One of the ways to save the most money when traveling to Walt Disney World is to be on the lookout for promotions and discounts during your travel dates.  Here’s a quick rundown on all things “Disney Discount.”

Choose Your Dates Wisely

I always tell friends and prospective guests “Never travel without a discount!”  Walt Disney World has been running promotions for most of the calendar year for the last several years.  If you can avoid travel during major and federal holidays, chances are you’ll be able to take advantage of a discounted room or package.  Blackout dates for promos tend to fall on holidays due to already high bookings during those times of year.

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Plan in Advance

General public discounts are usually released about three months prior to the start of included travel dates and tend to be bookable until the month those travel dates begin.  For example, the free Disney Dining Plan promotion released yesterday for August 2014 through December 2014 (select dates) can be booked until August 8, 2014.  However, there are a limited number of rooms available for each offer.  While I’ve not personally seen a promotion completely sell out in my time as a Disney traveler or travel agent, I have seen popular resorts lose availability very quickly.  If you want your top choice of resorts for your discounted stay, book as early as possible.

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Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

If you’re here, chances are you have your ear to the ground when it comes to Disney travel, but it always pays to, well, pay attention.  The messageboards and blogs tend to start buzzing about a week before deals are released.  Be aware that nothing is official until Disney releases the promotion, but you may be able to get a general idea of the possible details.

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Get Park Wise: If you’re a Disney Visa Cardholder, keep an eye on your email!  One of your perks as a cardholder is advance booking opportunities for promotions.  Bear in mind that you must book your vacation with your Disney Visa, and the cardholder’s name must be on the reservation.

Pay Attention to the Details

The fine print is very important when it comes to promotions.  Blackout dates, excluded resorts and other restrictions are noted for each discount, and there are typically no exceptions to the rules.  If you have a question about a restriction, exclusion or inclusion that may not be clear in the official release, you can always call and have the cast member double check.  Occasionally I’ll have more than one cast member double check just to make sure everything is the same.  Additionally, although Disney may release the similar discounts annually, details may change from year to year, so be sure to check the details before you book.

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Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation tend to be excluded from promotions.

Run the Numbers

Disney often releases two promotions at the same time: one for packages and one for room-only discounts.  Take some time to run the numbers and see what comes out better for your travel crew.  Perhaps you save more money taking a room rate cut and paying for your dining out of pocket than getting the Disney Dining Plan for free.  Maybe as an AP holder or military member you automatically go toward the room-only rates, but take a minute to price out the package discounts, too.  I had a guest save a small amount of money by switching to a package discount (about $15).  Although that’s a drop in the bucket when looking at a Disney vacation, she and her family members now have two-day tickets they can use in the future at no extra cost over her original total.

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Book It!

If you’ve found a price you’re comfortable with at a resort you like, put down that deposit!  If you’re not totally ready to take the plunge, at least place your courtesy hold while you think about it.  Like I mentioned earlier, these rooms can go fast, so having one reserved while you mull over the details is invaluable.  Better to have the room and not need it (as long as you decide you don’t need it prior to cancellation fees!) than to wish you had it and not be able to get it.

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What’s your favorite Disney World promotion?  Any tips for keeping on top of the news?