50 Magical Old Key West Tips and Tricks

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Old Key West Resort Overview   |   Dining at Old Key West   |   Old Key West Rooms   |   Old Key West Resort Tips
Palm trees at Old Key West Resort
Photo by Grace Hoyos

This is the largest collection of Disney’s Old Key West Resort Tips on the planet.

All of our Old Key West Resort advice, tips, and tricks will help you save time, save money or make your Walt Disney World experience even more magical.

So, if you want your Disney vacation to be as magical as possible, use these Disney Old Key West Resort tips to help in planning your stay.

If you have a tip to add or differing viewpoint, I’d love to hear it. Add your tips in the comments below.

Whenever you stay at a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) property, it’s important to note the differences between DVC and a typical Disney resort.

Not only can you book differently, but the layout of these resorts can be different (not always, but in this case yes), and you also can raise your expectations.

Remember, DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare – there’s a new expectation of quality and consistency. When it comes to Old Key West, some of the tips are more particular than other DVC spots, since it was the first DVC resort.

In terms of Disney’s Old Key West, as the original DVC property, some aspects that vary from other DVC areas.

There are some positives, like larger rooms, and a few negatives, like the centralized amenities on a spread out property. With that in mind, we have all the tips you need to make sure your stay at Old Key West is as smooth as possible.

Tips for Staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort

Preparing for Your Trip

Know the DVC Difference

If you’ve never travelled to Disney World before, or never stayed at a DVC resort, make sure you know the difference between DVC and standard resorts.

You’re going to get more in the ways of amenities, have a larger space, and overall see an increase in the quality of your stay.

However, when it comes to booking, I always recommend that non-members do research to make sure they’re getting the most out of their DVC vacation.

  • What benefits do you get?
  • What perks do you have to be a full member to use?
  • How is the layout and spacing of the resort different from a typical Disney stay?

Learning this information ahead of time definitely helps.

Don’t worry – we’ll cover some of those for you with these Old Key West tips!

Rent DVC Points

Not a DVC member?

Then you want to rent points to stay at Old Key West. This is one of my top DVC tips across the board – you’ll get more bang for your buck.

Even if you’re renting on the high end at $20 a point, you come out ahead. Let’s stay you wanted to stay the first week in May 2021. For a six-night stay in an Old Key West one-bedroom villa, you’ll pay roughly $4,000 at the listed “sticker price” on Disney’s website. That’s even before park tickets!

When renting DVC points, even at the higher rate, you’re looking at about $3,400 for the same stay, same villa. That’s a $600 difference! That $600 could go towards the park tickets, a special event, multiple dinners – you get the point. Rent those DVC points!

Do the Math!

For those who follow Picture the Magic, you know that this is one of my favorite tips, no matter where you choose to stay.

As I just illustrated, doing out all the math ahead of your trip helps you determine exact costs, and make that budget.

It might seem silly to sit there with multiple webpages open, calculator in hand, working out the sums. However, you’ll be glad you did it when that credit card bill rolls in.

Make a Budget

Along the same lines, you always want to make a budget when you’re preparing for your Disney vacation.

Knowing what you’re willing (or able) to spend up front helps you to make good choices throughout the planning process.

If you want to stay at Old Key West, but it takes most of your budget, consider sacrificing some of the more expensive meals. Perhaps you’ll cook more in your villa together.

However you do it, you don’t have to spend over $10,000 to have a fun Disney trip!

Get the App

Screenshots of the My Disney Experience app
Screenshots – My Disney Experience App

No matter what your plans at Old Key West, one of the best tips is to download the My Disney Experience app.

Walt Disney World encourages guests to make reservations, plans, and buy tickets through this app. You can also check out wait times and find particular souvenir items through the app, so make sure everyone in your party has it downloaded on their phone!

Read up on Genie/Genie+

Many are confused and unsure over the new Genie features on the My Disney Experience app, and for good reason. At the same time, there are several free features within the Genie program, and you don’t have to use Disney Genie at all.

My Disney Experience app screenshot
Screenshot – My Disney Experience App

I can recommend this podcast for keeping up with all the Disney Genie/Genie+ news, as well as anything you need to do to be prepared for your trip.

