Disney’s Free Dining Discount Saves Money in These Scenarios

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Disney announced a Free Dining offer last week for travel dates July 5 – September 30, 2019.  And Disney already had another discount – the Fun & Sun Offer – covering those dates too.

The natural first question to ask is “Which of these two discounts is the better deal?” The second question is “Am I better off with a room-only discount and paying for tickets and food separately?”

This post answers both questions for different family types and different Disney resorts.

To make this blog post easier to read, I’ll avoid showing most of the math. Click here to view the spreadsheet I used. I’ll also note that it took almost 90 minutes and that spreadsheet to figure this out. It’s much easier to ask a travel agent to do all of this for you.

Here are our assumptions:

  • 6-night stay beginning August 5, 2019
  • 6-day base or Park Hopper tickets bought at the lowest price from our Least Expensive Ticket Calculator vendors, if needed
  • Prices include all taxes and fees
  • Resorts are Pop Century (standard view room), Port Orleans Riverside (garden view room), Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House (standard view)
  • Children are ages 3-9
  • The Fun & Sun package includes tickets and comparable dining plan (Quick Service for Pop and Port Orleans; Standard for Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Everyone in your family will use all of the meals and snacks on the dining plans (this is often harder than it sounds)
  • The average counter-service breakfast costs around $14, lunch and dinner costs around $18 per person
  • The average table-service dinner costs $45 per person excluding gratuity
Here are the results:
  • The Free Dining deal is always cheaper than the Fun & Sun offer if you’re already buying the Disney Dining Plan
  • Free Dining is still cheaper than the Fun & Sun offer plus dining plan plus Magic Your Way Base Tickets – it’s like getting the Park Hopper option for free, plus a discount on the rest of the trip

Remember that the Free Dining discount requires a Park Hopper or Park Hopper Plus ticket add-on.

But what if you’re not sure about the dining plan? If you got the best Fun & Sun room-only discount possible and found the cheapest tickets for your trip, how much would you have to budget for food per person per day before the Free Dining deal started to make sense? This chart has those answers:

Family Resort Base Ticket or
Park Hopper Add-On
Amount You’d Have to Spend Per Person Per Day Before Free Dining Deal is Better Conclusion
2 adults
0 children
Pop Century Base $32 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of two snacks free per person per day, plus a refillable resort mug each.
Pop Century Park Hopper $21 Free Dining is a better deal – like getting a Quick Service meal and snack for free per person per day, plus a refillable resort mug.
Port Orleans Riverside Base $34 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of two snacks free per person per day, plus a refillable resort mug each.
Port Orleans Riverside Park Hopper $23 Free Dining is a better deal – like getting a Quick Service meal and a snack for free per person per day, plus a refillable resort mug.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Base $58 Free Dining is a better deal if you always eat one sit-down meal per day or you splurge on signature restaurants.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Park Hopper $47 Free Dining is a better deal.
2 adults
1 child
Pop Century Base $29 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of two snacks free per person per day, plus a refillable resort mug each.
Pop Century Park Hopper $18 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal and two snacks per person per day free, plus a refillable resort mug.
Port Orleans Riverside Base $26 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal per day free, plus a refillable mug.
Port Orleans Riverside Park Hopper $15 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal and two snacks per person per day free, plus a refillable resort mug.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Base $54

It depends on your kids:

The Fun & Sun package is better if your kids usually order from the kids’ menu – it’s unlikely they’d eat this much per day in food.

The Free Dining offer is better if your kids regularly eat adult-size meals.

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Park Hopper $43

It depends on your kids:

The Fun & Sun package is better if your kids usually order from the kids’ menu – it’s unlikely they’d eat this much per day in food.

The Free Dining offer is better if your kids regularly eat adult-size meals.

2 adults
2 children
Pop Century Base $26 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal per day free, plus a refillable mug.
Pop Century Park Hopper $15 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal and two snacks per person per day free, plus a refillable resort mug.
Port Orleans Riverside Base $25 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal per day free, plus a refillable mug.
Port Orleans Riverside Park Hopper $13 Free Dining is a better deal – you’re getting the equivalent of a Quick Service meal and two snacks per person per day free, plus a refillable resort mug.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Base $45

It depends on your kids:

The Fun & Sun package is better if your kids usually order from the kids’ menu – it’s unlikely they’d eat this much per day in food.

The Free Dining offer is better if your kids regularly eat adult-size meals.

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo Park Hopper $34 Free Dining is a better deal.
Summary

The Free Dining offer makes sense for most families staying at a value or moderate resort, and for adult-only families staying at deluxe resorts.

Families with kids staying at a deluxe resort need to consider whether their children can eat $43 to $54 in food per day.

Thanks to Dawn of Small World Vacations for help obtaining these quotes.

Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

10 thoughts on “Disney’s Free Dining Discount Saves Money in These Scenarios

  • January 7, 2019 at 12:44 pm
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    I can’t get the link to the spreadsheet to work?

    • January 7, 2019 at 1:30 pm
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      Oh, sorry! Is an error message displayed?

      • January 7, 2019 at 1:50 pm
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        It says my user ID doesn’t have authority.

        • January 7, 2019 at 1:51 pm
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          More specifically it says “You need permission to access this published document.”

          • January 13, 2019 at 9:51 pm
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            Mine too

  • January 7, 2019 at 1:30 pm
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    How about solo adult?

  • January 7, 2019 at 4:28 pm
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    Same here.

  • January 8, 2019 at 11:09 am
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    I can’t open the spreadsheet, but I don’t follow the logic of the table.

    If I book Pop for 10 days in September using the Fun and Sun package with 10 day park hopper tickets, it costs $2615.84 for 2 adults.

    I booked Pop for the same 10 days in September with 10 day park hopper tickets for $2720 including free dining.

    It cost me an extra $100 dollars over the Fun and Sun package to get ‘Free Dining’. In order for the Fun and Sun package to work out better, I’d need to spend <$10 dollars TOTAL per day on food. Seems like free dining is a better deal than the table suggests, unless I'm missing something?

    • January 8, 2019 at 10:19 pm
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      Length of stay changes the caluculus. Len’s is based on 6 days, your’s on 10. The average increase in ticket price per day is much smaller relative to food prices AFTER day 6. It also now depends on which days you choose, because of variable date pricing. If you go 10 days but only pick one weekend (for the most part) you will in general minimize your peak ticket cost. There are basically infinite cost elements at this point.

      • January 9, 2019 at 8:15 pm
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        Thanks for pointing that out. Surprised that the 6 to 10 day jump makes that big of a difference on food costs. So for shorter trips, the Sun and Fun deal ends up being (potentially) a better savings?

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