If you’ve been following our Free Dining Plan at Walt Disney World updates, you know tomorrow (April 24, 2017) is the rumored release of this popular discount. For many of you, Free Dining release day is like Christmas morning…except you’re buying something in order to get something “free” instead of receiving a bunch of totally-free* presents (*unless you’re an adult) from Santa Claus. Okay, so maybe it’s more like a cross between Black Friday and Christmas morning, but now you’ve made my whole comparison clumsier.
ANYWAY…the point is that the promotion should be released tomorrow. Again, it’s rumor at this point, and everything is subject to change until Disney officially releases the promo with exact details. Who knows? Maybe we’ve got the rumor all wrong and instead of a ‘Free Disney Dining Plan’ promo, this year it’s a ‘Free Doofus Drake Pin’ promo as part of some convoluted synergy play for the reboot of DuckTales on Disney XD. (Hey, it’s possible!)
Alright, jokes aside, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind as you ‘prepare’ for the release of Free Dining. If this is your first rodeo with Free Dining release day, you need patience and flexibility…
In terms of patience, you need to be prepared for hiccups in Disney’s online booking system, long waits on the phone lines, and who knows what other errors.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Disney’s websites, you know that Stitch has a penchant for eating random pages. 😉
On the flexibility front, it’s highly likely that room availability–even at resorts that are not excluded–will be minimal to nearly non-existent at some resorts, over some date ranges.
Thanks to Pandora – World of Avatar marketing and strong consumer confidence in the United States right now, fall/winter occupancy rates have been trending above average.
I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong, and I did not see this coming. Last fall, I predicted an increase in Walt Disney World discounts. Now, we’re poised to see the opposite. (Perhaps I should predict just that–we’ll probably all get lucky and I’ll be wrong again!)
Since Walt Disney World only offers the Free Dining promotion to increase occupancy rates (no, it’s not because they are “nice”), higher occupancy means less of a need for the promo to fill rooms. Less of a need means less availability.
What this means to you is that having a backup (or 3-4 backups) plan is essential. If your first choice is unavailable, you need an alternative ready to go. Sometimes this means being open to a different hotel, sometimes it means being willing to upgrade room categories or even tweak your travel dates (if possible).
If you are totally inflexible, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. If you’re using a travel agent, be sure to let them know the ways you’re flexible. I also recommend giving them some leeway to make other tweaks if good options present themselves.
This flexibility is incredibly important if you’re staying at Pop Century or Port Orleans Riverside. Even though the Picnic Burger topped with hot dogs is gone (RIP), Pop Century is still going to be in incredibly high demand. Riverside won’t have availability (at all) for some date ranges, and will be very limited for others.
Other resorts are going to be similarly limited, but those are the big standouts. Other details are covered in our Free Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World post; if you’ve been following this stuff, you’ve probably read a lot of this dozens of times, so I’m not going to rehash it all here.
I’ve spent the entire morning updating our category of Free Dining posts on the blog
, so if you want a good way to waste your Sunday, take a look at those. I’d recommend taking a nap instead, but that’ll probably be the natural result of 10 minutes on one of those blog posts, anyway. 😉
One thing I’m working on is new post ideas covering Free Dining. Our main Free Dining Plan post has over 1,000 comments, with many of those being questions from confused readers. While I think I do a good job of covering frequently asked questions, I find myself updating and refining the text in that post a lot based on recurring questions.
A problem with being ‘too close’ to any topic is that you start to assume knowledge that isn’t so common for newbies. There’s no doubt that has happened with me and the Disney Dining Plan (something with which I have a love/hate relationship). I’m working on a couple of posts right now (including one on whether you should upgrade or downgrade), but if you have ideas for things you’d like to see covered or questions that I could addressed, please share in the comments here. I’m all ears!
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. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
I think our various Free Dining posts cover almost everything, but are there are lingering questions? As mentioned, we know this can be more overwhelming for Free Dining newbies than it is for seasoned vets, so don’t be afraid to ask any questions! Are you planning on booking Free Dining? Opting for a room-only discount instead? Have any tips for free dining rookies? Let us know what you think in the comments below!