By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







The Updated Best-Ever Free Dining FAQ in the History of the World, 2016 Edition



By Dave Shute

Update: the 2016 Free Dining deal was released on April 25. See this for details.

2015 Free Dining FAQ from yourfirstvisit.netFree Dining is the favorite deal of many Disney World fans, and I get questions about it all the time.

In an unusual attempt to actually provide good answers, a while ago I put heads together with DISboards.com legends Smitch425 (Sarah) and Black562 (Joe Black–Joe’s also on Facebook here; Sarah’s shy).

We–well, mostly they–came up with the following FAQ. I’ve updated it for 2016, including the March price increase.

WHAT IS FREE DINING AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?

Q: What is free dining?
A: Free dining is a Disney World deal where, if you buy other stuff, you can get one of the Disney World dining plans for free. Most recently, eligible folk staying at an eligible value resort have gotten the quick service dining plan for free, and those staying at eligible moderate or deluxe resorts have gotten the regular dining plan for free.

Q: Is this a big deal?
A: For many families, it really is. The regular Disney Dining Plan costs $63.70 for people ten or over, and $22.85 for kids 3 to 9.

So a typical family of four with one younger kid and one older who would have otherwise paid cash for the dining plan will save more than $200 per night.

In the 2015 deal, you had to buy a Park Hopper or Water Park and More add on to your tickets to be eligible for free dining.  If the same is true in 2016, and you hadn’t planned on buying one of these, you have to deduct the extra costs from your free dining savings to see if it’s a good deal still. The hopper cost is $59 to $74 per person extra, depending on the length of the ticket.

Savings are less but still substantial for the quick service plan that’s free for value resort stays—at $44.13/19.04, the same family would save $150/night.

Q:  Blah blah blah on that typical family–how much would my family save?
A: See the table below (as always on this site, click it to enlarge it):

Free Dining Savings from yourfirstvisit.net
Q: Is it the best deal?
A: Not always.

The value of any deal is the difference between it and your next best option. Room rate deals are usually out for the same dates as free dining, and for some families—especially smaller families with younger kids staying at more expensive deluxe resorts—the room rate discount saves more money than free dining.

The least expensive Grand Floridian rooms during the September 2016 value season at 30% off generate savings of about $200 a night. From Regular Plan part of the chart above, you can see many family types will do better here at 30% off than they would from free dining, especially if they had not been already planning to buy a hopper.

Q: What’s the Disney Dining Plan, anyway?
A: See below!

HOW TO GET FREE DINING

Q: OK, I’m sold. Now what?
A: In 2015, the deal came out in late April, and a lot of resorts sold out immediately.

You have to be willing to stay at an eligible resort, with an arrival date within the announced deal’s eligible dates, for likely a minimum of three nights, and you likely will have to buy a minimum of two days of tickets for all in the room 3 and older.

Q: I already have a reservation just like that! Will Disney automatically convert it to the deal?
A: Disney don’t do nothin’ automatically.

If you already have a reservation, to get the deal if/when it is offered you have to try to change your reservation online–this is a new feature and does not always work–or call and change your current reservation, or make a new free dining reservation online and then call when that’s set to cancel your old reservation.

Q: Tickets? But I already bought tickets!
A: That’s a whine, not a question.

But yes, to be eligible for free dining, a new minimum 2 day Magic Your Way hopper or water parks and more ticket is typically required for each person on the reservation age 3 and up.

However, you can save your tickets for a future trip–multi-day Magic Your Way tickets which have not been activated by first use will remain valid forever. Annual Pass holders can use the un-activated extra 2 day ticket toward renewal costs when it is time to renew. Or you can just use both tickets to get 6 FastPass+ per day.

Q: Are all resorts and rooms in the deal?
A: All recent Disney World deals have excluded some resorts and room types—mostly those for which demand is high enough that no deal is needed to get heads in beds at full prices.

Recently, most commonly excluded have been Little Mermaid standard rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, All-Star Movies, the Villas at the Grand Floridian, and one or the other of the Port Orleans resorts.

Moreover, even when not excluded, it seems that a limited inventory of rooms at resorts is made available for the deal–with a particularly limited inventory of the least expensive view types. Even fewer rooms seem to have been offered for Free Dining in 2015–expect this trend to continue in 2016 as well.

It’s always best to have a backup resort and room type in mind should your desired location be excluded or sold out.

Q: When should I book?
A: As soon as you hear about the deal.

Since there are a limited number of rooms in the free dining inventory at each included resort, the sooner you book once a deal goes live, the better your chances are of getting your preferred location.

Q: My arrival date is before free dining but part of my stay is during it! Boo!
A: If you check in prior to a free dining promotion, you can do what is referred to as a “split stay.”

For example, if you check in the day before free dining begins, you can book a room only stay for the first night, and a free dining package to begin the following day.

