Choosing the Right WDW Discount

As a frequent Walt Disney World traveler, and also not a Florida resident, I’m sufficiently addicted to Disney vacation planning books, podcasts, blogs, discussion groups, and other research areas that can help me sustain my pixie dust addiction without breaking the bank or going in debt. During my years of research, I’ve heard lots of claims of which Disney discount is “best”, and while I trust many of the sources I frequently research, I’ve learned that not all discounts pack the same punch. Depending on your party size, your frequency of visiting the parks, and your touring style, some discounts are better than others. In this article, I’ll review the most common (and often reoccurring) discounts available and analyze how those discounts can apply differently to different Disney vacationers.goofy discount

Annual Pass/Premium Annual Pass

  • What is it?

The Walt Disney World Annual Pass allows its owner one calendar year (365 days) of unlimited access to four Walt Disney World theme parks. This privilege includes the park hopping option, select discounts on dining and special tours, as well as free parking at the parks.

The Walt Disney World Premium Annual Pass offers the same benefits as the Annual Pass, but also includes unlimited access to both Walt Disney World water parks, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, DisneyQuest, and ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

Disney also offers its Premier Passport. Disney’s Premier Passport offers all of the benefits of the Walt Disney World Premium Annual Pass, but also includes the two theme parks in California, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure.

Be aware there are also select passes that are only offered to Florida residents that have limited access, like the Seasonal Pass and Weekday Select Pass. If you are a Florida resident looking at these options, be sure to look at all of the details and restrictions.

  •  When you can get it?/When is it offered?

All annual passes can be purchased online through Disney’s website (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/passholder-program/), you can call them at (407) 939-7679, or visit any ticket office at the parks or guest services locations.

If you already have one of Disney’s annual passes, and are looking to renew it, you’ll need to make sure to be aware of the date of activation of your passes. Passes can be renewed up to 60 days before or up to 30 days after your expiration date, and you receive a discount when you renew! But don’t delay, because whether you renew by your expiration date or any time up to 30 days after, your renewal pass will still expire 12 months after your original expiration date. To renew your pass, just visit a Disney World theme park ticket window or call (407) 560-7277.

  •  Upfront Cost

Each annual pass has a different upfront cost and renewal fee, but there are Military and DVC discounts. Prices below are subject to change and do not include sales tax. See the Walt Disney Parks website for most up-to-date prices. Prices are the same for adult or child’s pass.

Annual Pass

$675.21 for a new pass, the renewal fee is $574.04.

Military discounts are $619 for a new pass, no discounted renewal fee.

DVC discount is $516.53 for a new pass, or $435.59 to renew it.

Florida Resident discount is $516.53

Premium Annual Pass

$803.02 for a new pass, the renewal fee is $680.54.

Military discounts are $736 for a new pass, no discounted renewal fee.

DVC discount is $644.33 for a new pass, or $542.09 to renew it.

Florida Resident discount is $644.33

Premium Passport

Premier Passport

$1009.84 for a new passport and currently there is no renewal discount.

DVC members also have access to special discounts on the Premium Annual Pass and the Premier Passport. Be sure to talk to a cast member at (407) 939-7679 for all the benefits that your DVC membership can offer.

  • Rationale for Families

If your family is planning to visit Walt Disney World more than once a year or is planning to spend more than a total of 7 days in the theme parks, then it could make sense to look into purchasing one of the Annual Passes for even just member of your family. Even if you are only going for 7 days, the additional expense of an Annual Pass over the 7-day Park Hopper (about $275) would make you eligible for a lot of discounts. In addition to getting 10% discount on selected dining experiences and merchandise purchased on property, the Walt Disney World resort often offers room discounts to Annual Passholders which is often not available to the general public, or is a discounted rate above and beyond the published rate available to other guests. Crunch the numbers, the 10% savings on dining alone could make up that additional $275 cost for upgrading to an Annual Pass.

  • Rationale for Solo Travelers

The benefits for Solo Travelers are virtually the same as they are for Families. If you plan to visit the Disney World theme parks for more than 7 days and are planning to park hop, then the Annual Pass could be a good alternative. Another consideration is if you book a package with a Magic Your Way ticket, you can use that ticket as a base to upgrade to an Annual Pass. So, if you’ve already purchased a 7-day Park Hopper for $408, then you’d only have to pay the additional $275 to upgrade your tickets. This can be an exception value considering ticket prices tend to go up every year.

