#RWA17 at Walt Disney World Planning Guide – Lodging


I’m one of those people. You say you’re going to Walt Disney World, and like a fly attracted to light, I’m by your side, seeing if you want planning assistance. Just ask my hubby. He teases me about my spreadsheets, which map out our dining and theme park touring plans. That’s why when I heard Romance Writers of America® was having their Annual Conference (#RWA17) at Walt Disney World, I felt that rush of electricity flow through me (how’s that for visceral emotion?). The idea for this planning guide was born, and it’s going to be a pleasure helping my fellow romance writers make the most out of the conference. 

If this is your first time reading my planning guide, click here for other topics you’ve missed. You’ll also see why I started this guide so darn early. I promise there’s a reason to my madness!

In this post, we’ll talk lodging. It’s important to know you have options, whether you are looking for an alternative to the conference resort or wishing to extend your stay and have a full-fledged vacation with friends and family. Some of those options require you to make a decision about lodging sooner rather than later. So let’s get to it.

The Conference Resort

As many of you know, the conference will be held at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (“Swolphin”). Opened in 1990, Swolphin consists of two separate Starwood hotels (and over 2200 rooms) occupying one large, connecting resort. The hotels are not operated by Disney. Swan is a Westin hotel, while Dolphin is a Sheraton. There’s a health club/spa, five pools, tennis courts, children’s program, five full-service restaurants, quick service/casual dining, an ice cream shop, and several lounges (for making those all-important connections with agents and editors). Oh, and you have ALL of Walt Disney Resort surrounding you. There’s no shortage of fun and adventure at your fingertips. Want to know more? Here you go.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

On the RWA conference page, you can find room rates which range from $189 to $239 depending on the number of adult occupants in a room. (Children under the age of 18 stay in their parents’ room for free.) While this rate includes the resort fee, it does not include tax (12.5%). In addition, for those bringing a car, there’s a daily parking fee of $18. Guests in need of a rollaway bed will pay $25 per night. Bookings will be accepted starting on February 7, 2017. RWA recently announced that all rooms in the conference block will have been newly renovated.

As I said, the resort fee is included in the room rate. You’ll receive in-room Wi-Fi, unlimited access to the health club facilities, and 2 bottles of water in your room daily. 

Grotto Pool at Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort

Grotto Pool at Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort

I recently inquired if Swolphin will extend their conference room rate for additional days past the conclusion of the conference. Per Romance Writers of America, some rooms may be available at the conference rate starting on Saturday, 7/22, and extending to Tuesday, 8/1. There are a limited number of rooms available at the conference rate, and very well, could all be booked up by now. If that is the case, and you are wishing to extend your stay, then you can either book a separate reservation at the conference resort for those extra days or consider moving to another resort. Have no fear, you have plenty of options. Keep reading on!

Other Lodging Options at Walt Disney World

Swolphin is gorgeous, and of course, it’s the heart of #RWA17. But you have other lodging options. For example, you might want to do a split-stay and experience the Swolphin during the dates of the conference and a Disney-operated resort before or after. Or perhaps you’ll wish to stay elsewhere altogether. Let’s discuss.

Within Walt Disney World, there are over twenty Disney-operated resorts, each one different and special in its own way. You have a wide range of choices, anywhere from resorts with balconies overlooking the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom to campgrounds where you can pitch a tent. Want to look out upon a savannah with giraffes and zebras? They have that, too!

Walt Disney World has three price levels of resorts: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Click here for a great comparison of these types of resorts. All their resorts have various degrees of immersive theming which extend the fun and amazing environments you’ll discover within the theme and water parks.

Keep in mind, Swolphin is more in line with Disney’s deluxe resorts, and as so, the conference rate is excellent for a deluxe. You will not find a Disney-operated deluxe hotel for anywhere close to that price (unless you rent points which I spell out below).

Discounts! Get Your Discounts!

No matter what level of resort, Disney usually offers discounts. Historically, discounts for the time period of the conference have been released between January-March and are usually 15-35% off rack rates. If you want to monitor the release of these discounts (as well as other money saving deals), bookmark the Mousesavers website and check for specials offers on the Walt Disney World website. Discounted rooms often go quick, so you’ll want to keep a keen eye on those sites come January.

In addition, sometimes Disney-operated hotels also appear on sites like Expedia/CheapTickets/Orbitz and Undercover Tourist

Tip! If you’re thinking you’ll want to stay at a Disney-operated hotel for all or some of your stay, then visit the Walt Disney World site, and if you don’t have one, create an account. (You’ll need one later anyway!) Then, go to the reservation section and plug in your dates and pick a resort hotel. Get all the way to the point you’d pay, and then close out the screen. Also, visit this Disney site and request a free DVD be sent to you. Why am I having you do this? Well, by getting in their system, they know you’re considering a vacation. It increases your chances of receiving a pixie-dusted email from Disney with a special discount code that can only be used by you. So make sure you enter your real name and email while on the Disney sites.

