Walt Disney World uses refillable mugs in its resort hotels via a system called Rapid Fill, which provides unlimited refills…with some caveats. This Disney refillable mug guide answers whether Disney refillable mugs are worth the money, and addresses frequently asked questions about refillable mugs. We also cover some of the oddly-prevalent controversy surrounding the mugs.
As of 2018, Rapid Fill mugs cost $18.99 for your length of stay, or are included with the Disney Dining Plan. While prices haven’t been announced for 2019, you can expect it to increase to $19.99. The system is pretty simple: you buy the mug (or have it provided to you via the Disney Dining Plan) and then are entitled to unlimited refills at the Disney hotels for the duration of your stay. With some exceptions.
Despite it being a seemingly straightforward topic, there are few topics that elicit as much discussion and impassioned debate as the refillable mugs. This article will take a examine the ethical and economical quandaries of the refillable mugs, look at the Rapid Fill system, and answer some frequently asked questions about the mugs.
Basically, this will be “More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Refillable Mugs.” (Our next article will be an in-depth piece titled, “Using the Handwashing Apparatuses in Restrooms: An Essay.”) To compensate for the lengthy article about a relatively mundane topic, we’re striking a goofy-while-informative tone with this post.
We’re actually huge fans and collectors of older refillable mugs, and this post also gave us an excuse to bust out some of our favorite mugs for a photoshoot. (Thanks to Henry from Country Bear Jamboree and Duffy for their excellent work as models!) As for the substance of this post, we’ll start with the FAQ and finish with the lesson in ethics…
What is a refillable mug?
Beyond the obvious, this is a mug (see photos throughout this article) that can be purchased for a flat fee and refilled at designated counter service locations at Walt Disney World resort hotels. Current policy states that the mug is valid for unlimited refills for the duration of the trip during which the mug was purchased.
Note that refillable mugs may not be used intheme park restaurants, water parks, Disney Springs, or any other location that is not a Disney-owned hotel.
What can you put in the mug?
Bottomless margaritas! Just kidding…a cup like that would probably cost $2,754.99 at Walt Disney World. Coke products are available, as are hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. Milk is not available, nor are real juices.
How much do they hold?
Our mugs have “16” stamped on the bottom, which I believe indicates how many ounces the cups can hold. In actuality, they can hold about one can of soda. Pretty low capacity.
Can I take them with me to the parks and refill them there?
The answer to the first part of the question is yes, you can take them to the parks. The second part of the question has already been answered above–no, you can’t refill them there. Despite this, we see people on a daily basis leaving the hotel with their refillable mugs. This is probably partly because they don’t know the rules and partly because the refill stations at many hotels are “on the way” to the bus stop, making it easy to grab a drink for the ride.
This doesn’t make much sense to me. Don’t sacrifice the short term joy of having a Coke to start out your day for the long term pain of having to lug the thing around all day. There’s nothing fun about that, and the mug literally serves no benefit in the park. You’re much better off bringing a collapsible water bottle or asking for free cups of water from counter service restaurants if you are looking for a “convenient” way to store water while in the parks.
When I bought my mug, I was told it was good forever…is that not true?
Depends upon who told you. If it was a Cast Member (or it was printed on a sign near the mugs) and you relied on this information when making your purchase, forever is forever. If it was some random creeper standing next to the pile of mugs at Dixie Landings, your argument holds less water than one of these mugs.
The current policy on the mugs being valid only for the length of stay is irrelevant, as one party to a contract cannot unilaterally alter its terms after the fact without new consideration. As Walt Disney World now uses the Rapid Fill system, these older “forever” mugs are something Walt Disney World management will have to address. Chances are, they won’t, though.
If no such policy was in place when you purchased your mug and you just feel like using the mug forever because no one can stop you and you think Disney is overpriced as it is…see the “Ethics” section below.
What if I’m staying at multiple resort hotels during my trip?
We’ve never had an issue using our mug at multiple resorts during a split stay when purchasing for our length of stay, but you might want to tell the Cast Member your final checkout date when purchasing the mug. If you run into issues at your second (or third) resort, someone can always fix it for you.
Where are the mugs available?
They’re available at the food court and/or gift shop at every Disney-owned hotel at Walt Disney World. They aren’t available at Shades of Green, the Swan, the Dolphin, third-part Disney Springs area hotels, or that random shady motel you found for $35/night up I-Drive.
Are the mugs microwavable?
I have no idea why this is such a common question (Americans love to microwave stuff?), but it is. According to Google, they are BOTH microwave and dishwasher safe. So party down! Woo hoo!!!
However, please keep in mind that Rapid Fill mugs have RFID chips in them (more on this below) and microwaving them might have negative consequences, so don’t go wild microwaving your cup during your trip. Wait until you get home. Then you can microwave that sucker for hours on end.
What is Rapid Fill?
Rapid Fill is the RFID-based refillable mug program at Walt Disney World that ensures that guests have “valid” refillable mugs before allowing the refill. If you’ve been to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach in the last few years, you’ve probably seen something similar to this system in action.
Basically, it’s technology to ensure that your cup is valid before beverage is dispensed. How much technology is too much technology for a soda machine? Well, “Rapid Fill” might be the answer to that question…
How does Rapid Fill work?