Tables in Wonderland

Tables in Wonderland offers a 20% discount on food and beverages around the Walt Disney Resort.
Tables in Wonderland offers a 20% discount on food and beverages around the Walt Disney Resort.
  •  What is it?

Tables in Wonderland is an exclusive dining discount club for Florida Residents, DVC members, and Annual/Seasonal Passholders. It offers discounts at select dining locations around the Disney World Resort in addition to some other benefits, include free parking and access to special events.

The main benefit is the 20% discount on food and beverage (including alcohol) at a number of table service and signature dining restaurants. This discount can be applied for a party of up to 10 guests including the Tables in Wonderland cardholder. However an 18% gratuity is automatically included in the check. Some blackout dates apply, so be sure to read the fine print. The discount is also offered at food courts in resorts that don’t have table service restaurants (all the value resorts and French Quarter) and at several quick service locations in Animal Kingdom park. Gratuity is not added to quick service meals.

  •  When you can get it/When is it offered

The Tables in Wonderland card can be purchased at any Guest Relations location in Walt Disney World. Florida Residents and Annual Passholders can also purchase the card over the phone (407) 566-5858 to order the card and expect delivery within 3-4 weeks. You can purchase the card at any point, and it is valid for a full year.

  • Upfront Cost

The Tables in Wonderland card costs $125 for Florida Residents and $100 for Annual/Seasonal Passholders and DVC members. There is no renewal discount, if you wish to purchase a new card after your current one expires, then you will have to pay the full membership fee.

  • Break-Even for Tables in Wonderland

Unlike the Annual Pass, for which the break-even price can depend on how you use the other discounts associated with it, the Tables in Wonderland break-even is easy. After you have spent $500 (AP/DVC) or $600 (FL residents) on covered food and drink, everything else is savings. Given that one character meal for a family of 4 will run you well over $100, it’s easy to see how you can recoup your cost in one trip. This is nearly a no-brainer for anyone planning more than one trip per 12 month period. But “what about the 18% gratuity?” you ask…. Well you were planning on paying that anyway right?

Room Only DiscountWDW Savings

  • What is it?

Room only discounts are available to the general public for booking only their hotel rooms. Tickets and the Disney Dining Plan are not included with these discounts. Room only discounts are typically tiered, with the deepest discounts (usually 30% off) for Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts, moderate resorts usually see 25% off discounts, with Value resorts seeing 15-20% off discounts.

With these types of discounts, you’ll need to be careful (especially if booking over the phone) to specify that you are not booking a “vacation package” but just the room only. Once your reservation becomes a “package” you can forfeit your room-only discount rate. You’ll also want to keep in mind that the discount is applied to the base subtotal for the resort. Don’t forget to factor in the Florida 12.5% resort tax.

  • When you can get it?/When is it offered?

Room Only Discounts are typically advertised 2-4 months before they are effective. For example, the 10%-30% off Room Only Discount for guests staying January 5- March 28, 2015 was made available for booking on October 6, 2014. In order to take advantage of it, you’d have to have your trip booked by December 29th.  Based off of historic trends, we can expect more room only discounts to be made available for guests staying during these times:

10%-30% off during January 5 – March 28 (already released)

5%-30% off during February 23 – June 15

10%-35% off during June 15-August 28

20%-30% off during August 16 – October 2

15%-30% off during October 4-November 24

15%-30% off during November 30 – December 23

On the surface, it appears that there are discounts offered at Disney World nearly all year long, and that assertion is correct, Disney does offer discounts throughout the year with exception of the winter holidays. But some discounts are better than others. You’ll notice the discounts are shallower around the traditional Spring Break season and Summer holiday. In order to get the bigger discounts, you have to book the more expensive rooms, thus spending more money.

  • Rationale for Families

The room only discount is a flat rate, so if you fill the room up with your standard, two parents and 2.5 children, the discount is the same as if you’re traveling alone. One thing to consider is if you’re traveling with additional guests over the age of 18, then Disney does charge per additional adult after the first two. So if you’re traveling with children who’ve already turned 18, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other varieties of over-18 relatives, then you’re discount will be chipped away a little by the additional adult charge.

