With Christmas quickly approaching, it’s a very popular time for families to start planning their 2018 vacations. Therefore, it’s not surprising that a question we’ve been asked a lot this week is whether or not FREE Dining will be offered next year?
For many families that were holding out for FREE dining this year, the discount was a bit disappointing. Large blackout periods, added restrictions and almost non-existent availability meant that FREE dining 2017 for the majority of Disney bookers felt more like a myth than a reality. This has lead many Disney insiders to speculate that this overwhelmingly popular offer may be on its way out. However earlier this Summer we did see a positive sign that a FREE dining promotion for next year may still be a reality.
We reported on Chip and Co. earlier this year that Disney had released a 2018 FREE Dining bounce back offer for guests staying at Walt Disney World between now and October 31st, 2017. A bounce back offer means that guests who book their next Disney vacation while on their current Disney vacation get access to special discounts that aren’t available (yet) to the general public. These bounce back offers can often serve as a precursor to wider discounts that Disney may release into next year.
Let’s look a bit more closely at the bounce-back FREE Dining Offer. The dates covered under the offer were as follows:
- May 29 to June 5, 2018
- June 29 to July 11, 2018
- August 1 to September 8, 2018
- December 7 to December 22, 2018
Similar to the 2017 FREE Dining offer, guests staying at a Value or Moderate resort get the Quick Service dining plan for free. Guests staying in Deluxe or Deluxe Villas will get the Disney Dining Plan for free. However, in order to qualify, guests needed to book a minimum of a 2-day Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus ticket and stay a minimum of 3-nights. Some resorts excluded from the offer were:
- Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
- Bungalows at the Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Port Orleans French Quarter
- Port Orleans Riverside (from December 7 to December 22, 2018)
- Boardwalk Inn (excluded August 1, 2018 and August 2, 2018 and August 4 to August 9, 2018)
- Yacht Club (excluded August 1, 2018 and August 2, 2018 and August 4 to August 9, 2018)
- Beach Club (excluded August 1, 2018 and August 2, 2018 and August 4 to August 9, 2018)
Can I still book under the current bounceback offer? The offer is currently available to book until October 31st. However, Free Dining books up very quickly and I am hearing reports that availability for the offer at this point is pretty non-existent.
So what does this mean for guests looking to book FREE dining for 2018? The first thing worth pointing out is that Disney may not have the same discounts year on year. When booking your Walt Disney World vacation package, it is important to make sure that your initial (non-discounted prices) are within your comfort zone and to look at Disney discounts as a bit of a bonus as we know from the scarcity of this year’s promotions that we can no longer consider them a “given.”
That being said, historically during years when Disney offered a FREE Dining bounce back offer, they usually went on to offer a general FREE Dining promotion. However, if you look at the blackout dates listed on the current bounce back offer you’ll notice that the bounce back promotion is not available for pretty much the entire Fall of 2018. Most of September, all of October and all of November are excluded from the offer. Let’s compare this to the bounce back offer that Disney ran last year for FREE Dining 2017. Here’s a list of dates when the promotion was available:
- June 7 – June 29, 2017
- July 6 – Aug. 10, 2017
- Sept. 10 – Dec. 7, 2017
This is already leading to some speculation that were FREE Dining to become a general offer open to anyone, it may face even wider restrictions than this year.
So when will we know for certain? When will FREE Dining 2018 be released? Its simply too early to tell. If a FREE Dining promotion is released for the Autumn of 2018, we may not know until the Spring of 2018. 2017 FREE Dining opened up on April 24, 2017.
I’m going to be visiting in Spring 2018. Is it possible that Disney may release a FREE Dining promotion during my dates? Anything is possible but its very unlikely. Disney discounts do follow a pattern with the same discounts being offered roughly the same time each year. In the Spring, Disney has already released a Play, Stay and Dine package offering an overall vacation package discount as well as a room discount offer. Check out this article for a rundown of Disney discounts and they time of year they fall.
If I book my vacation package now can I still take advantage of Free Dining when it is made available? Yes! When Free Dining is released and if your dates, resort choice, length of stay etc. mean that you’re eligible, you can have the discount applied to your reservation even after you’ve booked. That is also one of the distinct advantages of working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. A good Disney-focused travel agent will monitor for discounts and will automatically apply them to your booking when applicable. For more information on working with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, please fill out our form below to receive your FREE quote
Please be mindful that Disney has not released any word as of yet regarding a 2018 FREE dining promotion other than the current bounce back offer available to those travelling to Disney this Fall.
Want to be notified as soon as 2017 Free Dining is available? Sign up for our Disney Addicts 2018 Free Dining Email List and we’ll contact you as soon as Disney has released details about on-sale dates. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to join.
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