The Basics: Disney World Resort Discounts

Pop - Grounds 8
Remember the 90s? Pop Century Resort does…sort of

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

 

Okay, here’s the situation: You’re looking at your hotel options for a week’s vacation in Disney World (and if you’re now singing Parents Just Don’t Understand, congratulations, you’re as old as I am).

Seriously though, there are a lot of Disney resort options and there is also a wide range of prices associated with those hotels. Luckily, there is almost always some sort of discount available on Disney resorts if you know how to find them and are alert when they are released. What follows is an overview of what discounts are often available and how to book them.

What Are Resort Discounts?

Put simply, Disney often makes many of their on-site hotel rooms available for an amount cheaper than the full rate. There are often two main types of discounts for any given season: Standard room-only discounts and discounts specifically for Annual Passholders. These discounts generally range from 15-35% depending on the type of resort and type of discount.

What Types of Discounts Are There?

Let’s look at what’s available right now for non-Florida residents: March 23, 2016. There are currently two discounts open to the general public and two discounts for guests with a Disney World Annual Pass. They are:

General Discounts

  • Spring Room Only Discount — must be booked by March 31, 2016
    • For stays between April 14 and June 11, 2016
    • Up to 15% off on most Value Resort rooms
    • Up to 20% off on most Moderate Resort rooms
    • Up to 25% off on most Deluxe and Villa Resort rooms
  • Awaken Summer Room Only Discount — must be booked by June 10, 2016
    • For stays between May 30 and August 25, 2016
    • Up to 20% off on most Value Resort rooms
    • Up to 25% off on most Moderate Resort rooms
    • Up to 30% off on most Deluxe and Villa Resort rooms
Coronado Springs is very photogenic
Coronado Springs is very photogenic

Annual Pass (AP) Resort Discounts

  • Spring Annual Pass Discount — must be booked by June 10, 2016
    • For stays between March 20 and June 14, 2016
    • Up to 25% off on most Value Resort rooms
    • Up to 30% off on most Moderate Resort rooms
    • Up to 35% off on most Deluxe and Villa Resort rooms
  • Summer Annual Pass Discount — must be booked by July 30, 2016
    • For stays between May 30 and August 25, 2016
    • Up to 25% off on most Value Resort rooms
    • Up to 35% off on most Moderate Resort rooms
    • Up to 35% off on most Deluxe and Villa Resort rooms

These discounts are representative of what you will see year-round. As the “must be booked by” date approaches, Disney will announce their next discount so expect the Fall discounts to be out around early June.

What Rooms Are Not Discounted?

As you may have noticed, the percentages above say “up to” a certain amount and “most” rooms. That means, of course, that there are some rooms with a lesser or non-existent discount. Naturally, these are the more popular spots which often include all of or some combination of: Port Orleans Resort–French Quarter, the Villas at Grand Floridian, Bay Lake Tower, Polynesian Bungalows & Villas, Little Mermaid (i.e. Standard) rooms at Art of Animation Resort, Fort Wilderness campsites, and all 3-bedroom Grand Villas.

Sometimes the above are slightly discounted (Disney loves a token 5% at Port Orleans–French Quarter) and occasionally some may get a real discount (again, French Quarter), but often they are full price all the time.

How Much Money Are We Talking?

It depends on how long you’re staying and at what resort, but let’s look at a few examples for week-long vacations. All examples are a per night cost for a Standard room based on 7 nights for 2 adults (not that it matters, the room is the same price for 1 or 4) and do not include tax. I also had to estimate the costs because many of the rooms are not available (more on that in How Do I Book).

  May 1-7 July 24-30
Resort Rack Rate (Full Price) Spring Discount Spring AP Discount Rack Rate (Full Price) Awaken Summer Discount Summer AP Discount
Pop Century $148 $126 $111 $169 $135 $127
Coronado Springs $230 $184 $161 $227 $170 $148
Polynesian $617 $462 $401 $533 $373 $346
Beach Club Villas $531 $398 $345 $469 $328 $305
The Polynesian's new-ish lobby
The Polynesian’s new-ish lobby

So, if you’re staying at Pop Century for a week in July you could save $238 with the public discount; at Coronado that rises to $399 and Poly brings the savings all the way up to $1,120. While $238 on a multi-thousand-dollar vacation may not be a huge deal, if you’re staying at the resort anyway it’s better than not having an extra $238.

