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What is a Split Stay and Best Planning Tips

There’s something that’s costing Disney billions of dollars. It’s the same thing that’s costing Universal billions of dollars, and many other theme parks as well. It’s the worst thing that can happen to any of these theme park giants, it’s called competition. The good news is that as long as theme parks remain profitable, competition is the best thing in the world for us theme park fans.

In 1955, Walt Disney built a theme park in California. Some people think it’s the first theme park ever, but it’s not true. Europe had several theme parks already running by the time Walt started dreaming up his theme park. In fact, Tivoli Gardens in Denmark is said to be a huge inspiration for Walt to build his theme park and he had visited it before Disneyland was even opened. Disney most certainly innovated theme parks, even when Disneyland first opened. They had their own characters to build on, and movies to tell the stories of these characters before people even set foot in the parks. Disney pushed technology, as well as pushed the importance of telling a story in his attractions.

Disney also built a second park, and strategically built both of his parks in places that would get a lot of tourist traffic. The problem is that Walt, or the Disney company cannot own the great ideas they had when building these parks. Once they opened to the public, and the popularity of these parks grew, it was only a matter of time until other media giants jumped on the boat. At first, it was more about licensing characters to already established theme parks, but eventually the theming grew and now there are a few giant chains of theme parks that stretch all over the world, just like Disney. Interestingly, many of these media giants have followed suite so closely that they’ve chosen to build their theme parks in the same countries and sometimes the same cities as Disney (I’m well aware that Universal had their studios in California long before Disneyland was built).

When these theme park giants started building these parks so close together, it creates a huge amount of competition. When two parks, or even more, are so close together, the fight to get customers becomes a battle. There are two ways that you can win the battle to gain customers, growth or discounts.

Discounts is simple, if a theme park or hotel is cheaper, it will attract guests. This is particularly true for large groups of guests as well as families. All theme park companies offer some kind of discounts, but it becomes a bit of a shell game where the companies will create something that may or may not save you money. The Disney dining plan is a great example of this. It entices people to stay at a Disney resort with the idea that you’ll have your food included in the cost. They even offer “free dining” with certain plans, which isn’t really free if you ask some people. 

While these discounts do attract people to parks, it may not encourage people to spend more money. There is also a line that must be balanced as the parks don’t want to start losing money or have to cut obvious corners in order to attract guests. Theme parks also want wealthy people to come to the parks. While numbers are great, many theme parks would rather have a couple of big spenders come through the gates instead of less spendy groups. It’s not fair, but rich people bring in more money to the parks.

The other way these parks can become more attractive is to build up the roster of attractions. More parks, rides, hotels and restaurants make a park more appealing to everyone. Sure, it costs money but if you can attract people with the hype of a new ride, it can be very profitable as well. You can have people coming to a park to enjoy a particular attraction for years or even decades if you play your cards right. The initial investment into something cool and new is high, but in the long run it can very profitable. Best of all you make the fans happy too, and then they advertise by simply sharing with friends and family how much they like this new thing.

This finally leads me to what is a split stay. We’ve established that there are countries and cities that host a multitude of awesome theme parks and resort hotels. We know that it’s not easy to make a choice sometimes as one resort might have Harry Potter, while the other has Star Wars (for example). So how do you decide where to go? You don’t, that’s what’s known as a split stay. This is where you block that week-long vacation into two parts, 3 or 4 days in each resort (the number of days or length of stay may vary).

This means you’ll have to move from one resort to another in the middle of the week, but it also means that you feel like you’re getting two vacations for the price of one. This can be an amazing vacation idea that will let you hug a wookie one day, and fly on a broomstick the next. 

The one important thing to keep in mind with split stays is that theme park companies hate them. These companies are spending billions to keep you on their properties, buying their souvenirs and eating their food. You’ll notice that no resort anywhere offers a shuttle to a competitor’s resort. They want you staying in their bubbles (read the Disney bubble post for more) and will do everything to entice you to stay and keep you from leaving.

But don’t let those theme park giants push you around, if you’ve got the time, organizational skills, and a few dollars to spend, then a split stay could turn your vacation into an epic adventure across theme parks and intellectual properties.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when doing a split stay:

Time – If you’re only visiting for a few days, a split stay might not be for you. You need time to move and see all of the parks. In Orlando, I would suggest having at least 8 days between Universal and Walt Disney World.

Offers – Theme parks create offers that make split stays harder. They offer discounts the longer you stay, and that means if you’re only staying at one hotel for the entirety of your trip, you’ll save a lot of money. They also offer discounts on tickets the more days you buy. Simply put, you will not benefit from many deals a theme park might offer if you decide to do a split stay.

Planning – If you set up a split stay, particularly at theme parks you’ve never visited before, you might have to do some serious planning. You’ll have to figure out well in advance how long you’ll want to spend at each resort. The general rule is one day for each theme park, and maybe a day if you’re interested in water parks as well. Know that you’re not going to be able to do everything at all of the parks, so be prepared to skip some attractions or even full parks that might not interest you.

Moving Day – Since a split stay is literally staying at two resorts in one trip, you’ll need some time to move from one hotel to another. This is maybe something you don’t want to do in the evening right after walking around a theme park for 10 hours. It also might not be something you want to do first thing in the morning before the parks open. You might want to plan a day that is theme park free to do the move or maybe just a half day at a water park.

Split stays allow you to really see some amazing theme parks. It also lets you compare what these different companies have to offer. Judge for yourself, but I feel like Universal and Disney have unique ways that the present their theme parks. The best way to really see this is to visit them both.