The Deal Mommy

How to Save on Disney World Resorts: It’s NOT the Way You Think

With over 10 trips to Disney World in the last three years I’ve become an expert at how to save on Disney World resorts.  I’ve shared whether to book Disney World resorts on or off site and let you know which Disney World hotels I don’t recommend but realized we never talked about the actual booking process. Booking Disney World hotels is a very different process than what most of us are used to- and the best way to book Disney World hotels is not the same as the best way to book almost any other hotel you book.

How is Disney World Hotel Different?

With most of our hotel bookings we want to earn points or stay credit. With rare exception (such as American Express FHR) this means you have to book through the hotel site directly if you want to guarantee the hotel will honor your status and award points.  Most hotel chains will not honor 3rd party booking site reservations (like Orbitz, hotels.com, etc.)  for points promotions. You might get lucky from time to time but can’t count on it.

Booking a Disney World hotel is more like booking an airline ticket-  you can book a Disney hotel at any site and just input your reservation number into their system to get the benefits. Disney treats 3rd party booking sites like any other travel agent.  You’ll still get extra magic hours, still get to use the magical express, still get the magic band with your room key and tickets attached. You’ll also still get extra 30 days with to book your fastpass- which can be the difference between walking onto the Mine Train or waiting two hours in line.

Why Shouldn’t You Book Directly with Disney?

  • Prices at 3rd party sites and Disney are usually identical, even with Disney promotions.  Disney shares promotions with the big sites the same way they share them with travel agents.  You might not see packages with tickets or meal plans, but those programs generally aren’t great deals. For straight room bookings the prices on 3rd party sites are competitive- and in some cases less than Disney’s site. I’ve even seen prices lower than targeted Disney promotions on Orbitz.
  • 3rd party sites offer coupons and loyalty programs that Disney doesn’t.  Orbitz has both the Orbitz Rewards program which earns 2-5% back for future bookings and frequent coupon codes for 10-20% off. Hotels.com offers a rewards program that offers a free night after 10 at any hotel. You can also use any rewards already earned towards your Disney purchase.
  • 3rd party sites offer cash back and miles portals for double dipping. Disney doesn’t show up on Ebates or other portals, but most 3rd party sites do.
  • 3rd party sites offer best rate guarantees. Disney doesn’t.

A real life example on how to save on Disney World Resorts

I’ll be at Disney World for Traveling Mom and then for FT4RL in April.  Here’s what April 20th looks like at the Caribbean Beach Resort, a hotel in my recommended mid-level category, for 4/20/16 including tax in a standard room with free cancellation:

  • Disney.com: $181.42  using “Spring Offer”. Pool view, no standard available on this promo.
  • Disney.com: $161.17 using “revisit and save” targeted email promo code for standard room.
  • Hotels.com: $161.33, earning 1/10 free room in rewards and $4.84 on Ebates, net $156.49
  • Orbitz: $141.10 using 15% off promo code, earning $4.86 Orbucks and $2.44 on Ebates, net $133.90

How to connect a 3rd party reservation to your Disney account

You connect your Disney reservation just like you would an airline booking: the 3rd party site will send you a six digit “hotel confirmation number” that looks like a PNR record locator from an airline.  To link it to Disney you just create a My Disney Experience  account. You’ll see a “link your reservation” option where you input your confirmation number.  Once it’s in you can buy and link tickets, make dining reservations, and complete your trip just as if you’d reserved it through Disney’s own site.

It’s still best to check with Disney first

If you’re a Florida resident, member of the military, or annual pass holder/DVC owner you’re going to get special rates that may beat the 3rd party sites. You might also get lucky and get the mother of all targeted email codes. Once you’ve visited a Disney hotel you’ll get special offers emailed to you at least quarterly.  DON’T DELETE THEM until you’ve compared the rates as occasionally Disney REALLY wants you back and will throw out a crazy low price. Another option is to stock up on discount Disney gift cards as they can be used to pay for the room if you book through Disney.  Most times, however, you’re going to do better with a 3rd party site.

I’d be remiss not to remind you to check out resident Disney expert Haley’s presentation on Disney World hacks for more tips and tricks. I’m also purposely leaving out renting DVC points . While it’s a useful option, you can’t cancel once you’ve bought the points- risky unless your plans are set in stone.

Wanna learn more Disney World Hacks? Check out my eBook! 

What’s your experience booking Disney World hotel rooms through 3rd party sites? Do you agree with me or have I missed anything? Do you have a favorite 3rd party site? (Mine is Orbitz.)  Please share your thoughts in the comments.

The Deal Mommy is a proud member of the Saverocity network.

How to save on Disney World Resorts: it's not the way you think!

