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Since the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel is a partner resort rather than an official Disney one, you’re going to need a different set of tips for navigating your Swan vacation.
While you can still use plenty of the normal tips and trips for Disney World, there are some particulars to the Swan hotel that it is useful to know ahead of time.
Some of the programs and special procedures for Disney resorts don’t apply to the Swan, meanwhile the Swan has some of their own hotel-specific processes you wouldn’t see elsewhere on property.
In short, you’ll be glad you checked out all of our trips and tricks before your Swan hotel stay!
Table of Contents
Planning Your Stay at the Swan Hotel
Don’t Book With Disney
I know, I know. This sounds counterintuitive – why wouldn’t I want to book my Disney trip through Disney?
In reality, plenty of people don’t do this anyway, but it is particularly true with the Disney Swan.
The main reason for this comes back to the ownership. The Disney Swan is part of the Marriott family, not Disney resorts, so you should book your rooms directly through the hotel. You can book on Disney’s website, but you can only choose a standard room, and you don’t get any of the Marriott perks. Going through the Swan and Dolphin website gives you more room choice and the chance to get/use Marriott points.
Use Your Membership
For once, we’re not talking about Disney Vacation Club!
Since this is a Marriott, if you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member or have Marriott points, you should use those when booking. This will save you money as well as open the door to other benefits at the hotel.
Look for Special Deals
Since the Swan is able to make independent choices from the Disney Company, they are able to offer special deals for particular groups.
Seniors have a special rate, at least 25% off booking, as do card-carrying AAA/CAA members.
Emergency personnel (nurses, doctors, firefighters, etc.) have their own rate, as do teachers and school support staff.
The Swan hotel also shows their appreciation to our law enforcement and military through their own rates and offers, including 25% off rooms.
As a deluxe resort, those rates and discounts are no small thing, so definitely consider it if you’re one of those groups!
Use an Agent or Travel Site
Now, if you don’t Marriott points, you might be looking for another way to save money on your nightly stay. It may also feel overwhelming to try to navigate these waters yourself.
That’s when using a travel site or travel agency can help you out. Agencies like Off to Neverland and EZ-Dis have direct connections to Disney World, and often will book your dining reservations and other reservations in addition to your hotel stay.
Travel sites like TripAdvisor can also help you score deals, so check these out before booking!
Book an Adults-Only Trip
There are a few resorts at Disney World that are perfect for an adults-only trip, and the Swan is one of them.
From the overall air of luxury to the incredible dining experiences, you’ll be glad you picked the Swan over some of the other choices.
Not to mention the central location of the resort and the optimal distance to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
While the complimentary MagicBand is going away, Swan and Dolphin guests never enjoyed this benefit. That means that, if you do still want to use a MagicBand, it’s charging capabilities and room access will not work at the Swan. This is one of the downsides to being a Disney affiliate rather than an official Disney resort.
As the Magic Mobile digital park ticket becomes more prevalent, this won’t be as much of an issue, but you will still need to keep track of a conventional room key for the Swan. You also won’t be able to use the My Disney Experience app to open your room, although there are other features that do work at the hotel.
Get those Reservations!
Be sure to book all your dining and experiences reservations as soon as you can. Resort guests can make reservations 60 days ahead of time, online or by calling (407) 939-7529 (although online is certainly easier). Plenty of the dining options at the Swan fill up fast, so getting that advance reservation is always a good idea.
Room Key for Parking!
Parking is also a bit different over at the Swan hotel. One of the best tips is to always – always – have your room key with you. Not only do you need it to access your room, but you need it to access the hotel in terms of parking. You have to swipe your key to get back in (and sometimes out) at certain parking locations around the Swan. This also means you should be ready with your room key when you come back to the hotel so that you can expedite coming back into the parking lot.
Spending Time Away – No View
One of my top tips always is not to spend money on something you don’t use, and that is particularly true at the Swan hotel.
Within the room categories, you have two views – Resort View and No View. Resort view rooms give you an unobstructed view of the Swan and Dolphin areas, or the lake and the BoardWalk beyond. No view rooms most likely face the parking lot or have design elements that somewhat block your window.
If you’re not spending a ton of time hanging out in the room, who cares what you see from it? I totally get why you might pay the deluxe dollars for this hotel location, but save the money where you can! Don’t pay extra for something you’ll barely notice, especially if the room is just a place to sleep, shower, and change.
Same Goes for Deluxe Rooms
The Swan has three types of rooms – traditional, deluxe, and family. While you might think you’re getting more out of a deluxe room versus a traditional one, the only real difference is that a deluxe room has a balcony and the traditional doesn’t. If you love the idea of having a balcony for your morning coffee, or to watch the fireworks in the evening, then go for it! If you couldn’t care less – don’t waste the money.
