New Changes for Passholder Room Discounts
Big Changes to WDW Annual Passholder Resort Discounts
LAST UPDATE: 6/17/05
A new "Passholder Best Rate Program" has been rolled out as of June 17, 2005 that will affect Annual Passholder resort reservations for check-ins starting October 8, 2005. Many aspects of this new program are unclear and there are currently no discounts released past October 4.
The new rules for Passholder Best Rate Program reservations for October 8 and later include:
Annual Passholder rates will only be bookable online (individuals can book themselves through disneyworld.com/passholders and travel agents can book their clients thorough the Disney travel agents web site).
You must book AT LEAST 120 days in advance.
A NONREFUNDABLE deposit of one night's room rate and tax is required at the time of booking.
The Passholder can now book only ONE room (formerly it was up to 3) and the Passholder must be an adult.
Ostensibly the Passholder Best Rate Program guarantees that Passholders will receive the "best room rate offered to the general public" (not including group rates, auction rates or rates conditioned on group/club memberships or other specified eligibility requirements) at that time for the room and nights booked. If Disney subsequently reduces the room rate "to the general public" for the same room and nights you booked online under this program, they will supposedly "automatically reduce your room rate to match that lower rate."
The new program raises many issues:
The "Best Rate Program" supposedly is available from 10/8/05 through 11/26/05 or 12/19/05 (depending on which source you consult). However, no discounts are currently showing up when you try to book any of those dates. I don't know if discounts are coming soon, or not at all.
This leaves the Annual Passholder in a quandry: do you plunk down a nonrefundable deposit on your room reservation and hope that a discount becomes available later?
The situation is especially confusing for someone who already has the AAA room-only discount, since if they book the "Best Rate Program" right now they'll lose the AAA discount, but maybe they'll get a deeper Annual Pass discount later. Or maybe not.
It's unknown what "offered to the general public" means, exactly. Since many of the room discounts that have been offered in 2005 have come through private e-mails and postcards and have required a PIN code, one assumes those may not count as "general public" offers. AAA discounts would certainly fall into the category of "conditioned on group/club membership." In fact, there have been NO "general public" discounts on hotel rooms so far in 2005.
Since you can only book this program online, and a current, activated Annual Pass is required in order to access the online booking, it appears that you'll no longer be able to book the Annual Pass rate until you purchase and activate an Annual Pass. That means first-time Annual Passholders won't be able to use the Best Rate Program unless they are willing to activate the pass 3 months in advance!
For the time being, I would advise sitting tight and waiting to see if some of the issues above are clarified by Disney. Right now you're being asked to buy a pig in a poke by handing over a nonrefundable deposit and hoping for a possible discount further down the road. I don't think that's a wise choice.