Disney World Free Dining: Everything You Need To Know!

on April 18, 2018

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The Disney World Free Dining offer is by far the most popular promotion of the year. It is pretty clear why… FREE FOOD at Disney? Ummm, yes please!

In this post, I’ll answer the most common questions I get asked (e.g. Is it always the best deal? How much can I save?) and share everything you need to know about Free Dining in this post.

A SECOND round of 2019 Free Dining packages were released 7/16/19… get all of the details on 2019 Disney World Free Dining here!

What Is Disney Free Dining?

Flame Tree Barbecue, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

First, let’s look at some basic details of how the free dining offer works.

Each year since 2009 Disney World has released a “Free Dining” package offer for select travel dates. Here are the dates for 2019 (you must check-in on one of these dates and book by February 10th, 2019):

  •  July 5 through September 30th, 2019

For this offer, guests pay the regular, non-discounted rate for their hotel stay and park tickets, but get one of the Disney Dining Plans at no additional cost.

The free dining deal requires booking a minimum four-night stay and purchasing a minimum four-day “Park Hopper” tickets for everyone in your travel party.

Not all Disney resorts are included in the free dining offer. The following resorts are excluded: campsites, Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, and three-bedroom villas.

Though it isn’t mentioned in the offer, I could NOT find any availability at All-Star Movies, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside for free dining, either.

When Is Free Dining Offered?

The dates during which free dining is offered change each and every year. Disney uses this promotion to fill its resorts during off-peak travel times, so these dates inevitably change.

Get the details on 2019 Free Dining dates here. 

If you book a stay at one of Disney’s Value OR Moderate resorts you’ll get the Quick Service Dining plan for free. If you book a stay at a Deluxe resort, you’ll get the standard Disney Dining Plan for free.

If you aren’t familiar with the different dining plans and their features, check out this post all about the plans. You can upgrade from the Quick Service plan to the Disney Dining Plan by paying the difference between the plans.

Can you upgrade the free Disney Dining Plan?

YEs, you can definitely upgrade a dining plan you get for free as part of the Disney Free Dining offer. 

If you get the Quick Service plan with your package and want the standard Disney Dining Plan, you will just pay the difference between the two plans. 

For 2019 the difference between the plans is $23.29 per night for adults and $4.20 per night for children. 

You could also upgrade from the Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe Plan and pay the difference. 

How can I book a Free Dining Package?


You can only book a Disney World Free Dining package with a Disney authorized travel agent or directly through Disney. I strongly recommend using a travel agent who specializes in Disney travel to help you with booking any Disney package!

I personally recommend Destinations in Florida because their agents are the most experienced you will find to help planning your Disney vacation. It won’t cost you anything extra, and you’ll have someone to handle all of the complicated details (trust me, there are A LOT), so you can just sit back and dream of your upcoming trip.

So those are the basics of how Free Dining works. Next, I’ll break down who stands to benefit most from the free dining package and who might save more with a different type of discount.

What Disney Resorts Are Excluded From Free Dining?

This changes every year, but in 2019 exclusions from the Disney Free Dining offer included:

  • Little Mermaid Rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
  • The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
  • Cabins at Wilderness Resort
  • Bungalows at Polynesian Resort
  • All Three-Bedroom Villas at any Disney World Resort

These are the most heavily booked resorts (at least in 2019) so that is generally why they are excluded from Free Dining.

Is Disney World Free Dining The Best Deal?

Sanna, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village

The short answer to the question “Is Free Dining the best deal?” is not always. Whether or not Free Dining works out to be the best deal for your travel party depends on several factors.

First, you’ll get a dining plan at no additional cost for every person in your travel party, which means you’ll save more when there are more people in your room. A family of four will save MUCH more than a solo traveler with the free dining offer.

Next, where you stay will greatly impact whether or not Free Dining is the best deal for you.

Generally, you’ll save the most from Free Dining at Disney’s Value or Moderate resorts. If you want to stay in a Deluxe resort, you’ll almost always save more with a “room-only” discount. To get an idea of what the regular or “rack” rates are at Disney’s resorts, check out this excellent resource from MouseSavers.com.

Disney regularly offers discounts of 10 – 35% off room-only reservations, or those that don’t include park tickets or a dining plan. The best discounts are for the Deluxe resorts, with savings commonly in the 25-35% off range.

