It’s very exciting when Disney offers Free Dining, but last week they did something a little new. That means it’s time to crunch some numbers! We’ll go over how this offer is different, which deal is likely to be better for you if there’s also a room discount on your nights, and how you might decide if the numbers are very close.
Some of you might be thinking that you already booked this deal and there’s no point in reading this. Unless you booked with a travel agent, that’s probably not true. Some of you might be thinking that this Dining deal has already been out for a bit, and since it’s all gone there’s no point reading about it now. That’s probably not true either. Even if it were all gone, there’s a possibility that this kind of Dining Promo Card will be the future of Free Dining, so it will be useful to understand how it compares to typical room discounts.
Just a couple of words before we get started. First, I want to let you know that this is a pretty data-heavy post that’s really going to dig into some detail about how different resort types and rooms benefit from competing offer types. If a chart-fest isn’t your jam, feel free to scroll ahead to the summary where I’ll recap the important stuff.
Second, what we need is to compare the value of the room discount with the value of the dining promotion. Right now, there is only a room discount available through July 10. That’s just a tiny bit of overlap with the Dining offer, but that could change if Disney extends the dates on room discounts.
If you already booked the dining offer through a travel agent, you can relax a bit because most TAs will reach out about rebooking you if a discount is released that could save you money. And if you booked it yourself, it’s not too late! You can transfer Disney World reservations you made yourself to a travel agent as long as it’s within 30 days of the booking date. We recommend the ones at TouringPlans Travel (and you can click here to get that started), but any agent who is proactive about checking for discounts will benefit you.
Dining Promo Card Details Refresher
In case you missed it, here’s how the Dining Promo Card offer works. If you arrive on one of the nights in the deal period, you get a Dining Promo Card with a fixed “per diem” amount per night of your stay. This Dining Promo Card is like a gift card that you can only spend on dining.
The per diem amount is for your whole reservation, not per person (this is a change from how Dining deals have typically worked in the past), and the amount is based on which resort you are staying at and what date you arrive on. There are two “low” periods (blue in the below calendar) where the per diem is less at every tier of resort, and two “high ” periods (in green) where the per diem is more.
Two key things. One: the only date that matters for your per diem amount is when you arrive. If you arrive on July 10 and stay at the Beach Club until July 15, you will get $150 per night for 5 nights—it doesn’t matter that July 11-14 are in the low period, it only matters that you arrived on a night in the high period. Two: you have to pay for a full rack rate package with tickets in order to qualify for this deal.
And now … on to the math!!
About the Numbers
I’m about to show you some really ugly charts. They make up for it by being jam-packed with information – but I want to be clear upfront about what you can’t get out of them. You can’t use these charts to give you the answer about which deal is better for any dates that you, personally, plan to visit. Please don’t.
What we want to know is:
- When are you more likely to win with the dining promo?
- When are you more likely to win with a room discount?
- If you qualify for a slightly larger Annual Passholder or Florida Resident discount, when is that needed to tip the scales?
In the chart below, the middle section is a super-squishy view of the Dining Promo Card arrival dates from left to right. If you can pick individual dates out of the squishy middle section, I will be incredibly impressed: it’s mostly to give a sense of what’s happening in the different per diem periods. The comparison calculations used the price of a 7-night stay beginning on the specified arrival night. I also assumed—because we’re trying to get a sense of the quality of the Dining deal—that a room discount was available for all of the relevant nights.
Yellow is arrival dates where the Dining offer should always be better, for everyone. Blue is arrival dates where the room discount will always be better, for everyone. There are exactly zero intuitive color schemes for distinguishing “dining” and “room discount”, so if you would like a mnemonic, feel free to think that rooooom rhymes with blooooo(ue). Sort of. Anyway, moving on, in-between green is days where the dining offer is better if you don’t qualify for the higher discounts available to Passholders and Florida residents, but the room offer is better if you do.
So here it is! The ugly chart! Take a quick look and then we’ll talk about the rest of what’s in it.
Hello again! Now that you’ve had a chance to stare at that for at least a few seconds, let’s go over the rest of it. The Resort and Room columns hopefully need no explanation. The red vertical in the middle section shows the last date when room discounts are actually available as of this writing, which happens to coincide with the end of the first high per diem period for the Dining Promo card. The other two verticals mark the beginnings and ends of the other high and low per diem periods.
The header area in the middle section shows what discount levels were used for comparison, and that leads us to the right, where the headers give us the rest of the information we need to do the math. The columns in these rightmost sections show what percentage of the days are in each savings category, divided between the high and low per diem period. And the header area shows the per diem amount, along with the rate thresholds that determine which deal is better.
Let’s do an example!
Working the Math
I’m going to do the high per diem period here. We know that as the room gets cheaper, even a high discount rate won’t save you much. To use a ridiculous example, if the room is only $10 a night, then even half-off can’t get you close to the $50 you’ll be getting with the Promo card.
Our AP room discount here is 20% for the Value Resorts, and it turns out that 20% off of $250 is exactly $50. So if the room is cheaper than $250, it doesn’t matter what discount you have, the Dining deal will be better. That’s why $250 is to the left of the $50 in the middle column, sitting proudly on top of the yellow which means dining is always better.
On the other side, we can see that 15% of $233 is $34.95, and 15% of $234 is $35.10. So if the average rack rate of your stay is more than $233, then no matter which discount you have it will be saving you more money than the dining.
