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.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Update on Disney World Deals

By Dave Shute

A couple of major Disney World deals have been recently announced—an extension of the Disney Armed Forces Salute into the fall of 2012, and the return of free dining for late summer 2011.


Update May 24: key details for this Disney military deal are now out!! Click here for more.

The military salute extension was announced on ABC-TV about a month ago, as part of a White House initiative to show support for the troops and their families.

However, Disney’s web page for military families still reads “Details regarding the September 2012 pricing extension of this offer will be available soon. “

The missing details, while frustrating, don’t mean the deal is not happening. Rather, it’s that the details are still being worked out. Getting the details right means a couple of things—first, coordinating with the U.S. Military about its role in the eligibility setting and purchasing process, and second, getting the right blackout dates for 2012.

My suspicion—based on how the Disney military deals have unfolded in the past—is that coordinating and collaborating with the military is not as quick and simple as it perhaps should be—this will surprise no one with experience of DOD. All could be solved in one day by an empowered E-7…but Oprah has not yet tasked one.

The other issue likely is the blackout dates. These are not relevant to the military alone—blackout dates are about Disney World’s entire 2012 calendar, and I’m guessing that fixing that in stone now is outside of the typical management process, and is also creating some delays.

My belief is that Disney collaborated as a good corporate citizen with the White House to announce this extension as part of the initiative to support the troops, and the operational complexities of actually delivering on the specifics at this time of year weren’t high on anyone’s radar scope at the time the program was agreed to.

E-7s will also recognize this situation…


The recently announced free dining deal, in contrast, was built to the usual calendar, is in Disney’s full control, and is up and running.

Free dining at Walt Disney World follows the basic structure of the deals of recent years, but with a twist.

Those reserving a moderate or a deluxe resort, and meeting other criteria (dates, length of stay, at least two days per tickets) get the regular dining plan for free. Those staying at a value resort get the “Quick Service” dining plan—still a savings, but not as much of a deal as the regular dining plan.

The twist is that all reservations taking advantage of the free dining option must also buy a ~$100 photopass package—a new development in 2011.

This package reduces the value of the savings by the equivalent amount—at least for those who would not otherwise have bought this pass. Depending on family size and ages, this requirement may in effect wipe out the value of the first day or so of free dining.

This is in effect a surcharge over normal resort pricesduring this period. You could re-state the deal as “get free dining for $100.” This doesn’t make it a bad deal—juts not as good a deal as offered in the past.

This “surcharge” is consistent with Disney World’s current strategy of reducing the scope of the discounting it is offering as the economy continues to slowly rebound.

As noted elsewhere, I’m not yet convinced that this overall strategy will work as well in the short term as Disney hopes it will…but I also expect that enough families will find “$100 for free dining” a compelling enough deal that the best-loved Disney World restaurants—and many others—will book up quickly for the relevant August and September 2011 dates.



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