 

 


22 thoughts on “How to Save on Disney World Resorts: It’s NOT the Way You Think

  1. Shannon

    I agree in Orbitz. That’s how I book all my Disney onsite stays. It’s always cheaper. Headed to CB this weekend for a weekend getaway. Love having 2 SW companion passes. Bring on the sun!

  2. Jamie

    When I was booking our trip, which we just came back from, Orbitz was always the most expensive of the OTAs. It was kinda weird. They all had the same Disney 25% off promo, but orbitz was consistently $15 higher per night than hotels.com and Expedia. So, I booked through hotels.com.

  3. disneymom

    Just wondering anyone’s thoughts. I booked a Disney stay through hotels.com, but only received their confirmation # vs. the Disney confirmation #. Is there anyway to get the Disney one so I can link it to MDE?

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Yes. Call Disney with your name and dates and they’ll be able to pull it up for you. Funny, tho, because when I book with Orbitz I get both numbers in the online itinerary.

      1. Jamie

        I had to call when I used hotels.com too. Also, my first name and last name were switched, so it took a very long time to find my reservation. Not sure if that was my error or a system glitch.

  4. Megan

    When will I be able to book on orbitz? I am planning a Disney World trip for September 2017 and want to stay at CBR and it says there are currently no rooms available at any Disney resort. Do they release rooms closer to the date (like a year or less out?) Thanks!

      1. Tara Boyd

        I have been trying to book a Disney hotel for this coming January 2017 on Orbitz or Hotels.com. To date there are still no Walt Disney World resorts listed for all of 2017. I have contacted Hotels.com and they really did not have any information to provide other then no rooms have been released yet. It is only 4 months out so it seems strange that none are listed.
        Do you have any information on this? Do you think Disney has stopped releasing rooms to third party sites?
        I have Hotels.com several times in the past for Disney resorts and have always booked several months to a year out.

        1. thedealmommy Post author

          I don’t know about hotels.com but just booked a room on Orbitz a month out. Are rooms available there or on Disney sites?

          1. Tara Boyd

            All through 2016, shows rooms on both sites. However, nothing starting with 2017.
            Yes, Disney shows rooms available at all their resorts.

          2. thedealmommy Post author

            Interesting. Disney lets you cancel up to 5 days out for full refund, so I would just book what you want there and rebook once rooms show up.

        2. Amber Prater

          Im having the same problem.. Going in January 2017-Feb. I have always used Hotels.com. I use rewards nights. When i did this last year. Jan Dates were available like in July. I check every day and still have the same problem. Kind of freaking out a bit!

          Hope they become available soon!!!!!

  5. Rebecca

    Did anyone find out any more information on the third party sales of Disney hotel stays. I also use the hotels.com-Expedia point system and cannot find any hotels at Disney into 2017. (Except Swan and Dolphin). Seems like they may not be working together right now?

  6. Will

    Something has definitely changed with Orbitz. I have used them for the past few years to get best prices on Disney hotels, but since summer, I haven’t been able to find hardly any rooms available. Could be coincidence but since the website changed to match the other Expedia web sites, that is when I stopped finding rooms. Hopefully it’s only temporary and things will pick up again in 2017.

  7. Sara

    Looking at booking during the end of November (when the free dining promo is going on). Almost all of the “standard” free dining rooms are gone, in the deluxe hotels anyway, unless you want to spend $10,000 for one room for 5 nights in the VIP club level. So I check expedia and there’s all kinds of availability showing there. I’m just wondering if I book there is there anyway Disney would add on the free dining???? I’m sure not, but it’s worth a shot right??

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Doubtful. The rooms that are on Expedia are likely discounted. Free dining only goes with the full retail rate. You can try (and I encourage you to report back) but would make sure to book a refundable rate if you’re set on free dining.

      (That said, are you sure free dining is a great deal for your family? Please be sure to do the actual math based on how much you would eat without the plan. Most people don’t eat nearly that much and are scrambling the last day to spend credits.)

      1. Sara

        Thank you for the response. Yes I’m not really sure if free dining would be the best deal. I’ve tried pricing it with paying for a meal plan as well and my brain is just fried from looking at all of these numbers lol! My parents are paying for the trip (my family, and my brothers family and them) and they were set on the free dining plan because they have always gotten it before. I have not been to Disney myself in over 15 years so I have no idea on the food prices, etc. But, I’m researching! Thank you!

        I’m wondering now if I could add on a dining plan through Disney if I do book through Expedia. I’m going to call them. I wish they just price matched lol!

          1. Rena

            I know this is months later but I wanted to response for anyone else who may be wondering. You can not add on dining plans if you book through 3rd party sites. I just got a response back from Disney about it.

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