Free Dining is Now Available for 2020!
Walt Disney World has released the Free Dining Plan discount for select dates in June, July, August, and September 2020, including around Independence Day, plus the off-season. Here we offer info, tips & tricks, and thoughts on booking this discount.
We’ll cover all the details of Summer 2020 Free Dining at Walt Disney World here, what we recommend doing, and offer some speculation as to why this is occurring. There’s a lot to digest here (but at the same time…not so much) and we’ll break down all of that.
When we updated the ‘news & rumors’ section of our 2020 Free Disney Dining Plan Promotion page yesterday, we predicted that this wouldn’t be a full release of Free Dining today, instead anticipating that something smaller and more symbolic would be released. I’m the first to admit when I’m wrong, and that was partially the case here. But I’m also somewhat right…
Before we get to that, let’s start with a look at the dates for the Summer 2020 Free Dining Deal:
- June 27 through June 28, 2020
- July 5 through July 7, 2020
- August 29 through September 8, 2020
This offer must be booked by January 16, 2020, and it 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.
Another thing to note is that this offer excludes 3-bedroom villas, campsites, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, Disney’s All Star Movies Resort, and Little Mermaid Rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
2020 Free Dining Analysis
First is the obvious. Walt Disney World is offering Free Dining for four months…but only a total of like 16 days. In fairness, these are simply the required arrival dates, so as long as you can kick off your trip during these dates, you’ll receive the discount for the entire course of your vacation (within limits).
Second, contrary to what we predicted, 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 Free Dining.
The second part of that is why we were wrong with our prediction. The first part is why we were right (and I’m not just trying to save face here–I’m wrong all the time). As we predicted, this is “something smaller and more symbolic to give a light nudge to travel planners who are on the fence.”
While it’s the real deal, it’s a gutted version of that in terms of dates. To anyone on the fence starting to plan a summer trip but wanting to hold out until discounts are released, it basically sends the message: “this is all you’re getting from now through September, book within the next two weeks or forget about it.”
From that perspective, it’s a really savvy move by Walt Disney World. They get the splashy announcement of Free Dining, with an offer that’s the real thing, and a discount encompassing several months of the calendar. When the “Special Offers” page loads, it looks pretty good…at first.
Upon closer inspection, you see very limited dates for this June through September 2020 Free Disney Dining Plan deal. You’re thus forced to either squeeze your Walt Disney World vacation into those dates or book other dates with an alternative offer. One way or the other, most planners are moving on.
Another thing we’d caution here before you get too excited is that availability for some resorts and dates is undoubtedly very limited. Our expectation once we’re able to do extensive spot checking of hotel availability is that there won’t be a ton of options. What is available will likely go quickly as several months worth of Walt Disney World bargain hunters scramble to all fit their summer travel within the narrow confines of this offer.
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’d also expect that the phone lines will be jammed all day today and the website will experience long waits. That “We’re Almost into Orbit” screen is a nice move (just like the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue, it’ll probably frustrate some of you, but it’s far better than the alternative of the site just crashing all day) that’ll hopefully work as intended. We’d expect those waits (which were 10 minutes or less at 4 am) to skyrocket once more people are awake on the East Coast.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as it’s more or less par for the course on Walt Disney World discount release 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.
Since long waits in the virtual queue are a definite possibility for many of you, we’ll share the full promo page below. This is what you can expect to see once you’re able to click on the “Savor a FREE Delicious Deal This Summer” promo.
As for why Free Dining is being offered for these dates, the answer is always hotel occupancy. The better question is probably why, by offering Free Dining on June 28, 2020, Walt Disney World is giving the discount to tourists taking week-long vacations leading up to the Independence Day holiday?
I don’t think that’s supremely interesting, but not much about this is. My guess there would be that the weeks around Independence Day are not nearly as busy as the reputation might suggest. To the contrary, many Americans 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.
As for why more dates aren’t being offered, I think we pretty adequately address that in our main Free Dining post. It’s a big year for Walt Disney World. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is proving to be a smash hit, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens soon–and with similarly high expectations, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is also coming this summer.
