Walt Disney World has released yet another new discount for Spring & Summer 2024. This post shares the details of this special offer aimed at families, commentary about the savings, and what else might be on the horizon. Specifically, the likelihood of full Free Dining coming soon! (Updated November 14, 2023.)
This is one of a growing number of special offers that has been released thus far for 2024 Walt Disney World vacations. If you’re looking for general public promos, the big one is the “Free” Disney Dining Card Deal for 2024, which runs through March 2024. Aside from this, that’s the other most notable discount out right now.
It isn’t the only deal 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 (Late 2023 & 2024). There are promos available for pretty much all dates between now and Spring 2024, with even more available for next year if you take a trip this year. So that’s worth checking out if you’re debating a trip in the next several months…
This deal is now available as of November 14, 2023. With the Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount, children’s (ages 3 through 9) theme park tickets and Disney Dining Plans are half off with the purchase of a non-discounted 4-night, 4-day Walt Disney Travel Company package for you and your children that includes a room at a select Walt Disney World Resort hotel, theme park tickets, and Disney Dining Plan.
Book now for arrivals most nights from:
March 3, 2024 through March 24, 2024
April 7, 2024 through June 30, 2024
Here are the participating resorts:
There are a bunch of terms and conditions, pretty much all of which are common for this type of special offer. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package, meaning that adults must also purchase the Disney Dining Plan for themselves. Children must stay in room with adult, meaning you can’t book multiple rooms and fill one with just kids to ‘split’ the promo.
Table service restaurants may have limited or no availability at time of package purchase (a common complaint with Free Dining was 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. Disney Dining Plan must be purchased for entire length of stay and for the entire party (ages 3 and up).
Offer excludes the following room types: 2-bedroom suites, 2-bedroom villas, 3-bedroom villas, campsites, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows.
Note that the headline touts that this offers a 4-night, 4-day package. However, that is just an example–not what you’re required to book. Walt Disney World has been really weird about how it promotes these deals, often (shockingly) underselling them. The actual minimum stay is 1-night, and the maximum is 14-nights.
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.
Turning to commentary, let’s start by pointing out the obvious–that this is not be the “real” Free Dining promo. That should be apparent since it’s only 50% off, and only for children.
On a positive note, it’s also not as weak as “Free Dining Lite” or “Half-Free Dining” as we’ve come to call Walt Disney World’s past special offers that traded on the name recognition of the Free Dining offer. We haven’t seen one of those in a while, but they were common for travel dates during the winter through summer months in 2020 and earlier.
Although Walt Disney World has done “Kid-Sized” and “Play, Stay & Dine” offers in the past, none have had the same characteristics as this Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Deal. This also is unlike the recent and upcoming Disney Dining Gift Card promo, which is more like a rebate deal. Anyway, just want to put this into context so you don’t just think HALF-PRICED FOOD and get overly excited! 😉
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. As noted above, there are over a dozen different discounts currently available, and if the last few weeks are any indication, that number is only going to grow! Walt Disney World makes these special offers confusing on purpose.
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.)
The reason this comparison shopping is valuable will become more important over the course of the next few paragraphs…
Turning to The Math™️, we’re going to use Walt Disney World’s own example for illustrative purposes: a 4-night, 4-day stay.
The average full price of 4-day Walt Disney World tickets for children during the date range of this special offer is $579.16 per ticket. The per night price of the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan is $23.83 per child, for a total of $95.32 over the course of the stay. The per night price of the standard or regular Disney Dining Plan is $29.69 per child, for a total of $118.76.
Cut those prices in half and you have a savings of $289.58 on park tickets, and $47.66 to $59.38 on the Disney Dining Plan. That amounts to savings of roughly $338 to $350 per child. Now divide that by 4 to come up with the per night savings: $87.50. (Let’s just use the higher number rather than retaining the range–just keep in mind there’s some wiggle room.) Now multiply that times however many kids you have.
