Since Joe and I are Disney fans who live about 9 miles from Walt Disney World (WDW), we both tend to keep an eye on the various message boards, Facebook groups and blogs that focus on all that is part of the most popular theme park resort in the world. But since we live so close, we don’t keep tabs on more than just general knowledge when it comes to WDW hotels because frankly, except for renting rooms with our Disney Vacation Club points so we could host some parties for our friends, we haven’t stayed at a hotel at WDW since around 2003. But when I read about this, it piqued my interest because, well, it’s not what one would expect from a place that advertises “Disney Magic.”
It appears that if you don’t use Disney’s Magical Express (DME) (the free shuttle service between MCO and WDW), WDW is sometimes automatically charging parking fees if you do online check-in and go straight to your room when you arrive – even if you don’t have a car on-site!
To backtrack a little, after nearly 47 years of not charging for overnight parking, WDW began doing so in early 2018. Whether you have your own car or a rental, they charge you to park overnight, on something of a sliding scale (the more expensive the resort hotel, the more expensive the parking).
Well, apparently, if you do online check-in before you arrive, and then arrive via Uber/Lyft/taxi (or if you’re dropped off), and go straight to your room (because there’s no need to check-in at the front desk – you checked in online), Disney may sometimes automatically add a parking charge to your bill, even if you don’t have a car there.
Now granted, if you don’t have a car on property, it’s an easy fix; all it takes is a visit to the front desk to ask them to remove the charge from your bill. But honestly, it shouldn’t be there to begin with. And what if you never notice the parking charge is there? If you’re staying at one of their Deluxe resort hotels for 7 nights, that’s almost $200 of yours that they get, totally unnecessarily. Not cool.
One of our guesses for why this is happening is if enough people have been trying to cheat the system and saying they don’t have a car when they actually do. Disney’s response might have been to start charging everyone who’s not registered to be on DME and take the charge off as requested.
Our other guess is that Disney started charging for parking, but didn’t/still don’t have the infrastructure set up to handle charging for overnight parking.
Most large hotels that charge for overnight parking have a dedicated, gated parking lot for their overnight guests, who, in turn, have a special card (or whatever system) to be able to park there. WDW has a guard at the front gate of each of their hotels, but once you’re past the guard, you’re free to go to self-parking, the same as a day guest (who, BTW, don’t have to pay anything for parking. But they’re limited to only 3 hours of parking. Not that there appears to be any way of tracking that.). But if you check-in online, you can bypass the guard by using your Magic Band to enter the parking lot, and then, as we mentioned earlier, can bypass the front desk, too. So with the system they have, there’s no way WDW would know if you have a car or not. But is that a reason to charge everyone and then only give them a refund if they happen to notice it?
There’s apparently nothing on Disney’s check-in page that asks if you have a car or not, just whether or not you’re arriving via DME. So if their computers note that you’re not using DME, perhaps they’re assuming you’re driving in and therefore must be charged for parking. But what if you’ve arrived at Sanford Airport (SFB) (Allegiant flies into SFB) and taken a taxi because DME doesn’t pick up at SFB? Or maybe you’ve taken an Uber because you started your vacation with a few days at Universal. Or perhaps you’re getting dropped off by a friend/family member. With any of these situations, you’re going to arrive at WDW without a car. And these are the people who are sometimes getting charged for overnight parking.
There’s got to be a better way. But for now, there apparently isn’t. So a word of advice – if you’re staying at a WDW resort hotel and don’t have a car, make sure to double-check your bill to ensure they’re not charging you for parking.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary