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Disney corndog

Some people plan a trip to Walt Disney World based on when they’re off from work or school. Others plan to visit during a special occasion, such as a birthday or an anniversary. But for an increasing number of people, the special celebration worth planning a vacation to Florida for is food. Free food. And lots of it.

Periodically, Disney offers a “free dining” promotion, and the company announced one late last month. The offer means that guests who stay at the World during specific dates at certain resorts receive either the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan or the standard Disney Dining Plan for no charge. However, during the most recent promotion, Disney had fewer rooms that were eligible for “free dining,” and those were snapped up extremely quickly. Many people who wanted the deal have been shut out, but there are several reasons why a lack of “free dining” shouldn't make people want to skip a trip. Here are eight reasons why you don’t need free dining at Walt Disney World:

1. “Free dining” isn’t totally free

Dining

The “free dining” pre-paid meal plan promotion has several limitations. First, guests must stay at certain resorts for a minimum of three nights and a maximum of 14, and those dates must fall within specific time periods outlined by Disney. The offer can’t be combined with any room discounts, and rooms booked with Disney Vacation Club points aren’t eligible. Plus, Disney added a new requirement this year: to get “free dining,” guests must purchase at least two-day tickets that include either the Park Hopper or Water Park Fun & More options, or both. So that means that guests who already have tickets or annual passes, or who plan to purchase tickets from an authorized reseller, must buy more tickets to take advantage of the “free dining” offer. Disney often offers great discounts on rooms, so guests should do the math to determine whether “free dining” is actually a good deal for them or not.

2. You have to essentially plan your trip around food

Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore

Guests who stay at moderate and deluxe resorts who receive “free dining” get the standard Disney Dining Plan, which includes one table-service meal. Those meals must be planned far ahead of time, as Advance Dining Reservations for most restaurants go quickly – especially during “free dining” periods. And while some people enjoy leisurely dinners each night, others find that they take too much time – precious hours that they’d rather use to explore the parks. There’s also a fee charged if a guest cancels a reservation on short notice.

The standard Disney Dining Plan also includes one quick-service meal and a snack per day, and guests staying at value resorts and getting “free dining” receive the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan, which includes two quick-service meals and one snack per person per day. Although the quick-service locations don’t require reservations, guests on any of the plans still have to keep track of the credits they have, in order to use them effectively (though receipts will also show this information). It’s important to note again that none of the dining plans offer three meals per day, though the credits can be used in any combination until they’re depleted.

3. You must order certain items

Image: Disney

The table-service meals on the standard Disney Dining Plan include an entrée, non-alcoholic beverage and a dessert, or a full buffet for lunch or dinner. (Table-service breakfast includes an entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage.) As mentioned above, appetizers and alcoholic drinks aren’t included, and if a guest wants just soup or a salad instead of a heavy entrée, they’ll be paying for that out of pocket.

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