Hey everybody, there’s a new itinerary out for arrivals 8/31 through 10/26/2019. You can find it here.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — zzz. Stuff No One Cares About but Me

Updated Disney World 2019 Price Seasons

Yesterday I published my updated material on Walt Disney World resort prices in 2019, based on my sampling (and analysis) of more than 3,200 individual hotel/date/price combinations.

The purpose of this site is to help people make better choices in their Disney World vacations, either from direct advice or from providing the facts and letting people make their own decision from them.

Disney resort hotel prices matter because the exact same room can cost 75% more depending on what nights you stay in it.

To help guide people around this without getting into the more than 30,000 individual pieces of data, my 2019 Disney World price seasons material first is a sample of half of Disney World’s hotels, and second analyzes and depicts only the least expensive room types within them.

I then show the results in two ways: charts that smooth out the changing prices by averaging prices over a seven night stay, and “invented” (I’ll return to this in a minute) “price seasons” that give a broad sense of how expensive a room is during different parts of the year. In my “seasons” I always express prices as how much higher they are than the lowest prices for that room that year.

In this post I want to explain a little about why I do it this way—and where the seasons came from. But if you don’t care and just want to see the results, go here; if you want to see every single data point, go to MouseSavers.com here.

NIGHTLY ROOM RATES

Here’s a chart of the actual rates by night in 2019 of a standard view rooms at Disney’s Beach Club resort. Note that I have truncated the lower axis at $450/night to make the patterns more readable.

While you’ll note some consistency over periods (this is where “price seasons” comes in), there’s a lot of wiggles in the line. This comes from all the different prices during the week that Disney now charges, as well as various holiday weekend upcharges.

The net is 38 different prices for the same room over the course of 2019. In this chart, I have a straight line across for each of the 38 prices:

…and in the chart below, I show the distribution of prices for this room. More than half of the nights of the year, you can get this room for $550 or less, but 20% of the nights of the year you will pay prices of $600 or much more (all my prices include tax).

To make these price shifts a little easier to understand, I smooth them out. My smoothing approach is to average prices over seven nights—the check in night, and six more. This is what I display on my 2019 Disney World price seasons page. I pick seven nights to map to the set of prices that vary over the week but are the same the next week characteristic of many Disney World price seasons.

This chart shows the smoothed line (in orange) on top of the actual prices in blue. I believe that this type of smoothing makes it much easier to interpret what prices you will run into for any check in date.

DISNEY WORLD PRICE SEASONS

Disney World used to group and label periods of the year into resort “price seasons.” The traditional price season calendar would have a day or two of peak season in early January coming out of the holidays, then shift into value season, then peak again for Presidents Day week, then regular season, then a mix of regular and peak during spring break before Easter, then Easter season, in years with an early Easter some more peak seasons, then regular season, then summer season, etc.

Last year, Disney stopped labeling the parts of the year into price seasons, and added more distinct price points over the course of the year. For 2019 it continued to abandon the “season” labeling concept, and added even more distinct prices. (I’ll publish more on 2018 vs. 2019 resort prices later this summer.)

But you can still see price seasons, if you look closely enough.

See the chart, where I have used colored boxes to group prices into seasons (ignoring holiday weekend upcharges), keeping the same color when the numbers remain the same. I have then labeled these with the traditional names—although my labels don’t always correspond to those used by MouseSavers.com.

The first box in January, in light orange, is the value season. Then we have a sequence of peak (red) and regular (orange), culminating in the Easter season in yellow. A distinct season then opens, which I call regular 2. After that are two distinct summer seasons, then the value season reappears in late August and early September.

Things then get a little confusing, but based on both this and the same charts for other deluxes, I basically see a sequence of regular variants (in blue and green) that I call regular 3, regular 4, and regular 5, alternating with the Fall season (grey) in between, interrupted by the Thanksgiving upcharge in black. Later in December peak season returns, and then we skyrocket off into the holiday seasons.

This then is the set of seasonal labels I use in my text descriptions of the 2019 Disney World resort price seasons.

The values and moderates continue to operate to a different seasonal calendar then the deluxes between July and Thanksgiving but I did the exact same graphical analysis to uncover their seasons. Here’s an example of one of the moderates:

…and of one of the values:

If this is all too confusing, my travel agent partner Kelly can help you book during a lower-cost period.  Contact her by using the form below.

  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY

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June 25, 2018   No Comments

Length of Stay Pricing at the Disney World Resorts?

Earlier this year Disney World announced that parking at its hotels would no longer be free for reservations booked after March 20, 2018. Only slightly less controversial than that whole poenitentia vs. metanoia thing among Luther, Erasmus, and the Catholic Church, no explanation for it has been offered other than such a parking charge is common practice.

