June 18, 2024

Why 2025 Will Be Great for Split Stays at Disney World…and Beyond!


We are huge fans of split stays at Walt Disney World. We're pretty passionate and recommend regularly it to vacation planners. Split stays are right up there with the excellence of the family-style meal at

We are huge fans of split stays at Walt Disney World. We’re pretty passionate and recommend regularly it to vacation planners. Split stays are right up there with the excellence of the family-style meal at Sebastian’s Bistro, wondrousness of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas, and Dino-Rama’s suckiness in terms of things about which we won’t shut up.

Our split stays at Walt Disney World were borne of necessity. We bought a small Disney Vacation Club contract on the resale market with the intention of seldom using it at our home resort, Saratoga Springs. Because we didn’t have many points or the 11-month booking window, we had to be strategic in our reservations. That was our inadvertent introduction to split stays.

We loved it. From that, we began expanding our split stay scenarios–not using points at all for weekends, doing single-night stays if we could score an elusive Kilimanjaro Club points reservation, booking a cheap arrival stay and hitting ‘reset’ on day two. And much of this was pre-blog. Our approach got more elaborate once we started “needing” to test different room types…and just wanting to experience more resorts. We’ve learned what works (and doesn’t) for us in the process.

A lot of readers have asked us about split stays, whether they’re worth the effort, and how to leverage them strategically. We answer all of those questions and share way more than you probably want to know in How to Do a Split Stay at Walt Disney World Resort Hotels. Among other things, that covers what we think works and doesn’t, a few split stay scenarios, and more.

I don’t want to rehash all of that since (hopefully!) you’ve already read that post in your planning process. In case not, I’ll make a condensed version of our “pitch” for split stays. First, resorts help set the tone of the trip and changing hotels can thus change the vibe.  You can travel to both the tropics and the Pacific Northwest during your Walt Disney World vacation with stays at Caribbean Beach or the Poly and Wilderness Lodge.

Second, split stays can enable you to stretch your vacation budget and splurge on a resort you might not be able to afford (or justify) for the full trip. You could start at Pop Century for 4 nights, finishing with 2 at the Polynesian–checking it off your bucket list in the process.

Our third and fourth points are strategic extensions of this–timing that stay right at the Poly opens the door to Extended Evening Hours not just once but potentially twice. Likewise, the Poly is convenient to Magic Kingdom and Pop Century is ideal for getting to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Great for Early Entry or midday breaks.

Finally, there are the more advanced-level split stay scenarios. These involve booking Club Level stays, using the Disney Dining Plan, renting Disney Vacation Club points, and more. These intersect (to some degree) with why you should do a split stay during your 2025, so we’ll circle back to them.

Let’s start with the split stay scenario for 2025 that breaks the Disney bubble–a split between Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. With Epic Universe debuting next year, Universal is going to be competing for tourists’ time–and being the homebase for Central Florida vacations.

For anyone doing multi-day visits to the Universal parks, our recommendation is staying on-site there. This is nothing new–it’s what we’ve always advised. Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World aren’t as close as you might think, each offer valuable perks, and transportation (or walking!) from Universal’s on-site hotels to its perks is far easier than driving and parking. All of this is triply true in 2025 when Epic Universe opens.

Anyone who has complained about virtual queues, upcharges, or convoluted access when it comes to Walt Disney World might be in for a rude awakening with Epic Universe. We’ve done the two existing versions of Super Nintendo World (just one land in the new park) in California and Japan. It’s incredible. It also draws nightmarish crowds, and you need to do everything in your power to beat them.

Given that Epic Universe is a brand-new theme park that will draw in free-spending tourists, my expectation is that Universal pushes the upcharges as far as possible. Paid Early Access and Express Pass are obvious candidates, along with who knows what else. Both of the currently existing versions of Super Nintendo World also use virtual queues when attendance is high just to enter the land.

Some of you might assume staying in Hard Rock Hotel, Royal Pacific, or Portofino Bay for a few hundred bucks per night is the easy solution, as that’ll offer Unlimited Express Pass to Epic Universe, just as it does with the existing gates. That might be wishful thinking. I’d be surprised if the legacy Loews Premier Hotels will get Express Pass at Epic Universe. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe it will.