Doing all of that math is important because it gives us the means of comparing this discount to the previously-released Free Dining Card Deal, which offers a gift card on a nightly basis:
$200 per room, per night at Deluxe Resorts & Deluxe Villas
According to The Math™️, the Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount is likely to work best for the following guest demographics:
Almost all families staying at Value Resorts
Most families at Moderate Resorts
Families with 3+ kids at Deluxe Resorts
You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but $87.50 is more than $60, so even if you have one kid, you’re coming out ahead with the Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount at a Value Resort. If you have 2-3 kids in the same room? GAME ON! That savings is suddenly ~$175 to ~$262 per night–better than the gift card deal at the Deluxe Resorts!
These are not hard & fast rules or numbers, though. The thing to keep in mind about The Math™️ here is that it changes and becomes less favorable with longer stays. That’s because the incremental per-day ticket cost decreases with longer duration tickets, so you’re no longer saving as much per day. If this example were with a 7-day stay, for instance, the per day savings drops to $65. With a longer stay, it drops even further.
The other thing to keep in mind is that this locks the adults in your party to buying whatever Disney Dining Plan you get for your kids. You cannot just purchase the half-price full DDP for kids and nothing for adults. To the contrary, you also have to buy the same tier of the Disney Dining Plan for adults, and the value proposition of those is a bit suspect.
In fact, we anticipated exactly this type of promo happening when DDP prices and details were released, as locking adults into the pricey Disney Dining Plan while giving it to kids at a discounted rate is incredibly savvy on Walt Disney World’s part. Personally, I’m reluctant to buy the regular DDP out of pocket because it’s tough to make it pencil out–but if I had a herd of children and booked a Value or Moderate Resort with this promo, it becomes a no brainer. (Just not quite as good as it appears on its face, since you’re ‘forced’ to buy the DDP for adults.)
With that said, this is called The Math™️ because it’s pretty rough. (“My spelling math is wobbly. It’s good spelling math, but it wobbles and the letters numbers get in the wrong places.” ~Winnie The Pooh ~Tom Bricker). That’ll remain the case until we have full details, exclusions, etc.
The bottom line, though, is that you’re probably going to come out ahead with the Kids Play & Dine for 50% off discount if you’re staying in Value or Moderate Resorts, and the kids in your party are equal to or outnumber the adults. If you’re a solo parent with triplets who are 9 years old and would buy the Quick-Service Disney Dining while staying in All Star Movies, you win big with this. It’s like hitting the jackpot as compared to the free dining card deal.
If you’re a couple with an only child staying at the Grand Floridian, you’ll be better off with the dining card deal. There are a range of scenarios in between, and a lot of “it depends” answers. In particular, you need to ask yourself whether the Disney Dining Plan makes sense for your eating habits, or if paying as you go will be the better bet.
There are also plenty of parties who will be better off with simply taking the room-only rate, as is 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.
If you’re on the fence about whether to book this Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount for 2024 or the Free Disney Dining Card Deal, our advice would be: don’t wait! Book something ASAP.
Although it didn’t happen in October, it’s still possible that Walt Disney World raises ticket prices in the coming months. 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 anyone traveling between now and March 24, 2024 is able to secure the current prices now.
Obviously, it’s not possible to apply discounts to stays in April to December 2024 (aside from bouncebacks), but it is possible to at least book the undiscounted package now. After these potential price increases, it’s possible that’ll end up being better than future promotions. We highly doubt it given how aggressive discounting has gotten, but we’d still recommend hedging!
One question that keeps coming up from longtime Walt Disney World planners as discounts are released is what about Free Dining?
As we’ve discussed previously, there was never any realistic scenario where Free Dining was going to be released right alongside the paid Disney Dining Plan. For one thing, that would be turning the faucet wide open in terms of demand, rather than gradually doing so. There are still concerns with dining capacity and the ability of restaurants to meet demand once the Disney Dining Plan returns in early 2024.
