31 Disney Tips for Your Disney World Trip – Tip 2: Free Dining vs. Other Discounts


One of the questions I am most frequently asked is, “Have you heard when Free Dining will be offered?” I have several thoughts on the subject that I wanted to share with you today for Tip #2.

First of all, the Free Dining Offer is not really “free dining” as a stand-alone offer if you are already booked with a room discount. In other words, if you have a room-only booking at a discounted rate of 20-30% off of the original price, you will have to forfeit that discount and pay full rack-rate for your room in order to get the dining plan for free. Sometimes that is still the best deal, but sometimes it’s not. Also, there are different dining plans offered based on resort type.

For stays at value resorts, guests receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan free with this promotion. For stays at moderate and deluxe properties, guests qualify for the Disney Dining Plan. If you are staying at a value property and want the Disney Dining Plan, you can upgrade your plan for a fee.

Be sure to check all discounts before booking. The best deal will depend largely on your family size and your chosen resort. A general rule is that for parties of 2 (or 1) in one room, the room-only discount is often the better deal for some deluxe and deluxe villa resorts. Also, room-only discounts are normally even better at the deluxe properties at EPCOT and on the monorail route. For parties of 3 or more in one room, the Free Dining Offer is usually the best discount at all resorts. So, really, the more guests in the room the greater chance that Free Dining will be the way to go.  Don’t always assume that a discount with the word “free” in it is automatically the best deal.

And, this may sound strange but I have actually run into the scenario a couple of times. A guest will actually want to book the Free Dining Offer just because everyone told her that was the way to go. Even though the total package price was a couple hundred dollars more than booking the room discount and adding a dining plan, she wanted to book the Free Dining Offer. This brings me to a very valuable bonus tip: You don’t have to follow the advice of all your well-meaning friends and family when planning YOUR Disney World vacation! Read that again please!

As soon as friends and family members find out you’re planning a trip, they will start flooding your ears and your inbox with their “words of wisdom.” Now I know we can all appreciate our loved ones wanting us to have a great time. But, a Disney trip is a very personal thing. Often, there are components of a Disney World vacation that are looked up very differently between two guests. This includes restaurants, rides, shows, etc. One guest might hate the Carousel of Progress while some of us ride it during every single trip. Plan your trip the way YOU want.

Back to the discounts. Words matter, yes, but the bottom line for making your decision should be the cheapest price, no matter what the deal is called.

Scenarios Using the Current Promotions

In order to illustrate some real-time examples, I have priced some packages using the current promotional offers beginning on October 3, 2016. For each scenario, I have chosen the same dates, resort, tickets and dining plan. Please keep in mind that this is a Stay, Play and Dine deal and not Free Dining. There is a difference.



Stay, Play and Dine Discount

February 2-9, 2017

7 nights, 8 days

Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Tower, Bay Lake View)

7-day park hopper tickets

Disney (Plus) Dining Plan

Stay, Play and Dine Discount:  Party of 2 adults –  $4,589.42; Party of 2 adults, 2 children (11, 8) – $5,858.45

Room-only Discount: Party of 2 adults –  $4,700.36; Party of 2 adults, 2 children (11, 8) – $6,257.79



Stay, Play and Dine Discount

February 25-March 3, 2017

7 nights, 8 days

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn (Standard Room)

7-day park hopper tickets

Disney (Plus) Dining Plan

Stay, Play and Dine Discount:  Party of 2 adults –  $4,991.12; Party of 2 adults, 2 children (11, 8) – $6,260.15

Room-only Discount: Party of 2 adults –  $4,736.64; Party of 2 adults, 2 children (11, 8) – $6,294.07


As you can see, Stay, Play and Dine offers the better deal for both families in Scenario 1. However,the Room Discount was better for the party of 2 adults while the Stay, Play and Dine deal was better for the family in Scenario 2. This is often the case. Now you can see how the party size and resort factor in. You should always check the available deals and run the numbers (or have an agent, like me, do it for you – shameless plug – as these are the things I do for my guests as part of my free service).

One more thing I must say to any guests waiting on great deals is that the deals of yesteryear are in the past. Room Only Discounts, such as the one above, for Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort (2 of my favorites) used to offer 25% off. This release offers only a 10% discount for those resorts. Some deluxe properties are still at 25% but not all.

I have found that the deals released during the past year have not been as good as those in previous years. The Disney Parks are undergoing some major changes with the addition of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land in Hollywood Studios and Pandora – The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom, as well as other rather expensive projects. The truly awesome deals that we veteran travelers once enjoyed are no longer forthcoming. Book the best deal available and be thankful for the savings you can get as, this year, certain dates and certain resorts received no discounts at all.

I want you to get the best possible deal so if you have any questions, post a comment. I’m happy to help.

Thanks for stopping by and have a magical day!


If you stumbled upon today’s #Write31days challenge post, please be sure to check out all of the other posts at the main page here.

Let me sprinkle some pixie dust on your next vacation by booking with me. You can contact me at Brenda@pixievacations.com.

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