But if you only have one day for Epic Universe, I’d probably plan on staying at Universal Helios Grand Hotel, the flagship in-park resort at Epic Universe. Whatever the best access is for the new park and its most popular lands, it’ll probably be offered to guests of Helios Grand.

Those perks–whether they be Early Access or Express Pass or something else–will probably be necessary to experience everything at Epic Universe in a single day. Of course, that’s all just a guess, but if I were planning a 2025 Florida vacation now and had the budget for one fancy hotel and one regular one, I’d allocate the money to Universal’s Helios Grand Hotel over Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort.

Obviously there are still a lot of unknowns with Universal on-site perks and Epic Universe, but our preliminary plan is to do Universal first. The reason for this is because it provides flexibility on the checkout day, which could become another park day at Epic Universe if necessary to knock out everything–or it could be the start of a visit to Walt Disney World.

This opens the door to using the new-for-2025 on-site perk at Walt Disney World, which is arrival day admission to one of the water parks, Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. This is included in all room-only reservations, vacation packages and Disney Vacation Club stays on points for check-in day.

The only “little” problem with this perk is that the water parks typically close at 5 or 6 p.m. depending upon the season, meaning that the average guest would have 2-3 hours to enjoy them on their actual arrival day. And that’s probably the best case scenario assuming you land at MCO around noon, aren’t cursed with the last stop on the Mears route, etc.

A split stay sidesteps all of those concerns. It doesn’t need to be a split stay between Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World–it could be a Disney-only one. We’re just using the example here because it works out that way for this flexible scenario between the two.

Even on as part of a split stay, we probably would utilize that free day in the water parks by arriving late. Assuming you have a nice hotel for the first half of your trip or have just had whirlwind days in the parks, you might want to relax in the morning. And that’s perfectly fine! The great thing about this water park day being free is that you shouldn’t feel the pressure to be there from opening until close (a feat very few people manage, anyway).

Instead, aim to arrive around 3 hours or so before the water parks close. This is when the early-arrivers start getting their fill of fun in the sun and head for the exits. The water parks have a very similar dynamic to Animal Kingdom (too bad they’re not offering free arrival day tickets there!), which has a mass exodus in mid-afternoon. That leaves the end of the day as a great time to visit, as crowds are lower and sun hopefully isn’t quite as bright.

The water parks have changing areas, so you can arrive in street clothes and change into swimwear. You can also change back into normal attire prior to leaving. From Blizzard Beach, consider a visit to nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge or Coronado Springs Resort for dinner. Sanaa, Jiko, Boma, Three Bridges, and Toledo are all excellent restaurants that are frequently overlooked. If you’re doing Typhoon Lagoon, head to Disney Springs for dinner and dessert.

This water park day offers an opportunity for a new riff on one of our favorite split stay options, which is a Club Level stay paired with pool days. That’s still completely possible here, even if the hotel pool is far more convenient to the lounge than a water park. It works because you can still check-in early, do a big breakfast at the lounge, head to the water park, and then return and continue using the lounge.

You’re eligible to use the concierge lounge and all of the perks that come with staying Club Level on both your check-in and check out days, meaning that one night essentially enables you to access that lounge over the course of two days. Doing Club Level for a night or two, arriving early and leaving late gives you the most bang for your buck, and is a good way to get a taste of the Club Level life without breaking the bank.

This might seem like a lot of transfers (and possibly is depending upon how you pack/unpack), but we like putting a Club Level ‘break’ for relaxation and rejuvenation between parks days. So you could easily start at Universal (park days), move to a Club Level room at Walt Disney World (no-park days), and transfer again to a regular room at Walt Disney World (park days). For our favorite concierge lounges and recommendations, see our Guide to Club Level at Walt Disney World.

One option that we particularly love for this is Chronos Club at Gran Destino Tower, which offers far and away the best bang for buck out of all the Club Levels at Walt Disney World. And, if you’re really reticent about another transfer, you could simply go from Gran Destino over to the regular rooms at Coronado Springs. As a double bonus, the hotel is a stone’s throw away from Blizzard Beach!

The only downside is that transportation from Coronado Springs to all of the parks is by bus, which is less than ideal from a strategic perspective. So this is not where I’d want to stay for my park days at Walt Disney World (even though I do it often–it’s one of those ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kinda deals).

