By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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The Tightwad’s Guide to When to Go to Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

This page is part of the series The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World


This site provides precise instructions elsewhere on when to go to Walt Disney World, the next best dates, and what to budget for such a trip. These instructions are designed for typical first time family visitors who are not sure whether or not they will ever return.

This page addresses when to go to Walt Disney World for a subset of first time visitors: tightwads.


Tightwads should go to Walt Disney World the first or second weeks of September.

These weeks have a number of great things going for them…and a couple of lousy ones.

First, they occur within one of the periods of the year when Walt Disney World has the lowest resort prices—what it calls the Value Season.

See this for more on Walt Disney World price seasons.

Second, the lack of tourist and holiday traffic during this September period makes airfares in this period as low as they get.

Third, for the past seven years, Disney has offered the Disney Dining Plan for free during this period, both in boom times and in bust.

Getting the Disney Dining Plan for free can save a family of four following this site’s Autumn-Winter-Spring Itinerary $1,300…reducing the cost of a minimum-cost eight night, nine day trip by 38%!!

Separate from the world of tightwads, there’s another good reason to go during this period: the crowds are low.


The first catch—as noted above—is that there’s no guarantee that Disney will offer the Dining Plan for free during this period.  The odds are really, really high that it will…but that’s not the same as a guarantee.

The second catch is that if the promotion in fact does happen, you may not actually be able to get one of the limited packages made available before they sell out, or before your preferred resort, or resort type, sells out. See below for help in increasing your odds.

  • You have to book these reservations within the time window that Disney makes them available. Recently, these packages have been made first available for reservations to be booked at times ranging from late March to early June, with the cut-off for reservations to be booked typically in later June. So you have to pay attention, and act fast.
  • But…this window is usually well after the 180 day period that this site instructs you to use for making your dining reservations.  This 180 day window is important during the free dining period, because, while the parks are not that crowded, pretty much everyone you see will be also on the free dining plan.  That means the preferred restaurants are completely booked way early.
  • Attend to sites like, and the Walt Disney World Resort Update section of, for news on when the packages open.
  • Another good idea is to sign up for a Disney Rewards Visa Card.  In recent years, such cardholders have often had a couple of day window to reserve this promotion before the general public could do so.

The third catch is that this is kind of a lousy time to be in Florida, weather-wise—which is why this promotion is offered.

  • The period when this package has been offered—typically, from the beginning of the fourth week of August to the end of the third week of September—combines the continuing heat and humidity of a Florida summer with the peak of the hurricane season.
  • It is rare for hurricanes to have a major impact on Orlando, and even rarer for them to utterly ruin a vacation.  However, if one comes, at minimum you will have some days of remarkably heavy rain.  It’s also possible for your plane reservations to be messed up because of the weather.
  • It is for this reason that these weeks are ranked low on this site’s lists of weeks to visit ranked in order. (See the links at the top of the left sidebar.)


Because the promotion is usually made available for booking well after dining reservations are available, here’s what you need to do–and note that this is a little different than what your To-Do List says to do:

  • More than 180 days before your intended arrival date, pick or design your itinerary, and make a room-only reservation (“room-only” is one of the options you have, either on the Disney World on-line booking website or on the phone at 407-939-7675).  You make this type of reservation because it has much more flexible change and cancellation rules compared to the “book vacation packages” type.
  • Reserve the meals from your itinerary or that you have picked right at the 180 day restaurant reservation window.
  • Then, when the Dining Plan promotion comes out, call Disney World back and, using the discount code for the promotion, either switch your reservation to a package including the free dining plan, or re-book, but keeping your current dining reservations.



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1 elizabeth { 01.18.13 at 4:33 pm }

Hi we are travelling from uk for 11nights april 5th 2014 to disney world we would like to take advantage of the free disney dinning plan do you think it will be available then. when would be the best time to book our holiday to get the best deal to include the dinning plan. Thank you in anticipation Elizabeth

2 Dave { 01.19.13 at 7:57 am }

Hi Elizabeth! The UK gets special offers that aren’t available or visible to me, so I can’t really guess. But you can book before the deal, and then call after it’s announced to convert to it if your hotel and arrival dates are eligible…

3 Katie K { 03.27.13 at 10:05 am }

When is the dining plans usually visable to the public?? Or to you??

4 Dave { 03.27.13 at 10:55 am }

Katie, if you mean free dining, it’s come out in recent years between March and May. I have no special knowledge about it befroe it happens unless someone who does know about it early sends a message or makes a comment like this one:

Once I do know about a deal, I put it here:

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5 debbie frank { 04.21.14 at 3:34 pm }

Do you have comments for those of us who may be camping at Camp Wilderness? We’re planning a two week trip in September and thought we’d alternate – a day at camp, then a day at one of the Disney Parks…. . Is there a way we could take advantage of the “free” meal plans?

6 Dave { 04.22.14 at 6:41 am }

Hi Debbie, see this on the campsites, which sadly are always excluded from free dining:

7 Marny { 09.04.14 at 6:03 am }

Hi, we are a family looking to travel to disneyworld from Australia. We have no idea what time of year is best for both weather (mild temperatures) and when it is a cheaper option to travel. Our 2kids are aged 12. And 14. We are looking for cheap option ideas, websites for packages, what parks you do you suggest are best to visit for this age group and what hotels offer value for money that are fun to stay in for the kids.

8 Dave { 09.04.14 at 12:54 pm }

Marny, all that is covered here, but you want to start on the home page and work your way through its topics:

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