Free Dining! Free Dining! Free Dining! – PREP004

The title of this post is a recap of the subject lines of most of the emails I receive.

I have some info on who should use Free Dining and tips on making the best use of it.

I also have a couple of other tips for people wanting to use Child Swap and a room request tip for people staying at Art of Animation.

Can you use Child Swap if your child is tall?

If your child is too short or too scared to ride a ride, most rides that have a height requirement will offer a Child Swap/Rider Switch option.

To read more about how that works, check out my article on child swap.

All about Free Dining

What it is
Free Dining is a promotion typically offered in the fall. It allows people to book a hotel and tickets and get the Disney Dining Plan for free.

Since 2009, Free Dining has been offered every fall (the dates have varied). Disney has also offered it twice at the beginning of the year (January - March) and once at the end of May for 1 week.

People who book a Value Resort will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free during Free Dining (2 Quick Service credits per night of the trip). People at Moderate and Deluxe Resorts will get the Basic Dining Plan for free (1 Table Service and 1 Quick Service credit per night of the trip).

Who should use it
Most people will benefit from using the Free Dining promotion but people staying in Deluxe Resorts will save more money by using a room-only discount (a 30% off discount is often available).

Tips
Some things you should know if you want to use Free Dining:

  • People who arrive by the last day of the promotion can usually use it for their whole trip
  • You have to book all of your Advanced Dining Reservations way in advance if you're going during a Free Dining period
  • Book your package before Free Dining is announced. After it's announced, you'll need to call ASAP to have the promotion applied to your reservation. There are only a certain number of rooms available for the promotion. Just because you have an existing reservation doesn't mean you'll be able to use Free Dining. Call ASAP to get it.
  • The best deal during Free Dining is usually for people who book a Moderate Resort and get the Basic Dining Plan
  • If Free Dining begins in the middle of your trip, you won't be able to use it unless you book 2 separate reservations (1 before Free Dining and 1 during)

Quick tip

People staying at Art of Animation can request a room that's located on an upper level with a lake view. This allows people to have a great view and it means less noise since you'll be facing away from the swimming pools and away from the lower floors where it tends to be louder.

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kit

Just stayed at Art of Animation and, without even knowing to request it, got a top-floor lake-view room in Lion King and it was AMAZING. I’ve stayed pretty much exclusively at deluxe resorts thanks to my DVC family so I was worried when booking that AoA would be disappointing and, honestly, it was easily on par with my DVC experiences. Yes, a little smaller and no kitchen or laundry but I never used those amenities anyway. But the view was beautiful, it was dead silent, and the walk to the room was SO MUCH SHORTER, a major factor after a 12-hour day at the park! Honestly if you were to offer me the same AoA room or any deluxe room I’d probably take AoA. Maybe my feelings would be different if we’d gotten a bottom-floor room with a bad view or something but I’m not sure. It really was a fantastic place.

Darrin Whitley

We are planning on going to WDW in November 2016 and the free dining has expired I think on July 8th. Will they possibly do anymore promotions for november 2016 before we go.

Cathy

I have a tripped planned for 12/21-12/26. I have all my dining reservations, but have have been reading that during Christmas week, many parks reach maximum capacity and close further admission by as early as 10am. If I have a dining reservation for 5pm will we be allowed in if park is at max capacity? Any other help for visiting during Christmas would be appreciated. I’m becoming concerned that my dream of Disney at Christmas might not be so great.

Jennifer W.

We stayed at Old Key West resort last year during the free dining promo and it was worth every penny for our family! We had four adults and three children and the room discount couldn’t touch the dining promo. We used all of our table credits for character dining. With the prices of character dining for adults (and children for that matter) it was the right choice for us.

This year we jumped on the free dining promo again but are staying at Caribbean in a preferred room with bunk as it’s only two adults and three kids. Again it makes the most sense for us as the room is moderately priced and we don’t have to worry about the high costs of character dining. We have Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus, Ohana, and Chef Mickey. Just remember CRT takes two dining credits. We are staying five nights so we allocated two for that dining event. And make sure you take advantage of Be Our Guest still being counted as Quick Service. The castle is beautiful and the food is great (try the “Grey Stuff” – it’s fun and delicious). The reservations fill up quickly!

You have to do your homework and calculate what discount works bests for you and your family considering where you want to eat, where you want to stay. This site has great tools to help you in doing so. Hope this helps!