Tips for Choosing Your Old Key West Room

There are five different room choices at Old Key West, each with an option to be near the Hospitality House.

One of the best tips is to look at the amenities, floor plans, and even pictures of the rooms ahead of time to help inform your choice.

If you’re not going to use the amenities of a certain space, you might want to bump down a class of room.

On the other hand, if you have must-haves in terms of amenities, be sure those items are on the list before booking.

Hospitality House Location

Speaking of which, Old Key West is one of the largest physical resort properties at Disney World.

This is great if you want to be able to book at this resort, not so great if you don’t like walking to get to the amenities.

Old Key West has the vast majority of their restaurants and shops right in the center at the Hospitality House, also the location of the boat to Disney Springs.

While OKW has an in-resort shuttle, if you don’t want to walk to take an extra bus, try to book one of those close-by spots.

Need an Elevator? Old Key West Building Tips.

Only three buildings at Old Key West have elevators – 62, 63, and 64.

That means if you have need of an elevator, for whatever reason, request to be in those buildings.

It may even be worth a call to Disney to speak to a Cast Member about this particular request. There are still the ground level rooms if you have special needs, like wheelchair accessibility. However, an upper floor room might be more conducive to your party. With that in mind, make the call, make the request.

If you’re like me and living the stroller life, that elevator makes a big difference if you’re put in an upper floor room.

Consider Your Party

All of this really means you need to consider everyone with whom you are travelling when booking.

You want to think about how many people are in your party, the ages of your group, even any special accommodations you might need.

Singles, couples, and even young families might like the simplicity of a studio versus paying for a larger room, while bigger groups or older kiddos might need the space of multi-room accommodations.

You might even want to consider multiple rooms, or the connecting option, if you have several families travelling together.

Final Number

When Disney indicates a maximum number of guests in a room, they mean it.

There used to be a time when you could get extra cots or rollaway beds at the Disney resorts, but that is no longer the case.

However, when you book the room for the maximum number, that’s still it. Kids under three that sleep in a pack n’ play are the only exception to this rule – kiddos any older count as a full person in the room.

Old Key West doesn’t have the pull-down beds like some of the newest DVC spots, like Riviera, so these tips are particularly important.

This is mostly for safety and capacity purposes, so just keep that in mind.

Tips to Plan for the Old Key West Amenities

All the villas have full kitchens and laundry facilities, making it easy to prepare your own meals and clean your clothes during your stay.

Plan to bring groceries or have them delivery to Old Key West, which is one of the best tips for cutting dining costs. You can even bring leftovers back from a Disney dining experience, making your meal last!

Even if you’re staying in a studio, you still have access to a mini-fridge, toaster, microwave, coffee pot, and sink. That’s really all you need to make a quick breakfast, again saving money and getting you out the door faster.

Even studio guests have a fridge, microwave, and a toaster. This opens up your cooking options beyond a standard resort.

As a studio guest, I like to make toaster pastries and brew coffee in the room to save a few dollars on breakfast. You can even fly with those items!

While You’re At It…

Be sure to pack items that you can get at home, like sunscreen and water bottles, which will cost a lot more on Disney property.

Since you’ll have plenty of space in the Old Key West rooms, using these money-saving tips is a no-brainer!

You can also conserve room in your suitcase in other ways by rolling your clothes, dividing outfits into gallon Ziploc bags (release the air), or putting your belongings in packing cubes.

Don’t spend unnecessary money on easily acquired essentials.

Keep Bulky Items at Home

While we’re on the subject, you can leave that beach towel or puddle-jumper at home.

At the resort, towels are provided to guests, and you can rent towels at the water parks for just a few dollars. For the pools and water parks alike, Coast Guard approved life jackets are available for all ages, including infants.

If you are driving and you can throw these items in on top of the pile, that’s up to you, but there’s really no need to take up the space in your suitcase if you’re flying.

After all, odds are you are going to buy some souvenirs, so you’ll need the extra space!

Russian Suitcases

Speaking of souvenirs, if you know that you’re going to be bringing home more than you packed, we suggest bringing either a collapsible duffel bag or an extra suitcase.

With the duffel back, you can just throw it in an outside suitcase pocket or on top of the clothes, and then unfold it when you’re packing for the trip home.

