Walt Disney World Dining

The Great 'Throwaway Room' Debate



By Peter Werner

5 people in a room.  Strollers.  Pool Hopping.   These, among other topics, have long been a source of great debate on DISboards.com over the years.   We can now add “Throwaway rooms” to the list.  Okay, maybe this topic isn’t quite as contentious as some of the others, but it definitely elicits a pretty decent discussion when it’s brought up.

For those not familiar with the issue – a ‘throwaway room’ is a Disney resort room that is booked for one night just to get the perks associated with it.  So, for example – let's say that a family is planning to visit Orlando and stay off-site (a non-Disney owned property), but they want to get some of the perks associated with being a Disney resort guest.   They book one night on Disney property (usually a campsite at Fort Wilderness or the least expensive room at one of Disney’s value resorts).   As a ‘resort guest’ (even though they never plan to use the room), they get Magic Bands for everyone on the reservations, they get access to free parking and Extra Magic Hours for two days (the day of check in and the day of check out), the ability to make FastPass+ reservations at 60 days (versus 30 days for off-site guests) and while everyone can make dining reservations at 180 days in advance, on site guests get an additional 10 days (180+10).  Sounds like a great idea, right?  So what’s the issue?

The major point of contention here though is with FastPass+.  FP is supposed to be tied to your length of stay, but it turns out it’s actually tied to your length of TICKET.  So, if you book one night at the All-Star resorts, but have a 7 day pass – you’ll get 7 days of FP+ at 60 days out (versus 30 days out if you’re staying off site).   Think about that for a second.  The BIGGEST complaint right now with FP+ is that even at 60 days out it's difficult (and sometimes impossible) to get fast passes for the ‘big rides’ like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  Yet, Disney is allowing people not staying onsite to book these FP because of a loophole they know exists, but for some reason they are unwilling or unable to close.

The other major issue here is that people like to do this at the Fort Wilderness campsites because they are the least expensive ‘on-site’ reservation you can make and you can have up to 10 people on that reservation.  Problem is, these campsites are very limited and often times people booking ‘throwaway’ rooms are taking the space from someone who actually wants to use it.   Not to mention, the Ft. Wilderness community HATES this (http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=3308754) and for good reason. These campsites are limited, and this practice has become too widely used.  Frankly, I think Disney needs to implement a punishing ‘no-show’ policy at the Fort.  If you book a campsite, check in at the campsite and never use it – there should be a $250 per night charge for it.   It's one thing if someone never checks in – things happen in life and people shouldn’t be penalized for it beyond the normal cancellation policy.  But if a campsite is 'checked in' and never used, it's pretty clear why.  That’s where Disney can separate the wheat from the chaff.

On the flip side, there are those who feel that as long as someone is paying for the room, they are entitled to whatever Disney is willing to offer them. In fact, we recently conducted a poll on our DIS Unplugged show asking our audience how they felt about the practice.  56% of those who responded said they felt this practice was okay, with 44% saying they disagreed with the policy - either because it was cheating the system (17%) or because it was taking a room away from someone who wanted to use it (27%).

We’ve also heard many reports that travel agents and even Disney’s own reservation agents have suggested this practice to guests.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m one of the owners of Dreams Unlimited Travel and our agency has a strict policy against ‘throwaway rooms.’  Personally, I’m with the 44% of people opposed to the practice.  I’m fine with people getting access to Extra Magic Hours, free parking, and 180+10 ADRs for the dates they are booked to stay on site.  Those are on site perks and should be available to anyone who books a room regardless of whether it's for one night or ten.  I’m also fine with FP+ - but ONLY for the length of stay, not for the length of ticket.  That’s a loophole Disney needs to close fast.   Among Disney fans (who also happen to be Disney’s highest and most reliable affinity group – even though Disney doesn’t always seem to treat them that way), the seeming lack of FastPasses, especially for premier attractions, is increasingly turning people off to the whole MyMagic+ experience – an effort Disney has spent considerable time, money and effort to implement.   Disney needs to remember that ‘raving fans’ are the ones that talk the loudest and most often, especially when they are not happy.

The complaints about MyMagic+ certainly extend far beyond the issue of throwaway rooms and loopholes in FP+.  However, as the old expression goes – the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  Closing some of these loopholes would be taking a big bite out of this particular elephant.  Whether Disney will do it, whether they care enough about the overall FP+ experience for guests vs its monetary and demographic success on paper remains to be seen.