Sophie from Most Magical Guides
Should You Do A Split Stay at Disney World and Universal Orlando?
One of the biggest questions I get asked is 'should we do a split stay between a Disney World Resort and a Universal Hotel?'
Most people who visit Orlando visit the two biggest theme parks in Florida, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.
Each of these destinations has so much to offer and many people choose to spend multiple days in each of these theme parks.
When visiting Orlando should you stay in one hotel and travel to each of the theme parks or would it be better to stay at both a Disney World Resort and a Universal Orlando hotel?
Today I will break down the benefits of staying in two different resorts whilst in Orlando!
Why Should I Do A Split Stay Between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando?
To get the full Disney and Universal experience some people decide to stay at each resort during their trip. Here are the benefits of a split stay!
Stay In The Bubble
By staying in both a Disney Resort and a Universal Hotel you get to fully experience both Disney World and Universal! Staying in the hotels keeps in straight in the action and close to the parks. There is even a term for this! 'Staying in the bubble'. To be totally immersed can really make your trip magical!
Both Disney Resorts and Universal Hotels offer free transportation to their guests. This is a massive advantage as you can skip hiring a car or paying for taxis.
All Disney Resorts have complimentary buses to the Disney Parks and Disney Springs. Many resorts also have additional modes of transportation such as the Skyliner, the monorail and Disney boats.
Universal Hotels are all quite close to the parks, with many within walking distance. You can also use the frequent free buses from your Universal Hotel to the parks or take advantage of the free boat that some resorts also offer.
Early Acess To The Parks and Other Benefits
Staying at a Disney or Universal hotel can get you some added benefits!
Universal guests get one hour early access to the parks and you can ride some of the biggest rides before the public are let in for the day. This is a great way to experience the parks with far fewer people!
Starting in October Disney Resort guests can enter the parks half an hour early than day guests and deluxe resort guests can get an extra two hours in the parks on select nights of the week once the parks are closed to the public.
A really big benefit Universal offers is that if you are staying at a Premier Hotel at Universal you get free Express Passes for everyone staying for your entire trip, including check in and check out days! This is a fantastic offer and can save you lots of money as Express Passes cost at least $80 per person, per day!
Experience Different Resorts
Disney Resorts and Universal Hotels are very different from each other. By staying at both you really get the chance to experience the different theming and atmospheres.
The Disney Resorts range from value, moderate to deluxe resorts and all have their own unique theming. There are Disney touches throughout so you will be able to find the perfect resort for you!
Value resorts have the most amount of Disney theming and are perfect for getting the full Disney experience. They have the least amount of facilities and are the furthest away from the parks but do have free buses to take you all around Walt Disney World Resort.
Moderate resorts have a lovely balance of offering a great range of facilities and relaxing atmospheres. There is less Disney theming around the resorts but you will find your rooms will have the Disney touch!
Deluxe resorts have the most amount of facilities and are the closest to the Disney Parks. They also have the most amount of restaurants and offer multiple modes of transport to the parks, with some even being within walking distance! (Apart from Animal Kingdom Lodge, but getting to see all the beautiful animals on the massive savannah more than makes up for this!)
Universal also has a range of different resorts, all with different theming, suitable for a range of budgets.
The value resorts are Endless Summer Surfside Inn and Suites and Endless Summer Dockside Inn and Suites. These are the newest of the Universal Hotels and the cheapest. They offer really affordable rates so are a great option when visiting Orlando. They are the furthest from the parks but do have frequent free buses to shuttle you to and from your hotel to Universal.
The prime value resorts offer more facilities and you are able to walk to the parks from these hotels. Cabana Bay Beach Resort has amazing retro 50's style theming which is super fun and even has its own private entrance to Volcano Bay! The Aventura Hotel is sleek and modern and has views over all three Universal Parks.
Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is a preferred hotel, which is most similar to a moderate resort at Disney World. This hotel has its own water taxi to take you to the Universal Parks!
