BREAKING: 2024 Free Dining at Disney World Returns Soon!

Walt Disney World has announced that the Free Dining Plan discount will return select travel dates in July, September, and December 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 have been following along the speculation in our Guide to 2024 Free Dining at Walt Disney World, this should be unsurprising. In that, we point back to the 2019 playbook, when there were three waves of the discount released–to different groups (general public vs. Disney Visa) and different date ranges. Back then, the third wave of Free Dining–which was the one that included dates for September, November and December–was released in mid-July.

Our prediction there was that Walt Disney World would release a ‘second wave’ of Free Dining in late March 2024 that covers the exact same dates (or a similar set) as the previous subscriber offer. That also predicted the possibility of limited dates in October and November, but with the bulk of options in September and December. We also said that there could be as many as 4 waves, or as few as 2 with it never reaching the general public if the Disney+ and (potentially) Disney Visa targeted offers booked up well enough.

It would now seem that portions of that prediction are incorrect and parts are correct. Obviously, the next wave is not coming out in late March 2024, as that’s in the past. Somehow I doubt there’s a flux capacitor involved in this promo.

And given that Walt Disney World is stating that the travel dates will be in July, September, and December, it’s probably safe to rule out the months that are not those. (Although it is interesting to me that August fell off the list but July is still an option. I would not have seen that curveball coming. It’s totally unsurprising that October and November aren’t going to be included; minus a few weeks, those months usually have strong bookings.)

In any case, here’s the official announcement from Walt Disney World:

Beginning April 9, Disney Visa Cardmembers 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.

Full details will be released on the morning of April 9, 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 the first round of Free Dining in 2024, but who knows. I would also expect there generally to be less availability for July, as that was included in the last round of promos, it’s part of summer travel season, and it’s sooner.

2024 Free Dining Info & Tips

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.)

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 April 9, 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. If I recall correctly, the first wave this year went live at like 3:45 a.m. Eastern.

Beyond that, expect pretty much the same terms and conditions as the first wave of 2024 Free Dining, just swap Disney+ stuff for Disney Visa stuff. Table service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase (a common complaint with Free Dining in past years has been the lack of ADRs for those who arrived without booking anything in advance).

Free Dining cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Disney Dining Plans exclude gratuities, which will need to be paid out of pocket at table service restaurants. Children ages 3 to 9 must order from a children’s menu, where available. The number of packages allocated for this offer is limited. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package.

The first Free Dining offer excluded the following room types: 3-Bedroom Villas, The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.

Additional eligibility details usually include the requirement that you use a valid Disney Visa Card or Disney Rewards Redemption Card to pay the deposit, and that the Disney Visa Cardmember must stay in the room.

One thing that surprised me about the first wave of Free Dining in January was that it really wasn’t that popular at first. I expected multi-hour waits on the phone lines and a lengthy virtual queue. Instead, it was pretty much smooth sailing on drop day.

Part of that is probably attributable to it being a targeted offer. It could also be the case that since the dates were known in advance, only those traveling due the relevant timeframes logged onto the website. Nevertheless, I expected a ton of pent-up demand for Free Dining…and there really wasn’t. Not that I’m complaining–I just anticipated chaos and that didn’t happen.

As such, I wouldn’t expect things to be too terrible when this second wave of Free Dining for Disney Visa cardmembers launches on April 9, 2024. Now, Disney IT being Disney IT, there is always the propensity for problems or random issues that delay the process for hours. So who really knows.

Regardless, you will almost certainly encounter a virtual queue if attempting to book Free Dining first thing in the morning on April 9, 2024.

We’d also expect that the phone lines to be busy all day 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 when Free Dining goes live on April 9. 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 trip 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.

As for why Free Dining is being offered for July, September and December but not other months, the answer is always hotel occupancy. We want to once again reiterate that Walt Disney World does not offer any promotion out of corporate generosity. The Disney Dining Plan is “given away” to entice guests to travel at times of year that have lower hotel occupancy rates.

You might wonder why Walt Disney World is giving the discount to tourists taking week-long vacations during the heart of the summer season but not August as schools go back into session. Well, the second part of that is honestly a head-scratcher to me. It’s not like August is suddenly becoming busier–last year’s triple-digit temperatures were not good “free advertising” for August. I can answer the July part, though: summer ceased being peak season a long time ago.

We discussed that phenomenon at length at the time, but in a nutshell, the reasons for this were ticket blockouts, higher hotel rack rates, and travel over a holiday weekend being more expensive (airfare, gas) generally. Many Americans also might actively avoid those weeks because of the reputation that these are the peak of the busy summer season. (At least at Walt Disney World, they aren’t.) That belief coupled with higher costs might necessitate some discounting.

It’s actually a similar story in December, especially around Christmas. For a few years–even during the peak of pent-up demand when fewer dates were discounted–we noticed more deals in the 2 weeks leading up to Christmas. In our view, that’s largely because Walt Disney World has “overshot” with hotel prices, and doesn’t want to actually lower rack rates…so they use deals to bridge the gap.

To that point, there’s no such thing as a free lunch–you receive the Disney Dining Plan for “free” because you pay full price for your hotel room and park tickets. This is also why Free Dining is often not such a great deal. For many families, taking the room-only discount is superior. Always do the math, because the comparative value varies based upon resort, party size, and eating preferences.

As for forward-looking predictions about subsequent waves of Free Dining for 2024 at Walt Disney World, I do think this is probably the end of the special offer for this year. With this offer including travel dates in December–the 12th month of the year–this deal is already at the end of the calendar. Normally, special offers occur on a timeline.

However, that doesn’t mean a third wave of Free Dining is impossible. 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. The only reason I could see a third wave this year is if Walt Disney World occupancy targets end up falling well short of expectations for August through November, and they need to scramble to offer something last minute.

To be clear, I do not think this is what’s going to happen. However, Walt Disney World has really been toying with the way they’ve been doing discounts, trying to entice planners to book early with attractive offers. In several cases, they’ve circled back with additional discounts even after those offers have ended in order to fill unsold rooms and hit occupancy targets.

(If you read the latest update at the top of All Current Discounts at Walt Disney World, you should be aware of how they’ve gotten more aggressive with discounts in 2024, but also are more strategic about ending them early. See the “Now Booking” button instead of specified end dates.)

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. Although nothing else has been announced for April 9, it stands to reason that Free Dining will NOT be the only discount to drop on that date. 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 on the morning of April 9 and receive an immediate response–you need to get your ducks in a row now.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. 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!


Excited that Free Dining will be released for Disney Visa cardmembers on April 9, 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!

31 Responses to “BREAKING: 2024 Free Dining at Disney World Returns Soon!”
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