Disney World offers vacation packages throughout the year to entice would be guests. One such package is Free Dining.
There are some things you should know before booking a Free Dining package, though. Let’s take a look!
1. It’s usually available in the fall and winter months.
Disney usually announces the dates for Free Dining in the spring (March or April), and they become available for booking in April or May. Free Dining is then usually part of a vacation package booked for travel between August and December of that year.
2. It’s sometimes a bounceback offer.
A bounceback offer is an offer made to guests currently staying at one of the Disney resort hotels to encourage them to rebook before they leave Disney World when the offer will expire. Sometimes a bounceback offer is a discounted room and sometimes it’s free dining.
Not everyone receives a bounceback offer, so if you don’t get one before the end of your vacation, it doesn’t hurt to ask the front desk if you can get one.
3. There are two different plans.
Free Dining isn’t one plan. In fact, there are two different plans.
The Disney Dining Plan is part of a Magic Your Way vacation package, and it includes one table service meal or one full buffet, one quick-service meal, and two snacks per person per day plus one refillable mug per person good for your entire trip.
The Quick-Service Dining Plan is also part of a Magic Your Way vacation package, and it does not include any table-service meals. Instead, you are eligible for two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per day plus on refillable mug per person good for your entire trip.
4. It depends on which resort you choose.
There are three different kinds of resorts on Disney property: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. These correlate with different pricing tiers. Each level is also eligible for different Disney Dining Plans.
Guests staying at moderate and deluxe resorts get the Disney Dining Plan during the free dining offer, and value resort guests get the Quick-service Dining Plan.
5. You can pay the difference.
Guests staying at a value resort who plan to eat at table-service restaurants during their stay might do better with the Disney Dining Plan. If you would rather have this plan, you can pay the difference and upgrade from the Quick-service plan to the Disney Dining Plan.
There are a couple things to consider here though. If you’re only going to eat at one table-service meal during your stay, it might be better to just pay for it out of your pocket and use the quick-service credit at some other point. On the other hand, if you are going to eat at table-service restaurants frequently (once per day), the cost difference might mean that upgrading to a moderate resort makes more sense. In other words, instead of paying to upgrade your dining plan, upgrade your room and get the free DDP that comes with it.
6. It’s the same as other plans.
Just because the dining plans are called Free Dining Plans doesn’t mean they’re any different from the other plans. You are entitled to all of the same benefits as if you were paying full-price for the plan.
What’s more, you can choose from over 100 different dining locations in all four theme parks, Disney Springs, the Disney Resort Hotels, and the water parks.
7. It’s a lot of food.
Probably the biggest complaint about the DDP is that it’s too much food for one person to eat. This results in wasted food, and thus wasted money even if it is free (I’ll explain more about this next).
If you skip the DDP and pay for your meals out of pocket, you will typically save money on your vacation. Since you’re only paying for food that you’re eating, you’re not wasting anything, and you might even be eligible for another discount that would save more for you than the Free Dining would.
8. It’s not really free.
You might be asking yourself how you would save money if the plan is free. It’s free food – why not take it?
Well, and this is the biggest secret of all, Free Dining isn’t really free.
When Disney offers Free Dining, you aren’t eligible for any other discounts. Therefore, you’re paying the highest, full price for your room. If you’re saving enough money on food that the resort discount would be less, then you’re saving money; but if you aren’t eating that much, a room discount would actually save you more money.
“Free Dining” is actually a discount that means you’ll pay full price for everything else.
9. It might not be the best deal.
Some Magic Your Way vacation packages will occasionally overlap. If the room percentage discount is available, you’ll have to do some math to decide whether the room discount or the free dining discount is a better deal for you.
If you decide to do the Free Dining, decide which one is best for you and choose your resort accordingly. As I said before, if the DDP makes more sense than the Quick-service plan, consider upgrading your resort instead of your dining plan.
10. It’s only available as part of a package.
Some people prefer to book their Disney vacation a la carte. However, you can only take advantage of the Free Dining option if you purchase it as part of a Magic Your Way vacation package. This means that only Disney Resort Hotel guests are eligible for the Free Dining.
Therefore, two groups of people are excluded from the Free Dining offer. Those booking a room-only reservation can book a DDP through a travel agent or by adding it on MyDisneyExperience. Disney Vacation Club members or people renting points can also add the DDP. However, neither is eligible for the Free Dining offer since it has to be purchased as part of a package.