Do the Math
If you know my Disney World tips, you know I always encourage guests to do the math ahead of time – and this holds true for the Swan.
If you have a large party, that Presidential Suite might sound like a dream…by it comes at a price. $3,000 a night, to be exact.
Two connecting rooms are much more economical and give you a lot of the same benefits without breaking the bank.
Don’t believe the lie that you have to spend a ton of money to have an awesome Disney vacation!
Going to a Water Park? Get a MagicBand Anyway
There are definitely some who are sold on Magic Mobile (my husband being one of them), but there are some instances when having a MagicBand definitely still comes in handy. One of those places is the water park.
If you’re going to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach, because MagicBands are waterproof and have charging capabilities, you won’t have to go back to your locker or worry about your wallet around the park when you want something to eat or drink. Wear your band all day, just tap that glowing Mickey, and you’re good to go.
I personally like MagicBands anyway, because you don’t have to depend on your phone working to access your ticket or other information. However, it is especially convenient at the water parks!
Download the My Disney Experience App
The My Disney Experience app has become a crucial component to any Walt Disney World vacation! From purchasing tickets and making dining reservations, the app is essential. Now that the Genie service is going to be integrated into the app, My Disney Experience is more important than ever. You definitely want to download this app before your trip, because there is so much you can do before you even start to pack.
One major difference is that you cannot use Online Check-in. When you arrive at the hotel, you will have to go to the front desk and check-in like the typical hotel experience. However, the app still helps you with all the other aspects of your Disney trip, and the Swan does still connect to the app.
Pack Pool Shoes
I know plenty of people who are comfortable walking straight from their hotel room to the pool barefoot. If that’s you, great, but you’re really going to want flip flops or pool shoes at the Grotto pool area.
The reason? The scorching pool deck. For some reason, the type of concrete over at the Swan & Dolphin’s pool complex gets hot – hot enough to wear your shoes to the pool stairs and leave them for when you get out. It may seem silly, but you’re going to thank us in the long run.
Want to Build a Budget? Try Gift Cards!
It can be almost impossible to set a budget while on a Disney vacation, but if you’re determined not to overspend you might want to try this out. Get a few Disney gift cards, pre-load them with a set amount, and then when it’s gone, it’s gone. You could even separate the funds out onto individual cards for particular purchases, like dining and souvenirs.
Since the Swan has awesome dining and quick service spots, you’re going to find yourself tempted to overspend. With the BoardWalk close by as well, you’re going to have double the temptation!
Using a gift card system forces you to conserve those funds for something you really want, not just your third signature coffee.
Tips for a Serene Swan Hotel Vacation
Driving to the Resort
As there are multiple entrances to Walt Disney World property, you want to make sure you know which one you need when headed to the Swan.
It might seem tempting to get off the highway at the first Disney World exit you see, but that can sometimes be a mistake.
Staying on the highway could save you time and a headache versus trying to navigate Disney property, especially if this is your first trip.
The entrance to the Swan is a bit tricky, and not where you might expect. Check the maps a head of time and plan the most efficient route!
Once you’re in your room, get unpacked and settled right away.
This will make the rest of your trip run more smoothly, especially if you have lots of plans or a dining reservation on arrival day. Also, if you’re waking up early for a park, you don’t want to risk tripping over a suitcase or not knowing where important items are located.
Get unpacked, put everything in a place, and there will be one less potential stressor!
Use the Resort Map
In the My Disney Experience app, you can access a digital map of the Swan and Dolphin and the entire BoardWalk area.
This map also updates in real time as to your precise location, if you all the app to geolocate when you are using it.
As an expansive resort area, the map will be useful in finding your way and exploring all this section has to offer!
Part of planning your morning routine, whether it’s a park day or not, is getting breakfast.
Even if it’s just a bagel or piece of fruit, you don’t want to try to a Disney day without a bit of morning fuel.
On park days, you’re going to walk upwards of ten miles over the course of the day! Even on a down day, you might be starting early with a variety of different activities, and you don’t want to be tired and cranky by lunch.
At the Swan, there are lots of quick places to get breakfast or coffee, like Java. Over at the Dolphin you can find Picabu and Fuel. If you’re walking to Epcot, you can also swing into the BoardWalk Bakery for delicious baked goods and fabulous drinks, both hot and cold.
No matter what you choose, don’t skip breakfast – it’s the most important meal of the day!
