Free Dining in Disney World? Is it really possible? Yes it is and this special promotion comes around annually for guests to take advantage of. But is Disney Free Dining worth it? We’re going to break down the dates and pricing for Disney Free Dining in 2019, early rumors for 2020 and all of our favorite tips so you can book this special offer!
(UPDATED 7/30/19): In 2019 Disney hasn’t just offered their free dining package once, but they have also recently added more 2019 Disney World Free Dining Dates which are ready for booking for the Fall and Christmas 2019! We’re going to explain to you what Free Dining is and all the tips you need to know before coming to Walt Disney World.
What is Disney World Free Dining?
Free and Walt Disney World usually don’t go hand-in-hand, however, there are a few exceptions. Most every year Walt Disney World runs its Free Dining special promotion, usually in the Late Summer – Early Fall period, essentially as an incentive to get people to come to Disney World during the “slow” periods of the year (though those are slowly disappearing.)
So Disney includes their Disney Dining plan for free with the price of your hotel room package, that way you don’t have to pay for your meals, they are essentially..free. Most guests looking to book a Walt Disney World vacation are more inclined to come if they are getting their meals for free.
Of course if you tell people they can get their meals in Disney World for free, they are going to jump at the chance. So when does Disney Free Dining take place?
2019 Disney World Free Dining Dates:
Does Disney still do Free Dining? Yes, absolutely. Free Dining is back in 2019, and Disney has chosen to release multiple rounds of dates for the event throughout the year. This year Disney has offered the Free Dining promotion not only once or twice, but they are bringing it back again with all new dates for Fall and Christmas 2019!
Here are the 2019 Disney World Free Dining Dates:
Round 1 (offer expired)
- July 5th – September 30th
Round 2 (Current Offer – Booking available from Now – September 29, 2019)
- September 1-18, 2019
- November 17-27, 2019
- December 8-23, 2019
Traditionally Disney offers the free dining for dates in the Fall as we saw in Round one. That first group of dates were released early this year and were made available on January 2.
The second group of dates was really a surprise and it’s quite rare for Disney to offer the promotion more than once in the same year. Booking can be made until September 29, 2019 so get booking if you want to use it.
How to be Eligible:
Even though Free Dining in Disney World sounds amazing, unfortunately not all vacations are eligible to use this promotion. Here is a list of the requirements to use Free Dining in 2019:
- Your trip must be booked between: July 16th through September 29th
- Any Disney World Free Dining package must be non-discounted 5-night/6-day vacation package in a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel. You can’t use multiple promotions at the same time, one or the other.
- All guests in the room must have a ticket with a Park Hopper Option or Park Hopper Plus Option.
It’s all about the Arrival Date:
Keep in mind your eligibility for the Disney World Free Dining package depends on your ARRIVAL date and not your checkout. That means that if you arrive on September 18th and leave September 25, you are eligible for Free Dining your whole trip.
What’s included in the Disney World Free Dining Package?
Of course each guest gets the Disney Dining Plan for free with this promotion, but which one depends on which Walt Disney World Resort Hotel you are staying in. Each Resort Level offers a different Free Dining package.
- Guests staying in a Disney Value or Moderate level resort will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free.
- Guests staying in a Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort will get the regular Disney Dining Plan for free.
In both cases to be eligible for Disney World Free Dining you also need to purchase a minimum Park Hopper or the Park Hopper Plus option.
Disney World Dining Plan for Free in 2019:
This offer is for guests staying at a Disney World Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort during the previously mentioned dates. With the normal Disney Dining Plan you get per day:
- 1 Table Service Meal
- 1 Quick Service Meal
- 2 Snacks
- Plus 1 Re-fillable Mug
The Free Dining offer includes the following hotels:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
This Offer EXCLUDES the following hotels:
- Bay Lake Tower
- Contemporary Resort
- Grand Floridian Villas
- Polynesian Village Resort and Villas
- Wilderness Lodge and all 3-bedroom Villas
Quick Service Dining Plan for Free in 2019:
This offer is for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Value Resort during the previously mentioned dates. With the Quick Service Dining Plan you get:
- 2 Quick Service Meals
- 2 Snacks
- Plus 1 Re-fillable Mug
The Free Dining offer includes the following hotels:
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Family Suites only
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Are all Disney World Hotels Included?
Unfortunately there are always exceptions and not all Walt Disney World Resort Hotels are eligible for Free Dining. Which Make sure to look at the list of excluded Walt Disney World Resort Hotels as this year there are quite a few of them.
In 2019 this Offer EXCLUDES the following hotels:
- All Star Movies
- Fort Wilderness campsites
- Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms
- Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter
- Port Orleans Resort — Riverside.
Can I Upgrade Offers?
