Walt Disney World has announced that the Free Dining Plan discount will return select travel dates in July, August, and September 2024. Here’s what we know so far, plus tips & tricks for booking, other special offers expected to be released on this date, and commentary about this discount.
For those of you who already read our BIG Walt Disney World Deal Drop Day PSA, all of this should be unsurprising. We ran through several scenarios for the return of Free Dining there, one of which turned out to be correct. Now we have dates and more specifics, so without further ado, let’s dig into those.
Starting January 3, 2024, Disney+ subscribers can get a Free Disney Dining Plan when purchasing a non-discounted 4-night, 4-day Walt Disney Travel Company package that includes a room at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel and theme park ticket with a Park Hopper option.
This Free Dining special offer is valid for arrivals most nights July 1 through September 30, 2024. Additional details will be released tomorrow morning (January 3, 2024).
That’s all we know. Nothing about participating resorts, excluded room categories, or which tier(s) of the Dining Plan will be offered to Values/Moderates and Deluxe/Villa Resorts. Our expectation is that this will all largely be unchanged since 2019/2020, but who knows. At least now everyone has the dates, so you know whether you need to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning!
More 2024 WDW Deals
According to Walt Disney World, there will be even more special offers available for those looking to book their Walt Disney World vacation. You can save up to 35% at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels when you stay 5 nights or longer most nights March 25 through October 3, 2024. Again, more details will be released on January 3, 2024.
In addition to a ‘stay longer, save more’ discount, we’d expect to see regular room-only discounts for the general public and Annual Passholders. Deals are also likely or possible for Florida residents and Disney Visa cardholders.
2024 Free Dining Info & Tips
For starters, if you’re looking for the regular “rules” of Free Dining, the past precedent for these is covered in our comprehensive Guide to 2024 Free Dining at Walt Disney World. (Scroll past the long section of predictions, since those are no longer relevant now that Walt Disney World has told us the deal is coming.)
Obviously, it’s been a few years since the Disney Dining Plan or Free Dining have been available, so all of that is subject to change. But don’t be surprised if very little does…Walt Disney World has been pulling pretty extensively from the 2019 playbook for deals. We wouldn’t be surprised if almost all details are the same as before.
Normally, the most notable “rule” of Free Dining is that Value and Moderate Resort guests receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan (QSDDP), while Deluxe and Deluxe Villa guests receive the standard Disney Dining Plan (DDP). The latter has much more value, but Deluxe Resorts also cost a ton more money on average. In the past, guests at the lower tier resorts have been able to pay the difference to upgrade from the QSDDP to the DDP.
For those wondering what time Free Dining will be available on January 3, that’s unknown. In the past, discounts have gone live online at random times very early in the morning–not at a set time like midnight, 6 a.m. or 8 a.m.
I hesitate to make any precise predictions as to timing. For one thing, the promo’s fans haven’t been able to use Free Dining since 2019. (It was bookable in early 2020, but the parks closed and then the Disney Dining Plan has been gone ever since.)
Accordingly, I am expecting a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for this specific special offer. There has been a subset of Walt Disney World fans sitting on the sidelines, patiently waiting for this day. They’re going to be ready to pounce.
In addition to that, there are all of the casual fans who now have an official heads up from Walt Disney World that Free Dining is being released on January 3, 2024. That has never happened in the past. While there have been leaks and we alerted our newsletter subscribers that Free Dining was going to go live the following day in 2018-2020, this blog probably accounts for less than .01% of Disney’s actual audience. So that’s a very big new variable.
The flip side is that Free Dining is targeted to Disney+ subscribers and that, in theory, should reduce demand. But will it? Is anyone who wants Free Dining really going to opt against spending $8 for a month of a streaming service? I cannot imagine that’s an actual barrier to entry.
Walt Disney World knows all of this and is (hopefully!) accounting for it. As such, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they drop Free Dining at like 12:30 a.m. Eastern. Just late enough that the people who thought it would come out at midnight miss out, and early enough to spread out demand for several hours before the big rush starting around 7 a.m. the following morning. That’s not what I think will happen, but it would be the really smart move. I’ll personally be checking from midnight to 1 a.m. Eastern, and again starting at 4 a.m.
Speaking of which, you will almost certainly encounter a virtual queue if attempting to book Free Dining on January 3, 2024. In fact, it’s already up today! Right now, it’s less than a minute long–expect that to exceed an hour at its peak tomorrow.
We’d also expect that the phone lines will be jammed all day today and the website will experience long waits. That “You’re Almost into Orbit” screen is a nice move that’ll hopefully work as intended. We’d expect those waits to skyrocket once more people are awake on the East Coast. For a wait time of under 30 minutes, you need to be up and online before 6 a.m. It’s also likely that there will be glitches, with Stitch eating the occasional page.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it’s more or less par for the course on Walt Disney World discount drop day and has been for years. Things will only get worse as more people wake up and try to book (which is a huge reason why we recommend just using a travel agent). This is to say you will want to book ASAP for the best chance at scoring the resort and room you want.
For what it’s worth, getting something booked before the promo is released does NOT mean that you can sleep in tomorrow. In order to apply the special offer, not only do your dates and resort need to be eligible, but there also needs to be room inventory for what you’ve booked under the promotion.
This requirement often trips up a lot of planners. What it means is that, if a resort/room category/date combo sells out under the Free Dining promotion (and only so much inventory is allocated to the deal–it’s possible for the promo to sell out while full priced rooms are still available), it doesn’t matter that you’ve already booked it. You will not be able to apply the discount to your reservation.
