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Awesome Guide to the Disney Dining Plan (and how to get it free!)

Guide to the Disney Dining Plan (and how to get it free!)

Free Dining 101

The Disney Dining Plan is a program that makes it so that food can be included as part of a Magic Your Way Vacation Package. Many families like it because it gives them a way to know how much will be spent on food during their vacations. Sometimes, the Disney Dining Plan is offered for free. Unofficially known as Free Dining, it can be confusing for even Walt Disney World veterans. In order to better understand Free Dining, it makes sense to first know the basics of the Disney Dining Plan.

General Information

The Disney Dining Plan is offered only to guests who are staying at a Walt Disney World owned resort. That means that guests who are staying on property at a place like Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, which is not owned by Disney, are not eligible, even though they are staying on Disney property. You must book the plan for your entire stay. You won’t count days, you’ll count nights, so if you’re going to stay for five days and four nights you will receive four days worth of credits. Everyone in your room who is three and older must be included on the plan. Not all restaurants on Walt Disney World property participate in the Disney Dining Plan, but most do. You can find the updated list on the Walt Disney World website, or check the restaurant information on the same site. It will tell you which plans, if any, are accepted. In most cases, the gratuity is not included with the Disney Dining Plan, so add that into your miscellaneous budget if you plan to dine at any table service restaurants.

Types of Plans

There are currently three different Disney Dining Plan options available. The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan includes two quick service meals and two snacks per night of your vacation. The Standard Disney Dining Plan includes one table service meal (including most character dining locations), one quick service meal, and two snacks per night. With the Deluxe Plan you will receive three meals (quick or table service) and two snacks per night. A Refillable Mug is included for each member of your party with any of the plans.



Regarding Credits

One thing to keep in mind, signature restaurants, in room pizza delivery, and room service will cost you two table service credits. If you want to know how many credits you have left, you can find it printed on your restaurant receipt. It will show you the total credits and the type left for your entire party, not individual credits for each person traveling with you. Your credits will expire at 11:59pm the night that you check out, you can’t roll them over for your next trip. Quick service credits can be traded in for three snack credits, but all three need to be used in one place. If you have leftover snack or quick service credits the day that you leave, consider trading them in at a shop that sells lollipops, cookies, and other items that you can take home with you. A Cast Member can walk you through the process.

Free Dining Disclaimer

The Disney Dining Plan gets a bit more complicated once Free Dining is thrown into the mix. It is a program that was started back in 2005. There is no guarantee that Free Dining will continue indefinitely, and times and requirements can change. That said, the information here is as accurate as possible, and is based on what has been offered at Walt Disney World in the past.

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The Basics of Free Dining

Free Dining has traditionally been offered in the fall, once the busy summer season has ended. The dates will sometimes start towards the middle to end of August, and will often continue through early December. There are blockout dates, do not think that you will be eligible for Free Dining at Thanksgiving. Not all resorts and rooms will be eligible for Free Dining. If you book an eligible room at a Value Resort, you will receive the Quick Service Dining Plan for free. If you stay in an eligible room at a Moderate or Deluxe Resort, the free plan has traditionally been the Standard Disney Dining Plan. You can upgrade to a different plan by paying the difference in price. Free dining can be booked through the Walt Disney World website, or by calling Disney directly. Often the information about Free Dining is first released to Disney Visa Cardholders. That alone is enough of a reason for some people to apply for a card.

Requirements

One of the most common questions when it comes to Free Dining is what are the requirements? The answer to this question can and does change. You will be required to purchase a Magic Your Way Vacation Package. You will be required to stay a minimum number of nights, usually at least three. You will pay full price for the room, you can’t combine Free Dining with another discount. You must check in during the Free Dining dates, but you can check out outside of the dates and still be eligible. You will need to purchase theme park tickets (usually at least two days) as part of the package. That means that Annual Passholders are left out, unless they decide to buy extra tickets. If you are a Passholder and decide to give the tickets to someone else, make sure that they are not linked to your My Disney Experience account. Things from there get a little bit trickier. Often there will be other requirements in order to qualify for Free Dining. You might have to add Park Hopper or Water Parks and More to your ticket. Memory Maker has been required in the past. That does not mean that these will be required in the future, what Disney has in mind is anyone’s guess.



Already Booked?

What happens if you have already booked your trip and then Free Dining is announced for the time that you are going to be there? In many cases, you can still add Free Dining. The best bet is to call Disney directly and see what needs to be changed within your reservation in order for you to meet the requirements. Keep in mind that you might have to change resorts. Free Dining can be booked online, but if you need to make some changes it makes sense to speak to a live person.

Bounceback Offers

A Bounceback Offer is a special deal that is offered to Walt Disney World guests. The idea is to get them to “bounce back” to Walt Disney World in the near future. You need to make a decision before the end of your vacation, you can’t sit at home and think about it for a while. There should be a card in your room that has the current Bounceback Offer on it. If not, call 8844 from the phone in your room. Often the offer is a room discount, but sometimes Free Dining is offered. Don’t count on Free Dining being the Bounceback Offer, but if that is the deal it might be incentive enough for you to start making plans to return.

Is Free Dining Worth It?

Honestly, you are the only one who can answer this question. There are some Walt Disney World guests who swear by Free Dining, they would not consider traveling at another time. That does not make it a good deal for everyone. In order to decide whether or not Free Dining is a bargain for you and your party, you are going to need to crunch the numbers. Since you can’t apply other discounts with Free Dining, it doesn’t always make sense. A couple might actually pay more if they take advantage of the offer, while a family of five could save money. You will also need to keep in mind the restaurants where you plan to eat while on your vacation. If you stay at a Moderate Resort, you will be eligible for the Standard Dining Plan. You can use the table service credits for most character meals, which are some of the more expensive meals on Walt Disney World property. They are also some of the most fun. Some people like the fact that they are getting something free from Disney, while others think that the Disney Dining Plan is too restrictive. Once Free Dining is announced, pull out your calculator and see if it makes sense. Hurry, though, because the rooms for Free Dining will be snatched up.


Free Dining Wait List

To be added to the free Disney dining plan waitlist please fill out the form and we’ll contact you with a quote as soon as FREE DINING is available


 

About Rick Killingsworth

Rick visited the Magic Kingdom in 1971 for the first Christmas parade in their history. At nine years old, he was bitten by the Disney Bug. He can still remember the sights, the smells, and the sounds. It truly was magical. It would be twenty years before he could afford to take his young family back to “The World.” It was the vacation of a lifetime, and they have been fortunate to go hundreds of times since. His daughters, now grown, still tear up when they see the castle (as does he).