The Disney FREE Dining Plan A Quick Guide

The Disney FREE Dining Plan A Quick Guide

Like everyone else, we wait for the Disney Free Dining Plan Offer every year! The promise of getting free food for our ENTIRE Disney Vacation is always a treat. Literally. It’s a Disney Pro Tip move that can save you thousands of dollars depending on your family size and really allows you to enjoy the experience of a Disney Vacation. Here’s everything to know about the Disney Free Dining Plan in 2021.

Disney Free Dining 2021

When are the Release Dates for the Disney Free Dining Plan Promotion?

Generally, Walt Disney World releases the Free Dining Plan at the beginning of the year- as soon as January hits. The second round usually happens in April. And then if we’re lucky they release in the fall. Be sure to check out the Disney Free Dining Plan Release Dates to see if they happen during your vacation?

People Wait for Disney Free Dining? Yep.

We see it every year. The rumor mill gets going and before you know it, there is chatter in every direction regarding the Disney Free Dining Plan promotion. Every spring, April typically, you will see full posts published with the sole purpose of predicting whether or not Walt Disney World will even run the Free Disney Dining promo. Posts are published with history regarding when in the past the Free Disney Dining has been released and what dates they typically offer the free dining plan. BUT, it’s never guaranteed. The fact that it continues to be offered means Disney wants people IN THE PARKS and free dining is how they get them there. 

If you’re new to the Disney bubble, or are simply curious about the free dining plan at Walt Disney World, this post is here to clear up some of the confusion.

Food at Pandora World of Avatar

What’s the big deal with the Disney Free Dining Plan?

UMMMM FREE FOOD! And even better, free DISNEY food, which is phenomenal. That’s what! The Free Disney Dining plan promo is generally offered during slower times of the year for Walt Disney World when they need to fill rooms. We began taking advantage of this offer years ago when you really could call it “low attendance”. Nowadays, that’s not really a thing as we’ve noticed crowds increasing every year since. And Disney doesn’t really have an off-season. Its usually offered in September/October and sometimes selected dates in November and December. It changes every year and sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why some dates are blacked out and others are not. It’s Disney, they do what they want.

What is the Disney FREE Dining Plan?

It’s true, the Disney Dining Plan can always be purchased with any Walt Disney World vacation through the Magic Your Way package. It breaks up into four Disney Dining Plan tiers based on how much food you plan to get per person per day and usually costs upwards of a thousand dollars per person. But if you’re lucky enough to travel to Walt Disney World during the Free Dining promotion, then it’s FREE! Depending on how big your party is and how many days you’re staying, you could potentially save big bucks by getting your food for free. 

What Does the Disney Dining Plan Include?

It’s important to know that the Disney Dining Plan comes in a range of prices depending on which plan you choose.  Disney’s FREE Dining promotion is usually offered based on your Disney Resort choice! At its most basic you can usually get the Quick Service Dining Plan for Free. And if you find you want a higher plan you can usually upgrade to a more complex dining plan for a small fee, no matter which Disney Resort you’re staying at. 

  • The Quick Service Dining Plan
    •  refillable drink mug for use at the resorts
    • 2 quick service meals
    • 2 snacks per person. 
  • The Disney Dining Plus Plan
    • refillable drink mug for use at the resorts
    • 1 quick service meal
    • 1 table service meal which includes dessert
    • 2 snacks per person. 
  • The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan
    • refillable drink mug for use at the resorts
    • 3 table service meals
    • 2 snacks
  • Disney Dining Plan Plus *NEW*
    • refillable drink mug for use at the resorts
    • 2 Meals – Any combination of Table-Service and Quick-Service (per night of stay)
    • 2 Snacks/Nonalcoholic Drinks (per night of stay)

Honestly, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is A LOT of food. But if you have a big appetite or are just used to larger portion sizes, then this may be a good deal for you. Keep in mind that your time at table service restaurants is usually at least an hour. So consider that when planning your days in the parks.

