Walt Disney World has released the Free Dining Plan discount for select travel dates in July through September 2024, including Independence Day and the off-season. Here are dates & details, tips & tricks, everything you need to know about booking this discount and predictions about a second wave of dates around the holidays.
This trio of dining deals aren’t the only special offers available for booking right now, though–there are over a half-dozen different offers and some might be better for you, depending upon your circumstances. For everything else, see All Current Walt Disney World Discounts for 2024. There are promos available for most dates between now and September 2024, plus bouncebacks and PIN codes that run through Christmas 2024. So that’s worth checking out if you’re debating when to travel…
Per Walt Disney World, here are the deal details: Disney+ Subscribers can enjoy a FREE Disney Dining Plan when you purchase a non-discounted 4-night, 4-day minimum Walt Disney World vacation package that includes a room at a select resort hotel and a theme park ticket with a Park Hopper option.
Walt Disney World’s 2024 Free Dining deal is valid for arrivals most nights from July 1, 2024 to September 30, 2024. (Arrivals is the operative word, meaning your trip could start on September 30 and continue through October 7, 2024 and you’d be eligible for Free Dining for the duration. By contrast, if you arrived June 30 and stayed through July 7, 2024, you wouldn’t–unless you did a split stay to make that first day a separate “trip.”)
Here’s the discount chart provided by Walt Disney World to show participating resorts and which tier of the Disney Dining Plan each receives:
There are a bunch of terms and conditions, all of which are common for this type of special offer. Table service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase (a common complaint with Free Dining in past years has been the lack of ADRs for those who arrived without booking anything in advance).
Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Disney Dining Plans exclude gratuities, which will need to be paid out of pocket at table service restaurants. Children ages 3 to 9 must order from a children’s menu, where available. The number of packages allocated for this offer is limited. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package.
Free Dining offer excludes the following room types: 3-Bedroom Villas, The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.
The Disney Dining Plan included in this special offer depends on the Walt Disney World resort hotel you select. The Disney Dining Plan is included when you choose a stay at a Disney Deluxe or Disney Deluxe Villa Resort hotel. The Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan is included when you choose a stay at a Disney Moderate or Disney Value Resort hotel.
US residents must be 18+ to subscribe to Disney+. Canadian residents must be 18+ or the age of the majority in their jurisdiction to subscribe to Disney+. The Disney+ subscriber must stay in the room. That’s really about it in terms of the terms and conditions that are actually meaningful.
You can book the deal directly via Walt Disney World’s official site here.(This link might come in handy if you’re not seeing Free Dining on DisneyWorld.com’s special offer’s page, which we’re told is a common issue.)
Speaking of problems, if you’re having an issue with your Disney+ subscription being recognized by your DisneyWorld.com/My Disney Experience account, try logging into Disneyplus.com first. You should be able to go into your Disney+ account and update the email address associated with that to match your My Disney Experience account.
Should is the operative word, as this won’t always work. If it doesn’t, try calling Disney+ customer service at 888-905-7888. Do not call Walt Disney World, as this is discount drop day and hold times are no doubt astronomical.
Another option is logging into Disneyworld.com with your Disney+ account login, booking a room under that, and worrying about account consolidation at a later date. (Trust me, you do not want multiple Disney accounts–it causes all sorts of unanticipated problems.)
If you just signed up for Disney+, try again approximately 60 minutes after you subscribed. If you’re still having issues, log out of everything, then log back into Disneyplus.com. After that, visit Disneyworld.com. It should work then. You might need to try private browsing, too.
2024 Free Dining Analysis
First, this is not “Free Dining Lite” or “Half-Free Dining” as we’ve come to call Walt Disney World’s other marketing gimmicks that trade on the name recognition of the Free Dining offer. This is the real deal–full or OG Free Dining.
While Walt Disney World has offered a number of dining-related discounts in the last year (including the two that are currently available for earlier in 2024), this is the first time that Free Dining is back (for real) since 2019. This is significant because, pre-closure, Free Dining was far and away the most popular discount that Disney offers (based on booking volume).
After a 4 year absence, many Walt Disney World fans are going to be starved for Free Dining. Accordingly, I’m expecting a tremendous amount of pent-up demand for this specific special offer. There has been a subset of Walt Disney World fans sitting on the sidelines, patiently waiting for this day to come for the last ~4 years. They’re going to be ready to pounce.
Accordingly, we’d caution that availability for some resorts, room categories, and dates is undoubtedly very limited and/or competitive. Our expectation once we’re able to do extensive spot checking of hotel availability is that there won’t be a ton of options.
A lot of what’s available will likely go quickly as Walt Disney World bargain hunters scramble to book Free Dining ASAP. Again, some people have been waiting years for Free Dining to return. That’s not an exaggeration. By the time you read this, some resort/rooms/date combos may already be gone. That’s always been the case with Free Dining, and will be doubly true in 2024 due to promo pent-up demand.
