Free Disney Dining Plan is a promotion Walt Disney World offers every year for select dates in the fall and winter, and is typically a great discount for those booking vacation packages. Free Dining for 2018 has not yet been released to the general public, but the 2018 Free Dining bounceback was–which gives us some insight. (Last updated January 1, 2018.)
That’s the good news. The bad news is that right now, Free Dining is not available for the general public to book, nor is the bounceback offer available. With that said, if you’re here for the 2018 Free Disney Dining Plan predictions and historical info, we’ll share some insight in this post so you can begin planning for next year’s Free Dining.
If you want to be notified of 2018 Free Disney Dining Plan dates, sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter. We will email our subscribers the minute we hear any rumors or have any sort of info. The last three years, we’ve given our subscribers a heads up before the promo has gone live to give them a jumpstart (it’s really important to book the discount early). For now, 2018 Free Dining bounceback dates are useful, as these dates are often predictive of the general public offer that will be released…
Perhaps the biggest news is that there was a bounceback 2018 Free Dining offer at all. While Free Dining has been offered every single year since 2006, it’s never a sure thing. This is especially true as fall travel dates grow in popularity at Walt Disney World, and less of an incentive is needed to entice guests to book trips. In any case, here are the 2018 Free Dining bounceback dates:
- May 29 – June 5, 2018
- June 29 – July 11, 2018
- August 1 – September 8, 2018
- December 7 – 22, 2018
The resort exclusions are nearly identical to normal Free Dining exclusions, and the minimum ticket purchase likewise applies. Additionally, Value and Moderate Resorts receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, and only Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan.
While it stinks (yet is unsurprising) to see Moderates once again receive the Quick Service DDP, there is one bit of good news–the 2018 Free Dining promo will include booze. Walt Disney World has released info and other details about the 2018 Disney Dining Plan, and alcoholic and specialty drinks are now included.
Again, we want to reiterate that the bounceback offer was only for guests to book while on vacation at Walt Disney World–and the booking window for this ended on October 31. It is no longer possible to book the bounceback offer; we’re simply sharing it here as it provides something of a baseline for 2018 Free Dining dates until more concrete rumors start to emerge.
When comparing these bounceback dates to the previous Free Dining bounceback offer that was released last August, there’s a lot of overlap. The May and June dates are nearly identical, plus or minus a couple of days in each direction. There are roughly two weeks worth of additional dates–mostly in early July, early August, and early December.
The expansion of the summer travel dates makes sense, particularly given how quiet the summer season has been (see our “Summer Isn’t Peak Season at Walt Disney World Anymore” article for more on that). Honestly, we’re a bit surprised to not see more summer travel dates for the bounceback. Animal Kingdom aside, June was not exactly a busy month this year.
Walt Disney World is slow to adapt to changing crowd patterns, which could explain these 2018 Free Dining dates. Other explanations are they expect the opening of Toy Story Land next summer to cause a greater spike to crowds, are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach with bookings, have some other summer discount planned, or are planning to shift 1-day ticket price seasons.
It’s no surprise to see so much of September and the entire months of October and November excluded. Not only is this consistent with previous bounceback offers, but it makes sense with shifting travel trends. It is worth noting that the general public Free Dining offer (see dates below) included plenty of dates in September and November, so don’t freak out if that’s when you plan to travel. The general public offer should include more dates in these months.
With that said, we would not be even remotely surprised to see the general public 2018 Free Dining dates shifted more into the summer months and away from late September through November. As always, all Walt Disney World promotions are used to incentivize guests into booking hotel stays, to meet target occupancy rates. Occupancy projections for 2018 dates that are over a year away (in some cases) are not exactly reliable right now, which is why the general public Free Dining offer differs from the bounceback offer.
However, last year’s bounceback offer closely mirrored this year’s (with a couple weeks of additional dates), so we’d expect the general public 2018 Free Disney Dining Plan offer to mirror this year’s offer, which was as follows:
- August 21* – September 30
- November 14 – 20
- November 25 – 27
- December 8 – 23
*Disney Visa Cardholders could book the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion for arrival dates beginning August 13.
For those wondering about other 2018 Walt Disney World discounts, check out our Current Walt Disney World Discount Offers post for what’s presently available.
Other important details, exclusions, and restrictions are as follows in our Free Dining FAQ…
Free Dining FAQ
With this special offer, Walt Disney World guests booking vacation packages with non-discounted resort hotels and park tickets receive the Disney Dining Plan for each member of their party for no additional charge. For obvious reasons (who doesn’t love free food?!), the promotion is incredibly popular and some resorts that offer free dining tend to sell out quickly.
There are the room exclusions for the Free Dining promo; the following resorts do not qualify for Free Dining: All-Star Movies, Bay Lake Tower, Port Orleans Resort French Quarter, Fort Wilderness campsites, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms, all 3-bedroom Villas, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, and standard rooms & bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. These resorts and room tiers are all not eligible for Free Dining. Port Orleans Resort Riverside is eligible for Free Dining, but only for select dates from August 21 until September 30.
To take advantage of Free Dining, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase tickets that include either a 2-day (or longer) Park Hopper or the Park Hopper Plus option. Additionally, a 3-night minimum stay is required with a maximum stay of fourteen nights. This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.
