Disney World discounts and promotions are things people always ask about. Everybody wants to get the best deal for their trip.
There are several different types of discounts, and knowing what they are and when you might expect them to be offered can help you plan.
To help you save the most money on your next trip, we have put together a comprehensive guide that covers how the discounts work, what discounts have been offered in the last few years, and how to increase your chances of getting one.
Let's take a look...
In this article
Disney World discounts: the basics
Some general things to know about Disney World discounts:
- Disney's "rack rates" (their standard room rates) are released during the summer for the following year and, unlike most hotels, don't change in price because of occupancy rates once they are published. The prices won't go up from the day they are published but they also won't go down - unless a discount is released.
- Discounts aren't automatically added. Whether you are booking a new trip or you already have a vacation planned, make sure available discounts get applied. Disney isn't going to automatically add it for you.
- In general, vacation packages (which include a room, tickets, and an optional Disney Dining Plan) don't save you money but they are convenient. Disney bundles the popular components together to make it easier on you, not to save you some cash.
- Where to find current discounts. Current Disney World offers can be found at a link for special offers at the bottom of the main Disney World page.
- You can only use 1 discount at a time. For example, if you get Free Dining, you can't also get a discount on your hotel room.
- You can book your trip before discounts come out. If a discount is released after your trip is booked, the discount can be applied to your existing reservation. However, for every promotion there are only a certain number of available rooms and room types at each eligible resort that can be booked at the discounted price. Once they have reached that number of bookings, that's it. That's why it is important that you either modify your reservation online (preferred method) or call as soon as possible after a discount is released.
- Many discounts are released before the phone lines open. However, most reservations can be modified online as soon as the discount is released so those that choose to do that get a jump on those that wait to call.
- There are blackout dates. For instance, if a fall promotion is announced, Thanksgiving week will often be blacked out. This is true for all major U.S. holidays.
- Deluxe Resorts receive the biggest discounts. When a promotion is announced such as 20-35% off rooms, the lower percentage (20%) usually applies to Value Resorts while the larger percentage (35%) usually applies to Deluxe Resorts.
How to get a discount on your Disney World trip
How to find discounts when initially booking your trip
If you aren't sure what discounts are offered, the easiest way to see what is currently available is to scroll way down to the bottom of the main Disney World page to click on the link to "Special Offers" or just go right to the Special Offers page itself. If several are offered during your trip make sure you check different scenarios to see what saves you the most money.
How to modify an existing reservation to add a discount
If a discount you would like to use is released after you have booked a trip, you will need to modify your existing reservation in order to apply it. There are 2 ways to modify an existing reservation: online (preferred method) or by calling Disney at (407) 939-1936.
Modifying a reservation online is easy and far quicker than calling so whenever possible, we recommend you use this method.
To modify, first you'll need to log into your My Disney Experience account and navigate to the "My Reservations and Tickets" section. Once there, select "Change Reservation." After the page opens you should be able to see all the different aspects of your reservation that you can modify, including a section called "Vacation Offers."
Select "Change" in that section to modify your reservation to include available promotions.
You may not have the "change" link if you have add-ons for your trip like Memory Maker or Magical Express. Consider adding add-ons after promotions are released to make it easier to modify those reservations online.
Types of Disney World discounts and promotions
First, let's go over some terminology:
- Rack rate - the standard room rate without any discount added
- Room-only reservation - a reservation that is only for your room and includes no tickets or Disney Dining Plan
- Vacation Package - a reservation that includes a room plus tickets OR a room plus tickets and the Disney Dining Plan
- Ticketless Package - a reservation that includes a resort room and the Disney Dining Plan and no tickets. This type of reservation can only be booked by a travel agent or by phone.
Note: Room-only reservations and vacation packages have different deposit and cancellation polices so be sure to check those out before you book.
Free Dining is probably the most well-known promotion that Disney offers; however, the availability of Free Dining dates have dwindled in recent years and made it more difficult to book.
Free Dining provides exactly what its name implies: the Disney Dining Plan for free. Which plan you receive is usually dependent upon which resort category you book, with Value and Moderate resorts receiving the Quick Service plan and Deluxe resorts receiving the Regular Dining Plan.
