Walt Disney World Free Dining Dates and Tips
Every year since 2009, Walt Disney World has offered a “Free Dining” package for specific dates in the fall and early winter. It is always a very popular promotion that my family has taken advantage of in the past and plan to do again in the future (although our next experience with it will be a little different; more about that later.)
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What are Disney World’s Free Dining Dates for 2019?
Unfortunately, the dates to book for free dining in 2019 have already passed. There seems to be a semi-likely chance that there will be another promo for later in the year, but who knows for sure?
Will there be free Disney dining in 2020?
According to Disney blogger Tom Bricker, 2020 free dining dates for UK residents have been released.
To be eligible for this promotion, you must:
- Be a resident of the European Union
- Book a full-price Walt Disney World resort and ticket package for a minimum of 5 nights
- Travel between January 1 and March 29, 2020, OR April 19 through October 3, 2020
- Book the free dining promo by July 2, 2019
If you’re interested in free dining in 2020 but, like me, are not a resident of the EU, don’t worry too much. The fact that free dining is being offered at in 2020 is a good sign that it will probably be offered to us American folks eventually.
Free Disney Dining Plan — Past Dates
We can’t predict the future, but sometimes looking at past trends can give us an idea what to expect. T
Here are the dates for free dining for the past several years, courtesy of The Mouse for Less:
Past Free Dining Booking Window Dates
These are not the dates of your vacation, but rather the dates when you could book the free dining promo.
- 2012: March 5 thru May 18
- 2013: May 9 thru July 31 and August 2 thru September 15
- 2014: May 7 thru August 8
- 2015: April 27 thru July 10
- 2016: April 25 thru July 8
- 2017: April 24 thru July 7
- 2018: April 24 thru July 6
- 2019: January 2 thru February 10 (and maybe another to come??)
Past Free Dining Travel Dates
Remember, these are for the day you arrive.
For example: In 2019, the dates are from July 5 thru September 30.
If you booked a 2019 vacation from September 30 thru October 7, you could have gotten the free dining promo.
But if you had booked from July 4 thru July 11, you would not have been eligible for the promo, even though most of your stay was during those dates.
- 2012: August 12 thru September 29 and September 30 thru December 20 for select arrivals
- 2013: September 2 thru September 25 and select dates from September 29 thru December 22
- 2014: August 31 thru December 23
- 2015: August 28 thru October 2; October 25 thru October 31; November 8 thru November 19; and December 15 thru December 21
- 2016: August 23 thru October 1; November 15 thru November 21, November 26 thru November 28; and December 10 thru December 21
- 2017: August 21 thru September 30; November 14 thru November 20; November 25 thru November 27; and December 8 thru December 23
- 2018: August 20 thru September 29; November 24 thru November 27; November 25 thru November 27; and December 7 thru December 23
- 2019: July 15 thru September 30(and more to come in the future??)
Is the Free Disney Dining Plan “Worth It”?
The short answer is that it depends on your personal situation and priorities.
First let me say that our family is very pro-Free Dining. We have done it twice and totally loved it. Part of the appeal for us — a big part of it, actually — is emotional rather than logical. It feels like we’re being showered with riches and treated like royalty. (“We get dessert, too? And we don’t have to pay for any of it?”)
My husband, Rob, especially loves the fact that we don’t have to act financially responsible during the actual trip. We just eat what we want, when we want it. We don’t have to shudder at the thought of our vacation bill steadily climbing with each cream cheese pretzel we purchase — or worse, ruin half our vacation debating things like whether it’s in our budget to get yet another Dole Whip.
But while Free Dining is a great deal, it’s not quite the amazing, “Wow, constant free food!” situation that we like to pretend it is.
If you are really on a tight budget and concerned about saving money, then ironically, the Free Dining Promo might not be your best option.
How is that possible?
Well, for one thing, if you choose the Free Dining Promo, you are almost always forfeiting some sort of room discount promo that you could have opted for instead.
So now you might be wondering: What’s the better deal, the room discount or Free Dining?
Ha ha ha … you didn’t actually think there would be a simple answer to that, did you?
It depends on several different factors, like where you’re staying and how many people are in your party. You’d have to crunch some numbers and do calculations for different scenarios to really know for sure.
Fortunately, you don’t need to do that (and more importantly, I don’t need to do that) because someone else has already done it for us.
Leah Althiser at The Frugal South has some helpful charts here that compares the prices in different scenarios.
But there’s a third option that might even be better: Not getting Free Dining or the room discount.
After all, think of all the other potential ways to save money that you’re forfeiting by getting Free Dining.
What if, instead, you stayed off-site, bought discounted Base tickets from from Undercover Tourist, ate most of your meals off-site, and brought your own snacks into the parks?
True, that would be a different type of vacation than staying at a Walt Disney resort and getting the Free Dining Plan. But it would probably be a cheaper vacation than it would be if you opted for “Free Dining.”
Just something to think about it.
I hope this post answered all of your questions about Free Dining at Walt Disney World. Like I said, we’ve taken advantage of it multiple times and love it.
If you have any questions, or have your own experience to share, just leave a comment below!