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The free Disney dining plan promotion is one of the most sought after Disney World discounts. Previously, Disney was very consistent in when the offered free dining, but starting in 2019 they started throwing curve balls! This post will help you understand the ins and outs of free Disney dining plan promotion. It will also give you the most recent free dining offerings (updated 1/2/2020).
If you are looking for information about the free Disney dining plan offer for guests who had their vacation cancelled by the pandemic, I have a separate free Dining plan offer just for that.
For right now this post has the information for the Disney free dining offerings for summer 2020. I completely expect they will offer more dates at some point, so stay tuned! In 2019 the Fall/Winter free dining promotion was released in July 2019. IF they have fall free dining again, that is when I expect the to announce it. Unless they go rogue. Which is something they like to do…
What is the Free Disney Dining Plan Promotion?
So what is the free Disney Dining Plan, and will it work for you? In a lot of respects, the free Disney Dining Plan is exactly what it sounds like: you get a Disney Dining Plan for free.
However, true to form, there are a lot of twists and turns that come with this. There are minimum booking requirements that you must hit in order to qualify for free Disney dining, and the type of resort that you choose will also come into play.
Guests who book a stay at Value and Moderate level Disney resorts qualify for the Quick Service Dining Plan for free. Any stays booked at Deluxe Resorts or Deluxe Villas are eligible for the Regular Disney Dining Plan for free.
Of course, you do have the option to pay extra to upgrade to another plan if you’d like. At that point, you simply pay the difference between the plan you want and what you upgrade from.
Free Disney Dining Plan Dates 2020
First, let’s take a look at the dates in 2020 which the free Disney Dining Plan will currently be available:
- June 27 through June 28
- July 5 through July 7
- August 29 through September 8
These dates are EXTREMELY limited, unfortunately. But if they work for you, make sure you jump on this deal ASAP. I did see one site report dates from June 27 through July 28, but I think this was in error. What little I can see on Disney’s website before it crashes on me says June 27-28.
In order to qualify for this offer, you must book the promotion by January 16, 2020. The dates are based on the date of check-in. So you still qualify if you check in on September 8, 2020.
You must book a 5 night/6 day non-discounted vacation package in order to qualify. This includes the requirement that your park tickets are Park Hoppers.
Don’t qualify for free dining? Here are some other money saving posts:
Free Disney Dining Plan Resorts
Not all of the Disney resorts are eligible for the free Disney Dining Plan promotion. Remember, Disney uses this promotion to fill spaces in resorts which currently have too much availability.
Here is a breakdown of each resort by category.
Value Resorts Eligible for Free Quick Service Dining Plan
- Art of Animation Resort (Family Suites only! Little Mermaid Rooms are excluded from this offer)
- All-Star Music Resort
- All-Star Sports Resort
- Pop Century Resort
Moderate Resorts Eligible for Free Quick Service Dining Plan
- Caribbean Beach Resort
- Coronado Springs Resort
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort
Deluxe Resorts Eligible for Free Disney Dining Plan
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Beach Club Resort
- BoardWalk Inn
- Contemporary Resort
- Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Polynesian Village Resort
- Wilderness Lodge Resort
- Yacht Club Resort
Deluxe Villas Eligible for Free Disney Dining Plan
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Cabins and Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Villas
- Old Key West Resort
- Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
- Riviera Resort (for stays starting December 16, 2019)
- Saratoga Springs Resort
Tip: If you already have a room booked but want free Disney dining, call Disney World to have your reservation changed. You can either add it if you already have a reservation at a participating resort, or you can change your resort entirely.
Disney World Free Dining Plan Information
Below you will see a screen shot from Disney’s website for the free Disney dining offered for summer 2020. This gives you an example of the offer details, including common exclusions.
One important thing to note is that Free Dining cannot be combined with any other offers. This means you must pay the full rack rate for the room as well as the full price of the park tickets. Additionally, those tickets must be park hoppers.
Also, there are a number of rooms and/or resorts which are completely excluded from the offer. You will not the following room exclusions:
- 3 Bedroom Villas
- Cabins at Copper Creek Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- Bungalows at Polynesian Villas
- Little Mermaid Standard Rooms at Art of Animation
How to Book Free Dining at Disney
The free Disney Dining Plan promotion is notoriously challenging to book. There are limited numbers of rooms that are earmarked for free dining so if you want to nab this promotion, do not wait. Once the free dining eligible rooms are booked, all you can hope for is that someone cancels their booking and you can grab it in their place.