At the end of my post on the parking matter, I’d noted that “I can think of one way in which–at least in 2019–this money may make its way back into guest pockets. I’ll publish more on this thought, which has to do with length-of-stay pricing, later.”

So this is the post on that thought. What it boils down to is that if Disney institutes length of stay discounts, it would need to make a big one-time increase in room rates to keep its overall revenue whole. The increases from parking revenue could be used to offset some of that price increase.

Note that I’m not predicting that Disney World will institute length of stay pricing—rather, this is largely a thought experiment on the implications for price increases if it chooses to do so. But we do know it is interested in increasing length of stay…

“We’ve got … a number of other plans as it relates to our hotel business. So we think that we’ve got room on pricing there. It’s not just about taking pricing up, it’s just about being more strategic at how we price, particularly how we manage demand and we’ve taken a number of steps there. We think we can expand length of stay …We have some nice pricing leverage with our hotels. We actually are comping nicely in hotel rates, particularly in Orlando as a for instance, but we have an opportunity to expand [length of stay].”

Bob Iger, CEO The Walt Disney Company, in the Q2 17 earnings call (May 9 2017)

Bob Iger noted about a year ago opportunities he saw to expand length of stay at the Walt Disney World hotels. One way to expand length of stay is through pricing mechanisms that reward longer stays.

Such a pricing mechanism can be as simple as giving a discount off of what would otherwise be a hotel’s rates in return for booking a stay of a certain length.

This is in effect what Universal does—it has its set of prices per night, but then takes a certain amount off of what would otherwise be the total if you book certain stay targets.

See the image—for example, on its far right, you’ll note that a seven night stay can be as much as 35% off what would otherwise be the sum of the nightly prices. That’s a big discount, in effect almost two and a half free nights (35% of seven nights= 2.45 nights).

Length of stay pricing can be meant to build a hotel’s occupancy—that is, add room nights—or to shift the current set of room nights to a group that has on average a longer length of stay.

If a hotel has plenty of rooms available and not many “typical” bookings already at the stay lengths at which the discounts kick in, then the goal would be to add room nights. High discounts might be accepted to do so, as little revenue would be lost from the few guests who already would have booked longer than the “typical” stay, and the new revenue from the extra nights would largely drop to the bottom line, since the variable costs of an extra night in a room are pretty low.

Length of stay pricing in already well-occupied hotels—as the Disney hotels are, recently reporting yet another quarter of occupancy in the 90% range—has a very different and more complicated dynamic.

Here you have different goals than increasing occupancy (because you have so little room to do so) and much less flexibility in discounting longer stays (because you are discounting many room nights that you could have sold at their regular rates).

The goal instead might be to convert the same number of room nights from shorter to longer stays, as longer stays are typically more profitable (as they spread the one-time costs of a single booking/check-in/check-out over more nights).

Or, if there is a value difference between shorter and longer stays not already captured in pricing, the goal might also be to use length of stay pricing to price shorter stays higher to extract more of the value they create. For example, Disney might be expecting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, expected to open in the last quarter of 2019, to increase the demand for shorter stays from those guests coming to experience only it.

So if Disney were to institute length of stay pricing (as a typical practice, like Universal–not as a one-time deal), given high occupancies and already longer lengths of stay than Universal, I’d expect a couple of features to their program

  • The deals to kick in after longer stays—for example, after five or six nights, not the three or four that Universal offers
  • A lower discount curve—one that still begins at 10%, perhaps, but that doesn’t get nearly as high as 35%, other than as a temporary promotion that replaces other typical Disney World hotel deals
  • A one-time price increase for the base set of undiscounted prices, so that revenue stays whole over most trip lengths.

This last point is the key one, so let me illustrate it with an example.

Let’s say Disney offers 10% off the total price of a room that would before the one-time price increase average $250 a night (in this example, thus a moderate), beginning with a six night stay.

To keep the same $1,500 revenue over the stay, average pre-discount prices would need to go up in a one-time price increase by 11% (the formula is 1/(1-discount percentage) – 1).* At a new price $278 a night, a 10% discount off the new total of $1,668 would yield the same initial $1,500 revenue.

In other words, when the hotels are essentially full and the goal is simply to lengthen average length of stay, you don’t want to give up revenue to do so—otherwise you simply lose money on the extensions.

Disney World usually announces its new hotel prices for the coming year in the summer, and while it varies across hotels, room types, and times of the year, prices commonly go up 4%+. If it used its summer 2018 pricing announcement to include for 2019 both typical price increases and also a one-time price increase meant to keep it whole after length of stay discounts, then in my example undiscounted prices would go up ~15%.

