Walt Disney World has not released discounts for Fall 2022 through Christmas, prompting reader questions and concerns. This post addresses what’s going on with resort availability, lack of deals, and commentary about what you can expect towards the end of this year.
While the last few years have been inconsistent, Walt Disney World has started reverting to familiar patterns with the release of discounts. This has made predicting when special offers will be released easier–but not foolproof. In this case, the “not foolproof” part should be underscored, as the fall and holiday season deals are now several weeks “overdue.”
In the aforementioned post, we stated that our expectation is (was) that the next Walt Disney World discounts would be released in mid-July for travel dates from September through Christmas 2022. The most likely release date for these deals is (was) either July 12 or July 19.
To our “credit,” we did say that it was unlikely Walt Disney World would release discounts before then (that hasn’t happened anytime recently), but the release date could slip into August 2022 (that has happened before).
Given that, it’s entirely possible that discounts for the last quarter of the calendar year are coming soon, and Walt Disney World will release them in the next couple of weeks. When readers ask about upcoming special offers, we could simply kick the can down the road with a wait and see response.
However, we’re becoming increasingly concerned that discounts are not on the way. Alternatively, whatever deals are released might be far more last-minute, have limited date ranges, more narrow targeting, or far less availability and more exclusions.
Our basis for these concerns is that we are, once again, noticing resorts filling up for October through December. This appears to be history repeating itself, with a similar trend to what we saw last year around the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary and Christmas, as well as earlier this year.
One of the biggest changes on the limited hotel availability front since this time last year is that all previously-closed resorts have reopened. Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, plus All Star Music and Sports, as well as Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House all reopened since last fall. That’s over 15% of Walt Disney World’s total room inventory that’s now available for booking but was not earlier in the year–and that’s even before taking into account maximum occupancy thresholds, which have almost certainly increased as compared to last fall due to staffing strides.
Despite this inventory increase, many Walt Disney World hotels are sold out for a range of dates in the next several months. While now through late September have plenty of options, things get dicier in mid-October around the week of Columbus Day.
Here’s a look at a sample availability search for a week in early December 2022:
As you can see, only 7 out of 34 resorts have availability. While it’s normal for some resorts to be sold out, usually most have at least some options. It’s also worth noting that the above date range is particularly bad–worse than Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other busy weeks.
However, that’s also a look at room inventory exactly 4 months from now. That’s decently far in advance, and yet the options are incredibly limited. Even in searching other dates during the holiday season with better availability, it’s difficult to find anything for Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge, and the Polynesian. All are difficult to score for full trips, as are other hotels from time to time.
Adjusting dates can yield different results, with resorts becoming bookable and others going unavailable. Further complicating matters is unadvertised minimum booking requirements for certain resorts, meaning that you might not be able to book a single night stay, but 2 or 3 nights might be available.
Regardless of the specifics, the salient point stands: resorts are filling up for October through December 2022, with fewer options than we’ve seen over the spring and summer. Given that these travel dates are still several months away, this does not bode well.
The simplest explanation for sold out resorts at Walt Disney World is the most straightforward: pent-up demand. You’re probably sick of hearing about this, but the travel industry continues to see strong bookings due to consumers shifting their spending from goods to services to make up for lost time.
Last year, the expectation was that the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration would be incredibly busy. Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary would take years-in-the-making “homecoming” trips last October through December, adding another wrinkle to pent-up demand. The Delta variant had other ideas, and October ended up being one of the slowest months of the year, with crowds not really recovering. The weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas were still busy, but otherwise, crowds were relatively muted.
This is relevant because the last three months of the year are popular with Walt Disney World fans and repeat visitors. It’s possible that many of them had trips planned for last October through December for the start of the 50th Anniversary, and ended up cancelling or postponing. That’s on top of those who didn’t travel the previous holiday season.
Some of these people now might be booking make-up trips for late 2022. That’s in addition to the first-timers and everyone else who would otherwise book for the holiday season. October through December is normally busy for a reason–it’s a desirable time to visit Florida.
However, demand does not account for the “fully booked” hotels at Walt Disney World, at least not entirely. As has been discussed countless times, staffing shortages remain an ongoing impediment to the parks and resorts operating at full capacity. During recent earnings calls, CEO Bob Chapek has addressed this, saying how company has “self-imposed capacity constraints” as a form of “mitigation” due to problems with staffing shortages for several positions that are integral to the guest experience.
Even before Chapek spoke about this issue, we addressed Walt Disney World’s housekeeper shortage. The causes of the current labor shortages are multifaceted, and the analysis in the above post applies to both housekeepers and cooks. By and large, it’s something that won’t be remedied by hiring bonuses–but should start resolving itself throughout 2022.
This is the explanation for Walt Disney World unofficially “banning” 1-night stays for some travel dates. This restriction was never publicly announced, but if you tried to book a single night reservation, no availability would’ve shown via the online booking engine. If you expanded that to 2-nights encompassing the exact same dates, viola, there was availability.