It is possible to put together your own “package” by purchasing a room-only reservation then adding the tickets and meals separately. This will always be more work than purchasing a package deal, but the extra savings may end up being worth it to you.

Let’s look at how much you can expect to save with a Free Dining package next!

How Much Can You Expect to Save?

California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Now let’s crunch some numbers to see how much you can actually expect to save. Don’t worry, I’ll do the heavy lifting (I was a middle school math teacher in the recent past!)

Here is a chart showing the cost of the three different dining plans if you were to purchase them out of pocket. It is helpful to know the cost of the plans when figuring your potential savings with Free Dining.

Next, I’ll give some examples for a five-night stay during the last week of November.

Disney’s Pop Century Resort

First let’s take a family of four, with kids ages 7 and 10, staying in a standard view room at Disney’s Pop Century resort (you can read my full review of the resort here).

They want to visit more than one park in a day so they’ve already planned on purchasing five-day Park Hopper tickets. They are interested in the Quick Service dining plan so they aren’t tied down to reservations.

If you purchase your park tickets separately (i.e. not as part of a package) I always suggest getting them at a discount through Undercover Tourist. I’ve included their discounted prices here for the room-only discount comparison, which in this case will save over $100 compared to Disney prices.

Since Disney hasn’t leased a room-only discount for these travel dates yet, I’ll use a 15% discount since that’s often what you can expect to save at the value resorts, and I’ve included the hefty 12.5% resort tax.

Here’s a chart comparing the cost of the trip with a room-only discount versus one with a Free Dining package.

The trip costs roughly $3,200 with the room-only discount and discounted tickets and roughly $2,600 with the Disney World Free Dining Package. That’s savings of $600 for the five-night trip, or almost a 20% discount.

While it isn’t outrageous savings, most folks would like to keep $600 in their pockets, I’m sure. So in this situation, Free Dining looks like the best deal.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Now let’s look at a different situation. A couple wants to stay in a Savannah view room at Animal Kingdom Lodge the same week to visit the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.

They want the standard Disney Dining Plan for all of the those amazing snack credits and to eat at a table service restaurant most nights. Plus, they don’t really need a Park Hopper ticket and only want to spend three days in the parks (remember that you are required to add the Park Hopper option to get a Free Dining package).

Here’s a comparison of what they’d pay with a 30% room-only discount versus a Free Dining package.

In this scenario, they’d save $330 by NOT booking free dining and going with the room-only discount instead. So clearly Free Dining isn’t always the best choice!

Should You Get a Disney World Free Dining Package?

As you can see, it is complicated to determine whether or not a Free Dining package is the best choice for you.

In general, the best value from Disney World Free Dining comes from parties of three or more staying in a Value or Moderate resort. But even then there are other considerations, such as whether or not you’d really use the required Park Hopper tickets.

Because deciding if Free Dining is the best fit is pretty complicated, I strongly suggest working with a travel agency that specializes in Disney travel.

I recommend Destinations in Florida, an award-winning agency with many Authorized Disney Vacation Planners who can help you decide if Free Dining is a good fit. Their agents can crunch all of the numbers for you, and find the resort and offer that is the best fit at the best price!

A Few Other Thoughts

Here are a few other things you should know about Free Dining:

  • Packages are bound by different cancellation policies than room-only reservations. You can change or cancel a room-only reservation up to five days before check-in without any penalty. You can cancel or change a package reservation with no penalty up until 30 days before check-in, making them less flexible for last minute changes.
  • Free Dining is a wildly popular promotion. You will need to book as soon as it is released because availability is limited. You only need a $200 deposit to book and it is refundable up to 30 days before your trip, so it makes sense to book even if you aren’t 100% sure you’ll go. The agents at Destinations in Florida can help you through this whole process.
  • The best way to stay up-to-date on offers like this is to join The Budget Mouse free private Facebook group or subscribe to my weekly email newsletter.

I hope this post answered all of your burning questions about Disney World Free Dining. I’ve taken advantage of this offer MANY times and love using the Dining Plan at Disney World.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment below!

