Do You Know These 6 Secrets About Free Dining at Walt Disney World?

Credit: Disney Dining

The Disney Dining Plan is a convenient way to make sure that your meals are budgeted for on your Walt Disney World vacation. If you sign up for it you won’t have to worry about the cost of a restaurant because your meals will have been paid for. There are different plans to choose from, and you must be staying at a Walt Disney World owned hotel in order to be eligible. Not all restaurants participate, but there are plenty that do. Sometimes Disney offers what is commonly called “free dining”. Guests who sign up and qualify will have the Disney Dining Plan added to their Magic Your Way packages for no additional cost. Free dining changes each time it’s offered, the information here is as up to date as possible. Some Disney fans are experts on free dining. These six secrets are for those who may be a bit confused by it.

6. Usually in the Fall

There are no set dates for free dining. That said, it is usually offered for autumn stays, during less crowded times of year. The package will usually be for dates in the fall, after schools are back in session but before the holidays. The information on dates and details will often be released in late April or early May. No dates are set in stone, so check often to make sure that you know all the latest information.

5. Not All Resorts and Rooms Are Eligible

Free dining is meant to fill empty rooms. There are a limited number of spots that will be available each year, and it may be that not all resorts will offer free dining. If you have your heart set on staying at a particular resort in a certain type of room, free dining might not work for you. If enjoying great meals for free is what you’re looking for, it’s worth checking out.

4. Good for the Quick Service Plan

Traditionally free dining has been for the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan. That includes the equivalent of two counter service meals and snacks for each night of your vacation. (Disney counts nights, not days. An eight day, seven night vacation will mean 14 meal credits.) Table service meals are not included with free dining, you’ll pay out of pocket for those. You can divide the meals up however you would like, if you want to use three meal credits one day and none the next that’s up to you. If you have extra snack credits, use them for things that can travel like crisp rice treats before you leave for home. Your credits expire at midnight on the day that you checkout, you can’t save them for your next vacation.

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3. Might Sell Out Fast

Once the dates for free dining are announced, you will need to move quickly. Free dining is extremely popular, and there is limited availability. It will sell out. If you already have reservations for the time period it could be possible to change your package to include free dining. You might have to change more than just adding the plan, you could even end up having to stay at a different resort.

2. Restrictions Apply

Even though free dining sounds like it will save you a lot of money on your vacation, Walt Disney World is not going to be losing anything. There are restrictions and requirements that you will need to meet. These restrictions may include paying full price for your room, a certain number of days on your theme park tickets, and Memory Maker added to your package. Everyone in your room must be on the plan, that’s always the case with the Disney Dining Plan. Just because free dining had certain requirements one year does not mean that they will be the same the next. Check to see the restrictions and requirements when the information is released.

1. It’s Not Guaranteed Annually

Free dining is not guaranteed at Walt Disney World. They could decide to end the program at any time with no announcement. With new lands on the way, it could be that Disney won’t need incentives to fill hotel rooms. Go ahead and plan your vacation and budget for food. Don’t count on free dining. Think of it as an added bonus if you’re eligible.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.