You can find more tips on securing Free Dining in our Disney free dining tips page.
General room-only and package discounts
The most common kind of discounts are promotions that offer a percentage off of a room-only reservation and/or the resort room rate component of a vacation package. These discounts will sometimes offer an earlier booking window for guests with active Disney Visa credit cards. The discount usually falls between 5%-35%, with the largest discounts being for rooms at Deluxe resorts.
Play Stay Dine
Unlike Free Dining (which only discounts the Dining Plan portion of your package) or a general percentage off discount (which only discounts the resort room potion of your stay, whether it is a room-only reservation or a vacation package), Play Stay Dine provides a discount on all 3 components of your trip. The total percentage off for each component isn't known but most people find this discount doesn't usually save as much money as Free Dining; however, it can provide a nice savings if you were already planning on purchasing the Disney Dining Plan.
Annual Passholder discounts
Some of the best room-only discounts come in the form of Annual Passholder discounts. Annual Passholders are eligible for discounts on a wide variety of things, including resort reservations. Depending on when you are traveling, it might make sense to consider purchasing at least 1 Annual Pass in order to be eligible for the discounts.
You do not need to have an Annual Pass at the time of booking your resort; however, you will need it at check-in. If you buy your Annual Pass online, you'll be issued a voucher that you'll need to exchange when you arrive (and the activation date for your Annual Pass is the day the voucher is exchanged), so make sure you plan accordingly.
Disney Visa Cardholder discounts
Some of the above discounts (like Free Dining) will occasionally open up bookings early to people that have a Disney Visa, and while the savings are the same as what the general public gets, cardholders get a couple days head start on booking which means they get first pick at available rooms. Disney Visa cardholders sometimes are eligible for exclusive dates for discounts.
Bounceback offers are promotions that are usually found in folders in Disney World resort rooms. If you don't find one, dial x8844 from your room phone to ask what's available, because anybody staying on property is eligible to book a bounceback reservation.
Bounceback offers are often good deals that you can only take advantage of if you book your next trip while still at Disney World. Just a deposit is required at the time of booking, so even if you're just considering a trip it's a good idea to go ahead and book something while still a guest since the discount offered with a bounceback is usually pretty significant.
Each adult on the current reservation can make a new reservation using the bounceback promotion and the same cancellation rules apply, so if something comes up or if your plans change, you can try to move your reservation to other dates that are eligible for that bounceback offer (as room availability allows).
Certain current and retired members of the Armed Services are available for special discounts including discounted rooms at Shades of Green and special ticket prices. The discounts are available from several different military and Department of Defense sources and the best place to find more information as to what is available is at MilitaryDisneyTips.com.
Check the spreadsheet below for a history of when and what discounts have been offered. (Or open in a new tab.)
Increasing your chances of getting a discount
Some tips to better your odds of having a discount during your trip:
- Use a good Disney travel agent. The agents at Prep School Travel are experts at securing discounts and saving their clients money. It costs you nothing to use one of our agents, so if you'd like to take the guesswork out of planning your next trip request a quote and let one of our agents help you start the process.
- Get a Disney Visa. People with Disney Visa cards are sometimes able to book some of the promotions a few days before everybody else as well as be eligible for exclusive promotions or dates.
- Sign up for the newsletter. When discounts are announced, we email people on the newsletter list.
- Book dates when discounts are available. Using the spreadsheet above, you should be able to see when discounts are available. People often ask us things like "when will Free Dining be announced for this Christmas" and that's just not likely to happen. To maximize your chances book your vacation for dates/times of the year that typically see discounts.
- Avoid staying at excluded resorts. Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms, Ft. Wilderness campsites, 3-bedroom Villas, and new resorts are often excluded from promotions, so you would want to stay elsewhere to qualify for a discount. If you already have a reservation booked at a resort and a promotion is released that excludes that resort, you can change resorts to get the discount.
- Stay flexible. Sometimes moving resorts or even room categories will open up more options for discounts so the more flexible you are the more likely you'll be to snag a discount.
Questions or comments about how Disney World discounts work or which ones are available?
Please discuss in the comments.
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