For the suitcase, pack all your clothes and other items in a smaller suitcase, then put that suitcase inside a larger piece of empty luggage. This gives you an entire extra suitcase in which to pack souvenirs and other items you might purchase.

Tips to Plan Your Week at Old Key West

Old Key West is in the Disney Springs area of Walt Disney World, putting it a bit further from the parks (with the exception of Typhoon Lagoon). That means you’ll really want to plan for your parks and your route effectively.

Also, with the current park pass system, knowing which days will be park days (and which park you’ll be in) is important. As more people are comfortable traveling, we’re going to see more of these days maxing out, so get that park pass early!

Planning ahead can also help you plan in terms of transportation, since your options are limited. Also, try not to plan too many park days in a row. A day off in between will do you a world of good – and with the beautiful grounds at Old Key West, Disney Springs and Lake Buena Golf Course nearby, you’ll want those down days.

Also, Plan Your Meals

Honestly, you should be doing this anyway, especially if you want to do a couple of Disney dining experiences.

However, beyond just those, it’s good to have a general idea of what you’re going to do for other meals. Especially if you want to save money, you can plan specifically what meals you want to cook in your room and pack your food accordingly. You can also plan to heat up leftovers from dining out, which is another great money saver.

You definitely want to know where and what you’re having for breakfast each day, so that you can start your day right!

Pack Snacks

Growing up, my family always brought our own snacks. Whether you take them into the park or have them for the pool, this is an easy way to save money. Additionally, if you have picky eaters in your group, bringing your own snacks will prevent tantrums or hungry kiddos!

This tip is particularly useful for those with dietary restrictions, as you can be sure to have the food you need while you’re on your trip.

Even if you’re flying, there’s plenty of food that you can check in your bag.

Emphasis on Park Passes

All indicators are that the park passes are here to stay.

With that in mind, don’t put off getting a park pass or think we’ll decide when we get there.

Unless you’re a Florida resident or an Annual Passholder, gone are the let’s wing it days (and even they need park passes). You need to know what parks you’re going to ahead of time, and you need to get those park passes.

Remember, you have to have both a valid ticket and a park pass to enter a Disney theme park, even when park-hopping.

Make Your Own Mickey Ears

I know, I hear you. You’re thinking why make my own when I could buy them? Trust me, plenty of people are making their own Mickey and Minnie ears; in fact, there’s people making of living doing this on craft sites! If you want to save a bit of money on ears in the park, or you want to have coordinated ears for an event or special occasion, making your own is the way to go. You might even find that they are more comfortable than official Disney ears, as you can choose the headband for yourself.

Pack a Separate Pool Bag

Whenever I know I’m going to get to the resort early, I like to pack a separate bag with all my pool gear. That includes swimsuit, sunscreen, and extra clothes. This is so that, if the room isn’t ready when we arrive, I can head to the bathroom, change into my swim gear, and enjoy the pool while I wait. Even if you’re flying, you can put this bag in a carryon or in the outside of the suitcase, then ask the front desk to hold your luggage until the room is ready.

For a place like Old Key West, this is one of my best tips. The main theme pool and kids splash area is right at the heart of the resort, and you can see it as soon as you check in. Rather than making the kiddos wait, be prepared with that pool bag. Pack it now, thank me later!

Bring a Cover-up

Along the same lines, you should plan to bring some sort of swim cover up or “over clothes” to and from the pool. After using the resort towels, the expectation is that you will return them before exiting the pool area. Unless you bring your own towel, that means you won’t have one to wrap around yourself for the walk back to your room. That’s where having a cover up, or even just a dedicated pool t-shirt and shorts, can be nice. Especially since Old Key West is a huge resort, you’ll be glad you listened to these tips when your room is far from either of the two pools.

Swim Shoes

Similarly, make sure you have swim shoes or flip-flops to wear to the pool. I know, I know, it’s Florida, you’ll probably bring them.

However, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people just walk barefoot from their room to the pool…and regret that decision. Since you’ll probably have at least a short walk from your Old Key West room, this is one of those tips you’ll be glad for in the moment!

Dress for the Flight

Even if you have an early flight, make sure you’re sporting your Disney gear for the plane ride. Many of us like to make plans for the day we arrive – my family usually likes to plan for a dinner. While we try to plan these meals so that we have down time before we need to be at the restaurant, planes and weather don’t always cooperate. I’ve been in a situation where I pretty much needed to drop my things in the room and hop on a Disney bus to get to my reservation on time!

With that in mind, you might want to plan an outfit that works with your reservation or plans. This allows you to skip the changing process, and prevents you from being late to your plans. Even if you don’t have plans, there’s nothing like a Mickey shirt to get you excited for your vacation!

Overwhelmed? Get an Agent.

Does all of this seem overwhelming to you? Don’t call the whole thing off – consider a travel agent. My dad used a travel agent for his first trip with my mom, and again for our first cruise as a family. Even though he has the hang of all the planning now (because he takes the time to do the research), my dad felt more comfortable letting someone else take the lead the first time around.

There are plenty of great Disney travel agents out there, but there are a few we recommend in particular here on this page.

Soak Up the Sun – Tips for Your Old Key West Vacation

Online Check-in

No matter where you stay at Disney World, you want to use online check-in. Just go through your My Disney Experience app and you can be finished the check-in process in no time!

Check in a week before you arrive, or as soon as your plane touches the ground, either way it’s good to do before actually getting to the resort. This way, you can go straight to your room whenever it is ready, allowing you to jump right in to the vacation.

Ask for a Laundry Bag

Disney has plastic drawstring bags available particularly for your dirty laundry, and I suggest you use them!

Recently, we’ve had to ask for them at the front desk, but pre-pandemic you could always find them in the bedrooms closets (here’s hoping that comes back!)

Even if you do have to ask for one, having a separate laundry bag will manage the dirty clothes and keep them from combining with the clean ones in your suitcase. This can saving you on washing when you get home too, which is a bonus!

Get the Resort Map

Speaking of the My Disney Experience app, you can use it to access a map of your resort. In the case of Old Key West, you’re going to want to use it! As an expansive resort area, the map will be useful in finding your way and exploring all Old Key West has to offer.

Once You’re In – Unpack!

If you’re staying more than a couple of nights, it’s always best to unpack as soon as you get in the room. This will keep everyone organized, especially if you’re travelling with large groups or kids. While living out of the suitcase might sound like a good idea, it’s an easy way to get everything jumbled together. Of course, if you top some of our other packing tips, getting everything where it needs to go in your Old Key West room will be a breeze!

Take a Photo

Of course, before you unpack, you might want to take some photos of the room. Old Key West went through some recent updates and refurbishments, and you’re going to want to take it all in before the kids get to the room. It’s not going to be nearly this nice again through your whole stay, even if you get house-keeping every day, so snap that photo now!

Use the Theme Pool

Photo of the Old Key West pool
Photo by Grace Hoyos

Even if your room is far away, use the Sand Castle pool (the main theme pool) at least once during your stay.

My recommendation is the day you get there, as it gives you something to do without having any reservations or time constraints attached. With a fun sandcastle theme and the splash zone nearby, you’re going to love spending time at this pool.

Just in case you don’t get the time to come back, make a point to visit this pool once during your vacation.

Hit the Shop

Similarly, make time to visit Conch Flats General Store. I always love exploring the resort-specific shopping, as these stores usually have resort merchandise you can’t find elsewhere. If you want that Old Key West pin, mug, magnet, t-shirt, or other items, you’ll be glad you listened to these tips.

If your room is far from the Hospitality House, make it a chance to get in an evening walk to hit the store. You can also plan to come up to the Hospitality House for a meal, and then go to Conch Flats afterwards. Just don’t miss it!

Olivia’s Café

Speaking of meals, you’re going to want to eat at Olivia’s at some point during your Old Key West stay. Whatever meal you pick will be delicious, but we suggest going for the brunch on the weekends if you can. Olivia’s brunch has the perfect blend of sweet and savory options, including their amazing banana bread French toast and specialty fried chicken.

Don’t believe us? Check out this video!

Conch Flats has You Covered.

Also, if you forget something or need simple grocery items, you want to check Conch Flats first. It has many of the sundry items you might need, like sunscreen or over the counter meds, as well as milk, juice, fruit, etc. My parents often will swing through the sundry spots in at the resorts to get milk for my dad’s morning cereal, and we stopped in the on at the Wilderness Lodge to find yogurt for my son.

In short, Conch Flats has you covered.

Don’t Feel Confined to Your Area

As a larger resort, Old Key West has many opportunities for exploration. Down in the lower half of the resort, you can find another pool space and food spot that go unnoticed because guests only hang out in their room’s section. Old Key West is on a beautiful waterfront property, ideal for a morning run or evening walk.

Especially if you have a down day, make time to check out everything the resort has to offer!

Heading to Disney Springs? Skip the Bus.

Old Key West has a couple of different transportation options to get you to Disney Springs, including the water taxis. Why wait for the bus when you can get there in the time it would take the bus to arrive? The downside is that the boat only takes off from the Hospitality House, which means a bit of a walk for some. However, the boat drops you right in the heart of the restaurant district, so you can come out a bit ahead.

Oh, and Go to Disney Springs!

While we’re at it, we want to remind you to actually 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!

Is This Our Stop?

Throughout Old Key West, there are different Disney bus stops to service the resort sections. While that is awesome, you want to be sure to check which one is closest to your room. Especially if you’re taking the busses back from the parks, make sure you know which stop is yours to prevent unnecessary walking. Trust us, you’ve walked enough after a park day!

Ride a Surrey Bike

Several of the resorts, including Old Key West, has surrey bikes available to rent to its guests. Surrey bikes are a great option for families, as they allow the whole family to ride together without worrying about leaving little ones behind. Besides, how often can you ride one bike all together?

Rest and Relax

There’s a misconception that Disney vacations have to be go, go, go. While park days are amazing and fun, you need some down time too. Old Key West is a perfect resort for a relaxation day, as the island vibes almost demand that you relax. If you have energetic kids, plant yourself in the shade and let them wear out on the playground, in the pool, or on the basketball court.

Use Mobile Order

Skip the line and order your counter service meals on your app! This is a great chance to plan ahead, especially if you have small children you need to wrangle, so you can quickly grab your food and be off on your day. Fast, convenient, and easy!

Right now in the parks, there are many indoor locations you can’t use if you’re not ordering food, which has to be done through Mobile Order. If you’re not familiar with this process, check out this video to see a quick tutorial.

No Wet Clothes on the Rails

If you’re a frequent Disney traveler, you know all about this.

Disney asks (and enforces) that you do not put your wet clothes, bathing suits, towels, or ponchos out on the railings. This ruins the aesthetic of the resort for everyone else, and it’s a pretty good way to lose things. You never know when a Florida storm is going to whip up, which might blow your items away (not to mention soak them again).

Since Old Key West has exterior hallways, this is even more important. You’re sharing this space with everyone else – please don’t clutter the rails with your belongings.

Instead, use the laundry facilities to dry your clothes. If you have a studio, take advantage of the retractable line found in all Disney showers to hang your things. I often will turn on the fan in the bathroom and leave the door open, just to give a bit more circulation. With ponchos, hang them in the shower too, or up in the closet.

Rope Drop with Littles, Stay Late with Teens

While I always recommend rope drop no matter the age, I would highly recommend getting there for park opening if you have preschoolers and toddlers. Those kiddos tend to rise early anyway, so you’re likely to already be up, so it make sense to start your park day as soon as possible. Get to the park, ride what you can before the crowds pick up, and take a break in the middle of the day. This way, you’re working with their schedule and not against it.

On the other end of things, if you have teens, consider doing some of the late night events. While many of these events require special tickets, you don’t always have to have a separate park ticket to attend. That means you can purchase the special ticketed event pass, get into the park a little later, and then stay for evening fun. This allows your teens to work with their bodies, not against, and you can do something special they didn’t do when they were younger.

Make Time for the Morning

Rope drop or no, accommodate for your morning routine. If you know it’s going to take time to get out the door and to the theme park, make sure you set that alarm and get moving. Maybe set several.

Don’t start your day with frustrations of running late, especially if that’s your family’s tendency. If you have somewhere to be at a certain time, plan the time you need. I have found that so many arguments and headaches can be prevented just by giving yourself the time you need to get going. Particularly at the beginning of the day.

