You’re in the midst of planning the perfect DVC trip and your family is at odds. Maybe the big kids are clamoring for Beach Club Villas with it’s amazing pool but the little one wants to be closer to Magic Kingdom. Or perhaps you all know where you want to stay but can’t agree on room size. Will you take a shorter trip and use your DVC points to splurge on a two-bedroom? Or is it worth it to squeeze into a smaller room to make those points last longer? In either situation there may be a way to make everyone happy- the split stay.
What is a split stay? Technically, a split stay is any stay that involves checking out and checking back in to a hotel during your trip- whether that hotel is a different property or not. A split stay may involve moving hotels, changing room sizes or just changing the view. While a split stay may require a little extra work there are definitely situations where a split stay can be the perfect way to solve some tricky planning issues.
Did someone say extra work? Well, yes. But not as much as you might imagine! First of all, as long as your split stay is between two Disney resort properties you won’t have to worry about moving your luggage. Disney’s Bell Services will handle that for you. They’ll even store and move your refrigerated goods! However, the day of your move you will have to pack up and head down to the desk. Even if you are staying in the same resort, you’ll need to be prepared to check out by 11 am and store your luggage until your next room is ready, which is often late in the afternoon. And then, of course, you’ll need to check in to your new resort or room later that day. Realistically speaking, you can expect all of this to take at least an hour of your time- time that could be spent in the parks. If you have small children who need midday naps and won’t sleep in a stroller, this could end up a very long day for your group. But given the benefits of a split stay, many DVC members find the small inconvenience worth it.
What’s so great about a split stay? If you have to pack and move and be homeless for a day, why on earth would anyone choose a split stay? Well, the split stay can offer some really creative solutions to several planning dilemmas. For example, your husband always wants to stay at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge but you’ve been dying to try out the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk Villas. He’s willing to try something new but you know his trip won’t be complete if he doesn’t get some time in his favorite rustic resort. With a split stay, you can start out at one and end up at the other! Or maybe you’ve always wanted to try Saratoga Springs but you are a little afraid you won’t like being further from the parks. Book a few days there and then finish up your trip at a place you know you’ll love. That way if SSR is a miss, you can end the trip on a high note. And if you love it, you’ll feel more confident booking it for the full trip next time.
Split stays are also fantastic when you want to try out a pricier resort without blowing a year’s worth of points in a short time. For example, this past New Year, my family really wanted to try out the new Villas at the Grand Floridian. We didn’t have enough points to do our whole week there though. So we split our stay, spending two nights there and the rest of our trip at a resort with a more economical point chart.
Split stays also make it possible to splurge a little. Maybe you want to sprawl out in a two-bedroom villa, just the four of you, but you can’t afford to do so for the whole 10 days you’ll be there. You’d hate to shorten your trip- so how about a split stay? Do the first half of your trip in a studio or one-bedroom and then about the time that feels too tight it will be time to check out and upgrade to your two-bedroom! You may also really want that theme park view but not be interested in spending the extra points for every night you are there. Start out with a cheaper view and then move for a magical second half of your trip. The same can be done at Kidani or Jambo, splitting your stay between savannah views and the more economical standard view. Just remember, save your splurge for the end of your trip to avoid the downsizing blues.
Finally, you may find a split stay fits the bill when you just don’t have enough points for the length of stay you want. You can spend the first few nights on a cash reservation (utilizing that DVC discount rate, of course) and then move over to your “home” and relax. If you aren’t changing room category or resort, you may even be able to work with the front desk to avoid moving luggage by mentioning your split stay at your initial check in.
Now that I have older children who can pack themselves and go without napping, I have to say that my family has become very pro-split stay. However I do want to add one final caveat. Before booking a split stay, you should be aware of how the split stay affects your 180+ day window for dining and your 60+ day window for FastPass+.
Split stays are treated as two separate reservations- not as a continuous reservation. What this means is that when your window opens up for the first leg of your split stay, it does NOT open for the second leg of your stay. Let’s look at an example. If I book a continuous trip for October 3rd through October 10th, my window for dining opens for the whole trip on April 6th and my window for FastPass+ opens on August 4th. By staying on site, I don’t have to book day by day but can book the entire trip at once. If my stay is split and I plan to change rooms on the 6th, I now have two separate windows. On April 6th I can book dining but only through October 6th. To book the rest of my dining, I’ll have to wait until my second window opens on April 9th. The same split window situation will occur with FastPass+. Does this really matter? Well, usually not. However, if this is the trip where you are determined to have a meal at Be Our Guest or finally meet Anna and Elsa you may well want to skip the split stay and use the advantage of a continuous stay and it’s longer window to help you secure those reservations.
There are certainly a few minor drawbacks to split stays. And they may require a little extra work. But for many travelers, split stays offer a way to plan the perfect vacation. I hope that I’ve helped you understand split stays a little better so that you can use them (or not) wisely to create a dream vacation for your family! And if you’ve already tried a split stay, tell us about your experiences in the comments below.