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Getting upgraded in a Disney World hotel is always the dream. And while this post is about how to get upgraded at Disney World resorts, I do want to stress that it should never be expected. My whole experience with getting upgraded at Disney resorts started when we got upgraded to Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge from a standard room and had the most magical time of our lives that we still talk about (you can read my review of Animal Kingdom Lodge as well as my review of Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level). However, when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge about six months later, we definitely did not expect any sort of upgrade (see above rule about how you should never expect an upgrade). We had a standard view room booked at Wilderness Lodge, and our biggest hope was that we could ask for the “best” standard view possible. But then something happened, and Disney came through for us in a big way (you can check out my full Wilderness Lodge review here).

How We Got Upgraded at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

We were first assigned a standard room on the fourth floor. It was earlier than the normal check-in time, so we were already grateful that they could check us in early. We set off to go find our room, and once we got to it, we stepped in with a smile. And then quickly lost it. The room itself was exactly what we expected. The Wilderness Lodge rooms reminded us very much of the Animal Kingdom Lodge rooms and the theming and décor were on point. Except it smelled like smoke. And not smoke like, someone’s having a barbecue outside smoke, but smoke as in, “a heavy smoker has just stayed here and possibly not entirely done his or her smoking outside.” We wandered around the room for a minute or two, trying to figure out if we were just imagining things. We stepped into the hallway to smell the “regular” air and then walked back into the room. Yep! It definitely smelled like smoke. We thought for a minute about what to do, because we didn’t want to cause a scene, but also I just really don’t like the smell of smoke and this was going to be our “staycation” at the hotel time, so it’s not even like we could say, “Oh, we won’t be here much anyway.” Before unloading our stuff, we wandered back down to the front desk. A kind lady with an iPad intercepted me before I could get there and asked me if she could help with anything. I explained the situation in the friendliest way possible, and asked if it might be possible to move us to a different room. Keep in mind that when I asked this, I would have imagined they would move us to a different Standard View room, which is what we booked. She apologized profusely and walked up to the front desk and chatted with them for a minute or two before coming back to me. “I’m so sorry for this,” she said. “We can upgrade you to a one bedroom villa, would that be okay?” At this point I’m thinking, um yes of course that is okay, but it seemed a little good to be true, so I said, “Oh, wow, definitely! How much would we need to pay extra?” I knew logically that we wouldn’t need to pay extra if they offered to upgrade us, but I didn’t want to come across as entitled and also I was still a little shocked.
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“No, nothing extra! It’s on us,” she said. I thanked her and was given directions by another really friendly cast member who pointed us in the right direction of our new room. You can read more about my review of the One Bedroom Villas at Copper Creek, but as this is the second time in two trips that we have been upgraded (one for a celebration, one because of a poor first impression of our room), I wanted to share some tips on being upgraded at a Disney resort and my thoughts on Disney’s guest services.

How to Get Upgraded at a Disney Resort

1. Tell them you’re celebrating

There are two ways of getting upgraded – one is during check-in, and one is beforehand. For both, make sure that it is noted on your reservation that you are celebrating. Maybe it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a family reunion, maybe it’s a medical milestone – whatever it is, if you’re open about the reason for creating memories at Disney World, you may be more likely to be upgraded. We saw this during our stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, when one of the reasons we got upgraded was because we were there celebrating our (one night, but still) honeymoon. If you’ve made a reservation and didn’t add your celebration at time of booking, you can always call the reservations line ahead of time or include it in your room request letter.

2. Be friendly

This should go without saying, and if you have to be instructed to be friendly at Disney, there may be a bigger problem, but even if you’ve had a super long journey or flight, being friendly to your check-in person goes a long way. This goes the same if a problem is encountered. When we smelled smoke in our Wilderness Lodge room, we didn’t run downstairs screaming and demanding that we be moved. I made sure to stay super smiley, apologizing for bothering them and asking politely if they could do something about it. Of course, if something goes terribly wrong and you aren’t getting the help you need, then do what you need to do, but if we’re talking solely about how to be upgraded at Disney, friendly is key!

3. Address issues right away

As soon as we noticed a problem with our room, we went straight back downstairs. We didn’t leave our belongings in there, we didn’t touch anything, we didn’t spend 4 hours lounging on the bed watching television until we decided there was a problem. This helped alert them to the urgency of the issue – this wasn’t something we were stewing about for ages, this is something that needed to be fixed as soon as possible. This, in turn, probably gave them a reason to give us the upgrade into Copper Creek because a room was available then and there. It was perfectly within their right to have us wait for another standard view room when it became available, but we were standing there with all of our belongings in hand and waiting to get started on our vacation.

4. Don’t ask for more

I don’t know how many more times I should put it in here, but do not ask for an upgrade! You aren’t entitled to anything other than the room view you booked, and the advice still goes that you should always book the room view you want. If you can’t live without a fireworks view, book a fireworks view. If you can’t live without a one bedroom villa, then of course don’t book a standard hotel room.
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Now, I did “ask” for something both times we’ve been upgraded, but it was always within our booked room view. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, I asked if we could possibly be put in a standard view room with a view of the animals (knowing that these were options). At Wilderness Lodge, I simply asked for a room that didn’t smell like smoke – which was also what I had booked! I haven’t tried it, but I don’t anticipate that many cast members would be happy to upgrade you simply because you asked for what is essentially a freebie. It’s not really the way Disney magic works, so stick with the other tips.

5. Share your excitement about the resort

This goes along with being friendly, but make sure to share how excited you are not just about your Disney World stay, but about your resort experience. When we went to Animal Kingdom Lodge, we made sure to tell our cast member that we were having a staycation and we were so excited to take advantage of everything the resort had to offer. If we had told him that we were staying all day in the Magic Kingdom, we might not have received an upgrade to Club Level because we wouldn’t have been there to make use of it. If it’s your first time staying at a resort, let them know. Research ahead of time to see what activities are on and talk to them about what you’re excited about trying.

6. Book in the low season

Practically, if you book a room on New Year’s Eve, the chances of everywhere else being booked is going to be high. The more people at Disney World in that particular season, the less chance you will get a magical upgrade because they might not have anywhere to move you too. I wouldn’t recommend booking in the low season just for the chance of a room upgrade – that would be insane. That being said, if the budget is tight, it might be an option for you to book in a less busy season. You might not get an upgrade to another room view level, but there may be more rooms available so that you can at least get one of the better rooms in the category you booked.

Some Final Words on Disney Upgrades and Guest Service

Like anything, Disney’s guest service and “pixie dust” upgrades have the potential to be abused by guests who feel entitled to more than they’ve paid for just because other people received those upgrades, but I want to remind you that Disney World is magical whether you’re staying in a standard room at All-Star Movies or a Polynesian Bungalow looking at the Magic Kingdom. I’ve been lucky enough to experience upgrades the past two times I’ve stayed at Disney Deluxe resorts, but I never went in EXPECTING it, even in the instance that Disney provided an original room that wasn’t suitable. Also, let’s not pretend like Disney doesn’t know what it’s doing when they upgrade you! We had never stayed at a Deluxe resort before being upgraded to Club Level at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and now I can’t fathom the idea of going back to a value or moderate resort. And that means, in the future, more money in Disney’s pockets for the rest of my Disney vacationing career because of the one time they let us eat some Rice Krisipie treats in the Club Level lounge! Have you ever been upgraded at a Disney World resort? Let me know below!