Make Your Own Breakfast on Park Days

You can do this no matter what type of room you have, and I stress that you should. Disney breakfasts are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but they can take longer than you might like. Unless you’re right by Good’s Food to Go, making your own breakfast is cheaper and faster, getting you out the door and off to the park.

In the studios, you can make hot food with the toaster and microwave. With the villas, your options are endless, as you have that full kitchen. You might as well use it!

Drive Your Car

If you have your own car, rented or no, you should use it! If you’re headed somewhere like the Magic Kingdom or the Animal Kingdom, using your own car will be much faster than the Disney busses. It is also more reliable when it comes to getting back to the resort, particularly in the evening. If you’re DVC, you don’t have to pay to park anyway, so why not?

Plan Time for Travel

No matter what mode of transportation you’re using at Old Key West, one of the top tips always is to plan for travel time. Walt Disney World isn’t just the parks – it’s the whole property, and it’s huge. There are places that are a good 15-20 minutes apart, depending on the traffic. Yes, there’s rush hour at Disney too! With that in mind, give yourself a minimum of half an hour to get where you want to go, especially if you want to be at a specific place at a specific time. Even if you’re dining right on property at Olivia’s, Disney asks that you arrive for reservations 15 minutes in advance. Plan time to get ready and get there in the allotted time.

Take Breaks

Don’t wear yourself out! After all, you’re on a vacation, and with such amazing pools and other amenities at Old Key West, please listen to these tips. Even a group of all adults can benefit from a dip or a snooze in the middle of the day, or a “day off” in between park days. There is a misconception that you have to spend every minute of your Disney trip in the park to get the full experience. That is flat-out lie, and exhausting to boot. Do yourself a favor, and manage your time so that everyone is having fun – without feeling like they’re going to collapse.

Shipping Out – Tips for Leaving Old Key West

Load the Car the Night Before

Put as much as you can into the car the night before you leave.

Remember – most of the resort buildings don’t have elevators. Do you really want to do all those stairs the morning you have to leave?

Yeah, I wouldn’t either.

Bringing things out to the car throughout the day before your departure or the night before will make things go more smoothly in the morning.

If you’re not driving, you should still pack up the night before as much as possible. You wouldn’t believe how much easier departure is by just taking this step.

Make a Checklist when Leaving

I am one to make a checklist when I’m packing to go on vacation, so it makes sense to make one when leaving as well. We all have the bad habit of just throwing everything into the bags and hope for the best, but that’s how items get left behind. Making a list forces you to actively acknowledge the item, lay hands on it, and then pack that item.

Also, if you got souvenirs, ponchos, or anything new during your trip, it wouldn’t have been on your original packing list. With that in mind, making a new list helps to be sure you don’t leave anything behind.

Know Where You’re Eating on Departure Day

I always recommend eating breakfast before heading away from the resort, however I know that isn’t always possible. We really wanted to get on the road this last trip, as we have a ridiculous drive. However, we didn’t plan where we were going to get our breakfast, and that was a mistake.

Therefore, learn from my error, and be sure you know where you’re going to get breakfast. Even if that just means looking at the map ahead of time and planning to stop at a place along the highway, you at least know where you’re eating. If you have the time, this is a great opportunity to hit Olivia’s for breakfast or brunch.

Check Out is at Eleven, but You Don’t Have to Leave!

However, just because the checkout time is at 11:00am, that doesn’t make it your departure time. Feel free to stick your luggage in your car or ask for it to be held at the front desk. From there, you can enjoy the amenities of the resort for the rest of the day!

This is nice if you don’t have far to travel or you’re transitioning between phases of your vacation. No need to rush away if you don’t have to do so!

Relax on the island of Old Key West, and let your worries sail away. We know you’re going to love this choice for your Disney vacation stay!

Grace Hoyos, Staff Writer

Grace is a life-long lover of all things Disney, particularly the parks at Walt Disney World. She is also an avid Disney Cruise Line enthusiast who regularly dreams of the white sands of Castaway Cay. Grace loves the fact that her Disney trips give her time to spend with her family, enjoy incredible food, and try new experiences.

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