2020 Walt Disney World vacation packages are now available, and we’ve spent significant time on DisneyWorld.com today comparing room prices for next year to this year’s rack rates. (In addition to the 2020 Disney Dining Plan Prices, which we already shared.)
In this post, we’ll compare this year’s prices to 2020 Walt Disney World hotel room rates and offer some analysis. While we’ve been looking at a variety of hotels, we’re primarily interested in the Value and Moderate Resorts. Our rationale here is that guests booking these hotels are the most price-sensitive.
No offense, but if you could afford $597 and up per night for Grand Floridian, you can probably swing $638 per night and up next year. If not, you’re still able to “slum it” with the rest of us at other Walt Disney World resorts. (Simply moving over to the cheaper Beach Club or BoardWalk would save you at least $100/night.)
I kid, but the point is that Walt Disney World’s low-end resort prices are more interesting, and more of a litmus test of vacation affordability than the high-end prices. At least, that’s what I think, and since I’m the one who had to hassle with doing all of this (at least I got to see Stitch a “few” times!), that’s where we’re going to focus most of our attention.
On the Deluxe end, the only resort of personal interest to me is Wilderness Lodge. It’s the cheapest (and best) of the Magic Kingdom or Epcot Deluxe Resorts, and rooms at Wilderness Lodge increased on the low end from $339 to $363 per night. This is a dollar amount that’s higher than most of the increases at the Value Resorts, but it’s a lower percentage increase; it’s also a price bump less likely to be felt by the guests booking in the Deluxe Resort tier.
Moving on to what I think is interesting, prices have increased at Pop Century, Art of Animation, and Caribbean Beach–but not by nearly the amounts that we expected. On the low end, rack rates at Pop Century are up to $137 as compared to $130 per night this year. Weekends are a different story, up by $20 in some cases.
However, when you consider the fact that these three resorts will have Skyliner transportation next year, offering guests non-bus transportation to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios…it could’ve been worse.
Before we paint too rosy of a picture here, it’s worth pointing out that there are significantly more nights in 2020 when Pop Century has rates above $200. In fact, for much of March and April, Pop Century flirts with the $200/night mark; Easter and Spring Break both at or above $240/night.
As eye-popping as those numbers might seem, they’re actually “only” $11-15 more than this year. The reason they probably seem ridiculous (and make no mistake: they are) is because you’re seldom, if ever, paying rack rate at Pop Century. I don’t think we’ve ever paid over $100 for it, and I’m not sure what my upper limit would be. Even with the Skyliner and Pop Century’s newly-reimagined rooms (which we both love), I think I’d have a tough time stomaching more than $150/night for Pop Century. It’s tough for me to justify rack rates for what’s essentially motel-style accommodations.
It’s a similar scenario over at Caribbean Beach Resort. This year, the lowest rack rate there is $194/night. Next year, that’s up $10 to $204/night. Actual increase amounts vary by season, but standard rooms there are mostly around $10-20/night more expensive.
Even though the new dining and reimagined Old Port Royale have been open for the entirety of this year, Caribbean Beach has still had construction in and around its grounds for pretty much the full year. Next year, that won’t be the case. In addition to the Skyliner transportation, guests will also be a short walk from the Deluxe amenities (namely, dining) at Disney’s Riviera Resort.
There is some more good news in this, as some rack rates have actually dropped. Most notably, the All Star Resorts have new low prices of $99/night in the off-season, down from $112/night this year.
There are a few explanations for this. One could be that the gap between Pop Century/Art of Animation and the All Stars is becoming more pronounced, and guest satisfaction numbers are significantly lower at the All Stars.
Another explanation is that demand or occupancy rates have been lower at the All Stars. If you consult virtually any resource while planning your Walt Disney World vacation, it’ll direct you away from the All Stars and towards Pop Century or Art of Animation. (I’m not sure I buy this explanation for reasons we’ll get to in a minute.)
A more cynical explanation is that Walt Disney World wants to be able to advertise “hotel rates starting at $99 per night” in its marketing materials. Or be able to tout that some prices have decreased for 2020.
It was the same deal with the date-based ticketing model. Walt Disney World pushed the line that some prices were increasing, some were staying the same, and some were actually decreasing.
The notion is that the system would be a change rather than an increase…even though the reality was that 95% of dates (or thereabouts) were increasing. Being able to shape the marketing, even if it’s disingenuous, is powerful.
There’s also the possibility that Walt Disney World plans to raise rack rates less now, but also discount less in the future. At the end of the day, rack rates matter far less than average nightly costs. If a room is priced at $500 but offers a 40% off discount every night, that discount is illusory. It’s still more than a $250 room with no deals.
Personally, I don’t see this ‘discount theory’ being the likely explanation. Walt Disney World always wants to discount as little as possible. As we are wont to say here, Disney doesn’t offer the Free Dining Plan or room-only deals out of corporate benevolence; they do it out of necessity to fill rooms that would otherwise sit empty.
Free Dining is a promo that fans fear will disappear; however, it has become such a key driver of late summer and fall bookings that it’d be difficult for Walt Disney World to eliminate it completely. Certainly, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will drive more hotel bookings and attendance, but it won’t alter school schedules for anyone. And that is what Walt Disney World is trying to overcome when it comes to offering this and other discounts.
Walt Disney World’s discount strategy for 2020 depends largely upon occupancy, which depends largely upon a mix of variables, some of which are simply unknowable right now. Will consumer confidence still be strong in 2020? Will Walt Disney World’s additions garner positive reviews and strong word of mouth? Will international markets that have been strong drivers of attendance stumble? Will Orlando continue to be a hot convention destination? It’s possible to hypothesize about all of these things, but nothing is certain yet.
Speaking of the All Star Resorts, one thing that I found noteworthy is there are some dates that one or all of these resorts are totally sold out.
This is not completely out of left field, as these are the de facto resorts for ESPN Wide World of Sports events, and it’s entirely possible there are blocks on them for certain dates. However, all three sold out for certain weeks in May 2020? That does surprise me a bit.
In many other scenarios, entire room categories are completely gone, and for seemingly random dates.
We’ve been hearing rumblings for a while that January and February 2020 are likely to be busier than normal at Walt Disney World (and not just because of reduced attraction capacity, Marathon Weekend, holidays, or a random convention), and I’ve noticed several room categories are sold out for weekends at a variety of different resorts.
On that note, we’d recommend booking sooner rather than later. If you’re definitely visiting Walt Disney World in 2020 irrespective of discount status, lock something in now. Booking early is essentially hedging your bets against the resort/room tier you want selling out, while still having the flexibility of applying future discounts as they’re released.
It should go without saying that you can do this yourself via the phone (not recommended) or online at DisneyWorld.com. However, if you want someone to monitor your reservation and apply discounts as they’re released (or book FastPass+, ADRs, etc.) for you, we recommend booking via an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.
Maybe we were just bracing ourselves for bigger price hikes (especially after those Annual Pass increases!), but nothing here is all that surprising. Room rates at Value and Moderate Resorts typically did not surge, and at the hotels where they did increase, there’s arguably justification in terms of the new amenities/transportation. Then again, we didn’t really put much effort into before/after rack rates for the Deluxe Resorts…but that’s because we’d never pay full price at any of those before or after, anyway. From our perspective, the higher-tier Walt Disney World hotels are entirely discount-dependent, and that part of this story won’t be written until Spring 2020, once discounts start trickling out.
What do you think of the 2020 Walt Disney World hotel room and package prices? Anything surprise you? Are you paying noticeably more (or less) for your trip next year? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!