This past summer Disney had begun testing a direct to room check-in process. This process is exactly like it sounds. When you arrive at the resort, you skip the front desk and can go directly to your room. There are many opinions in the Disney community both for and against this new check-in process, and there currently are no plans announced to the public as to if/when this process will be implemented in the future. All that aside, how does this process work?
We took a vacation to Walt Disney World this past June and were selected to take part in the direct to room check-in test. This test was not property-wide, rather it was conducted in only a handful of resorts. We stayed at Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani, in a DVC studio. About three weeks before our check-in date I completed online check-in. Six days prior to our check-in I received an email stating we were selected for this test. The email stated that since we had checked-in on-line and had received our Magic Bands we were eligible. The email stated that they would contact us via text when our room was ready. Since check-in is typically 4pm I did not expect a text before then, although sometimes you luck out and your room is ready ahead of time. The e-mail also stated that if you arrive prior to your room being ready you can store your luggage in bell services, nothing different than any other time someone arrives earlier in the day. As we were to land in Orlando at 8:50pm, arriving prior to our room being ready was not a concern of mine.
I received a text about 3:30pm CST with our room number as we were waiting at the airport to board our plane. Our flight ended up being delayed about an hour so we did not land until nearly 10pm. Once we landed, we boarded Magical Express and about 45 minutes later we arrived at our resort. Normally when staying DVC there are cast members to greet you at the door to “welcome you home” and a flurry of activity in the resort lobby. Seeing as we arrived so late, there was only one lone cast member behind the desk. I wonder how this experience would have differed if there were someone there to greet us? We began to walk through the lobby and the cast member behind the desk asked if she could help us and I told her we received a text with our room due to direct check in so we were all set. She did ask our last name (presumably to note we had actually arrived) and told us to have a nice night.
We did not receive any kind of welcome packet, not even the online check-in welcome packet. I was thinking maybe it would have been waiting in our room for us but it was not. We have stayed at Kidani previously, so we had no need for a resort map, park times guide or anything else that comes in the packet, so I didn’t really care, but I would imagine that is information some people would want. I am thinking that with this being a test, this was a mere oversight and hope that welcome packets will be waiting in the room for guests who use this in the future. I am not sure if there was one there at the desk for us or not, I never checked. The entire process went smoothly and we were up in our room a few minutes after being dropped off.
Seeing as we got into Orlando so late, I really liked this option. We were so tired we just wanted to get up to our room and go to bed. We knew where we were going and already had all the information we needed so we did not need to spend 5-10 minutes to receive information the front desk gives to you during check-in. I would think that anyone who was given this option of checking in but for any number of reasons did not want to take advantage of it, could easily check-in at the desk as you normally do. I actually think it would make sense for this to be an option someone chooses ahead of time. Maybe when completing online check-in this could be an option so the resort knows whether to expect you at the desk and if they need to put the welcome packet in the room. All details that need to be hashed out if this would go live for everyone.
Who would this not work for? Had this been a resort we had not stayed at before, I would have stopped at the front desk for a map and a few questions. If I would have had room requests on my reservation I would have probably checked-in at the front desk in case we wanted to have the possibility of changing rooms. Many people just like the personal interaction with the cast members at the front desk. For those who arrive late in the evening like we did or during a busy time when there are long lines to check in, I can see this being an advantage. You can always stop at the desk later on (as we did the following morning on our way out for a birthday button for my daughter) if you need or want to. Overall, the streamlined check-in worked as you would have expected with the exception of the welcome packet. This time around, for us, this worked perfectly and depending on what our specific travel plans would be for future trips (arrival time, new or familiar resort, etc.), I can see taking advantage of this again.
Written by: Angie Muma (Disney Vacation Club owner and friend of the Slusher’s)