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Playing the Disney Discount Game Part II: Making Discounts Work.

Boardwalk quiet pool with view of the Dolphin Resort.

Today is kind of unusual because it’s the day after current Disney World discounts ended and there are no major discounts available at the resort.  This doesn’t happen that often anymore. This is because in recent years, Disney has regularly released discounted rooms and free dining promotions, so we anticipate that a new group of discounts will come out soon, possibly sometime next week (and if you’re betting, bet on Tuesday, the day Disney usually releases discounts).   When discounts are released, there are two things you should keep in mind:  One, getting the discount as soon as possible since they are limited; and two, finding out which discount works best for you. Free dining may seem like a great deal, but if you’re a light eater, it might not be. Likewise, a room discount at a value resort with four guests staying in the room is worth a fraction of what you’d save if you got free dining. 

If you take one thing from this post, remember that you can book a room and apply the discount later. This secures your room and saves time when you transfer to a discount in the future.  When discounts are announced, hold times can approach two to three hours, so having your room and information in the system gives you some security and speeds up the process.  It also guarantees that you’ll have a room regardless of what happens.  You can apply discounts to either full-priced rooms or rooms for which you’ve already recieved a discount, but you can only receive one type of discount at a time.

I work under the assumption that any discount is better than no discount, so if there’s a discount out for your travel dates, take it.  You can’t predict what Disney will do in the future, but if something comes out later that works better for you, you can change your room to that discount code.  For example, I currently have several clients who’ve booked room-only reservations for late spring and early fall.  These are good discounts, saving them around 20 to 25 precent off rack rate, but since these clients are annual pass holders, we’re waiting on AP discounts which will save them anywhere from 10 to 15 percent more. Once these discounts are announced, I’ll simply switch them.

A few caveats to remember when you switch discounts:

1)  All discounts are limited so you or your travel agent should apply them the day they come out. This is particularly true of free dining promotions which will sell out very quickly and are part of the reason for the two to three hour waits I mentioned above.  If you’re working with a travel agent, it’s her job to provide this service to you, stay on top of these announcements, and apply the ones that work best for you. You shouldn’t have to ask. 

2)  Don’t do this stupid guest trick (and yes, I’ll admit to doing this years ago):  Never cancel one discount booking until you’re sure you can get the new one and that it meets your needs.  Run all the numbers and remember that all discounts have end booking dates. The latter is especially important because you can’t go back and re-book under that promotion once it’s over.

3)  For packages, you can change your reservation and discount code up to 45-days before travel without penalty.  If you change your reservation within the 45-day window, you’ll be charged a $50 change fee, but if you save more than that, it’s worth it.  For room-only reservations, you may change up to six-days before you travel, so you have a little more freedom to change without penalty. If you do change within the penalty period, you’ll be charged a $50 change fee.

Next, consider what type of discounts work for you and your travel party.  Discounts usually come in two forms: Room-only or free dining.  Often, these offers are out at the same time. Don’t assume one is better than the other or get swayed by the language of the offer. Instead, have Disney or your travel agent run all discounts that are available during your travel time.  Pay attention to the small details. It’s easy to get swayed by a promotion like “Kids Stay and Play Free” until you realize that kids staying with their parents always stay free. While the “playing” part of the promotion is a great deal, allowing kids 3-9 to visit the parks for free with a paying adult, it still might not be as good as a room-only discount at a deluxe resort. It really does pay to take some extra time to compare every deal.

One final word.  Always make sure that you ask Disney what discounts are available when you call.  You need to let them know that you’re interested in booking under these codes. You don’t need to know the specific code, but you do need to ask outright what discounts are available.  If you’re on the Disney site, these can be hard to find and sometimes it can be difficult to discern, even when you think you’ve found one, whether or not you’re actually getting a discounted offer.  For this reason, I always advise people to run the full-price package first so can compare.

Next up, I’ll look at whether or not free dining is a good deal.

Email me at ChrisW@PixieVacations.com for information on how you can get a free $50 Disney gift card when you book a new Disney vacation worth $2200 or more. This is in addition to current discounts.


  1. Great post!! We have been lucky and have visited WDW with a promotion every trip since 2008 (5). For us, free dining always trumps the other promotions…probably because we usually stay at a value resort in value season and we’d book the dining plan regardless. Fingers crossed for Free Dining for late fall (like they’ve done the last two years) but I know it will probably not be announced until July.

  2. I’m just not hearing anything credible! This is driving me nuts. I have so many people waiting on free dining. Stephanie, hang in there. I’m checking all the time.

    Anna, I will check out your blog. Love the name.

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