Premier Hotels at Universal include Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort. All of these resorts give you the free Express Passes which is a massive bonus! Premier resorts offer the most amount of facilities and are the closest to the parks. You can easily walk to the parks or use the water taxi service.
Portofino Bay Hotel has a Rivieria theme, with the buildings that would look right in place in Italy. They also have Despicable Me kids suites which are perfect for fans of Minions! The Hard Rock Hotel is a music lovers paradise and even lets your hire guitars! The Future Rock Star Suites even have a mini stage for kids to enjoy! Loews Royal Pacific Resort is a tropical paradise transporting you to the Pacific Islands. The Jurassic Park kids suites have super cool theming and are brilliant for fans of the franchise!
Cut The Cost Of Your Trip
Doing a split stay can help save you money! Disney World Resorts can be expensive to stay in so by reducing the number of nights you stay on property at Disney World by doing a split stay can make your trip more affordable.
This is a great way to be able to experience staying at a Disney hotel without having to spend as much to do so and gives you the benefit of also staying at a Universal Hotel!
A split stay can save you money whilst getting you the most out of your visits to both theme park destinations!
Save Money On Parking
Staying at a Disney or Universal hotel can actually save you money on parking!
It costs $25 a day to park in both Disney World and Universal parking lots. Staying at the resorts can save you money as oftentimes the hotel parking costs are cheaper.
Disney World resort guests get free park parking which is fantastic news! To park at the resorts costs $15 a night for value resorts, $20 for moderate resorts and $25 for deluxe resorts so you can save money on parking this way!
Universal hotels offer very frequent buses to the parks, many are within walking distance and some also offer a water taxi and because of this you won't need to drive to the parks. Parking at the Universal hotels costs $15 a night at a value resort, $18 a night at prime value resorts, $26 at Sapphire falls and $28 a night at premier hotels. If you are staying at a value or prime value hotel you will save money on parking as they cost less than the $25 it costs to park in the theme parks!
Why Shouldn't I Do a Split Stay?
These are the downsides to doing a split stay.
Needing To Change Resort During Your Trip
The downside to a split stay is needing to change resort during your trip. If you don't have a car this will be mean finding a way to move all your luggage to your new resort.
In Orlando you can use Uber, Lyft and taxi companies such as Mears to transport you and your belonging to your new hotel. Be sure to take into account how many people, how much luggage and if you need car seats to be able to do this.
Hassle If Only Visiting The Parks For A Few Days
If you are only planning to visit Universal Orlando or Disney World for a few days out of your trip moving resorts may not be the best option as you won't get the full benefit from doing this. This can also be a lot of hassle for only one or two days. It might be easier to stay in one hotel and just pay for transport to the other theme parks instead.
Can Be Expensive
Another thing to factor in is the cost. Staying on-site at a Disney World hotel can be pricey, even for value resorts. Because of this you may decide to stay at a Universal Orlando hotel for the duration of your stay, rent a villa or stay in one of the many hotels in Orlando.
On the other hand a split stay is a great way to reduce the cost of staying on-site at Disney World by not staying the full duration of your trip! This way you still get the experience but at a more affordable price!
To Split Or Not To Split, That Is The Question!
A split stay is great for people who:
Want to be in the Disney and Universal Bubble
Want to get the benefits that are included with stays at these hotels
Want to be close to the parks to cut down on travel times
Want to use the free transportation both these destinations offer
Reduce the cost of your trip by not staying on-site at Disney World for the entirety of your trip
A split stay isn't the best option for people who:
Are only visiting Orlando for a short time
Will only be spending a day or two in Universal Orlando or Disney World
Can't easily get a transfer between a Disney World Resort and a Universal Orlando Hotel
Don't want the hassle of transporting all their luggage and people to another hotel midway through their stay
No matter which way you decide to visit Orlando you will have a fantastic time! A split stay can be a really fun option to get the most out of your time at Disney World and Universal Orlando and experience two completely different resorts!
If you are planning your next trip be sure to check out my range of easy to use planning templates to help you easily plan your budget, itinerary and packing for your Orlando theme park trip!