Get up Early
On park days, you have to just suck it up, set the alarm, and get up early. You can even arrange to get a wakeup call from a character through your room phone!
Here’s the reason – crowds. Plain and simple.
If you want to beat the rush and beat the crowds, you have to get going in the morning. One of the number one mistakes people make is sleeping in, and then heading to the parks around 10:00 or 11:00am. By then, the busses are running, resort guests are flooding in, and the lines will start to pick up. If you get to the parks at or around rope drop (official opening), you might get ahead of some of the lines before the volume picks up.
Won’t I have to fight the other rope-droppers? Well, yes. However, unless you’re there at a peak time, you’re still going to see less crowds in the morning than you will throughout the day.
On the other side, you can plan to go into the park late and stay late.
Especially if you’re rocking an adults-only weekend for a special event, this might be more to your taste. Now that the parks are staying open later again, this option is more worth the time.
Sleep in, eat a hearty breakfast, relax by the pool, and plan to enter the parks between 1:00-2:00pm when the mid-day nap crowds leave.
You’re going to see higher wait times and crowd numbers at first, but this will wane off throughout the day. When you close down the park, you’ll get to see certain areas empty that would normally be packed. It’s definitely a fun experience!
Either Way: Make a Plan of Attack
My family has been getting to the parks for rope drop as long as I can remember, and my husband and I continue to do the same. At the Animal Kingdom, we were the third and fourth people to get on Flight of Passage, and over at Hollywood Studios the fifth and sixth people to get on Smuggler’s Run. That same occasion we beat most of the crowds to Galaxy’s Edge, and were able to take some amazing pictures besides riding Smuggler’s Run twice.
You might be thinking, “Yeah, but I have young kids. That’s never going to work for me.”
Let me tell you, I did it as a young kid. It’s all about your priorities, and getting your group going in the morning. It can be done!
On the flip side, we went back in to the park in the evening with my sister to close down the Magic Kingdom. We hit Splash Mountain and Pirates at low wait times after the fireworks exodus, and got a last-minute Haunted Mansion ride in before we had to leave. We were also able to take gorgeous pictures of the castle lit up at night.
All of this was because we planned ahead.
Walk to the Parks
If you are physically able, walk to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Especially the Studios, as it is about a fifteen-minute walk – Epcot definitely takes longer.
I know what you’re thinking – “Aren’t I going to spend the whole day walking?”
Yes, that is true. However, walking to the parks is a great way to get ahead of the crowds and not have to depend on Disney transportation. It’s even faster than driving yourself, which would mean circling around on the roadways and going through the parking process. You can always take the bus or boat back to the Swan, but to get there, definitely walk.
Bus Stop is out Front
There’s only one Disney transportation bus stop at the Swan, located right out in front of the lobby. Just go to the left of the main entrance, right on the car loop, and you’ll find the stop. The only downside is if you’re staying a little ways from the lobby, you’ll need to make time to walk to the bus stop.
The Dolphin, and soon the Swan Reserve, has its own stop, so make sure when you’re coming back that you get off at the right one! Currently, the Swan and Dolphin share a bus to and from the parks, so it’s important that you pay attention to the stop.
Use Your Car
Drove your own car? Use it! Since you have to pay to park at the Swan anyway, you might as well taken advantage of having your own vehicle. As you’re already paying the daily parking fee, you do not have to pay the fee again at the parks!
Given your location, this tip works best when going to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs. It is still faster and more convenient to walk or use the boat to get to Epcot or the Studios.
Take a Break
One of the biggest mistake people make on their Disney vacation is pushing too hard. Even adults need to slow down and relax, so don’t be afraid to take a break. Especially if you’re at Epcot or Hollywood Studios, you are so close that you won’t lost much time travelling. The proximity of the Swan hotel to these parks makes it easy to get back quickly, meaning you won’t lose time on travel, so use these tips!
In the summer, Florida is hot. Everyone in your group, from toddlers to grown-ups, will be glad for the chance to go for a swim or just be in the AC for a little while. This tip is particularly useful if you’re planning to go to the park in the evening, as you can recharge a bit before a late night.
Go to Disney Springs!
This is your reminder to hit the Springs while you’re in Disney! It’s so much more than just a shopping outlet, you could spend a whole day at Disney Springs and not see everything it has to offer. With several new restaurants, shops, and the recent overhaul of The World of Disney store, you’re going to want to check it out!
Visit the BoardWalk
One of my favorite places to visit, whether I’m on property or not, is the Disney BoardWalk. Not only are all the resorts in the area amazing, but it’s just a fun place to be.
