Free Disney Dining Plan is a special offer that’s a great Walt Disney World vacation package discount. Here, we’ll cover promo info, tips for booking, historical dates, predictions & rumors for 2020 Free Dining, and answers to frequently asked questions including whether Free Dining is “worth it.” (Updated January 2, 2020.)
The good news is that Free Dining is NOW AVAILABLE for 2020. It has been released early again this year and we have the full details plus extensive commentary in our Free Dining is Now Available for 2020!post. Basic discount info & dates are also listed below here.
The bad news is that dates are incredibly limited, the promotion must be booked very quickly, and some resorts have few room options. The plus-side to this bad news is that it all makes a second wave of 2020 Free Dining much more likely. If you want to be notified immediately when more 2020 Free Dining dates are released, sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter here.
We’ve consistently notified our subscribers when Free Dining and other deals drop on the day they go live at ~6 or 7 a.m., which gives you a 2+ hour head start on Disney’s official announcement. That makes a huge difference when booking–plus you won’t have to wait on hold for hours on the phone.
Here are the 2020 Free Dining dates that are currently available:
June 27 through June 28, 2020
July 5 through July 7, 2020
August 29 through September 8, 2020
This offer must be booked by January 16, 2020. This Free Dining offer for Summer 2020 and early fall follows the normal terms, conditions, and rules of Free Dining, all of which are listed below in the Free Dining FAQ section.
Now, for other discounts that are available, followed by more on 2020 Free Dining rumors & predictions.
In addition to the Summer 2020 Free Dining offer, there’s the 2020 Walt Disney World Hotel Discounts & Free Dining for Kids special offer that’s currently available and covers travel dates through Spring 2020. Some of the room discounts are solid, whereas the ‘Free Dining’ might sound attractive, but it’s worth noting that this is not the full version of this offer.
If you’re a resident of the European Union, the 2020 Free Dining at Walt Disney World for UK Residents deal is now available. Despite the name, this is available to all residents of the EU. We’re guessing most people reading this aren’t residents of the European Union, so that alone doesn’t do you much good.
Next, let’s offer some more 2020 Free Dining predictions…
2020 Free Dining Predictions & Rumors
It’s now January 2020 and already rumors are starting to swirl about this year’s Free Dining promo at Walt Disney World. Credible sources are pointing to a WDW discount drop in the early morning hours on January 2, 2020. (UPDATE: This proved to be correct.)
Historically speaking, there’s precedent for Walt Disney World discounts to be released the second day of January. Last year it was Free Dining, but that was something of an anomaly due to guests postponing trips in the lead up to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. More discounts are also usually released in January, albeit not always on the same day. (In other words, room-only discounts could be on their way.)
Originally, we stated here that we anticipated the first January 2020 discount release wouldn’t be the full Free Dining promotion. Rather, it would likely be something smaller and more symbolic to give a light nudge to travel planners who are on the fence. We could see Free Dining Lite/Half-Free Dining being offered. Those aren’t much of a discount anyway, but will get people excited with those “Free Dining” marketing buzzwords. (UPDATE: This turned out to be at least partially incorrect.)
So, now that 2020 Free Dining has been released for a limited dates in summer and early fall, what’s next? We think a second wave of Free Dining is likely to be released for mid to late September 2020 travel dates, plus dates around Christmas (in other words, November and December 2020).
However, it’s too early to offer a definitive prediction there, and in large part what–if any–future dates are released will depend upon the effectiveness of Disney’s marketing and word of mouth buzz surrounding its slew of new additions. It could be a big year for Walt Disney World even without offering a ton of discounts.
As we’ve pointed out countless times, Walt Disney World does not offer discounts out of a sense of corporate benevolence. They do so because hotel occupancy and internal attendance projections are below expectations. In short, discounts are offered to incentivize people to book trips to Walt Disney World.
Beyond Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Walt Disney World has other new attractions on the horizon that will draw guests. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens March 4, 2020. A bunch of stuff also opens in Epcot this spring, culminating with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Summer 2020.
Then there’s the economy. After fears of a recession last year, consumer confidence has rebounded and travel spending has increased. Between these highly-anticipated new additions and consumers with a willingness to spend, Walt Disney World doesn’t need to offer as many discounts in 2020 as the company did last year.
However, we’re still a long way from September 2020 (and by extension, the holiday season), and a lot could change between now and then. Construction in Epcot could scare away guests. Hype for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge could subside. New attractions could debut to lackluster reviews. The economy could falter or the upcoming election could leave consumers anxious about spending big on travel.
If you’re looking to book the current offer, other important details, exclusions, and restrictions are as follows in our Free Dining FAQ below…
Free Dining FAQ
Free Dining is Walt Disney World’s most complicated promotion, and can be a huge headache to book. Between limited availability and navigating a seas of rules and restrictions, it’s easy to make mistakes. This section of the post covers the rules, terms and conditions, and policies that generally govern the Free Dining promotion.
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.
Guests booking the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion for Value or Moderate Resorts will receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, with guests staying at Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts receiving the standard Disney Dining Plan. Upgrading is possible to the standard Disney Dining Plan or Deluxe Disney Dining Plan by paying the difference in cost.
The Disney Dining Plan will now includes 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.
There are some room exclusions for 2020 Free Dining promo: 3-bedroom villas, campsites, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, and Little Mermaid Rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
These resorts and room tiers are all not eligible for Free Dining. Additionally, room inventory is limited across all resorts. In practice, this means that when you go to book, a particular category (standard view, garden view, etc.) may not be available for your travel dates–or your travel dates may not be available at a specific resort at all.
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.
When it comes to Free Dining, doing the math is incredibly important. 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 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. Unfortunately, booking online isn’t always possible and technical errors do happen…so you might have to call and wait on hold.
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 Offerspost 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.
Note that the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is always based upon arrival dates. For example, if Free Dining runs June 27 to June 28 and you arrive on June 28 and stay until July 5, you are eligible for Free Dining–even though it’s blocked out for July 5, 2020 arrivals. (You didn’t arrive on July 5 in that scenario–you arrived in June.)
However, if it’s offered those same dates and you arrive on June 26 and stay for the same dates, 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.
For 2020, the upgrade cost to go from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the standard Disney Dining Plan for Free Dining is $23.01 per adult and $4.51 per child per night. The upgrade cost from the standard Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $40.99 per adult and $16.99 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…
The following is not pertinent to 2020 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.
Here are the Walt Disney World Free Dining dates that were available from 2013-2019 for historical reference…
2019 Free Dining Dates:
July 5 – September 30*
September 1 through September 18**
November 17 through November 27**
December 8 through December 23**
*First and second wave of Free Dining **Third wave of Free Dining
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:
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!