Free Dining Offer at Walt Disney World is Now Available!
After many rumors have spread like wildfire the past few weeks, it became official today, April 24, 2018! The free dining offer for late summer and fall travel to Walt Disney World was released. Guests are eligible for free dining plans with select non-discounted 4 night Magic Your Way package. Packages must include a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and at least 4 day tickets with Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus.
Free Disney Dining Dates
- August 20 – September 29, 2018
- November 24 – November 27, 2018
- December 7 – December 23, 2018
The dining plan offer depends on which resort level you are staying at: Value and Moderate Resorts have complimentary Quick Service Dining Plans. Deluxe Resorts or Deluxe Villa Resorts will receive the regular Disney Dining Plan for free. You can make upgrades to whichever plan you qualify for, and pay the difference.
There are LOTS of room excluded from the Free Dining promo this year, including all of the following: All Star Movies, Bay Lake Tower, both Port Orleans Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Village Resort (villas & standard rooms), Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness campsites, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, and all 3-bedroom Villas. Why so many exclusions? Simple enough reason…Disney doesn’t have to offer a discount to fill those rooms to capacity.
What’s the Catch?
Why wouldn’t someone want free dining? As someone who has traveled to Disney twice with free dining offers, I personally know the value this offers to a family traveling on a budget. We have eaten like kings at Disney with the free dining. I know that I would have been pinching pennies if we were paying out of pocket.
Crowds and Blocked Dates
Many people have come to expect free dining offers in the fall at Disney and with that comes larger crowds. Larger crowds mean more time waiting in lines and it’s harder to obtain reservations at your first choice restaurants. Disney has also blocked out the entire month of October and most of November this year, which had historically been open for free dining.
It seems as though Disney has caught on to the high number of school systems that have fall breaks now, and they have no reason to discount that season anymore. Many people have spent hours and hours on hold with Disney only to find out that due to limited availability at each resort, they couldn’t have the discount applied.
Is it worth it?
It’s a tough call on whether or not the value of the free dining is worth it anymore. For many it is. For others, it would mean changing travel dates or choosing a different resort with availability. If you hadn’t budgeted for adding park hoppers it could make the cost of the trip more expensive.
For reference on the value of free dining, here is a breakdown of the prices for the 2018 dining packages at Disney.
2018 Disney Dining Plan Pricing
My Personal Experience
When the free dining dates the last year I booked I tried for free dining for us, I found out that our reservation was outside the booking window. Out of sheer curiosity, I played around with our reservation dates and checked out the prices. That year was the first time that Disney has had the caveat that in order to qualify for free dining, guests must purchase either a Park Hopper pass or a Water Park Fun and more option. They did the same thing for 2016, and for 2017 and 2018 added in the Park Hopper requirement.
We were staying at a value resort, and I would have had to upgrade to the regular dining plan (personal preference here) and pay the difference, as well as upgrade our tickets to a Park Hopper pass. Because of this, I was actually going to end up paying more out of pocket, just for the “perk” of free dining. It took our $1600 vacation to just under $1800, so I would have ended up paying almost $200 more for free food.
Is a Room Discount better?
It was an easy decision for me for that trip and every trip since then– no free dining. However, when free dining isn’t an option look for a room discount to come out to save a little money. All things considered, with the right availability and some flexibility with your arrival dates, you can save money with a free dining vacation. And don’t forget that utilizing a Disney vacation planner like Jolly Holidays by Sarah, Main Street Memories by Meredith or Tomorrowland Travels with Amy can make the hassle of booking free dining something your TA worries about for you.
When considering the value of free dining at Disney ask yourself if the discount is worth it to your family. In our case for us it wasn’t, but it might be perfect for your family! What are your thoughts on free dining at Disney? Let’s chat in the comments. ~Amy ºoº