting the resort map and information packet that was provided at check-in. What is the current status of receiving this information?

    • @Karen, I agree that some aspects of checking-in in person at the front desk were positive. I too enjoyed the friendly greeting and welcome packet of papers.

      When you are emailed or texted your room number, there is a link to a digital map of the resort. And you’re always welcome to stop by the front desk later and they’ll be happy to hand you a paper map. When you get into your room there is usually just one or two paper documents – a brochure that’s an overview of WDW in general, and sometimes also a single sheet of paper describing anything odd going on at the resort (temporary pool closure, testing of the fire alarm system – that sort of thing).

      During COVID, Disney started printing a lot less paper. There are no more times guides in the parks or times guides for all of WDW. Those things are now on your hotel TV and on the Disney World app. They don’t print the weekly resort activities any more. You’ll find a guide to things like outdoor movies and games by the pool posted in the lobby and/or next to the pool. I can’t see Disney bringing any of those items back as print hand-outs. It’s a money saver for them and it’s better for the environment. But as a person who has 20 years of Times Guides in my family scrapbooks, I’m a little sad to see them go.

  • Do you have to open the app and select unlock door every time or just the first time? Also, can you unlock your door with the Apple Watch?

      • Thanks, Erin. I was hoping my Apple Watch would prevent me from having to bring my Magic Band, too, but it looks like MB is the only hands free way to open the hotel door.

        Slightly unrelated question, do you know if you can get the Chase Disney discount on merchandise over $50 in the parks by using tap to pay on your phone using that credit card? (I know it’s not available if you charge to your Magic Band/hotel room.)

      • Hi –

        I just asked your question to several cast members at The Emporium. The answer is yes, you can get the Chase Disney card discount using tap-to-pay in the parks (assuming you have the right card, spend the right amount of money, etc.). The caveat is that you have to tell the CM at the register that you want the discount. They will punch in a code at the register and then you can tap-to-pay and get the discount. It does not happen automatically, but if you tell the CM what you want to do, it should work.

  • As a Disneyland Legacy passholder, DVC member, and DL local, I’ve always been jealous of the technological advancements that WDW in general has. There’s the online checkin, magic bands, mobile key via phone, etc. DL has always been slow to make such advancements. I know DL has more locals and is so different than WDW, but I can only dream. Because of our Covid era, I know that our Grand Californian Hotel just opened up with online checkin. Thanks for the article!

    • Don’t feel bad about not having it. The last two times I tried to use it didn’t work. First time I never got any notification and had to go to the front desk; second time they didn’t send me a notification until AFTER I went to the front desk a 3:59 pm to say I know you don’t have to give me a room early, but you do at 4pm.

      • Stan,
        Thanks for the response!

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