The Free Disney Dining Plan is a great Walt Disney World vacation package discount. This covers info, tips for booking, current dates, predictions & rumors for future dates around Halloween & Christmas, and answers to questions including whether this deal is “worth it.” (Updated February 7, 2024.)
Let’s start with the good news, which is that Walt Disney World has brought back the paid Disney Dining Plan (DDP) in 2024! If you’re unfamiliar with the DDP, we’d direct you to our comprehensive Guide to the 2024 Disney Dining Plan. That covers the basics, what the DDP includes, whether the Disney Dining Plan (paid) is worth the money, and much more.
Free Dining is now available for travel dates through September 2024. If those dates are too early for you, the good news is that–as discussed below in the rumors & speculation section–we’re expecting a second wave of Free Dining for Late 2024. If you want to be notified immediately when more 2024 discounts are released, sign up here for our FREE Walt Disney World newsletter.
We’ve consistently notified our subscribers when Free Dining and other Walt Disney World deals drop on the day they go live at ~6 or 7 a.m., which typically gives you a 2+ hour head start on Disney’s official announcement. That may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference when booking–it means that you won’t have to wait on hold for hours on the phone or in a long virtual queue online.
In the last several months, Walt Disney World has released over a dozen different discounts, including some that run all the way through October 2024. There are even targeted deals available through December 25, 2024. This is a huge change as compared to 2021-2022, when many dates didn’t have discounts at all due to revenge travel and guest spending being so strong. That coupled with capacity is why the Disney Dining Plan took so long to return in the first place. Those are both non-factors now, and things are more or less back to 2019 norms.
This is all relevant to the return of Free Dining in 2024 because the deal is not offered out of corporate benevolence, but as an aggressive move to help boost resort occupancy numbers. That wasn’t necessary for the last couple of years due to pent-up demand. However, that has changed significantly in the span of about a year, and now Walt Disney World is pulling several “levers” to try to incentivize demand in 2024.
On that note, here are some predictions about subsequent waves of 2024 Free Dining at Walt Disney World…
2024 Free Dining Forecast & Rumors
In the last year or so, Walt Disney World has released a couple of different discounts that we’d categorize as Free Dining “adjacent.” They are the same types of promos and are meant to appeal to those would’ve been inclined to book Free Dining, but they generally are not as good. The most notable examples are the “Free” Disney Dining Card Deal for 2024 and the 50% Off Tickets & Dining Plans Discount for Kids in Spring & Summer 2024.
These discounts can be very good for some families, but they are not the “real” Free Dining. For many Walt Disney World vacation planners, the above offers are still a better offer than percentage savings on a room. For almost everyone, they’re inferior to the full Free Dining. So a step in the right direction, but not still more like “Diet” Free Dining than the original formula.
The good news is that, as mentioned above, Free Dining is now available for travel dates from July 1 through September 30, 2024. You can book the deal directly via Walt Disney World’s official site here.
Rather than doing the work yourself, we’d recommend requesting a FREE no obligation quote from Be Our Guest Vacations, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and having those travel agents book for you. They’ll assist you with the planning process, help you choose the most economical dates, best add-ons, etc.
Equally as important, they’ll help you with discount comparison shopping. There are a ton of different discounts currently available for Walt Disney World in 2024, and that number is only going to grow! So what you see now isn’t necessarily everything that’ll be available for your travel dates.
February 7, 2024 Update: Walt Disney World has shared that it’s your “Last Chance” to enjoy a FREE Disney Dining Plan, as booking is only available through February 14, 2024. Previously, there was no end date for the booking period–it was open-ended.
This is not normal. Typically, booking would remain open until the start of the travel window. It does not appear that Free Dining is ending early due to high demand or lack of resort availability. Instead, it looks like Walt Disney World is pulling out the playbook that led to the “Disney Vault” and other artificial scarcity strategies in an attempt to incentivize bookings.
