Traveling to Walt Disney World with friends and family can sometimes mean staying in two different resorts or hotels. One household may have different arrival and departure dates, or you may have different budgets. Whatever the reason, it can take a little time and extra effort to be able to vacation together, but stay separately. Here are some of my tips for navigating such a trip.
– Build an itinerary together
– Get to know your resorts
– Understand transportation options
– Solidify a few must-dos and be flexible with everything else
– Communicate the day’s plan beforehand and reconfirm each morning
– Plan an activity at each other’s resort
– Build in rest time
My recent trip was an unique situation. Originally this trip was to be a family reunion of sorts. My in laws in Illinois would come down, as well as extended family from California and Hawaii would fly over. The Illinois family had booked one resort, the West Coast family a different resort, and my parents and my household were to stay in yet another resort.
Once COVID-19 descended in the spring, the west coast family canceled. It was totally understandable and our household and our Illinois family laid in limbo for months. We waffled back and forth. Every week I mentally prepared that we would not move forward. But in the end the Illinois family came down and stayed at their resort, and my parents and my household stayed in ours. Originally, the plan was for my parents and my household to switch to be in the same resort as the Illinois family. For various reasons, including all the changes with COVID-19 precautions, we couldn’t.
We did select nearby resorts which helped. Disney’s Old Key West and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort are right next to each other. However, they are both very large and spread out resorts, so while they are next to each other, it can seem far apart depending on the locations of each family’s room. One thing we forgot to coordinate was room location. Our Illinois family’s room at Old Key West was right near the front entrance. Our room at Saratoga Springs was all the way at the back edge because my parents wanted to be near Disney Springs.
To complicate matters, my husband had to work during most of our five-night stay. And we had different levels of comfort with what activities felt safe for each family. My parents did not have theme park tickets and did not feel comfortable going much of anywhere and did not want to eat out much. I am okay going to the theme parks, but really limit my time indoors – including not doing many indoor rides and not eating indoors. No one wanted anyone else to be uncomfortable so my parents stayed at the resort most of our trip. It was lovely to wake up with them and have help with my toddler son, enjoying the morning together. Then at the end of the day come back to them and enjoy the evening together. We did enjoy a fantastic meal at Geyser Point at Wilderness Lodge together as one group since it is such a wonderful outdoor venue. My parents and I drove, and the Illinois family headed to Magic Kingdom and connected to Wilderness Lodge through the boat transportation.
Prior to our trip we all corresponded through texts and emails to nail down the schedule for each day. This schedule included which days we had park reservations at which park, and any dining reservations the Illinois family made. We reviewed what attractions were must-dos at each park and put a touring plan together for each day in the Lines app. However, with a toddler and multiple households traveling together, things do not always go according to the touring plan. Thankfully we could check Expected Wait Times in the Lines app that are usually more accurate than Disney’s Posted Wait Times, and easily decide which attraction to head to next.
Another complication is that our Illinois family did not have a car, and my car could not fit everyone. Plus, with a toddler, my morning can fluctuate. So we opted to meet each other in the park as they would travel via Disney transportation. They did sometimes use Uber to get around as well. Thank goodness for cell phones and good coverage! When our Illinois family had dining reservations at an indoor restaurant, I would take my son to a quick service location with outdoor dining. It was nice to give him some quiet time during lunch, and then we’d meet back up.
With us being at two separate resorts we built in a little time to visit our Illinois family at their resort. It was a quick drive over and with my picture ID, MagicBand, and mask on, the security Cast Member at their resort let me in. We visited together outside at the pool one late morning, a rest day that we were not at the parks. And one evening I brought my son over for some short, but relaxing night time with bedtime stories and we watched channel 74 in the room which shows the Happily Ever After Fireworks pre-recorded broadcast on loop.
It took lots of planning and lots of patience, but we had a great trip together. It wasn’t perfect, and I do wish we could have had more time together as one big group. But, like everything else in our life, we’ve all had to make adjustments in order to do what is best with COVID-19 safety in mind. The biggest piece of advice I can give if your trip is going to involve a group that is split up into different resorts is to be patient and flexible. Not everything will go according to plan, and a good amount of time will be spent traveling to the parks and different resorts. But the important thing is to enjoy the trip and if all else fails just laugh at what a unique experience you’re having together, but separately.
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