5 things you can do to get Disney’s Free Dining in 2017

FB-Free Dining

By far, the most popular discount Disney offers is the Free Dining discount.  It’s the #1 discount everyone wants, waits for, plans around, and asks me about.

I have a lot of the same questions pop up as we wait for free dining, usually with the same theme: “What’s our best shot of getting free dining?”

While there’s never a guarantee that free dining will be released, if it is, here’s the top 5 things YOU can do to better your chances of getting your food for free when you vacation in Disney World in 2017:

TOP 5 things YOU do to get FREE DINING 2017:

  1.  Know when to go & where to stay

Paying attention to the historical free dining information of years really helps you decide when to go and where to stay to give you the best shot of getting a free dining discount for your 2017 Disney vacation.

Normally, it’s announced in late April/earlyMay.  In 2016, Free Dining was released on April 25, 2016.

Here are the Walt Disney World Free Dining dates that were available for booking in 2016, which should give you some insight into what will be offered in 2017:

  • August 23 – October 1
  • November 15 – 21
  • November 26 – 28
  • December 10 – 21

Here were the room exclusions for 2016 (and I would expect to see the same for 2017):  All suites, campsites and 3 bedroom villas have been excluded from this offer, as were the Little Mermaid rooms at the new Art of Animation Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter, All-Star Movies, Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort and the new Villas and Bungalos at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. All other Disney resorts, including value resorts were included in the offer.  And Port Orleans Riverside was only available for arrivals August 23 through October 1, 2016.

Trying to plan your trip with a check in date that coincides with the previous year’s free dining discount dates & staying in a resort that wasn’t excluded last year helps a lot!

  2. Book your vacation NOW.

There is no reason to wait for free dining to be released before you book your trip.  If you know you want to go, and you’ve decided on dates that have a good chance of being included in free dining, then book your trip!

Disney World vacations only require a $200 deposit to book and that deposit is 100% refundable up until 30 days before your departure date.  Since we expect free dining to be released at the end of April and we’ll know all the details of Fall 2017 then, there is NO risk to you to book now.

Having your trip booked in advance is SO helpful for something else I highly recommend: making Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) as soon as possible (ADRs can be booked 180 days in advance of your check in date). Yes, even before Free Dining goes live. Everyone reserves the good ADRs quickly for potential Free Dining dates, so if you don’t book early, you can be stuck eating counter service or unpopular restaurants for the duration of your trip if you don’t plan ahead.

  3.  Be flexible, as much as you can

Historically, Free Dining has been a fall/early winter promotion and based on past promotions, you can plan your visit to give you a good chance of being included in 2017’s free dining discount.  But predictions are obviously just that, and all of this is subject to change based on occupancy trends and projections.  Being flexible with your travel dates and where you stay helps increase your chances of a great free dining discount!

   4.  If you have a Disney VISA card, use it for your $200 deposit

It’s not necessary to have a Disney Visa card to get free dining.  But if you do already have a Disney Visa card, I recommend using it for the deposit just in case being a Disney Visa cardholder helps your chances of securing free dining.

Last year, there was no early booking window for Disney Visa cardholders, but there was an expanded date range. The two years before, Disney Visa cardholders did have an early booking window.  Most years, the general public is able to book Free Dining packages 5 days after Disney Visa cardholders can book.

In years past, Free Dining has been announced in late April, with booking opening first for Disney Visa credit card holders and the general public a few days later. Last year, there was no early window for Disney Visa cardholders. However, Disney Visa cardholders were able to book free dining starting August 14 vs. the general public start date of August 23rd.

   5. Book your vacation with me or Email me to be notified about free dining 🙂

If you need personalized help with planning any aspect of your vacation, or want someone to book the Free Dining promotion for you and provide other assistance along the way–I recommend contacting me, a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan.

I am not just saying this to get your booking, but having your trip pre-booked with a good travel agent (such as myself), helps get the discount for your preferred dates/resort. 🙂

I receive my commission from Disney, so I will never charge you extra for booking your trip and helping you get the most our of your vacation, discounts, planning, etc..

Last year I worked tirelessly for all my clients to get the discount applied to their vacations.  In order to grab the free dining discount, I checked very very early in the morning (3-4am) & had emailed all my pre-booked clients before I moved to new bookings & quote requests.  The longer it takes to book/apply the discount, the less availability there is.  Being pre-booked made the process go much faster!

