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One of the big incentives Walt Disney World offers every year is the free dining deal. Though this deal changes slightly every year (with different tiers offered, accommodations required, etc.), Disney has done something unprecedented for 2016, and has introduced a whole new type of dining plan that will be available for guests who are traveling to the resort this summer.

Essentially a step below a quick service dining plan, the all-new “Summer Meal Offer" is completely unlike previous free dining plans that have been offered in the past, and some guests may wonder if this extremely downsized deal is worth the cost, especially since it comes with a lot more stipulations than previous free dining offers. If you are thinking about taking advantage of this deal, here’s everything you should know first:

1. It’s less of a money-saver than the traditional free dining plan deal 

The Summer Meal Offer is unlike the normal free dining deal as it doesn’t actually pay for the majority of meals during a stay at Walt Disney World. Instead, this promotion offers guests staying at Value Resorts (like Pop Century, All-Stars, etc.) one quick service meal entitlement (entrée, dessert, and drink) per guest (aged 3 and older) per night’s stay. Unlike the Disney Dining Plan, this new offering does not include a refillable mug or snack credit, and essentially functions as a discount rather than a full meal plan. 

This new Summer Meal Offer also requires all guests to purchase theme park tickets as part of a Magic Your Way package deal, which means those hoping to get discount tickets from authorized ticket sellers, or use military, group, Florida resident or other discounts, will not be able to take advantage of this new deal. In addition, guests who are looking at taking a short trip may not be able to qualify for this promotion as vacation packages must be at least 3 nights in length with at least 2-day base tickets in order to be eligible for the deal. 

Unfortunately, with all of these exclusions and a lower intrinsic value (Disney values each meal entitlement at $17.05 per adult and $6.95 per child), guests will need to do a little math to determine whether they will actually save money with this new free meal offer, or whether other discounts would serve them better in this instance and leave them with a little more green at the end of their vacation. 

2. Guests do have some flexibility 

Though the new deal is rather limited in terms of scope (and potential savings), guests who want to take advantage of this deal do have options. When guests check in during their stay, they will instantly receive entitlements for every member of their party for every night of their stay. And the good news is that where and when guests use these entitlements is entirely up to them.

Entitlements are good for breakfast, lunch or dinner at participating restaurants, and are not tied to specific dates during a vacation stay. So, if for instance, you are staying for six nights, you could splurge on the first two days of your vacation and have breakfast, lunch and dinner inside the theme parks (or at quick service restaurants at your hotel), and then pay for your meals for the rest of your stay. In addition, meal credits can be shared between party members, so guests can divvy up the “pool” of entitlements they receive upon check in any way they want. 

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Comments

I'd rather get a room discount than get just one 'free' meal, since we eat mostly quick service and rarely eat three meals each day

In reply to by Tim White (not verified)

I'd rather just get the biggest discount. you'd need about 34 meals at 15bucks a pop to "save" $500.

but in reality, you have to look at the big picture. if the option is no discount or 1 free quick service, i'd take the quick service. andy discount >> 0 discount.
even if i planned on 3 table services meals a day (pay out of pocket) i'd take the QS because it's free and i pay nothing more.

if it's an option between $500 and a free meal a day (see above) if i'd spend more than $500 on food, then yes take the food. if i'm only staying for a few days and food would cost say $300, i'd take the $500 room and pay for food, netting a discount of $200.

what gets crazy is when you have to have things like hopper or water park tickets and the like. saw where someone complained that their vacation cost went up when they got a free dining package (although they probably didn't take into account the money they would have spent at mealtimes).

anyway, i guess this is just a long way to say that i'd rather have the largest discount at the end of the day. because if i'm going to pay $x for a trip and at the end i can spend $X-a or $x-b, i'd want the larger of a or b. for largest net savings.

Remember, Disney is a business whose purpose is to make money. Sure Uncle Walt wanted the magic, but that still takes $$$. So you have to look at this from that point of view. Everything is to help Disney make money. Why offer "free" items if people will pay for them?

Anyway, if you already paid for dining, this is a perk, but if you are looking to use this as your "excuse" to go to Disney, you may want to rethink your vacation.

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