This was a big issue last October through December, but we stopped seeing it with regularity after that. Over the course of our availability spot checks today, it once again appears to be a thing. If demand continues to be strong for the Halloween and Christmas seasons, this policy will likely become increasingly common–just like last year.
Obviously, this has implications for discounts. We’ll repeat our familiar refrain here: Walt Disney World does not offer discounts out of corporate benevolence–it’s to fill unsold rooms and increase occupancy numbers. If hotel bookings are high at full price, the company has no motivation to release special offers. That would essentially amount to leaving money on the table–or giving it back–for no real reason.
That’s precisely why discounts were scarce for much of last year. Room inventory was constrained and pent-up demand was largely sufficient to fill available rooms at rack rates. To the extent that discounts were offered, they were targeted at select groups, resorts, and travel dates. Options were limited and many deals were illusory in the sense that you needed to upgrade room categories just to save a little on paper.
To that point, Walt Disney World did not release its normal general public discounts for the fall and holiday season last July. When discounts were finally released, they encompassed only December 12-24, and only Floridians, Annual Passholders, and Disney Visa Cardholders were eligible. Options were limited, and even most eligible resorts only offered 10-15% off.
That was still better than the discounts available between September 29 and December 11 of last year, which was absolutely nothing at all. Despite the parks not being particularly busy, the entire first two months of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary had no discounted resort rates.
We’re not necessarily saying that history will fully repeat itself here. The probability of zero discounts between September 30 (when the current Disney+ deal expires) and mid-December 2022 seems low.
I have a sneaking suspicion that Walt Disney World was a bit overzealous with its expectations for the World’s Most Magical Celebration, and had a lot of unfilled rooms as a result. (Again, crowds weren’t bad until Thanksgiving and other hotels all around Orlando had deep discounts. We scored some absurdly low rates at Universal last fall.)
However, we also want to be reasonable with our predictions–providing you with the basis for having realistic expectations and making semi-informed decisions about booking your vacation packages or accommodations. And while it’s still early, what we’re seeing now gives us pause, and reason to believe that special offers for fall and the holidays will be scaled back.
Right now, our base case scenario is that discounts will be released for the final three months of 2022, but they will be targeted (likely to Annual Passholders and Floridians), released closer to travel dates, and have limited options. Most resort and room types will probably offer meager savings, and there will be a lot of exclusions or ineligible resorts.
Given all of this, our recommendation would be to book something now if you’re definitely planning on an October through December 2022 trip to Walt Disney World. Do so with the expectation that the price quoted when making the reservation is the final price you’ll pay–in other words, don’t “go big” with the assumption that a deal will knock that price down to something more palatable.
If you’re not comfortable paying rack rates at Walt Disney World (we can’t blame you–they’re mostly absurd!), consider also booking a third party hotel that’s on-site or nearby Walt Disney World and has a flexible cancellation policy to hedge your bets. We love Swan & Dolphin, all of the Bonnet Creek Resorts, some of the Disney Springs hotels, and most of the places we’ve stayed at Flamingo Crossings.
Also, consider booking your on-site resorts with some strategy. If Walt Disney World does release general public discounts for October through December 2022, the above is still likely to be true. There will be a lot of exclusions and eligibility parameters you’ll need to “match” to apply the special offer to your existing reservation.
For the best chances of success, avoid booking Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Wilderness Lodge, and the Polynesian. Conversely, your best bets are the All Stars, Art of Animation Family Suites, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans (both) and Riviera Resort. (Other Deluxes are wildcards, and it’s still unclear whether construction will take rooms out of commission at BoardWalk and Grand Floridian.)
Ultimately, that should help explain what’s going on with the lack of discounts being dropped for October through December 2022 at Walt Disney World. It should also help you plan accordingly, and make alternative or backup reservations in case deals don’t come through. That’s the goal of this post–to help you hedge your bets and prepare for a repeat of last year.
Still, it’s possible that this is premature. It’s not uncommon for Walt Disney World to hold back room availability, to release more inventory, or for there to be system errors. All of that has happened before, and times that appeared fully booked ended up having ample availability. That might be what’s happening here. I doubt it, as we first started looking into this a few weeks ago when discounts weren’t released on time, and it’s gradually gotten worse since then.
Honestly, I’d love nothing more than to be wrong. A new special offer being released next week with great rates for late September through the end of the year and tons of availability would make all of this unnecessary fear-mongering. Contrary to available evidence, I don’t normally enjoy sounding stupid–but I happily would take the loss here!
Do you expect Walt Disney World to release Fall/Holiday 2022 discounts? Think all of this is premature, and holiday discounts will be aggressive due to pent-up demand fizzling out, inflation hitting consumers, etc? What do you think is driving the availability issue at Walt Disney World? Do you suspect Walt Disney World holding back rooms is the primary driver? Or, is pent-up demand the big issue, with people making up for lost time traveling and not caring how much they’re paying? Think the housekeeping, dining, bus driver, or other staffing shortages help explain the problem? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!