There have been plenty of instances where we’ve arrived at Walt Disney World before the official resort time of 3pm and we’ve had a very successful on-property first day. From dining to shopping to making the most of your resort, here are 9 fun suggestions for arriving at Disney World before check-in time.
When it comes to Disney World Resorts we’ve checked in everywhere from 7am to 7pm. In general, if I’m on property at 7am, I’m taking my family to the parks for rope drop (my favorite time of the day), but, if it’s later in the day, we like to do other things.
Many times, especially if it’s later in the day, we’re simply too exhausted from travel to visit one of the parks, so it tends to be lighter Disney fun. But, if you’re From dining to shopping to making the most of your resort, here are 9 fun suggestions for arriving at Disney World before check-in time, and don’t want to visit the parks, here are some super fun suggestions.
1. Go Ahead and Check-In Anyway
Whether you’re flying or driving in, as soon as you hit your resort, you’re free to check in. Of course, there’s no guarantee that your room will be ready before 3pm, but I generally go ahead and do it anyway so, once ready, I’ll get a text or email letting me know the room number.
When you lock down your Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll want to make sure to note your approximate arrival time during Online Check-In or via your travel agent. By doing this, your resort has a guesstimate and they do try to accommodate. Again, there’s no guarantee, but it never hurts.
Also, if you didn’t have your MagicBands shipped to you when you booked your vacation, you’ll need to head to the front desk to pick them up. You’ll be using them for charging to your room, dining (if you have the Disney Dining Plan), and for some exclusive pools.
2. Hit Your Resort’s Pool
Walt Disney World pools are heated in winter and cool in the summer, making for a fun way to spend a few hours or an entire day during your visit. If you want to relax and not head to the theme parks on arrival day, make sure your carry-on bag has your swimsuits in it and hit the pools while waiting for your room. If you don’t want to swim, each resort’s main pool area has hourly activities to keep the kiddos occupied, too.
You can use the lobby restrooms to change into your swimming gear and you’ll find plenty of towels at every pool. When you check in, it never hurts to ask what section you’ll be staying in because, if it’s not close to the main pool area, consider using one of the smaller pools closer to where you’ll be. They tend to be less crowded as well.
3. Grab a Meal in the Food Court
Every Walt Disney World Resort has at least one dining area. The swankier the resort, the more on-property dining you’ll find available.
4. Enjoy the Fun at Disney Springs
Usually the first and last days of our trip, we’ll head to Disney Springs and shop. But, there are tons of both Quick Service and Table Service restaurants at Disney Springs and, happily, they accept the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). You can also find snack carts and vendors that will accept DDP credits, too.
And even if you don’t shop or dine, taking a walk around Disney Springs is super relaxing. Many times there’s live entertainment including roaming artists. Additionally, you can take a water ride on an amphicar or Flights of Wonder, a hot air balloon. And, if those don’t appeal to you, catch a flick at AMC Theater offering dine-in-your-seat meals, visit the NBA Experience, bowl a few frames at Splitsville, or checkout The VOID, a vr experience.
Motorcoach transportation (aka, a bus) is available at the bus stops for Disney Springs at all resorts. On the Disney Springs map, you’ll find the motorcoach stops at West Side.
5. Visit a Water Park
There are two water parks at Walt Disney World: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. If you have the Water Park Fun & More option on your theme park tickets, you can use one of the Fun credits. If not, you’ll have to pay a separate admission.
For folks with younger children, Disney World water parks are a really good idea. You can spend a few hours or most of a day (water parks are open 10am to 5pm) enjoying the slides and ground features.
6. Play a Round of Mini Golf
There are two at Walt Disney World: Fantasia Gardens & Miniature Golf and Winter Summerland. If you have the Water Park Fun & More option on your theme park tickets, you can use one of the Fun credits. If not, you’ll have to pay a separate admission.
Again, you’ll be able to take motorcoach transportation to both miniature golf courses.
7. Playground & Arcade Fun
Depending on the size of your resort, there is at least one playground. Each playground area is safe and offers softer ground, so letting the kids blow off some steam on their first travel day is always a good idea.
Happily, there’s always an arcade at each resort as well. It’s pay to play, so you’ll need to put money on an arcade card.
8. Take a Walk
It’s bananas how often I learn something new every time I visit a resort. Having written that, during downtime, I love taking walks around the resorts and exploring. It’s a fun way to get a lay of the land and make a list of things to want to see/do/eat. It also makes for a smoother first full day as you’ll already know where the transportation locations are.
When you’re near the main pool area, look for the resort’s directory sign – running trails are ideal for walking, too.
9. Resort Hop & Explore other Hotels
If you’re staying at one WDW Resort but want to know what the others look like, it’s always fun to resort hop. In a nutshell, you’ll need to take transportation to a theme park or Disney Springs (or take an uber, lyft, or Minnie Van) and head to the resort of choice.
If you head to a theme park to resort hop, you’ll need to head back to it to swap buses back to your home resort. Each of the resorts is in a theme park section, so to minimize travel head to the theme park closest. For example, All-Star Resorts are in the Animal Kingdom Resort area, so I’d head to that theme park to save time.
To be noted: motorcoaches run until roughly an hour after park closing so, if taking advantage of theme park buses to get to another resort, make sure you save time to make it back to the resort to hop on your home resort’s bus.
What are your favorite things to do when arriving at Disney World before check-in time? Please let me know in the comment section below!