Tips for getting Free Dining – PREP073

Free Dining is Disney's most popular promotion and there's a lot of competition to get 1 of the rooms that are eligible for the discount. Today I have tips on increasing your chances of getting it for your trip.

I also have a quick tip about why I might suggest making two sets of dining reservations for each day of your vacation.

These are notes from this episode. There's much more info included in the audio so be sure to listen to the episode for a better explanation.

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Increasing your chances of getting Free Dining

Free Dining is a package promotion (meaning you book a hotel and park tickets) that's been offered for the last several years. I recommend booking more than 180 days before your trip and putting down only a deposit when you book (explanation on why I recommend that is below).

People often ask if they should include the Disney Dining Plan when booking and I'd suggest that you include it if you'll get it regardless of the promotion. If you only want the DDP if it's free, I wouldn't book it ahead of time.

Some tips for getting Free Dining:

You need to travel during the promotion dates
Free Dining is usually a fall promotion that takes place from late August through mid-December (with some blackout dates during that time). As long as you check in by the last date the promotion is offered, you should be able to use it throughout your trip.

People checking in before the promotion dates will need to book a split stay in order to use it (so you'd essentially end up with the the first part of your trip booked without Free Dining and the last part would include it).

Stay in a participating hotel
Most Disney resorts participate in Free Dining, although Port Orleans French Quarter and the Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms are rarely/never part of it.

However, there are a limited number of rooms available at each resort so I'd recommend staying flexible when planning your trip in case you end up needing to switch to a different resort.

Take advantage as soon as the promotion is announced
Since the promotion is so popular, you'll need to take advantage ASAP.

One way to do that is to have a Disney Visa card which allows cardholders to book a few days before the general public.

In order to be notified of new promotions, I recommend signing up for the email alert list on the monthly dashboard for the month you're traveling and I will send you a message anytime a promotion is announced for that month, including Free Dining.

If you booked your trip with a Disney travel agent, they should get the discount for you and apply it to your existing reservation.

If you're handling it yourself, I recommend that you book a new package online since changing your existing package to use the new promotion will require a phone call and the phones are always super busy when it's announced. Once the phone lines quiet down a few days later, you can call to cancel your old reservation.

This is why I recommend only putting down a deposit when you book your first reservation ahead of time: so that you don't have lots of money tied up in a package that you may end up canceling and having to wait for a refund on.

Doing that will not have a negative effect on your dining reservations or any other reservations you've booked.

Quick tip of the day

Although early morning breakfast reservations in the parks have long been a good idea, I'm hesitant to suggest them since Disney has been changing park hours so the parks (especially Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios) often open up at 8 a.m.

Instead, I'd suggest booking a later time or booking 2 sets of reservations: 1 at 8 a.m. and another around 10:30 a.m. and then you can cancel closer to your trip once you know what the schedule will be.

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Can you have two different levels of dinding plan in one family?


I would like to take my daughter to DW 11/28/17-12/3/17. I noticed that these dates were not included in 2016 free dining dates. What is the likelihood that we would get free dining on this trip? Thank you!


Thank you for the advice. My son and I are going next fall, and I would love to get the DDP for free is avaliable. I have been torn between All Star movie resort or AOA. Is it available to those who stay at All star Movie resort? I am going through a travel company, and am making a full payment at one time. Would it be best if I didn’t do that?

Thank you.

Jennifer B

We are a family of five, and I have run the numbers over and over again. Because of the ages of my kids (14, 12, 10 at the time of travel) we definetly come out better taking advantage of Free Dining if it is offered. My question is this…I have done TONS of research and although we love Port Orleans Riverside because of its amenities and price for a family of 5, I know it’s not an option. I’m thinking of booking Carribean Beach now that it can accommodate families of 5 also. Traditionally, it has not been excluded. But,… Read more »


Can you please clarify to me – can you book the free dining promotion online or do you have to phone up and what time can we do this. And I understand you can book all dinner reservations 180 days out online rather than having to phone up, is this right. Thank you.


I was able to make ADR without having booked anything yet through the Android app. Should I still book my package before they announce free dining, or do it online when they announce it? I do have the Disney Visa, so I will know in advance.

Angela Cisco

We are going the last week of September/ 1st week of October and have already prepaid for deluxe dining/Pop Century. I have also already made all of my dining reservations for this time frame. If free dining becomes available can we switch to a moderate hotel in order to participate? If we can switch, would we have to wait for a refund or can they just apply it to the new reservation?

Sorry for all the questions but my AAA travel agent doesn’t seem to have any answers for me and google is not my friend today.


Anyone have any insight on PO Riverside?
I have the same question as Tara. There is lots of conflicting information on the internet as to whether or not PO Riverside is included.
Is it best to change reservation now to other resort or wait for announcement and switch then if necessary?


On a number of different posts you mention that Port Orleans FRENCH QUARTER is not generally included in the Free Dining Promotions. What is your opinion as to the likelihood of RIVERSIDE getting the promo, or do you include both resorts in the generally excluded comment? Wondering if we need to switch our reservations??

Tammi Sulejmani

Will the reservations system allow you to book 2 restaurants at the same time? I’m debating between 2 spots for the same day but want to wait until closer to the date to decide?


Hi! I’m a Disney VISA holder with a mid-Sept resort res and a heart set on free dining. IF they offer it this year, how will I receive notification from VISA for the early booking days? Thanks!


I understand that making two reservations will be beneficial for some but what about everyone else? Will it not make it harder to get those hard to get reservations for the rest of us? Not trying to seem harsh but I do not know that I could hold two reservations knowing there are others who might not get one.


I’ve thought about this too. But the way I see it, dropping those reservations last minute might be a Godsend for those people who decided to take an impromptu trip and couldn’t get any decent ADRs.


I agree with Tracy. With dining reservations being harder and harder to book, I would feel too guilty for booking up spaces that someone else who is trying just as hard to plan as I am could get. As much as I like to plan (and over plan 😉 ) my Disney trips, I just feel like all of us planners should be considerate to the others. My friend waited ONE DAY after the first day she could book character meals, and wasn’t able to get into ANY of the ones she wanted. Just think if EVERYONE trying to plan… Read more »


Do you have any idea what dates tend to be blacked out? We’re planning to go down Jersey week, but I’ve heard it gets blacked out.


When does Disney typically announce the promotion?

Christopher Williams

Check out Shannon’s earlier post link below. Unfortunately, it is different every year, but this may give you some idea of the earliest, and latest times they announce free dining

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