Gloria

what number do we call when free dining is announced for 2016?

Sheena

Is there a promo you use to add it to your existing reservation online? I have been calling for almost two hours and finally got through so I was on hold and then my phone dropped the call!!!!!

Tami

I had a fellow Instagramer tell me that Free Dining was coming out April 21, 2016 and that you could book through Dec 31, 2017?? Is this true??

Jennifer

That’s for the UK

I am going last weel of August until Tuesday after Labor day this year. Any word when the free dinibg dates will be announced?

Thank you

Alexandra Scott

I have the basic free dining plan with my reservation however I wasn’t sure if I should upgrade to the deluxe dining plan? My husband is a big eater but my two kids ages 9 and 6 are not. I don’t want to end up paying more for extra food that is not included. Do you think the basic meal plan (1 snack, 1 quick service, 1 sit down and mug) are enough. The upgrade will cost me about $800.00 more for 7 day trip!!!!

Niro

Just as an FYI, we booked at the Floridian 3rd week of August and it was cheaper (not a whole lot mind you) to book using the free meal option as opposed to using the 30% room only discount.

Derek

That can also depend on how many guests, and how many are adults. My wife and I are going with my mother and our two children, and the dining plan prices for an eight day visit REALLY start to add up.

Adam

We will be going to WDW November 6-15 this year. I see Nov 6-7 are blackout dates for the free dining offer. Do we still qualify for the rest of our dates? How does that work? Thank you!

Venita

Does the tip about the Art of Animation still apply if you are in a regular Little Mermaid room or is that for the family suites only?

kayla

Trying to understand the booking 2 separate reservations in order to get the free dining if it doesn’t fall on your arrival date. I understand what you are saying but how does that work in terms of getting the dining plan for the days you booked before the free dining date begins?

jane

We just left Art of Animation yesterday. I agree that top floor is good. We never heard any hallway noise except once or twice but the kids were yelling in excitement. We had a pool view room, third floor. We actually slept during the day with the kids. We were at the park for rope drop at 7am left around 11 went back at 5. Since having kids, I am a light sleeper. The noise from the people at the pool wasn’t an issue, the noise from the Disney employees playing games using the microphone was and the thumping music they played was. If you didn’t have that, it wasn’t a problem. Also, don’t plan on getting any sleep on Saturday mornings. I was so mad that the resort started music at 6:30 AM, yes AM that it woke up our 1 year old and me. Pool wasn’t even open. I thought about calling up the front desk and telling them that people really didn’t need ambience music to walk the paths at 6:30 in the morning, but realized they probably were doing it to get people up and to check out in time by 10am. Also, if you want a late check out, tell them as soon as you check in. They only let so many choose this option per building. You have until 1 pm to not be charged a fee, after 2 but before 4 it’s 25% of your room cost for that day. If you want to stay later than that, just stay another night. We had planned to go to Epcot for half a day before leaving and knew we would need showers before our 8 hour drive home. We didn’t get late check out, but your bands are good until midnight. Check out at 10 and you still have access to everything including pool and laundry until midnight. At the pool there are two private showers (hot) and we just used those to clean up before heading home. Laundry is 2 dollars to dry and wash each. Wash loads are fairly small. For example if you wanted to do towels, five would be your max in those washers. Also, request buildings closes to the main building. The buses meet out in front. The folks staying in the Ariel suites have a good long walk to get to them. Probably about 8-10 minutes.

Tanya

If we are staying at a value resort, but have the Regular Dining Plan, and free dining is announced for our travel time….can we take advantage & just pay an upgrade fee? We not want the Basic dining plan…Thanks!!

beth

Hi Tanya, yes you can I did this last year. I don’t remember the cost but it wasn’t much.
Hope that helps:)
Regards,
Beth

Whitney

Where does the free dining get announced at. Disney website? We are planning a trip for first of December and are hoping to score free dining being so close to Christmas all.

Courtney

We’re going around the same time (that first week of December) and we are SO hoping for free dining! I check the Disney World website frequently – they have a “special offers” page. Also, I signed up for updates from WDW Prep School for the months of November and December, so when Shannon finds out about ANYTHING for those months, she sends an email to me. Highly recommend!

kadie

I plan to buy our disney package soon, should I add the dining plan now or wait to add it until the free dining plan promotion is announced?