This would require you to check out and check back in, and it is possible that you would have to switch rooms. However, Disney can link the two reservations, and they will do everything possible to avoid a room switch.

Q: When is free dining offered?
A: The most common time for free dining is September, but recently arrival dates later in the year have been eligible as well. For 2015, eligible arrival dates were

  • August 28 – October 2, 2015
  • October 25 – October 31, 2015
  • November 8 – November 19, 2015
  • December 15 – December 21, 2015

As part of its strategy for recovery from the recession, 2009 through 2011 Disney offered free dining many other months. The last couple of years, this has been wildly scaled back.

Q: When is it announced?
A: See this for the variety of recent announcement dates. It’s widely expected that free dining for September 2016 will be announced sometime between late April and mid June.

Q. I’m a proud DVC point owner! Can I get free dining?
A: Sorry—DVC rooms booked using points (either by the point owner, or for someone who is getting DVC rooms by renting points) aren’t eligible. However, DVC rooms paid for by cash are eligible.

Q: Can I upgrade from the quick service to the regular plan, or to the deluxe plan?
A: Yes, you may. Simply pay the difference between the plans and you can upgrade all you wish.

Q: Should I book in advance for free dining?
A: Don’t book now in the hope of getting free dining later.

Rather, book only if you are committed to a certain resort and set of dates, whether or not free dining emerges.

  • First, if bookings are up, Disney has no reason to offer a discount at all.
  • Second, if people book up certain resorts, they are more likely to be excluded.

Having an advance reservation has no benefit in any way over a new booking on release day. It doesn’t hurt you—but it doesn’t help.

Q: Can I have a puppy?
A: Perhaps. Our new puppy, Belle, is below.

Our New Puppy Belle

WHAT’S THE DISNEY DINING PLAN, ANYWAY?

The following is an excerpt from my and Josh’s The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit from Theme Park Press:

THE DISNEY DINING PLAN

Disney World dining is expensive. For some guests, it may even be the priciest component of the vacation, eclipsing the cost of lodging and theme park tickets. The three versions of the Disney Dining Plan (Quick Service, Regular, and Deluxe) are a way to prepay some of these dining expenses.

Years ago, when the Regular Dining Plan included appetizer and tip at sit-down restaurants, you could actually save some money by using these plans. These days it’s hard for us to recommend them:

  • The Quick Service Dining Plan is priced so high that it’s only possible to break even or come out ahead if you use the credits solely for lunch and dinner. From there, you’ll need to order only the most expensive items to eke out a potential savings of a dollar or two per day.
  • At a cost north of $60 per adult per day, the Regular Dining Plan is expensive and saving money with it requires planning only the most expensive meals.
  • The Deluxe Dining Plan comes with three quick or table service meals per day at a cost of about $115 per day per adult. Users either spend three or more hours per day eating table service meals or use their credits on faster quick service meals, in turn reducing the value of each credit.

With only a couple of exceptions, we suggest skipping the dining plans. Exceptions include:

  • If you take comfort in pre-paying some of your dining expenses as a budgeting tool (even if this means you spend more money), the Quick Service or Regular plans may make sense for you—the cash loss may be worth the budget comfort. It’s nice knowing that food is pre-paid and users are free to order whatever entrees and desserts that they like, even if those prices are higher than they’re accustomed to paying.
  • Pricing on the Regular Plan is advantageous for groups with kids under the age of ten that plan multiple one credit buffets and character meals. The cost of a child buffet at many character meals exceeds their cost of the Regular Dining Plan for that day.
  • Free dining, if available your arrival date, may save money as well. But compare savings to the room rate deals typically available at the same time. Smaller, younger groups in higher-priced rooms typically do better with the room rate deals than they would with free dining.

With or without a dining plan, the typical family eating their meals on property should budget $35–$60+ per adult per day, and between $15 and $40/day for the kids—depending on their ages and appetites.

DINING PLAN CREDITS AND WHAT THEY COVER

The Dining Plans are only available to guests staying at Disney owned and operated resorts. All guests on a single reservation (except children under three—not covered on any plan) must opt for the same Dining Plan if you elect to purchase it. There’s no such thing as having four people on a room reservation and only three people on the Deluxe Plan. And it isn’t possible for one person to purchase Deluxe, while the other chooses Regular. Everyone over the age of nine must pay the adult rate, regardless of how much they plan to eat. And kids 3–9 might be required order from the Kids’ Menu if the dining location has one.

Those on the Dining Plan receive a number of credits based on the number of nights they’re staying. The Dining Plan and credits are not connected to theme park tickets or anything else—just the number of nights on the reservation. The credits are usable from the check-in day through midnight on the checkout day. Credits can be used in any order on any of these days. On a three-night stay, a guest could conceivably use all their credits on the first day, the last day, or space them out.