The AP discount is where it gets a little more interesting. To save an extra $8/night on a Value room, it’s probably not worth considering an Annual Pass. Staying at the Polynesian Village Resort over the summer, however, could mean an extra savings of $189 over the course of a week. That’s not enough on its own to cover the cost of an AP, but it could be factored in with other benefits of an Annual Pass to possibly come out ahead.

What About Package Discounts?

One of the things you will see Disney advertise is package variation of their room-only discounts that I discussed above. For instance, there is a Summer Family Vacation Package that is being offered right now. Here’s how this package is being advertised:

AWAKEN SUMMER SAVINGS WITH A ROOM AND TICKET PACKAGE AT A DISNEY VALUE RESORT HOTEL THAT’S PERFECT FOR A FAMILY OF 4 – FOR JUST $1,880!

Looking a little deeper reveals that the $1,880 is for 2 adults, 1 child over age 10, and 1 child under 10 at an All-Star Resort from Sunday through Thursday (4 nights) with 4-day base (non-Park Hopper) tickets. Guests also get the option of selecting an exclusive MagicBand with BB-8 on it (from Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Let me start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this offer and it is not generally misleading in any way, but is there a savings? Let’s see–here’s what these elements would cost you separately for 2 adults, one 12 year old, and one 7 year old (prices include tax):

  • All Star Music Standard Room, July 24-28, 2016 (4 nights using Awaken Summer discount) = $480.92
  • Four 4-day base Magic Your Way tickets (3 adult, 1 child) = $1,363.22

The total for those two things separately is $1,844.14, which is less than $1,880. To be fair, I also looked up the Summer Family Vacation Package for the same ages and same dates. That total came out to $1,849.78–also less than $1,880 but more than $1,844.

This lines up with what I’ve always found: Disney will add a few dollars to a package just because. Yes, the $5.64 (or 0.3%) difference between booking the package and booking things a la carte is far from significant, but it exists and it’s money that Disney just keeps making. With this particular package you at least get a special MagicBand to make up the value difference, but that is not usual.

I’m not saying don’t do a package, but know going in that it’s not going to save you any money.

DiscountsHow Do I Book A Discount?

Here’s the important part, how to go about finding these discounts. It used to take a little bit of looking, but Disney now makes is shockingly easy to find discounted hotel rooms. When you search via DisneyWorld.com for a hotel room, there will be a few buttons at the top of the results screen (as depicted in the photo to the left). These buttons allow you to cycle through the regular price as well as any available discounts. When you select a discounted rate, it even shows you the price difference next to the room type.

So why doesn’t everyone get a discounted room? Well, there are two reasons: they don’t know about them (not your problem) or they’re sold out. You see, Disney only makes a limited number of rooms available for any particular discount. How exactly they section off their rooms and how many they make available is unknown to me.

What this means for you is that you need to start paying attention near the time when a discount will be released. There are not so few rooms that all the discounted ones will be gone on the day they’re released, but it’s better to be safe. Luckily, just paying attention to the TouringPlans.com blog will help you know when discounts are available. Also, if you are a TouringPlans.com subscriber, entering your trip on your personalized dashboard will trigger an alert when a new discount comes out.

One important thing to mention is that anticipating a discount does not mean that you have to wait to make your reservation. If discounts are not out yet, you can make a reservation, then adjust it later either through a travel agent or directly with Disney on the phone.

The Free Dining Conundrum

At least once per year Disney will offer a Free Dining promotion. What that means is that you get a free Quick-Service Dining Plan if you book a Value Resort and free Standard Dining Plan for booking any other room. The catch is that you can not get a room discount with this promotion. I’m not going to go through the math because it was done in the Dining Plan Cost Analysis Basics post a few weeks ago, but you should. It may be that a discounted room and foregoing the dining plan may be the better choice for your family.

