To Buy or Not To Buy: The Rapid Fill Refill Question

Share This!

Is Disney’s Rapid Refill worth purchasing for your vacation? Let’s take a look.

Overview

Picture of the metal Star Wars Rapid Fill mug, three sides
Star Wars Metal Upgrade Mug

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 19,200 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.

How it works: Once purchased, the mug can be refilled at no cost at your resort’s Quick Service location, or at other designated refill stations around the resort.  The standard stations have a choice of 6-8 beverages and usually include at least one non-carbonated option such as Powerade. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are also available.  Some resorts have Coke Freestyle machines for use with the refill mugs. The cups are good for 14 days from the date of purchase, and have a 60-second waiting period between refills.

The refill machine displays will tell you how long your cup is good for and how much time is left until you can refill it again.

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 probably not. After that it gets a little murkier, so let’s break this down from two angles. First we’ll look at how cost-effective the cup is, and then we’ll check out some of the intangibles that might add to (or subtract from) your personal value equation.

I admit, I am absolutely in love with these super-cute Mickey flip-top lids that have shown up this summer. But we should still do a cost analysis because at TouringPlans we’re practical like that.

The Dollars and Cents Take

Picture of Caribbean Peach feature poolThe starting point for any value question is always compared to what?  It’s certain that if you scored all 19,200 refills you’d be way ahead on a cost per ounce basis.  But to get that maximum value you’d have to stand in front of the dispenser chugging a mug-a-minute, 24 hours a day for 14 straight days. You’d be way ahead on the cup — but that doesn’t sound like a great vacation to me.

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 per-day cost for single-purchase items passes the per-day cost of the cup, the cup is a better option.  The chart below compares the mug with 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 a local grocery.

Chart showing single serve price vs. refill cup up to 7 days
Topline: per-day cost of the refill cup for a 7-day stay. Chart: How many times you’d need to buy the single-serve option per day to break even on the refill cup over the number of days shown.

The easy math is in the Day 1 column where you can see how many total purchases you’d need to make to equal the cost of the refill cup. For instance, the refill mug will be a winning option if you’re buying more than 5 Quick Service paper cups over the length of your trip, no matter how long it is. But if you’ve bought 12-packs of cans from the Publix or Target then you’ll need to crack open more than 40 to come out ahead.

Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are currently $3.49 each, so if that’s your one fill a day it will take an extra day or so to break even compared to QS paper. On the other hand, if you’re in the habit of grabbing a coffee fill-up to go with breakfast in your room and then eating dinner at your resort, the cup might pay for itself over a weekend visit.

The Intangibles

I’m pretty sure this won’t shock you, but it’s not uncommon to buy things for reasons that have nothing to do with how much money they’ll save you. Individual taste is not up for dispute, and it’s not possible to put a fixed price on satisfaction. Here are some common non-budgetary considerations that are often raised about these cups.

50th anniversary Disney rapid refill cup designs
50th Anniversary mug designs make a great souvenir

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 careful about spills. If you plan to use the cup as a travel mug for your morning joe, know that the metal cups cost more but they also lack handles and are therefore friendlier to automobile cupholders.

For those of you with kids who are thinking that the 50th Anniversary designs pictured above don’t give you 4 different colors that your kids can “claim”, fear not. There are two mug designs, and each comes with a choice of blue or yellow handle to make 4 unique combinations.

Station location — Most resorts have a refill station conveniently located near 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.

Measuring cup showing 13 ounces of liquid next to a refill cup
13 ounces – we measured it!

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.

Is your family pro-mug, or anti-mug?  What motivates your decision?  Let us know in the comments.

Originally published April 2021; last updated June 2022.

You May Also Like...

Jennifer Heymont

Jennifer Heymont has a background in math and biology, but since she couldn't pick between the two she ended up in Data Science where she gets to do both. She lives just north of Boston with her husband, kids, and assorted animal members of the family. Although it took three visits for the Disney bug to "take", she now really wishes she lived a lot closer to the Parks.

30 thoughts on “To Buy or Not To Buy: The Rapid Fill Refill Question

  • April 11, 2021 at 12:17 pm
    Permalink

    There is also the issue of taking it with you, everywhere, so that you can use it. That can be viewed as a hassle by those who like to travel light (without backpack) to the parks. Even if you do use a backpack or stroller, now you have one for each person in your family to keep track of and fit among your items. That’s just another factor to consider.

    Reply
    • April 11, 2021 at 3:53 pm
      Permalink

      Absolutely. Although the mugs can’t be used for refills in the parks, many people grab a fill up on the way to the bus stop and then have to carry the mug with them all day. Same thing if you are planning to take a break from the parks and eat lunch at a Resort that is not the one you are staying at.

