Free Dining is THE most popular promotion that Disney offers throughout the year for Disney World vacations. This promo produces a buying frenzy every time Disney releases it. There are so many questions for this promo that we have outlined all the important information below.
What is ‘Free Dining’ at Disney?
Free Dining is one of many promotions that Disney offers throughout the year. For this promo, Disney includes a dining package that has much of the food you will need at Disney. The inclusions change from year to year. Recently, the promo has involved Value and Moderate resorts at Disney having the quick service plan and Deluxe resorts having the regular Disney dining plan. Value and Moderate resorts can upgrade to the regular dining plan for an additional fee.
What is a Disney Dining Plan?
Currently, the two most popular Disney dining plans are the Quick Service Plan and the Regular Disney Dining Plan.
The 2019 Quick Service dining plan includes 2 quick service* meals and 2 snacks per person per night (not day) of your stay for children 3 and older. It also comes with a beverage mug that is refillable at the resorts but not parks.
The 2019 Regular Disney dining plan includes 1 table service** meal, 1 quick service* meal, and 2 snacks per person per night (not day) of your stay for children 3 and older. It also comes with a beverage mug that is refillable at the resorts but not parks.
*A quick service meal is a meal that has no waiter, where you order at a counter and then seat yourself.
**A table service meal is a meal that has a waiter. All character meals are table service. Table service meals require a reservation at Disney World. These reservations are available 180 days in advance. Gratuities are not included in a dining plan.
What Do You Need to Know About Disney Free Dining?
In order to get the free dining promo you…
1 ) Need to be staying onsite at Disney.
This offer is not eligible for offsite guest.
2) Must include tickets in your package.
This offer does not work if you are using already purchased tickets, annual passes, discounted or military tickets.
3) Must meet the other package requirements.
Disney continues to up the other required elements of the package. For 2019, you must purchase park hopper tickets and be staying a minimum of 5-nights.
4) Must check-in over the eligible dates.
Eligible dates vary each year. For 2019, the dates are July 5th-Sept. 30th. Free Dining is never offered over peak times like holidays or Spring Break.
5) Must stay at an eligible hotel and room type.
Disney often excludes some hotels or room types from the promo. Even when a hotel isn’t excluded, it doesn’t mean that the offer is available for all rooms for all the dates of the promotion.
6) Can switch a previously booked package to this promo if it’s available.
Disney allows you to add new promotions that come out as long as you are more than 30 days from travel.
7) Book early.
Free dining sells out quickly, especially in the lower room categories.
When does Free Dining work well?
Free Dining may be a great promo if…
1) You are a bigger group staying in one room.
Families of 5+ especially benefit from this promotion. However, smaller families can benefit too.
2) Your party has mostly adults or older children.
Families with adult-sized appetites benefit the most from having a generous amount of food provided.
3) Your family likes to eat.
Disney meal portion sizes are usually very generous. Those with big appetites benefit on the dining plan.
4) You are flexible with your travel dates and room.
The dining plan dates vary each year. If you really want this promo, it helps if you can be flexible with your hotel and time of year. Lately, Disney has offered the free dining promo in late Summer and over certain dates in the Fall.
5) You wanted Park Hoppers Anyway.
Lately, the free dining promo has included park hopper tickets to be eligible. If you were already planning on buying upgraded tickets, this won’t be an added expense. Or, if you were considering park hoppers, then this promo will appeal to you.
6) You wanted to stay at a Deluxe resort.
If you were already planning on a luxury hotel stay, the deluxe resorts get the nicer dining plan as part of their price. For those already spending extra to be at a deluxe, this gets them more value for their stay.
7) You wanted to stay at a nicer room.
Disney often offers the free dining promo on some of the nicer room types. If you were already planning on a specialty room or would enjoy one, you may find more options for the free dining promo.
What is Different for Disney Free Dining Promo 2019?
For 2019, the free dining promo was released much earlier than it was in past years when the promo was released in late Spring. The current promo runs July 5th 2019- September 30th 2019. There are currently no listed dates for October, November, and December. With Star Wars Land opening in late Fall (no dates yet as of January 4th) and the early promo announcement, it is highly likely that Disney will NOT have Free Dining for October-December for 2019 like they did for 2018.
Is Free Dining Worth It for You?
It is important to crunch the numbers and compare apples to apples. When you are comparing two package options, make sure you compare:
1) Room Type
2) Ticket Type
3) Dining Plan AND Any needed Dining Upgrades
Keep in mind that free dining is not the only promotion out there. Disney often offers room discounts or other promos that may be a better deal. In addition, some of Disney’s best prices on standard rooms are simply offered as standard prices when you book early.
Real Life Example: Case Study
We had a client this year staying Sept 29- Oct 5 with (2) adults and (1) 7-year-old child with 4-day regular tickets and a standard room at Pop Century for $2,237. The regular dining plan was going to be an additional $1,073.73. They estimated they could do food for the week for about $800 since they aren’t big eaters and weren’t planning on eating as much as the plan provided. They had budgeted about $3,000 for the trip.
The Free Dining promo for those same dates did not have availability at Pop Century. But, if the client was willing to switch to All-Star Sports in a Standard room, we could do the same package with regular dining upgrade (the regular promo comes with quick service) and 4-day park hopper tickets for $2,691. This would be a good deal and save them about $300 with more than enough food, but would require a different, lesser room than they originally selected.
Each person’s situation and dates are different. So, make sure you compare carefully. However, one thing is true for everyone: if you want the Free Dining promo you need to book fast. Availability does run out.
Need to talk about your Disney trip and figure out what is best for you? Contact us today.
About The Traveling Compass:
The Traveling Compass is a full-service luxury travel agency. Our success is built on a foundation of unmatched expertise and outstanding customer service. Our travel agents specialize in international travel, corporate incentive trips, destination weddings & honeymoons, multigenerational travel, luxury leisure, and family travel. We are also Authorized Disney Vacation Planners with experience assisting families that have children with special needs or large families or groups with complicated dining reservations for over 20 guests. Our personalized travel itineraries are designed to help discerning, time-pressed travelers plan the most elaborate vacations, down to the smallest detail. As luxury travel agents, we are dedicated to creating and facilitating travel experiences that expand awareness and give each person a real sense of the country and culture they are visiting. It is our mission to make sure you have the travel experience of a lifetime, every time.