If you have any questions, noticed anything I missed, or have any other Fresh Prince lyrics you’d like to spit feel free to put them in the comments.

 

Additional Back to Basics Posts

Brian McNichols

In addition to blogging, I also do some analyzin' here at Touring Plans. I am a travel nut, planning nut, Disney nut, wall nut. Husband of 1, father of 2. Hilariously funny in my own mind. Find me on Twitter @YesThatBrian if you like really dumb jokes.

15 thoughts on “The Basics: Disney World Resort Discounts

  • March 23, 2016 at 11:08 am
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    I totally appreciate the article and all the info you supply as it helps immensely. For most of us that use this site, we plan ahead, so when these discounts/offers are officially announced, they are basically worthless.(except free dining) I’m going in late June and staying in Port Orleans Riverside(we booked back in early Jan)- Disney announces the 20% discount stay a week ago and I’m told by my travel agent I would have re-book my reservation to get the discount…..well, Disney raised prices since I originally booked, so the discount is wiped away(in fact after calculating I would actually lose a few dollars) And not to mention, my dining reservations would be long gone if I booked now for the most desired places. My flight would also cost more if I booked now instead of when I did 3 months ago. This whole discount thing is a joke. It won’t keep me from going to the most magical place on earth, but they aren’t fooling me with these so-called discounts. Do not take it personally, I appreciate all the info you provide.

    • March 23, 2016 at 11:12 am
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      I understand completely and I don’t take it personally at all. Everything you mentioned is just even more to consider when deciding the best (and most cost-effective) way to visit. Thanks!

    • March 23, 2016 at 2:27 pm
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      Yet another reason not to use a travel agent where all your bookings are tied together. If you had just booked the flights, dining reservations, and rooms separately, you could have changed any of them without affecting the others in any way whatsoever (assuming you were still going the same days). I don’t think Disney is to blame here, but travel agents.

      • March 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm
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        Sorry Lee, that is not the case this time for my situation. Disney raised the park ticket prices and room rates after I booked. My point is there is no real discount when Disney raised their prices a few months ago and act like its a great deal if you book now – it is simple math. What I paid 4 months ago is the same if I were to book today with this “discount”, actually a couple dollars more. My travel agent has served us very well – we used free meal plans and discounts in the past – it just did not work out this time around. I’m merely stating it is misleading they are all of the sudden giving people that book now, a great deal.

        • March 23, 2016 at 4:11 pm
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          My point was that if your reservations weren’t tied together, you could have cancelled your room reservations and rebooked them with the discount. Nothing else would have changed. If you book with anything tied together (like tickets tied to room), then you cannot rebook one thing without it affecting the others. This is what I was saying should be avoided.

          • March 24, 2016 at 11:26 am
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            I get it Lee, but you are missing my point about Disney’s misleading discounts. Is it really a discount if you decide to take a trip now when all of the other stuff has gone up in the last couple months? And the answer is no. Disney is advertising like you are getting this 20-30% discount on rooms, meanwhile the prices of the rooms and park tickets went up just a couple months ago, basically offsetting this “discount” – there are in essence trying to fill up there leftover summer spots and still getting the same $ for those that paid 6 to 12 months ago – I understand you can book reservations separately.

          • March 25, 2016 at 10:17 am
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            You said originally:

            “Disney announces the 20% discount stay a week ago and I’m told by my travel agent I would have re-book my reservation to get the discount…..well, Disney raised prices since I originally booked, so the discount is wiped away(in fact after calculating I would actually lose a few dollars) And not to mention, my dining reservations would be long gone if I booked now for the most desired places. My flight would also cost more if I booked now instead of when I did 3 months ago. ”

            Which to me implies that you had a package deal that you would have to rebook to get the discount, but that the discount would be meaningless since other things have gone up since then. Fair enough.

            I then pointed out that if your reservations hadn’t been a package deal, you could have just cancelled your hotel and rebooked it with the discount, leaving your other reservations (tickets, dining, etc) unaffected.

