Walt Disney World is offering a sneak peek at a new discount coming out after the holidays that’ll run through September 2021 and offers two free ticket days. In this post, we’ll share the details of this special offer, compare & contrast it with overlapping room-only discounts, and share analysis as to how much money you’ll actually save.
As you might recall, Disney already released some 2021 room-only discounts that offered up to 40% off Walt Disney World resort discounts for Annual Passholders and Florida residents, with up to 35% off for the general public. Those are good discounts–about 5% better than what’s historically offered for the same dates.
In quickly skimming the details, what I thought Walt Disney World was announcing was a modified return of the beloved “Buy 4 Nights, Get 3 Free” deal that was offered a decade ago to incentivize guests to visit during the Great Recession.
“Buy 4 Nights, Get 2 Free” is not as good as that past offer, but it would still be pretty good. (We still have fond memories of taking advantage of that discount, staying at Saratoga Springs Resort, and receiving a free upgrade back during Summer Nightastic–what a blast!) At first, I was really excited.
Except that’s not what this is. At all.
Here are the official details: Get 2 extra days added to your ticket when you buy a 4-night/3-day room-and-ticket package at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, valid for arrivals most nights January 8, 2021 through September 25, 2021.
This package can be booked beginning January 5, 2021. The fine print indicates that this discount requires a minimum stay of 4 nights, a maximum of 14 nights, or any number in between–either way, you’re getting 2 extra days.
Other important details are that the number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. 5-day theme park tickets included in this package are valid for admission beginning on date of check-in and must be used within 8 days. This deal cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion.
Offer excludes the following room types: 3-bedroom villas, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Cabins at Disney’s Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows.
Walt Disney World is also touting that guests can “book with confidence.” For extra peace of mind, know that if your plans change, any Disney-imposed change and cancellation fees will be waived up to the date of check-in for reservations with arrivals through April 30, 2021.
This is consistent with Walt Disney World’s temporary new cancellation policy, applicable to anything booked. It’s not unique to this offer. We’re guessing that this policy will be the norm until at least 2022. There’s simply too much uncertainty for many people to feel comfortable booking travel without incredibly flexible modification and cancellation policies.
Honestly though…why bother?
In fact, we’re really puzzled as to why Walt Disney World would offer a preview of this “discount.” It’s the equivalent of your parents telling you 2 lumps of coal are wrapped up in one of your Christmas presents in an attempt to build anticipation. Probably would’ve just been better off not saying anything.
Unless we’re missing something, this is a really, really bad deal. Worse than the “Magic is Here” reopening discount offered to the general public, which we panned for offering savings of only ~8% to 13% off.
Unlike those, this “special offer” isn’t even trying to use marketing gimmicks to look more appealing. (Well, at least not yet.) Not that we’re complaining–it’s better that Walt Disney World does not use spin to make offers appear better than they are.
Most of you probably know just by looking at it, but the reason this offer is so lackluster is because incremental cost of going from 4-day tickets to 6-day tickets is minimal. Longtime Walt Disney World fans have had “the longer you play, the less you pay per day!” drilled into their heads for years when it comes to tickets.
Accordingly, this amounts to a savings of around $50 per adult and around $45 per child over the course of the entire trip. That’s the best case scenario if you visit with peak season pricing on tickets and are only upgrading from 4-day tickets to 6-day tickets.
If you’re booking a longer trip and going from (for example) 6-day tickets to 8-day tickets, you’ll save around $25-40 per person.
We priced out one 4-night package for the two of us at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in April, and we would’ve saved $97 total for a package cost of $2,718.88. That’s less than 4% off.
By contrast, we could’ve saved $111 per night with the room-only discount, or 35% off. Obviously, that does not include park tickets (hence no comparison of total package prices), but we could follow the advice in our Money-Saving Walt Disney World Ticket Tipspost and come out ahead on tickets.
It also doesn’t do this “deal” any favors that those who would save the most money on peak season tickets will be paying the most money for their hotel rooms. The higher-priced ticket seasons are almost always the more expensive hotel seasons, too.
Resort rooms are more expensive than tickets on a per day/night basis, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by saving more on tickets since that means paying more for your resort room.
The percentage discounts for this one will be all over the place. It’ll generally be a worse deal for higher resort tiers and smaller parties, and better deal for large parties at Value Resorts.
Aside from families of 4 doing a single room at All Star Movies, I cannot envision a scenario where this is a remotely good deal. Even then, this deal creates the problem of having more ticket days than hotel nights, which further reduces the pool of potential guests for whom this would be advantageous. In so many ways, this special offer just doesn’t pass the smell test.
Unless we’re missing something or there are details that haven’t yet been revealed (which would be a weird way to tease the deal), this will not be better than the previously-released room-only discounts for early 2021 for the overwhelming majority of potential Walt Disney World guests.
This is pretty much a non-discount.
Frankly, it has us worried. It makes sense that Walt Disney World would tease a deal before Christmas. As we’ve noted several times in the past, the stretch between Christmas and early January is the biggest time of the year for new bookings. Previewing a deal gets people thinking about it over the holidays, and prepared to book when the deal goes live.
But that only works if the deal is actually…a deal. Disney would’ve been better off quietly dropping this one, hoping to hook some impulse bookers who didn’t take a step back and do the math. Giving people a couple of weeks to stew over this one and crunch the numbers isn’t going to do it any favors.
Honestly, I was holding out a sliver of hope that Walt Disney World would announce the return of the Disney Dining Plan for 2021 within the next week or two and have Free Dining being the big deal drop of early January 2021. That would present more logistical challenges than the recent Park Hopping announcement, but the Disney Dining Plan and Free Dining are both big business for Walt Disney World, and result in tons of guest bookings.
While there’s still an outside chance of that happening, there have been no credible rumors of it and this “preview” doesn’t exactly bode well for what’s in the pipeline. Our hope is that there’s at least a room-only discount through June 2021, which would be consistent with past precedent.
This blog has discussed pent-up demand or the lack thereof, plus various factors that will impact vacation plans to Walt Disney World, at length. This lackluster discount might thus seem like it vindicates theories of Walt Disney World “Revenge Travel” in 2021.
We’d caution you against inferring that. Remember, the “Magic is Here” discount was released for the summer months of Walt Disney World’s phased reopening–at a time when occupancy numbers at the handful of operational resorts were anemic.
If Walt Disney World were forecasting a surge of bookings for 2021, the first thing they’d do is announce reopening dates for the remaining hotels. Although dates were recently released for Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge, those aren’t until Summer 2021.
Meanwhile, the winter reopening of All Star Movies was pushed back until spring break and several other hotels are still closed indefinitely at this point. That’s not something that would be happening if occupancy projections were high or Disney had confidence in travel picking back up next spring.
There’s really no point in trying to reconcile the seemingly contradictory actions. We’ve been down this road before, trying to surmise some “grand strategy” in Walt Disney World’s approach to incentivizing guests to book trips during the phased reopening. As best we can tell, there isn’t one.
Rather, the “plan” seems to be throwing as much at the wall and seeing what sticks. That’s probably why we’ve seen abysmal “deals” like the Magic is Here offer and now this, plus exceptional ones like the recent room-only discounts and targeted offers. Our advice at this point is to be patient (or apply for a Disney Visa if you don’t already have one to take advantage of that offer) and wait for something that’s actually good. Even if “revenge” leisure travel ends up materializing, Walt Disney World still has a long road to recovery. There will be plenty of good discounts for those who are patient and ready to pounce.
What do you think of this 2-day free ticket offer? Will you be taking advantage of this, or a room-only discount? Does this present good savings for your family? Is there something we’re missing?! Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!