Disney offers plenty of choices when it comes to theme parks, tickets, dining, and even hotels.  And with all those choices comes complexity.

Whether the aim is to save a few bucks, get the best package, or simply get the most out of the package they’ve chosen, most people could benefit from bit more information on understanding Disney Resorts.  Here are five things you should understand before booking at Disney hotel.

1 – Disney Resort Categories

The first thing to understand is the categories that Walt Disney resorts fall into. It’s important to note, too, that all Disney resorts except the Deluxe Villas impose an extra surcharge for every adult in excess of two that use the resort room.

Be sure to do some homework and ask plenty of questions when booking your resort room.

Be sure to do some homework and ask plenty of questions when booking your resort room.

The underdog in terms of facilities is Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, where guests can either camp out in a tent or RV, or rent a cabin. The next rung up is held by Value resorts, which have few amenities and the smallest rooms of all Disney resorts (but at least it’s not a tent!), all of which are reflected in the price. Disney’s Moderate resorts are a step up as far as room quality, cost and amenities are concerned. One identifying feature of these resorts is that some of them may have waterslides in their pools, whereas none of the Value resorts do. Leading the pack are Disney’s Deluxe resorts and Disney Deluxe Villa resorts. Deluxe resorts are the best of the best that Disney World has to offer, with the best appointments, amenities, dining, shows, ornate water slides in every pool and the least saccharine design features of any hotel class. Disney Deluxe Villas’ quality easily equals or surpasses that of the Deluxe resorts.

2 – Pricing A Hotel Only Vs. A Complete Package

The number two thing that every Walt Disney World vacationer must know before booking is that they can almost always save money by not booking their rooms along with any other package. Disney staff will not mention the fact that even if a room is booked alongside an inconsequential add-on like tickets to a dinner show, it will then count as a ‘package’ under Disney’s designations.

What’s the problem with that? Packages fall under a different set of rules than simple bookings. There are business reasons for this, but the meaning to the consumer has to do with Disney’s ability to levy significant fines for reservation cancellations or refuse them outright if the reservation is part of a package. Disney reservation staff are well-trained and more experienced than any would-be vacationer they speak to on the phone, so the key is to be aware of sales schemes, stand one’s ground, and be willing and able to refuse the package deal altogether if it feels unsatisfactory.

3 – A Room With A View, Sure, But What View?

Weighing in at number three on our list is a “view to a kill(ing)”, the killing being the one that Disney will make if a guest is oblivious to seasonal price changes (not the seasons as most people know them, but “holiday”, “peak”, “regular” and “value”, which vary by resort) and further blinded by the cornucopia of views (from the rooms) that are offered.

For example, at the Yacht Club, “water view” (which commands a higher price) is a term applied even if the only water in sight is from a broken sprinkler. Ok that’s a joke, but you can pay premium prices views that aren’t so premium.  However, at the Grand Floridian Resort, on the other hand, water view only applies if there is a body of water that can be directly viewed and unobstructed. Persistence and a resilience to business-speak are the keys to unlocking this terminological Pandora’s Box.  Ask plenty of very specific questions to understand just what “view” means.

4 – Getting The Room Type You Want

As we’ve mentioned, Disney staff are not being paid to give away deals. It’s necessary to stick to one’s guns to get a really nice deal. It’s also advisable to understand that specific rooms, down to their number, cannot easily be requested. Disney’s terminology can be confusing.

It may be helpful to take out a piece of paper and write down in plain English what exactly it is that your group wants from its hotel experience. For instance, something like “A room above the tenth floor in the tower bay building with a full view of the lake and an adjoining suite” will get things going in the right direction. To narrow it down, the sales person will let you know, for example, if adjoining suites are available in that floor range (note: if the group has more minors than adults, Disney guarantees adjoining rooms). If not, they may begin speaking in tongues again. It doesn’t have to be rattling, they will respond yes or no when asked if a particular English translation of their jargon is accurate.

5 – “Hacking” The Lodging Code

This is number five on our list, but only because an understanding of the first four is necessary to make this one work out to one’s advantage. There are many opportunities to get a bit better of a deal than just what is offered at first blush. There is no limit to how many calls customers can make to Disney’s customer support (especially before 11 and after 3, when their wait times are the lowest), so it may yield great rewards if satisfaction isn’t gotten in the morning to call back in the afternoon. Another agent may be in a generous mood. Disney representatives are able, for example, to offer upgrades at discounted rates if the requested level of accommodation is sold out. Knowing which categories are likely to be sold out can be a big help to this end.

Specials, too, are not always available on Disney’s resorts reservation website. It pays to ask representatives about what specials are currently available. If nothing is available on Monday and there still remains a good cushion of time between date of reservation and date of travel, there may be a benefit to calling back on Friday with the same questions.

Finally, we mentioned ‘seasons’ above, which correspond more to quarterly sales goals and revenue maximization than to any of mother nature’s moods. By inquiring about the same reservation at different seasonal rates, customers can save a bundle.