      Reply
  • April 11, 2021 at 2:27 pm
    Permalink

    Do you know if all resorts that are open right now are participating in the refillable mug program? I’m staying at Coronado next week and heard they’re not doing it.

    Reply
    • April 11, 2021 at 3:56 pm
      Permalink

      We have definitely confirmed that even for resorts that are participating, not all the stations are currently open. The last year has only shown how quickly things can change at Disney: I would hate to give you advice that is right today and wrong tomorrow. Your best bet is to simply ask at the resort when you arrive and before purchasing.

      Reply
      • April 11, 2021 at 6:26 pm
        Permalink

        Okay, thank you!

  • April 12, 2021 at 7:19 am
    Permalink

    If you do a split stay at two resorts, do you have to purchase a mug at each hotel, or does it carry over?

    Reply
    • April 12, 2021 at 10:52 am
      Permalink

      The mugs are automatically good for 14 days from date of purchase, so if your whole trip is under two weeks just carry it with you to the next resort and you’re good to go.

      If your trip is longer than 14 days and you are in one resort the whole time, the mugs are good for length of stay, see a Cast Member to get them extended. If you are doing a split stay, you will still need to see a cast member to get them extended, but the answer you get about whether your prior resort counts in your length of stay may depend on which Cast Member you get — I know that people have done this, but I was unable to confirm whether or not it is policy.

      Reply
  • April 12, 2021 at 8:53 am
    Permalink

    There is also the consideration of sharing a mug?

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 12:45 pm
      Permalink

      I was wondering the same thing. We are going in a few months and I was trying to figure out the best way to get my morning coffee before we get to the parks. I am definitely Not standing in the Starbucks or Joffreys line

      Reply
      • June 14, 2022 at 1:35 pm
        Permalink

        Hi Brittney – yes, the mugs are obviously not assigned to an individual person, and they can be shared. But Disney frowns on the idea that you’ll fill your cup, pour it into another cup for someone else in your group, and then immediately fill it again yourself. That’s the reason for the enforced wait between refills.

  • April 13, 2021 at 11:12 am
    Permalink

    You can only refill it once every two minutes but is there a daily max? Thanks.

    Reply
    • April 13, 2021 at 11:18 am
      Permalink

      There is not a daily max. I have never personally tried the 4,917 refill thing, but I’m pretty sure that it would work. 🙂

      Reply
  • April 16, 2021 at 1:17 pm
    Permalink

    We have a cabinet full at home because the refillable mug comes (came) with the dining plan we frequently used. However, we spend nearly every waking hour in the parks. But for a late night trip to the refill station, they never really get used.
    Note: They are not refillable inside the parks. You see hundreds of people in the parks with the refillable mugs hanging off strollers, backpacks and purses. These folks are all usually disappointed after they get to the front of the quick service line when they discover the mug is not for the parks.

    Reply
  • June 14, 2022 at 11:58 am
    Permalink

    Is there a way to see which resorts have the Coke Freestyle machines? I am a Diet Coke aficionado, and although i love the *idea* of the Freestyle machines, i find that in practice for the most part the drinks taste like soda water with food coloring in it.

    I’ve love to know ahead of time if the resorts we’re staying at will have succumbed (in which case, mug value goes wayyyyy down)

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 12:10 pm
      Permalink

      Hi cotterpinx – just an FYI, even resorts that have some of the machines don’t necessarily have them everywhere, for instance Caribbean Beach has Freestyle machines in the individual buildings but still has the regular machine in the Centertown Market next to the main pool (or at least, I’m pretty sure it did last August when I was there). So for you it will probably depend more than most where you are located compared to the machine you’re most likely to fill up from.

      PlanDisney says (in 2018) that the machines are definitely located at the Grand Floridian, Yacht & Beach Club, Caribbean Beach, and Port Orleans French Quarter. https://plandisney.disney.go.com/question/resorts-freestyle-pop-machines-coming-loved-beach-club-378632

      For a more current list, you can try the Coca Cola app as described in Erin’s article – just be careful, as she says, to know that sometimes you’ll see locations that are cast-only in the listing.
      https://touringplans.com/blog/the-coca-cola-app-can-improve-your-disney-and-universal-soda-experience/

      Reply
  • June 14, 2022 at 1:36 pm
    Permalink

    We did major resort hopping in February for over 20 days to use up DVC points. Dying of thirst while checking out Caribbean Beach Resort, we tried to purchase 3 fountain drinks and the cashier suggested the refillable mugs. When I explained our situation, she quickly conferred with the supervisor and they just loaded our cups twice. The mugs were immediately good for 28 days and we had no issues using them at Kidani, Saratoga, Polynesian, Riviera, and even at Vero Beach. Not sure if this was policy or we just lucked out with kind Cast Members.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 5:07 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Sandi, thanks for sharing your experience. In the past, we’ve definitely brought mugs with us when switching from resort to resort, with no issues.

