Sold Out Hotels at Disney World in Late 2022
Walt Disney World resort availability is extremely limited for this Christmas season through early January 2023, prompting reader questions and concerns. This post addresses what’s going on with the sold out hotels, lack of discounts, and commentary about what you can expect later next year. (Updated October 10, 2022.)
A couple of months ago, we warned that resorts were already selling out for the holiday season in our post, Don’t Wait for Discounts to Book Fall & Christmas 2022 Trips to Walt Disney World. The title pretty much says it all. Despite a temporary reprieve, pent-up demand appears to still be going strong for the most popular time of year to stay at Walt Disney World.
This essentially serves as a “heads up” to those thinking about last minute holiday trips or anyone wondering why many or most hotels are showing up as unavailable when searching for rooms. With some hotels already having limited available through early 2023, we’d strongly recommend booking your resort and other vacation components ASAP. Get something flexible and refundable locked-in now so you aren’t shut out or paying higher prices later. Additionally, we now have explanations as to why this is happening.
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. With October through December being the busiest stretch of the year at Walt Disney World, you might want to book now if you’re already looking ahead to 2023.
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 spike, many Walt Disney World hotels are sold out for a range of dates in the next several months. The simplest and most straightforward explanation for sold out resorts at Walt Disney World is demand. We’ve been warning ad nauseam of “Revenge Travel” at Walt Disney World. 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.
However, demand does not account for the “fully booked” hotels at Walt Disney World, at least not entirely. While Walt Disney World is not capping park attendance as before, this is occurring at the resorts.
This is not as a vestige of physical distancing. Instead, it’s due to staffing shortages. These persist in key roles that disproportionately impact the resorts at this point.
As a whole, Walt Disney World has turned a corner on its staffing shortages. The College Program’s accelerated resumption and Walt Disney World’s aggressive hiring blitz are now paying off. Tons of new employees have gone through Traditions training and been assigned to locations around Walt Disney World.
Consequently, Walt Disney World’s theme parks are mostly fine. Attractions, retail, and most other areas are adequately staffed.
However, this is not true across the board. Walt Disney World continues to hold job fairs, and is offering hiring bonuses and higher pay for certain roles. In particular, Walt Disney World has had ongoing and significant shortages for housekeeping, cooks, and bus drivers.
To remedy the bus driver shortage, Walt Disney World has contracted with a third party coach bus company (hence all of the Academy buses around the complex for the last several months). Not having much success, Disney recently increased hiring bonuses–some are now up to $6,000 depending on the position and location of the applicant! The company is also offering referral bonuses to current Cast Members who recruit new hires.
In an attempt to take pressure off the housekeeper shortage, Walt Disney World unofficially “banned” 1-night stays for peak holiday season 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.
That limitation on 1-night bookings is now gone, but don’t be surprised if Walt Disney World brings it back should demand exceed supply (of housekeepers) again. If this does happen, it’s likely to occur from late November through early 2023. (It’s worth noting that we are still encountering similar 3-night minimum stays for certain Hilton and Marriott hotels in the Flamingo Crossings area.)
During several quarterly earnings calls this year, CEO Bob Chapek addressed how staffing is impacting Walt Disney World operations. He has said that the 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–it has gotten better, but will likely continue to be an issue in 2023 and beyond.
These staffing woes directly impact operations, occupancy, and the guest loads that resorts can accommodate. In particular, Disney can’t fill every resort room every night if there aren’t enough housekeepers to turn them all over by check-in time. Insufficient dining capacity at restaurants and food courts likewise means Disney can’t fully book all rooms at a resort without causing issues at peak meal times.
Prior to Chapek confirming this, we had heard rumblings about these issues for months and of room inventory being held back as a result. Rumors of Port Orleans Riverside operating with only a handful of its buildings filled with guests, Contemporary Resort having minimal issues relocating guests when undertaking a last-minute refurbishment of half its rooms, and many more anecdotes. The totality of these stories strongly suggested that the hotels were leaving a large percentage of their rooms unfilled to reduce other pressures around Walt Disney World related to the staffing shortages.
In searching for room options in November and December 2022, we are once again seeing many or most resorts sold out. 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 for Veterans’ Day is particularly bad–worse than Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other busy weeks.
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.
When trying to assess “real” demand levels, it’s also worth point out that the lack of availability often does not extend to third party resorts to nearly the same degree. Sure, there are the dates when the price of the Swan & Dolphin or Four Seasons randomly skyrockets to absurd territory, but that’s not all that abnormal.
Many other times, there’s no availability at Disney-owned hotels but there’s no shortage of reasonably priced third party alternatives. Suffice to say, if Walt Disney World doesn’t have hotel availability or the rack rates you’re seeing are too pricey or beyond your comfort zone, consider booking a refundable rate at third party properties.
