Disney AP Resort Discounts — Do They Still Exist?

by 34 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

                I am a Disney World Annual Passholder.  I do not live in Florida.  An Annual Premium Pass for an out of state guest is $669.89 and $531.44 for a regular AP – either way, that’s pretty big chunk of change.  I know lots of you are Annual Passholders.  One of the biggest reasons that I have an AP are the room discounts.  Apparently I need a new reason to have an AP.

               I am so excited, next week I will be going to Walt Disney World to run the Wine Dine Half Marathon and meet my friends and fellow Touringplans.com staffers, Kristen Helmstetter and LenTesta.  Kristen and I are bunking together with another friend, Kim, at the Yacht Club.  We decided to stay here because Kristen received a PIN code in the mail.  We used her code to book our room.  While the rate seemed pretty good, I wondered if the AP rate would be better.  I had been told by a cast member that on the weekends there is no AP rate, but I didn’t believe this terrible news.   Having that reporter voice inside of me, I had to investigate and find out.

                Here is what I discovered.  During the week, the AP rate was about $9 less expensive than the PIN code, but on the weekend… Hold on to your hat.  The AP rate was RACK rate.  I am fully aware that weekend rates are more expensive, but never in all of the reservations that I have made for my trips has the weekend been several hundred dollars more than a weekday rate.  Can you believe it?  Apparently Disney doesn’t want AP people visiting on the weekend. 

                In all of my years, I have never encountered this.  I have to say I am incredibly disappointed.   Disney seems to be one of the few in the hospitality industry that not only doesn’t reward return guests, but discourages weekend stays.  I have always thought the lack of return guest recognition was a flaw in their system.  I’ve overlooked it because they’re Disney.  I love Disney, but this hurts.

                When I am at Walt Disney World next week, I will be looking in to this and see what kind of answers I can find.  What do you think?  Why is this happening?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print
Posted on September 21, 2010

34 Responses to “Disney AP Resort Discounts — Do They Still Exist?”

  • I’m a Florida seasonal pass holder and got a cheaper rate on the weekend for Pop Century. It wasn’t huge but it was cheaper.

  • You’re right. I’m going to be down there at the same time and my AP rate is rack rate during the weekend. Unfortunately, it’s also outside of the window for booking a discount so I can’t change it. I’m still saving money, but not as much as I should be. Anothe thing is that the AP rate is only slightly better than the regular discounts. The exception for the fall is AKL (40% vs. 25%), but otherwise it’s not as good of a deal as it once was.

    Good luck in the race!

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 21, 2010, at 9:11 pm EDT

      Hey Chris,
      Even a little better than a regular discount makes me happy. I’d love a HUGE discount — but come on,Disney, AP spend a lot of $ at WDW. Rewards, please. :) Thanks for sharing your experience

  • It’s happening because they don’t need to offer discounts on the weekend–they’re full up. FWIW, we did get a AP discount last year at the GF for the marathon in Jan–about $200/night cheaper than any other rate I could find (including the marathon rate.) Haven’t started booking for this year yet

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 21, 2010, at 9:10 pm EDT

      Great point — It’s market driven. Why discount when you don’t have to. I may try and see what’s available closer in. They may open up some more rooms if they didn’t sell their entire inventory. It’ll be fun to see. Thanks for the insight!!

  • I think what you’re running into is that there are just no more rooms available in the AP rate block the same way that sometimes PIN codes run out of availability at certain resorts.
    I wanted to book an AP rate for the 2nd weekend of December. When I originally called, the only Deluxe resort available was the Boardwalk or Beach Club – nothing at any of the monorail resorts. I ended up booking a room 2 days later for Caribbean Beach – nothing at POFQ. Less than a week later, the only thing I could find with an AP rate was at a Value, so I was glad a booked CBR when I did.
    Who knows how many rooms WDW has set aside for AP rates, but it seems that if anything, APs are just that much more popular now and that passholders are taking advantage of those rates.

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 21, 2010, at 9:07 pm EDT

      Hey Chad,
      Excellent point. The block of rooms must be small. Thanks for the insight.

      • The room blocks for AP discounts are small, and they get snapped up very quickly. The Guide’s crew is partially to “blame” for this — now that the secret is out that you can come out ahead of the game by getting one AP for your party and using it to book your room, AP rooms are going quicker these days.

