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 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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Tuesday 11th of July 2017
Can you have two different levels of dinding plan in one family?
Thursday 30th of March 2017
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!
Monday 14th of November 2016
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?
Friday 24th of April 2015
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, I'm worried that because of the recent renovations, and addition of the Murphy bed to accommodate the fifth person, it may be excluded too. Any comments or ideas about this?
Friday 24th of April 2015
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.