First Things We Do When Arriving at Our Walt Disney World Resort
After lots of planning and anticipation, there’s nothing more exciting than actually arriving at your Walt Disney World resort! What you choose to do on your arrival day may depend on several factors, such as what time of day you arrive, how long you have travelled, and how familiar you are with your resort. It’s a great idea to have an idea of when you expect to arrive at your resort and make a plan of what you’ll do with your day. Our family often chooses early flights, and we sometimes arrive at our resort before 10am! Because we are familiar with the resorts and have annual passes, we sometimes drop our bags and head straight into the parks. If you’re using daily tickets, you’ll certainly want to consider whether you plan to use one of your park days on arrival day. Unless you are arriving particularly early, we recommend doing non-park activities. Here are some tips for making the most of your arrival day, with a glimpse into what we typically recommend doing when you first arrive at your Walt Disney World resort.
1. Find Out if Your Room is Ready
First thing’s first. Is the room ready? Some of our tips are based on the assumption that your room is not– but if it is, that’s a win! While you can check in in the lobby, currently guests are encouraged to check in through My Disney Experience and head straight to their rooms. You’ll likely receive a text notification when your room is ready if you set this up during your online check in, and when it’s ready you’ll receive notice of your room number, along with a resort map. Check-in at Disney resorts is 3pm (4pm for Deluxe Villas in the Disney Vacation Club), but sometimes your room may be ready early!
2. Drop Bags at Bell Services
Whether you’re arriving by plane or by car, you’re likely to have some bags with you when you arrive at your resort. Guests utilizing the Magical Express usually have the perk of having their bags delivered to the resort a few hours after arrival, but currently guests are responsible for bringing all of their luggage on the Magical Express with them. If you think you need some items from your bags to keep with you, sort those out in the resort lobby before you hand them over to Bell Services. Some items you may want to keep with you include your bathing suit, sunscreen, and any items you might want for going into the parks or shopping if you’re planning to do so.
3. Try Out Your Magic Bands
Make sure that your Magic Bands are working correctly (try using them to unlock your door, though you can also do that through My Disney Experience now as well). If you need to set up a credit card to make charges with your band, you may have to visit the front desk for assistance. If you’re using a band that you used previously, you may want to reset your PIN if you’ve forgotten it (you’ll need the PIN to make purchases using your band).
We love a great dining reservation, but we typically avoid booking anything important too close to our anticipated arrival because travel can be unpredictable! Time spent at the airport or on Magical Express is not set in stone, so arrival time at the resort is only a best guess. For that reason, we usually rely on quick service options to satisfy our arrival hunger. If you haven’t stayed at your resort before, we recommend locating the quick service option(s) so you’ll be able to access them easily throughout your trip. If you do have an early arrival planned, it wouldn’t hurt to schedule a sit down dinner at a table service restaurant at your resort or a neighboring one. If leaving your resort for dinner, opt for something close by that you can access via shared transportation (like the monorail loop resorts, or a resort you can walk to or use the Skyliner to get to).
5. Explore the resort
Exploring the resort in general and taking pictures is a great idea to help you get acclimated. Remember that once you arrive, you can use the amenities at the resort, even if your room is not yet ready. This includes the pool, so planning a pool day for your arrival is a nice way for the entire family to relax and play. You may also inquire about other resort activities, such as parties and games near the pool, crafts, and movies under the stars. Note that some of these activities may be limited due to current social distancing guidelines.
6. Get Familiar with Transportation
If it’s your first time at your resort, it’s very important to note where the transportation options are. Many resorts have multiple options for getting to the parks, whereas others have only a bus. You’ll want to know what options you have- monorail, skyliner, bus, boat, or footpaths- where they are located, and what times they operate. It’s definitely best to have an idea of how to get to transportation before you’re rushing in the morning!
7. Check Out Your Room
From time to time, you may find that something needs attention in your resort room. As soon as we enter our room, we check everything over to be sure that we find any issues before we’ve settled in. We like to check for cleanliness and make sure everything works- the phone, lights, thermostat, and fans if applicable. It’s much easier to have these problems addressed if you note them right away. Here’s another tip: when you call the “front desk”, you aren’t actually speaking to someone at your resort’s front desk- it’s actually directed to a call center. If you need to provide feedback about something in your room, utilize the contact info on the welcome letter in your room. Alerting the manager via the feedback link has gotten us immediate assistance more than once!
8. Settle In and Get Organized
Whether you’re unpackers or a live-out-of-the-suitcase family, there’s still a certain level of organization that most people need to establish to get out to the parks in a timely manner. We like to sort through our bags and take out what we need for a quick exit in the morning. We always feel less rushed in the morning if our park bags are packed with things we will need- like magic bands, hats, sunscreen, etc.- in advance.
9. Visit Disney Springs or Disney’s Boardwalk
Our final tip for resort arrival days is to make a trip to Disney Springs or Disney’s Boardwalk. The Boardwalk area is relatively small in comparison to Disney Springs, but it’s a nice area to stroll around, grab a snack or a slice of pizza, and enjoy some entertainment. If you’re looking for more dining and shopping options, definitely take a trip to Disney Springs. Whether you enjoy home and holiday decor, toys, or high end clothing brands, you’ll find something to love at Disney Springs.
If you’re a seasoned traveler to Walt Disney World, we’d love to hear what your family’s arrival day routine is!
Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.