        AAA and the like get much bigger blocks of rooms, and even though the discount may not be as much as the AP rate (and is a fixed discount through the year), it’s a lot easier to get one. Our last stay at Pop was on the AAA rate when we couldn’t get the AP rate, and it was a pretty nice discount, about 12% off of rack. And that was over a weekend, as we didn’t want to spend DVC points at the weekend rate.

  • I can confirm that Disney has not entirely eliminated weekend AP discounts.

    We are going from Oct 5th to 12th. I originally booked a 2 bedroom villa at Saratoga Springs under the AP discount. I did this as soon as the discount was released. The rate for all 7 nights was the same. About a week after I booked this room, the availability for Deluxe resorts under the AP discounts was pretty much gone for these dates. (I’m such a geek, I check resort availability for my trips almost daily to see if anything new comes up.)

    Just a few days ago, I rechecked the dates and a two-bedroom villa at Bay Lake Tower was available under the AP discount. Again, the rate for all nights was discounted, and the weekend rates were the same as the weekday rates. So I switched to that.

    Disney does offer discounts for weekends, but they limit the number of rooms that can be booked under each discount offer. It’s likely that what you are running into is that. Because the marathon is a popular event, enough people booked a room under the discount at that resort to meet the threshold.

    I think the lesson is to book AP discount rooms the same day that the discount is announced. And check back daily…you never know what will open up as the date approaches.

  • I’m heading down on October 2nd, returning October 9th, staying at Scopa Towers… I ended up booking the 3rd thru the 9th with the AP discount, but it was only $5 a night cheaper than the standard discount PIN… but i had to pay rack rate for October 2nd – it’s terrible. Here’s to hoping we save a bit of money with Tables in Wonderland…

  • I tend to agree with the statement that Disney doesn’t reward return guests. I have been a long time premium annual passholder here in California for Disneyland and have been disappointed that it doesn’t mean squat out there in Florida. I am glad, however, they finally introduced an annual pass good for both DLR and WDW and I will be looking into it.

    • I believe I once read that a very LARGE portion of Disney’s visitors are return guests….Annual Passholders, Florida Residents, Disney Vacation Club, the DisneyPhiles from all of the fan sites – many return year after year, sometimes multiple times per year.

      Most companies have reward programs to encourage repeat visits – I personally don’t believe Disney needs to.

  • Nice article, Caroline! One other thing to consider: Folks who join the auto club AAA often get better resort rates than AP holders. If you’re already visiting WDW enough to make the AP cost-effective versus buying MYW tickets, then the $40 or so for a AAA membership is an inexpensive way to get other hotel deals.

    I’ve been a AAA memeber since 2004. I’ve used the AAA Disney hotel discounts every year. I’ve used AAA for actual car help exactly once.

    • We have also found AAA advantageous for those situations when our sweet 1998 Jimmy doesn’t want to play nice. ;)

      I think a lot of the discussion recently with regard to ticket prices and Disney’s general attitude towards repeat guests makes for good academic conversation, but I think the tides will have to substantially change for the AP room (or lack thereof) issue to ever become serious–to Disney. Most non-Florida AP holders (this group, to me, would represent those buying the AP rooms in the largest numbers; perhaps this is a faulty assumption) are from the upper-midwest and upper-east coast. To live this far away and have an AP, these people are likely ‘hardcore’ fans, and not the folks on the edge who will likely be swayed one way or another in their Disney spending based on minor changes to pricing or business models the company makes. They are Disney fans through-and-through, and while they may not like paying more and receiving less, it’s unlikely that they’ll change their vacationing habits much–or at least enough to make a difference.

      While I really don’t think Disney will ever see negative consequences from increases in ticket pricing (I think the money lost due to alienating the casual repeat visitor will easily be recouped by gains from the increased prices spread over all other guests), I REALLY don’t think Disney will lose much from cutting AP benefits. If anything, it might behoove Disney to cut these benefits since they probably aren’t impacting many AP purchases and further are being utilized by individuals who would otherwise be visiting anyway (and thus just taking money out of Disney’s pocket).

      From a fundamental fairness perspective (if there is such a thing when dealing with a business with which we freely interact), the increased costs and diminishing returns to consumers really suck. I agree with you here, and really wish the company would recognize its most loyal customers more, and perhaps see the fruits in doing so. The only real important voice we have, though, is our wallets.

      • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 6:51 pm EDT

        Hi Tom,
        Great insights. I guess Disney will only make a change if their current model needs to be more profitable.
        I’m an AP that lives in the south and can justify a long weekend trip. I can drive down. Without hotel discounts I can’t justify so many trips. :(

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 6:55 pm EDT

      Hi Len,
      I too an am AAA member. I love a discount.:) My wish is that Disney would recognize AP and offer us more than the AAA discount. AP are invested in Disney.

  • It’s no secret Disney wants to ween us off discounts. Iger mentioned earlier this year that they are moving to a day when there are no discounts.

    • They keep saying that, Matt, but then they keep putting out discounts. Right after Iger said that on the investors call, how long was it until they released discounts that ranged until September 2011.

      I believe they want to end the discounts, I just don’t think they can at this point. The economy is too weak to cut discounts entirely. I think we’ll see hotels continue to be discounted and less discounts on tickets or dining. Just my opinion, though.

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 6:43 pm EDT

      Hi Matt,
      I would love to go to dinner with Mr Iger. It’s really funny, it wasn’t too long after he said that that 3 Disney promotions came out within a very short time. If only he’d ask us how Disney can make more $. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • I’ve noticed recently that the bounce back rates seem to be significantly better than what’s offered to AP holders, as well. This was a 1st for me because I normally find bounce back to be about the same or slightly more for the room. This past May I booked one because of iger’s comments & the fact that AP rates had not been released yet for Oct. I was certainly glad that I had when I checked back and found the disappointing AP offer.

    Part of what is cutting into the AP offers is the concept of free meals for everyone. Because Disney has begun discounting for everyone, then the loyalist are not getting the great deals we once did.

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 6:45 pm EDT

      Hi Lori,
      That’s it — AP people don’t seem special to Disney. Disney has discounted recently for everyone (if you can make it work within the restricted dates.) :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Hi all. Everyones comments are interesting. Perhaps some even short sighted. I am an AP holder and have been for 7 plus years. My opinion is that most of the AP “benefits/discounts” are more like a lottery than a benefit. If you are willing to buy a ticket (AP Pass)you might get to use the discount/benefit. Why can’t dining discounts be for all counter service and sit down service, for lunch & dinner? How about a set room discount for any value, moderate, and deluxe Disney hotel, for any date. The current discounts are rather difficult to keep track of, and the availability often random and limited. As has been mentioned, AP holders are repeat visitors. I believe they spend far more per person at WDW in a year than most non AP holders, so lets thanks them by giving real and consistent benefits with fair and uncomplicated discounts.

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 6:46 pm EDT

      Hey Wayne,
      I love your perspective — a lottery. I think you have some wonderul points. Thanks for reading and commenting :)

  • After reading some of your comments, I’m glad I live in Florida. 90 minutes from mouseland and enjoy some nice discounts. I bought my season passes 4 weeks ago and have been going every Saturday. (sorry to rub it in) lol I’m also a season pass holder at Busch Gardens/Sea World and the discounts they offer for those parks are huge for pass holders. but then its not Disney

    • by Caroline Baggerly on September 22, 2010, at 7:09 pm EDT

      Hey Pam,
      You lucky girl!!! Don’t even tell us how much it cost. :) Have fun at WDW this weekend. I’ll see you next weekend.

  • I’ll be there next weekend. I’ve gotta clean house and do yard work this weekend :( I’m going to try Epcot which I think is the first weekend of their food and wine fest. Any idea on how crowded its going to be? The crowd meters on this site show it as pretty slow but that seems odd considering the food and wine fest.

  • I know I’m late to this topic, but to me the reporting seems a little incomplete/inaccurate – the problem appears to be that the desired stay just happened to span 2 different AP rate codes.

    There are 2 non-overlapping AP offer periods, one that ends 10/2 and another that begins on 10/3. I think the discounts are similar (42% deluxe is all I checked) but I’m sure they’re still considered different offers. If you book a stay that has days outside a rate’s validity period, then yes, those nights will be rack rate.

    For example: if you booked a stay 10/1-10/4 using the first AP code, the 10/3 night will be rack; if you booked it using the second code, 10/1 and 10/2 would be rack.

    The cheaper (but a bit messy) solution is to book the first 2 nights using the first code, and the 3rd night using the other (and then hopefully everything lines up so that you won’t need to switch rooms or resorts).

