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

Disney World Free Dining Plan for Fall 2012

By Dave Shute

Updated 8/1/2012 with new December arrival dates!


My friends at Destinations in Florida confirmed this morning that a free Disney World dining deal has opened to the general public for the fall of 2012.

Eligible arrival dates include:

  • Sunday September 30 through Thursday October 4
  • Friday October 19 through Thursday November 1
  • Friday November 9 through Thursday November 15
  • Friday November 23 through Thursday November 29
  • Monday December 10 through Thursday December 20

These dates must be booked by September 29th, and include a three night stay minimum.

For more, see Disney’s Special Offer page here.



1 Dannielle { 07.12.12 at 3:36 pm }

We had planned to visit Disney on Dec 6-11. Room booked, dining plan booked, all ADR’s in place.
Given the new free dining plan, we were considering changing our dates to Dec 11-16th. We would have about a $400 savings.
My question is, will it most likely be more crowded during these dates because of the promotion. I found a couple places on your site that indicate this might be the case.
We are traveling with little children, so we are already slow, if the parks were extremely busy, we would NEVER get anything done!
(We do use crowd calendars to choose which days we visit which parks.)

2 Dave { 07.12.12 at 5:36 pm }

Hi Dannielle, no, it’s the opposite. Disney only offers these deals during low-crowd periods when its hotel bookings are running below target. And even if they bring in an extra 6000 families (20% of hotel capacity), spread across the parks etc that’s just a drop in the bucket. I think the 11th to 16th will be just fine!

3 Dave { 07.13.12 at 6:58 am }

I already booked a trip through Southwest last month for 10/28-11/3 without a dining plan. I guess I should have waited. Do you think if I called Disney they might hook me up?

4 Dave { 07.13.12 at 9:24 am }

Hi Dave, and let me first note what a fine name you have!

You have two issues–getting free dining and getting out of your Southwest deal. Disney can’t change or cancel the SW deal–you need to work directly SW to find out what your cancellation or changes options are, and at what price…that’ll guide you as to whether it’s worth it to get out of one and into the other…

5 Dave { 07.13.12 at 11:42 am }

Thanks Dave. The first time I called Southwest they said I had to cancel and re book. It would have cost me the price of my flights. Not worth it. Just for the heck of it I called and tried again. Got a different and much more helpful person who changed my reservation to include the dining plan. Sometimes it’s all about the person on the other end of the phone.

6 Dave { 07.13.12 at 11:46 am }

Dave, that’s great news–and how wise to call back!

7 Mel { 07.13.12 at 7:40 pm }

Hi Dave

Love your site- keep up the good work. I need your advice. I’ll be at wdw from 8-15 dec and my agent has reccommended that I do a split stay to take advantage of this free dining promotion.

This means I have no park tickets for my room only reservation for 8-9 dec since the package will only be issued on 10 dec. do u think Disney will let me collect my 10 dec pacakge (incl tickets) when I check in on 8 dec? Or whether I can buy the free dining pacakge for 5nights but purchase a 7 day base ticket?

Thank you?

8 Dave { 07.14.12 at 7:14 am }

Mel: See Scott’s post. I might be wrong here…am seeing what more i can find out.

Hey Mel! The split stay should work. Strictly speaking your park tickets are not “dated,” so you can get the hotel concierge to create them for you right after your first check in.

9 Scott { 07.14.12 at 12:16 pm }

Looking at Mel’s post we called and inquired about this since we are in a similar scenario. We were told by the Cast Member we cannot get our tickets until our second check in.

10 Dave { 07.14.12 at 2:36 pm }

Scott, thanks a million. I’ve edited my response to Mel, sent her an email, and also contacted an expert to weigh in!

11 Scott { 07.14.12 at 3:33 pm }

Hi Dave… problem at all. Interested to hear what you find out.

12 Mel { 07.14.12 at 5:30 pm }

Thank you both!

13 Dave { 07.15.12 at 8:58 am }

OK Mel, here’s the scoop from the expert I reached out to:

“Dave, if a guest splits their stay to take advantage of Free Dining, we need to take a look at each individual reservation to know how to break up the tickets.

