Room-Only Disney World Hotel Discounts
Walt Disney World has released a variety of room-only discounts through Summer & Fall 2018. Click here for current special offers, which can save up to 25% on rooms at select Disney resort hotels most nights now through October 7, 2018. In this post, we’ll weigh the pros & cons of room-only discounts, including how they stack up to Free Dining. (Last updated April 24, 2018.)
As always, the promotion is subject to availability and block-out dates, and discounts vary by resort. Unfortunately, room inventory for the last few room-only promos has been incredibly limited. We anticipate discounts for mid-October through late December 2018 to be released at some point in mid to late July. (We’ll alert newsletter subscribers as soon as details about the 2018 discount becomes available, so sign-up for it if you’d like to be notified.)
In this post, we take a look at why you might want to book a room-only discount (as compared to something like the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion), the pros & cons of doing a room-only discount at Walt Disney World, and details about taking advantage of this to save money on your Walt Disney World vacation…
When it comes to any Walt Disney World discount, “flexibility” is the name of the game. We would highly recommend trying multiple Walt Disney World hotels and/or doing flexible dates when searching if you’re trying to book this promotion yourself. Likewise, if you’re working with a travel agent, let them know if you’re flexible on travel dates or resort, because that can be the difference between paying rack rate and scoring a discount.
Now let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the room-only discount offer…
Why A Room-Only Discount?!
With Free Dining available for a number of the same dates as the room-only promotion, you might wonder why anyone would bother with the room-only discount. No, it’s not because we all stay at All-Star Sports and make twice-daily pilgrimages to the McDonald’s there for some hot McPick 2 action. (And even if I do, there’s nothing wrong with that!)
A lot of people, us included, love room-only discounts is because they are clean and easy, and allow us to take advantage of other money-saving strategies to save on dining, tickets, and other components of the vacation. We can dine much cheaper out of pocket than we can on the Disney Dining Plan, tickets are cheaper when not purchased through Disney, etc.
In our Is Free Dining Worth It? post, we compared some sample Free Dining packages to Room-Only discount offers, and the general conclusion was that Free Dining was usually a better deal, but not always. For families with kids, Free Dining is going to be a better deal most of the time, especially those of you with teenage “human garbage disposals” (as my mother would say).
However, there are plenty of examples where room-only discounts work out to be better, such as for a couple like us. Let’s say you’re going on your “Disneymoon” (Walt Disney World honeymoon, in Disnerdspeak. 😉 ) or want to be within stumblin’ distance of World Showcase during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.
Or, maybe you’re a beneficiary of the McDuck Clan Trust Fund and you want to TREAT YO SELF to Club Level at the Grand Floridian during the Christmas season. (I envision GF Club Level as a magical place where DJ Roombas dance around your feet, cleaning up broken coffee cups as you yell for “ANOTHER!” Also, in my imagination there are plush Catbuses to transport Club Level guests to Magic Kingdom in style. How else could anyone justify $700+/night for this?!)
In any of the above circumstances, 25% off the rack rate of the room is going be over $100/night, which is the magic number (in my opinion) for a party of 2 to choose a room-only discount over Free Dining. Yes, I realize the Disney Dining Plan costs ~$75 per adult per night–it’s not worth that much to me. I think the average guest is going to get about $50/night in value out of the Disney Dining Plan. Hence $100/night being the magic number. (Honestly, I’d be tempted to choose a room-only discount of $90/night over Free Dining…that’s a close call.)
In the extreme case of that Club Level Grand Floridian room, you’re looking at a minimum $200/night savings. (By the way, if any McDuck Clan Trust beneficiaries are reading this…can we be friends? I’d really love to ride a Catbus.) With the 25% discount, most people won’t save this much per night, but if the discount is 30% for Deluxes, an average nightly discount at Beach Club or Boardwalk could be around $150, which is not too shabby.