Magic. If that’s not a good enough answer, when you set your cup down on the stand below the soda dispenser, some sort of RFID-science senses that it’s there, and is valid. At that time, you can begin dispensing your soda. If you do something wrong, it won’t dispense, and maybe (or maybe not) the Rapid Fill LCD screen will tell you what’s wrong.
As we said in the last answer, a bit too much tech for a soda fountain…
How much filling is too rapid under Rapid Fill?
That might seem like nonsense, but if you’re trying to fill your cup too rapidly, Rapid Fill won’t allow you to fill your cup. You have to wait 2 minutes between each full refill. This is to prevent groups from sharing a single Rapid Fill mug: getting one drink for one person, pouring it into another cup, then quickly getting another, and so on.
Is Walt Disney World still using Rapid Fill?
Rumors have started to surface of hotel managers turning off the Rapid Fill system at various hotels. At present this is neither widespread at all hotels or even a majority of them. If Rapid Fill is turned off when you visit, the mugs still work–the RFID chip just isn’t being read.
Apparently, Rapid Fill was viewed as too much of a hassle (having used this system ourselves on a few occasions, we wholeheartedly agree) and theft was still occurring, it was just more expensive drinks like hot chocolate being stolen instead of soda, as the Rapid Fill system didn’t monitor those dispensers. (Gotta love the resourcefulness of soda thieves!) Time will tell if this is/was a temporary thing or not. It seems unlikely that individual hotel managers could opt out of the program, and equally unlikely that Disney would revert to the old system less than a year after rolling out the new one, but who knows.
Is the RFID chip in the Rapid Fill mug microwavable?
That’s a good question. We haven’t gotten around to doing comprehensive testing on the consequences of microwaving RFID chips, but we’re betting they don’t work after being microwaved. So that’s a bummer for all you microwave aficionados out there. Honestly, though, who wants to live in a world where you can’t microwave your Disney cup? It’ll only fry the RFID chip, and you won’t need that chip once you get home from your vacation (when I assume you’ll be doing the bulk of your microwaving activities…unless you really need to get your microwaving fix on vacation) so I say MICROWAVE AWAY!
I think one of the big reasons why these mugs have so many “ethical dilemmas” associated with them is because people realize they are not a good value, and because of that, people want to “force” more bang for their buck.
Keeping in mind that these mugs cost about $20 after tax (for an average vacation) and a regular sized soda at Walt Disney World is about $3, you’d have to purchase over 6 drinks on separate occasions (since you can refill the paper cup on the same visit) at your hotel to “break even.” To reiterate, this is just drinks at your hotel.
Since we don’t recommend taking the refillable mug to the park with you (something you can do with a paper cup since you can throw it away when you’re done with it), this means getting up early 6 days of your trip and filling your mug up and taking it back to your room, or using the mug at the pool, etc. Five or six days of use may not seem like much, but in practice, for a lot of people it is.
There’s also the argument that the refillable mugs have value as a souvenir, but I can’t imagine that this is the souvenir many people would buy if given the choice. The mugs aren’t that cool.
If you’re really into saving, the most economical thing to do is buy a few two liters of soda and call it a day. Even at a high price of $2 per bottle, a two liter is a much better value than the refillable mug. There are approximately 4.2 “mugs’ worth” of soda in each two liter.
You could buy ~40 “mugs’ worth” of soda via two liters for the same price as one single refillable mug. Unless you like to seriously tweak on caffeine, chances are that you won’t be drinking 40 refillable mugs of soda on your vacation. Of course, bringing or buying two liters isn’t as convenient as buying the mugs, but still…
Ethics is the area of philosophy concerning the moral concepts of right and wrong. I took a number of classes on ethics in college, and I can’t really say I view refillable mugs as an interesting area of ethics. The “ethical” debate surrounding refillable mugs is essentially whether it’s morally okay to bring back your refillable mugs from past trips to reuse on subsequent trips despite Disney’s stated policy that the mugs are valid for the length of your stay.
Someone with a serious interest in ethics might look at the refillable mugs debate as an interesting case study in the field, but I am not that person (true ethical concepts are nuanced, subjective, and not nearly as cut and dry as either side of this little online spat would like to think them). Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t really care what people do with their refillable mugs.
There are a lot of problems in the world, and I don’t see Disney’s insignificant lost revenue on soda via this loophole as something that is in any way worth my attention as a third party who has no vested interest in the situation. Disney could have easily closed years ago if it so chose–and did briefly with the fully-enabled Rapid Fill system, but they’ve since rolled that back. It’s not even a blip on my radar. It’s more interesting to me that people get so worked up over something in which they have no vested interest (besides the Disney stockholders out there who might be losing $.000001 per year as a result of the aggregate of the lost soda revenue).
Feel free to argue amongst yourselves about this incredibly significant moral issue in the comments if you feel so inclined. Remember to stand firm in your convictions: either re-using refillable mugs makes someone on par with a bank robber or it makes them the Robin Hood of soda. There is no place for cool heads in this discussion. Use outlandish analogies! Personally attack your opponents! Make ridiculous assumptions! Disregard logic! Condescend as much as possible! 😉
What do you think about Disney’s current refillable mug system? What about Rapid Fill? Do you think these refillable mugs are “worth it” to purchase out of pocket? Any remaining questions about how refillable mugs work at Walt Disney World? Share your thoughts in the comments…but if you do go down the ethical road, please keep it civil.