It’d be something of a warning sign if Walt Disney World had the ‘hype train(s)’ from all of those big new additions and still had to offer aggressive discounts. The limited dates and availability for this Summer 2020 Free Dining offer suggest occupancy is looking good, but some dates could be better. (This honestly feels more like something we’d normally see for a Targeted PIN Code Walt Disney World Discount, and not a general public release.)
The question on many of your minds is whether we’ll see multiple waves of 2020 Free Dining like we did last year. I think that’s highly likely, especially because the booking window is so limited for this release and the deal only runs until early September 2020. While October is pretty much always excluded, the entirety of September–the slowest month of the year at Walt Disney World–is not.
Another release later this spring–or even this summer–with more dates running at least through the end of September 2020, seems like a given. As for November and December 2020? I wouldn’t have predicted Free Dining for those dates last year after the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was announced. Yet, they ended up being offered. As for 2020, it’s too early to say. The vast majority of guests have yet to book Christmas 2020 travel, so there’s no telling what occupancy looks like.
Ultimately, we’ll keep you posted about subsequent 2020 Free Dining releases. In the here and now, you should take advantage of this promotion ASAP if you’re thinking about Summer 2020 vacation to Walt Disney World and there’s any way to make these dates work for you. Between limited dates and limited room inventory, this promotion will book up fast. It’s not going to get any better than this for these travel dates, so there’s really no reason to hesitate.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think about these new Walt Disney World discounts? Surprised to see Free Dining for Summer 2020? Think we could see even more Free Dining for Fall/Christmas 2020 dates? Have you booked this 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!
Do you think they will bring back all the dining plans for 2021? Also, do you think they would offer a free dining package for Jan 2021, during the slowest time? I was hoping, because we are booked for then, but if they are so confined to less space/tables and no buffets, they may want to provide incentives for people to eat there. But on the other hand, if they don’t offer free dining, they can make more on the plans since their expenses vs profit is not what it used to be, given that attendance is down and 25% capacity. As far as the dining plan, if they have quick service plans, it really makes people commit to the payment amount for food, and no different than if you walked up to buy it, as far as capacity goes. So there is no harm in allowing that. The sit down dining I can see as a grey zone, as more dining plans sold = more packed reservations, but if they book ahead, then they can plan for full capacity of the 25% capacity, and make as much as they can, while still staying safe distancing/capacity. But when they don’t have the dining plans, they may not sell out all restaurants. Or do you thing they will get fully booked, regardless? I really liked the fact that the dining plan allowed me to say “YES” to my kids every single time they asked for some sort of snack. If I had to pay for that each time, then mentally I would say, “well let’s share.” When it is a free dining plan, it would be amazing. Last time I went in Jan 2019 they had 10% or 15% off the whole package, so it was completely worth getting the full dining plan. Don’t forget that if you have any snack credits left at the end of your trip, that you can spend them in the gift shops and buy pre-packaged candy for the airplane ride home. NO CREDITS LEFT BEHIND.
It will be interesting to see how Disney handles things when the Covid-19 vaccine is released, and if you will have any different mask-wearing regulations or if they provide you with a different color wrist band when you walk through. Show proof of it, then you get a color wrist band. They should get something to be able to register your vaccine on your My Disney App, and then when you scan your app/ticket at the gate, they give you a band.
Would be nice if you dated your articles, this is not a valid offer any longer but doesn’t say that anywhere I can see. Or a book by date either.
4th Paragraph says it must be booked by January 16, 2020.
Yes, it would be nice to have a “published date,” like a lot of blogs have.
If you right click on the web page, then select View page source. You can see the publish date, if you search/find “published.” Looks like it was published Jan 2nd, 2020.
It’s getting closer to April, and we’re all trapped in isolation, so a little Disney daydreams could help. Is there any word/whispers yet regarding a second offer for free dining 2020?
Obviously the times on reopening and navigating the pandemic make things unclear, but I would expect them to still post the offer, going under the assumption that they’ll be opened by then.
If I have reservations under the free dining offer can I change room type or resorts if someone cancels that also had the promotion? Thanks!
Yes, but when you call Disney you have to speak with guest services. The cast members who answer the phones can’t make this change for you; they will have to either speak with Guest Services themselves on your behalf or transfer you to them to make a switch on a promo that has expired. Of course, there has to be availability under the Free Dining offer for a different resort/room type for them to be able to do this for you.