Photo Courtesy of Disney
Disney Free Dining is probably the most popular promotion that they run every Fall. It’s the promotion that everyone waits for and always sells out the first day it is released. Let’s take a look at what free dining is, what is most likely to be offered this year and how you can make sure to get it.
What is Disney Free Dining?
The Disney Free Dining promo is something that Disney has offered for years to use as an incentive to boost attendance in the parks during their slower period. In the past, the Fall has always been the least busiest time of year, but Free Dining has really worked to bring people to the parks even during the low periods. When you book the Free Dining promo, you will essentially get the dining plan included with your package at no extra cost. In order to get this promo, you must be purchasing a complete package from Disney which includes a stay at a Disney hotel with park tickets. The cost of the hotel and tickets will be at full price, but the dining plan will be added for free.
The convenience of the dining plan is really what makes it popular. All your meals are prepaid and you don’t have to worry about spending money on food your entire vacation. You just use the credits you have with the dining plan and apply them when you purchase a meal. I absolutely LOVE free dining and so do many others, which is what makes it so popular!
When is Free Dining Offered?
To get an idea of when it will be offered this year, we need to look at the dates they released free dining for in past years. Generally, free dining starts around the 3rd week of August and runs until the end of September. They also offered it for a few select dates in November and for a couple of weeks in early December. Here are the dates that free dining was available for in 2017:
- August 21 – September 30
- November 14 – 20
- November 25 – 27
- December 8 – 23
Knowing the dates above, we should expect something similar for 2018. If free dining is something you want to try and get, then plan your dates around what we saw last year. Anytime during the month of September is usually a safe bet for free dining.
When Can We Book Free Dining?
Free Dining has always been released towards the end of April/beginning of May in the past. The past couple of years, it was released in April, so my best guess is to expect it sometime soon. It seems like Disney keeps pushing up release dates for promos, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the reservations for free dining open up sometime in the next 2 weeks. I think it will be either the week of April 23rd or 30th, but that is just a guess. As soon as it is released, I will make sure to post an announcement about it on my Facebook page.
What Are the Requirements for Free Dining?
In order to qualify for free dining, you must be purchasing a complete vacation package from Disney, which includes your hotel stay and park tickets. The last couple of years, they started requiring that the park tickets be park hoppers, so I am confident that this will still be the requirement for this year. Last year, it was also required that the length of your vacation be at least a minimum of 5 nights/6 days.
How Can I Get Disney Free Dining?
Since this promotion sells out very quickly, there are some strategies that you can use to maximize your chances of getting the promotion.
#1. Book now and modify your reservation when it is released.
If you are certain that you will be traveling in the Fall and you want to try and get free dining, then don’t wait to book until it is released. I can’t stress this enough! It is better to already have a reservation in place and then modify it once the promo is released. There are many other families trying to get the same promo as you, so you don’t want to run into a situation where there are no rooms left to book before the promo is even released. You’ll need to give a deposit of $200USD, but if you change your mind, it is fully refundable up to 30 days before you travel.
#2. Book the Minimum Requirements
You want to make sure that the package you book will have the best chances of meeting the requirements of the free dining promo. Based on past information, make sure your package includes:
- minimum 5 nights/6 days stay at a Disney hotel
- Park hopper tickets
Also, in the past, certain hotels have been excluded from this promotion, so you will want to steer clear of those ones. Here is what was excluded last year:
- Fort Wilderness Campsites
- Art of Animation – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms
- Polynesian Villas & Bungalows – Bungalows
- All-Star Movies
- Port Orleans – French Quarter
- Copper Creek Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- The Villas at the Grand Floridian
- Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary Resort
- Port Orleans Riverside (was only excluded for dates in Nov. and Dec.)
#3. Get Online Early to Get the Promotion
Your best chances at getting the promo will mean that you have to be on top of it. You’ll want to be studying social media for clues as to when it will be released. There are usually hints and leaks put out online ahead of time, so you may have a good idea the day it is supposed to release.
On that day – wake up early! The promos are usually released online in the wee hours of the night. Historically, they have come out at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am….. you never know. You need to be ready online and once it is released, you go in to your reservation and modify it to apply the promo.
#4. Use a Travel Agent
This will probably be your best chance at getting the free dining. Travel agents are usually in the know as to when things are being released, so they have the advantage to modify their clients’ reservations and apply the free dining as soon as it becomes available. Plus, this will save you the headache of having to know when it is going to be released and you can sleep in while your travel agent is up in the early hours of the night taking care of your reservation.
It isn’t a guarantee that your travel agent will be able to get free dining for you, but it will work in your favor since they are experts and know what to do to try their best to get it. If you would like help from a travel agent, you can request a quote today from our recommended travel agency ClicktheMouse. Not only will they be able to help you with your booking, but they provide full planning services from doing your Fastpass selections to assisting with dining reservations. They help with as much or as little as you’d like 🙂
#5. If You Can’t Get It, Keep Trying
If you are not able to get free dining the day it is released, then don’t lose hope. Keep trying as sometimes people cancel and spots open up. Travel agents will also put holds on reservations with free dining for 72 hours, so if they do not book and they are released, then you may be able to snag one.
To Wrap It Up…
Here are my top tips to maximize your chances of getting free dining:
- Book before the promotion is released and then modify
- Book with a travel agent and have them do the work for you
- Choose dates that fall within the past free dining dates
- Select park hopper tickets
- Do not book at a resort that was previously excluded from the offer
- Book a minimum of a 5 night/6 day stay
- If you booked on your own, pay attention to social media and be online EARLY that day to modify your reservation
Our preferred travel agency is Click the Mouse. They specialize in Disney destinations and will help you plan out all the little details. Best part is that their services are FREE when you book your vacation with them. Personalized service at no extra cost to you! To get a quote from a Click the Mouse travel agent, simply click on the quote button below and they will be back in touch with you:Get a Quote from CLICK THE MOUSE
Laura is a mom of one adorable girl with a love of all things Disney. She traveled to Disney World with her family in 2010 and was hooked. They have since been a total of over 15 times. With all her knowledge of planning Disney trips, she now wants to share that with others. She loves giving guidance, tips and advice to others planning their magical vacation!