Saving Money on Lodging at Walt Disney World – Updated

Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge

We are always looking to save money when visiting Walt Disney World.  One of the primary expenses to consider when planning your trip is lodging.  Any money saved on lodging can be directed to other expenses or set aside to upgrade your lodging on a future trip.  Here are various options for getting your lodging costs down:

Discount packages

Disney will often discount the “rack rate” of the rooms at different times of the year.  “Rack rate” is the published price of a hotel room.  The rate will change throughout the year based on what Disney perceives the demand will be.  The perceived demand often doesn’t match the actual demand, so Disney will offer limited discounts to the rack rate.  These discounts will be offered to annual passholders, Disney Visa Card holders, and/or to the general public.  These will sometimes be detailed on the Disney web site.  We always look at our favorite website, MouseSavers, to see what is available.  Any reputable Disney Travel Agent should also look for and apply any available travel discounts to your reservation. We recommend Michelle McKnight – affiliated with MEI Travel and Mouse Fan Travel..

Value resorts

Pop Century Pool
Pop Century Pool

Disney offers a number of onsite properties that are fantastic places to stay, especially if you won’t be spending much time in the room.  The key draw in going to Walt Disney World is the wide variety of activities outside of your hotel room.  We have stayed at many of the Disney value resorts, including Pop Century, All-Star Music, and All-Star Movies.  We haven’t stayed at All-Star Sports or the Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms, but have walked through those properties several times.  The rooms are clean, and the resorts have great themes for families.  The rooms are a bit on the small side, but we didn’t consider this a major issue since we really only spent time sleeping in them.  We enjoyed the pools and amenities at those resorts just as much as we have at more expensive resorts.

DVC Rentals

The Disney Vacation Club (the alleged “best kept secret” at Disney World) is Disney’s answer to the traditional timeshare.  However, DVC works a little differently than the traditional timeshare; instead of buying a specific week, you purchase a number of points per year at a home resort.  Disney publishes a list of charts each year that detail how many points each DVC resort will cost to stay at depending on the type of room and the “season.”  The DVC owner can make reservations 11 months in advance for their home resort and 7 months in advance for any other DVC resort.

DVC owners have a limited window in which to use their points.  When owners are unable to use their points, they may rent them out to other people.  This gives you an opportunity to stay at a DVC resort without being a member.  There are many ways to connect with a DVC owner to rent their points.  We have used David’s Vacation Club Rental to rent a room at Disney’s Old Key West (OKW) Resort.

Why would you choose to do this?  You can save a great deal of money and get a great room.  We got a huge studio room at OKW for 12 days for only $200 more than we would have paid to stay at Pop Century.  OKW gave us two queen beds vs. two double beds, plus a larger room with a mini-kitchen (sink, microwave, coffee maker, fridge, and plates).

Studio at Old Key West
Studio at Old Key West

What are you giving up by doing this?  You lose some some control over the reservation, since you will have to get the DVC owner to add Disney’s Magical Express transportation or the Disney Dining Plan.  You can’t take advantage of any discounts or packages (including free Disney Dining).  You have to trust the owner to make the reservation for you and not cancel it.  This is the reason we went with David’s Vacation Club Rental, as they guarantee your transaction.  It does cost a bit more than if you found an available DVC rental on a message board, but your risk is greatly reduced.

We also used DVC rental for a trip to Aulani in Hawaii.  If we had booked the room through Disney, the room would have cost $4800.  Instead, we booked it through David’s Vacation Club Rental at a cost of $2800.

Studio Pool View at Aulani
Studio Pool View at Aulani
Our View At Aulani
Our View At Aulani

Nearby Hotels

There are thousands of hotel rooms in the greater Orlando area, ranging from economy to luxurious (I’m looking at you Four Seasons). Picking one to stay at depends on a multitude of factors, including cost, location, any hotel affiliation programs you have, and/or amenities of the hotel.  We like to use hotel points that we earn through credit card signup bonuses, especially Hilton points.  We have spent over twenty nights total at a Hampton Inn just outside the gate, as well as a Hilton Garden Inn near Sea World, and didn’t spent any money to do so.  Each stay was completely covered through the use of Hilton Honors points.

We also have upcoming stays at the Dolphin covered as well thanks to a collection of Starwood Preferred Guest points.  The Dolphin is located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios and receives many of the same perks as staying on property! 

Ultimately, your best lodging choice depends on what makes sense to you as a family.  Feel free to share your best ideas for saving on lodging costs in the comments!

 

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