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Free Dining 101 for Walt Disney World
Each year when Walt Disney World releases the Free Dining discounts there is always a flurry of questions, responses and misinformation. Hopefully, this will help with everyone’s Free Dining questions and help everyone get the best value out of their Free Disney Dining Plan 🙂
The Free Dining Promo/Discount was first introduced in the fall of 2005 and up until the fall of 2009, was, basically, just offered during the timeframe of mid August to the first of October (height of hurricane season) and included the Basic/Plus Dining for all levels of WDW resort. Starting in the fall of 2009, they offered a second Free Dining Promo/Discount that covered dates between October 1st and the third week of December and they also started including the Quick Service DDP for Value resorts and the Basic/Plus DDP for Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. With the popularity of the Free Dining Promos, WDW started offering multiple Free Dining discounts during the year that include many value season/low crowd weeks.
Generally, to take advantage of a Free Dining (FD) discount you must be booked at a Disney-owned resort and purchase a Magic Your Way Package that includes room, tickets and dining with a 2 day base ticket purchase for each person on the reservation. The FD promos have a 3 night booking minimum and a 14 night booking maximum. You can not use Annual Passes or previously purchased Disney tickets or tickets from an outside ticketing agent/broker as part of a FD Promo offer.
The current FD promos have included the Quick Service Dining Plan for Value Resorts and the Basic/Plus Dining Plan for Moderate and Deluxe Resorts. You can not downgrade to the Quick Service Dining if you are staying at a Moderate or Deluxe Resort. You can however pay the monetary difference and upgrade to the Basic/Plus DDP or the Deluxe DDP if you are staying at a Value Resort and can upgrade to the Deluxe Plan if you are staying at a Moderate or Deluxe Resort. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan has never been included in any free dining promos.
Your check-in date must fall within the dates of the FD promo to apply the discount to your reservation. If your check in dates do not fall within the FD dates, you can not apply the discount – even if every single night of your vacation falls within the promo, except for your check in date, you can not take advantage of the FD promo.
If any of your vacation dates fall within a FD promo dates you can receive the FD discount for your entire vacation stay, up to 14 nights, even if you are checking in on the last day of a FD promo, you can still receive the discount for up to 14 nights.
If your vacation starts a couple of days before a FD promo, it’s possible to do a Split Stay – meaning, you can do a room only reservation for 1 to 3 nights at the beginning of your vacation, pay for your food out-of-pocket for those days, and be allowed to pick up your PACKAGE TICKETS up to 3 days early at guest relations at any of the four parks or at Downtown Disney.
If you already have an existing reservation that falls within the dates of a FD promo, you can call and have the FD code added to modify that reservation. You can not add the FD code on line, you will need to call WDW Reservations, 407-W-Disney or your Travel Agent (though most are monitoring the discounts for you & will add it automatically). You do NOT have to cancel or rebook, your reservation number does not change and there is not a fee – if you are within your 45 day window, they can charge you a $50.00 change fee, but, most FD promos come out before the 45 day window, so this shouldn’t be an issue. If you have already paid your package in full, WDW will refund you the monetary difference – this can take up to 10 business days, or up to 2 billing cycles to show up. Eligible resort is only allotted so many FD rooms, so if you call and your resort is “sold out” of FD promo rooms, you can change your resort and do not have to cancel or pay a fee and your reservation number stays the same. If your existing reservation is a room only reservation, then you would have to cancel and rebook under a Magic Your Way Package to receive the FD discount. If you booked with a Travel Agent, then the TA must call and add this discount to your existing reservation. The TA owns your reservation and Disney will not change the discount/code for without going through your TA.
Typically, Disney Visa holders are given the FD Promo Code three (3) days before it opens to the general public. In the past, all you had to do to get the Disney Visa FD discount was put $200.00 down with your card, the balance did not have to be put on the Disney Visa. If you are already booked with a Disney Visa, you will simply have to put another $200.00 deposit down to apply the code. If you have paid the trip in full with a DV, they will still refund the monetary difference and you will not have to re-apply any money.
If you already have Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) changing or modifying a reservation does not affect or cancel your ADRs. You would have to go on-line or call WDW Dining to cancel ADRs, even if you completely cancel a vacation/reservation. Remember, anyone can make ADRs, even offsite guests and don’t have to be linked to your reservation in any way. If you have already booked and paid for any restaurants and/or dinner shows, and then a FD promo/discount is released, you can contact Disney Dining once you modify your reservation to include the FD code and give them your reservation number, and they will credit you the amount you pre-paid. This type of refund also takes 2 billing cycles or about 2 months.
Hopefully this info will give everyone a clear overview of the current Walt Disney World Free Dining Guidelines.