Digging Into Free Dining, Is It The Best Deal?

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9Free dining has been announced! Let’s jump right in because there is a lot of information and I truly think it will be insightful and helpful as you plan and book your next Disney trip!

guests can enjoy a FREE dining plan when purchasing a non-discounted 5-night/6-day vacation package that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and a ticket with Park Hopper option. Book through January 16, 2020 for arrivals most nights

76Guests have through January 16, 2020 to book a trip during the following dates to take advantage of this offer:

  • June 27 – 28
  • July 5 – 7
  • August 29 – September 8

The dates released thus far for 2020 Free Disney Dining are incredibly limited. There is a good chance that more dates will be released as there are usually more extensive dates available than this in previous years.

40Free dining is not available at all resorts and for the resorts that are a part of this year’s discount, it is not available for all rooms. The resorts participating are:

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Disney’s Riviera Resort
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

98A specific allotment of the designated rooms at the above resorts are available for this discount.

But is this deal really worth the hype? Travel agents and social media pages go ballistic whenever this deal is announced. We are going to examine free dining and also discuss other discount plans that are available to see which discount truly gives you the best savings.

28What exactly is free dining? Let’s break it down.

Guests who book at a Value or Moderate resort will receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan for free with the discount. Guests who wish to upgrade to Regular or Deluxe Dining can pay the difference between the Quick-Service Dining Plan and the upgraded plan. Guests who book at Deluxe Resorts will receive the Regular Disney Dining Plan for free.

25For 2020, the upgrade cost to go from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the standard Disney Dining Plan for Free Dining is $23.01 per adult and $4.51 per child per night. The upgrade cost from the standard Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $40.99 per adult and $16.99 per child per night. To upgrade from the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe one, add the two upgrade costs together.

With this particular offer, Walt Disney World guests booking vacation packages with non-discounted resort hotels and park tickets receive the Disney Dining Plan for each member of their party for no additional charge. It is touted as one of the “steals” of the year, but is it really that great? Our research shows that it is a lot more hype than deal.

3The Disney Dining Plan, for the last couple of years and continuing in 2020, includes alcoholic and specialty drinks! If you enjoy beer, wine, or cocktails, this adds a ton of potential value to the Disney Dining Plan.

The Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is always based upon your arrival date. If Free Dining runs June 27 to June 28 and you arrive on June 28 and stay until July 5, you are eligible for Free Dining–even though it’s blocked out for July 5, 2020 arrivals. (You didn’t arrive on July 5 in that scenario–you arrived in June.)

45BUT, if the deal is offered those same dates and you arrive on June 26 and stay for the same dates, even though are stay falls within the dates of the deal, you are not eligible for Free Dining.

Don’t you worry though, there is a way around this. Because arrival dates are the key, guests can book a split stay, with one of the arrival nights a valid date for free dining.

48Here are the other requirements to book your free dining trip:

Guests must purchase a five night six day Magic Your Way ticket which includes a park-hopper ticket for a minimum of four days of that.

Booked stays must be a minimum of four nights and cannot exceed a maximum of fourteen nights.

99You’ve chosen free dining! What now?

What is included in the different Disney Dining Plans? Great question! The two types of Disney Dining Plan’s available for this deal are the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan which includes two quick-service meals and two snacks per person, per night of your stay. Each person also receives a refillable drink mug that can be used at any quick-service dining location throughout Walt Disney World.

3For the Regular Disney Dining Plan: Guests receive one quick-service meal, one table-service meal and two snacks per person, per night of your stay. Table-service meals include character dining, signature dining and dinner shows. Each person also receives a refillable drink mug.

Something new for all dining plans starting back in 2018, all guests 21 and over are able to receive beer, wine or specialty cocktails as part of their dining plan at table-service restaurants that serve such fare.

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Also, important to note, if you book free dining, you are not able to combine that with any other offers at Walt Disney World. So, you cannot take advantage of room discounts or any other discount offer. This caveat is where “is this the best deal?” comes into play for most groups.

There are always other offers, discounted room offers, passholder offers etc. Typically those offers are equal to, if not better than the free dining offer. Before booking your free dining vacation, head over to the Disney website and plug in the options for your trip to be sure that free dining is the best deal for your crew.

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Now to the crux of this post; is free dining at Walt Disney World really worth it? The short answer is that it depends on the size of your party and where you stay.

For a party of three or more paying guests, so over the age of three, who are staying in the same room or suite, the free dining is a better deal than a room-only offer. The more people you have in a room, the better the free dining offer is for your party.

82Don’t take the word “free” at face value. Nothing is free, especially in Disney. Work with a travel agent or work with a Disney castmember through the Disney website to book the best deal for your group. Don’t get caught up in the hype and do the research because Disney deals really can be great but oftentimes, there is more than one offer that can be considered during free dining and that lesser advertised offer can really be the way to go to save you the most money on your vacation.

This isn’t the first time, we’ve covered Disney’s free dining. Check out our post where we did an in depth comparison and broke down the deals HERE!

Thank you for stopping by and for the love of the mouse, never forget, that it all started with a mouse.

 

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