Free Dining for Summer 2017…Well, Sorta

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A variation of Free Dining is being offered for Summer 2017 at Walt Disney World, including dates May through August. It’s not the normal Free Disney Dining Plan promotion (which we still expect to be released in the spring–potentially with some dates overlapping this promo) that has developed a loyal following for fall dates. Instead, this promotion is a reduced variation of Free Dining.

Walt Disney World is calling this the “Room, Dine, Delight!” offer, and it’s available for travel dates May 30 through August 24, 2017, and is available for booking through February 12, 2017. The promotion offers guests staying at Value Resorts one Quick Service Meal per night and requires a minimum 3-night stay and purchase of at least a 2-day ticket. Basically, this is “Free Dining Light” Now with two-thirds fewer calories than normal Free Dining! 

If this sounds familiar, it should. This promotion was introduced last year for virtually the same dates (except with a July 4th week blockout and ending August 13), and was dubbed the “Summer Meal Plan Offer.” Accordingly, this is an updated post from last year offering analysis of whether the Summer Meal Plan offer is worth it…

This is sure to be a popular topic among Free Dining enthusiasts and our posts on the Disney Dining Plan are some of the most popular on this blog, so we wanted to share the details here and provide our reaction to this new offer.

In addition to the aforementioned minimum stay and ticket requirement, Disney’s fine print indicates that the offer applies only to Value Resorts, excluding the Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation and campsites.

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The free meal here is the standard Disney Dining Plan definition, which consists of a combo meal (entree plus side), dessert or side salad, and non-alcoholic beverage. If you want more than just the single free meal, you can upgrade to the Quick Service or Standard Disney Dining Plan at a discounted (prorated) price. Last year, the ‘value’ of the free meal you’re given was roughly $19–we’ll update once we hear word as to what it is for the 2017 promo.

For most Walt Disney World Free Dining regulars, it should be apparent that this isn’t as good of a deal as the normal Free Disney Dining Plan promotion that is usually offered in the fall. You only get one component of the lowest tier of the Disney Dining Plan, not an entire plan. Normally, with even the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, each person would receive two meals and one snack per night, plus a refillable mug (per stay).

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Now, this can still be a good deal. Let’s use ourselves as an example: a party of 2 adults booking a room at Pop Century. Per our Best Values Uses of Counter Service Credits post, Sunshine Seasons is the #10 value of all Walt Disney World quick-service restaurants. Given that and in perusing menus, it’s pretty easy to find numerous order combinations that exceed $20 per person.

Summer rates for Pop Century are around $144 for weekdays and $169 for weekends. Let’s convert this to room-only discount terms. For 1 adult staying only weekdays, this would be around a 14% room discount, for 2 adults a 28% room discount, for 3 adults a 40% discount (due to +$10 for the additional adult), and 4 adults a 49% discount (due to +$10 for the additional adult).

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That’s rough math, but should provide the baseline for crunching your own numbers. As you can see, this is either a lukewarm discount or a good one depending upon how many people you have. Even with only 2 people, it’s better than the standard room-only discount this time of year. Unless you are flying solo, the Summer Meal Offer is almost always going to be a better deal than a room-only offer.

There’s the obvious bummer of the ticket requirement. This negates the value of the offer for Annual Passholders, and also 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 yourself to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.

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The question that remains for a lot of people is whether this means Free Dining will still be offered this fall, or if the promo is being reduced and offered earlier this year. Given current trends, I will say with about 95% certainty that Free Dining will still be offered this fall. First, this same promo was offered last year, and Free Dining was released later. Second, the bounceback Free Dining dates have already been released for 2017, and are more expansive than normal.

We’ve already made our Walt Disney World 2017 Discount Predictions, and we stand by those. I’m actually a bit surprised Disney is not getting more aggressive with summer discounting given the low numbers last summer resulting from the dynamic ticket pricing and negative press.

Even though Pandora should buoy attendance to a degree, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is still a massive construction site for the next several years and there’s nothing new to market at Magic Kingdom or Epcot this summer.

Overall, our take is that this is a moderately good offer, so long as you have at least 2 adults in the room. Room rates for the Value Resorts have creeped up over the last several years and are now in ‘absurd’ territory for what you’re getting, and this bumps them down into a more realistic realm. It’s not the best promotion ever, but it’s likely the best you’re going to get for this time of year. People often travel during the summer months for lack of better options; Disney does not typically offer aggressive discounts for the summer, presumably because those aren’t necessary to ‘lure’ guests to the parks that time of year.

If you are still unsure of whether the Summer Meal Offer might be right for your party, or you want personalized recommendations for Walt Disney World, click here to get a vacation quote from a no fee Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. If you’re doing the planning yourself, we recommend reading our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience. Will you be taking advantage of the Summer Meal Offer for 2017 at Walt Disney World?


44 Responses to “Free Dining for Summer 2017…Well, Sorta”
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