Options for the Budget-Minded

For those who are hoping to secure cheaper lodging than the Swolphin or are looking for cost-effective ways to stretch their stay into a vacation, here are some options:

  • Stay off Walt Disney World property. People do it, but unless you have a killer deal (or someone’s offering up their timeshare for free), this will never be my first suggestion. Many hotels will charge you daily resort fees, and while they may provide transportation to the theme parks, chances are you’ll be waiting for that shuttle as they only come at designated pickup times. My greatest reason for steering you away from staying off-site is because of the large driving distance involved with going to and fro. You’ll waste a lot of precious time, and you’ll have to pay the daily parking rate at Swolphin (not to mention the theme parks, too).
  • Stay at a Disney value resort. Rates at a value resort (non-suite) in July will likely range from $109-149 a night. As stated above, if Disney offers discounts, they will probably pop up during the winter months. Again, during the conference, you’ll have to pay for parking at Swolphin, but the drive will be manageable. You could take a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from a value resort and walk (or take a boat) to Swolphin, but that would be a 15-20 walk each way. Side note: My favorite value is Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
  • Rent points from a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) owner. The DVC is Disney’s vacation timeshare program. Owners who have unused points are entitled to rent them out. If renting a studio, you can stay at a deluxe for the price of a Disney moderate resort. How do you rent points you ask? Well, that would be a whole other blog post. Instead, I’ll share this link (and this one) that spells it out quite perfectly. You’ll also want to keep this point rental chart handy. Most owners rent in the $12-14 per point range. Of course, there are some trust issues involved in renting, so be sure to check out the links I provided on ways to safeguard yourself.

If renting, I would highly recommend seeking a studio at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas. This gorgeous resort is just a 5-7 minute walk to Swolphin. In fact, I know some people who are already renting there during the conference and will be paying a cheaper nightly rate than Swolphin. Another option is Disney’s Beach Club Villas, which is about a 10-12 minute walk, but requires more rental points. Both of the studios at these two resorts can hold up to 4 adults and 1 child. (If staying at a Disney Villa resort not in walking distance, you’ll have to pay to park at the conference hotel.) Renting is also a great option for those looking to do a split-stay as there are many Villa resorts to choose from and then you won’t be concerned about its proximity to Swolphin.


Disney’s BoardWalk Resort (with Swolphin next door)

What’s the benefit of renting aside from saving lots of money? You’ll have all the Disney-operated resort privileges (listed below) and there are no additional fees (such as tax!). The price you agree upon with the owner is all you’ll pay. Just mind the max number of guests per room as you cannot exceed that number.

Tip! If you are thinking of renting, do it now or very soon. Just make sure you’re 100% positive you’ll be attending the conference as many owners are strict when it comes to refunding money for a cancellation. (Ask them and get it in writing.) DVC villas are hard to come by (especially in summer), and the BoardWalk and Beach Club Villa resorts are very popular due to being in close, walking proximity to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Please note, securing a rental for these two resorts anytime less than 7 months prior to the conference will be very difficult.

Benefits of Staying at Swolfin and/or Disney-operated Resorts

-Transportation within Walt Disney World (bus, boat, and monorail service) to the theme and water parks or Disney Springs. You can take the Friendship Boat water taxi to Disney’s BoardWalk, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. 

-Free parking at the theme and water parks.

Extra Magic Hours – extended morning/nighttime hours at the theme parks on designated days.

-Early FastPass+ reservation window (up to 60 days in advance).

-Free shopping bag delivery to your hotel from the Disney parks.

-Advance tee times at Walt Disney World golf courses. 

-Free Wi-Fi (throughout all of Walt Disney World)

Additional Benefits Offered Solely to Guests of Disney-operated Resorts

Disney’s Magical Express shuttle which provides free transportation to and from Orlando International Airport.

-Free MagicBands. (Though you can purchase them for $12.95 each.)

-Free hotel parking.

-180 + 10 dining reservation window. If you’re thinking, What the heck does this mean?, then read here.

Disney's Magical Express

Disney’s Magical Express

I know I just rattled off a whole bunch of benefits that may make no sense to you. Have no fear, I’ll go into further detail about them as we get closer to the conference.

Tip! Refer to the benefits listed above for Swolphin versus Disney-operated hotels. If you were to book a night or two at a Disney-operated hotel before checking into the conference hotel, you could have free transportation on the Magical Express from the airport and receive MagicBands. (Likewise, if you were to book on the backend of a Swolphin stay, you’d have MagicBands and could take the Magical Express back to the airport.)

This wraps up my planning guide on lodging. If you want more information on lodging, check out the Pinterest Board I created to complement this planning guide.

Other Posts

If you’ve missed other topics in this planning guide, click here. I’ve also created a calendar on that page to help you keep track of key dates. Check out the Pinterest Board I’ve created to complement this planning guide.

Thanks for visiting, and if you have any questions about lodging or anything else, please post in the comments below. Also, let me know if you’d like me to focus on any specific topics related to visiting Walt Disney World. I’d really love to hear from you. 

Visit here if you’ve missed other topics in this planning guide. There, you’ll find a calendar to help you keep track of key dates. Be sure to also heck out my Pinterest Board which complements this planning guide.

This unofficial guide is not associated with Romance Writers of America® . I am not receiving any compensation or gifts for these blog posts.

Please share this blog series on social media. I want to encourage many people to attend and make the most out of #RWA17. By planning ahead, you can experience all that the conference and Disney have to offer. To ensure you don’t miss the next topic in this planning guide, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Links are up on top.


Photo Credits:
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort: Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic 2013 via photopin (license)
Disney’s BoardWalk Resort: Lynne C.
Disney’s Magical Express: The Beginning To Another Disney Vacation! via photopin (license)
Photos of Grotto Pool and Mickey and Minnie courtesy of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.


This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I thought I knew my Disney trip planning, but I had no clue about renting. Your article and all those links are great. I bookmarked every last one of those links. I’m thinking we might try to rent before the conference and then check in to the RWA’s conference hotel on Wednesday. If we do that, how can we get to that hotel from our DVC rental? We won’t have a car because we’ll be flying into Orlando. Thanks, Elle.

  2. Hey, Samantha. My next post will be all about transportation and I’ll address your question now and then. With a few exceptions, at Walt Disney World, there is no direct transportation from resort to resort. Even if there was a Disney bus you could take, luggage is not allowed onboard. So if you are doing a split-stay, renting at first and then going to Swolphin, you could call an Uber/Lyft or taxi. With Uber/Lyft, it would probably only cost $5-10 to get you to Swolphin. Hope that helps. If you have more questions, let me know.

  3. We are DVC members. If anyone is interested in renting a reservation from a DVC member please do your homework. These reservations while saving money on deluxe reservations are final and can not be cancelled. Also members are allowed to book their reservation as early as 11 months, so not all room categories and resorts will be available.
    Also the points required for a reservation during RWA are high and you might find that this is not a bargain for that time of year. Again do your homework.
    During certain times of the year you can save money but it is different from booking through Disney. The member will do the book, own the reservation until you check, you don’t get daily housekeeping and any requests will have to be made by the member.

  4. Elle, thank you so much for all this useful information and the help you provided Tara and I.

    I broke Disneyland logistics over my knee many years ago and thought that Disneyworld would be a similar undertaking. Boy was I wrong. Even knowing Disney stuff as well as I do, it took me months to chew through the Unofficial Guide and all the other resources before I could even begin to tackle reservations. I found your articles to be great lodestones along the way, especially as it pertained to the whole RWA conference scenario.

    The link to the discounted ticket area was particularly useful – I’m not sure where else that is supposed to be posted, but I never found it. And you aren’t kidding about dining reservations. West Coast time is 3hrs ahead, meaning the 180-day booking window opens at 3AM. I overslept until 3:40, and lost 40 minutes for our Be Our Guest reservation.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  5. You made me smile so wide with your comment. Thanks so much. I’ve been happy to help. You are all going to have a great vacation AND conference!

  6. I’m still a bit perplexed–at this site: http://www.swandolphin.com/ , they have the “Disney Hotel Extras” frame around it, with info on extended hours, free transportation, etc. Are those NOT actually available if you stay at the Swan & Dolphin complex? (If not, that’s fairly deceptive. *sigh*)

    I’m hoping to take the kids with me (they’re teens now, so okay on their own), and am not very interested in changing hotels mid-stream. Its our first Disney trip. We’re hoping to squeeze in Universal Studios, too. Any tips for that park? : )

    It’s going to be a busy week! Thanks for these tips, they’re helpful.

  7. Hi Rowan,

    How exciting this will be your first trip! Remember my first rule, you can’t do everything. There’s just too much. So plan and prioritize the must-dos. I think my next post will be an overview of the Parks.

    As a guest at the conference resort (Swan/Dolphin), you absolutely do have access to Extra Magic Hours at the Disney Parks (bring room card with you as they will check), can make FastPass+ reservations 60 days in advance, and have free transportation while inside Walt Disney World. Unlike guests at Disney-operated resorts, you will *not* have access to Disney’s Magical Express (free airport transportation) nor will you receive free MagicBands. The MagicBands can be purchased at most gift shops or via the Disney Store but are not a must have. Check out my post on lodging for more info.

    Regarding Universal, I have never been. I’m waiting until my daughter is ready to read Harry Potter to trek over there. Check out this site and this site.

    If you have any other questions, ask away! See you at RWA! 🙂

  8. And now I feel like a moron as I realize you were actually commenting on the lodging page! 😉

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