            Then you changed the argument to say that the discount was useless because if you waited until the discount was announced, you wouldn’t end up saving anything because other items (tickets, transportation, whatever) would have gone up in the meantime, negating the savings of the room discount.

            Does that about sum up our conversation here?

          • March 28, 2016 at 11:16 am
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            Lee-There are different strategies & scenarios(especially price increases) for any time you book(I think we can agree on that?) – the discount would not help ME on THIS PARTICULAR TRIP, as I said, the park tickets went up and I found out room type I reserved is not even available for the discount because it was booked up and not eligible (after your initial response I doubled checked and how Disney does this and then throws a discount out there for possibly less desirable type room is another discussion)- I could switch to a different room after the discount was announced but it won’t save me anything with the discount from my original booking, not to mention what I saved booking flights 4 months ago. I don’t know how else to explain it to you. If you want to keep countering go ahead(I’m assuming you are only trying to help) But,I’m exhausted with this. You win 🙂

  • March 23, 2016 at 11:43 am
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    Like the poster above, I also like to plan in advance, and also wanted to book when airfare was cheaper. We booked our upcoming April trip back in the fall, then watched for discounts coming up – I knew that spring discounts would be listed in early 2016. In January we were able to call and have the discount applied to our resort. No need to cancel the reservation and all of our ADRs – everything stayed the same, but we are paying 15-20% less. So it is sometimes possible to both pre-plan and take advantage of discounts, if you are fortunate and the discount is available at the resort you’ve booked. We were lucky this time that it worked out.

  • March 23, 2016 at 3:14 pm
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    Thank you for this post, it’s very helpful!

    I was wondering if you can purchase an annual pass and then use it to get discounts on your hotel before you activate the pass. We are planning to go in October and will be getting an AP. If I book in June or July (whenever the room discounts are available) and get an AP at that time will the pass not activate until we are in the parks in October?

    Thanks!

    • March 23, 2016 at 3:26 pm
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      Thanks for the question, it’s probably something I should have covered. The answer is yes, but it has to be done in one of two ways:

      1. Buy the AP ahead of time. You will get a voucher for it, which you can use to log in to the passholder site and make a hotel reservation with the AP discount. When you get to WDW, you’ll have to exchange the voucher for a real AP, which is the date the pass will activate. You won’t lose any time on the AP, but you will have to shell out the money in advance.

      2. Have a Travel Agent book it. They can book a passholder room even if you don’t have an AP. You will need either an AP or a voucher to show them on check-in at the resort, however (technically, I’ve only been asked once out of many times), so be ready for that when you get there.

  • March 23, 2016 at 4:04 pm
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    And, they left the keys to their brand new Porche. Would they mind? Hmmm…. well, of course not! I’ll just take it for a little spin to Orlando…

    Yep, I’m as old as you are.

    These discounts are playing fast and loose with the recent price increases. I booked a room at Beach Club late last summer for June this year, using a Travel Agent group booking discount. It was a great deal, and they told me that when Disney released their discount, if it was cheaper I could rebook, no charge. So when the summer discounts were released, I checked… and with the new price increases, that ‘30% off’ at Beach Club was still nowhere close. Over a 5 night stay, I am saving $600 with my travel agent deal booked months ago.

    I have never booked through a travel agent before for Disney World (I am a control=freak person who likes to take charge of my own bookings) but after this experience, I am sold. Travel Agents with group booking deals can have great rates too, and you don’t have to wait for Disney to release their specials.

    Another possibility is to use a site like Orbitz to book. They usually have the same rates as Disney, but will honor their own promo codes, which can get you as much as 10%-20% off the rate. The downside is that you have to pay in full up front, but if you cancel they refund it all immediately.

  • March 24, 2016 at 5:27 am
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    Don’t forget the military discounts for rooms.

  • March 24, 2016 at 6:27 pm
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    WDW is exponentially more complicated than other vacations, including interstellar travel.

    Price is certainly a factor, but don’t overlook the quality of your experience. Weather, park hours, special events, etc. can impact your trip. Sometimes spending just a bit more or picking a different time can heighten a great trip to fantastically magical.

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