On the BoardWalk side, there are lots of great places to eat and shops to check out.
Over by the Yacht & Beach Clubs, you’ve got some of the best ice cream around and more adorable shopping locations. You can also rent boats at the Yacht Club and sail around Crescent Lake.
If you’re looking for something to do on your day off, head over to the BoardWalk!
Use Mobile Order on the BoardWalk
For those planning to lunch over at the BoardWalk, skip the line and order your counter service meals on your app!
Whether you’re in the parks or just picking up pizza on the boardwalk, Mobile Order is an ideal way to get your food without having to wait.
You also can find more customizations on the app, which helps you to get the food just the way you want it.
If you’re going to the Market to grab a quick meal, particularly if you’re really grabbing and going, Mobile Order is a must.
Big Breakfasts and Parks Days Don’t Mix
I know it sounds like a great plan to do the breakfast at Garden Grove before you head to Hollywood Studios, but trust me, it isn’t.
First of all, most of the breakfast reservations you’ll be able to get are a good hour or two after you would want to be in the park.
Even with the earliest reservation, you’re likely to get into the parks well after 10:00am, which is a late start.
Second, these wonderful, delicious, sumptuous breakfasts are going to slow you down.
You’re much more likely to want to nap then hike around the Studios afterwards.
Finally, if you have somewhere to be after the meal, you’re going to be tempted to rush through it.
That’s not fair to you (who’s paying for it!) or your family. Slow down, enjoy yourself, and don’t plan a park day on a signature breakfast day.
In general, there is a temptation to each waaaaay too much food when you’re in Disney. I get it, there’s amazing food everywhere!
When the dining plans return, the need to eat to maximize your investment is even worse.
However, you’re going to regret it if you overdo it.
Find simple ways to reduce your meals, like choosing a lighter option or eating at a lounge instead of a table service.
For the snacks, bring your own, or choose something like an apple or granola bar instead of that massive Mickey rice crispy treat.
You’ll enjoy your time so much more if you don’t gorge yourself!
Spend Time at the Pool
Grotto Pool is amazing and huge.
Between the different entrances, waterfalls, fountains, and slide, you and your family will have plenty to keep you entertained.
There’s even a net that spans part of the pool for water volleyball!
You’re going to love spending your morning…afternoon…whole day here at the pool.
Splash Poll Bar & Grill is right by the pool on the Swan side, adding another table service option. It’s also a great spot if you enjoy outdoor dining; overlooking the Grotto pool and generally enjoying the view of the resort. If you’re planning a pool day, this is a great spot to grab lunch and a tropical drink.
Free the Floaties!
Unlike the Disney resorts, you can have your floatables and rafts at the Grotto pool. If you flew, or didn’t want to stuff one in the car, you can rent them daily at the pool shack. Just be aware of your kiddos as they play, and be conscious of other guests.
Play on the Beach…
Right next to the pool is a white-sand beach, complete with hammocks, beach volleyball, and a playground for the kids. Spend time playing in the sand, lounging in the sun, or working up a sweat in a competitive game. Don’t worry about trying to get to the beach – the Swan & Dolphin brings the beach to you!
…But not the Lake
We hope you enjoy the beach, but you cannot swim in the lake. Disney locked down their lake and beach access several years ago, but since the Swan & Dolphin has some autonomy, their restrictions are a bit different. However, where they are the same is on lake swimming. It’s 100% not allowed.
Not only are those lakes not the cleanest water in the world, remember the part about being in Florida. Snakes, waterfowl, and even alligators might be in the water, and you don’t want to take that risk. Trust me that lake is not worth it. The pool is much nicer.
Use the Spa
Over at the Disney Dolphin, the Swan’s sister resort, is the Mandara spa. Easily one of the best spas in Disney World, Mandara features all your usual spa treatments, as well as three different tranquility gardens to help treat your mind as well as your body. If you’re coming for a romantic getaway or an adults-only trip, going to the spa is the perfect way to relax and enjoy your vacation.
Relax in the Lobby
I know this one sounds weird, but the lobby of the Swan is beautiful, tranquil, and just a nice place to be. Spend some time appreciating the fountain, or just sit in the waiting area and relax. It’s inside, in the AC, and you can hang there without having to run from place to place.
The lobby is also ideal if you have to work during your stay. Similar to those who enjoy working in a coffee shop, bring your laptop downstairs and sit at one of the tables. Get your work done with the white noise of the people coming and going, and you don’t have to feel trapped in your hotel room.