You can book the free Disney Dining Plan on the website or call Disney at 407-939-7216 and book through a Cast Member. After a quick scan of room availability, things are booking up very fast. This is one of the most sought after promos of the year. BOOK TODAY IF YOU WANT TO GET A FREE DISNEY DINING PLAN!
If you have the flexibility to arrange your trip around Free Dining and are having trouble finding openings online, I would recommend calling Disney and working with a Cast Member who can help you with that. That is likely easier than process of elimination on the website. Alternatively, if you have a travel agent you plan to work with, this would be a great thing to task them with.
Read up about the Disney Dining Plan to learn more about the offerings of the different dining plans so you know what you are getting with this free promotion.
Is Disney’s Free Dining Plan Worth It?
Everyone basically goes nuts over the free dining promotion every year, and with good reason. Food costs are considerable at Disney World so the ability to cut that expense out entirely is enticing.
However, don’t just assume that free dining will give you the best savings possibility. I don’t remember much from my high school economics class, but one thing I do remember is TINSTAFL: There Is No Such Thing As Free Lunch.
Possible Cheaper Alternatives
I would highly recommend that you sit down and do some serious math before you assume that Free Dining will save you the most money. The fact of the matter is, a combination of room discount, not getting park hoppers, and eating at mostly quick service restaurants may end up saving you more money than free dining.
The amount of food you get with the Disney Dining Plan is obscene. Many people end up coming home with a suitcase full of candy they needed to get in order not to waste their snack credits. Don’t get me wrong, I love obscene amounts of food at Disney World, but it’s not for everyone. As I showed in my post on eating cheaply at Disney World, it is possible to save money and still be well fed.
If you love the ease and lack of worry that comes with the Dining Plan, then free dining might just trump everything else.
But if saving money really is the bottom line, don’t be too hasty. Look into how much your trip would cost with a room discount, combined with discounted tickets from a trusted website like Undercover Tourist, and planning to eat as cheaply as possible while you are there. You just might save more that way.
Current Disney Discounts
Make sure you take a look at any current Disney World room discounts and do some math before you decide that the Disney free dining is actually a decent savings.
Comparing Free Disney Dining Package with Room Discount
I decided to do the math to compare whether the free Disney dining plan versus using a room discount and a different ticketing option. This current example is from 2019, so the dates and numbers might not match up, but it will work for this example to get the point.
If I can ever actually get on Disney’s website any time soon, I’ll do some updated numbers!
I set myself the following parameters when doing this to try to make is as even a comparison as possible:
- Resort stay at Caribbean Beach Resort from September 1-6, 2019
- 4 days in the parks (though to show the cheapest option you can get, I will compare Park Hoppers to base tickets)
- Example is for 2 adults
- Since I have successfully spent around $34 per night of stay on food, I will use that as my number when calculating a more extreme attempt at keeping dining costs low
I wanted to be as aggressive as I could be in terms of slashing the price of the Room Discount example as much as possible, hence the base park tickets and low dining budget estimate.
Free Disney Dining Promo
2 Adults, King Room at Caribbean Beach Resort, 4 day park hoppers, Quick Service Dining Plan
2 Adults, King Room at Caribbean Beach Resort, 4 day base tickets from Undercover Tourist, $68/night in dining expenses
As you can see, the price different between the two options is only $85.88. Quite frankly, if that’s the only difference and I had the option of free dining, I would go with free Disney Dining. You get a ton more food and Park Hoppers for that price.
However, I simply did the math on one resort option. I don’t know how this comparison would stack up across all the different resort options. But the moral of the story is: do the math first, just to make sure it’s as good a deal as you think it is.
When Might Disney’s Free Dining Plan Actually Cost You More?
There are a few different situations where signing up for the free Disney Dining Plan might actually cost you significantly more money. This will only apply to certain subsections of people, but if you are one of them, definitely do your research first.
