Free Disney Dining Plan is a Walt Disney World promotion that is usually a great vacation package discount. Here, we’ll cover deal info, tips for booking, the Visa ‘second wave’ of 2019 Free Dining, early 2020 rumors, and answers to frequently asked questions including whether Free Dining is “worth it.” (Last updated May 2, 2019.)
If you want to be notified immediately when more 2019 discounts or the 2020 Free Dining Bounceback 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 may not seem like much, but it makes a huge difference when booking–plus you won’t have to wait on hold for hours on the phone…
The early release of 2019 Free Dining was a surprise. The first wave was available for travel dates July 5, 2019 through September 30, 2019. We attribute this early release to an attendance lull before the grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in August 2019.
The good news is that a ‘second wave’ of Free Dining is now available for select travel dates, and more deals could be coming for later in 2019 and 2020. The first deal for next year has already been released, with the aforementioned UK resident deal, which (despite the name) is available to all residents of the European Union.
We’re guessing most people reading this aren’t residents of the EU, so that doesn’t do you much good. Historically, the next Free Dining offer to be released will be the 2020 Free Dining Bounce-back Offer, which we’d expect to be released in July or August 2019. This can be a tricky one, so read our How to Book Bounceback Discounts at Walt Disney World post for further details.
Beyond that, there aren’t any credible rumors about 2020 Free Dining release or travel dates. It’s simply too early for specifics. 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 and room categories.
Speaking of which, other important details, exclusions, and restrictions are as follows in our Free Dining FAQ below. 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.
The 2019 Free Disney Dining Plan promo was offered so early because people are holding off on booking Walt Disney World trips until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, meaning Summer 2019 room occupancy is not meeting Disney’s internal projections and expectations.
The same thing already happened with Disneyland releasing an unprecedented general public ticket discount for the spring in an effort to lure guests there pre-Star Wars land. There’s no doubt that Disney and Star Wars fans are postponing trips until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens.
The question that remains is whether the first phase of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that now has an official opening date will be enough to fill hotel rooms for the remainder of the year. We are already hearing reports that bookings are very solid for some of these dates, but not all of them. This means that more deals could drop for September through December 2019. We will keep newsletter subscribers up to date on this as we hear more.
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 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.
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:
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!