It’s difficult to see that right now, as the fall off-season has made last-minute ADRs much easier to score, but the issue will rear its ugly head again this Christmas. The good news is that it’s lessening with each passing season, and by the time 2024 rolls around, things should be pretty close to normal again.
For another thing, the OG or “full” Free Dining historically was never offered for the first half of the year, anyway. If it returns in 2024, we’re likely looking at a late summer to early fall timeline as the first eligible arrival dates. Our Guide to Free Dining at Walt Disney World covers the historical dates–those should be pretty instructive. In particular, look at the dates for 2018 and earlier–2019 was an anomaly due to the pre-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lull, so more summer dates were released that year.
Nevertheless, I’m optimistic. Walt Disney World has now released or announced several room-only discounts for the first quarter of 2024, all of which were released earlier than their counterparts in 2018 or 2019. (The pertinent comparison since discounts were weak the last few years due to pent-up demand.)
In addition to that, Walt Disney World has also released the aforementioned free dining card deal and now announced this Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount for 2024. While value for money can vary, my assessment of these discounts is that they’re both better on average than the “Half-Free Dining or Free Dining Lite” discounts released back in those time frames.
A lot can be said about Walt Disney World costing more in 2024 as compared to 2019 due to the loss of free FastPass, Disney’s Magical Express, and so forth. I’m not dismissing any of that–a 2024 trip that’s comparable to one in 2019 will cost you more as a result. Nevertheless, Disney has already released better discounts than in those years and earlier.
The bottom line is that everything we’ve seen so far from Walt Disney World discounts in 2024 suggests to me that Free Dining is increasingly likely. Walt Disney World is already heading down the road of at least matching deals from 2019 and earlier–Free Dining is the logical next stop.
With that said, it’s not a foregone conclusion. Free Dining was a big and bold deal that was leveraged by diehards, and Walt Disney World might be reluctant to bring it back after “retraining” fans to accept lesser special offers. However, they’d been trying to “wean guests off discounts” since 2010–for a full decade as of 2020–and it had never quite worked!
Given the sense of desperation already, and how that’s only likely to worsen once pent-up demand fades further in 2024 (not to mention a potential recession), I think Walt Disney World is more likely than not to offer Free Dining by Late Summer 2024. I think they’re more concerned about filling rooms and maintaining elevated per guest spending than they are about setting an unhealthy precedent with good discounts. My guess is that Free Dining is the ace up their sleeve that Walt Disney World won’t be able to resist playing.
Ultimately, this is another discount that’s earlier and better than what we were seeing in 2019 and earlier (nevermind 2021-2022!), which has been increasingly common with the discounts for travel dates this holiday season. While we’re still lacking full details about the Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount, what we do know about it strongly suggests it surpasses the Kid-Sized offers from 2018-2019. Even without knowing everything, it definitely beats the deals for the same timeframe for the past two years.
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 2024, it’ll be interesting to see what type of more unique promotions (beyond room discounts) are released for the second half of 2024…it sure feels like things are trending in the right direction for even more aggressive offers! We will be closely monitoring what’s released and will notify subscribers of our free email newsletter when any Walt Disney World discounts are released or rumored!
More broadly speaking, this normalization is obviously good thing for fans and Walt Disney World. Revenge travel was a distortion that had unhealthy consequences at Walt Disney World and beyond. Putting that in the rearview mirror is good for consumers and the long-term health of the company–especially its reputation and guest goodwill. Walt Disney World not doing record-breaking numbers regardless of the guest-unfriendly decisions and changes they make–and instead having to actually compete for customers–is a good thing.
What do you think of this Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount for Spring & Summer 2024? Do you like the ‘sliding scale’ that benefits larger families with more kids more than smaller parties, or would you prefer something that applied to everyone in the room? If you’re trying for this Kids Play & Dine for 50% Off Discount, which travel dates are you aiming for? Are you ‘sitting out’ Walt Disney World in 2024, not wanting to deal with the headache and stress? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!