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 rumored 2018 Free Dining dates have already come to light. (Last updated April 22, 2018.)
The bad news is that right now, Free Dining is not available for the general public to book. The good news is that, if these rumors are accurate (and we believe they are) Free Dining will be available for Walt Disney World very soon. (Before the end of April 2018.) 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 is very important to book the discount as soon as it’s released.
April 22, 2018 Update: We now believe Free Dining will not be released tomorrow morning, but will be released this week (Tuesday or Wednesday). Our confidence in this prediction is not very high, but we have not heard any additional leaks or corroborating information since Friday, which would normally occur if the promotion were being dropped early Monday morning as more people are looped in and provided details about the upcoming offer.
To the contrary, it’s been almost complete radio silence. What we have learned is that a few internal and external training seminars that have been scheduled for Monday morning and afternoon, which suggests that prep work will be done on Monday for a Free Dining release on Tuesday. Unfortunately, we don’t have any direct rumors of a Tuesday release beyond the last update below. We’re simply surmising this from that rumor in tandem with the training seminars.
At this point, we’d put the odds of a Tuesday release as a little better than 50/50, with the other ’50’ split between Monday and Wednesday. This information doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, we know, so if you want to hedge your bets, you might still set your alarm for 6 a.m. tomorrow and see if the offer is up then. (If not, at least you didn’t get up too early.) Sorry, that’s the best we can offer.
April 17, 2018 Update: We’ve started hearing our first reliable rumors of the year. The first comes from South American travel agents, who have received indication of what the offer will be for their market. Quite often, the South American Free Dining promo is nearly-identical (+/- dates on the front or back end; different resort exclusions), so this info should be at least somewhat instructive, albeit imperfect. Arrival dates as follows:
August 2 – September 29, 2018
November 24 – 27, 2018
December 7 – 23, 2018
Quick Service Disney Dining Plan for Value and Moderate Resorts; regular Disney Dining Plan for Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts. Room exclusions include all of Art of Animation, both Port Orleans Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Village Resort, and Contemporary Resort.
Again, we want to reiterate that this rumor is coming from a non-US market. While that has been a reliable source in the past, details have varied from the promotion there to what has been offered in the United States. In other words, don’t place your full reliance on these details (we’ve separately heard that a starting date for the U.S. general public promo of August 2 is unlikely).
Unfortunately, we’re hearing three conflicting dates as to when Free Dining will be released. The South American travel agent rumor is a release date of April 24, 2018. We’ve received word that both April 23 and 25, 2018 are also possibilities. We’ll keep newsletter subscribers and this post updated once we hear more rumors and details start to congeal, so stay tuned for future updates.
In past years, actual Free Dining rumors have come a variety of ways. We’ve received leaks about the promotion, there have been official Disney websites that’ve posted prematurely before pulling the dates, and details have been released early to international (namely, Portuguese and Canadian) third-party partners. In an average year, one or all of these things occurs before Disney officially releases Free Dining, which enables us to give you a heads up before the promo goes live.
For now, the most reliable indicator that Free Dining will occur in 2018 is that there was a bounceback Free Dining offer for 2018 that was offered to resort guests last fall. 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 fact, one of our big early predictions for Free Dining this year is to keep your expectations in check. Free Dining availability is very likely to be limited this year, and probably will be more difficult to book than ever before.
For Free Dining 2018, expect Value and Moderate Resorts to receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, and only Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. It’s also very likely that an increased ticket requirement will apply as compared to previous years.
While it stinks (yet is unsurprising) to the value of Free Dining diluted, 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.
With that said, here are the general public Free Dining dates from last year. We’d expect the 2018 Free Disney Dining Plan offer to at least vaguely resemble last 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.
We would not be 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.
The expansion of the summer travel dates would make 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). Animal Kingdom aside, late May through mid-July were not exactly busy months last year. It’s unclear whether the June 2018 opening of Toy Story Land will result in a surge of bookings for July and August, but we doubt it.
For the general public offer, don’t be surprised to see the entire month of October and much of November excluded. This would make sense with shifting travel trends, which are moving from summer to fall. Early December is also becoming increasing popular for Walt Disney World trips, so expect at least the first week of December–if not the first two weeks–to be blocked out.
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
This section of the post covers the rules, terms and conditions, and policies that generally govern the Free Dining promotion. It’s been updated with changes to Free Dining last year–but don’t be surprised if the terms are even more onerous for 2018.
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 also keep you 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!