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 November 24, 2019.)
The bad news is that Free Dining is no longer available to book for this year, meaning that if you’re just now planning a Christmas 2019 trip, you can’t score it. On the plus side, Free Dining was released in three waves this year, which is totally unprecedented and bodes well for the future.
Given this, it’s entirely possible that we’ll see a Free Dining offer for January 2020 and beyond sooner rather than later. If you want to be notified immediately when deals 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…
The good news is that deals for next year have already been released! The new 2020 Walt Disney World Hotel Discounts & Free Dining for Kids special offers are currently available and cover 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. However, the fact that Europe is receiving a Free Dining offer for 2020 suggests that it’ll make a return for the US general public as well.
Another positive sign is that the 2020 Free Dining Bounceback Offer was also released earlier this fall. (This is the best and easiest way to book Free Dining for those who are eligible.) This is no longer available for booking, but it is a solid indicator that a general public Free Dining offer is on the way for release sometime in 2020.
Again, the mere existence of these 2020 Free Dining promos is good news. Earlier this year, we were anticipating that attendance spikes at Walt Disney World from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that would cause discounts to dry up, and clearly that has not happened.
Given that Walt Disney World only discounts rooms to bump up occupancy, this obviously could change. This is especially true if Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (coming December 2019) or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (coming Spring 2020) are huge hits and positive word of mouth drives more bookings for 2020, but for right now, we’re still anticipating Free Dining to be released as normal in Spring 2020.
As of right now, our prediction for a 2020 Free Dining release timeframe is for a return to the “normal” April release date. This year, the release was moved forward because there Disney wanted to incentivize guests to book during the pre-Star Wars summer lull (guests were holding off on trips prior to that land opening).
There is nothing major coming late in 2020 that would cause guests to delay booking, but it is possible people will hesitate to book 2020 trips in general due to the level of construction right now. It’s also possible many fans will postpone trips until Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. Because of this, another early Free Dining release in January 2020 is not outside the realm of possibilities.
Obviously, January or April 2020 is a pretty big swing, but it should become apparent fairly early in the year whether Walt Disney World is seeing another attendance lull. If so, discounts are likely to be released early again. If not, they’ll likely follow their normal release pattern. (Unfortunately, it’s too early for any credible rumors as to a 2020 release date.)
Beyond that, there isn’t any info or rumors about probable 2020 Free Dining travel dates for the general public. The details of the bounceback and UK dates are useful to a degree, but those almost always differ from what the U.S. general public receives. Speculating a bit, we’d expect earlier travel dates once again, akin to the 2019 promo. We’d also anticipate more exclusions in terms of resorts, room categories, and inventory. That’s becoming par for the course.
Speaking of which, other important details, exclusions, and restrictions are as follows in our Free Dining FAQ below. You can learn a lot about the future details of the offer based upon past precedent. Free Dining is Walt Disney World’s most complicated promotions, 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.
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. While slight rule modifications have been made in previous years, we would expect these rules to more or less hold true for the 2020 Free Dining promotion, once it’s released.
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 the Free Dining promo this year, including all of the following: All Star Movies, Port Orleans French Quarter, Fort Wilderness campsites, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms, Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, and all 3-bedroom Villas.
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 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…
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!