A month or so ago I posted about whether or not the Free Dining at Disney World offer would be extended past September. As of yesterday we know the answer is yes!
And there was much rejoicing. 😀
However, it’s not that straightforward. The offer is not just “Come in the Fall and get Free Dining!” as it often is. Some resorts are excluded, many dates are excluded… And with ticket price and package increases, in some cases, you will save more money by keep the reservation you have. Plus, availability is limited. All in all, it’s a bit of a headache!
Are you not sure how this is going to work out for your trip? Is it a little overwhelming? You are NOT alone. 😀
So let me try to break it down for you!
The basics are thus: book a trip at a Walt Disney World resort during the valid dates, and your package will include a free dining plan. If you book at a participating Value resort, you get a free Quick Service plan (entitles each person on the reservation to 2 counter-service meals and one snack per night of the stay, plus a refillable mug); if you book at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa you get a base Dining Plan (entitles each person to 1 counter service meal, 1 table service meal, and one snack per night, plus a refillable mug).
But you gotta know your details.
First of all, there are blackout dates. And there are a lot of them. The offer is valid “for arrivals most nights Sep. 29 – Oct. 2, Oct. 18 – Nov. 2, Nov. 11-23 and Dec. 12-22, 2013.” But wait! What does “for arrivals” mean?? It means that if you arrived on October 2 and you spend a week there, you get the free dining because you arrived on a night included in the plan. But if you arrive October 3 and stay two weeks, you are outta luck! (Don’t worry, though. There is a room-only promo that covers a lot of the blackout dates! You can buy your own dining plan with the money you save!)
That is a lot of holes, though. That is a swiss-cheesy schedule. But as long as you’re arriving on one of those nights, you get the free dining plan, right?
Point two: there are some resorts that aren’t included in the offer. From the fine print: “Excludes Disney’s All Star Movies Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, 3-Bedroom Villas and campsites.” If you are travelling with a family of 5, for instance, you’ll have to stay either at All Star Music’s Family Suites or Port Orleans Riverside (they have trundlebeds in certain rooms), or stay at Art of Animation without a free dining plan. (Again, there is a room-only discount available for certain dates at AoA! Not all, but some! So you can still save 15% on the suites depending on when you go, and put the savings towards your meals.) You could also get two adjoining rooms – and in my experience, there are times when this is a cheaper option than getting a family suite.
“Okay,” you say, “this is all fine. I am already booked to arrive on October 19, I’m staying in the Caribbean Beach Resort, bring on my dining plan!” Unfortunately, even this is not that simple. See, here’s the thing: Disney is not just opening every room that is not yet booked to this plan. They have allocated a specific number of available rooms for the free dining offer, and various resorts are already booked through their promo availability. Yes, full, 36 hours after the promo dropped. (Actually, 12, if what I was hearing yesterday was right. There were numerous places with no availability yesterday afternoon.) You may need to switch resorts to get the dining plan. You may need to go to a higher, or a lower, resort category. And you may just plain not save any money by making the switch.
I’ve said before that the free dining plan offer is always the best offer you can get – and now I’m taking that back. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, under certain circumstances, you will get a better value if you book under a promotion and pay for the DP, or even if you just stick with the rate you got. Remember, the room/ticket package is non-discounted; you’re just not paying extra for the DP. So if you booked months ago, before the ticket prices went up, rebooking now with the free DP will actually drive your total up – and depending on your length of stay, it could be close to the price you would pay if you paid for the DP. It’s a matter of context.
Having said all that, do you still want to get free dining? I’m sure you probably do! Because even if it’s not saving you hundreds of dollars, that dining plan is convenient and it’s FREE. Can you get it? Well, try! I hope the above clarified things for you as to what to expect! Oh, and the last question: is there a minimum length of stay to get the dining plan? Well, most of the marketing says you must book a non-discounted 6-night/7-day stay, and “ask about shorter stay lengths”. I have heard that you can get the free DP offer for stays of 3 nights or more, with a minimum of 2-day tickets.
If all of this is still confusing and overwhelming, and that’s before you get on the phone and try to book this stuff, guess what? You can get someone to do it for you! Me! 😀 If you’ve already booked a WDW vacation within the last 30 days and you want to add this promo – not to mention get your dining reservations in while you still can – you can transfer your reservation to me and get a free gift card as thanks! Once that’s done, I can get on the phone for you and sit there on hold for hours (I’m not exaggerating) and take care of any changes you need to make. If you want to book a new trip and get the free dining, I am beyond ready to help you with that. We’ll get you set up and ready to go this weekend, or sooner!
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