With a bit of homework, research, and one very helpful browser extension, it’s possible to successfully “guess” which Walt Disney World resort hotels are available via Priceline Express Deals. These are deep discounts of up to 60% off, not just money-saving tips that might amount to a “deal” of 10-15% off a room-only rate. We’re talking $60/night for Values, ~$100/night for Moderates, and under $200/night for some Deluxe Resorts.
May 15, 2019 Update: After a couple months of very limited availability at Walt Disney World, we’re once again starting to see some signs of life on the Priceline front. Value Resorts have started to pop up for late May and early June, ranging from $70 to over $100 per night. Not exactly great pricing, but it’s a start.
On the plus side, the Swan & Dolphin have appeared for May and early June 2019 for as low as $92/night. Other dates are also hovering just above $100/night. This is a great rate for a Deluxe-caliber resort within walking distance of both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Third party Bonnet Creek and Disney Springs hotels are also showing up at competitive prices. We’re optimistic better deals will start appearing for June 2019 and beyond…
The simple explanation for our optimism is that Summer 2019 resort bookings remain somewhat soft, even after Walt Disney World has released a litany of discounts. Many tourists made their vacation plans months ago, with October and beyond being the months were occupancy is through the roof.
We’ve noted this elsewhere on the blog, but June through August should be something of a “pre-Star Wars Slump.” This is already evident via discounts, and we’d expect it to become even more apparent as inventory starts to be released on Priceline. If you’re thinking about a summer Walt Disney World trip and are comfortable booking only 3-4 weeks in advance, we’d absolutely recommend rolling the dice and waiting. We’re expecting solid deals, and we’ll keep an eye on Priceline and update this section of the post as more hotel deals are released…
With the reward of substantial savings comes risk. Priceline Express Deals is a “blind” booking site, meaning the hotel name is not revealed before you book and pay for your non-refundable hotel. Even with tools that narrow down or purport to reveal the name of the hotel you’re booking before you commit, there are no guarantees. You’re locked in before knowing the hotel’s name definitively, and there are no refunds or date-changes.
Another drawback is that these deals are mostly last-minute. I’m not entirely sure when Walt Disney World hotels are added to Priceline’s Express Deals, but it’s normally around a month or so prior to travel dates, sometimes a bit longer. This means you’re pretty much guaranteed no Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Avatar Flight of Passage, Slinky Dog Dash, or Frozen Ever After FastPass+ availability (of course, day-of refreshing can work magic there).
Finally and along those lines, Priceline Express Deals are offered to fill unsold rooms. If you’re trying to book a Christmas stay or a full week during mid-October, you’re unlikely to have success. You’ll have a tough time finding good rates for multi-night stays during peak tourist seasons; the best options tend to be short, weeknight stays in the off-season.
It should also be noted that the ‘hacks’ for revealing hotels are constantly in flux. Internet deal spotters have been great in helping to uncover which hotel corresponds with which amenity sets and descriptions. Unfortunately, Priceline (and other bulk wholesaler sites) are always one step behind, meaning that successful strategy for uncovering a deal might work one day and stop working the next.
To illustrate both these points, we saw a ton of different options back in July when we were booking our late August/early September stays, and it was pretty simple to pinpoint the hotel you’d be booking with complete certainty. We used Priceline Express Deals a few times, and it was a breeze.
When I first sat down to write this article, I could find next to no availability for multi-night Walt Disney World hotel stays in October. Not a huge surprise, as that’s the new peak season for Walt Disney World. Rather than just plowing forward and publishing without screenshots (a dangerous proposition since this is tricky and that’d likely lead to a ton more reader questions), I decided to wait.
We were pretty busy between Halloween and Thanksgiving (and had no need to book any rooms ourselves), so the draft of this post was placed on the back-burner. I decided to return to the topic over the weekend. And everything has changed. Well, not everything. But the incredibly helpful one-line descriptions that had been dead-giveaways have vanished, and Hotel Canary now seems much less reliable and unstable than it was before.
Rather than waiting a couple of weeks when January and February deals are likely to be more abundant, I’ve decided to just get this out there now. I’m guessing not many of you are looking for last-minute deals for the holidays (from what I’ve seen, the slow hotel season beginning in mid-January is not available quite yet), but for those who are, I’ve been surprised to see some Walt Disney World options available for Christmas week!