(Once advance-booking of Lightning Lanes debuts later in 2024, it’s also possible that Club Level guests will have access to more or better ride reservation options. See When Will Pre-Arrival Lightning Lane Bookings Start at Walt Disney World?)

As an alternative to the Club Level stay, another option is doing the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) for one part of a split stay at Walt Disney World. (Do not do both Club Level and the DDP at the same time–complete overkill and a waste of money.) As covered in our Guide to the Disney Dining Plan, we think the DDP provides too much food and can take too much time.

Only doing the Disney Dining Plan for one portion of the trip allows us to do an attractions-oriented half of the trip, and a food-oriented half. This works especially well for the laid-back hotel day(s), as you can focus on nice dinners, snack crawls, or whatever. It also helps that many of the best uses of DDP credits are resort restaurants. So with this option, you have the opportunity to explore other resorts–another great way to have fun without park admission.

Honestly, the DDP is not really necessary to do this, and it’s often not even advantageous. But if you’re going during Free Dining dates or even when the dining gift card is being offered (two special offers it’s safe to assume are returning in 2025), this can be a better option than booking Club Level. Even if it’s “free,” the Dining Plan is still overkill when paired with Club Level–so don’t do both simultaneously.

Finally, use split stays to help not bust your budget. If you want both Club Level and Free Dining, for example, do a split stay and take the room-only discount for the Club Level portion of your trip and then Free Dining for the remainder. (As noted above, both at the same time is overkill–but also, room-only discounts are almost always better for Club Level.)

A more common example of using split stays to save money is by being mindful of resort rates on different days of the week. In the Cheapest Times to Go to Walt Disney World, we cover seasons as well as days of the week. Cutting to the chase, Sunday through Thursday nights that have the lower prices than Friday and Saturday nights, with Mondays through Wednesdays having the absolute cheapest rates.

During certain times of the year, the differences are quite pronounced. For example, the Polynesian has a standard rack rate of $738 per night on October 1, 2025 and the weeknights before and after that date. Now, you might think that’s insanely expensive; no argument from me there. However, it’s actually the cheaper of the rates in this scenario. Weekend prices at the Poly for October 3-5 are $917 per night.

This is not a cherry picked example to exaggerate the point. Weekends are usually considerably more expensive than weeknights, meaning you can save considerably by doing a cheaper resort on the weekends and fancier one on weeknights. This doesn’t avoid the issue entirely–the All Stars are also more expensive on weekends, but the spread isn’t as large.

In addition to that, there are some dates when discounts are only offered for Sunday through Thursday nights. Even if that isn’t the case (and it often is not), availability under special offers often improves if you’re willing to do a split stay and have flexibility in your resort/room preferences.

I know this is a firehorse of information and potentialities, but my brain immediately began gaming out possible split stay scenarios and how to best leverage them for 2025 when the new water park perk was announced and room/package pricing was released. I’ll cut this off here, as I know split stays are often confusing, and this is already a lot.

Ultimately, I hope that this helps you understand the strategic side of split stays and how you can leverage them to your advantage when visiting Walt Disney World and/or Universal Orlando in 2025. In case you can’t tell, we love split stays. There’s something truly special about sleeping in the rustic seclusion of Wilderness Lodge for a night, and then flipping a switch to the isles of the Poly the next. Or going simple with All Star Sports to save up for a splurge at Coronado Springs’ Chronos Club.

There are endless permutations for split stays, and we’ve done many of them over our years as Walt Disney World fans and resort enthusiasts. With Universal opening Epic Universe and Helios Grand presumably being pretty pricey (but offering excellent access), we assume the door is going to be opened to even more strategic scenarios for split stays between Universal and Disney.

With that said, we know all of this can be confusing and not tailored to your party’s needs, preferences, and so forth. If you want more thorough guidance or assistance navigating the ‘split stay’ planning waters, we’d highly recommend contacting an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. Those travel agents are free-to-use so long as they handle your booking, and they can offer personalized planning that takes into account your priorities and preferences. No Disney planning advice is one-size-fits-all, and that includes our strategies for split stays!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Have you done a split stay at Walt Disney World? What about one between Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World? Planning on doing one (or multiple) in 2025 to take advantage of the free water park day at WDW or on-site advantages for Epic Universe? If you’ve done split stays in the past, are there any hotel combos you particularly like? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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