  • Quick service meals generally consist of one entrée or combo meal, one dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage. Virtually every quick service on property participates in the Dining Plan, and all quick service meals cost one credit.
  • Table service meals, including one entrée, one dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage, cost one or two credits. Two credit meals are signature experiences at the most expensive dinner shows, buffets, and restaurants like Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and California Grill. The Deluxe Dining Plan credits also include an appetizer, in addition to the entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage.
  • Snack credits can be used on many small food items. The number and variety of items eligible for snack credits were greatly expanded in the summer of 2015. Examples include candy apples, ice cream bars, pastries, and bottles of water and soda. Look for the Dining Plan symbol on any menu to see what is eligible to be paid for with a snack credit.

Also in the summer of 2015, various quick service substitutions became more easily available—although always ask first, as policies are not set in stone and can vary by restaurant. For example, in some venues a quick service credit can be used instead as three snack credits (you have to get all three snacks at the same time), and when using quick service credits in the normal fashion, various sides can be substituted for desserts, drinks, or both.

The credits don’t always cover everything you might want at a meal and no credits cover alcohol (except beer and wine at the dinner shows) or tips. Most guests have some additional dining expenses, in addition to the cost of the Dining Plan.
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86 comments

1 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 03.31.15 at 8:30 am }

One of the great things when you book your vacation with me and Destinations in Florida is that we are constantly watching for new deals like Free Dining. You don’t have to sit on hold for hours, hoping to get your reservation changed. We do that for you. We continually search for the best offer for you and your family and apply it (based on availability). I would love to help you book your Disney Vacation. Contact me today at 980-429-4499 or kellyb@destinationsinflorida.com. I’m Kelly B, the dedicated Destinations in Florida Travel agent for YourFirstVisit.net. Looking forward to helping you create memories to last a lifetime.

2 Kristi { 04.07.15 at 5:50 pm }

HI Dave! Still lurking on your site looking ahead to when we can plan another trip to WDW. After the first day last year I knew we were NOT going to a be a one and done family!
Anyway… I have a general dining plan question — that you likely answer somewhere else but I can’t seem to find:
When we return to Disney all kids will be over 10 yrs of age, thus the dining plan will cost more for us and that is just something we accept. However, do the kids have to order from the adult menus or can they just order from the more kid friendly selections on the kids’ menu?
Thank you as always!

3 Dave { 04.08.15 at 8:58 am }

Hey Kristi, they can order from the kids menu!! I am wondering, though, why you are doing the dining plan at all…

4 Kristi { 04.11.15 at 2:09 pm }

Thanks for your reply, Dave! No matter how many visits we manage to make o WDW in the years to come “Your First Visit” is always going to my go to place for Disney info! To answer your question, honestly, I never considered any other option. That probably sounds silly but when we went the first time the dining plan was so convenient and easy. And, as I said that trip was intended to be the only so I also just figured we’d do it up right, so to speak, and get the full experience and never considered not doing it again. Now that you asked though I am curious as to whether it would be a big cost savings to not do it? I would love to do free dining next trip but those deals don’t seem to coincide with the times we can/that would be ideal to travel…

5 Dave { 04.12.15 at 10:38 am }

Kristi, thanks so much!! On the dining plan, with everyone now paying the 10+ prices, I expect you’ll save $10-$50 a day if you pay cash instead of using the plan.

6 Julie { 04.15.15 at 8:56 am }

Hi Dave! Like Kristi, we were going “one time only” and had free dining, so we upgraded to deluxe. It was the most amazing week, and we knew we would want to go again! Two more kids later, and the next time we will go, it will be 2 real adults, 2 Disney “adults” (10+), and 2 children. We will probably get 2 Moderate rooms to accommodate us. Ideally we would go in January, when free dining isn’t offered. So, I was looking to see if we could swing a fall trip to try to get the free dining. But seeing your comment to Kristi…Should we not fixate on the free dining? We did consider getting 2 rooms, and putting Dad, the 13 yo and the 5 yo in one room on Deluxe dining, and Mom, the 11 yo, and the 6 yo in another room with regular dining. We don’t need 6 appetizers at each meal! But we could get 3 and share amongst ourselves… I did go through some of the meals we know we would do, and the bill is already at $1140 for only 7 meals. We are planning a 10 day trip, 6 at WDW and 3 at Universal, but staying at WDW the whole time. Any thoughts?

7 Dave { 04.15.15 at 9:29 am }

Julie, free dining is a great deal for most! It’s the paid dining plan that usually costs more than it returns…for a nine night trip, the dining plan will cost your mob almost $3,000 plus tips plus appetizers…I am sure you can do better…

8 Amanda S { 04.17.15 at 10:07 pm }

We also have 4 children (8,6,4,2). Do you know if you could book two rooms, add dining plan to only 1 room (paying for 3-4 people), but still cover everyone at character meals?
For example, we book a table service at trails End where we pay cash for everyone.
When we eat at Akerhaus we use 2 adult credits and 4 adult meals credits for maximum value.