In actuality, the discount we typically receive is usually around 30-40%, or 5-15% higher than the general public offer. This is because we are either taking advantage of an Annual Passholder rate or PIN code (read more here about how to increase your odds of scoring a PIN/UOC for Walt Disney World better hotel discounts), which helps sway the room-only discount in our favor. This is probably a big reason why “regulars” are more inclined to favor room-only discounts…because we’re typically receiving slightly better discounts than the general public.
Still, even with the better discount rate, you usually need to be a party of 2, and looking at a higher tier than the Value Resorts for this to work in your favor. The downside to the room-only discounts is pretty evident once you move down in resort tiers or add additional people to the room. Whereas the Free Dining promotion gets sweeter as you add people to the room, a room-only discount is the same for parties of 1 or parties of 5.
For those of you who read the comments to the “Is Free Dining Worth It?” post and were puzzled by the range of responses, that’s why. There are a variety of different circumstances, and a party of 5 adults in a standard room at Caribbean Beach is hitting the Free Dining jackpot (the room is literally better than free using my $50 per adult Dining Plan valuation), but only eligible for a pretty insignificant room-only discount. This is why we stress doing the math for yourself–because there is no one ‘one size fits all’ answer to the question of which discount is “best.”
Overall, for many of us (and by many, I mean a small minority) the room-only discounts are the absolute best discount that Walt Disney World offers. Hopefully this post has helped explain that, and also provided some information so you can determine whether taking advantage of a room-only discount is right for you.
If you need help booking and taking advantage of the best Walt Disney World discounts and would like the assistance from a professional, click here to get a quote from a recommended, no-fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. They get their commission from Disney, so there is no charge to you for them to book your trip and help you plan!
Want to plan your Walt Disney World trip yourself? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you prefer room-only discounts? Have you received a PIN code within the last ~6 months? Are you a member of the McDuck Clan Trust? Any resort/discount combination preferences? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts or questions in the comments!
All of the holiday discounts are already gone before Thanksgiving. I had a placeholder reservation – I called and they said everything was gone.
I spoke with someone at Be Our Guest Vacations, and they told me that they are hearing the same from Cast Members for virtually ALL dates, not just before Thanksgiving.
My guess is that Disney will open up more availability for this promotion in a few days, so I’d keep an eye on it. The same thing happened during Free Dining this year…
Do you have any idea when the rates for 2017 are released? or the approximate time frame from past years? thank you!
We (my husband and I) prefer the room only discounts over free dining for many of the reasons you listed in your post. Because of our jobs (I’m a teacher) we can really only go in the summer when it’s crazy hot – and I still cannot wrap my head around how people can eat so much when it’s that hot out! We eat like chickens in steamy July – minus the ridiculous amount of sweets we can consume during a nighttime parade/fireworks show. For us, it would be a tragic loss of money to do the meal plan as much would go to waste – WAY too much food!
Just discovered your blog and reading obsessively while planning our trip next March from the UK to the Polynesian resort for a few nights (before moving to a villa off resort)
When would you recommend booking a hotel stay? We were planning on room only, travelling with 2 small children flights booked 🙂
For my wife and I, being a bit older with our children grown, the Room-only discounts fit us better. I remember when we first became power Disney visitors we use to each two TS meals a day……………….it became overwhelming on so many levels. I don’t know that we appreciated that until we tried the Disney Dining Plan…………….just way to much food for us. But its a calculation. You need to look at your circumstances and do the math………….I know people don’t like that about Disney, but given the money your spending………its a must in our opinion.
Hi Tom, I received a PIN in the mail yesterday, 5/7, for up to 30% off August-December, excluding Thanksgiving. I’ve never gotten a code for 35-40% off…maybe it’s based on travel frequency? We haven’t been since 2013.
I have received this same pin code and I have also never seen anything above a 30%.
Hi Tom. For the record, I wouldn’t be in a party of five adults staying in one room at the CB resort, even if it meant saving money. Too many people for one bathroom, too many pieces of luggage and clothing. Too messy. Too noisy. Just too too.
I will always take the room discount over free dining. When traveling to the World, we do so on two separate wallets (my BFF and myself). We’ve utilized free dining enough to know its not for us anymore. Too much pressure to order expensive entrees (and I do whether I want to or not). And then there’s the stuffing yourself with free food to the point of nausea. Yuck.
We keep notes of our trips, and found the room discount has saved us more $ than free dining. We also use Disney Rewards for meals. There were some trips where we didn’t spend a dime on food. I just returned yesterday from such a trip. “Free” dining and a room discount. It works for us.
Why is it that certain resorts get excluded from free dining/ discounts? Also does Disney own the Swan and Dolphin resort? Do they have special discounts they offer on their own?
Thank you, Tom, for the best explanation I’ve ever read on this topic! As someone who has traveled to WDW as a honeymooner, then with young kids, multi-generational trips, parents only getaways, and now with teens – I have used a variety of these strategies depending on the trip and who is going! I will be bookmarking this post and passing it along to those who ask, “we haven’t been to WDW in a while, what are the best housing/ticket/dining options for us?” Keep up the great work!
Family of 4 here, and we have found discount (whether direct or through agency/3rd party) always wins. With “free” dining we still have tips to pay for. Someone ends up sick/not wanting food. We aren’t hungry and just want to share food. Snack and counter service credits pile up and we go home with stuff we’d never have paid for… and we paid rack rate on the room! We wildly prefer the freedom of choice to eat (or not!) and let our appetites and usual habits take charge instead of trying to maximize credits.
On our past two trips (in April and May) there were room discounts available when we received our PIN, which we used, but no free dining offers. I assumed that the free dining was being limited to later in the year, as we had always had a choice of the two when receiving the offers in the mail prior to that. Do you know if free dining is indeed limited to certain times of the year? Or, perhaps we are only receiving the room discount offers because that is what we usually go for.
Hi. I believe less and less rooms are available for room discount too. I was on the phone early on April 25th, and there were no availabilities of rooms that accommodate 5 (CBR, POR) on moderate resorts for October. None. I’ve checked back several times since, and they told me there were very few rooms with the room discount, and the ones that were available were Pirate rooms or the suites at AoA or All stars. Does anyone know if it’s common for more rooms to be added later on, or should I just leave my reservation as is (full price). Thanks!
We’ve reserved a suite at AoA with our two teens for Dec 19-22, with the free dining upgraded to the standard dining plan for 3,700 and something. Would the room only discount be a better savings?
Could I still use a travel agent to book our dining and past passes without a package?
A bit off topic, but…
That bunny picture is the stuff nightmares are made of. It reminds me of an early 90’s issue of Country Living magazine.
I’ve only been inside the GF once, but I specifically remember thinking that bunny picture was especially bizarre.
My family has only used the room discount once, but we loved it! We stayed at the Wilderness Lodge during the Christmas season (per your recommendation). In order to get the discount, we had to upgrade to a bunk bed woods view, so the savings weren’t as much as we expected, but the extra space and quiet were a huge perk (later, Disney discounted our room even further due to hotel construction). To answer your other question, I received a PIN code just last week (April 27) for travel dates between late August through late December. Not sure if it is my occasional price-checking of potential trips on the website or because we vacationed in the World last December (side note: my husband and I made a cameo appearance in your Christmas e-book, which was so awesome to see!). While I have been getting the occasional PIN code prior to our trip, the frequency of PIN codes seems to have increased in the months since our trip.
We often do the room only discount at Wilderness Lodge in November or December the past few years. However, this year we were informed they are not doing any discounts there due to the limited number of rooms available ( in the main lodge) due to construction. Just thought I would let others know.