We’re seeing availability at the Swan & Dolphin, Bonnet Creek, Disney Springs, Grand Cypress, Universal, and Flamingo Crossing hotels. If you haven’t had Flamingo Crossings on your radar before, it might be worth considering. Several hotels have opened in the last year, including Target, Walgreens, and multiple other retail, dining, and grocery locations.
Ultimately, that should help explain what’s going on with unavailable rooms at Walt Disney World. Pent-up demand and revenge travel are playing a huge part, and will likely continue to do so due to international visitors even as domestic demand fizzles out. That’s not the full story, though.
There’s also the reality that “fully booked” hotels at Walt Disney World are not even close to 100% occupancy and are not actually sold out of all rooms. They’re capped at lower levels due to staffing shortages, in particular housekeepers, bus drivers, and kitchen staff. As Walt Disney World continues to undertake hiring initiatives and as demand normalizes, this problem should start working itself out.
The availability–or lack thereof–that we’re currently seeing for this holiday season through January 2023 indicates that, once again, pent-up demand is posing a problem for Walt Disney World resort availability. While things had gotten better earlier this year, it’s clear the problem isn’t totally resolved. Here’s hoping Christmas 2023 plays out differently, but you may want to book something sooner rather than later even for next holiday season. We’ll keep you posted as this situation continues to change.
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What do you think is driving the availability issue at Walt Disney World? Do you think pent-up demand is 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? How do you expect the hotel inventory problem to play out? 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!
I’m suprise Disney hotels are near capacity? We’ve stayed on property on everyone of our dozen plus trips. This will be our first off property (Marriott) for less tham POR. We were less than impressed on our last stay at Port Orleans. Pricing much higher, no longer able to use disney express. However the kicker was lack of maid service. For the price point they charge its a no Brainer. Our in rom trash pilled up and constantly calling for fresh towel is annoying, especially when comming back from the park late at night.
One night stay searches are coming up for me. But every single resort is sold out December 1&2.
Anything even with those dates included is sold out.
What is going on those days?
I might be wrong about this, but with the teardowns to get the space for the Riviera Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort now has 24 buildings that hold rooms, with 6 of them, a full quarter, located in Trinidad, the Pirate Rooms. Not all buildings might be equal at the CBR, but does this mean all of Trinidad is shutdown at the CBR? I remember seeing pirate detailing on the room numbers in Trinidad when we went to The Spyglass Grill in 2018, but is every room in Trinidad a pirate room? If so, with at least a quarter of the rooms closed at the CBR, that would explain a lot about the CBR being unavailable and would create a ripple effect that would impact other resorts. Or am I wrong?
Something’s not right. For kicks, I just tried to book a room at Old Key West for November, 2023 and got the same no availability. It makes no sense. It might be worth calling the hotel directly.
Totally thought you were saying Walmart and Target had rooms available at Flamingo crossing for a moment. Weirdly, that almost makes sense for places like Orlando (or Las Vegas). I just ended up booking a hotel in for January 7-14 but between RunDisney and President’s day I had to split-stay it. Starting at All-Star Sports and moving to Pop Century…should be fine, but it’s almost 200 a night for each in Jan 2023 when I paid 130 a night for Coronado springs in Feb 2021. I will miss those days for a long time, it looks like…
Hi I have reservations at French Quarter for Nov 9-16 2022. Needed 1 more room; called a month later and no rooms available. This is not a peak time – do you have any idea why? Please note I was told that many resorts are full. Thank you.
Something weird is going on at Pop Century the week of December 4-9 2022. There is nothing free. I even tried booking 1 night at a time to see if a random room would pop up. I can still get rooms the entire week of thanksgiving and christmas but no hope of booking any room December 4th through 9th on any single (or multiple) nights. Why would that hotel have zero availability in zero rooms on zero nights 6 months in advance? The only thing I can think is they have blocked off the hotel and the thing that makes me nervous is that this is the week of pop warner and they are supposed to be at universal. Are you seeing the same thing? Also, all standard rooms have been blocked off at one one the Stars for a good long while.
There’s a soccer tournament during this time. They’re running the men’s s first and then the women’s.
What is the resort reservation capacity at?
I know for a fact that the reason for “fully booked” rooms in the beginning week of June are due to the fact that WDW is hosting the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games-June 4-11. All participants and coaches will be staying at the All-Star Sports Resort and they have given discounts for all family and friends attending the games, which would account for blocking rooms.
Well it’s not a discount but I had a May 3-6 trip scheduled at All-Star sports which just got upgraded to a pool-view at Port Orleans Riverside due to ‘inventory issues.’ I booked at the previous AP rate, so it’s turning out to be a GREAT deal but it is interesting given what’s mentioned here…
Very nice–thanks for sharing!