Rebecca Jansen

Have the fall dates for free dinning been announced yet? We are going Nov 2-5

Dustin

I booked our Disney trip today at a value resort and got free dining. I started a chat with someone on Disney’d website and she said that Disney is not offering dining upgrades for free dining plans. Anyone know if this is true?

Stacy

We booked our Disney World trip for October 6th- 14th through AAA travel agent. She said she will let us know if/when they offer free dining. We are staying at Pop Century resort with the Basic dining plan (1 table service, 1 quick service and 1 snack per day). Are we eligible for the free dining? We booked all our table reservations in advanced and don’t want to do 2 quick service in one day. Would we have to switch to a moderate resort and would it be worth it to?

Lisa

Pop Century is a Value resort. Therefore, the free dining plan for this resort would include the quick service meal plan. No table service included.

peg

have the actual dates for free dining been announced yet?

Jay

Would one be eligible for free dining during the promotion period if they book their stay at a villa (for example) via the point system from a DVC member? Or would oyu have to book your stay through WDW?
I save a TON of money renting points from a DVC member (Beach Club on the cheap!) so not sure a free dining plan would be worth it for us.

Laura

So, tell me if I have it straight, if we want to take advantage of free dining promotions, we’ll know if we got the promotion at the time of booking because it will give us the option to select it?
Also, do sites like AAA, Expedia, Orbitz, offer these promotions.? I’ve seen buy 3 get 2 free promotions for Disney tickets themselves on those sites , but when I looked at traveling in October, this free dining promotion was not available.

Matt

My family of 4 is planning on traveling November 8-15 and staying at Disney’s Art of Animation in a family suite. We are hoping to take advantage of the free dining plan when it becomes available. Is the basic dining plan ever offered for this resort, being that it is in the value category? If not and we receive the free quick service plan, is it possible to upgrade to the basic plan for a cost? We are really interested in staying in a larger suite style room, and to change to even a moderate resort with the same accommodations would cost over $1000 more.

Erica

My family is all booked for October 18-28. We are staying POR in a Royal room. I know that this is the most popular mod and that if free dining is announced it is limited. I was told by a cast member when booking they limit a certain number within each resort. I was wondering if you had heard anything like this and if you know if they include the “upgraded” rooms as well. Thanks for all the info. Loving your site!!!

Beverly

Hoping and praying there will be free dining in September! Going to book a value resort – probably Art of Animation. If there is no free dining offer, we will know exactly how much to budget for our trip. Once we are booked, we can schedule our dining 180 days out. If they do offer free dining, we get to upgrade to a moderate and keep our dining reservations. Would love to try a Deluxe sometime, but it just isn’t in the budget right now.

Donna

We have our room & tickets booked for September 2014. We didn’t add the dining plan yet because I was wondering if I add it now & if free dining is offered later, would I get reimbursed?

Jennifer

My husband and I are Disney Vacation Club Members. We are planning a trip for October but probably won’t book until March-April for the room and tickets on the DVC Member site. Can I still get the dining plan once the dates come out?

Donna Christian

Just wondering if you offer a notice to when 2014 free dining starts. We are planning a trip in September. So enjoy your site.

Windy Blair

I’m a little confused about Free Dining. I’m staying in Moderate in a moderate resort (booked through hotel.com) and a Basic plan would be fine. I bought my tickets through my husband’s work who was offering a promotion. Since I arranged my visit in 2 different places (hotel.com and Delta) then are I/we eligible for Free Dining?

Rebecca

Thank you for all your info; I refer to it often. I just have a question about dining. Do personal PIN codes expire or is it possible to use it after the day they want you to book by?

Hi Shannon! Thanks for letting me participate in the podcast with a tip! All the best, Dave

Paula

We will be staying at AoA Cars in September- thanks so much for the tip! At what point and to whkm/where would I make my room request?

I am going to be sad when this week is over I have enjoyed listening every morning. Since the file is small I can get it downloaded before I leave the house and listen on my phone during my country road cell free part of my drive.

Great practical advice. So glad you started this podcast!

Kaleel

I don’t have an apple product so I don’t use iTunes, I only have an S4. But I listen on here and this was a great podcast! This has became my favorite WDW podcast. Looking forward to the podcast to come!

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