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!