It’s just one of those things. No matter what any commercial may show (*ahem concierge with fairy wings, I see you*), getting settled into a resort room is not always as seamless as one would hope. Sure, Disney being Disney goes way out of the way to take as much pressure off you as possible (Disney’s Magical Express, Online Express Check-In, resort bag check, etc.) but the reality is, its a cooperative effort. The front desk is relying on all their partners: TSA, transportation, bell services, housekeeping, engineering, last night’s guests themselves! to hold up their end of the bargain so they can make the start of your stay as great as possible.
Now, most people know that the industry standard for a hotel room check-in is around 3-5pm. Yet for some reason, when guests arrive to the desk of their Disney resort, that expectation seems to be thrown out the window. I cannot tell you how many times I had guests demand to speak to a manager because their room wasn’t ready the moment they arrived (usually during breakfast!)
I believe the confusion is developed during booking. The lovely folks at the reservation center often try to explain to guests that on the day of your resort check-in, you can come to the front desk as early as 7am. The system allows those front desk Cast Members to fully check you into the system and set you up for a text alert whenever your room becomes ready. A significant number of people in my own experience, however, interpret this as, “your room will be ready shortly.” But that is not necessarily the case, it only means exactly what they say- that you will be notified of your room number when it is clean and ready for you.
Per the industry standard, Disney only guarantees a room will be ready by 3-5pm. Now of course, being Disney, and always trying to exceed guest expectations, should something become available earlier, meeting the room type you booked, CMs are certainly going to try to grab it for you to help you get settled as quickly as possible. But please keep in mind, they are at the mercy of those checking out on your arrival date. If lots of rooms were empty the night before, then it’s going to be a good morning! They will have plenty of already-clean rooms to offer and they may be able to get you into one as early as 8am. That’s the dream (for them too!), and they try their best to make it come true. But the reality is, most of the time the resorts are filled to near capacity. (Again, it is Disney.) More often than not rooms have to be vacated (check-out time being 11am) and thoroughly cleaned before reissuing them to a new guest. (They’re assuming you do want a clean room…)
So for your consideration- definitely do use Disney’s awesome online check-in service to expedite that process at the front desk. Make sure you’re all set for text alerts before you go, and leave your luggage with bell services. They’ll be happy to hold onto it for you. Don’t waste time just sitting in the lobby for hours. I’ve witnessed this happen too many times to count and it just seems such an incredible waste of your invaluable time. Go out and enjoy your day! If you need a shower, most of the bathrooms at the feature pools have one you can use. Just speak with your front desk and they’ll be able to direct you.
Even if you’re coming only for a stay in the resort, rather than a park visit, there are lots of things you can be enjoying before your room is ready. A chat with concierge will give you the best suggestions for your specific resort. Most have lots to offer from restaurants to tandem bike excursions. Pro-tip: if you know you’ll need your room ASAP, when you complete your online check-in, note that you’ll be there first thing in the morning so that the office can do their best to prioritize finding you that first available room.
Trust me, you’ll be happier if your vacation isn’t tied up in waiting for one. Disney provides an online check-in and text service for that very reason. So, instead, get out there and start feeling the magic!