Disney World Free Dining 2018-2019 Dates & Tips

Free Disney Dining Plan is a Walt Disney World promotion that is usually a great vacation package discount. The big update now is that the 2019 Free Dining bounceback offer is now available for booking through October 31, 2018! In this post we’ll cover info about the deal, tips for booking it, and offer answers to frequently asked questions including whether Free Dining is “worth it.”

For starters, Free Dining is not available for the general public to book. Not for 2018 and not for 2019. This year’s booking window has closed, and the 2019 bounceback offer is only available for current guests, and they must book it during their Walt Disney World vacation. We’ll explain the specifics of the 2019 Free Dining Bounceback later in this post.

If you want the general public *2019* 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, 2019 Free Dining bounceback dates have emerged. These are useful even if you cannot book this promo, as these dates are often predictive of the general public offer that will be released…

The best part of this news is that there’s a 2019 Free Dining Bounce Back offer at all! While Free Dining has been offered every single year for over the last decade, 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.

Here are the 2019 Free Dining bounceback dates:

  • May 28 – June 4, 2019
  • June 28 – September 7, 2019
  • December 6 – 24, 2019

First, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a bounceback offer, read our new “How to Book Bounceback Offers at Walt Disney World” post for all the basics.

As for the Bounceback terms and conditions, there are some resort exclusions (Art of Animation ~ Little Mermaid, All-Star Movies, Port Orleans French Quarter, Polynesian Bora Bora Bungalows, Grand Floridian Villas, Bay Lake Tower, Fort Wilderness Campsites, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins, and all 3-bedroom villas).

The minimum ticket purchase likewise applies, and a $200 deposit is required at the time of booking. Basically, the bounce-back Free Dining offer follows all of the normal Free Dining “rules” that are listed below. Value and Moderate Resorts receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, and only Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts receive the standard Disney Dining Plan, etc.

Note that fliers don’t always get left in hotel rooms, but you’re eligible to book the 2019 Free Dining Bounceback offer if you’re staying in a Walt Disney World resort between now and October 31, 2018. We checked in earlier this week and were had one in our room–here’s what it looks like:

As for the specifics of this offer, the early dates aren’t much of a surprise. These are consistent with last year’s bounce-back dates–there are actually more dates since mid to late July isn’t blocked out. There’s also no surprise that most of September and all of October and November are blocked out. Again, exact same story as last year.

While December is also mostly the “same story” as last year, this one does surprise us. Walt Disney World has already announced that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Late 2019. Because of this, there was some concern that all discounts would be blocked out from the time that Star Wars land debuts until…the end of eternity (or, at least, until demand dies down a bit).

As we’ve stated before, we’ve heard Imagineering will have to rush just to get Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open in 2019, and there’s almost no chance it’ll debut before Thanksgiving. So, the existence of those December bounce-back dates indicate one of two possibilities: 1) one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing internally at Disney, and it’s possible (at least for now) to book a discounted room that falls within the grand opening timeframe of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, or; 2) there’s an internal belief that Star Wars land won’t open until after December 24, 2019.

We’d say the odds are about 50/50 of each possibility. It’s entirely possible that the 2019 Free Dining Bounceback dates are based solely upon last year’s promo, adjusted slightly based upon last year’s occupancy data. It wouldn’t be the first time that a Walt Disney World promo failed to account for forward-looking, year to year differences.

It’s also possible that an internal opening for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has been set, and it’s not until after Christmas 2019. If that’s true, I really (really) hope the grand opening has slipped into 2020, as opening any new land the week between Christmas and New Year’s–let alone a Star Wars land that will be insanely popular–would be a truly terrible idea.

As with this year’s version of the DDP, the good news is that the 2019 Disney Dining Plan will once again include alcoholic and specialty drinks. If you enjoy beer, wine, or cocktails, this adds a ton of potential value to the Disney Dining Plan and, by extension, Free Dining. Even if you don’t drink, having the ability to order these specialty drinks is nice.

Again, we want to reiterate that the bounce-back offer is only for guests to book while on vacation at Walt Disney World. Guests receive flyers in their room with details about how to book the promotion during their stay. There’s a moderate chance you won’t receive the flyer in your room, but the flyer is not necessary. You can call Disney or have your travel agent book the reservation and receive it.

It also doesn’t matter whether you are currently staying on the Free Dining offer or not. During your on-site Walt Disney Wold vacation, anyone is eligible to book the 2019 Free Disney Dining Plan bounce-back offer between now and October 31, 2018. If you’re not staying at a Walt Disney World resort right now, the answer to whether you can book the bounce-back offer is nope. 

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 for this year.

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 a lot of room exclusions for the Free Dining promo this year, including all of the following: All Star Movies, Bay Lake Tower, both Port Orleans Resorts, Wilderness Lodge, Polynesian Village Resort (villas & standard rooms), Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness campsites, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, and all 3-bedroom Villas. These resorts and room tiers are all not eligible for Free Dining.

To take advantage of Free Dining, there’s also the requirement that guests purchase tickets that include either a minimum 4-day Park Hopper or the Park Hopper Plus option. Additionally, a 4-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. Speaking of which, doing the math is incredibly important, since other discounts (such as a room-only discount) might be better for your family. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch; you have forfeit an alternate discount to qualify for Free Dining. We break down some of the math in our “Is Free Dining Worth It?” post.

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 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.

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.). For those wondering about other Walt Disney World discounts, check out our Current Walt Disney World Discount Offers post for what’s presently available.

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.

Additionally, if you’re looking for general Walt Disney World advice, we recommend reading our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide and Requesting a FREE Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Video. We are big fans of that planning video, as it’s a great way to get hyped for your trip, and see a visual overview of everything that’s new at Walt Disney World!

Note that the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is always based upon arrival dates. For example, if Free Dining runs August 20 to September 29 and you arrive on September 29 and stay until October 7, 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 24 to 27 and you arrive on November 23 and stay until November 27, 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 $22.99 per adult and $4.00 per child per night. The upgrade cost from the standard Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $40.67 per adult and $14.24 per child per night. To upgrade from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe one, add the two upgrade costs together.

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…

Historical Information

The following is not pertinent to 2019 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. The last couple of years, there was no early window for Disney Visa cardholders. However, that earlier August start date is arguably a better perk, so hopefully it returns again for 2019.

Here are the Walt Disney World Free Dining dates that were available for 2013-18 for historical reference…

2018 Free Dining Dates:

  • August 20* – September 29
  • November 24 – 27
  • December 7 – 23

*Disney Visa Cardholders could book for arrival dates beginning August 2.

2017 Free Dining Dates:

  • August 21* – September 30
  • November 14 – 20
  • November 25 – 27
  • December 8 – 23

*Disney Visa Cardholders could book for arrival dates beginning August 13.

2016 Free Dining Dates:

  • August 23* through October 1
  • November 15 through 21
  • November 26 through 28
  • December 10 through 21

*Disney Visa Cardholders 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!

Your Thoughts

Now, let’s hear from you. Are you a fan of the “free” dining promotion? Have any tips for free dining rookies? If you booked Free Dining, which resort and travel dates were you able to secure? If you were unable to get it, where/when were you unsuccessful? Let us know what you think of the promotion and whether you’re planning on taking advantage of it in the comments!


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