  • The sad thing is that Disney doesn’t have to offer loyalty programs because people like us (the people who go every year, multiple times a year–that’s me!) keep coming back without them. In fact, Disney has what is essentially a loyalty program you pay to be in–Disney Vacation Club (yes I’m a member). Loyalty programs are something you only really need when you need to attract people to come back. Disney doesn’t have that problem

  • My husband I are staying at Fort Wilderness Campgrounds in November. You don’t get any kind of discount for being an AP when you stay there, which is disappointing. What really frustrated me when I booked the vacation though is that when I searched under the AP vacations it told me that the dates I requested were unavailable, but when I searched without being logged in as an AP they were available. What’s the deal with that??

  • I am a FL res AP holder and always get AP rates on weekends for all our trips – we stay at least one weekend a month. This issue may be that each offer (AP, FL res rates as well as any special promos) only get so many rooms each in each resort. The AP rates were more than likely just sold out in the resort you were trying to book.

  • I have never bought an AP for room discounts. I buy it because it is the cheapest per day for my park attendance and it doesn’t hurt that it opens the door to the Tables In Wonderland discount that REALLY saves money. TiW is nice, because I typically tip, rounding up from 20%, so even the included 18% tip is cool. If I want to leave extra tips, I now leave them in cash.

    I use AP room discounts when I can, but usually they are for relatively last minute trips. AP discounts typically come out in quarter. That is, they are never more than 13 weeks in advance. Unless I’m going for a day or two–typically at the beginning or end of another trip, I need reservations before that.

    Also, for both crown level and resort price considerations, we typically arrive on a Sunday and leave Friday morning, avoiding the price hike for Friday and Saturday nights. For example, this October, we’ll be at the Boardwalk Villas (booked as a bounce back) from Sunday through Friday, then we’re moving off property to the Sheraton Vistana until Tuesday morning. Mostly because we’ll be at Kennedy Space Center all weekend so there’s no need for the on property premium. (Even with the bounce back the 1-BR villa at the Boardwalk is ~$250/night and $99/night for the 1-BR at the Sheraton Vistana.)

    For frequent visitors especially staying at deluxe resorts, consider the bounce back offers. Sometimes those are a good deal, and you can get those up to 11 months out–when you know you’ll be coming back. They might only give you 20-30% off value/moderate rooms, but the 40+% you can get of deluxe is HUGE.

    AAA works pretty well, too. I’ve been an AAA member forever (since I was 15), and have sporadically used discounts on both rooms and ticket media. They also work well in advance and are much more useful for those of us who plan in advance, than are AP discounts.

  • I have had an AP for 2 years…I mainly used it just to get into the parks on my multiple trips each year…and I like the 10% off in all the shops too, but going so often I don’t buy that much. I have been going on whatever public package there is (like free dining – I love the dining plan) and just buying a 1 day base ticket with my package, not using it, and using my AP for attendance. However on the free dining that was announced in August running from Oct 2010 to Sept 2011, they require a minimum 2 day base pass in the package. Suddenly, instead of a $87 “throwaway” it’s now $172 per person (a 2 day ticket is the worst value per day!!!)….it really makes me reconsider the AP, as it’s more expensive to have an AP rather than just doing a length-of-stay ticket with the package.

    AP renewal is $488

    Difference between 7 day pass and 2 day pass: $91

    So if I do less than 5 trips per year…it’s better for me just to have a length-of-stay base ticket. I would normally do 2-3 stays on a discounted package per year, so I will come out ahead not renewing my AP and just buying length of stay ticket.

    And Disney will definitely lose out on me…..as in the past 2 years I have done 7 trips per year….and probably only 2-3 were “planned” … the others came to be as there was a good seat sale…or we had friends going….or….and I could justify it due to the AP’s, so I didn’t have to buy admission (I have DVC, and am a Disney Specialist travel agent, as well as possible AP discounts, so have some options for room-only). If I don’t have an AP, I can’t justify the “bonus” trips.

    I shared this with the AP dept at Disney, and actually got a call back from a lovely woman named Pam, but she basically said that the AP dept and Walt Disney Travel Company marketing, who decided on the minimum 2 day ticket, do not really “talk”. She said she would share my remarks with them.

    Right now I have a March trip on DVC and August on Free Dining. My FD trip has a 10 day base attached right now, and if I don’t renew my AP, I’ll use all those 1-day bases from previous trips in March.