That’s a pretty big number—a headline grabbing number. How could Disney avoid some of those headlines? Well, one way to do it would be to institute a one-time price increase for something else related to the hotels, and use the revenue from it to offset the needed hotel room price increase. Like parking.

For median priced standard-view rooms, the new parking charge amounts to an average increase across 2018 (you get about the same results if you use just the last 7 or 8 months of 2018) of around 8% at the value resorts, 7% at the moderates, and 4.5% at the deluxes. So if half of guests pay for parking, then Disney World already has in hand price increases of 2.25 to 4%. It can use these already-existing one time increases to offset some of what it would otherwise want to do to 2019 prices, and perhaps (other than at the deluxes) even get the 2019 increase below 10%, which would help the headlines a bit…

Note that there are other ways to incent longer lengths of stay.

For example, since both shorter and longer Disney World stays tend to include weekends, Disney could make the price difference between weekends and weekdays even sharper than it already is.

For some time now, many, but not all, Disney World resorts have had higher prices on Friday and Saturday nights during many, but not all, price seasons.

And for the 2018 pricing year (released not long after Iger’s comments noted above) Disney also made Sunday and/or Thursday prices higher than the rest of its weekday prices at some resorts during some price seasons (gory details here).

Continuing this approach with even sharper differences between higher and lower priced nights would certainly either dis-incent and/or capture more value from shorter trips that include these higher priced nights. I’m not sure, though, that sharper differences would have much effect on lengthening stays, as—at least now—Disney does not inform you of the cost of adding a room night.

 

*The increase actually needs to be less than this, as those on shorter stays pay its full value. But for me to estimate how much less, I’d need data on the distribution of bookings by length of stay, which I don’t have, so I am ignoring this issue.

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April 9, 2018   4 Comments

150 Different Rooms

“I’ve long said that Dave has the absolute best Disney resort room information I have found!” –Didi Marie, DIStherapy

In November, when I checked out of my Studio at Bay Lake Tower, I completed my 150th different stay in (and review of) a Disney World owned room, studio, villa, suite, cabin, or campsite.

Anyone can ride all the rides. But most who write about Disney World have not stayed in all the hotels–not even close.  I’ve stayed in them all, and in every major room variant, multiple times–and recently.

This includes

From my 2017 Pop Century stays.

In 2017 I stayed in (and published updated reviews of) twelve different Disney-owned rooms:

From my 2017 Yacht Club stays.

(In 2017 I also stayed in and published updated reviews of two on-site but non-Disney resorts–Four Seasons Resort Orlando and The Disney World Dolphin. In 2016 I stayed in 17 different Disney World-owned rooms, and in 2015 14 Disney World-owned rooms and 6 non-Disney on-site rooms.)

This experience matters because universally the weakest part of most Disney World guidebooks and websites is their material on where to stay, and that weakness what I am trying to avoid.

From my 2017 Copper Creek stays.

One person staying repeatedly in all the rooms and in all their major variants (e.g. at Port Orleans Riverside not only standard rooms, but also five-person rooms, and Royal rooms) is the only way to develop a complete, consistent, up-to-date and accurate picture of the hotel options and their strong and weak points.

Reading and copying other people’s experiences just won’t cut it, and those whose approach depends on this routinely publish howlers and generally get too many facts or judgements wrong. I can think of one site (whose owner has very little actual Disney World experience) that claimed that Fort Wilderness is a monorail resort, and that the Contemporary is one of the least expensive deluxe resorts!

From my 2017 Caribbean Beach stay.

Even having your own team of reviewers doesn’t work well, as they can’t compare across their own direct experiences the way a single reviewer can, leading them to miss comparative floor plan nuances or even major differences. Careful readers of a well-known 840 page guidebook will discover that Port Orleans Riverside has trundle beds, that Pepper Market uses stamped tickets, and a dozen other claims that just haven’t been true for years–or were never true. (My guide book, while not perfect, is much better.)

Consistently good and up to date material on the Disney hotel options is sadly rare, because it takes major, multi-year commitments of time and money.

Luckily, I have been able to create the time, and you, because of your support of the book, your patronage of the site’s various sponsors (like Kelly B and The Official Ticket Center), and your interest in the ads on this site, create the money that in turn I spend trying to keep this hotel material great and up to date.

For links to my reviews of all the Disney World-owned hotels, see this.

 

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December 24, 2017   2 Comments

How the Disney World Week Rankings are Built

I rank the weeks of the year for first time visitors to Disney World who might not be able to ever return to Disney World on this site—the 2017 Disney World week rankings are here, 2018 Disney World week rankings here, and draft 2019 Disney World week rankings are here.