We’ve already seen more and better discounts thus far in 2024, which is likely the result of softer bookings and lower occupancy. Most recently, a special offer dropped a new Walt Disney World Resort Discount for Visa Cardmembers. Again, this is one of many deals that are currently available.
All of this previously led us to speculate that Walt Disney World would expand Free Dining, rather than end it early. Exactly that happened 4 years ago when there were three “waves” of Free Dining. It’s still possible that’s the plan, and that Walt Disney World is ending this version of Free Dining and will roll out a nearly-identical general public offer in March, or another wave of later dates down the road. It’s also possible that they’ve hit their resort occupancy target (for now), and will offer other–different–special offers for July through September at a later date.
Regardless, we’d highly recommend booking today if you’re on the fence and even potentially want to take advantage of the ‘Free’ Dining promo. If a better discount is released in the coming days, weeks, or months, you can always switch to that. However, you cannot later book a discount that is no longer available!
To that point, some of you have asked about the likelihood of Free Dining for additional dates in 2024. We’ll start with the bad news, which is that there’s almost zero chance of Free Dining for dates before July 2024. I guess there’s an outside possibility if hotel occupancy numbers remain really soft and Walt Disney World gets desperate.
I’d put the chances of that at under 1%, though. Disney is pretty good at forecasting resort occupancy, and if the numbers or projections were bad between now and June 2024, the company would’ve already offered Free Dining for those dates. Suffice to say, if you’re traveling before the start of the current wave of 2024 Free Dining dates, you should book a different special offer ASAP.
About the only reason there’s even a ~1% chance of Free Dining before July 2024 is in the event of a sudden recession or cataclysmic economic occurrence that results in Walt Disney World needing to act aggressively ASAP to shore up business. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, as such a scenario would obviously have negative real world implications far beyond Free Dining.
With that in mind, we previously predicted that Free Dining would be released on January 3, 2024 and/or March 25, 2024. As it turns out, the first date was correct. But that doesn’t necessarily close the door on Free Dining being released again in Spring 2024.
This is because the 2024 Free Dining dates released in January only run through September 30, 2024. As you can see from the historical dates below, it was common for Free Dining to also be offered in November and December every year up until 2019.
The main reason Walt Disney World would not yet release discounts for October 2024 and beyond also relates to resort occupancy numbers. Again, the company is really good at projecting hotel bookings, but it’s just like a weather forecast–more accurate as dates draw nearer and less accurate further into the future. Walt Disney World only wants to offer discounts as necessary to fill hotel rooms, so they release discounts in phases.
This rolling nature of Walt Disney World special offers isn’t really a prediction–it’s what happens consistently year in and year out. The company typically releases its first batch of discounts in early January, next set in late March or early April, and another during the summer. Aside from the early January release, none of these dates are really set in stone–they’ve been inconsistent in the last few years.
Accordingly, we have far less confidence in the March 25, 2024 date. Based on recent trends–when deals have been released earlier–that date makes the most sense. If we look back to prior years, anytime between then and April 15, 2024 would make sense. Historically, Free Dining has been released in April more than any other month, but I’d still bet on March between the two spring months because Walt Disney World has been releasing discounts earlier than normal for 2024.
What we also know is that Walt Disney World has been following the familiar formula of 2019 discounts. It might seem odd that they’d go back 5 years to replicate a special offer strategy, but that’s precisely what’s happening. That’s in part because things have been abnormal at Walt Disney World for a while–2024 is the first year of Free Dining since then–and in part because the post-pent-up demand economic environment is very similar to 2019.
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. 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.
It’s possible that Walt Disney World will replicate that strategy exactly, releasing a second wave of Free Dining in late March 2024 for the general public that covers the exact same dates (or a similar set) as the current Disney+ subscriber offer. It’s also possible that the general public offer will come sooner if occupancy targets aren’t met, or not at all if they are.
It should go without saying–but I’m going to say it anyway: spend the ~$8 for a month of Disney+ if you want to book Free Dining. There are no guarantees of a general public offer, and even if one is released, it’ll be more picked over–with fewer resort and room options. Spending the $8 to have access to the deal is worth it.