If the guest is arriving just a day in advance, they can pick up their package tickets one day early without a problem.

However, if the guest is arriving several days in advance of the Free Dining promotion (like the scenario you describe), we have to split the tickets up between the two reservations since Disney won’t issue the tickets more than one day in advance of the start of the package. What we do in that case is search for the most economical split possible for the guest.”

14 Mel { 07.15.12 at 9:37 am }

Thanks, Dave! that’s very helpful.

I’ll only be checking in at night (8-9 pm ) on the 8th, and while I do not have plans to visit a park on the 9th, what you’ve just told me will give me some options (since 9th is only 1 day in advance of the start my free dining package), in case I want to visit a park on the evening of the 9th for EEMH or fireworks.

Thanks again!

15 Dave { 07.15.12 at 10:25 am }

Mel that’s great, I’m glad it worked out–and Scott, thanks so much for making sure I got this right!

16 Scott { 07.15.12 at 12:31 pm }


I am glad I was able to be of assistance on this. The information you provide on this site is invaluable.

Thanks for getting the additional information regarding when tickets can be secured. So, in Mel’s scenario, could she get her tickets on Sunday for a second reservation that is made to to have the free dining, which starts on Monday. If so, I am thinking she could add an extra day to the reservation starting Monday and use that on Sunday. Is that correct? Or is that not possible because she is arriving more than a day in advance? I am thinking it might be the latter since in the reply you received the just a day in advance is in bold and she is arriving two days in advance.

17 Dave { 07.15.12 at 1:51 pm }

Scott, thanks for both points!

I’m thinking that the relevant “day in advance” is the first day you hope to use the tickets, not the actual first arrival date…and from Mel’s comment looks like it works for her…So if your arrival (and first check in) is for example the 1st, your free dining res doesn’t kick in til the 3rd, but you’d never planned to use tix the first but rather the 2nd anyway, you’d be fine…

18 Scott { 07.15.12 at 3:24 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thanks again.

I told my wife this and she had a chat with a Cast Member and was told this cannot be done. The Cast Member advised:

“If you include tickets with the booking of your stay as a Magic Your Way vacation package, you can only get your tickets on check in day (not early). Your Magic Your Way theme park tickets are encoded on your Key to the World card when you book a package and you do not receive that until you check in.”

19 Melisa { 07.16.12 at 4:46 am }

What Scott says makes sense, because the tickets are linked to the KTTW card.

However, according to another forum (not sure if i can say what it is!), if you want to collect the tickets before hand (like in my case), you have to go to a Park Guest Relations Window to do it, and not the resort.

Apparently, it’s stated in some Disney manual that this can be done. The poster (from his signaure) appears to be someone working part-time in WDW now.

Perhaps the difference lies in who you ask, and where you colect the tickets from. Dave, could I trouble you check with your expert if collection of tickets before hand must be done at a Park Guest Relations window (which i assume is at the park and not a resort)?


20 Christine Hardenberger { 07.16.12 at 1:23 pm }

Yes! That’s exactly what needs to be done. You can go to Guest Relations at any theme park the day before your package begins to get your park tickets. Many cast members actually don’t realize this can be done, but it can. We have had many of our guests do this without issue.

When I mentioned you could pick them up a day in advance I meant in advance of the package start date. Your actual arrival in Orlando doesn’t come into play. It’s just that you can pick up the package tickets the day before the package begins — not any earlier.
You can add an extra day to your package tickets if you are looking to cover a one-day room only reservation that occurs just before your package start date.

Hope this helps!

21 Dave { 07.16.12 at 2:19 pm }

Thanks Christine–all, she’s the “expert” I quoted earlier!

22 Scott { 07.16.12 at 6:41 pm }

Good evening all,

Thanks for the updated information. It is very helpful.

23 Dave { 07.16.12 at 6:49 pm }

Scott, it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma…but I think Christine sorted it out!

24 Melisa { 07.16.12 at 9:19 pm }

fantastic news!! i will do just that and maybe go to HS for EEMH – IIRC, adding 1 day to a 5 day base isnt that much more.

Thanks so much for this site!! will continue checking till my trip..!