Keep in mind, these meals are per person per night that you are staying on property. This is important because its not based on how many days you are there, but rather how many nights.  And you don’t have to use that allotment every day. Instead you get a total number of meals and you use them according to your liking.

RVshare RV rental at Disney

What Restaurants are Included in the Disney Dining Plan?

Note the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted at all Disney Restaurants. Check out the Disney Dining Plan List of Approved Restaurants.  The dining plan changes every year so keep an eye on the Disney Dining Plans page to be in the know. Also, remember that you can use Disney Snack Credits for dessert on eligible items. And some alcoholic beverages are now also included as part of the meal options.

Tea at Garden View Tea Room Disney's Grand Floridian

How do I get The Disney Dining Plan For FREE?

First, if you’re trying to snag some of the best restaurants with advanced dining reservations, you will need to have your trip booked at least 6 months ahead of time. So, if you’re anticipating that Free Disney Dining will be offered for travel dates in September, then you will need to have a reservation well ahead of that. Check out the Disney Vacation Planning Timeline for your best Disney Planning strategy.  Everyone can book Advanced Dining Reservations (ADR) 6 months ahead of time.  But for those staying on Disney property, you get to book 6 months ahead of time from the beginning of your trip, which gives you a slight advantage over those not staying on WDW property. If you have your ADR’s booked and were lucky enough to plan 6 months out, then you can call and have them ADD the free Disney Dining Promo plan to your package. 

Why you Should Book Your Trip to Disney Regardless of Promotions

If you are working with a travel agent, they will take care of adding the Free Dining Plan for you, once it releases. This is a HUGE PERK of having a travel agent. Why? Well a couple of years ago, Disney decided to be slightly deceptive and caught everyone off guard by not releasing a Free Disney Dining Plan to Disney Visa cardholders first. Which is usually the norm for this promo. So basically, we all woke up and there was the promo with very little warning. And the website crashing every 5 seconds because everyone on the planet was trying to get it. 

best restaurants at walt disney world sanaa resort restaurants

Or You can Wait for the Disney FREE Dining Promo to be Released

Ok so what’s the other way? Wait until Disney releases free dining and book your trip then. However, you will risk not getting Free Dining at all if you choose this route. Because while the promo is offered, as soon as it’s released everyone books their vacation. Meaning there are less rooms and promo options available. Another risk you take by waiting is that there are only a select number of rooms and select resorts available.  This is standard when they offer a promo so you could miss out on your resort of choice and even miss out on the promo itself. Disney doesn’t release the number of rooms available for the promo, but rather leaves it to your imagination by stating “limited availability”.

What’s Our Recommendation regarding Free Disney Dining?

Disney Free Dining is a godsend if you’re up against a Disney Dining Budget ( who isn’t?). If you’re traveling with family, or a large party we find it almost necessary. And it’s FREE. We obviously recommend just having your trip planned prior to the release of the promo. But you can do it either way. Keep in mind, Disney is never obligated to release a discount or promotion. So you could be waiting a while if you’re hoping to take advantage of this promo each year. It’s always possible that they will not release free dining at all.

disney world polynesian resort

Is The Free Disney Dining Plan Worth It?

Well, it’s free! Of course! No, really we’re just kidding though. That’s not something we can really answer for you. Sad we know, but there are a lot of things to factor in. Keep in mind you can always ADD the dining plan to the Magic Your Way package, so if you see that the room discount is a better deal, just add the Disney Dining Plan to your package so you can still utilize it.

The rules change every year. So basically, it’s a mystery until Disney announces the dates and exclusions. Once the details of the promo are released, we recommend seeing what is best for your family. Depending on where you want to stay and how many people are staying in your room, you might be better off taking advantage of a room discount or a Disney Bounceback Offer.