My guess is that what I’m going to find once I start searches is that entire room categories, certain dates, etc., are already sold out from day one. (If you’d be willing to help me crowd-source this data, I’d love to hear via the comments what dates and resorts you were able–or were not able–to book!)
We’re not saying this to scare you into booking before you’re ready or to foster FOMO. There’s also good news! For one thing, there’s a really wide range of dates for 2024 Free Dining. There are more eligible arrival dates for the first wave of 2024 Free Dining than there were in either 2019 or 2020.
This year’s Free Dining dates beat 2020 handily (arrival windows were very limited) and beat 2019 by a narrow margin. I would say 2024 is actually pretty comparable to 2019, which was when the pre-Star Wars Slump pushed Walt Disney World to offer the discount earlier than normal. Back in 2019, availability was surprisingly robust and there were a slate of solid resort options available even weeks after Free Dining was released.
Of course, there is no opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2024 that’s causing guests to postpone travel dates. However, there is the general exhaustion of pent-up demand and reality that Walt Disney World resort occupancy has been trending downward for the last few quarters. That’s precisely why Disney is busting out the “big guns” with Free Dining in the first place–they need it to fill rooms!
Accordingly, if you’re flexible with your travel dates, resort or room category, you really don’t need the same sense of urgency. Someone trying to book a limited room category at Pop Century for late July 2024 is going to have a much more difficult time than someone trying wanting Coronado Springs or Port Orleans (either or them) for flexible dates throughout September 2024.
I don’t have a crystal ball–so I don’t want to make bold predictions–but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are good options at Coronado Springs or Port Orleans weeks from now. By contrast, I could see certain rooms and dates being totally gone at Pop Century within a few days.
That’s the nature of the beast with Walt Disney World discounts whenever there’s high demand and low availability. As always, those who are willing to compromise with hotel choices, room categories, and even travel dates are in the best position. If you are dead-set on a certain type of room at a specific resort and are entirely unwilling to consider anything else…you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
As with most discount release days, Walt Disney World’s phone lines will be jammed and the online system will likely slow to a crawl at peak times, with Stitch eating the occasional page here and there, along with other glitches and errors. Even when we began searching for availability at 4:45 a.m. Eastern, the “We’re Almost into Orbit” virtual queue was already in use to access the discount page and search. (Granted, it was immediate entry, but that wait will almost certainly increase.)
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it’s more or less par for the course on Walt Disney World discount drop day. Things will only get worse as more people wake up and try to book (which is a huge reason why we recommend just using a travel agent). This is to say you will want to book ASAP for the best chance at scoring the resort and room you want, I’d highly recommend getting something locked-in right now.
One underrated aspect of booking now is as a guard against future price increases. It didn’t happen in October, so it’s likely that Walt Disney World will raises ticket prices in February 2024. Once tickets go up, you pay the higher prices for them with a new or modified booking. But whatever you lock-in pre-increase stays the old price. This means that you can secure the current prices now by booking a discount, but if you want longer and prices go up…so too will your package price.
As for why Free Dining is being offered for these dates, the answer is always hotel occupancy. We want to once again reiterate that Walt Disney World does not offer any promotion out of corporate generosity. The Disney Dining Plan is “given away” to entice guests to travel at times of year that have lower hotel occupancy rates.
You might wonder why Walt Disney World is giving the discount to tourists taking week-long vacations during the Independence Day holiday and the heart of the summer season. It’s because occupancy is lower! Summer ceased being peak season a long time ago, and last year’s Independence Day holiday was among the slowest stretch of the entire summer.
We discussed that phenomenon at length at the time, but in a nutshell, the reasons for this were ticket blockouts, higher hotel rack rates, and travel over a holiday weekend being more expensive (airfare, gas) generally. Many Americans also might actively avoid those weeks because of the reputation that these are the peak of the busy summer season. (At least at Walt Disney World, they aren’t.) That belief coupled with a spike in rack rates that weekend might necessitate some discounting.
To that point, there’s no such thing as a free lunch–you receive the Disney Dining Plan for “free” because you pay full price for your hotel room and park tickets. This is also why Free Dining is often not such a great deal. For many families, taking the room-only discount is superior. Always do the math, because the comparative value varies based upon resort, party size, and eating preferences.
They’ll assist you with the planning process, help you choose the most economical dates, best add-ons, etc. Notably, they also monitor reservations and can retroactively apply new discounts if a better deal is released to save you more money. (A big thing right now, since better deals keep coming out and supplanting the old ones!)
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.
Walt Disney World makes these special offers confusing on purpose so that comparison shopping is more difficult. This is done in a bunch of little ways, which I assume is for marketing purposes or to appeal to different consumer psychologies. I really don’t know. Regardless, we highly recommend using a travel agent–even if it’s not Be Our Guest Vacations. (Just don’t use a Big Box or MLM–see Why You Should Use A Disney Travel Agent for more.)