25 Dave { 07.17.12 at 6:41 am }

You bet, Melisa!

26 rose { 07.19.12 at 8:19 am }

Hi, can i book this offer if i live in the UK?

27 Dave { 07.19.12 at 9:37 am }

Hi Rose, US offers are available worldwide, so yes, you can…

28 Michelle { 07.26.12 at 8:38 pm }

We booked our trip back in January for Oct. 20-28th at the Port Orleans Riverside for 5 people. As soon as we saw the free dining go up for these dates, we called to switch and they said they were limiting the number of rooms that could get this deal. So I am bumming that we couldn’t take advantage of this deal especially since we are staying during the right dates. Any advice?

29 Dave { 07.27.12 at 8:42 am }

Hi Michelle…Disney limits the number of rooms it’ll sell under these offers, and word is that the moderates sold out in days.

However, there’s a good chance it’ll have a room rate offer for these dates as well–e.g. 20% off. Come back to this page every couple of days, as if it does do such a deal, I’ll post about it there within 12 to 36 hours…:

30 Michelle { 07.29.12 at 12:13 pm }

Thanks for the information! I will keep waiting patiently 🙂

31 Lily { 08.02.12 at 1:00 pm }

I would keep checking sometimes people cancel and rooms become available.

32 Dave { 08.02.12 at 6:07 pm }

Thanks, Lily!

33 Dave { 08.02.12 at 6:07 pm }

Great point, Lily!

34 Debbie { 08.04.12 at 11:26 am }

Dave, I already have my entire trip planned – airfare, hotel, park tickets and dining plan for December 6 – 13. What are the chances that Disney will add a few dates in early December for the free dining plan? I hate to change everything to plan around the free dining and then they add a few dates to the free dining and I could’ve kept my plans as is. Any advice?

35 Dave { 08.04.12 at 5:27 pm }

Debbie, I can’t recall the last time Disney had discounts during Pop Warner week, so my guess is they will not add them this year, either…see this:

36 edith { 08.23.12 at 9:59 pm }

Dave any chance the ( FDP ) could be offered week of Thanksgiving 2012 ?. My trip 11/18/12—11/24/12 has all ready added up to over 4,000 dollars stay at pop centry.

37 Wade { 08.24.12 at 8:34 am }

We have booked our flight and hotel through Priceline Oct 24-26 3 night stay @
Caribeen Beach Resort. No dining plan purchased. Can we still take advantage of the free dining plan?

38 Dave { 08.24.12 at 8:52 am }

Hi Edith, nope. They never do discounts during wildly crowded times like Thanksgiving, as they already have enough demand to fill their hotels…

39 Dave { 08.24.12 at 8:57 am }

Hi Wade, free dining at the moderates sold out in the first week it was offered…

40 Suzanne { 01.15.13 at 11:36 am }

Hi Dave,
I’m planning our family’s first trip to WDW for October 2013. 2 adults+ kids are 8, 6 and 6. 2 questions: I’m hoping to get in on the free dining plan – should I wait until dates are announced, or should I make a room-only booking for an AofA suite now to be sure we have a room? Question 2: all of my kids are picky eaters. If I can’t get the free dining plan, is it worth it to purchase it or should we just pay cash as we go?

41 Dave { 01.15.13 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Suzanne! Coupla things.

One is that yes you can book now and convert later, but its easier to convert a “package”–that is room and something else you pay for, most commonly tix–than a room only deal. This has to do with arcana of Florida travel tax laws and resulting differences in how Disney accounts for the reservations. If you book a “package,” it’s easier to transfer it to free dining, which is also a “package.”

But if you can’t get free dining, don’t buy the dining plan with young picky eaters. If a children’s menu is available, they’ll have to order off it, and there’s often not much more than nuggets, burgers, and mac and cheese on it…(of course if they always like burgers/nuggets/mac n cheese, then get the dining plan!)