ohana bread pudding dessert

Disney Free Dining Pros and Cons

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Not all Disney resorts are included. 
    • Usually, Art of Animation Little Mermaid Rooms are excluded, and sometimes All-Star Movies, Fort Wilderness Campground, Port Orleans Riverside, and really any other resort that they don’t need help filling.  So if you were really looking forward to staying in one of those exclusions, then Free Disney Dining is not for you.
  • You can’t use other discounts.
    • Here is where it gets tricky. So the food is free, right?! Well yes and no. It is free, but by taking advantage of that promo, you are excluded from using other discounts. Like room discounts or ticket discounts. Since its part of the Magic Your Way Package, you also can’t really use your Disney Annual Passes (since tickets are part of MYW) and you also can’t use DVC points in conjunction with free dining.
  • The Free Disney Dining plan that you receive depends on the tier of the resort you choose.
    • Value Resorts will always receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, which means you no longer get the table service meal for free when getting the free dining plan. But you can upgrade to the Plus Dining plan for an additional cost. This changes the value of the free dining discount, so plan accordingly. So be ready to upgrade and pay a small difference if you want a free table service meal added to your Free Disney Dining Plan.
  • Generally, there is a Minimum Stay required.
    • As with all promotions, there is usually a Disney Resort Stay minimum. Most of the time it is a 4-day/ 3-night minimum. So if you’re grabbing a long weekend at Disney World you may not qualify for the promo.

Disney Free Dining Tips

  • While free food is always worth it, there will be times when you realize most of your vacation is about eating. Yes, EATING. So the question becomes… did you go to Walt Disney World to spend your time eating all the food? With Free Dining, you get access to lots of food and lots of snack credits. All have deadlines to be used. For the snack credits especially, you will feel like you’re wasting money if anything goes unused. thankfully, many of the pre-packaged snacks at Disney gift shops can be purchased with snack credits if you find that you were unable to eat all the snacks and just need to bring some home. 
  • If you want to maximize your “Disney Snack Credits”, look for the more expensive snacks to use your credits on. This is especially helpful if you’re using Free Dining during an Epcot Festival. We’ve seen snacks as high as 8 dollars be included as an official snack. So that could save you some money! And get you free food you had planned on eating at the festival anyway!

Liberty Tree Tavern, Walt Disney World

How Much Does the Disney Dining Plan Actually Cost? ( when it isn’t Free)

For a price point reference, here’s the breakdown of cost per person on each plan.

  • Quick Service Dining Plan would usually cost you $20.18/per night for kids 3-9 and 46.34/night per adult 10 and older.
  • Disney Dining Plus Plan would normally cost 24.22/per night for kids 3-9 and 67.33/night per adult 10 and older.

This may sound like a huge saving, but if you normally wouldn’t spend that much on food in a day, then the room discount may be a better deal. Per our Disney Vacation on a Budget post, we figure you usually spend about 70 dollars per person per day. 

Generally, we love the Disney Dining Plan. It can help you stay within budget and allow you to try more expensive items that you may have ignored if you were paying outright. We also love that the difficult daily reminder of “staying on budget” is removed as a result of us not having to think about how much food costs. Just keep in mind it’s not always the best deal! If you want to get a head start picking the Disney restaurants, read the reviews. Grab our dining planner or printable Disney Vacation Planner in the shop to get all your planning in one place. 

 

We LOVE the Free Dining Plan at Disney, BUT... what if it means trying to change your vacation? What if you don't really love all those quick serve places? What if you realize you just don't eat that much and spent your whole vacation in a restaurant? Here's all the things to consider with Free Dining at Walt Disney World. #disneydiningplan #polkadotpixies #disneydining #disneytips #disneyonabudget #disneydiscounts


Related Posts

6 Ways to Avoid Disney Resort Parking Fees Right Now

6 Ways to Avoid Disney Resort Parking Fees Right Now

Walt Disney World has decided to start charging for Disney Resort Parking, for all guests at Walt Disney World Resorts. If you’re looking for ways to Avoid Disney Resort Parking Fees we have a few options you may not have considered. Here’s the breakdown of […]

New Snacks at Walt Disney World 2021

New Snacks at Walt Disney World 2021

Walt Disney World welcomes new snacks all year long! So we are here to help you see what’s new and where you can find it. Here are all the Best Snacks at Walt Disney World you can find in the parks for 2021. Consider this […]