If your travel dates coincide with room rate discounts as well as a free dining promotion, it might be worth your while to do the math to see which discount will benefit your family most (see the analysis of Free Dining below).

  • Rationale for Solo Travelers  

Since the “room only discount” is a flat rate, solo travelers may get the edge here. Even though there’s only one person using the room, the discount rate is the same. Let’s compare.

Solo Traveler is staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort for 6 nights for the rack-rate of $212 per night. The pre-discount total is $1,272. If Solo Traveler is going when he can take advantage of the 20% room-only discount, his price becomes $1,017.60. So his savings is $254.40 for his stay. But don’t forget the resort tax of 12.5%. A non-discounted room would end up costing $1,431, with the 20% discount, the total (including tax) comes to $1,144.80. So, the ultimate savings is $286.20

If you look at this discount as savings accrued per guest, the savings rate gives an advantage for the Solo Traveler in this situation. This discount can be even more if guests have an Annual Pass and there are special Annual Passholder room-only discount available. Remember, to always ask about Passholder discounts, since Cast Members may not think to offer it. Ultimately, both situations save the same amount, but how that’s spread out can impact your per-person vacation pricing plans

Free DiningWDW Free Dining

  • What is it?

Probably the most popular discount Disney offers. During a select season, Disney offers a free dining plan for guests booking a vacation package at the Walt Disney World Resort. There are five Disney dining plans, but only two are offered during the Free Dining promotion.  For guests staying at a Value resort, they get the Quick Service Dining Plan. Guests staying Moderate, Deluxe and Villas get the Standard Dining plan. For the upgrade cost, guests can choose to upgrade their free package to the next tier and just pay the increase amount.

Disney often boasts that using a Disney Dining Plan can save guests up to 20% off of their dining expenses. But a large part of that 20% assumed savings is that you eat the most expensive meals offered on the plan, that you plan to order dessert at every meal (and don’t plan to order an appetizer), and that you’ll use all of your meal and snack credits. This may be true for many families, but you’ll want to review the plan offerings and your family’s eating habits before swallowing the 20% savings promise.

  • When you can get it/When is it offered

The Free Dining promotion is usually available in the Fall, this year it was offered for August 21-December 23 with some blackout dates. In order to take advantage of the free dining promotion, you had to book your vacation between May 7-August 8. However, if you had booked your vacation earlier, you can call Disney to have them apply the new promotion to your reservation.

  • Upfront Cost 

With Free Dining, there is no upfront cost! However, keep in mind that this offer cannot be combined with any other promotion, and to get the Free Dining promotion, you have to book a vacation package. So, for guests who already have an Annual Pass, this discount is probably not the best deal for you, since to qualify for a “vacation package” you have to purchase park tickets as part of your package (pretty senseless if you already have an Annual Pass).

The 2014 prices for the Dining Plans are:

The Quick Service Dining Plan costs $41.99 per adult, $16.03 per child (age 3-9) which includes two counter service meals, one snack per night, and one refillable souvenir mug.

The Standard Dining Plan costs $60.64 per night, per adult, and $19.23 per child (age 3-9) which includes: one snack, one counter service meal, one table service meal per night, and a refillable souvenir mug.   

One “cost” that you may not immediately consider is if you’re on the Standard Dining Plan or one of the higher premium plans, the amount of table service restaurants you’re required to eat at to justify the price (or the value) of the meal plan will cost you time away from the parks and attractions. Table service or Signature meals that you use on the plan can easily take an hour or more away from your park touring. Is this part of your vacation plan? Do you value relaxing at a sit-down meal? Or are you more of a commando-style guest, tackling every attraction on your Touring Plan? If you’re more of the latter, then the layers of complication and time requirements involved in a dining plan may be more of a hindrance than a benefit to your vacation.

Keep in mind, whether you pay for the dining plan or you get it for free, it does not include gratuity or alcoholic beverages. Fellow Touring Plans Blogger, Erin Foster wrote a great article on gratuity and tipping at Walt Disney World for more details on planning this area of your trip.