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42 Nicole { 01.16.13 at 4:07 pm }

Hello Dave,

Your site is just awesome! We are planning to take our 2 year old to WDW for one week in early December 2013. Our current thought is to stay at the Wilderness Lodge Villas (the thinking being that it would be convenient to have a kitchen available to make things easier with a two year old??). I know from reading your site that Disney sometimes offers a free dining plan for this period given that it is low season – I am not sure when that might start to be offered for 2013 (if it is to be offered in 2013). When is it best to book our hotel stay (don’t want to miss the hotel but getting the free dining would be terrific). Two other questions – I assume our son would be able to swim in the hotel pools with us if he is in a swim diaper, correct? I know you cannot get a dining plan for those under 3 – how does it work for 3 and under (just ordering/paying off the menu I expect?). Thanks so much.

43 Dave { 01.16.13 at 4:21 pm }

Hi Nicole and thanks!

First you can book now–it’s easier to convert later if you book a package with tickets–and then convert it later (by calling) if a deal comes out. If such a deal does come out–and I’d not bet on it–it could come out anytime between the summer and late fall.

You would feed your son either from your own plate, with special foods you brought with you, or with stuff you bought for cash.

And yes your son can swim with you!

See also this:

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44 Scott { 01.25.13 at 5:38 pm }

Hi Dave,

So you do not think it is likely that a free dining plan will be offered as it was in 2012? With Pop Warner week beginning December 7 I was hoping an offer including a free meal plan might include the week starting December 2.

I am trying to convince my wife we should go in December.



45 Dave { 01.26.13 at 8:23 am }

Scott in 2012 Disney offered free dining for almost all dates into June, just skipping a few holiday weeks.

So far this year it has offered it for none. And it has said many times in the past 24 months that it is cutting back discounts, and expects to get an economic return on its investment in New Fantasyland.

So my guess is that we’ll see a lot less free dining the rest of 2013.

Now every day I’m wrong six times before breakfast, and may be wrong on this too, but that’s my guess…

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46 Scott { 01.26.13 at 2:31 pm }

Dave…..Thanks as always. Love your site.

47 Karen D { 01.30.13 at 12:26 am }

Dave, We are going in November 2013, the week prior to Thanksgiving for 7-9 days. We are considering a split stay between Art of Animation and the Polynesian. We are hopeful for free dining for the first part of our stay. Is there a simple explanation on how to get the best rate for a split stay and how long to stay at each resort? Thank you!

48 Dave { 01.30.13 at 5:59 am }

Karen, you won’t get a better rate for the split stay than you could get for each individually, with one exception–each of these has an up-charge for Friday and Saturday nights, and the up charge at the Poly is higher than that at AofA, so it’s cheaper to do the Poly on Sun-Thurs.

However, if you are thinking Little Mermaid 4 person standard rooms, then the way to plan your trip is to figure out how much in total you can afford for lodging, and then do the math to allocate the maximum number of nights to the Poly. I’d advise–despite the point above–to start at Little Mermaid, then shift to the Poly, because if you do the Poly first you may be really disappointed by Little Mermaid. If you are doing a family suite at AofA, the order matters much less.

Figuring out the balance between the two requires solving a simple set of simultaneous equations, and all you need to know is your total room budget, total planned nights, and the nightly cost for the Poly and whichever room group you are targeting at Aof A. With that, here’s how to solve the equations:

B = lodging budget (given)
N= total nights (given)
X = Poly nightly cost (given)
Y= Art of Animation nightly costs (given)
A = Art of Animation nights (to solve for)
P= Poly nights (to solve for)
Note that A+P= N, so A = N-P

So you are solving the simultaneous equations for P (Polynesian nights):
A*Y + P*X= B

Doing the algebra yields the following answer for Poly nights:
P = (B-N*Y)/(X-Y)
And thus for A of A nights you can plug in your answer to P:
A = N-P

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49 Troy { 02.09.13 at 11:02 am }

I think it’s funny that you didn’t get any response from Karen D after this post. I can imagine her looking shocked after she reads to the bottom, blinks, pauses, then clicks on her Facebook link and moves on… 🙂

50 Dave { 02.09.13 at 2:19 pm }

Troy: “reads to the bottom, blinks, pauses, then moves on”–isn’t that the effect I have on everyone?

More seriously, I’m betting that the comment is the first time a Disney site has published a solved simultaneous equation!

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