Is Disney’s Rapid Refill worth purchasing for your vacation? Here’s the basics.
What it is: A thermally insulated plastic or metal cup with an RFID chip for activation.
What it’s good for: Drink refills from any Rapid Fill station at any Disney Resort — up to 4,917 free refills (approximately), or even more if your stay is longer than 14 days.
What it costs: Regular designs are $19.99, upgraded metal cups are $29.99. When Disney Dining Plans are offered, the cup may be included for free with the plan.
Now we’re ready for the big question: should you buy it? I like to start with the obvious: if you don’t drink soda, Powerade, or any other beverages that are included in the Rapid Fill options, then the cup might be a bad bet for you. After that it gets a little murkier, so let’s break this down from two angles. First we’ll look at the cost effectiveness, and then some of the intangibles that might add to – or subtract from – your personal value equation.
The Dollars and Cents Take
The starting point for any financial value analysis is always compared to what? It’s undoubtedly true that if you scored all 4,917 refills you would come out way ahead on a cost per ounce basis. But that number is based on Disney’s limit of 2 minutes between refills plus a 3 second fudge factor for filling the cup. To fully realize that value you’d have to spend your entire vacation in front of the dispenser, chugging a mug every couple of minutes, 24 hours a day for 14 straight days! You’d be way ahead on the cup, but I would not pay any money for that vacation experience, much less what you’d be ponying up to stay at a WDW resort.
Instead, let’s focus on situations where the cup is typically used:
• Eating meals at resort Quick Service locations
• Hanging by the pool
• Grabbing a refill to drink in your room
We can see right away that in most cases the cup is replacing an individually purchased serving, so that’s what we’ll compare to. The math here is pretty simple: as soon as our cost per day for individual purchases passes the cost per day for the cup, we’re saving money with the cup.
To make your vacation planning a little easier, I’ve gone ahead and crunched the numbers for some common individual size servings. There are a lot of ways to buy soda at Disney; I’ve picked Quick Service fountain drinks (which are refillable up to three times within the hour), 20 oz. bottles from Quick Service, and 12-packs of 12 oz. cans from the resort store. I’ve also included the option of buying 12-packs of cans from a local grocery.
As an example, let’s say you’re staying for four days. Checking the column for a 4-day stay, we can see that you’ll come out ahead with the cup if you’re doing resort Quick Service a bit more than once a day. On the other hand, if all your meals will be at Quick Service locations in the parks (where you can’t use the cup), and you’ll be buying cans to drink in your room and at the pool — well in that case you’ll need to drink more than 6 cans a day before the refill mug is cost effective. If you’re buying the cans at Target or Publix, you’ll need to crack open upwards of 9 per day to come out ahead with the mug!
Looking at the chart overall, it’s pretty easy to see that if you’re eating at any resort Quick Service at least once a day and buying a soda to go with that meal, then the Rapid Fill cup will break even by the fifth day. Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are currently $3.29 each, so if that’s your one fill a day it will take an extra day to break even. On the other hand, if you’re in the habit of grabbing a coffee fill-up to go with breakfast in your room as well as eating lunch or dinner at your resort, then the cup might pay for itself over a weekend visit. And if your stay is lengthy, then the mug can even be favorable against cans.
I’m pretty sure this will not shock you, dear reader, but it’s not uncommon to make purchasing decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with money. Individual taste is not up for dispute, and it’s not possible to put a fixed price on satisfaction. Here are some common non-financial considerations that are often mentioned when discussing the Rapid Fill program.
Souvenir value — Many find the cup to be an appealing souvenir, and have no trouble justifying the purchase on that basis. My kids are too old and cool to use sippy cups, but lidded cups from Disney are a suitably chill alternative when they need to be extra-careful about spills. One thing to consider if you plan to use the cup as a travel mug for your morning joe: the metal cups cost more but they also lack handles and are therefore friendlier to automobile cupholders.
Station location — Most resorts have a refill station conveniently located to the feature pool. If you spend your time at the quiet pools, you might have quite a hike for refills. This convenience factor also applies to the location of your room.
Serving size — The cups only hold 13 ounces, about the same as a can of coke. If you usually go with a 20 oz. bottle, you may feel like you are constantly refilling.
Eco-friendliness — It feels obvious that the cup is more eco-friendly because it eliminates waste. Unfortunately the picture is not so simple: an alternate viewpoint on eco-friendliness relies on life-cycle energy usage. From an energy perspective, you need to use a polypropylene cup like the Rapid Fill mugs about 17-20 times before it’s greener than paper.
Self-discipline — Many of us customarily take a break from our healthy habits while on vacation. But if you’re trying to maintain a limit on your sweet or sugary drinks, it’s definitely easier to resist the call of a cup of soda when it isn’t free.
COVID considerations — The refill routine has changed during COVID. Some people may prefer it, and some may find it more awkward. Also, there are reports that a few resorts are not currently participating, or that some refill stations (like the ones near the pool) may be closed even if the Quick Service stations are open. Pandemic precautions can change rapidly, but if you’re interested in the cup it may be a good idea to find out if your resort’s refill stations are available – and which ones – before making a decision.
In the past many visitors received the cup for free as part of a Dining Plan, but with Dining Plans currently on hiatus it makes sense to think harder about whether or not to get one.
Is your family pro-mug, or anti-mug? What motivates your decision? Let us know in the comments.