  • Rationale for Families 

Let’s look at the Discount Family again for this scenario. Two parents and two kids, but only one child qualifies for the child meal plan. So, staying at Moderate Resort for 6 nights means they will 6 nights of the Standard Dining Plan free for 3 adults (remember anyone older than 9 is considered an “adult” on the dining plan) and 1 child.

So Discount Family is looking at $60.64 per adult (3), per night (6). $60.64 x 3 x 6 = $1,091.52

They also have the Discount Child at $19.23 per child (1), per night (6). $19.23 x 1 x 6 = $115.38

The value of the Free Dining promotion for the Discount family is $1,206.90

If we’re just comparing to the “Room Only Discount” to the “Free Dining Promotion”, the Discount Family should definitely take advantage of free dining. They may not eat enough to justify the cost of $1,200, but for a free promotion, it is definitely a better value for them per person, per night, than the Room Only Discount offers.

  • Rationale for Solo Travelers

If we look at Solo Traveler’s situation again, we remember that he’s saving roughly $127.20 (because the resort tax really cut into his discount). If he gets the free Standard Dining Plan with his stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort, he’s getting $60.64 per adult (1), per night (6). $60.64 x 1 x 6 = $363.84. $363.84 is a bigger savings than his 20% off Room Only Discount.

For both of these scenarios, it seems that the Free Dining promotion is the better savings, by far. But there are plenty of other factors to consider before choosing this plan for your vacation. Before jumping on the Free Dining Bandwagon, crunch the numbers and make sure it makes sense for you. Are you an Annual Passholder? Check the discounts for Annual Passes and talk to a Cast Member to see if you’d have to buy additional park tickets to take advantage of the Free Dining. If you have to buy at least 1 park ticket for the duration of your stay that’s $334.41, and if you’re a Solo Traveler, that pretty much eats up your whole savings.

Will you or your family eat enough to validate the savings? For Solo Traveler, it’s assuming you’ll eat $60 worth of food a day (and it very specifically regulates where you can eat this $60 worth of food), if you’re more of a burger/sandwich-on-the-go type of vacationer, or a pack-and-fix-your-own-meal type of vacationer, then you likely won’t get the value of this option either.

Disney VISA

  • What is it?

Disney offers two reward credit cards through Chase, the Disney Reward Card and the Disney Premier Card. Both cards come with Disney-specific perks like 10% discounts on Disney merchandise sold at the Disney parks, 10% off at select Disney dining locations, and up to 15% on select park tours. They also offer the option to redeem reward points toward park tickets and resort stays. Additionally, there are various opportunities for unique character meet and greets for cardholders.

  • When you can get it/When is it offered

You can apply for either credit card at any time. The perks and rewards are subject to the usual fine print and blackout dates which can change. You’ll want to visit the rewards website to view all possible restrictions.

Disney Reward VISA Card does not have an annual fee. But do the perks and rewards balance our the interest rate?
Disney Reward VISA Card does not have an annual fee. But do the perks and rewards balance our the interest rate?
Disney Premier VISA Card comes with a $49 annual fee and an average 15% interest rate
Disney Premier VISA Card comes with a $49 annual fee and an average 15% interest rate
  • Upfront Cost

Only the Disney Premier Card has an annual fee of $49, but both cards come with a premium interest rate.  The interested noted on the website now is 15.24%, but based on the applicant’s credit score and other factors, this is not a locked-in rate and it may increase.

As with any credit card, you want to be very careful when determining if you want to open a new line of credit. And with any reward card, the perks and rewards are negated if you end up carrying a balance on your card and paying the high interest rate. If you have the self-discipline to pay off your card every month, then the reward points earned toward a Disney resort and the perks could be a useful vacation strategy, just make sure you read all the fine print.

  • Rationale for Families

If you’re a family of Disney-crazed people (which, you probably are if you’re reading this blog), then this card could have enough benefits and incentives for you to enjoy. With the 10% off Disney Store purchases, coupled with some of the discounts at the parks themselves and even taking advantage of special Disney vacation financing, any family buying Elsa and Anna dresses could benefit from this.