Priceline Express Deals really can be 60% off at Walt Disney World–that’s not just marketing fluff. In fact, for a few weeks around our stay at the Poly, during which we received a free upgrade to the King Kamehameha Club Level, the Polynesian was under $300/night via Priceline Express Deals…and the rack rate ‘value’ of our room was over $800/night. (Obviously, that’s an extreme example with tremendous luck involved, but even “just” 60% off is not uncommon.)
As of right now, the best options for narrowing hotel choices yourself is deselecting each “Neighborhood” except “Walt Disney World – Bonnet Creek” and “Walt Disney World – Disney Springs.” Every official Walt Disney World resort is located within those areas on the Priceline map.
Additionally, Walt Disney World hotels will have an amenity set of only Free Internet Access, Restaurant, and Swimming Pool. To my knowledge, this amenity set is a recent change (and inaccurate as compared to what WDW resorts actually offer).
In terms of star rating, Values are 3-star, Moderates are 3.5-star, and Deluxes are usually 4 or 4.5-star.
The big bummer is Priceline’s removal of the one-line descriptions, such as “enjoy jazzy evening entertainment at this well-designed resort” for Port Orleans French Quarter. This isn’t just a disappointment because I spent a ton of time researching and typing out these descriptions for every resort, but more so because these were the decisive ‘clue’ in determining which hotel you were booking. With the description, accuracy was 100%.
Now, the confidence rate is far lower. You’ll either have to be willing to roll the dice, or confer with reviews, rack rates, and other clues beyond just what Hotel Canary provides in conjunction with the amenity set and location. To be sure, accuracy is still pretty accurate, but for several hotels it’s no longer a sure thing.
With this long preface out of the way, let’s start booking…
Note that there are some recent reports of Hotel Canary not working, and this is reflected in recent negative reviews. Hotel Canary does still work–it just works differently than it used to. Rather than revealing hotels with a hover feature earlier in the booking process, you need to click all the way through to the hotel page’s booking screen. At that point, you’ll click the Hotel Canary button and a fly-out will offer hotel(s) predictions.
Here are some observations I’ve noticed while searching recently. First, all Moderate Resorts are pretty common, but Coronado Springs is the most prevalent, especially now that it’s no longer peak convention season. While prices fluctuate highly based upon season and occupancy rates, I’d say a “good” rate for a Moderate is $110/night or less.
Second, the Deluxe Resort you’ll see most frequently is Animal Kingdom Lodge, with rates in the neighborhood of $165-$225. Other Deluxe Resorts have appeared on Priceline Express Deals. I’ve seen almost every single one, including the Polynesian and Grand Floridian for travel dates this fall.
Third, Beach Club is appearing quite frequently via Hotel Canary as a possibility right now. Don’t get too excited about this, especially if you’re seeing ~$100/night prices, as it’s almost certainly not Beach Club. Good rates for the Deluxes via Priceline depend upon the hotel, but I’d say you’re looking at the $225-$275 range for Magic Kingdom or Epcot-area resorts.
Value Resorts also have appeared on Priceline Express Deals with some degree of regularity, but I’m not seeing much on that front right now. That could be because the Values are popular for Christmas travel dates? I’m not really sure. Irrespective of that, the All Stars appear most common, and we’ve seen them for under $60/night.
Overall, Priceline Express Deals is a great option for saving a lot of money on Walt Disney World hotels, but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s no longer the ‘sure thing’ that it once was, but with a bit of legwork, you can narrow down the possibilities and still have a high degree of certainty before booking. If you’re willing to gamble and don’t mind the possibility of getting a third party hotel like the Dolphin or Wyndham Bonnet Creek (both great options that are on par with Walt Disney World Deluxes), we’d highly recommend using Priceline Express Deals for savings that are far superior to room-only discounts directly from Disney.
Have you tried any of these hacks or tools to book blindly on Priceline Express Deals? Any other strategies you use? If you’ve used it, what’s the best rate you’ve scored? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? If you’ve yet to book, 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!