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.