Disney World Resort Hopping: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Guide to Disney Resort Pool hopping

Updated for 2015!

If you ever hung out in the lobby of a Disney Resort, to feel like you were vacationing there, then you might be a Cheapskate Princess! One of my favorite parts of a Disney vacation is visiting resorts I am not actually staying in. I have referred to myself as a lobby rat for the last 20 years. I had no idea if you were “officially allowed” to visit the other hotels before I started this website; we just drove over, walked around, grabbed a snack, and enjoyed the atmosphere. I have walked myself and my family around every single Disney World Resort property. While I can’t describe the inside of all the rooms from actual personal experience, I can tell you about the architecture, the amenities, and the fabulous qualities of each resort. Can you do the same thing without being turned away at the guard gate?

I phoned Disney World directly (again in 2015), and the official answer is yes, so says particular information gathered from the Cast Member I spoke with. Sometimes you get different information from different people, but I liked her answers to my questions, so we’re going with yes, you can resort hop without getting in any trouble.

So if you have ever wanted to see Disney resorts where you were not staying, use our Cheapskate Princess Guide to Resort Hopping to get the 411 on what you can and can not do on property.

The Day You Arrive at Disney World, Don’t Waste Your Tickets on This…

2 princess Boardwalk Resort Disney

How to Disney Resort Hop…

You can take a bus or a monorail to the different Disney resorts, or you can drive your own vehicle. If you drive your car to the guard gate, just tell the Cast Member you are going on property to look around. If you plan to eat something, tell the Cast Member you are going to grab a bite to eat. Have your driver’s license ready to show the guard, or if you have a MagicBand, they will ask to scan this. Several resorts have signs indicating you need to have your identification ready. I always have my driver’s license out the window before I even say hello, which indicates I am familiar with the routine. In our phone conversation, the Cast Member told me they have an “open resort” policy where it is perfectly acceptable, and she even sounded like she was encouraging visitation, to look around and make yourself at home on the grounds or in the lobby.

If you are currently staying off property or at a Value Resort, should you fall in love with a more pricey Moderate Resort, or woohoo!, a much more expensive Deluxe Resort, Disney stands to make a lot of money from you changing a future reservation to a higher level resort that you are currently enjoying. What better way to accomplish this than by letting you kind of sample parts of the resorts, so to speak, for free.

If you plan to resort hop, get familiar with our “Freebie at the Resorts” guide: Almost 130 FREE Walt Disney World Resort Activities!

resort hop at Disney World Coronado Springs Resort

What You Are Allowed To Do On Property?

1. Eat

You can have a meal or a snack in any of the resort cafes and restaurants.  Our family is all about trying some new Disney snacks, which are not only tasty but will help keep your costs down as opposed to enjoying a resort meal.

2. Walk Around

You can walk around the property and enjoy the lovely view. Because of the amazing individual theming of each resort, you may find yourself strolling the sandy shores along the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian Resort, “hiking” through the deep Northwestern woods at the Wilderness Lodge, swinging in a beach hammock at Caribbean Beach Resort with the sounds of steel pans in your ears, or  listening to a big band swing some Disney show tunes at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Over at the new Art of Animation Resort, you will literally feel like you have walked straight into the Cars movie.

These are not your every day views. Even if you are not spending each night at the resort, wonderful memories can be made here.

3. Shop

You can drop some money in the resort gift shops. A potential word of warning here: one of the Disney Princess Facebook fans posted that she had noticed prices in Deluxe Resorts gift shops were higher than in the Value Resorts for the same items. If that’s the case, in keeping with out theme of free activities, perhaps you had better stick to window shopping.

Did I mention there are FREE movies at Disney Resorts? Check it out.

Take A Break During Your Disney World Vacation For This Free Activity!

Resort Hopping at Disney World at the Contemporary Resort

What Can You NOT Do On Property?

You are not allowed to swim in the pools. This makes total sense when you take into consideration just how much money people are spending to stay at these resorts. If I was paying that sort of money, I wouldn’t want the pool packed out with a bunch of swimmers who did not actually pay to stay there. I’m not willing to take the risk of getting caught, and I certainly don’t suggest you do either. Use this guide: Disney World Resort Pool Hopping: A Cheapskate Princess Guide.

Remember swimming in Disney lakes is prohibited as well.

How Long Can You Stay?

I point-blank asked the Cast Member how long could I visit the resorts, as in, was there a time limit? I was picturing myself watching the monorail zip by in the Contemporary, cupcake in hand, as I waited for her answer. While I have read in various forums and Facebook groups that three hours is the limit, she said there was no time limit. Because I don’t think this policy is in writing anywhere, then you are probably safe to take your sweet time resort hopping, and then head back to the theme parks for some fun. If the open resort policy is abused, resort staff always has the option to change the rules, so we like to recommend people do the right thing.

10 Cheapskate Reasons to Vacation on Disney Property

guide to resort hopping at Disney World resorts

Why Should You Resort Hop?

If you have never walked around the Deluxe Resort grounds, you are totally missing out on the best of what Disney has to offer other than theme park entertainment. This isn’t like walking around your local Best Western for entertainment. We started bringing our children to the resorts for a few hours here and there when they were very young, especially in the winter when the parks closed at 7 and 8 p.m. for special parties. They knew we couldn’t swim, so they played on the playgrounds to run off some energy,  or they watched TV in the lobbies when they needed to rest their feet. Now my children ask if we can build in time on vacation to stop by their favorite resorts. They – pre-teen kids – ask me – if we can go by certain resorts on vacation, so you know it must be worth the effort, which I’ll mention again, is a free activity.

Disney vacations are pricey, and time certainly is money at Disney. Your vacation will end all too soon, and if you are like most people, the money will run out too soon as well. Taking a walk by the Polynesian beach isn’t like riding Space Mountain, but it’s one of the most relaxing things you can do in Orlando. So on your next WDW trip, try to build in some time for a tour of some of the resorts.

Can a Cheapskate Afford to Stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort During Holiday Season?!

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see ya on a couch in Wilderness Lodge, headed for some Disney Pin Trading…

1 princess Bay Lake 2

Here is more information on what to do for free at the Deluxe Resorts, just to save you some time scouring the Internet.

Wilderness Lodge Free Activities – Use these links:

16 Free Indoor Activities at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge…Gotta Love Free!

Love Free? Try These 11 Free Outdoor Activities at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Polynesian Resort Free Activities – Use this link:

*20 FREE Activities at Disney World’s Polynesian Resort

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Free Activities – Use this Link:

Over 30 FREE Activities at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Contemporary Resort – Use this link:

30 Free Activities at Disney’s Contemporary Resort: A Cheapskate Princess Guide*

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.


Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

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Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from  Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com. 


Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida


  1. Gaylin says:

    I love resort hopping! The first time I went to the Animal Kingdom Lodge we were nearly late for our reservation at Boma because I wanted to see everything in the lobby, outdoor areas. I can’t afford to stay there but I sure can afford to visit and admire!

    I love going to the Contemporary, the history of the building itself, the mural, the monorails going through. So cool. Had dinner once at California Grill, so amazing.

    And touring the resorts in the Christmas season – make sure to have lots of space on your camera memory card.

  2. Elizabethe says:

    We do this every year during Christmas week — we drive down to Downtown Disney and take a resort bus to one of the Monorail hotels. We ride the Monorail, go and see all the decorations, have coffee at Kona, have lunch at the Contemporary, buy gingerbread at the Grand Floridian, and then perhaps pick up a bus at the Magic Kingdom to go to the Boardwalk and the Beach Club. When we’re done, back to Downtown Disney and home.

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