Eating for Free at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is offering free dining. How exactly does this work? Is this a good deal? Compare free dining to other offers to see how much you would or would not save.
Disney is offering one of the most sought after promotions of the year: Free Dining. But what kind of deal is free dining?
Disney had recently ran a Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal. In a nutshell, you booked at least 5 nights and got up to three nights free. For a complete understanding of the Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal click HERE. This deal ran through regular season. Now, that deal ended, they have started running the Free Dining deal. This deal runs through value season (the least expensive time to visit Walt Disney World).
Both deals are packages. You must stay onsite and buy tickets. You are not limited to any specific ticket. Both require you pay rack rate for the room to get the discounted part of the package. In the case of the Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal it was room nights and ticket days (if you opt for 5-10 day tickets). In the case of the Free Dining deal it is the basic dining package for free or the deluxe dining package discounted by the cost of the basic dining package.
Now, running the numbers on the same number of nights stay (A Saturday check-in and checking out the following Sunday),at the same resort with the same view room, with the exact same people a package, with the exact same ticket under the Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal cost $2701.01 with tax. This does not include dining. This same package under the Free Dining deal cost $3561.65. This costs $860.64 more.
Keep in mind though, that the cost under the Buy 4, Get 3 Free plan, the dining was not included. The family used in the example is a family of five. The dining plan would have cost them $1016.55; this is $155.91 more in a much higher priced season. So, the question really becomes, can you have the same number of meals for $860.64 or less? Most likely, yes.
The basic dining plan includes one counter service meal (entrée, drink, and dessert at lunch or dinner), one table service meal (entrée, drink, and dessert at lunch or dinner), and one snack per day per person to be used over the course of the trip. Not everything is covered under the dining plan. Exclusions include gratuities, alcoholic beverages, appetizers, and one complete meal a day. Additionally, some table service restaurants cost you two credits.
By dropping or sharing desserts at lunch of dinner, you could drop the costs down. Additionally, the costs of two table service credits is much more than paying for the meal out of pocket. Meals at Walt Disney World restaurants are often quite large and very easy for two people to split. The snacks are for single size servings only. For a minimal amount of money, you can purchase a multi-serving snack and split it. You could also substitute one of the table service meals for an extra counter service meal—just one over the whole vacation—and make up close to that amount.
The Buy 4, Get 3 Free deal booking period has ended; however, usually during the free dining period Disney has offered a discounted room only option during the same time, to be released a few weeks after the Free Dining promotion has begun. This will not include tickets in any way, so you are able to purchase from a legitimate discount ticket broker and save even more money. You could even go the annual pass holder savings route and purchase a Tables in Wonderland card to save a full 20% off every meal (no items excluded).
Bottom line is, the Free Dining deal is better than no discounts, but it is far from the great savings opportunity many think it is. By skipping the Free Dining promotion and searching around for another savings opportunity from Disney, you may save even more money.