A new kind of Walt Disney World split stay

When Walt Disney World fans usually talk about split stays, they usually refer to dividing their resort stay at two locations. On a past vacation, my husband and I started our vacation at Disney’s Pop Century and ended it with a stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.

Just the two of us during a couples only trip “back in the day” at Animal Kingdom | Photo by Disney Photopass

For our upcoming trip — which is exactly three weeks from today (yes!) — we are experiencing a different type of split stay. The first half of our trip will be a “couples only” vacation. Then, a few days later, our 15-year-old daughter will join us to complete our trip.

As we planned for this trip, our typical Disney vacation planning traditions got shaken up a bit. However, we learned some interesting lessons about the best way to book our trip, our own touring habits and how our family’s needs have changed over the years.

But, how did we get to this place? For once, school is bringing us to Disney World instead of preventing a trip!

You’re Going To Sing At Walt Disney World!

My youngest daughter, who is a high school freshman, sings with the choir. This group travels to Walt Disney World every other year to participate in the Disney Sings Music Program. During this experience, young singers get to work with trained vocal professionals on everything from voice technique to actually doing voiceover work in an animated sequence. There is also an adjudication process for larger vocal groups, which provides excellent feedback to help the choirs improve their skills.

As soon as my daughter found out about this trip last year, she couldn’t wait to sign up. Ok, I admit I was just as psyched as she was. Of course, there was no way she was going to Walt Disney World and leaving me behind. After a quick check of our calendar, I decided my husband, Jon, and I could go, too.

I may not win “mother of the year”, but I opted to go separately from the school. I’ve done my share of volunteering over the years for school events. No, Jon and I have needed a vacation for a while and this was the perfect opportunity. So, while all of us will be down there at the same time, we’ll be touring separately for the first four days.

This is where the planning challenges came into play.

Going From 2 to 3 In A Room

Since this trip is going to be sort of a celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary (a year late, but still…), Jon and I opted to book a new resort for us: Port Orleans Riverside. Usually, we stay at value resorts, but since this is a special occasion, we decided to upgrade. For the first four days of our trip, it’s going to be just the two of us. But, then I noticed that only Jon’s and my name were on the reservation. Oops! We called our travel agent to discuss our options. We’d never done this before and I didn’t want to just sneak her in after we picked her up. It turned out we had two options. First, we could add her as a day guest at the lobby desk after we picked her up, since our room had room for a total of four people. At first, that’s what we decided to go with. Simple, right?

Ah, but there was a catch that I figured out when I went to make our FastPass+ reservations. Without having her on our room reservation, we could not book any Fastpasses for her. Hmm…

After a few frantic emails, we got her added to our room reservation at no extra charge. Still, there were a few things we needed to figure out when we were making our plans. Such as, only needing Fastpasses for our daughter for just a few days of the trip.

A Few Fastpass+ Tricks

At our 60-day mark, I got up to make the family’s choices for Fastpasses. We discussed which parks we wanted to go on which days and then I hoped that the updated system would be user-friendly.

Since I wasn’t as concerned about FastPasses for the couples only part of our trip, I focused on the last four days of the vacation. Turns out, my stress leading up to selection day was for nothing. Even though our daughter’s name was included when I logged in, I could pick and choose which days and attractions to add her to without any issue.

We will get a MagicBand for her when they arrive (hopefully soon!) and then just hold on to it for her when she joins us later in the trip. For the school part of her Walt Disney World adventure, she’s pretty much on her own when it comes to planning. I’m hoping some of the strategies we’ve used over the years have stuck with her! She can book same-day Fastpasses and I’m sure she’ll have a blast with her friends.

Together, But Separate

Ah, the good old days, when our Disney World trips meant having these two princesses at our side at all times | Photo by Marie Rossiter

For me, that will be the weirdest part of this trip. Jon and I have traveled alone to Walt Disney World before. However, when we’ve gone with our kids, they are usually with us. I know my daughter will be in good hands; there are chaperones and they’ll travel in groups. But, knowing she’ll be out and about in the parks with a group of her friends while Jon and I are there will be — odd. When we’ve traveled alone before, she’s been home with the grandparents. So, this is the next step in our maturing family.

Either way, I’m considering this trip to be the best of both worlds. I get some one-on-one time with my amazing husband and then get to share the magic of Walt Disney World with my daughter, too. I can’t wait to experience this new kind of trip!

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