Sail a Swan
Rent a swan-shaped paddleboat and take a leisurely cruise around Crescent Lake! There’s nothing quite like seeing the resorts from the water, and you’ll have a great time maneuvering your craft under the bridges and through the waters. Since you’re staying at the Swan hotel, you might as well ride the namesake!
Visit The Fountain
Over at the Dolphin, The Fountain is one of my favorite ice cream spots at Disney World (sorry Beaches & Cream!). You can stop in for food to go or get a table and sit; come for savory food or just dessert, no judgement here!
If you want a full meal, their regular menu actually has a variety of delicious options. Get a delicious burger or hotdog, or go outside the box with a brisket sandwich. Try a refreshing Asian salmon salad or spice things up with a Buffalo chicken salad. There’s plenty of food for the kids too, with PB&J or chicken fingers for your littles.
However, the real treat is the ice cream. Their shakes are out of this world, with a few boozy concoctions for the adults. Get hand-dipped or soft serve ice cream, covered with plenty of yummy toppings! You can also build your own sundae, combining the best of what The Fountain has to offer. So go – indulge your sweet tooth.
My vacations aren’t complete without mini-golf, so this is always one of my favorite tips! Besides, right by the Swan hotel is Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, two fun courses perfect for all ages. One course features intricate holes based on fun scenes from the Disney film, Fantasia, while the Fairways course is like a literal miniature golf course. Hazards, greens, and roughs all shrink down to the mini-golf scale, perfect for lovers of traditional golf.
Best part about this course is that it is within walking distance from the hotel, making it easy to access the fun.
Ask About Discounts
The special rates don’t just have to happen when booking! DVC members, annual pass holders, and Disney Visa card members all have varying discounts throughout Walt Disney World. Garden Grove and The Fountain both offer discounts for DVC, while Il Mulino New York Trattoria is part of Tables in Wonderland. If you’re not sure what discounts are available to you, you can look it up ahead of time, or just ask! As someone with the Disney Visa, I always ask when we’re shopping or dining. The worst thing that happens is the Cast Member tells you no!
Use Open Table for Il Mulino
Since the Swan hotel isn’t an official Disney resort, this is one of the best dining tips for this area.
Using Open Table, you can make reservations for Il Mulino even if you couldn’t get a reservation through Disney. You can even make these reservations months in advance on Open Table, and then you get the rewards points through their program. It’s an all-win, no loss situation!
Kimonos Doesn’t do Reservations
Meanwhile, Kimonos, the other signature table service spot, does not take reservations. With that in mind, if you want to try them out, make sure you attempt to hit it at a slower time of day. Either that, or just be prepared to wait for a table.
Sit at the Bar
Both Kimonos and Il Mulinos have traditional bar service within the restaurants, so that is also an option if you’re struggling to find a table. Since you can order the restaurant’s menu at the bar, it’s a perfect alternative for a couple or smaller party.
Check the Menus
This is true of any Disney dining experience, but one of the best dining tips at the Swan hotel is to check the menus ahead of time. You don’t want to head into a meal and find out once you’re seated that the restaurant doesn’t have anything you’ll eat. This holds particularly true for Kimonos, as it is mostly sushi.
Do yourself a favor – check the menu.
Watch the Fireworks
Because of the location of the Swan, you are in a position to see the fireworks from Epcot as well as Hollywood Studios. Therefore, if you have a balcony, you might want to make sure you’re out there to see the fireworks in the evening. It’s a nice way to end the day, and you don’t have to stand or fight the crowds to do it.
See You Real Soon!
Pack the Night Before
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, particularly if you spent your last day at the park, but you’ll be glad you did in the morning.
Leave out your outfit for the next day and your essentials, but get everything else ready to go.
Your departure will be much smoother, and you will be less stressed, with this one big to-do item checked off your list.
Have Breakfast Before You Leave
You might think it’s better to get up and moving on your departure day, especially if you have a flight to catch.
However, if you plan ahead, there will be enough time for you to have a meal before you head out, and we suggest that you do.
Heading away from Walt Disney World on an empty stomach not only will make your departure harder, but will most likely make your whole party miserable (especially the kids).
Plenty of the counter service options at the Swan open by 7:00am, but if that isn’t early enough for you, consider getting some snacks the night before to hold you over until you get to the airport.
Later Flight? Keep the Magic Going!
If your flight is later in the day, you can leave your luggage at the concierge after check-out and continue to explore the resort area.
My parents have even gone to the parks on a day they’re leaving, as they have the annual pass.
If you don’t have to worry about getting to airport at all, you may choose to get a later start to the day for just that last little bit of fun.
Navigate the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel like a pro with these tips! Get ready for a trip full of relaxation, magic, and most of all, fun.