Yes you can. If you book a value or moderate resort package with the Free Dining offer, you can upgrade to the normal Disney Dining package for an additional fee. Check the latest prices with your Disney travel agent to see what the difference will be and if it’s worth it for you.
Why is Disney Running this Free Dining Offer?:
It’s not uncommon for Disney to have special promotions and the Free Dining offer is a staple that guests can take advantage of every year. That said it’s a rare thing for Disney to offer it 3 times in one year! Why do we have ANOTHER Free Dining Offer in 2019?
The main reason is that hotel occupancy is lower than normal and they want to make sure that Disney World is filled up for the first few months of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. As you probably know the crowd levels have bene a bit disappointing in Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland (for reasons we won’t get into in this post) and management at Walt Disney World wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here this Fall.
It’s actually been surprising that people are so scared by running into high crowds for Galaxy’s Edge, they are upset that their vacation coincides with the opening dates for this new theme park land. I had multiple friends who are going to be in Disney World for the opening telling me they are steering clear of Hollywood Studios and they want no part of that scene.
This is the reason Disney is adding more dates to Free Dining, to get more people on property during the first months of operation of Galaxy’s Edge.
2020 Disney Free Dining Rumors and Dates:
Will there be Free Disney Dining in 2020? What are the latest rumors for dates?
There most likely will be a Free Dining promotion in 2020. There has been one in Disney World every year since the start in 2009, so I have not reason to think that the trend won’t continue.
Yes, in theory with the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in August and even more so Rise of the Resistance in December, there shouldn’t be a need to fill resort hotel rooms, but they have always offered Free Dining and 99% they will continue to do so.
Some positive news pointing towards just that is the fact that Disney has already released the 2020 Disney Free Dining Dates for UK Residents. This covers all residents of Europe not only the UK, but not U.S. residents. This is a good sign however for any U.S. visitors to Walt Disney World and 2020 dates for them should be on the way.
Now that’s not to say that the 2020 Disney World Free Dining offer won’t be different from years’ past. I think due to what is sure to be the high popularity of Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios, I think you will see fewer hotel rooms available for the promotion next year, and I think some of the hotels will be eliminated from the list due to 2020 Disney World bookings already filling some hotels.
I don’t have any insider info on when the dates for 2020 Disney Free Dining in 2020 will be yet, but look for dates to be released on the early side like happened in 2019. They won’t wait until April like usual but you could even see a January 2020 release.
When to Book Free Dining?
While “Free Dining” sounds great, it can be hard to figure out when it will be. Here is some info on when the Disney Free Dining offer usually happens both to book it and when the stay dates will happen.
When Does Disney Offer Free Dining?:
If you want to book it, you need to know when Disney offers Free Dining so you can plan your vacation around that. There is no exactly science to knowing when the promotion will be every year but keep in mind Disney usually offers Free Dining in the Fall season. Historically, planning your vacation for September or October will likely be when Free Dining occurs.
When does Free Dining usually become available to book? Disney usually releases the dates and makes booking available in April, though in 2019 the first round of booking started in January, while the second round began in July.
Does Disney Ever Offer Free Dining In January?
No, Disney does not typically offer Free Dining in January either for stay dates or booking dates. Free Dining is most likely to happen in the Fall of any given year.
The last time stay dates for Free Dining were offered in January was in 2012 and it hasn’t happened since. Also Disney doesn’t usually release the booking dates in January either though they keep releasing dates earlier and earlier every year.
Historical Free Dining Dates:
Though it won’t necessarily help for 2019 and beyond, looking at the past Disney Free Dining Dates you can get a good idea of when the stay dates are and when the booking period begins. Let’s look at the most recent history of Disney Free Dining to see:
2018 Free Dining Dates:
- August 20 – September 29
- November 24 – 27
- December 7 – 23
Booking Period: April 24 – July 7
2017 Free Dining Dates:
- August 21 – September 30
- November 14 – 20
- November 25 – 27
- December 8 – 23
Booking Period: April 24 – July 7
2016 Free Dining Dates:
- August 23 – October 1
- November 15 – 21
- November 26 – 28
- December 10 – 21
Booking Period: April 25 – July 8
2015 Free Dining Dates:
- August 28 – October 2
- October 25 – October 31
- November 8 – November 19
- December 15 – December 21
Booking Period: April 27 – July 10
2014 Free Dining Dates:
- August 31 – October 3
- October 26 – November 1
- November 9 – November 20
- December 12 – December 23
Booking Period: May 7 – August 8
2013 Free Dining Dates:
- September 2 – September 25
- September 29 – October 2
- October 18 – November 2
- November 11 – November 23
- December 12 – December 22
May 9 – July 31;
2012 Free Dining Dates:
- January 8 – March 31
- August 25 – September 29
- September 30 – December 13
Booking Period: August 3 – December 17, 2011; March 5 – May 18, 2012; July 12 – September 29, 2012
2011 Free Dining Dates:
- January 1 – March 3
- May 27 – June 2
- August 28 – September 24
- October 2 – December 17
Booking Period: May 2 – August 27, 2011 ; August 3 – October 29, 2011
How to Book Disney Free Dining and Tips:
Now that you know when Disney Free Dining will be, half the battle is won. The other half however can be just as hard if not worse and that’s actually booking Free Dining.