9 Kelly B - Agent with Destinations in Florida { 04.20.15 at 11:09 am }

Amanda- Are planning on booking to completely separate rooms, or is it one reservation with 2 rooms due to family size? Every person in the room must have the same package. So you would all be on the dining plan. Now when you go to any meal you can choose to use your credits or another form of payment. You just need to tell your server how many credits you will be using.
All children must eat off the children’s menu if they are using credits.

10 Dave { 04.21.15 at 7:46 am }

Amanda, I’ve gotten mixed answers on this for table service meals. The short version is to plan on no, but it has worked for some…

11 Kate { 05.04.15 at 4:38 pm }

Amanda-

That would not be possible. In order to split your reservation into two rooms, you would have to have an adult in each room. In addition, everyone in the same room must have the same exact package. That would mean only one adult and x amount of children would have a dining plan. You should also note that the 2 year old is free.

You could simply get the dining plan, and decide to use it one night for double credit meals and pay cash another night. You are not forced to use them every single night. You can use 3 table service meals in one day and 3 quick the next. It doesn’t have to be the same amount each day, as long as you don’t go over the total amount of credits for the week.

12 Dave { 05.05.15 at 7:29 am }

Thanks Kate!!!

13 Cassie { 05.07.15 at 4:40 pm }

Dave – love your site – thanks for all the info! I have a couple of dining plan questions as I now have a 10year old and we scored free dining in November. At 10, she will be on the adult dining plan but will likely prefer some of the children’s meals since she is picky :) – my understanding is she can order from either menu but will utilize an adult credit – is this correct? Also, I seem to remember when we have used the plan in the past that quick service credits aren’t specific to adult or child? So for our family of 4 – 2 adults, 10yr old and 6yr old – we would get 4 QS per day but they can be used for either an adult meal or children’s meal? Do I have that correct? Thanks for your help!

14 Dave { 05.08.15 at 8:38 am }

Hi Cassie and thanks for the love!!

The first is true. The second, sorta. You can’t order at one time more adult CS meals than there are adults on your booking…

15 Beth { 05.09.15 at 9:21 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thank you for all of the great info!

We have our free dining trip booked for this fall, but here’s what I’m wondering: can we BECOME annual passholders during that trip and use the value of the 2-day hopper toward the cost of the AP? If I upgrade our tickets to APs on the first day, will it wipe out all of our free meal credits? Do you think it would even be safe to upgrade at the end of the trip, when all of the dining credits have been used?

Thanks for your help–super obscure, I know!

16 Dave { 05.11.15 at 6:56 am }

Beth, this should work fine!

17 Gennine { 05.12.15 at 7:52 pm }

Hi Dave! My husband & I are considering taking a Couple trip in late Feb. 2016. I’m wondering if the Free Dining Plan is usually offered for that time period or if we would need to change our trip idea to our usual late Oct./early Nov. for the Free Dining offers?

18 Dave { 05.14.15 at 7:57 am }

Gennine, the most common period for free dining is September. It’s not been offered before late August for years now. A very limited number of weeks in Oct, Nov and Dec have been offered the past few years, but people have had a very difficult time booking those months this year, and I expect that to be more true next year.

For this year’s dates see this.
For why it’s gotten hard to book see this.

19 bunchabaileys { 05.18.15 at 10:01 am }

Question for you… My husband and I are staying the week of August 30-September 5 with our six children. We took advantage of free dining and upgraded to the regular dining plan. I have been unable to find reservations for several of the restaurants where we wanted to eat, namely Rainforest Cafe (both locations), T-Rex, and Be Our Guest. I realize that we are a large party, but I have even searched for reservations with half our party listed, but to no avail for every meal period during our entire stay for these restaurants. Is there any hope of us getting in? Any suggestions?

20 bunchabaileys { 05.18.15 at 3:31 pm }

Self-correction….. I read a tip somewhere that those non-Disney restaurants don’t release many reservations to the Disney system. I was able to call the restaurant directly and make the exact reservation I wanted. All you folks that run all of these Disney planning websites are so valuable to consumers like us!

21 Dave { 05.18.15 at 5:52 pm }

Bunchabaileys, great! And for BOG–it often books out right at the 180 day mark, but people cancel, so all I can say is keep trying!

22 Charlie { 05.19.15 at 4:40 pm }

Hi Dave,

First time commenter, long time lurker.

First of all, I love your site. It has become an essential go-to guide for all things Disney, regardless of whether it’s your first time or your twentieth. (I went about 20 times when I was a kid (Floridian) and am now taking my children!)