I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a common thing. From what I can tell, Port Orleans is still operating way below capacity, even several months after reopening. This would also be history repeating itself, in a way, as All Star Movies was overbooked regularly last spring/summer, and many guests scored sweet upgrades out of that.
so frustrating has become staying at a disney resort. we had booked a week a PO riverside from march 3rd-10th but canceled due to travel restrictions for Canada. FFWD now with travel more relaxed, we decided to book again. well instead of 290$ per night, we’d have to fork out 530$ at art of animations as we are a party of 5 and port orleans is no longer available. With Genie and LL, our trip could cost us double. looking at staying offsite.
We just booked or early December 22. Should have our pick! Booked 6 nights POFQ with no trouble but too expensive at current rate so hoping for discounts. Meantime, Thought if no discount maybe book at Swan Dolphin for about the same cost..well no go ! First Sat in Dec has 0 availability for a standard room! I find it suspicious and likely they are not fully booking either
I still can’t figure out what’s going on other than they are not selling all rooms and I wish it would be clear when they plan to start selling more rooms again. We were just at POFQ and it was supposedly “sold out” for that night, however the resort was dead. There was barely any people around. We’ve been there before pre-pandemic when there was availability and it was teeming with people. So it’s seems clear they are capping for some reason, it’s just not clear whether that’s by choice or because they can’t get the staff. Universal doesn’t seem to be having the same problem…
It looks like they may have released MUCH more availability for early 2022. I had been trying to change our last day, 1 night, room only at Pop Century from a ‘pool view’ to a ‘standard view’ room for months. There was zero availability, even for a single night, never mind a longer stay. This article reminded me to check again and there is TONS of availability, across multiple hotels, including week long+ stays at Pop Century.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful and always helpful articles! I’ve been relying on your website to guide our family Disney trips for the last three years and you’ve never steered us wrong!
We are booked for a large take the grandparents trip in early February- we’ve been going to Disney Jan or feb for the last two years (guided by you!) and found the crowds and temps perfect for us. Our trip this year is booked- but already is a nightmare. No discounts as you already know, no dining plan which helps our young family but now even worse- we cannot get any of the dining we want!! Our travel agent started booking as soon as our window opened and we are completely shut out of most restaurant musts for our family- garden grille, topolino, coral reef– NOTHING! Not a reservation available at all!! I’m starting to really worry about this trip…. Our agent tells me that people are hoarding reservations–- booking multiple restaurants on the same day/time frame because they don’t want to commit to their park schedule yet with this totally unnecessary advance park reservation system still in place.
Our 5 year old looks forward to our annual Disney trip so it’s incredibly hard to cancel but I really want to cancel this trip!! Disney was our great family vacation just three years ago And now it’s just a nightmare- we are already disappointed by the way the trip is working out and we aren’t even close to our arrivals date!! And on top of it, now I’m terrified of potential crowds!
Of course emails to Disney on these issues have gone completely unanswered. Sigh- where did the magic go?!?
Nicole- I know it doesn’t help for planning purposes, but ask your travel agent to sign up for alerts for dining when it becomes available. (There are several companies that provide this service and most travel agents already pay for a subscription)
Also, we’ve found on several occasions that dining becomes wide open the day or two before we want to go due to people cancelling within the 24 hr window before they are charged. Again, not helpful with planning, but may give you hope that it’s possible to snag the reservation… you just have to keep trying up until the last minute unfortunately.
December 11, 2021
Today won’t be a 3/10—it’ll be an 7/10 or higher. (My guess is around 8.5/10, but it’s still early.)”
Touring Plans predicted a 3/10, as I mentioned, and their final call today is that it a 4/10? Or are you saying you’re rating it on your own criteria on a different scale?
This week we’re on the WL boat at about 7.45 and 8.15pm. Entire sections of the Contemporary garden wings looked completely empty. No lights on at all, all window coverings drawn exactly the same position. I think “open” resorts still are only partially open.
I tried booking two nights in a value resort for early September, but the only thing available were deluxe resorts. When expanded to four nights, intermediate resorts were available.. When expanded to five nights, the value resorts were available too. So the issue wasn’t staff availability, it was simply money per guest. We debated on making a five night reservation and then cancelling three nights, but decided to visit Kennedy Space Center instead.
I don’t know if that is the case now, but it might be worth a try if you want a value or intermediate resort.
You’re most likely correct about the staffing shortages at the resorts. We’re booked for the week of Jan. 24 and tried to move our booking to Jan. 31, but not many options available. These weeks have the lowest crowds of the season, with some parks at level 2. Yet hotels are “full.” Something is amiss.
We were there Sat thru Wed before Thanksgiving. AoA was shown as sold out, but the parking lot remained half empty, the food court was deserted at times it was busy on previous visits during low crowd times. The parking lots at other resorts were also less occupied.