Walt Disney World Room Only Reservations vs. Vacation Packages
Not sure whether you want a Walt Disney World vacation package or if it would make more sense to book just a Disney World resort hotel room (also known as a “room only” reservation) and buy your tickets separately? This page explains the pros and cons of vacation packages vs. booking a room only reservation, including the cancellation policies for each type of reservation.
Buying a Disney World vacation package means you must purchase your hotel room and either dining or tickets or both for each person in the party directly from Disney, with those components priced and sold together as a “package.” Normal Disney vacation packages are not discounted; prices are more-or-less consistent with paying full price for the separate components. However, certain special offers such as “free dining” apply only to vacation packages.
- Click here to see any current Disney World package offers, but read the information below first so that you understand the rules that apply to packages.
Sometimes your most economical option is to book a room only reservation at the Walt Disney World resort of your choice (ideally with one of the discounts listed on this site) and buy the other components of your vacation (i.e. tickets and meals) separately. It’s more work than booking a package, however.
- Click here to see any current Disney World room only resort discounts.
To complicate matters, you can convert most room-only discounts into a package by purchasing tickets and/or a dining plan. We normally note this option when we list room only discounts. However, it’s important to remember that once your booking is converted to a package, it is subject to the package rules. The room only rules are much better than the package rules. Additionally, for most people it is not worthwhile to make a room-only offer into a package because you’re adding full-price tickets, when you could purchase them cheaper through an outside company such as Undercover Tourist. Also, for the average family the Dining Plans are not a particularly good deal.
- Rules for Disney World Room Only Reservations
- Rules for Disney World Vacation Packages
- Tips for Dealing with the Disney Reservations Center
Room only reservations offer better terms for cancellation and payment dates than vacation packages booked through the Walt Disney Travel Company (WDTC). When booking a room only reservation, you are subject to very few restrictions:
- Please note that these rules are changing for 2016. For stays that fall on or after 1/1/2016 (no matter when booked), the new 2016 rules will apply. Where they are different from the previous rules, they’re listed as “2016 rules: xxx.”
- You must pay the first night’s room rate as a deposit within 7 days of reserving your room (2016 rules: 3 days). (Except when booking online at DisneyWorld.com, in which case the deposit is required at time of booking.)
- Final payment of the remainder is due at check-in. (Except when booking online at DisneyWorld.com, in which case full payment is required if reserving within 45 days of arrival (2016 rules: 30 days).)
- You can change or cancel your reservation without penalty up until 5 days prior to check-in. (6 days for online bookings.)
- The cancellation penalty for cancelling less than 5 days from check-in is the first night’s room rate. A no-show is considered a cancellation and has the same penalty.
- Beware – Disney’s phone agents may try to sell you a “basic package” when you want to book a room only reservation. A “basic package” is just a room and some trinkets (a few coupons and a luggage tag per person). It is subject to the more stringent vacation package rules (see below).
- To reserve a Walt Disney World “room only” reservation, first check the online travel agencies to see if they have any specials or coupons that could save you extra money. Be sure to look carefully at the cancellation and deposit policies before booking. If you don’t see anything that works for you, you can contact a full-service travel agent who specializes in Disney travel, call the Disney Reservations Center at (407) W-DISNEY, or book online at DisneyWorld.com (bearing in mind the less-advantageous deposit/payment rules for online payment).
When booking a vacation package through the Walt Disney Travel Company (WDTC), the rules are listed below.
- Please note that these rules are changing for 2016 Magic Your Way packages. For stays that fall on or after 1/1/2016 (no matter when booked), the new 2016 rules will apply. Where they are different from the previous rules, they’re listed as “2016 rules: xxx.”
- You must pay a $200 deposit within 7 days of reserving your package (2016 rules: 3 days). (Except when booking online at DisneyWorld.com, in which case the deposit is required at time of booking.)
- Final payment of the entire remainder is due 45 days prior to check-in (2016 rules: 30 days). You have to pay in full right away if you are booking 45 days in advance or less (2016 rules: 30 days).
- You can change or cancel your reservation without penalty up until 45 days in advance (2016 rules: 31 days). Cancellations made 44 days (2016 rules: 30 days) to 2 days prior to arrival have a cancellation fee of $200 per package, but if reservations are cancelled 1 day prior to arrival or later, the full package price is non-refundable. You’ll also lose any nonrefundable elements, such as travel insurance and airfare — see below. No-shows will not receive a refund.
- After you’ve made final payment, any changes, such as applying a discount code, changing number of days and/or changing to a different resort, are subject to a $50 change fee and a $15 processing fee. Technically this is due whether the final cost is lower or higher, but if you’re changing to a higher-priced package, they will generally waive the change fees.
- Beware – WDTC usually adds travel insurance to your package by default. If you don’t want it, tell them while you are making the reservation. The insurance becomes non-refundable 14 days after purchase, so if it’s added to your package accidentally you have very little time to remove it and get your money back. You can add the insurance later if you wish, up until your final payment is due. You can also buy travel insurance directly which will almost always be cheaper and offer better coverage.
- Airfare added to your reservation is also nonrefundable. It’s hardly ever a good deal, either. We strongly advise booking airfare separately. Visit the Airfares page for hints on how to save on airfare!
- To reserve a Walt Disney World vacation package, we strongly recommend using a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel. They can help you get the most from this much more complicated option.
Be polite but persistent when calling the Disney Reservations Center. Some of the agents answering the phone know more than others, and some will try harder than others to get you the best deal. If the first agent you speak with isn’t helpful, say thanks, end the call and try again. With hundreds of agents at the call center, it’s unlikely you’ll get the same agent twice in a row.
Keep calling back periodically if your dates are not immediately available at the discounted rate, because people change and cancel reservations all the time. Something is quite likely to open up eventually.
If you work with an agent at the reservations center who is especially helpful or friendly, be sure to do the survey at the end of the call. Or get his or her name and take two minutes to send an email complimenting the agent’s work!