In any case, I’d bet on another wave of Free Dining for additional travel dates beyond September 2024, and I’d also bet on it being released before mid-July 2024. Even though Walt Disney World is pulling from the 2019 playbook, they’re doing it earlier and more aggressively. It’s hard to see them waiting until that late in the summer for another round of Free Dining.
As for the travel dates I’d expect to see in a subsequent wave of Free Dining, November and December 2024 are the givens. Exclusions around Jersey Week, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving are likely, but not in the week before Christmas.
The biggest wildcard is October; that was mostly excluded from Free Dining in the past, but October has slowed down (minus fall break, which is still very busy) in the last couple of years due to fewer conventions.
My prediction for the second wave of Free Dining is (approximately) the following dates:
- October 1-9, 2024
- October 25 to November 3, 2024
- November 13-21, 2024
- November 30 to December 25, 2024.
That is likely the most expansive set of dates that would be offered–don’t be surprised if there’s little to nothing in October, as well as fewer dates (or none at all) between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.
Obviously, this is only a prediction–the actual dates could vary a little or lot, and it’s entirely possible that nothing is released at all!
Personally, 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. (Anyone with any sense will just buy a month of Disney+ to get immediate access to the deal.)
With that said, nothing is set in stone yet. All of this depends upon what bookings and occupancy are like for later in 2024–and that’s unknown and unknowable right now. There’s a chance that whatever Walt Disney World releases on January 3 won’t be enough, and they’ll need to act fast and release another deal in February or March 2024 to increase bookings.
Again, we want to emphasize that this is not a rumor–it’s simply us analyzing resort bookings and past precedent on discounts, and making an educated guess. Walt Disney World could go another direction entirely, as the company has stated repeatedly that they want to reduce discounting.
However, Disney also likes high levels of per guest spending numbers, and no other special offer helps achieve these high per caps like Free Dining. Despite “free” being in the name, it’s an advantageous promo from Disney’s perspective because it locks guests into full-price hotels and tickets. It also keeps guests on-site for the most part, since they have “free” meals at Walt Disney World. No other discount accomplishes all of these important goals for the company.
Either way, will be closely monitoring the 2024 Free Dining situation, keeping our ears open for more news about a return of Free Dining. Should something–anything–be released or rumored, we’ll send you an alert if you sign up for our FREE Walt Disney World newsletter.
We’ve consistently notified email subscribers when Free Dining and other deals on the day they go live at ~6 or 7 a.m., which is a 2+ hour head start on Disney’s official announcement at 9 am. That makes a huge difference when booking Free Dining–you won’t have to wait on hold for hours on the phone.
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.
We always recommend that Walt Disney World first-timers (or regulars who just don’t want to deal with the hassle) request a FREE quote from Be Our Guest Vacations, an Authorized Disney Travel Planner. Most legit travel agents do not charge for booking Walt Disney World vacations (and you don’t pay a premium for them–Disney pays them commission), so that’s really the easiest way to go.
With this special offer, Walt Disney World guests booking vacation packages with non-discounted resort hotels and park tickets receive the DDP 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 Dining 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.
There are some room exclusions for the 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.
This means you can’t purchase discounted Walt Disney World tickets from an authorized reseller, which we normally highly recommend in our Walt Disney World trip planning advice. This is something to keep in mind when doing the math to determine if “Free Dining” is a good value for you.
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.
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.
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 DDP, 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 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.
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 current bookings, 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, 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 2013-2020 for historical reference…
2020 Free Dining Dates (Cancelled):
- June 27 through June 28
- July 5 through July 7
- August 29 through September 8
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:
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!
Do you think Free Dining will be released in again in March or April 2024, or will it take longer before Walt Disney World “needs” to get that aggressive with deals? Are you a fan of the “free” dining promotion? Have any tips for free dining rookies? If you’ve booked Free Dining, what did you think about your experience with the deal? 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!