  • Rationale for Solo Travelers

Even if you’re a Disney-crazed solo traveler, this card for the discounts and rewards alone, may not pack the best punch for you. Considering the interest rate, and narrow way to redeem rewards, solo travelers may be better off getting a higher-valued credit card (with more lucrative rewards or a lower interest rate) and getting an Annual Pass to get the same range of discounts and perks. That’s not to say that a Disney reward card won’t benefit a solo traveler, but if the situation comes down to whether to get a Disney reward card or not, you want to do the research because there are other options that pack a better benefit-punch.

Military discount

Military Discount

  • What is it?

Active Military personnel with proper ID (includes active U.S. Coast Guard and activated members of the National Guard or Reservists) are eligible to receive Disney Ticket discounts. Military personnel can also purchase Disney tickets for up to 5 members of their family. Guests in the Military can purchase these tickets at the Shades of Green resort. Your Military discounted passes can be picked up at the Made in the Shade store located at Shades of Green. Some bases may also have discounted tickets available to purchase. Be sure to check with the recreational unit at your post or base, or contact Disney Guest Services directly for current information.

When tickets are purchased with a military ID at Shades of Green, there is no tax charged.

If staying at Shades of Green, the room rates are based on the military rank or civilian grade at the time of check-in.

  • When you can get it/When is it offered

Military Discounts are available year round for guests staying at Shades of Green Resort, which is considered an Armed Forces Recreation Center (AFRC), but room availability is limited. Occasionally, Disney will offer additional discounts for military wishing to stay at other Walt Disney World resorts. Shades of Green can be booked solid, especially during the busy vacation seasons, if they don’t have any available when you want, be sure to ask the Cast Member if they can make a reservation at another Disney resort for you. Depending on the time of year and availability you could get a “SoG overflow” rate.

One of the more popular military promotions offered annually is the Disney Armed Forces Salute. It is a temporary offer (renewed year to year) with discounts of 50% off 4-day tickets which have either the Hopper, the Water Park Fun and More option, or both options, and 30-40% off Disney resorts.

  • Upfront Cost

There is no charge to have access to the Military Discounts Disney offers, you simply have to have the required military ID. Something else to consider is that only the military personnel and their guests can use their discounted park tickets. To prevent the discounted tickets from being sold second-hand, Disney requires that the “sponsor” of the ticket be present when they are activated at the park.

  • Rationale for Families

If you have the opportunity to stay at Shades of Green, it’s worth your while. You get most of the perks of staying at a Disney resort (see the Shades of Green website for certain restrictions) plus the locked-in room rate based off of your military rank (which is not subject to the seasonal price changes) and finally, all purchases on Shades property, including room charges, are tax free. This is because Shades is a Department of Defense (DoD) facility and state and local taxes are not applicable on federal property.

  • Rationale for Solo Travelers

This same logic applies for this discount for families and solo travelers. Families may experience more of a financial benefit due to the “no tax” allocation on Shades property, but that’s simply because “the more you buy, the more you save” aspect applies.  The percentage of savings is still the same. If you’re able to take advantage of the Disney Armed Forces Salute, you may want to compare the discount offered at Disney resorts compared to the room rate offered at Shades of Green to see which discount benefits you more.

AAA

AAA Discount

  • What is it?

AAA members can usually count on a 3-5% discount on Disney park tickets, and on average between 10%-25% on resort rooms, depending on the season and resort level. It usually cheaper to buy your park tickets from your AAA office, but, if you choose, you can book a room with the AAA discount directly through Disney or your preferred travel agent.  You’ll just need to be prepared to show a valid AAA membership card at check in.

AAA also offers a travel agent service that can help you organize your Disney vacation and discounts.

  • When you can get it/When is it offered

AAA renews their discount agreement once a year. The discount on park tickets is fairly standard and does not change much throughout the year. The room discounts and negotiated annually. As of the print of this article, the AAA room discounts are only valid through 2014. Any room discounts for 2015 have not been released yet. You may want to speak with your local AAA agent for more current information.

Historically, room discounts are not available during the holiday season.

  • Upfront Cost

Most people don’t buy a AAA membership just for the discounts on a Disney vacation. It’s a convenient and reliable road-side service that also offers discounts and privileges with other companies and services.

Depending on where you live, membership fees vary, but you can expect to pay around $50-75 for a basic membership, $80-115 for AAA Plus, or $100-150 for the Premier AAA membership.

