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Practical tips for Walt Disney World travel
|All About Room Rates|
How much do room rates differ, and what should you be aware of when making your reservations? This session explains the mysteries of room rates, and the different avenues you can explore when trying to get the best value for your money.
For a long time, the Walt Disney World (WDW) resort used three basic seasonal terms for room rates: Holiday season, Regular season, and Value season. Each term clearly alludes to the type of volume the WDW resort experienced for that particular time of year. Each season brought with it a range of "rack rates" for rooms in every WDW resort hotel -- those rates you were given when you asked for a room at the counter, without any reservations or discounts.
Holiday season included those high- volume weeks of Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, summer, and of course, college Spring break. High volume also means high room rates -- the highest of the year. Finding discount rates at these times was next to impossible.
Regular season was made up of those weeks during the year when resort rooms were historically booked at a steady place. These periods were spread out during the year, with the largest period from May through August. Specials offering discounted rooms would appear periodically during Regular season, much more than in Holiday season but not as much as Value season.
Value Season was another name for "slow season," often found from early January to mid February, a few weeks in March and April, and mid- August until Thanksgiving week. Vacationers looking for bargains would find them during these times of the year. In many cases the rates were so good that many would-be vacationers did not need to hunt for discounts.
Don't Buy Off the Rack
When you first inquire about room rates at WDW resort hotels, you get the going rack rates for that time of year. Treat this as a starting point. Rack rates are most likely the highest rates at that time for the room you want to reserve. But since you want the lowest rates, don't settle for the rack rates but instead use that rate as a ceiling for what you will pay for your room.
Do You Need a Room with a View?
Every WDW resort offers a selection of rooms that range in price, based the location and the number of guests a room can accommodate. Location means view. WDW resort hotels use such terms as parking lot view, garden view, courtyard view and pool view to distinguish different values applied to those rooms.
For example, you want to reserve a room at the Caribbean Beach Resort for August 2001, and you have a choice of either Water view or Standard View. Is there a difference? Well, the Water view room gives you the opportunity to look out your window and see the Caribbean Beach lagoon or one of the pools at the resort. The room with the standard view probably overlooks a parking lot. Are there other differences? Yes.
The Standard View costs you $149 per night, or close to $165 with tax. The Water view, on the other hand, costs you $164 per night, or close to $185 with tax
How much time do you need to spend in your room looking at an artificial pond or lake? How many hours during the day do you plan to be in your room, awake, and looking out the window? I'm guessing not enough to make it worth an extra $17 a night or $119 for the week. But this is your choice.
The point is that if you have a choice between rooms, understand that with this choice comes a price differential.
Watch out for Packages
Vacation packages may be very convenient for some vacationers, but convenience can be costly. Vacation packages can sometimes include activities that you may never use, such as tennis, horseback riding, or a water option even though you may not ever use them. This artificially increases the nightly room rate.
If you prefer the convenience of a package, ask for details on all the package options so you get a good idea as to what each option is costing you. Otherwise, go a la carte and get the best room rate possible.
There are several ways to get a WDW resort room at less than the advertised rack rate.
Do Your Research
Before booking your room, do as much research as possible. If you are Disney Club member, call them up and ask them for information on club specials. Keep in mind that Disney Club discounts are for a limited block of rooms and that once they're gone, they're gone.
If you are not a Disney Club member, use AAA as a resource for seeking out discounts.
You can also use the Internet travel sites and chat rooms to look for information on room rates.
Talking with the CRO
When you call the Central Reservation Office, be prepared to let them know what you are looking for. You should know your dates of arrival and departure as well as the resort and the type of rate you are looking for. Some rates have special codes for them, which you should note the code when talking with Central Reservation Office representatives.
If you find a rate that you like and call up the Central Reservation Office, assume that you can get a better rate and make sure that you ask the Central Reservation Office representatives about any rates that they are aware of that may be better than the rate you have.
Always look for the best rate.
Split up Your Reservation
Here is a handy tip for those who find that their reservation falls right in the middle of a rate change. Currently, WDW policy states that your room rate is based on your first night. This means that if you make a 10-day reservation and an AP special starts on the sixth day, you do not automatically receive the AP special rate. WDW policies are always changing however, so you may want to check on present policies.
How to get around this? Break your reservation up into two separate reservations. The second half of your stay can be a second reservation using the AP special. Sometimes if the Central Reservation Office representative understands the reason for your actions, you may be given the AP rate for your entire stay. Again, policies are always changing so always check before you commit.
Next time: Admission Media Primer
Photos on this page by Brian Bennett unless otherwise noted
MousePlanet's WDW Trip Planning Guide Accommodations Index Page has links to information on all of the WDW resorts -- including links to many photo tours of the resorts! Each resort page has links to guest reviews, resort maps, and to book reservations though MousePlanet's travel partner TravelNow.
The WDW Resorts from A to Z page has a lot of information that is general to all Disney resorts, including the current "rack rate" room prices for each resort.
Here's a list of the trip reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!
Also, don't miss Lani Teshima's column, "The Trip Planner" for more travel planning information!
The first Disney trip report that I ever read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America Online travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of the Scopa family's trip to WDW in the summer of that year.
As soon as I was done reading it, I was hooked.
I picked my own brain and documented my own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in 1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)
In July 1996, I started my Disney trip planning Web site. Besides including my own reports, I asked for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly. In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier to sort through the reports that are available.
I still 'blame' Mike for hooking me on this Disney habit.
MousePlanet® is not associated in any official way with the Walt Disney Company, its subsidiaries, or its affiliates. The official Disney site is available at www.disney.com. This MousePlanet Web site provides independent news articles, commentary, editorials, reviews, and guides primarily about the theme park resorts of the Walt Disney Co. All information on this site is subject to change. Please call destinations in advance to confirm the most up-to-date information.