Second, this page literally just saved me a thousand bucks. I was originally booking on the day before a one delicious offer started. I read this, went to my reservation, moved it one day, and voila. THANK YOU. Needless to say, you have made our next Disney visit even better!

23 Dave { 05.19.15 at 6:19 pm }

Charlie that’s FANTASTIC!!! And thanks for the kind words…

24 Tom { 07.09.15 at 3:38 pm }

My wife and I are going in Dec. No kids and we are both in our late 20’s. We have been to Disney probably like 15 times but never went without the dining plan. We have done the deluxe plan in the past and were planning on it this time as well. We always eat TS for lunch and signature for dinner. Do you think it would be a price saver for us to pay out of pocket? Deluxe is about $1300 for our 6 day trip. Thanks!

25 Dave { 07.11.15 at 9:29 am }

Tom, it will be a huge price saver to pay out of pocket.

26 Julianna { 07.26.15 at 9:19 am }

I had a question I was confused about. If I go during free dining do my stay dates have to be within the exact dates or does my check-in date just have to start with one of the days included? I read on somewhere that this was the case and it seems to good to be true.

27 Dave { 07.26.15 at 9:44 am }

Julianna, the eligible dates for free dining are arrival dates, not “entire visit” dates.

28 Julianna { 07.28.15 at 8:54 am }

That is great! Thank you so much!!

29 KRISTI { 12.09.15 at 12:25 am }

We just got back from Disney a few weeks ago and we had the free dining plan. We absolutely love this, we get so much food and snacks through out the week we are there. We only like to book a trip to Disney when they offer free dining, saves us so much money cause food isn’t cheap.

30 Alex B { 12.09.15 at 12:43 am }

Thanks for this valuable info. I have a friend going soon and I will tell her about this.

31 Debbie Benson { 12.09.15 at 12:47 am }

Cannot tell you how insightful I have found your posts, and your book! I’ve been holding out on the 2016 edition, so I can read it in preparation for our April 2016 WDW vacation. Even though I’ve taken 10+ trips, WDW is always changing, and you help me prepare. Thank you!

32 Carol Douglass { 12.09.15 at 3:44 am }

We have enjoyed free dining on a couple of occasions and have paid for it a couple of times. I like not having to worry about how much money I have and what can I order within my budget. I can order whatever I want without stress.

33 Pat Jackson { 12.09.15 at 5:54 am }

Great info! We always try to take advantage of free dining when we can, it saves a lot of money for our family!

34 Steve { 12.09.15 at 7:06 am }

we’ve used the Dining plan once in our past 2 visits… we didn’t use it the second visit since we only spent 2 days at WDW before heading over to Universal… definitely recommend buying it if you are staying 3+ days…

35 Keri { 12.09.15 at 7:59 am }

This wonderful info! Thank you. And, Belle is beautiful! Golden are great dogs.

36 Kelly Guzniczak { 12.09.15 at 8:39 am }

Love the dining plan (especially when it’s free!) We will probably use the quick service next time when we have the kids in tow. We used dining plan with one table service and one quick service per day and it was A LOT of food!

37 Peggy F { 12.09.15 at 8:53 am }

Planning a trip to DisneyWorld this summer. There will be 11 of us going. For most it will be their first time. We have ALL signed up for the dining package. Never used it before. Looking forward to a Magical time.

38 Dave { 12.09.15 at 8:58 am }

Kristi, it can save a ton!

39 Dave { 12.09.15 at 8:58 am }

Thanks Debbie!

40 Dave { 12.09.15 at 9:01 am }

Keri, you inspired me to add a new photo…she’s a big girl now!

41 Dave { 12.09.15 at 9:02 am }

BTW, from what link are all these visitors to this page coming from today??

42 Nicole Opfer { 12.09.15 at 9:02 am }

Thank you for the breakdown! My husband and I went to WDW on a free dining promotion in 2013. It was perfect for us at the time in terms of budgeting and if we happen to plan another trip during a free dining promotion we’ll definitely weigh the pros and cons!

43 Angie { 12.09.15 at 9:27 am }

I love the dining plan it has saved our family a lot of money. I think it is wonderful. I can’t wait to go back to Disney.

44 Regina { 12.09.15 at 10:05 am }

We are DVC Members, and it’s usually just the two of us, so we don’t use a dining plan. It’s not cost effective for us.

45 Michelle { 12.09.15 at 10:19 am }

Going back in Feb. and though I’ve been many times and it’s not my first visit, I still learn things each time. Very good info on your site, love it!!

46 Bethany Kreiter { 12.09.15 at 10:24 am }

This is great information for newbies and even people like me who have been to Disney multiple times before! Thanks!

47 Dawn { 12.09.15 at 10:28 am }

For us (with a 4 and 7 year old), the regular dining plan is still very advantageous for us. We do plan 1 character meal or buffet per day for the time we are there. In the end, it does save us some money…Room only wouldn’t save as much as we can only afford to stay in the Values (so we upgrade the dining plan to a regular one). WE LOVE IT!