      Reply
      • June 15, 2022 at 7:47 am
        Permalink

        We have used them at Disney World and Hilton Head Island. CM said they can be used at any “Disney World” resort and HHI and Vero are both “Disney World” resorts.

  • June 14, 2022 at 1:55 pm
    Permalink

    DS8 only drinks milk and water by choice so it definitely would not make sense financailly for him. I really wish they would include milk for kids instead of all the unhealthy options. But you can’t really leave him out if everyone else has one. We do use it at home though so in that sense it would be considered a souvenir.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 4:57 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Jenny – yeah, we have one that only drinks water too. Sometimes she gets the mug, and sometimes she just steals one of ours when she gets home. We always justified it financially that we were paying for the mug with all the money we save buying her soda in so many other places.

      Reply
      • June 15, 2022 at 9:14 am
        Permalink

        Does anyone know if this is an option at Aulani?

  • June 14, 2022 at 2:00 pm
    Permalink

    What’s the general feel about taking these into TS restaurants? I’m not a soda drinker, but I enjoy a cup of coffee in the afternoon. I typically order one during a lunch TS… but if I can take a mug into a restaurant and enjoy it during a meal, I could see where it might pay off for me over the course of a few days. Any thoughts on this?

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 5:00 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Jill, I’m guessing this is only a question at resorts because you can’t fill the mugs in the parks or at Disney Springs. I guess I would say – would you buy a cup of coffee somewhere else and carry it into a TS restaurant with you to drink with your meal? To me, it’s the same question.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2022 at 8:09 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks, Jennifer. Yes, referring to meals at resorts.

    I typically wouldn’t do this… but if the coffee shop and the restaurant were owned by the same company, I might consider it? Thanks for your thoughts!

    Reply
    • June 14, 2022 at 10:07 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Jill,

      YMMV, but on our May trip, I took my cup with me everywhere, including Ale & Compass twice and refilled my mug at their freestyle machine after my meals in order to get zero sugar drinks. I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it and no one mentioned it to me. I kept it on the table and only ordered water, but I didn’t drink from it in the restaurant.

      I found it was convenient for me to clip it to my park bag and refill it in the parks at water bottle stations. When I got cups of water from quick service, I emptied them in there. It was easier to juggle the mug than a full paper cup.

      For me, refill station location makes a big impact on the refillable mug’s value. We stayed at Kidani Village which has a refill station in the lobby gift (great placement but small selection) right along our path to the bus stop, so it was great for filling on our way out and back. We came back for afternoon breaks so we usually got 3+ refills just on trips to the park. IMO, it would not have been worth if we had stayed at Jambo House as the refill station is at the Mara which is quite a walk from the lobby.

      My only critique is that it’s unfortunate that there are few freestyle machines and that seems unlikely to increase. I would prefer having more zero sugar options in more locations.

      Reply
  • June 15, 2022 at 5:09 am
    Permalink

    I think they’re worth buying for us personally. We last went to WDW in 2015 and used it enough during our time in the resort that I was happy we perchased them. I think someotimes if you feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth vs if you actually did get your money’s worth it, that’s just as good. Like I said, we went in 2015 and I would oftern wake up early and get a coffee for me and a tea for my girlfriend for in the morning while we got ready for the day. Another refill each at breakfast and then off to the park. On the way back to our room on an evening we would grab a refill and then a few more during the course of the evening. Even now, they’re still being used at home.
    We’ll definitley be getting them again when we go back in September (I think they’re included in our package as we’re from the UK), If they still have the Star Wars metal design in Sepetmeber, I’d pay the for the upgrade, like you mentioned from a souvenir point of view.

    Reply
  • June 15, 2022 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    Does anyone know if this is an option at Aulani?

    Reply
  • June 18, 2022 at 6:42 am
    Permalink

    On the other factors…
    One thing I’d note is that you can (or at least used to could) refill them at any resort. Often at Magic Kingdom we’d hop on the resort monorail or EPCOT run over to Beach Club and get a refill as a break. I also found pre-COVID that many restaurants were happy to either refill or give us a refill to pour into them.

    Reply
  • July 4, 2022 at 9:35 am
    Permalink

    This was a very confusing & convoluted way of breaking down the value of the refillable mug! I still don’t know what a QS paper is. All I know is that the QS sodas at the resorts are $3.99 and a cup of coffee is $3.49. Just divide $19.99 by $3.99 or $3.49 to see how many you’d need to drink to break even (5 sodas or 5.7 coffees). So, if you fill your mug 6 times, you’re ahead.

    If you want it to last a little longer while in your resort room, fill it without ice, but fill your room’s ice bucket. Then just pour the soda from the refillable cup into a resort room glass and add ice. You’ll get more soda in the cup if ice isn’t taking up precious space.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Sarah Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.