Refurbishment work to overhaul the look and function of the buildings once known as Communicore at Epcot is underway. The most noticeable change is the reopening of the walkway from Innoventions East into the park by the Universe of Energy.
Nearby, the Electric Umbrella exterior seating has been given a new look with a powder-blue paint job (akin to the 1980′s Communicore color scheme) replacing a more garish and outdated 1990′s metallic mauve. Notice how it doesn’t quite match the chairs in the seating area – yet.
The rest of the area is stripping down the badly faded pink and purple “techno” window covers and replacing them with new blue and green patterned covers. While we’d prefer they simply go back to having open windows with vistas of the park visible, the color change is an improvement.
In many ways, a hotel room is like a supermarket’s ripe bananas. I don’t mean to imply that the hotels I frequent are yellow with occasional brown splotches from rough handling, although my stays at certain Howard Johnsons have been memorable. I mean that like ripe bananas, a hotel room has to be sold by a certain date or it doesn’t get sold at all.
Since an unsold room makes the hotel owner no money, hotel managers are constantly reviewing their unsold inventory and adjusting their prices to attract buyers and maximize their income. Each hotel manager – and there are more than 260 hotels in the immediate area around Disney World – has a predictable way of adjusting their prices. Some, for example, start by offering their rock bottom rates to anyone booking more than six months in advance. In that case, the hotel manager is trading some amount of profit for some degree of advance certainty that there’ll be enough paying guests to meet expenses. Other hotel operators charge their highest rates to anyone booking more than six months in advance, figuring that if the guest is willing to pay that much that far in advance, the guest must have limited choices in where they can stay and thus has to pay the rate. The pattern that the hotel manager follows in adjusting prices is known as a pricing strategy. Dozens of these strategies exist, and offer lowest prices anywhere from one week to one hundred days in advance.
Your key to getting absolute best deal at a particular hotel is in knowing which pricing strategy the hotel manager follows, and when that strategy generally offers the best rates. To determine that, however, you’d need to track the price of a particular hotel’s rooms for a particular set of dates, long enough to ensure you have enough prices to find a pattern. That would not be fun for most people. It is, however, the kind of project that the research team at the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World just loves.
We programmed the Unofficial Guide’s computers to check more than 30 Internet websites for prices on more than 260 hotels in the Orlando area, from one to 300 nights in advance. For example, our computers might check Hotels.com every night for the rate at the Marriott World Center for tomorrow, then the rates for night after, then the rates for night after that, and so on, up to 300 days into the future. The computers would then check Orbitz for rates at the same hotel for tomorrow night, the night after that, etc. Not every website offers rates for every hotel or every night, but we’ve still managed to compile a database of more than 91 million hotel quotes since late 2005.
To analyze that much information requires some very skilled statisticians and some really powerful computer systems. The Unofficial Guide is probably the only travel book in the world with two statisticians (and top notch ones, at that), and we gave one of them the task of determining how far in advance each hotel offered its best, second-best and worst rates.
The table below shows those data for a sample of the resorts we cover. A couple of notes: prices shown for the Disney resorts are from wholesalers such as Hotels.com, not from Disney themselves. It’s often possible to find better deals for Disney through discounts found on MouseSavers.com, for example.
In general, most hotels seem to offer bigger savings the longer you wait to book. While this isn’t surprising, you do run the risk of the hotel running out of rooms if you wait too long. And some hotel chains, such as AmeriSuites and Hilton, don’t seem to follow that policy for many of its properties.
The good news is that most hotels offer their best deals well ahead of any advance cancellation date, so you can always book a hotel room as soon as you know you’re going to Walt Disney World, then check back for a discount during the time period shown. For example, if you know you have to stay at the AmeriSuites Orlando Convention Center, you can make your reservation 180 days in advance to guarantee yourself a room at that location. Next, you’d check back for better deals anywhere from 32 to 42 days before your trip, since that’s when that AmeriSuites is most likely to drop its rates. One last tip: Once you’ve booked your lowest rates online, it doesn’t hurt to call the hotel front desk directly and see if they can beat the online rate you’ve found, or match the rate and throw in an upgrade, free breakfast or something similar. Our success rate in doing this varies depending on the season, and runs anywhere from 5% for summers and holidays to 30% during slower times of the year. With the economy slowing down, your chances of obtaining better deals are as good as they’ve been in many years.
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Hunting for a common thread in Disney’s scheduling choices sometimes can be a grueling task. In 2009, Disney has decided to stop presenting Fantasmic as a daily offering at the Studios park. At first this looked like some sort of schedule based on only showing it certain days of the week, but then as more months were added to the calendar the days on which the show was offered varied.
It now appears the common trend is that any day that the Studios park is not scheduled to be open beyond 7pm there is no Fantasmic showing scheduled. Interestingly enough, the same applies to the Magic Kingdom in 2009 with the Wishes fireworks. In short: if it closes at 7pm, no fireworks.
Epcot continues to remain open until 9pm nightly offering Illuminations and Animal Kingdom does not offer a nighttime show.