Everything you need to know about the popular Free Dining Plan offer at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld #freedining #disneydining


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  • Mirna

    I’m South African. We’re a family of 5 going to WDW from 12 – 17 December 2019 (which falls in the period for free dining). We’re booked at All-Star Sports resort and have 5 days park tickets. Everything already booked and paid for via a travel agent in Cape Town. Can we make use of the free dining plan?

    July 17, 2019 at 9:39 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Mirna! I checked with my travel agent partner Siera and she said that the US Free Dining may not be available to you there in South Africa. She said though to check with your travel agent to be sure – there might be some similar offer.

      July 19, 2019 at 6:51 am Reply
  • Elizabeth

    My mom got the free dining plan for September at a moderate resort. I am coming down for part of the stay (Saturday to Monday), while she stays out the minimum required stay.

    I can’t add myself to the hotel reservation, correct? I purchased tickets separately and we will be sharing her free dining. If I add, it will mess up her reservation, right? Thank you!

    July 22, 2019 at 11:06 am Reply
    • Leah

      Yes, this is a bit tricky. If you were to be added to her reservation, you’s also have to pay for a park ticket with the package. Since you already have a ticket you probably don’t want that. The issue with her NOT adding you to the reservation is that you won’t be able to use Magical Express, or Extra Magic Hours, or get Fastpasses 60 days in advance. Also if the dining plan is the Quick Service plan it will work totally fine for you to share her credits. But if she has upgraded to the standard Disney Dining Plan, I have heard of trouble sharing table service credits. If you have other questions or want more advice just respond to this comment or email me leah @ thebudgetmouse.com

      July 22, 2019 at 12:05 pm Reply
      • Elizabeth

        Thank you so much! That’s exactly what we thought. It’s unfortunate that I couldn’t stay the entire time, but I just don’t have enough time off from work.

        The FastPasses are the only thing I’m bummed about– it’s going to be difficult for us to link ours up.

        What kind of trouble sharing the dining plan? We have reservations for the Snow White dinner at Wilderness Lodge.

        July 22, 2019 at 12:10 pm Reply
        • Leah

          I personally haven’t tried to use a table service credit for someone not on my reservation in a few years. I have heard secondhand reports (not from anyone directly) of people not being allowed to use a table service credit for someone not on their reservation. I have NO idea if this is actually true and is happening. It could be just a rumor to deter people from trying to share table service credits with those not on the plan. Disney used to have language on the Dining Plan site that credits could be used for anyone, but that language is no longer there. Just so you know going in. I HIGHLY doubt a cast member will not allow your mom to use her credit for your meal.

          July 22, 2019 at 12:24 pm Reply
          • Elizabeth

            Thank you for your detailed replies! Really appreciate it. I was just checking out a thread on DISboards, and I see the reports about issues at 50s Prime Time and Hollywood & Vine– nearly of which we are going to. So, we should be fine! (Plus, my mom is pretty persuasive if there is any trouble!)

            We are just doing two table service meals sharing credits– my mom is shy about eating at a table service restaurant alone, haha. We also have Afternoon Tea at GF (no dining plan) and then eating at Food and Wine with snack credits. Thanks again!

            July 22, 2019 at 12:38 pm
  • Gardelly

    Hi, my name is Gardelly, I’m peruvian and I have some questions about free disney dining plan. I think US, Canadian and UK residents can only book this type of dining plan. The problem is that I’m a peruvian resident so I can’t book this. My question is, if a friend of mine is a US resident and he books everything (tickets + hotel) with his credit card but he is not going to be in Disney with me, he is only booking for me and my husband. Can he book the free dining for us or is it necessary being with him to have the free dining? I will appreciate your answer:)

    September 17, 2019 at 1:26 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Gardelly! Technically he answer is no. However, it appears that your friend could make the reservation with his My Disney Experience account in your names. The Magic Bands would be mailed to his US address and then he would have to mail them on to you. If you do online check-in you could go straight to your room and not have to stop at the front desk to show ID. It could work or you could run into issues that I am not able to anticipate. Free Dining is only a fantastic deal in certain instances (as I explain in this post) and otherwise you could likely get a similar price by making your own package of a discounted room, discounted tickets, and planning your dining carefully. I personally wouldn’t risk having any issues on vacation but that’s just me!

      September 18, 2019 at 7:29 am Reply

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