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What if you could check into your Disney Resort right now?!? It would be like getting a jump start on your vacation! And the best part is you don’t even have to drive to Florida to do it! Disney has unique practices when it comes to checking in and out of your hotel that can be super beneficial to get your vacation off to a great start!
You may be asking if there is really any benefits to checking in online. And the answer is yes, there are many benefits to checking in online. First, you will get your room number texted to your phone when your room is ready. What this means is you can start to play as soon as you arrive. Explore the resort, head to Disney Springs, or even visit a park if that’s what you want to do!
Online check-in is especially helpful for arrivals outside of normal check-in hours such as early morning or late at night. At a normal hotel, you can’t check in till around 3 which means you’re on your own till then. Disney has changed this. When doing online check-in, you will pick an arrival time. If it’s early, they will often have your room ready sooner than 3 o’ clock, but it’s not guaranteed.
On the flip side, if you’re arriving late, you may not want to take the extra time to wait in another line at the front desk. Online Check-in allows you to head straight to shower and bed without extra waiting or talking. On our next trip, we have a 10:30 pm arrival. I know by that time I just want to get settled with as few steps as possible.
I wouldn’t be a good blogger if I didn’t also tell you the negatives to Online Check-in. One thing you do miss is a warm welcome from the amazing Cast Members. This may not sound like much, but the Cast Members strive to make you feel at home the moment you arrive.
I have found a couple of ways to solve this. If the front desk isn’t too busy, I like to stop and ask for some maps and any special occasion buttons that apply. If that line is huge, I head to the gift shop and wander around. I’ve always found these Cast Members to be extremely helpful and I often strike up a conversation about pool activities or where they are originally from (says on their name tag).
How to Use Online Check-In
For me, the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Online Check-In, but if it’s your first time and you are unfamiliar with Disney and your resort, it’s fine to check in when you get there. Online Check-In isn’t a huge game changer and really does come down to your personal preferences.
I’m going to walk you through both the Check-in and Check-Out processes just so you know exactly what to expect. Checking in will actually begin up to 60 days before your vacation. That’s right! While making your FastPass+ go ahead and check into your hotel at the same time!
Get Your Phone Out
Head over to the My Disney Experience App and let’s get started!
- Click on your reservations and the “Start Check-In” next to your resort reservation.
- Enter your information and an estimated arrival time. Don’t worry about how accurate you are. It’s just so they get your room ready as close to your arrival as possible.
- Make any room requests. It is better to ask for what you need than to give specific requests (i.e. “to be near transportation” instead of “ground floor of Toy Story building”.
- Set up your credit card and pin. This will be the last time you need to pull your credit card out. From now on you can use your Magic Band to pay. Just scan and enter your pin.
NOTE: You will be receiving your Magic Bands in the mail a few weeks before your trip. If you want a fun way to present these to your family I’ve made a Magic Band Scavenger Hunt as part of my free Countdown to Disney Pack!
When You Get There
Let’s fast forward a couple of months and the big day has finally arrived! You signed up to use Magical Express and put the special tags on your luggage. You can now drop them off at the airline counter and forget about them until they arrive at your hotel room.
When you arrive at Orlando International Airport (MCO), you will still head towards baggage claim. You will go down some escalators/elevators, but instead of going left to baggage claim you will head to the right. That’s where the Magical Express is waiting to take you to Walt Disney World!
Catch the Magical Express
Be sure to pack your Magic Bands in your carry-on because you will scan them to check in. If you’ve forgotten and packed them, you can provide your confirmation number to board. After scanning, the Cast Member will tell you which line to get in. You will be assigned a bus based on your resort. With over 25 different resorts, they have many buses leaving constantly.
I’ve never had to wait long for my bus. Once on it’s time to sit back and relax. You are officially in the Disney Bubble! A promo video will tell you all about Walt Disney World while you drive. The bus ride can take up to an hour depending on which stop you are.
Play Don’t Unpack
Once you are dropped off at your resort, you are free to play. The world is your oyster, well, Disney World anyway! Since you’ve done Online Check-In, you have nothing left to do but relax. I often pack out swimsuits in our carry-ons and head to the pool immediately to begin soaking up the Florida sun.
If you’re hungry catch a bus to Disney Springs and eat, as well as shop. I don’t recommend making any dining reservations on your first day just because travel can be unpredictable. You’ll receive a text when you’re room is ready so feel free to take your time and enjoy!
If you didn’t check you’re luggage with the Magical Express and instead, brought it on the bus with you, Bell Services will hold on to it for you until your room is ready. This also works if you have more carry-ons than you’re willing to lug around with you.
When Your Room is Ready
Once your room is ready, you’ll get a text. Head there to unpack and settle in! How do you get your key? It’s already on your wrist! Your Magic band is also your room key! Just scan and enter. Easy Peasy!
I love my Disney resort and view it as an important part of my vacation! Take the time on your arrival day to explore yours, take some pictures, and get to know the place you’ll be staying.
I hate to say it, but we must once again fast-forward to the end of your vacation. It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it, but all good things must come to an end. So let’s talk about Check-Out and heading back to the airport.
Check Out time is 11 AM. An email should come with your bill. If everything looks right and you’ve left a credit card on file, you are free to leave without going to the front desk. You will need to stop at the front desk before midnight the night before you leave if you want to pay off your balance with a gift card rather than the credit card on file.
If your flight is much later than Check Out time, you are free to leave your bags with Bell Services and enjoy all the Resort amenities until its time to leave.
Getting Back to the Airport
The day before Check-Out you should have received a notice of when your Magical Express bus will be leaving for the airport. You’re assigned time is usually 3-4 hours before your flight. I know that’s a lot, but the Orlando Airport has a mall in it before you go through security so you won’t be bored.
If you’re flying with a participating airline, you have the option to check your luggage and get your boarding passes at your resort rather than the airport. The participating airlines are:
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines (U.S. Domestic Flights Only)
- JetBlue Airways
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
This service is available between 5 AM and Noon. You need all the same identification as you would at the airport, and everyone in your party has to be there.
We’ve done it! You have everything you need to know from choosing when to go to getting home again! But wait! I have one more thing I want you to know! Even on the best-planned vacation, things go wrong. It can’t be helped, but I’m going to give you all the tools you need to get back on track again in Step 11!
This is a lot of information! So I’ve made a cheat sheet to simplify it! Go ahead and grab your Disney Vacation Mini Guide so you don’t miss any steps!
If you have any questions about your arrival day, leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!