On arrival day, will you have to check-in before you go to the parks?
Sometimes, but you don't have to do it in person.
It is not unusual for people to want to hit the parks as soon as they arrive (including us!).
However, to do that you'll need to make sure your tickets (and Disney Dining Plan if applicable) are ready to go and activated.
Here's what you'll need to do:
Packages vs. Room Only reservations
- If you have booked a Disney World Vacation PACKAGE - meaning you purchased your room + tickets or room + tickets + dining plan - you'll need to check-in before you go to the parks. If you don't check-in before you go to the parks your tickets and your dining plan will not work.
- If you have a ROOM ONLY reservation, you do NOT need to check-in before you go to the parks. Since your tickets aren't attached to a room, they are already "activated" and you can head to the parks whenever you are ready.
When it comes time, checking in can look like a couple of different things:
This is best for people that forgot to do on-line check-in, people that have super-specific room requests that they want to follow-up on, and people that are already going to be at the resort dropping off their bags with Bell Services (but honestly we'd still do online even if we were dropping off bags).
If you did not or could not have your MagicBands shipped to you, you'll also need to do in-person check-in so that you can pick those up.
In-person is also good for people that want to do anything other than have 1 credit card attached to their account (but if you don't need to do that immediately you can always add it later).
What about declining housekeeping services?
People that opt to decline housekeeping services (for the promotional gift card offered with the "Service Your Way" program) will need to visit the front desk to do that - but you don't have to request it immediately upon arrival or even at check-in; anytime that first day (for the maximum gift card allowance) works.
In-person can be thought of as the traditional way of checking in.
You go inside and find the counter. Maybe wait in-line for a bit and then give the person working there your information.
They do that type type type thing on their computer. (Why do they have to type so much?! Hotel desks and airline check-in counters BOTH. So much typing! Makes me nervous.)
After all the clicking and the typing they give you some maps and maybe a flyer or 2 and then send you on your way.
Even if check-in time isn't "officially" until 3 or 4 pm, you can still go ahead and check-in before then.
Your room may not be ready - but you'll be "officially" checked-in and Disney will (barring any glitches) text you your room number when it is ready to be occupied. And, as long as you have your MagicBand or a cell phone on you, you shouldn't have to go back to the counter.
This is best for people arriving during peak check-in and out times (you can avoid the regular counter lines this way), and for people who want to get to the action the fastest.
My Disney Experience
Online Resort Check-In is done through My Disney Experience and can be completed either on a computer:
or with a cell phone or tablet:
When you do online check-in, if you know you'll want to head to the parks as soon as you can make sure you select a check-in time that is before the time you think you'll be headed to the park.
If you don't have a check-in time selected that is before when you want to go to the parks your tickets and dining plan may not be activated and then you'll possibly run into some snags when you get to the gates.
Sure, they'll be able to help you there but it will slow you down.
Again - checking in early online does not mean your room will be ready at the time you select.
Rooms are sometimes ready earlier than the official check-in time (which is typically 4 pm) but that isn't ever a guarantee.
But, if you need to use your tickets or Disney Dining Plan, your room doesn't have to be "ready" for your package to be activated - you just have to be checked-in.
If your room wasn't ready when you checked in (if you did in-person check-in) OR if you did online check in, you should get a text message with location information in it when your room is ready.
Note: if you plan to check-in at the front desk, make sure you confirm your contact information with the Cast Member there and if doing it online, make sure you enter in your correct contact information into My Disney Experience or else your notifications will not work.
Unlocking your resort room door
When your room is ready you'll just use your MagicBand to enter your room when you get back to your resort.
You can also use the MyDisneyExperience app on your phone to enter.
Bottom line: whenever possible, opt for online!
Our recommendation is to, whenever possible, use Online Resort Check-In. You can always follow-up at the desk if you have any questions or issues but checking in on-line saves you time AND gets you out into the fun faster.
If you DO need to visit the counter (to do things like add an additional credit card for charging), try to pick an off-peak time like early morning or late evening.