48 Liz { 12.09.15 at 11:14 am }

Very helpful site…Disney 4 life!!!

49 Brianna { 12.09.15 at 11:18 am }

The dining plan works really well for us… even if we end up spending a bit more, having that prepaid works best for our family. Free dining is even better 😉 our last trip we saved almost $4000 because of free diing! (we were there for 2 weeks)

50 Molly Jo S. { 12.09.15 at 11:43 am }

This is great info to have at my fingertips! I went to WDW the first time Free Dining was offered and fell in love with it. It’s hard for me to turn down the dining plan now. I think going to all the wonderful restaurants is part of the experience and hate missing out on it

51 PedsNursePatty { 12.09.15 at 1:40 pm }

The Dining Plan sure has changed over the years. It was great for our family when the kids were little and we did a lot of sit down character meals. Now that the kids are teenagers, we have different priorities and we don’t always do the dining plan.

52 Bailee { 12.09.15 at 2:19 pm }

Tres cool!

53 Nicole Chauvin { 12.09.15 at 3:11 pm }

I love the dining plan (especially when free) reduces the stress of needing to know how much money for food to bring, since it is all taken care of. Last time I didn’t use any spending money on food or drinks (we had a few cases of water delivered to the hotel) I had plenty of snack credits left I brought back candy for family and friends.

54 Steffi { 12.09.15 at 4:31 pm }

Great info for first timers. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but always find information interesting.

55 Kevin { 12.09.15 at 8:28 pm }

Loved the free dining

56 Victoria { 02.02.16 at 10:11 am }

Great article. But, on a side note.. I WAS able to modify my reservation to the Free Dining promotion online at 6am. But from what I read on the Dis, I was lucky. A lot of people had issues with the site freezing up.

57 Dave { 02.03.16 at 5:24 pm }

Thanks, Victoria! I’ll revise to reflect that!!

58 Eric { 02.08.16 at 4:46 pm }

Hi Dave, LOVE your site. Incredibly helpful!
I read in a few areas that some TS restaurants allow substitutions on the Dining Plan. Is that typically switching a dessert to an appetizer? Also, doesn’t the Deluxe Dining Plan include other perks such as free golf (green fees/rentals/cart), water sports, etc?

Also, is it fair to assume that Jersey Week would not be included in the free dining? (I’m going JW 2017).
Last (sorry for all the Q’s): My parents are treating my family (me, wife, two kids – 3 & 5) to the trip. For their wallets, do you see value in any other meal plans? (my dad and I may play golf one morning). Not worried about the “convenience” of prepaying. Most (if not, all) meals will be on resort anyway.

59 Dave { 02.09.16 at 7:17 am }

Hi Eric, the deluxe plan does not include golf/watercraft etc. The full brochure for it is here:https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2016DeluxeDining.pdf
The next higher level plans (“premium and platinum”) used to provide addtional perks, but these have been way skinnied back–see this: http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2015/07/08/2016-disney-dining-plan-changes-and-updates/

Table service substitutions are available at some restaurants, on request, but I believe that they are dessert for sides, not dessert for appetizers.

Your parent’s money, in my judgement, is best used for the regular dining plan, unless you really think you’ll be eating both dinner and lunch at a table service each day (which besides taking a lot of time better spent on rides and napping, also adds what I;d view as excess scheduling to a vacation that already takes a lot of scheduling), and will be doing a bunch of one credit character meals among them. Otherwise the money just doesn’t add up.

Recent free dining has indeed excluded Jersey Week…

60 Eric { 02.09.16 at 10:34 am }

Thanks for the quick reply! I’m sorry I got the Platinum etc confused with Deluxe. I agree that we probably won’t want to do so many TS meals. My thinking was mostly in terms of, do we even do a meal plan at all. Aside from character dining or two (and my parents love the Yachtsman so that will be a dinner) it would be whatever works. My only fear is running out of meals; throw in a few 2-meal tickets like Hoop and Yachtsman, and we’re paying on top of the plan.

One (hopefully last) question – If the do end up offering free dining for JW, around when should I start checking and is the free plan correlated to the level of hotel we stay? (ie if we stay at Art of Anim, it would be the Quick plan, versus Staying at a Deluxe hotel and offering the regular dining plan (or even deluxe?).
Anyway, thanks again. Your site is invaluable.

61 Dave { 02.10.16 at 4:28 pm }

Eric, it’s common to pay on top of the plan. If you do, pay cash for the two credit meals if you can use the single credits productively, as they are usually 1.5x as much as the cash price for one credit options, so you will save by going that way.

Recently the value resorts have gotten the quick service plan, and the mods and deluxes the regular plan. You can pay the difference to upgrade to a different plan.