  • Rationale for Families/ Solo Travelers

The logic behind this discount is the same for both types of guests.  Disney does not allow guests to combine or stack offers or discounts on top of each other, so if you plan to use a AAA discount on your room or tickets, then you won’t be allowed to take advantage of any room or vacation package discounts that Disney is offering. Since the AAA discounts vary from 10%-25% on room discounts, you may want to call a Disney vacation planner to see what the offers or promotions Disney has available during your stay. You may find that Disney offers a better discount.

If you’re buying a AAA membership solely because of the potential Disney discounts, you may find yourself disappointed. However with all of the other services and discounts AAA offers, if you’re a member anyway, it doesn’t hurt to compare the discounts to make sure you’re getting the best bargain

Final Thoughts

I hope this overview of some of the most common Disney discounts and promotions has helped you identify which ones may benefit your family most. Be sure to use the Touring Plans Ticket Price Comparison tool, to help you analyze & research your ticket prices. And if you’re an Annual Passholder, Disney VISA cardholder, or a DVC member, always remember to mention that to Cast Members to take advantage of all of the discounts and perks available. And if you’re staying at a Disney resort, be sure to review all of your check -in materials for the popular “bounce back offer“.

Which are your favorite Disney discounts? Be sure to share your money-saving tips in the comments below!

 

Lisa Gilmore

My passion for Disney runs deep; I've got pixie dust in my veins. Everyone loves the famous Mickey Mouse, but Disney vacations host a wealth of sophisticated experiences, too. On my bucket list is to seek out and enjoy every last one of them!

20 thoughts on “Choosing the Right WDW Discount

  • November 26, 2014 at 11:21 am
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    Note that Disney has canceled its contracts with AAA starting 1 January, 2015. I think this means no more diamond parking, and no further discounts on park tickets through AAA. Not sure about rooms.

    • November 26, 2014 at 11:50 am
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      Hi Lee,
      At the time of print, the AAA discount is only advertised through the end of 2014. It’s definitely worthwhile to ask your AAA Agent or Disney if any AAA discounts will be available in 2015, but right now, no news. If you’re planning a trip before the end of the year, try to take advantage of this discount while it’s available.

    • November 26, 2014 at 2:59 pm
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      My understanding is that it’s been confirmed that there will be no AAA discounts for 2015.
      Have *not* seen any confirmation that they will not return in future years, but that would surprise me.

  • November 26, 2014 at 11:32 am
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    “Solo Traveler is staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort for 6 nights for the rack-rate of $212 per night. The pre-discount total is $1,272. If Solo Traveler is going when he can take advantage of the 20% room-only discount, his price becomes $1,017.60. So his savings is $254.40 for his stay. But don’t forget the resort tax of 12.5% which comes to $127.20, cutting Solo Traveler’s savings in half. Solo Traveler will end up saving $127.20”

    This makes no sense. Pre-discount total of $1,272+ $159 (tax)= $1431. Post room only discount $1017.60 +$127.20 (tax)= $1144.75. Thus your single traveler saves $286. For what it is worth, your family also save the exact same thing.

    • November 26, 2014 at 11:49 am
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      Hi Sarah,
      You’re right, both families save the same amount of money for this room. I was trying to show that if you’re looking at a “per-person” savings, this situation might give more edge for a Solo Traveler. I will make sure I go back and clarify that! Thanks for reading!

      • November 26, 2014 at 12:55 pm
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        Thanks for updating. You still have reference to the $127 in the Free Dining solo traveler section. Touringplans- I think you should make a discount calculator. Many of us build excel models to figure this out, but wouldn’t it be great to have an easy to use version for the average traveler.

    • November 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm
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      We compared almost this exact scenario for our September trip. The way we did the math was, for our family of 4, one of the children being considered adult, rather than add up the cost of the dining plan out of pocket, we simply compared the rack rate to the discounted room only rate (considering the cost of the park tickets to be equal in both figures). So if we took the room discount, we would save $60 a night off the room. But if we took the free dining promotion, we would pay full rack rate, or $60 more than room discount, and our family of 4 would eat two meals a day plus a snack. For $60 a day extra, that was a no brainer for us. I think that was the most important number crunching for that case.