Anyone With Military Discounts
The discounts that Disney offers to military personnel and their families every year is significant. This includes discounts on both Disney resort rooms and park tickets. And I mean HUGE discounts.
Discounts on Disney’s resorts goes up to 40% off for Deluxe Resorts. That’s an astronomical discount which alone would trump free dining. When you factor in the 5-day park hoppers that military personnel for a fraction of the price, Disney’s free dining promotion can’t even come close to touching it.
This one is an “it depends” kind of situation. Annual Passholders often qualify for larger room discounts than people with regular park tickets. Again, make sure you do the math to see just how much you may or may not save with the free dining plan.
Tables In Wonderland Card Holders
This is kind of an extension of the Annual Passholders category because only Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members, and Florida residents qualify for this dining discount card.
The Tables in Wonderland discount card gives you a 20% discount on most Table Service restaurants and some Quick Service Restaurants. If the regular Disney Dining Plan is what you want and you qualify for Tables in Wonderland, some calculations are in order.
Tables in Wonderland costs $150 to buy the card, requiring $750 in dining purchases to break even. Anything beyond that is savings.
Depending on how you use it and how you plan to eat, plus room discounts and discounted Disney park tickets, this might be the cheaper option.
Tips for Booking Disney’s Free Dining Plan
Let’s say you are 100% sure you want to plan your trip during Disney’s free dining promotion. Here are some pointers to help increase your odds of success in booking free dining at Disney World.
Book Your Room Before Free Dining is Released
You should book the room that you want long before Disney even releases their free dining promotion. However, you shouldn’t just book blindly.
Disney tends to follow patterns, and by looking at historical information, you can make an educated guess on what dates will be covered during the year you plan to attend.
With this data you can guess both what dates should apply, as well as which resorts it might apply to. For example, in recent years October is never included, and Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation are never included.
Instead, September and December are frequent flyers for free dining so you increase your odds by booking your trip then.
Once Disney’s free dining plan dates are released you can modify your reservation to add it to your package. The reservation MUST be modified to add a free Disney Dining Plan. It will not automatically apply.
When to Re-Book a New Room
Let’s face it, we all know that Disney’s website can be glitchy. If you already have a reservation and it’s not letting you modify your reservation to add free dining, you might be better off simply booking a whole separate room, then canceling the original reservation.
Make sure you book the new room first before you cancel your original reservation. Don’t risk losing your initial reservation and then finding out you can’t re-book at your desired resort.
Be Ready at the Crack of Dawn
If there are rumblings within the Disney community that a free dining promotion will be released on a specific date, be prepared to get up early that day. Disney releases the promotion in the wee hours of the morning.
This is a promotion where the early bird most definitely catches the worm. The earlier you catch the release, the better your odds of getting it.
Try Booking on Computer First, Then Try Calling
If possible, booking on your computer (or tablet or phone) will always be faster than calling Disney directly. For example, let’s say the promotion releases at 5:30am. The phone lines don’t open until 7:00am EST. That gives everyone else an hour and a half head start on you.
And that’s not even factoring in how long you will have to wait on hold for your turn when you call right at 7:00am.
But if you are having a hard time finding availability online, or something just isn’t working, calling is your best bet.
Be Flexible with Dates and Resort
If Disney’s free dining plan is the goal, flexibility is the name of the game. With or without a pre-existing reservation, you might need to pick a completely different resort, or even dates, to qualify.
Pick your resort category (value, moderate, or deluxe) and try to stick within that same category, but perhaps a different resort. It makes no sense to “save money” with the free dining plan if you end up spending twice as much by going up to a higher resort category.
While You’re at it, Book Your Advanced Dining Reservations
You can book any of your dining reservations up to 180 days in advance of resort check-in. Disney will not even come close to announcing free dining by that point.
However, once free dining is released, there will be a sudden surge in making dining reservations. At that point, reservations may be hard to come by. Why not be prepared and make sure you have yours set ahead of time?
It is generally good practice to book dining as soon as the 180 day window opens anyway. Make sure you understand the Advanced Dining Reservation system before you need to make your reservations.
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Who is excited about free dining? Sound off below whether you decided to go with free dining or a room discount. Don’t forget to follow The Disney Journey on Facebook to keep up to date with Disney announcements.