Free Dining or room-only discount?

by Shannon Albert 36 comments Like the Facebook page

Lots of people are looking to save money on their Disney World trip which is smart. You should.

But too many people hope and pray and cross their fingers that the Free Disney Dining promo will be available during their dates.

Free food is awesome, no doubt. But you may be missing out on larger discounts.

Let's take a look...

When you book a Disney World package, it consists of up to 3 things: hotel room, park tickets and an optional dining plan.

Two of those three things have discounts that are offered periodically - hotel room and dining plan.

The important thing when evaluating promotions is to view your package as an overall total and not the price of each component. So...you might get free dining, but how much is the hotel portion of your package?

The room-only discount often looks like this:

  • Save 20% at All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century
  • Save 30% at Disney Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside, Coronado Springs, Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view), Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Polynesian, Contemporary (not Theme Park view rooms), Disney’s Fort Wilderness, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts
  • Other resorts at 5%

For the Free Dining promotion, guests staying at Value resorts get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free. Everybody else gets the Regular Dining Plan.

Let's look at how this works out when we break it down.

We'll assume that the trip dates fall when both promotions are offered.

    Room-only
discount savings
Free Dining
savings
Winner
Polynesian 2 adults $937.50 $721.56 Room-only
2 adults, 2 kids $937.50 $931.84 Room-only (barely!)
Coronado Springs 2 adults $374.40 $721.56 Free Dining
2 adults, 2 kids $374.40 $931.84 Free Dining
Pop Century 2 adults $146 $489.86 Free Dining
2 adults, 2 kids $146 $657.72 Free Dining

 
Obviously, Free Dining works out a lot of the time but not always.

People who should use room-only discounts

In general, people who should use room-only discounts fall into 1 or both of these categories:

  • People staying in Deluxe resorts
  • Guests whose eating habits won't see the value in the Dining Plan (even if it's free). If your style of dining doesn't include using the credits that you get with the Disney Dining Plan, it may not make sense to use it. However, if you're saving a substantial amount by booking Free Dining, even using just some of the credits can still work out to be a good deal.

People who should use Free Dining promotion

  • People staying in Value and Moderate resorts. In fact, I'd suggest a Moderate if you can swing it as the savings can be pretty substantial when you get the Regular Dining Plan for free (compared to the Quick Service Dining Plan at a Value).
  • Large groups - the more people staying in your resort room, the more you will save on Free Dining.
  • People who just like the convenience. The ease of not having to worry about dining costs during your trip might make it super appealing to visitors, whether it's free or not. It does give you the feeling that you're on an all-inclusive vacation when you're paying with credits instead of dollars (don't forget that tip isn't included so you will need to pay for that).

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There are lots of variables when determining the best option for booking a Disney World trip. Just be sure to do the math and figure out what makes the most sense for you.