There are a few things you have to do to make sure you can book this package. Here are some tips to keep in mind about the offer so you can get the Free Dining promotion when it becomes available.
Book Ahead of Time:
You can’t wait until they announce the promotion because most rooms will probably already be filled by that time. This is a little Free Dining hack for you, but crucial to getting the dates you want. Book your Walt Disney World vacation BEFORE the dates come out for the Free Dining promotion, and then modify the package after if need be.
You can always add on the Free Dining promotion to your normal vacation package after, so there’s no reason not to secure your spot. It will ensure you already have your dates locked in because if you wait until the morning of the offer, it will be next to impossible to get the dates you want.
You can always rebook your trip if you have difficulties modifying your package to add Free Dining to it. You don’t have to worry about losing your ADR’s either, you will still keep your dining reservations.
Book Immediately When Offered:
If you haven’t booked your dates already before the dates are announced each year, then I suggest to you to book your Free Dining Package ASAP if you want to have the best choice of dates available to you.
Room inventories are limited throughout Walt Disney World for Free Dining with some hotels or room types not even being offered during the promotion. It’s first-come first-serve, so once the travel dates are gone, they’re gone. Don’t wait or you will miss it!
Arrival/Departure Dates and Split Stays:
This part is very important because mess up your arrival date by one and you could miss the Free Dining offer entirely. Your arrival to Disney World is the most important date and what really matters to use this discount.
Remember, whether you are eligible or not for Free Dining depends of if you arrive to your resort on the same day that Free Dining is being offered. That means if the travel dates for the Free Dining promotion are August 20 – September 20, if you arrive anytime in that date range you will eligible for Free Dining for the entirety of your trip.
I want you to concentrate on that. This means that if you arrive even one day early on August 19, you will NOT be eligible and you will lose out on Free Dining for the entirety of your trip. You won’t get the discount the other days either. On the other hand if you arrive on September 19 and leave on October 1, you will still get Free Dining for your whole stay!
So make sure your arrival is in line with the promotion!
The only way around this is by doing what we call a “Split Stay.” This means splitting up your vacation into two reservations, one for the days before the Free Dining offer and another once it starts. You can do this by switching hotels, or making two separate reservations in the same hotel.
So for example again if Free Dining is running from August 20 – September 20 and your vacation is from August 18 – August 26, you can make the first reservation covering Aug 18 and 19, and then a second reservation from Aug 20 – 26. You won’t get Free Dining for the first two days, but the rest of your trip will be covered.
Just keep in mind your second reservation has to last the minimum length of stay to be eligible for the offer that year. So if it requires a 5 night stay, you can only start counting from the second reservation.
Should I Call or Go Online to Book Free Dining?
This is one of the easiest questions about Free Dining and the answer is you should go online. There are very few reasons that you should call to book Free Dining. If someone gives you this information just smile and nod and then go straight to your computer.
Phone calls to book Walt Disney World offers can take upwards of an hour or more and booking online is so much faster and easier. Even if there is a system crash due to high traffic that day (which is likely) it will STILL be faster than trying to call. Simply keep trying to get back online until the system comes back online.
In a worst-case scenario that your computer explodes or the internet stops working, then you can pick up the phone and try calling to book your package.
Make Your Advanced Dining Reservations Immediately:
Even if Disney hasn’t released info about this year’s Free Dining offer, please make your Advanced Dining Reservations immediately, 180 days before your arrival. This is crucial!
You don’t want to wait until Disney has announced the Free Dining offer to make your reservations. During the Free Dining period the best restaurants always fill up quick, so unless you want to be stuck eating at the Nine Dragons or Tony’s Town Square Restaurant every night you need to plan out your trip right away!
If you Already Booked a Vacation Package..
If you already have made a Walt Disney World Resort booking before this offer came out, don’t worry. You can login to your My Disney Experience account and modify your reservation. This is much faster than trying to call up the morning that the Free Dining offer comes out as you’ll spend half the day waiting on the phone!
If you have already booked a vacation package with an arrival date that qualifies for Free Dining, we recommend using the “modify reservation” link in your booking to apply the promotion to your package. This is the quickest and easiest way to apply the promotion.
Can DVC Members Book Disney World Free Dining?
Yes DVC members can be eligible for Free Dining, but they can’t use DVC points to book their hotel room, they would have to pay the advertised market rate for a room with money. For that reason DVC members usually decide the Free Dining offer isn’t worth it to them.