 

(These same rankings also inform the guidebook I co-author with Josh of easyWDW.com, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit.)

Here’s an example, for 2018:

These rankings are meant to guide first timers who can never return towards better weeks, and away from bad weeks. They incorporate crowds and prices, as you might expect. But because they are meant for people who might be able to make only one visit, they also particularly downgrade the weeks of January and early February when rides are more commonly closed for refurb, and also view skeptically the weeks when the hurricane season is at its peak.

Both of these periods contain good weeks for returning visitors who might care less about these risks. So for this reason, I both include the crowd and price data in the chart, and also mark in green at the far right edge of the chart weeks that are good for returning visitors.

That way returning visitors can use the chart to pick their weeks, too—or they can simply focus on my crowd forecasts and price information. Disney World crowd forecasts for 2017 are here, 2018 here, and draft crowd forecasts for 2019 are here. Disney World resort pricing for 2017 is here, for 2018 is here, and draft price forecasts for 2019 are here.

Besides deprecating the ride closure and peak of the hurricane seasons, I also promote the lower-crowd part of the Christmas season, because it is such a magical time at Disney World.

So with that as the background, here’s the technical approach I take to ranking the weeks of the year for first time visitors.

HOW THE DISNEY WORLD WEEK RANKINGS ARE BUILT

First, I take the ride closure season weeks, and give them the lowest rankings of the year (because if you can only come once, why come at a time when some great rides predictably will be closed?)

In every grouping, including these weeks, higher crowd weeks get the worst ranking, and within equivalent crowd rankings, higher prices break the ties. This involves a bit of judgment, as the deluxes work to a different price seasons than the other resorts from July into the fall, and the moderates don’t show as much price variation over the year as the other price classes do. So if you are committed to a certain resort type, note also the price levels of your resort type among these weeks.

Next to be ranked are all the remaining higher crowd weeks, with the worst rankings going to the highest crowds, and ties sorted by prices.

Next to be ranked is the remaining weeks in the peak of the hurricane season. I have taken a lot of grief over the years for deprecating these weeks, as, like the January and early February weeks, they include a number of lower crowd and lower price dates:

After the past two years, however, I expect people to hold off a bit on the “hurricanes never affect Disney World” claim…

This leaves a group of moderate and lower crowd weeks of various prices that are in neither the ride closure season nor the peak of the hurricane season. The moderate crowd weeks get ranked by crowds the prices, in the usual fashion.

Then the remaining low crowd weeks get ranked the same way, with the expectation that the Christmas season low crowd weeks get privileged rankings. This set of weeks become my “Recommended Weeks”—usually 13 to 15 a year. (The number has narrowed over time as October has gotten more crowded; in any given year, an early Thanksgiving might add a fourth December week, and an early Easter might add an extra April week.)

The rankings are fundamentally based on crowd forecasts and actual or forecast prices.

The crowd forecasts are based on my actual experience—I’m in the parks 30-60 days a year over six to ten visits.

For example, in 2017:

This experience is supplemented by extensive analysis of school breaks—here’s an example from my analysis of spring breaks in 2018:

The prices are based on actuals for 2017 and 2018, and on forecasts based on recent Disney practice for 2019. I’ll be revising the 2019 rankings as necessary after the actual 2019 prices come out, likely in the summer of 2018, and based on a full analysis of 2018-2019 school year breaks, also in the summer of 2018 (too many districts don’t publish their calendars for the upcoming school year until May or June for me to do this earlier).

So that’s how the week rankings are built!

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October 9, 2017   3 Comments

Testimonials and Puffery

Since it opened, this site has helped more than 10 million people. Among the reactions:

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    Nevertheless, I am finding so much information here that is helpful even to a seasoned guest like myself, especially the detailed info regarding best and worst weeks to visit. LOVE your rankings, all the great advice, and the links to extra info.” —Gramma Kaye
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January 8, 2017   No Comments

The Sailor is Home from the Sea

Just a note that I’ll be quiet here for a while, as my Dad–to whom I owe everything–passed away yesterday.

dad-off-the-korean-coast-on-dde-3611

This is him during the Korean War, when he was younger than my sons are today…

me-and-my-annoying-sister-out-of-school-and-at-disneyland-a-long-time-ago1

…and he’s behind the camera–as he usually was–in this shot of my sister and me at Disneyland. We were with him when he died.

His obituary is here.

I will keep up with the comments as best I can, but may be a little slower than usual. And other than the “Next Week at Disney World” and “Fridays with Jim Korkis” series, I won’t be posting much on the site for a couple of weeks.

 

The 2017 easy Guide

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November 4, 2016   12 Comments