62 jackie { 02.20.16 at 10:45 pm }

I just recently got the disney credit card. I have heard that they announce free dining to cardholders a few days before they announce it to everyone else. I was just curious about how you are notified about this promotion if you are a card holder? And can you book it online or do you have to call?
Thank you!

63 Dave { 02.21.16 at 9:04 am }

Jackie, they sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. You can’t count on it.

If the early Visa option comes out, it’s often announced via email well after it opens. When the time nears,
keep up with this board each morning for news.

In the past, you had to call. Disney has been upgrading its systems, so it may be that you can book it online in 2016.

64 Misty { 03.03.16 at 3:16 pm }

We are going to Disney 9/3/16. I want to make dining reservations 180 days out before free dining is announced or offered. What hotel should we book? We are a family of 5. Kids ages 8, 6, 3.

65 Dave { 03.05.16 at 4:28 pm }

Misty, my recommended hotels, in order by price type, are here

Note that for 5 people the only value offerings are the Family Suites, among the moderates POFQ and CSR won’t fit five, and among the deluxes WL and AKL won’t fit five.

66 Anne { 04.06.16 at 11:19 am }

Hi Dave! As many have said, thank you for all the great information you have provided to all of us, Disney lovers. I have a question for our specific family size. We are planning a trip to Disney in late October and it may or may not fall within the days of the free dining plan and the resort we will be staying is one of those that may be excluded from the offer (Port Orleans Riverside). There are 2 adults and 1 child (5y.o) in our party and we are planning on staying for 10 days, and go to the park for 5 days. We are not planning on doing neither park hopper or water parks. Would the regular dining plan either be worth for our family or would we be saving money by just paying out of pocket?

67 Dave { 04.07.16 at 11:25 am }

Anne, typically a family structure like yours saves little or nothing.

68 Nathan Tan { 04.27.16 at 1:52 am }

For free dining, would it make sense to claim our child as an adult so we get 3 free adult dining plans instead of 2 adults and 1 child plan? Is this possible?

69 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 04.27.16 at 8:26 am }

Nathan – If you are on the quick service meal plan, a child can eat off the adult menu, so no need to change. For any of the other plans – You\’ll also have to then pay for adult ticket prices. Keep in mind what kinds of sit down meals you will be doing. If you have a lot of character meals – They are buffets and you would all be eating the same thing/amount anyway.

70 Jessica { 04.27.16 at 1:16 pm }

Hi Dave, we have secured free dining during our stay checking in Nov 27th. We are considering inviting my sister to accompany us. Do you know if we are able to make this type of change without messing up the promotion? Will she be able to be added and get the free dining as well since she will staying in our resort room?

71 Dave { 04.28.16 at 11:14 am }

Jessica, call and see. If the room capacity fits it should work, as your room is already a FD room. Most places (not DVC or campsites) charge extra for more than two 18+. You will also have to buy tix for her.

72 Eric { 05.24.16 at 1:04 pm }

Hi Dave, this may sound like a silly question, but what about kids under 3? If a family with a 2 year old did a meal plan, do they get to order food for the toddler at no cost? (assuming it’s off the kids menu). if yes, does that rule still apply without a meal plan? Or is the WDW assumption that the toddler will share off of other plates?

73 Eric { 05.24.16 at 2:06 pm }

Sorry Dave, another question, but off (this) topic…
I’m going with my family of 4 and also my parents. Is it still possibly to get/request adjoining rooms – specifically at either AoA, YC/BC, or Poly? We are debating between those 3. In some floor plans, I don’t see an area where a door could be…

74 Dave { 05.25.16 at 9:29 am }

Eric, share off other plates, or purchased for cash.

75 Dave { 05.25.16 at 9:31 am }

Eric almost all the resorts have adjoining or connecting rooms available. In Disney speak, adjoining is next door, and connecting is next door and also with a door. A major exception is the Family Suites at A of A–no connecting doors in these. (There are connecting doors in Little Mermaid rooms at A Of A.) Disney will not guarantee them, however.

76 J.C. { 06.08.16 at 11:54 pm }

Dave,

I have a few questions about dining. First, will odds for booking places like C. Table improve, assuming following your reservations instructions, if we are booking for two people as opposed to more? Also, is it likely an 8 night stay at CBR starting Jan 22 end up with a free dining plan? If so, how soon would it be known?

Thanks in particular for your list of Park Dining in Order! Take care.

77 Dave { 06.09.16 at 11:38 am }

JC, 2 people won’t make a huge difference as there aren’t that many tables set up for two. It’s 5 and more where you run into real problems. But if you follow my approach (6a 180 days before arrival) you have a really good chance!

There has not been a free dining offer that starts before August for years now, so barring a recession I’d not expect to see such in January 2017.

