Walt Disney World has released new promotions for 2019, with Free Dining and room-only hotel discounts plus bonus gift cards being among the money-saving offers released. These are for pre-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a time that is rumored to be abnormally light in terms of bookings. In this post, we’ll take a look at the various new special offers Walt Disney World has released and provide some commentary about the deals.
The big one here is Free Dining, which returns and is available exclusively to Disney Visa Credit Cardholders for arrivals August 1 through August 21, 2019. This offer follows the normal rules of Free Dining (which are covered in full detail here, along with comprehensive analysis and Free Dining tips); most notably, Value and Moderate Resort guests receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, while Deluxe and Deluxe Villa guests receive the standard Disney Dining Plan.
This second wave of Free Dining must be booked by June 16, 2019. A 4-night minimum stay is required, as is the purchase of a 4-day Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus park ticket. A valid Disney Visa Chase Credit Card or rewards card must be used to pay the deposit. If you don’t see this one on the special offer page, here’s a hack to make it work…
Search DisneyWorld.com for travel dates in August that meet the aforementioned requirements, and you should see a checkbox at the top of the page with an offer selected that is not Free Dining. Switch that to “A Delicious Offer for Disney Visa Cardmembers” (see screenshot below) and voila!
This deal appeared before disappearing from DisneyWorld’s promo page…which is not the first time this has happened with the Visa offers; we are expecting it to reappear later this morning once Disney Visa has a chance to officially announce it. In any case, it’s available for booking now with the hack above!
If you’re not a Disney Visa Credit Cardholder, the news isn’t as good. Rather than the ‘full’ Free Dining offer, you have access to book something we call “Free Dining Light” now with two-thirds fewer calories than normal Free Dining! This promotion is Walt Disney World’s way of catching the attention of potential guests with those magic words that everyone loves (free food!), but without actually offering a great deal.
This discount is available at Value & Moderate Resorts for arrivals most nights from May 28 through August 21, 2019, for bookings made through June 30, 2019. The promotion offers guests staying at Value Resorts one Quick Service Meal per night and requires a minimum 3-night stay and purchase of at least a 2-day ticket.
Seldom is “Free Dining Light” the best offer available, and that remains true for Summer 2019. Our “Free Dining is Back for Summer…Well, Sorta” post from last year provides some analysis as to why we typically do not recommend this discount. That insight remains true for this incarnation of the deal, so refer to that (ignoring the dates) if you want to know more about it.
Next up is the room-only discounts. The general public one here has an interesting twist, with Disney gift cards being offered per night depending upon the resort tier. With this offer, you can save up to 25% on rooms at select Walt Disney World hotels, valid for stays most nights May 28 through August 28, 2019 when you book through August 28, 2019.
When you book this offer for arrivals May 28 to June 30, 2019, you’ll receive a Disney Gift Card at check-in based upon Resort Category and original length of stay:
Deluxe Villa Resorts: $25 per room per night
Deluxe Resorts: $20 per room per night
Moderate Resorts: $15 per room per night
Value Resorts: $10 per room per night
In doing some quick back of the napkin math, I don’t see any scenarios where this discount plus the gift card beats the superior percentage offers for Annual Passholders and Florida residents, but I haven’t crunched the numbers for many dates. If you’re an AP or local, you’ll want to do this math yourself.
Rather than typing out all of the room discount percentage amounts, here’s a screenshot from Disney’s promo page:
Finally, Florida Residents can save up to 30% and Annual Passholders can save up to 35% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights July 1 through August 28 when booked by August 28, 2019.
See all of the discounts by room tier here on DisneyWorld.com’s special offer page for the discount.
Walt Disney World’s phone lines are likely to have long, multi-hour waits all morning, and online system will probably slow to a crawl given that several new deals have simultaneously been released. Normally, we’d encourage you to book as early as possible to have the best selection of resorts and room categories.
In this case, we’re not so sure it’s worth the headache. Summer 2019 promotions have already been released and the most in-demand dates were previously covered. This does add new travel dates in July and August, but competition should not be incredibly fierce for these deals. About the only one that might require a sense of urgency is the second wave of Free Dining.
For what it’s worth, these special offers are not coming out of left field. Back when 2019 Free Dining at Walt Disney World was “inexplicably” released early, we stated that it was an attempt to prop up bookings, which were down for the first half of the year and that a second wave of Free Dining was possible if internal expectations weren’t met.
Likewise, the grand opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was not pushed forward because the project is way ahead of schedule. It’s being rushed towards an incomplete debut to help with lethargic bookings, particularly in September and early October 2019.
As we discuss in our massive Star Wars Land Info & Galaxy’s Edge Guide, we still expect to see significantly elevated crowds from mid-October through December 2019, and likely for at least the first half of 2020. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is generating serious buzz, and not just in Disney fan circles. It will be cause a spike in attendance, and be a massive growth driver for Walt Disney World.
However, just because Star Wars Land causes a surge in attendance and growth does not mean it’s living up to the sky-high internal forecasts for the project. Estimates peg the cost of each Galaxy’s Edge at over $1 billion, which likely does not account for the (shared) R&D or blockbuster marketing budgets the lands will receive.
When you couple the cost of Galaxy’s Edge with the expectations associated with the cultural touchstone that is Star Wars, it’s understandable that expectations are so high. For Disneyland and Walt Disney World, this is the end-all, be-all of Star Wars in the parks. There will be no standalone park or even a slow trickle of new rides. This is it. The theme park culmination of Disney’s acquisition of one of the world’s most lucrative franchises.
It will be interesting to see the degree to which these new Walt Disney World discounts move the needle. While this is not exactly last minute, we’d hazard a guess that many potential guests have already made the decision about whether to attend Walt Disney World before or after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…or whether to wait it out even longer.
What’s interesting to me is that it would seem deals like this are most appealing to Walt Disney World regulars who aren’t approaching this from an either-or perspective, and are instead likely to be lured into making another trip to Walt Disney World because a tempting offer is on the table. Situations like this demonstrate just how necessary loyal fans are to Disney’s success, even if the company has made moves that alienate some fans over the last few years. The question is whether this will be enough to entice WDW loyalists into another trip or prompt tourists who are on the fence into booking a summer Walt Disney World vacation?
What do you think about these new Walt Disney World discounts? Surprised to see Free Dining return? Think we could see even more discounts–possibly for select Fall 2019 dates–if bookings remain soft? Have you booked any of these new deals? Do you agree or disagree with our analysis? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!