Against that backdrop, here are total package prices for various resorts during early September 2024 travel dates for a party of 2 adults and 2 kids:
It would be impossible for me to run through the math for everyone, so I’ll make some sweeping generalizations. Free Dining is likely to work best for the following guest demographics:
Almost all families staying at Value Resorts
Most families in standard rooms at Moderate Resorts
Parties of 3 or more Disney Adults at Deluxe Resorts
Free Dining is likely to work worst for the following:
Parties of 3 or fewer at Deluxe Resorts
Couples or solo travelers at Moderate Resorts
Smaller parties in Family Suites at Value Resorts
From that, you should have a decent sense of who benefits most and least from Free Dining. Basically, you want to look at party size (the larger, the better!) and age (the older, the better!), and room cost (the lower, the better!). That’s pretty much it…but it sounds simpler than it actually is.
These are not hard & fast rules or numbers, though. The thing to keep in mind about the math is that it’s going to differ for almost everyone. This is because there’s both an objective and subjective side to crunching the numbers.
What I mean by that is that we know the cost of the Disney Dining Plan–that’s an objective number. What we don’t know is its value to you. For some people, the DDP is worth more than its price. I would argue that number is smaller with the 2024 Disney Dining Plan, but those unicorns do exist.
For a lot of others, the DDP is not worth anything close to its sticker price. Accordingly, the value you’ll get out of it isn’t the objective cost, but whatever it’s actually worth to you. If you have to change your eating habits or would waste credits to make it “work” for you, it’s not worth it–and that applies to Free Dining, too. Oh, and don’t forget tips–you still have to pay those with table service meals.
You really, really need to do the math for yourself to determine whether Free Dining is right for you. I cannot stress this enough. Even though it’s the more “boring” deal, the room-only discount very well might be the better choice for you.
Among a lot of Walt Disney World vacation planners, there’s a sense that all of those considerations are only relevant to the paid Disney Dining Plan. But that’s not true, as booking Free Dining comes at the expense of another discount. So it may not matter to a party of 4 staying at the All Stars, who are obvious winners with Free Dining–but it does with the borderline cases.
There are plenty of parties who will be better off by simply taking the room-only discount–that’s always the case. Although it’s the “boring” discount, we are strong advocates of the room-only deals in borderline scenarios. Taking the up-front savings and not being “forced” to buy extras just to (supposedly) save more money is usually the best way to go if it’s a close call, in my opinion.
(For more on DDP value for money, see When You Should Get & Skip the 2024 Disney Dining Plan. That breaks down the demographics and scenarios in which the Disney Dining Plan is worth getting and the circumstances where it isn’t. Obviously, that’s geared towards the paid DDP, but the same ideas can be applied to Free Dining. A lot of fans incorrectly view the Disney Dining Plan in black and white terms. It’s either always awesome or always awful–there’s no middle ground. Both of those extremes are wrong. In reality, there is only middle ground!)
The question on many of your minds is whether we’ll see multiple waves of 2024 Free Dining, as was the case in 2019. I think that’s highly likely given that Walt Disney World has already been pulling liberally–almost page for page–from the 2019 playbook for discounts. While October was almost always excluded in the past, much of November and December used to offer Free Dining.
The biggest changes in the last few years in terms of travel trends are that pockets of October are less busy than before (minus fall break, which is terrible as ever), which is likely due to fewer conventions. There have also been more discounts for November and December, albeit with the normal exclusions for peak weeks. There are already bounceback and PIN codes that run through December 25, 2024–suggesting that occupancy projections are low for most of the year.
Another release later this spring–or even this summer–with more dates running through the end of 2024 with some exclusions for times with higher occupancy seems likely. As we’ve mentioned in other posts that predicted this Free Dining release, we wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as 4 waves of Free Dining in 2024. It all depends on the popularity of the promo when it’s targeted to Disney+ subscribers, and whether bookings pick up (or slow further!) in the back half of the year.
Walt Disney World offering more special offers to the general public is great news, and definitively demonstrates that travel trends are normalizing now after running hot for way too long. During that period of pent-up demand, Walt Disney World was able to ‘get away’ with pretty much anything and still see record guest spending and insatiable demand. Consumers now appear to once again have more leverage, and companies need to entice them to visit.
This should be an interesting saga to follow, and it’s almost certain that we haven’t seen the end of Walt Disney World’s efforts to woo back former fans and pull “levers” to incentivize more demand and guest spending. If bookings remain soft for the rest of 2024, it’ll be interesting to see what type of more unique promotions are released for the second half of 2024.
What do you think about these new Walt Disney World discounts? Surprised to see Free Dining for Summer 2024? Think we could see even more Free Dining for Fall/Christmas 2024 dates? Have you booked this Free Dining discount or other deals for 2024? 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!