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The Online Check-In Survival Guide

Online Check-In is a very popular topic for those who have never used it. Many wonder what the benefits are or will it hurt your room requests. I will do my best to give all of you a guide as to what to expect from Online Check-In, when to do it and most importantly what not to expect and when not to do it.

Online Check-In or Not?
Most people who are unfamiliar with Online Check-In seem to be at one of two extremes regarding what it actually does. Some are under the impression that Online Check-In is this magic wand that will make all of your Disney resort dreams come true. The others think that it is this evil thing that will remove all of your requests and shove you in the least desirable room in the resort. *cue evil laugh* Neither of those extremes are even close to the truth.

Online Check-In will not exclude you from the increasingly rare free upgrade, it will not ignore your requests, nor will it give you golden FASTPASSES to all of the attractions. All Online Check-In is designed to do is speed up your check-in time at the resort. That is it. No more, no less. Room assignments are still done the same way they have always been. The only difference is the resort will print out your package before you arrive if you did Online Check-In. The only bonus, other that a time savings, I have personally found from using Online Check-In is the frequency in which my room has been ready prior to 3:00 PM has gone up.

Now that we know what Online Check-In is, the only question that remains is who should use it. Online Check-In is designed for the frequent Walt Disney World traveler that will know what everything in their arrival packet is without it being explained to you. If you travel to Walt Disney World one or more times a year, know how your Key to the World card works and can recite the Disney Dining Plan rules from memory, then Online Check-In can help to speed up your check-in process. If this is your first trip to Walt Disney World, the first time you have booked a package or added dining plan then I would advise against using Online Check-In.

Of course, I am not one to come to a conclusion without at least a little bit of experimentation. So experiment I did, on my friends and family no less. I had a trip planned with myself, my brother and a friend back when Online Check-In first came out. I wanted to use this opportunity to see first hand how different groups would take to the Online Check-In experience. We were all checking into the same resort at the same time with the exact same package with room, tickets and the Disney Dining Plan. The difference was the three group’s level of experience with Walt Disney World. This is how it played out.

Group 1 The novice: This was our friends group. They had never so much as checked into a hotel before let alone booked a Walt Disney World vacation package. Everything in their package was unfamiliar to them. Had they been on their own, they would have been completely lost.

Group 2 The somewhat experienced Walt Disney World guest: My brother and his family made up this group. They had been to Walt Disney World many times but they have always stayed off property or booked a room only. Even though they knew the ins and outs of the parks very well and knew that their Key to the World cards would open the doors to their room, they had no idea that their tickets and dining were on there as well. Again, had this group done this on their own, they would have been lost or at the very least had many questions.

Group 3 The pros: As you might have guessed, this was my family and I. We travel to Walt Disney World very frequently and knew what every last slip of paper in our package was. We knew how the Key to the World cards, tickets and dining plan worked. Instead of having a cast member go over every thing in our travel package one by one and wait for our Key to the World cards to print, we were able to grab our pre-printed package and hit the parks.

Hopefully, after reading the three examples you will have a pretty good idea which group you and your party would fit into. While there is a benefit to Online Check-In if you are very well versed with how things work in Walt Disney World, it is not something you should do if you only make it to Walt Disney World every few years or are booked in a way you have never been booked before.

Richard

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