Disney World’s ever-popular Free Dining promotion has returned for 2014. When you book a non-discounted Disney World Vacation Package that start in certain weeks from August to December, a Disney Dining Plan will be included at no additional charge. Read on for the dates and details for 2014 Free Dining at WDW, how to take advantage of this promotion, as well as my thoughts on whether this promotion is a good deal or not.
Free Dining Dates – 2014
The free dining promotion is available for Disney Vacation packages for vacations starting on the following dates:
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- August 31 to October 3, 2014
- October 26 to November 1, 2014
- November 9 to November 20, 2014
- December 12 to December 23, 2014
Please note that the just arrival date just has to land within one of those windows. For example, a vacation starting October 28 through November 3rd would qualify for this package, even though November 2nd and 3rd are not listed. So, the end date can be after the window, but the start date cannot be before the window.
This promotion is valid for a minimum of 3 night hotel stay / 2-day ticket packages. Even though Disney always advertises the package as 6 nights / 7 day tickets, you don’t have to stay that long or buy that much to get the deal. You can also vary the nights and the days on the tickets (i.e. get a 8 night hotel stay with a 2-day ticket) and still qualify for the package. This works well for people who already have bought tickets.
This offer is available now through August 8th, 2014. There is a limited amount of rooms with this deal available, so the early bird certainly does get the complimentary worm in this case. Check Disney’s official website for availability.
What you get with Free Dining.
Value Resorts include the Quick-Service Dining plan for the length of the stay. This includes 2 counter service meals and one snack per person per day at most counter service locations throughout the parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney. Each meal includes an entree, dessert, and beverage. Additionally, each person receives a refillable mug, which provides free refills of soda and coffee at the resorts. It’s also a neat souvenir!
Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts get the Disney Dining Plan. This plan includes one Table-Service meal, one Counter Service meal, and one snack per person per day, as well as the refillable mug. Gratuity is not included on most table service meals, and some table service locations cost two credits for one meal.
Both dining plans do not include alcohol.
There is flexibility in the plan. You can use more than two meals and one snack per day, and you also don’t have to use any of your credits in a day. For example, for a party of two with a three night reservation, they would receive a total of 6 dining credits (two per person per day). They could use all six on the first day, all six on the last day, or space it out as they like. The meal credits expire at midnight on the check-out date.
Is it a good deal?
Honestly, it depends. Last year, I got apackage for myself and my girlfriend for 8 nights at the All Star Music Resort that included free Quick-Service dining. Since we were really focused on spending as much time in the parks as possible, we didn’t mind staying at a Value Resort, and we got all the included amenities of staying at a Disney resort like travel to and from the airport, ample transportation to the parks, and a wake-up call from Mickey Mouse.
While two meals per day didn’t sound like much, we ended up feasting the whole week. Because we could ignore the listed prices and dessert was included, we found ourselves ordering much more than we would normally order. This was sometimes a good thing (the Lobster Roll at Boardwalk Bakery is a tad pricey, but not on this plan. This was sometimes a bad thing, as it was sometimes tempting to order the most expensive thing on the menu (which isn’t always the best item), and we always felt stuffed. But overall, we were really pleased with the meals we were able to get, and having the Quick-Service plan actually gave us more flexibility to explore the parks, as we weren’t spending too much time at sit-down meals.
The timing of the package was also great, because our snack credits could be used at the booths at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. This definitely encouraged us to try a bit more of what the festival has to offer, which is always a good thing. It’s also a great value, as many of those small bites at the Food and Wine Festival range from $5-$8. If you can get free dining during the Food and Wine Festival, which runs Sept 19-November 10, that makes the deal an even better value.
So, speaking of value, did we find it to be a good deal? Absolutely. Because we were staying at a value resort, our package was already close to the lowest price Disney offers. Taking out the price of the tickets, our hotel was $125/night. With the dining package, my girlfriend and I easily got $80-$90 of food per day, so if we are going on pure value, that brings the hotel to $35-$45 per night, which is really fantastic. Granted, that estimated number of the value of food per day includes items like desserts and sodas that we wouldn’t normally be purchasing if we were paying out of pocket. Ultimately, we enjoyed not having the stress of worrying about prices, and redeeming our meal credits with our Magic Bands was strangely satisfying. If you are staying at a Value resort during Food and Wine, I really recommend this deal.
It gets less clear if this is a good deal as you go to the moderate resorts and up. With this package, you are buying the hotel and tickets at a non-discounted rate. While it’s possible to save a little bit on tickets through AAA or another source like that, you can get really great deals on hotels throughout the year. It might not make sense to get this package at full rate at a Deluxe resort if you can get the hotel for 30-35% off. Also, if you are an Annual Passholder, you have to examine if purchasing tickets and forgoing an AP discount on the hotel makes sense.
Also, with the regular Disney Dining plan, one table service meal is included. While that can be a great value, table service meals take time, and getting an ADR at certain popular restaurants can be a pain. Spending more time in the parks than in restaurants was important to me on my vacation, so it was actually a plus not to feel the pressure to go to so many table service meals. Walt Disney World has some fantastic table service restaurants, so if experiencing those is more important for you, then this can be a great option.
To decide whether or not this deal is good for you, first think about what type of resort you want to stay at, then research what other discounts are available for that resort. If Free Dining makes sense for your Walt Disney World vacation, it can really add a lot to your trip. Check Disney’s official website for availability.