78 Lemon { 07.10.16 at 2:17 pm }

I am booked at POR for September on the Free Dining Plan. I really want a royal room but it shows, when I try to modify logged into my account, that all of them are sold out. However, when I try to book without logging in, it shows a few available. I guess that’s because the block they reserved for the dining plan is sold out. Is there anyone to talk to or contact other than the reservation line who just keeps telling me they’re sorry? My little girl really wants to stay in one of those rooms and I’ll pay the upgrade costs.

79 Dave { 07.11.16 at 9:03 am }

Lemon, if the feee dining block is sold out, then it is sold out. Keep checking every day, as people do cancel (especially around 30 days before arrival when final payment is due).

80 Deb { 12.14.16 at 1:15 pm }

Hi Dave,
My husband and I are planning on surprising my two grown daughters their husbands and 6 grandchildren with a trip to disney for Christmas.
I was thinking one of the value hotels such as Art of Imagination or Pop. We will need 3 rooms…6 Adults 6 children as of next year (9, 7, 6, 3,3,-2) 2 Adults 2 Children per room.
We can go anytime, would like to go when cheapest and least crowds.
I was originally thinking October, but according to your site 1st two weeks December would be better bet. We will be staying maybe 6 days.
Questions:
1…Would it be warm enough at this time for kids to go in pools in December?
2…Is meal plan worth it?
3…I was originally thinking with small children sit down dinners could be tricky by that time. Tired/cranky. So I thought the Quick meal plan would be best. But someone told me you cannot go to the character dinners if I choose this one. Is this true? At least one character meal is a must, maybe the one in castle. If I do not choose a meal plan, can I pay for us to go to the Character dinner?
4…If we stay in a value hotel can you choose either of the meal plans? Im just confused with the meal plan and what you can and cannot do. Since we are paying for everything would like to keep the cost down which is why I thought the quick meal plan but need to be able to go to one of the character dinners.
5…If staying at the AOA are we are exempt from Free meal plan? Would we be better off staying at the Pop?

Sorry for all the questions just very confused. Greatly appreciate your imput.

Doreen Brown

81 Deb { 12.14.16 at 1:16 pm }

Sorry…meant Dave

82 Dave { 12.14.16 at 3:32 pm }

Deb I edited it :)

83 Dave { 12.14.16 at 3:43 pm }

OK Deb, if I miss a question, just ping me back.

First, don’t count on getting free dining. View it as a bonus to hope for. If you book through Kelly then she will keep her eye out for any discounts you become eligible for.

If you do get free dining, at any eligible value resort it is likely to be “quick service.” You can pay to upgrade that to regular dining which will also pay for character buffets.

AOA 4 person rooms have been excluded from all free dining, so far–so if you book there, you’d have to change to Pop or one of the All-Stars to get it (which Kelly can also help you with).

You can always book meals and pay cash–there’s zero need for the dining plan.

If you plan to average a buffet a day, with kids of those ages the regular dining plan will save you a ton–obviously even more if it’s free, even if you pay the upgrade price from the free quick service plan. If you would plan few buffets–one or two–you will spend less paying cash for all meals.

December weather is all over the place. It can be perfect pool weather, or too cool. Likely better weather (and still a fair amount of the Xmas program) will be yours if you go the week before Thanksgiving–ending your trip by 11/18.

Cheapest and least crowds would be the first half of September–you’d also have then strong pool weather and much better odds of free dining. The downside is a degree of hurricane risk, and weather that for some is simply too hot and humid.

84 Kelly B -Agent with Destinations in Florida { 12.14.16 at 4:28 pm }

Hi Deb – I’m Kelly, the designated Destinations in Florida travel agent for YFV. I would love to help you plan your family’s Disney vacation. All of my services are Free. I can help you find the best time to go, book dining and fast pass.Plan the best parks to go to each day. I’ll also keep watch for future discounts and apply them based on availability. (It’s always best to book as early as possible and make changes as needed. Rooms book up quickly. And with 3 rooms you really want to book right away.)

You can reach me at 980-429-4499 or Kellyb@destinationsinflorida.com

85 Maggie { 01.01.17 at 9:42 am }

Hi Dave. I booked a fd bounceback. We are scheduled in Aug 2017. I booked the minimum ticket requirement to get free dining. 2 day + waterpark. I planned to save those 2 day wp tickets for a future trip because we already own 6 day tickets. I thought all was well till I looked and the new improved MDE app the other day. The ticket section is showing my 6 day tickets as expiring Dec. 31 2030. It shows my free dining 2 day tickets expiring the last day of our free dining trip in August. This wrecks my strategy. Have you seen this? Will the 2 day tix really expire with the trip dates?? Thank you!

86 Dave { 01.02.17 at 9:19 am }

Hi Maggie, no I haven’t. Give them a call to see whats up–using the “technical difficulties” line 407 939-5277.

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