For this reason, there’s really not much of an advantage to booking something ahead of time. Free Dining diehards will debate this point (and have for years)–but the salient point is that you shouldn’t book now and sit back, assuming you’ll be able to apply Free Dining to an existing reservation at your leisure days or weeks down the road. That will not work.
One thing we predicted in the deal PSA was that this wouldn’t be the end of Free Dining for 2024 at Walt Disney World. If you look back to the 2019 playbook, there were three waves of the discount released–to different groups (general public vs. Disney Visa) and different date ranges.
I would not be the least bit surprised to see Free Dining released for Disney+ subscribers for earlier travel dates and then released for the same dates to the general public. Meaning that Free Dining drops for Disney+ on January 3, and again for the general public on like January 23, 2024 if occupancy targets still haven’t been met.
At that point, it could be for a subset of dates (perhaps mid-August to mid-September) or with more exclusions. Regardless, it would be more picked over and there wouldn’t be nearly as many options. It should go without saying–but I’m going to say it anyway: don’t bank on that happening. Spend the ~$8 for a month of Disney+ if you’re debating whether to book Free Dining. It’s worth it.
Regardless of whether there are two releases this month, don’t be surprised if there’s another wave of Free Dining in late March or early April 2024 for later travel dates. This was my previous prediction, and it still might be accurate. But with the current wave going through the end of September (and the entirety of October 2024 likely to be excluded), they might wait for a subsequent special offer batch (e.g. late summer release for November and December 2024 travel dates).
Either way, I don’t think this is the end of 2024 Free Dining at Walt Disney World–there could be as many as 4 waves of the promo. I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this deal books up well enough with Disney+ subscribers that there are just two waves and it never hits the general public, period. The barrier to entry on a streaming service subscription is a lot lower than a Visa card, and anyone with any sense will just buy a month of Disney+ to get immediate access to the deal. It’s a totally different ballgame than with a credit (or debit) card.
To reiterate what’s in our PSA, our strong advice would be to subscribe to the streaming service TODAY. Ring in the New Year by watching Christmas with Walt Disney, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, and some Muppet goodness. (It’s still technically the holidays!)
Even if you don’t want Disney+ for whatever reason, you only need to subscribe for 2 months–the one of booking and the one of travel. You will absolutely come out ahead, monetarily, if you book the discount even after accounting for the cost of Disney Plus. And even if I’m wrong, you’re only out eight bucks–but got to watch Pluto’s Christmas Tree and Christmas with Walt Disney, so you still came out ahead. (You’re welcome.)
In a perfect world, you’d use the same email address for subscribing to Disney+ as your My Disney Experience account. My reason for suggesting you do this today (January 1, 2024) instead of waiting until January 3 is because of the potential problems. It’s not uncommon for credentials to not properly link, meaning that your My Disney Experience account may not recognize you’re a Disney+ subscriber. (Disney IT isn’t flawless?! Who would’ve guessed!) To our knowledge, this has actually gotten a lot better since Disney made backend login changes–but it’s still not 100%.
Regardless of how you sign up, go to your My Disney Experience profile and check your “Membership and Passes.” If you’re a subscriber, you should see Disney+ there. If not, you should be able to go into your Disney+ account and update the email address associated with that to match your My Disney Experience account.
In both cases, should is the operative word. This won’t always work. If it doesn’t, try calling Disney+ customer service at 888-905-7888. You will likely have much better results doing that in the next 2 days than you will on January 3. Suffice to say, you’ll be one of the few people calling for help today–but won’t be alone then!
The bottom line is that you want all of this squared away before January 3, 2024 because it’s likely to be a competitive discount drop day involving virtual queues and in-demand dates, resort and room combos going quickly. Don’t let fumbling around with Disney+ be what gets between you and a great deal. Lose out the old fashioned way–because others are hoarding resort reservations! 😉
Finally, we’ll end with a plug. We will be closely monitoring the 2024 Walt Disney World discount situation, keeping our ears open for more news about other special offers. Should anything be released or rumored, we’ll send you an alert if you sign up for our FREE Walt Disney World newsletter.
We’ve always notified subscribers about discounts early in the morning once they’re released–while they were live but before Walt Disney World officially announced them–on countless occasions in the last decade. All of this may not seem like much, but a heads up of even a day or a few hours can be the difference between successfully booking or not–or at least not being stuck in a virtual queue for hours!
If you’re already overwhelmed, you might just want someone else to do the work for you. Free Dining is Walt Disney World’s most complicated promotion, and can be a huge headache to book. Between limited availability and navigating a sea of rules and restrictions, it’s easy to get frustrated, have problems, or be unsuccessful in scoring a reservation.
To that end, we always recommend that Walt Disney World first-timers or regulars who just don’t want to deal with the hassle use a travel agent. (Click here to request a free quote from Be Our Guest Vacations, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner that we recommend.) Most legit travel agents do not charge for booking Walt Disney World vacations (and you don’t pay a premium to use them–Disney pays them commission, so they’re free to you), so that’s really the easiest way to go. But if you’re going to go that route for Free Dining, you need to do so ASAP. Don’t expect to request a quote tomorrow morning and receive an immediate response–you need to get your ducks in a row now.
Excited that Free Dining will be released for Disney+ subscribers on January 3, 2024? Or are you more looking forward to the room-only promotions? Thoughts about the 2024 Free Dining dates, package requirements & rules, or anything else? Agree or disagree with our commentary? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!