To answer some other common questions: yes, you must purchase tickets with the offer even if you already have them (or an Annual Pass). No, bookings made with Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for the offer. No, you cannot “stack” this offer with a percentage-off room discount (at least not in the U.S.). For those wondering about other Walt Disney World discounts, check out our Current Walt Disney World Discount Offers post for what’s presently available
The coveted “free” dining promotion is very popular and only offered at select Disney resorts usually during the off peak season. Disney Vacation Club members who use points for their resort stay are not eligible for the free dining promotion. In order to take advantage of this kind of promotion you would have to pay cash or the advertised market rate for your resort accommodations.
Are Annual Pass Members Eligible for Disney Free Dining?
Anyone can book the Disney Free Dining promotion but you have to remember that purchasing a park ticket with the minimum days required is necessary to receive the offer. That means even though an annual passholder has a park ticket, they would have to purchase another one which would be a waste of money.
For that reason why they can, annual passholders usually don’t opt for the Free Dining offer.
Annual Passholders are better off looking for hotel room discounts which usually are running around the same time as Free Dining. You can sometimes find discounted rooms with a savings of up to 30% which when you combine that with the dining discounts Annual Passholders already receive, it’s often more advantageous than Disney World Free Dining is anyway.
Can I Stack Walt Disney World Offers and Discounts?
No, absolutely not. You cannot combine the Disney World Free Dining offer with other discounts on your resort hotel room. For that reason you should calculate which is the best offer for you and your family and go with that one.
If You Miss Out on Free Dining?
What happens if you follow everything I’ve written above and you still can’t get a reservation for Free Dining? Don’t despair…
- Keep Checking – Just because there are no rooms available for the Free Dining offer the first time you check, doesn’t mean things won’t open up for you. Many Disney Travel Agents put rooms with this discount on hold for their clients for 72 hours. However they go back into inventory if the client backs doesn’t actually keep it.
This is a perfect opportunity for you to swoop in and take the newly released hotel room!
Don’t Forget about Bounceback Offers!
Bounceback offers are given for guests to book their next trip to Walt Disney World while they are still on property. What’s nice is that sometimes the promotion includes a Bounceback offer with special Free Dining dates outside of the public dates usually offered in the Fall.
This can be another great discount to take advantage of and a way to utilize Free Dining to save money.
Is Disney Free Dining Worth It?
This like many Disney World budgeting questions is hard to answer and will vary greatly on you and your family and how you like to vacation. Let’s go over some of the positives and negatives which might make the Disney Free Dining offer worth it for you or not.
First, the rooms tend to be more expensive during Free Dining, which means you’re going to be paying more than you normally would. (You didn’t think Disney was just going to give you something for free did you??) This higher room cost off-sets the fact that your meals are free.
Therefore you might be able to get a better room rate at another time of year, or there also might be a better room-only discount going on so you’ll want to check all your options. Don’t just assume that Free Dining is going to save you money, there might be a better offer.
If you are a DVC member keep in mind that any bookings made using Disney Vacation Club points are not eligible for Free Dining either, so you have to weigh the additional cost of the hotel room against what you could save going the Vacation Club route.
Also you must buy your Park Tickets from Disney and they must have the “Park Hopper” option. That means you can’t use any third-party discounter where you might save money and you may not have otherwise bought them with the hopper option either, again costing more money.
And since buying the tickets in the package is a must, this won’t be advantageous for Annual Passholders seeing they already have their tickets booked. Annual Passholders are much better off waiting for a deal which discounts the hotel rooms only.
Then you have to also consider the eating habits of you and your family. Some families don’t save any money being on the Disney Dining Plan because they don’t end up using all the credits they paid for in advance. If you are a family that doesn’t eat a lot you might not even need the Free Dining plan and another offer might be a better bargain for you.
I know there is a lot of math involved but don’t just assume Free Dining is better for you just because the word “free” is in there. In the end you can see that Disney never gives you anything for free, and each family needs to add the cost of the Free Dining offer against other discounts or ways of booking your Walt Disney World vacation to see which way is less expensive for you.
For Suggestions on where to use all those Disney World Free Dining credits, you can check out my Walt Disney World Dining Guide with extensive Reviews on many of the Disney World Restaurants! And my In-depth FastPass+ Overview will give you a good strategy on how to get FastPass+ reservations for the attractions you want the most!
For any help on planning you trip to Walt Disney World to take advantage of the Disney Free Dining offer for 2019, I highly recommend a Certified Disney Vacation Planner like our friends at Show You the World Travel. That’s who we recommend and they will help you with all your Disney vacation planning needs!
I want to know what you think about the new 2019 Disney World Free Dining Offer…
- Have you ever used one of the Disney Free Dining Promotions before?
- Do you think it’s a good promotion? How can they improve?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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