  • November 26, 2014 at 12:06 pm
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    I think you really need to expand on the paragraph that mentioned gratuity. If your family of four in your example is having a character meal for about $160 for the family, then adding 18% gratuity would tack on close to $30 to your “free” meal . Sure, you got the nice meal, but it was definitely an expense that added up for us by the end of the week. Just a warning, if you’re comparing the sit down dinners to maybe some burgers at Pecos Bill.

    • November 26, 2014 at 12:17 pm
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      Hi Sharon,
      You’re right, gratuity is always an expense you have to plan on, whether it’s for the “mousekeeping” to tips for any table service or signature dining you plan to eat. Regardless of whether guest are using the free dining promotion, paying for the dining plan, or paying for each meal out of pocket, gratuity is something that should be considered and budgeted for. If you’re doing an “apples-to-apples” comparison, assuming that your dining choice would be the same regardless of if you’re using free dining or paying, then the free dining promotion would save you the cost of the meal, leaving you to only cover the gratuity and any extras you order the meal plan didn’t cover. The dining plan is not the best solution for every family, which is why I recommend reviewing your dining habits, touring style, and overall appetites to make sure it makes sense for you and your family.

  • November 26, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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    Thanks for putting all of these discounts in 1 spot! If someone is considering free dining, I would encourage them to consider relevant costs. That is, what you would spend on dining w/out free dining vs the value of the room only discount. If the value of the RO discount is greater than what you normally spend on food, that is your better deal from a purely financial standpoint. Of course there are lots of non-financial considerations as well!

  • November 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm
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    The Tables In Wonderland break-even point is a bit more complicated than saying it’s $500 if you’re a DVC owner or AP holder, since you can already get discounts of 10, 15 or 20 percent at many restaurants (though booze is not included). You would need to subtract the discount you’re already entitled to from the discount you get from TIW before you can determine if it’s really worth the $100 out-front cost.

    • November 26, 2014 at 12:46 pm
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      Hi Robert,
      That’s a good point. The additional 5-10% discount TiW allows AP or DVC members seems small, especially since it automatically adds an 18% gratuity on table service meals. A key think to consider is how much you’ll use it, and it is good for up to 10 people on your check, so can add up as well. It can definitely require some number-crunching.

    • November 26, 2014 at 2:58 pm
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      Remember that AP dining discounts are pretty limited as to when and where you can use them. By comparison, TiW can be used almost everywhere and any time. So at least in my experience, the existence of AP dining discounts raises the “break-even” threshold for TiW only a small amount.

  • November 26, 2014 at 1:19 pm
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    In the rationale for buying an Annual Pass, you stated that “The 7 day Park Hopper ticket costs the same as an Annul [sic] Pass”. However, that is incorrect. A 7-day Park Hopper costs $408.96, while the basic Annual Pass costs $675.21 (tax included for both passes). Even the 10-day Park Hopper at $440.91 is not as expensive as an Annual Pass.

    You would need to make a lot of discounted purchases using the Annual Pass discount to make up for the $266.25 additional cost ($675.21 – $408.96) over a 7-day Park Hopper if you are only visiting for 7 days.

    • November 27, 2014 at 11:41 am
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      Your comment prompted me to do the math on when to buy an AP. In it’s simplest terms, if you are planning to visit WDW at least three (3) times in a single year [minimum two (2) day stay each trip] OR have a single trip that is twelve (12) days or longer, it looks like the AP purchase is your most cost effective. Plus, you’d get the discounts and free parking.

  • November 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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    David, You’ve hit the nail on the head. WDW just isn’t going to make it easy for us to calculate our best purchase options. A couple of possible ticket purchases that might provide a good pricing comparison are 1) if you were planning a single twelve (12) day trip to WDW, you would purchase a ten-day PH for $440.91 PLUS a two-day PH for $252.41 – Total $693.32. You could then compare that to 2) planning two (2) three-day visits to WDW in a single year. For this option, you’d need to purchase a three-day PH for $344.00 each; total for year is $688.00. In both comparisons, you’d be better off purchasing the AP at $675.21. And, you’d be getting the tour & dining discounts and free parking. I hope this helps. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

  • November 28, 2014 at 2:34 am
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    Very thorough, thanks!

    Would also be interested to see a similar post for DL/DCA.

    One note: Military tickets can also be bought well in advance of trip at MWR offices on post.

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