The pool at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
Next trip, consider doing what many seasoned Disney World guests do: A split stay. A split stay is exactly what it sounds like, staying at more than one resort during a single trip. It's a great way to save money (by staying at both a value and a deluxe) or to get to know what a resort has to offer, but there are a few rules you'll need to follow to make it work.
Who does it work best for?
Split stays work best for guests who don't mind packing up their things and moving mid-vacation. If you have very young children, you may want to reconsider a split stay. It's a great choice for a guest who wants to give a new resort a try, but isn't sure if they're going to like it. If you're the type of guest who always stays in the same resort, it's an easy way to change things up a bit without losing out on your favorite resort entirely.
Can I book a split stay at the same resort to take advantage of two different discounts?
Yes. If you're travelling when one discount ends and another begins and the first discount doesn't carry over (or isn't as good as the second one that comes out), you can do a split stay at the same resort and use two different discounts. The only problem is that sometimes you won't get the same room and you'll have to move. This usually happens when the discount code only covers a preferred room.
Can I still use the dining plan?
Yes, but keep in mind that the dining plan can only be added as a package. All packages that have the dining plan must also have a one-day ticket (at a minimum) added to them for each person on the reservation. If you want the dining plan for only one of your reservations, it's really no problem. But if you want the dining plan for your entire trip, you'll have to add tickets to both reservations.
Here's what you'll do. Say you're visiting for ten nights. You'll be spending five nights at Pop and then moving to the Beach Club for an additional five nights. You've decided you want the dining plan for both stays. You'll purchase a 10-day admission for your stay at Pop; this is the most economical way to buy your tickets because they're the most expensive on the front end, that is, the first three days. Then you'll add a one-day ticket for each person on the reservation at Beach Club. You won't use that ticket. Instead, you'll keep it and use it in the future, upgrading to a multi-day ticket or an annual pass. This ticket will never expire and will only gain in value. Make sure the front desk does not add it to your room key. Ask to have it separate and put it someplace safe.
Remember, if you're an annual pass holder, you can add the dining plan without adding tickets, provided you're not trying to get free dining.
What about tickets?
You can do what I discussed in the section above or you can just add tickets to any part of your stay. Say you don't want the dining plan for your stay at Pop, so you're just doing a room-only reservation, but you do want the dining plan for your stay at Beach Club. You'll just add your ten-day tickets to your Beach Club stay and then when you arrive for the first part of your vacation at Pop, go to Guest Relations in any park and ask for your tickets early. You'll have your ten-day ticket for the entire stay. One warning: This may only be available for three extra days, so check ahead of time to see if you'll be allowed to do it for longer stays. I've heard conflicting reports.
Remember, this only works if you don't need the dining plan for that part of your stay. Otherwise, you'll have to add that pesky one-day ticket.
What are the advantages of a split stay?
Besides getting to explore more than one resort, one advantage of a split stay is that you can save a little bit of money on one part of your trip and go all out on the other. It's a great way to afford a more luxurious resort while not breaking the bank or having to shorten your stay. A few nights at a value early in your trip can make a more expensive room seem much more affordable. I especially like this idea for those checking in late. Why pay for a deluxe room when you're just going to drop your luggage and go to sleep? Finally, this plan allows you to try out different dining plans, so you could do deluxe for one part of your trip and the base/plus plan for the other.
Or you could do what some really savvy guests do and try out the Platinum dining plan for just one night. The platinum plan, at around $260 per person, is a plan that gives you virtually unlimited access to Disney perks during your stay. In theory, you could check in in the morning and do it all: Unlimited behind the scenes tours, spa treatments, fine dining, Cirque du Soliel, even take advantage of the unlimited use of the child activity centers. And since your meal plan is good until midnight the day you check out, you can do all this for around 36 hours! Considering what you get, this plan, while exhausting, sounds like a lot of fun for the money.
Finally, another advantage of a split stay is that you can tailor where you stay around the parks you plan to visit. Say you plan on spending a couple of days at the Food and Wine Festival and you want to be within walking distance of Epcot. You could stay at Beach Club. But you're also traveling with kids and you really like the idea of being on the monorail so you 'll have easy access to the Magic Kingdom. So maybe your second stay is at the Contemporary. This type of arrangement allows you to have easy access to both parks and the cost isn't really going to be that different than if you stayed at one resort. The only downside is a change in resort rooms mid-trip.
What about my stuff!?
Easy peasy. Bring it to Bell Services at your resort and they'll send it on to your room. Don't forget to leave a tip when you drop off your luggage.
How should I split it up?
Go posh on the second part of your trip, if possible. I love all of Disney's resorts, but it can be a letdown to go from a deluxe to a value in one trip. If you're staying at a Disney Vacation Club villa, do that second, no matter where you're staying first. The reason? Laundry. If you're staying in a one-bedroom villa or larger, you'll have a full-sized washer/dryer in your room. That will come in handy after a few days visiting the World. Finally, villas offer you more space. If you're traveling with kids, you'll probably appreciate that space more during the second part of your trip.
What will my reservation look like?
You'll have separate reservation numbers for each stay and you'll pay your deposit accordingly. Each package will require a $200 deposit. Each room-only reservation will require a one-night deposit; if the deposit is too steep, consider doing a "base" package which requires only a $200 deposit.