A few people have recently written to me to ask about the discounts we can get for friends and family if they come to visit Orlando. While these slightly change year-to-year based on how the company is performing what I explain below are the general rules – special discounts often appear for specific weeks and time periods which can provide larger discounts.
This one is fairly simple – you are entitled to a 20% discount off all merchandise other than DVDs and CDs that you buy in the parks and resorts stores. In order to qualify the cast member must be the one paying. If you pay using a card it must be in your name. If other people want you to buy them gifts this is normally acceptable if the payment is made in cash although it might be best for them to give you the cash before you get to the register since the rules on this are a little unclear.
Food and Beverage Discount
Discounts are available on full-service meals in sit-down restaurants. No discount is available on quick-service food at locations within the parks or for snacks at outdoor food locations. The system used to operate this discounts does change, in 2008 the discount was available without pre-booking by simply showing your ID when you arrived at the restaurant. In 2009 only a limited number of discounts were available at each restaurant during each day and had to be pre-booked. I am unsure what the current system is and this may change again for 2012. Discounts are in the region of 20-50%.
As cast members you are entitled to unlimited free admission to all 4 theme parks. Admission to the water parks is often discounted with reduced prices at off-peak times of day and sometimes free admission – these vary each year depending on business conditions. Discounts on Cirque de Soleil tickets are also sometimes available.
In addition you will also receive a Blue Maingate Pass which allows you to let up to 3 people into the parks on 6 days (ICP) or 12 days (CRP) a year. The tickets they receive are park hoppers which allow them to visit as many parks as they like in one day. The rules require that if the visitors are not immediate family you must tour with them (although many CMs ignore this rule – something I could not condone). A key point is that if you let less than 3 people in on one day you lose the entitlement to additional passes from that allowance – so letting it 2 people does not give you 1 more pass for another day. There are also blackout dates to bear in mind which mean that you cannot allow people entry to certain parks at certain dates such as Christmas, Easter and during the peak of the Summer – all of this is explained when you get the pass.
For people who might not be special enough to get a free ticket, acquaintances or people you are not great friends with, you are also entitled to discounts of about 20% on park tickets. This sounds great but it is 20% off the price at the gate, often you can get cheaper tickets by buying online before leaving the UK (or elsewhere) – my personal recommendation is Undercover Tourist who usually offer good discounts over standard ticket prices.
This is where things get a little complicated. You are entitled to up to 50% off rooms if you are personally staying in them – you must be there at check in and it is a serious offence if you are caught lying about this. You can get up to 20% off rooms for other people. There are frequently other special offers – I got 75% off at the All-Star Movies resort at the end of my second program – these are worth looking out for as they can be really, really cheap. All of these are subject to availability and they tend to be very few (if any) available during peak season, so if you want them start looking early. Often they can also appear last minute when Disney realise they have spare rooms available for certain nights.
These are very similar to Hotel discounts and are available for select cruises throughout the year. These can vary in discount level from 10% to up to 80% with some special offers although I would not expect to see many of these on the new ships as they are more often than not fully booked by full-price guests. Again first-come first-served so it pays to start looking early.
Your Disney ID entitles you to a lot of discounts in the Orlando area – the list is too long to put here, Disney publish a brochure with all of the details. My top tip is to always ask if they offer a Cast Member discount, more than often they do.
A discount I have always made good use of is at the Harmony Barber Shop on Mainstreet USA where guys can get their hair cut for $10 with a cast member ID, it is really convenient and I have frequently had my hair cut by Michal who is a Disney Partner in Excellence (a very high Disney Cast Member honour) and loves to chat with ICPs about their home country. He always spoke fondly of his memories of London to me.
Also useful is a the right to a free locker at any of the theme parks. You are required to pay the key deposit but this is refunded when you return the key. This one is not well advertised but can be really useful if you take a bag to the park and don’t feel like carrying it around.