Do you mean specifically in November and December? Because I booked a Courtyard room with a 30% off discount for September on April 25th, and there was free dining available as well
What is amazing to me is that in over 20 years of going to Disney, and even after doing all that is suggested (requesting vacation DVD etc.), I have never been send a pin code. I’m wondering if it is because I always stay at the same moderate resort (CBR).
It could be because you’re too loyal and too consistent. Try requesting the planning DVD through an un-associated email address (not your My Disney Experience one), indicating that you plan on staying off-site, and using Mike instead of Michael (or vice-a-versa if you normally use Mike). Variations in your address (“street” instead of “st.”, etc.) might help, too.
We got a pin discount in the mail in February or so (it showed up the day after we bought our DLR tickets for our first ever trip in June ’16). We also recieved one in either November or December ’15. We’re DINKS, and just visited WDW for the first time for our anniversary in June ’15. We don’t have any extra Disney accounts besides MDE and what you need to book a trip through the website.
Interesting–thanks for the info!
Love the last pic. Those two framed pictures at the Grand Floridian have always been the topic of a lot of conversation within our family
Glad someone appreciated that, and didn’t think it was just a bizarre photo choice on my part. From my Grand Floridian Review:
“It could be argued that these are exactly the kind of dated decor you’d find on the pages of an issue of Country Living magazine, circa 1988. It could also be argued that the artist behind these masterpieces was a true visionary so far ahead of his time that his genius won’t be fully recognized until the year 2071. I mean, a fancy monkey posing on a classy foot stool? If that’s not my spirit animal, I don’t know what is.”
I think I’m going to make it my goal to take as many photos of these paintings as possible, and randomly toss them into future blog posts without explanation.
We are booked at the Poly (in the most basic room) in early November. We were hoping for a room only discount, since we prefer counter service in favor of more touring time, and don’t think the dining plan is for us. Unfortunately I didn’t know until late in the day that room only discounts were released when free dining was also released. I called as soon as I found out to try for the discount, but of course by that time, only club level discounts were left at the Poly, which is not an option for us! We only want to stay at the Poly – we’re not willing to switch resorts for this trip. Is it possible that they’d release more discounts? How would I know? Do I just need to log in and check their website every day? We were really hoping for that discount – I was so disappointed to find that I’d missed it! Thanks for your help – your blog has been a HUGE help as I’ve planned this trip and out previous one!!
First off, let me apologize for not having this info up sooner. I was informed the room-only discount would be available before it was released, but I didn’t realize it was a rumor worth posting, as I’ve *never* had any problem booking the room-only discount. In the past (in my experience at least), it’s always been available so long as the resort you want is not blocked out. (Maybe I’ve just been lucky?)
Part of the reason I did this post (in addition to the range of replies to the “Is Free Dining Worth It?” post) was because I just tried to book a room-only discount and had absolutely no luck at my first 3 choices.
In the future I’ll be as diligent about posting room-only discount updates and rumors as I am about Free Dining. I just haven’t done it in the past because I thought it was totally unnecessary. I guess the times they are a-changin’ when it comes to Walt Disney World discounts…
Tom – You don’t own this, so don’t feel the need to apologize. I’ve been planning this trip for a year and didn’t find out about the “room only” discount until the dust was settled, around 10am EST! I checked into Disney’s web site while I was on hold with them, but there was simply nothing available, it was that limited. I hope they will release additional discounts this fall but in case they don’t we’re planning on spending the exact days at Universal.
I just wanted to update – I’ve been checking for that discount each day on and off as I think of it, and just got it this morning! I don’t know if they made more available or if I just happened to get lucky, but either way, I saved $460 on our Poly reservation this morning! Yay! Thanks again, Tom!
Andrea, I would keep looking for availability for the discount. I am as well booked at Poly in December and wanted to get the free dining. For some reason it seems like there is very little availability for promos at the Poly but I have been checking a few random times a day since the release and I was finally able to score the free dining yesterday. I would suggest just keep checking.
Thanks so much, B! I’ll keep trying!