If you have already booked a vacation package with an arrival date that qualifies for Free Dining, we recommend using the “modify reservation” link in your booking to apply the promotion to your package. This is the quickest and easiest way to apply the promotion.
You might see other advice that recommends calling first thing in the morning to book Free Dining. This is outdated. If you call Walt Disney World’s reservation line, you will likely wait on hold for an hour (or hours) until you’re able to speak to an agent. Booking or modifying your reservation online is far quicker and easier. Even if the online system crashes (which has happened) or moves slowly due to all the traffic, it’s easier to just keep trying online.
If you need personalized help with planning any aspect of your vacation, or want someone to book the Free Dining promotion for you and provide other assistance along the way–we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan.
If you are wondering which hotel to book for the Free Dining promotion, check out our new Best Walt Disney World Hotels for Free Dining post. It gives our preferred option for each resort tier! Oh, and don’t forget to make some ADRs for the best and most popular Walt Disney World restaurants.
With this Free Dining offer, Value and Moderate Resort guests receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan during the promotion. Guests at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. Upgrading to higher tiers is possible for an additional charge.
If you have–or are considering–booking Free Dining, we highly recommend making Advance Dining Reservations as soon as possible. Yes, even before Free Dining is offered, if you can. Everyone gobbles up the good ADRs quickly for Free Dining dates, so if you don’t book early, you will be stuck eating counter service or unpopular restaurants for the duration of your trip.
To answer some other common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount (at least not in the U.S.).
Note that the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is always based upon arrival dates. For example, if Free Dining runs August 21 to September 30, and you arrive on September 30 and stay until October 9, you are eligible for Free Dining–even though it’s blocked out for October arrivals. (You didn’t arrive in October in that scenario–you arrived in September.)
However, if it’s offered November 14 to 20 & 25 to 27 and you arrive on November 22 and stay until November 29, you are not eligible for Free Dining, even though more of your stay falls during an “eligible” period than the first example’s. The work around for this is doing a split stay, with the ineligible arrival nights part of one vacation and a second vacation starting at the first valid “arrival” date and continuing thereafter. Again, arrival dates are what matters with Free Dining.
Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Value and Moderate Resorts receive the Quick Service Dining Plan during the Free Dining promotion, but are able to upgrade to the (standard) Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan if they pay the difference. Guests staying at Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan and may upgrade to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan by paying the difference, too.
The upgrade cost to go from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the standard Disney Dining Plan for Free Dining is $21.17 per adult and $4.07 per child per night. The upgrade cost from the standard Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $37.31 per adult and $13.80 per child per night. To upgrade from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe one, add the two upgrade costs together.
For details about which tier of the Disney Dining Plan includes or for recommendations about which restaurants to book to maximize your use of the Disney Dining Plan, please see our comprehensive Disney Dining Plan Overview Page!
Sign up for our newsletter to be alerted as soon as we hear any updates about 2018 Free Dining dates at Walt Disney World or news about 2018 promotion dates. After the initial wave of bookings and resort sell-outs, there are generally cancellations and/or additional rooms released into the Free Dining promo. We keep apprised of this, and immediately pass along info we learn to our newsletter readers. Additionally, if you’re looking for general Walt Disney World advice, we recommend reading our 2018 Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide and Requesting a FREE Walt Disney World Vacation Planning DVD…
In the section below, we have historical Free Dining dates for the last few years. The rest of what follows is historical information about the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion and is not pertinent to 2018…
The following is not pertinent to 2018 or any years beyond, but we have found that readers find it useful to have details about past Free Dining promos when planning for the future and what to expect. Note that the dates are pretty consistent from year to year, with slight shifts for holidays, weekends, and special events (like Pop Warner), or other things that may be excluded from the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion.
Last year, there was no early booking window for Disney Visa cardholders, but there was an expanded date range (see below). The two years before, Disney Visa cardholders did have an early booking window. Exact dates are listed below. Most years, the general public is able to book Free Dining packages 5 days after Disney Visa cardholders can book.
In years past, Free Dining has been announced in late April, with booking opening first for Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public a few days later. Last year, there was no early window for Disney Visa cardholders. However, that August 14 start date is arguably a better perk.
Here are the Walt Disney World Free Dining dates that were available for 2013-16 for historical reference…
2016 Free Dining Dates:
- August 23* through October 1
- November 15 through 21
- November 26 through 28
- December 10 through 21
*Disney Visa Cardholders and Canadians could book for arrival dates beginning August 14.
2015 Free Dining Dates:
- August 28 through October 2
- October 25 through October 31
- November 8 through November 19
- December 15 through December 21
2014 Free Dining Dates:
- August 31 – October 3
- October 26 – November 1
- November 9 – November 20
- December 12 – December 23
2013 Free Dining Dates
- September 2 to September 25
- September 29 to October 2
- October 18 to November 2
- November 11 to November 23
- December 12 to December 22
Other Free Dining Posts & Resources
If you plan on getting the Disney Dining Plan check out these other Walt Disney World posts:
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. Planning other aspects of a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help.
For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know! Now, let’s hear from you. Are you a fan of the “free” dining promotion? Have any tips for free dining rookies? Let us know what you think of the promotion and whether you’re planning on taking advantage of it in the comments!