By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

More on Disney World Free Dining After September

By Dave Shute


Disney World Free DiningMy post last week where, inspired by my conversations with the Mysterious “B” about the recent flood of free dining pin codes, I inched back a bit from my prediction that we won’t see general public free dining in 2013 after September, has gotten a lot of reaction.

See for example this disboards thread starting at the bottom of the page on post number 2055, and of course the comments on the page itself, most fascinating, a few foolish.

I still don’t think we’ll see general public free dining after September, but I am not so firm on it as I had been, thanks to the delay in MyMagic+ and the resulting shortage of anything interesting for Disney World marketing to talk about to engender bookings in the non-holiday weeks of the fourth quarter of 2013.

What we are seeing, though, is a spate of pin codes, with word of more rounds of pin codes to come, a lot of hints dropped by Disney World cast members about upcoming deals (these hints could be referring to room rate deals, or free dining, or both), and some really interesting ways that people are getting pin codes.


Traditionally Disney has mailed, or emailed, pin codes, offering them to “households.”

We had reports a bit ago of people learning they had pin codes by calling and asking if they had them.

And last week, we had multiple comments that people had, after calling and finding out that they had no pin code, somehow talked Disney into giving them a pin code—my first heads up to this came from the Mysterious “B.”

See for example this, this and this.

So if you don’t have one in the mail, and call and still don’t have one, then don’t give up!

I don’t have any secrets for this.  But common sense tells me that your odds of getting such are better if on the phone you act like the kind of family that Disney World wants in the parks, and the kind of person that the cast member wants to help.  Put another way, follow the Scout Law—be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful.

Plus put a really cute-voiced kid on the phone asking to talk to Mickey…

Now, to have a pin-code pre-assigned to your household, Disney needs to know who you are, and how to contact you by mail or email.

So one obvious point is that if Disney doesn’t have your email or mailing address, you are fighting an uphill battle.  The most straightforward way to do this is to register on Disney World’s website (if you haven’t already), fill in all your contact info, and order to be mailed to you a Disney World planning DVD.

Not A Free Dining Pin Code in My Five Letters From DisneyNow Disney knows where I live—here’s what came in the mail to me on just one delivery last week…

But not a pin code among them…


Before the recession of 2008-2009, Disney World’s approach to discounts was largely a combination of annual passholder deals, general public room rate deals for narrow time periods, and general public free dining offered annually from later August well into September.

When the recession hit, these traditional offerings were supplemented by a whole host of other deals, with the main one being an astonishing three free ticket days and hotel nights in a seven day stay.

In 2010, Disney shifted away from the 3 days and nights free deal, and instead moved to a combination of room rate and free dining deals, with free dining available in 2010, 2011 and 2012 most dates from mid-August until well into March, and in some of these years for other spring and summer dates as well.

As the economy continued to improve, Disney began talking about cutting back, and then actually cutting back, on discounts.  I’ve listened to every quarterly earnings call for years now, and this cutting back of discounts has been a constant promise to the analyst community for years. (See this for the earliest such conversation that I wrote about, from more than 2 years ago.)

The early evidence of these cutbacks in discounting was less a diminution of the programs than it was a limitation in scope and deal levels.  For example, free dining at the value resorts was shifted to “Quick Service,” and some resorts previously in the free dining deal were cut out.  Room rate discounts were lower, the number of resorts on offer diminished, and within price classes we started seeing lower discounts at the more popular (and hence easier to book) among the remaining resorts on offer.

Meanwhile every subsequent earnings call reinforced that Disney was both cutting back discounts and increasing profitability, including increases in realized room rates and in guest spending per day.  In some of these quarters, hotel occupancy was down compared to prior years, but with the reduced discounts, profitability was still higher.

Then 2013 rolled around…and for the first time in years, we saw not a single free dining offer up until the traditional hurricane season offer—and even that is weeks shorter than in prior years.  And we also see astonishing earnings being reported even without these offers.

So one doesn’t have to have a lot of business judgment to understand why 1. Disney has been cutting back on discounts for a while and that 2. Free Dining obviously has been the target of cutbacks in 2013.

Because the post-September Free Dining packages are an artifact of the recession, it also takes only a bit of business judgment to see why they are threatened in 2013.  That’s why I made the call almost a year ago warning people not to expect much general public free dining in 2013.

I would be ever so happy to be wrong.   But I won’t be wrong “because Disney offered it last year and the year before.” That’s almost comic in its ignorance of Disney’s strategy and actions coming out of the recession.

If we see general public free dining after September 2013, it’ll be because, thanks to the delay of MyMagic+, Disney is short on marketing messages to get people to book the non-holiday dates of the final quarter of the year, and isn’t getting enough traction from pin codes.

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1 Caralee { 07.01.13 at 11:09 am }

Totally with you on this and thanks for the detailed explanation. Can now see why Disney offers have been released relatively late this year. What are your thoughts on Disney continuing the free dining offers for September? Do you think they will phase that out too?

Just a side note; this is THE best site for planning and I use it year after year. We have never eaten at 50’s Prime Time and after seeing you rated it highest for kid appeal, I cancelled an ADR to take our 4 kids there instead.

2 Dave { 07.02.13 at 8:30 am }

Hi Caralee and thanks!!!

I suspect September free dining will stay for a while. The pressures against people coming then–the peak of the hurricane season and US kids back in school–make it hard for Disney to draw people in. Change will come–if it does–from continued growth in South American visitors–who have their spring break in September…but that’s a ways off…

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3 Joy F. { 07.17.13 at 8:54 am }

Hi there! My family will be at Disney May 5-12, 2014…do they offer pin codes for free dining at that time of the year? If so, can people who rent DVC vacation owners’ points through a company other than Disney use the codes? Any savings is a great savings!!! Thanks.

4 Dave { 07.18.13 at 7:44 am }

Hi Joy!

DVC owners aren’t eligible for free dining, so if you are renting points from one, you can’t get it either.

This wave of pin codes is a new thing, so I dunno if it’ll happen in May or not–my guess is no, which means you won’t have missed out on anything anyway!

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5 joel paige { 07.22.13 at 5:34 pm }

i’m planning a Disney trip with three adults and four children around august 20 – September 11 2014 and we would like to use our Hilton points to book a room on Disney property. which hotel would gives us a good value with a few points.

6 Dave { 07.22.13 at 6:54 pm }

Joel, so far as I know there’s no Disney owned and operated hotel at which you can use Hilton points. There is a Hilton near Downtown Disney, which shares a few of the Disney hotel perks but is otherwise kinda isolated form the main Disney scene. See this:

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7 Mark S { 07.23.13 at 1:17 pm }

Dave, kind of a silly question but will a Castmember be able to tell me if I have a pin during an online chat?

8 Dave { 07.24.13 at 6:47 am }

Mark, that’s so good a question that I don’t know the answer to it! Try it, and let me know what happens–then I’ll tell the world!

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9 Mark S { 07.24.13 at 8:13 pm }

Dave, I tried to have someone on the chat check for a pin
and they told me to call into the reservation line.

10 Dave { 07.25.13 at 8:21 am }

Thanks for the follow-up, Mark!

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