Disney FREE Dining Plan A Quick Guide

Disney FREE Dining Plan A Quick Guide

Like everyone else, we wait for the Disney Free Dining Plan Offer every year! The first round of Free Dining Dates for 2020 have passed! Luckily Free Dining may release again later this year! Check out the dates and deals plus everything you need to know about how Free Dining Plan Offer works.

People Wait for Free Disney 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. See, 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. 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. Its Disney, they do what they want.

Ok, so what is the Free Disney Dining Plan?

The Disney Dining Plan can always be purchased with any Walt Disney World vacation through the Magic Your Way package. It breaks up into three 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 its 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?

  • 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 sit down 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.

Note the Disney Dining Plan is not accepted at all Disney Restaurants. Check out the 2020 Disney Dining Plan List of Approved Restaurants. 

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.

The dining plan changes every year so keep an eye on the Disney Dining Plans page to be in the know. The plan has changed slightly since previous years as you used to get dessert with the quick service meal too and now you don’t but rather another snack. I think I like this better because it gives you a little more flexibility with your credits, however it is important to note that if you’re only getting the Quick Service Dining Plan, you don’t get dessert with any of the meals. You can use a snack credit for dessert on eligible items, but it doesn’t automatically come with the meal like it used to. 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 in March. Everyone can book ADRs 6 months ahead of time, but for those staying on WDW 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 or without trips yet planned. 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 promo plan to your package. 

Book Your Trip to Disney Regardless of Promotions OR…

 If you are working with a travel agent, they will take care of this for you, so that is a huge perk of working with one. And I can tell you, if you choose to go this route, its a HUGE perk.

Why? Well a couple years ago, Disney decided to be slightly deceptive and kind of 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. I texted my aunt, who had already had hotel reservations and she was able to get through in about 20 minutes. My sister, on the other hand ended up waiting on hold for 2-3 hours. If you have a good travel agent, they will take care of the calling for you and you don’t have to worry about being stuck on hold.

best restaurants at walt disney world sanaa resort restaurants

…Wait Until a Promotion is Offered.

Ok so what’s the other way? Wait until Disney releases free dining and book your trip then. Remember that story I just told you? That day, the Disney site CRASHED. I mean like, no one could access it. AT ALL. It was really odd because I woke up at 6 am for work, got on my phone, checked special offers and there was the promo. So I booked our trip and went to work without a single worry in my mind. Then when I went on Facebook, ummmmm, yea people were pretty mad. I mean like swearing at Disney on Facebook kind of mad. Apparently, as people started waking up and realizing free dining had been released at Walt Disney World, everyone tried to access the site all at once. So that is a risk you take if you choose to wait.

Another risk you take by waiting is that there are only a select number of rooms and select resorts available 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 budget ( who isn’t?), traveling with family, or a large party. And it’s FREE. We obviously recommend just having your trip planned prior to release of the promo, but you can do it either way. Keep in mind, Disney is never obligated to release a discount or promotion, which means its always possible that they will not release free dining at all. From what we have seen so far, it looks like they will, but nothing is 100% certain until the discount is announced.

disney world polynesian resort

Is The Free Disney Dining Plan Worth It?

Well its 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 MYW 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 if you prefer the cheaper resorts, then the Free Disney Dining Plan would benefit your family.

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 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 that are usually available at that time, like room discounts or ticket discounts. Since its part of the Magic Your Way Package, you also can’t really use your Annual Passes (since tickets are part of MYW) and 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, but you can upgrade to the Plus Dining plan for an additional cost. All Moderates and Value Resorts also only offer Quick Service Disney Dining, which means you no longer get the table service meal for free when getting the free dining plan. 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 table service dining plan instead.
  • Generally, there is a minimum stay required.
    • Although we have booked a shorter stay than it states and have still received the promo. Just know that if you’re only going for a long weekend, most likely you won’t be able to get free dining. Sorry Charlie.

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. With Free Dining, lots of snack credits and the deadline to use everything up, you will feel like you’re wasting money if anything goes unused. 
  • If you want to maximize your “free food 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! 

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, the 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. The 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 savings. But if you normally wouldn’t spend that much on food in a day, then the room discount may actually end up being a better deal. Per our Disney 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 think the Disney Dining Plan is awesome. Especially, if you use your credits wisely. And we think its even more awesome when its free. Just keep in mind its 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 once 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

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