Updated June 28, 2018.
Free Dining is an amazing deal (for some) in which a dining plan is received when booking a My Magic Plus vacation package. This package includes a resort reservation and tickets at full price with a free dining plan. A family of 2 adults and 2 children ages 3-9 would save $138.46 per night with the Quick Service Dining Plan, while a family of 2 adults and 2 children over the age of 9 would save $209.96 per night. You can see why this promotion is so popular!
This year a 5 night stay and a minimum of a 4 day Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus ticket per person is also required to book a free dining package.
One noteworthy addition to the package is that Dining Plans this year include an alcoholic or non-alcoholic specialty beverage at each meal.
When is it Offered?
Disney’s 2018 Free Dining promotion was released April 24.
This promotion is valid for arrivals on the following dates:
- August 20,2018 – September 29, 2018
- November 24, 2018 – November 27, 2018
- December 7, 2018 – December 23, 2018
Remember that you only need to arrive during these dates. As long as your arrival date is within the promotion dates, you will receive free dining throughout your trip (for up to 14 days).
Disney has been offering Free Dining for fall travel dates each year since 2006. It was initially offered to boost fall attendance. Fall attendance has risen significantly since this promotion began and the promotion has become more limited each year. Many guess that this promotion will stop being offered in the next few years.
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How Do I Get It?
Disney’s 2018 Free Dining offer is an extremely popular promotion and certain travel dates traditionally sells out on the first day. Be prepared to be on the phone for a few hours if you’re calling Walt Disney World Travel Company to book this package. Don’t want to wait that long? There are other options.
- In the past, Disney Visa cardholders were given early access to book free dining packages. Some years it happens, other years it doesn’t. This year Disney Visa card holders have the same booking window as everyone else. However, they are allowed to book free dining packages with an arrival date beginning August 2, 2018.
- Those using a travel agent are able to discuss their interest in the promotion and have their travel agent work on booking it for them. Travel agents typically only look to book the free dining promotion for those that have asked specifically for it. Benefits to using a travel agent to book this package are that they often know ahead of time when the packages will be released and will among the first to start booking them. In addition, they will be on the phone instead of you so you can sleep in! Travel agents receive compensation from Disney so your total package price is the same when booking through a travel agent.
- A trip can be booked ahead of time through Walt Disney World Travel company. Book your stay to fall during the anticipated free dining trip dates. It can then be modified to include free dining when the promotion begins. To have the best chance of modifying your reservation, follow the steps outlined below:
a. Book your package with all anticipated requirements (resort that is traditionally included, stay of 5 nights or more, Park Hopper tickets for at least 3 days).
Resorts included in 2018:
- All Star Music
- All Star Sports
- Art of Animation – Family Suites Only
- Pop Century
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness
- Caribbean Beach
- Coronado Springs
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Beach Club Resort
- BoardWalk Inn
- Grand Floridian
- Yacht Club
- Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House and Kidani Village
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Villas
- Old Key West
- Saratoga Springs
b. Wake up early on the morning when free dining is anticipated to be released. (It is often released very early, as early as 2 AM!)
c. Log into the My Disney Experience account and go to the ‘My Reservations and Tickets’ section. Once there, click the ‘Change Reservation’ link under the resort reservation. A ‘Reservation Details’ page will come up where there is the option to select ‘Change’. Click ‘Change’ to search for the free dining offer. If your trip begins before the free dining travel dates, you will need to call Walt Disney World Travel Company to change your travel dates.
It is important to note that as long as you arrive during the free dining promotion dates, you get free dining throughout your stay, even if your vacation extends beyond the promotion dates. If you begin your trip before the promotion starts and your trip extends into the promotion dates, you are not eligible for free dining. If this happens to you, you are able to book a split stay. This means that you will have two reservations; one for the beginning of your trip and another for when the free dining promotion starts. You could stay at the same resort or two different resorts. In this case, you will only receive free dining for the second portion of your trip.
Also, you must book your trip by August 1, 2018 to receive free dining.
* Even when using these methods there is no guarantee that you will be able to book Disney’s 2018 free dining package. It seems to become more limited each year and is extremely popular. If you don’t get it right away, there is still hope. Keep trying. Cancellations happen. Travel agents will also hold packages for their clients and will release them 72 hours later if their clients fail to put down a deposit.
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Will It Save Me Money?
It is wise to crunch the numbers before Disney’s 2018 free dining promotion begins to see if it offers you the best value. Free dining does come with restrictions. There are a limited number of rooms and some resorts are excluded. It can’t be combined with any other offer, meaning you will pay full price for your room. In recent years Disney has been requiring the purchase of Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus tickets when booking this package. The combination of these restrictions means that a room only discount or other offer may save you more money than a free dining package.
In 2018 those staying at a Value or Moderate resort will receive the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan while those staying at a Deluxe Resort will receive the Disney Dining Plan. You are able to pay the difference and upgrade to another dining plan. If you’re staying in a Value or Moderate resort it will cost $23/night per guest ages 10 and up and $4.01/night per guest ages 3-9 to upgrade to the Dining Plan or $63.76/night per guest ages 10 and up and $18.25/night per guest ages 3-9 to upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan. If you’re staying in a Deluxe resort it will cost $40.76/night per guest ages 10 and up and $14.24/night per guest ages 3-9 to upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan.
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Disney’s 2018 free dining offer saves a lot of money for some and actually costs more for others. It is important to do the math to see if it is cost effective for you. Sometimes a room discount and basic tickets are a better deal. If you’re only getting Park Hopper tickets to get free dining, you may end up paying more for free dining due to the more expensive tickets and full priced room.
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Are you planning to book a free dining package?