How do I add the Dining Promo Card to my existing Disney World reservation?
For existing reservations which meet all the program requirements, you can call Disney and try to rebook your reservation with the promotion (just be mindful of possible price changes for the room and tickets).
If you originally booked within the past 30 days and haven’t yet paid in full, a Disney travel agent such as The Vacationeer (see above) can help so you don’t have to spend hours on hold trying to modify your reservation.
Is the Dining Promo Card Offer as Good as Free Dining?
The previous free dining offers and the current dining promo card promotion have some similarities: both provide free meals in exchange for purchasing a non-discounted package of hotel rooms and theme park tickets, and both are based on the length of stay and type of hotel booked. But that’s really where the similarities end.
Garden Grill Epcot Restaurant
Under the old Free Dining Plan offer, each Guest in a room received credits to be used for at least one meal for each night of their stay. The new plan provides a cash equivalent to be used to purchase meals, which is not based on how many people are in the room. As a result, there are some considerable pros and cons to the new program.
Pros of the new offer
In many ways, the new offer is superior to the old Disney Dining Plan.
- It’s “free money.” When you’re trying to calculate the cost of your Disney vacation, you can consider the credit to be part of your food budget and use that cash elsewhere.
- It’s much simpler than the old Dining Plan. Rather than keeping track of how many meal credits you’ve used, this works more like a traditional gift card (but only for food). You simply use it however you want until you’re out of funds.
- Solo travelers, couples, and families with young children might get more food with this system than the old Free Dining plan. Under the old system, each person got a set number of meals and snacks; the new system lets you spend as you wish. With some savvy dining, you could cover multiple meals per day.
- The new system is just as flexible as the old one (perhaps more), in that you can still “flex” your credits, using more of your allowance on one day and less on the next.
- Leftover credits were problematic under the old system, with folks notoriously panic-buying a dozen snacks on the last day of their trip. Under this system, expiring credit can be used by simply splurging on a nicer dinner the last night of your vacation.
Cons of the new offer
There are some ways the new offer falls short.
- The value of the promo card does not change based on the number of people in the room. Those with large families or voracious eaters will find that the new offer doesn’t go quite as far as the traditional free dining offer (which covered meals for every person in the room).
- What you choose to eat matters. Under the old dining plan, a single credit would often cover even the most expensive entrée on the menu, along with a drink and an appetizer or dessert. If you’re a spendy eater, your credit will evaporate much more quickly under the new system, because menu prices for all of these items will count toward your credit spending.
- The offer is for specific check-in dates; it may not be the best option for those who want to travel during cheaper or less-crowded times of year.
- This free dining credit is only offered when bundled with a 4+ night hotel stay and 4+ day theme park tickets (4+ days). Those looking for a shorter stay or less days in the parks might save more money by spending fewer days/nights.
- The dining promo requires a full-priced vacation package including hotel room and tickets. Some travelers might save more money by buying discounted tickets or discount hotel rooms instead. A good travel agent can run the numbers for you and help decide the most economical route.
Is the Disney Dining Promo Card Offer Worth It?
Disney’s free dining offer has consistently been its most popular offering of the year, and for good reason. It represented a significant enough savings on food costs that it more than outweighed the “lost” savings that could have been had by skipping a theme park day or getting a discounted hotel room.
Under the new system, the value is a little harder to judge and will really come down to how you vacation and who you travel with. For the right sized group, with the right eating habits, the new promo can be worth booking. Other promotions may be better for those who have larger families, prefer to eat high-end meals, want to skip park days, or plan shorter trips.
The dining credit with a Value Resort stay is probably enough to cover quick service lunch each day for a party of two – but they might still need to pay out of pocket for breakfast, dinner, and snacks. A party of four could easily exhaust all of their credit just a couple of days into the trip. The food math looks a little better in higher-priced resorts (which have a larger promo card value), but its offset by a higher room rate.
All in all, you’re more likely to be pleased with the promotion if you consider it as a bonus which will cover some – but not all – of your dining. The best advice is to calculate how much you expect to spend on food during your trip – figure out how much credit you’ll get – and then compare those amounts against what you might save with any other available discounts.
Who is it best for?
Those who will get the most value from this program are those who:
- Already intended to stay in a higher-priced hotel
- Are solo travelers, couples, and families with young children
- Tend to eat more quick service meals than table service meals