It happens that the chart above is for the Value Resorts, so now we can make some comparisons. It’s fair to say that if you’re staying in a Family Suite, you will pretty much always find the room discount to be superior if it’s available for all of your nights. After that, at the All Stars, the Dining deal is superior if you don’t have access to the increased discount, and during the high per diem periods it wins even if you do.
Pop Century and Art of Animation have higher rates than the All Stars, but unless you have access to the AP discount, the room offer will be better during the low per-diem periods, and the dining offer will be better otherwise. If you are able to get the max discount, you’ll find a mix and you really need to check your specific dates.
There are a lot of room types at the Moderates, so I repeated the header in the middle of this chart because it was pretty long.
What’s the takeaway? Well, here at the Moderate resorts, we still find that except for the most expensive rooms, the Dining deal is almost always superior unless you have access to the higher rate discount. Even if you can grab that higher discount (25% now, because we’re in the Moderates), it still only comes out ahead on these cheaper rooms when the per diem is the low rate of $75.
At the most expensive rooms—Tower at Coronado, Preferred, and Royal Rooms at the other resorts—everyone wins on the room discount when the per diem is low. When per diem is high, mostly only the higher discount rate is winning, and only some of the time.
I’ve broken up the Deluxe Resorts into three groups. Partly this was to keep the charts from getting too long, but also … some of the Deluxes don’t actually have the “Deluxe” room discount.
Deluxes With Stingy Room Discounts
A select group of Deluxe and Disney Vacation Club resorts have room discounts that are the same as those at the Value resorts! That’s some major fine print if you’re not reading carefully.
These rooms are whopping expensive, but unsurprisingly the stingy discount rate has a big impact. No matter the per diem season, the Dining deal is usually winning for the average visitor. Even when per diem is low, the Dining is ahead in many of the less expensive room categories.
If you can snag the higher discount rate, here is all the proof you need that Villas at the Grand Floridian have the highest prices in this category, because it will beat the Dining deal 100% of the time. At the other resorts it’s mostly Dining when the per diem is high and room discount otherwise, except in the Lake View and Theme Park view rooms at the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower.
Disney Vacation Club Resorts
One thing to remember about the DVC resorts is that the rooms here aren’t really part of regular hotel inventory, and they can be hard to come by. In the first low per diem period, the room discount is always better for everyone. In the second low per diem, that’s true everywhere except for Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek, which are both at Wilderness Lodge. And those are also the only resorts to show the Dining offer as the uncontested winner on almost all of the high per diem arrival days.
Deluxes With Deluxe Room Discounts
As with the Moderates, I repeated the header here because this one is a super-long chart. And it looks reaallly different than either of the two previous Deluxe charts. Until now, only the Boardwalk Villas were 100% always better with the room discount, no matter what your check-in date or offer level. Here the Boardwalk Inn, Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian join that group. In fact, if you are an Annual Passholder or Florida Resident staying at one of the Deluxe resorts below, you will be hard-pressed to find dates where the Dining Promo Card will serve you better than the room offer.
What If It’s Close?
What you can’t see in any of the charts above is that many of those prices might be within only a few dollars of the threshold. Especially if you’re arriving for a trip where the room discount might apply to some, but not all of your nights, you could find that the difference is only $20 or so. Here are some things to consider:
- The room offer is an already applied savings that you won’t have to worry about using when you’re on vacation. Using a special gift card to pay for dining might not seem like a big deal, but it will be something that you have to keep track of.
- Conversely, you might be one of those people who sticks to a budget better if you’ve got something pre-paid and you’re watching it count down. You might feel like the Promo Dining Card will help you do a better job of aligning the money that you will spend with the money that you should spend.
- Don’t forget that the Dining offer requires the purchase of a ticketed package. If the room offer is only slightly higher, you may be able to save the difference and more by buying tickets from an authorized third-party reseller. Our Ticket Calculator can help you check on those possible savings.
What to Take Away
I heard some grumbling after the Dining Deal came out last week that it wasn’t really that great of a deal. It turns out that depending on where you stay, it can be as good or better than a room discount the vast majority of the time.
At the Values, the Dining Promo Card is almost always a better or comparable offer than a room discount would be, unless you’re staying in a Family Suite or the very highest tiers of rooms. The same is true for the Moderates, although in this tier guests who qualify for an AP discount will come out ahead with that when the Dining Card per diem is low. Unless you think that the typical room discounts released for these tiers of resorts are not worthwhile, the only reason to be dissatisfied with the Dining deal is that it “isn’t what Free Dining used to be”. But in the absence of history, it’s a pretty sweet offer.
At the Deluxes, much depends on where you are staying. Some Deluxes have a much lower room discount level, comparable to the Values. At these resorts, just like at the Values, the Dining offer will almost always be better even though the rooms are a much higher price. At the other end of the spectrum, Deluxes that have higher discounts will more often see the room offer as the better deal, especially if you qualify for the higher tier of discounts. At Boardwalk, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian, the Dining deal appears to never be a winner against any discount.
I’m just going to emphasize (yes, again), that in order to simplify the picture a bit this analysis used a few tricks like applying the seven-night average, which means you still need to actually price the nights that you’re interested in to get a definitive answer. But if you do that exercise, and you find that it’s close, that’s the time to consider which discount resonates better with your vacation style.
Did you book Disney’s Summer Dining Promo offer? Do you think it’s a good deal? Let us know in the comments!