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:
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.
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!