Have questions?  Email me with any & all questions, I am SO happy to help🙂


Thinking about a trip to Disney World?  I’d love to help!  As a travel specialist working for an authorized Disney travel agency, my services are completely free to you!  Disney pays my commission directly, which means that you can take advantage of my planning and advice absolutely free of charge!  If you have questions or want to chat more about this, you can email me anytime!

Email:  fairytalejourneysbysara@gmail.com

Some additional thoughts on Fall Free Dining 2013


***UPDATE – new rumor here.***

Still no official word yet on when (or if) Disney will release a free dining promotion for 2013.

Many people think free dining is dead and won’t resurface in 2013.  This idea mostly comes from the newly opened Fantasyland which has given Disney cause to raise prices and reduce discounts AND Disney has become, over the past 2 years, more exclusive on the dates they offer free dining.

I still think Disney will release the free dining for, at the very least, parts of Sept & Oct.  But I think 2013 will be the last year we see free dining for awhile, due to the new, upcoming attractions Disney has scheduled for 2013 & 2014.

Where does this leave YOU – the guest?

If you are waiting for Disney to release that free dining discount before booking a fall vacation, don’t wait because you may be too late!  I’m already seeing popular resorts and room categories booked solid through the end of the year – even during non-holiday times. Go ahead and book your preferred resort package, and let me take care of watching for discount releases. As soon as a free dining discount becomes available, I’ll call in and get you rebooked under the discount code – you’ll just get an email telling you how much money you’ve saved!

Get a free quote here:  www.fairytalejourneysbysara.com

Or email me here: sarad@fairytalejourneys.com

Disney Park Favorite Sit Down Restaurants:


Animal Kingdom Restaurants


  1. Yak and Yeti – an Asian restaurant with yummy Chinese foods (egg rolls, pot stickers, stir fry, tempura, etc..).  I love this place!  The kids menu is more American foods (mini burger, chicken tenders, lo mien, etc..).  (1 credit)
  1. Rainforest Cafe – This is a chain restaurant, but the food is good and the atmosphere is a lot of fun, for both kids and adults.  (1 credit)
  1. Tusker House – This is a character buffet at breakfast & lunch (featuring Donald Duck, Daisy, Goofy & Minnie) and just a buffet with no character at dinner.  The cuisine is American and Asian.  (1 credit)


Hollywood Studios Restaurants

  1. Sci Fi Dine In – This restaurant fare is typical drive in food (shakes, burgers, onion rings, etc) but the atmosphere is amazing!  You sit at tables fashioned to look like cars, there’s actual movies playing, and you feel you’re actually at a drive in theater.  I love this place – but the lighting is very low, just so you know.  (1 credit)
  1. 50’s Prime Time Cafe – the atmosphere is themed to make you feel like you are eating at your mom’s and you are just one of the family.  The food, meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, spaghetti & meatballs, etc…, are classics and the servers are known for teasing you to get your elbows off the table or finish your veggies.  (1 credit)
  1. Mama Melrose’s – a classic Italian spot with yummy Italian food and good service.  (1 credit)
  1. Hollywood Brown Derby – A very nice meal, with some guest favorites, including cobb salad, grapefruit cake, and American Bison.  (2 credits)


Epcot Restaurants

  1. Coral Reef – a mostly seafood restaurant, although their NY strip steak is good!  You eat your meal with aquariums surrounding you, which is really cool.  It makes you feel like you are under water.  There’s just something about watching fish swim by while you eat a fish 🙂  (1 credit)
  1. Garden Grill – The food here is served family-style, or they bring you platters of food and put it on the table and you can order more of whatever you want.  Food includes steak, chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetable, rolls, etc..  This is a character dinner where you can usually meet chip & dale, mickey, & pluto.  The restaurant itself actually (very slowly) rotates so you can watch the scenery go by.  (1 credit)
  1. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – A character buffet with princesses.  This buffet is located in the Norway section of Epcot, so some of the food is a little more unusual but there are also American food offerings.  This is a great alternative to Cinderella’s Castle if you don’t want to use 2 credits to see Princesses, or you can’t get a reservation at the Castle.  (1 credit)
  1. Le Cellier Steakhouse – located in Canada, this steakhouse is a personal favorite of mine.  All the steaks here are amazing!  This is a more expensive place as it is considered a signature dinner.  (2 credits)
  1. Rose and Crown Pub – located in United Kingdom, a pub that serves English food favorites like bangers and mash, scotch eggs, fish and chips, Sunday roast, and cottage pie.  (1 credit)
  1. Via Napoli – located in Italy, this wood fire Italian place is really yummy!  The pizza is thin crust and the pastas are good.  (1 credit)


Magic Kingdom Restaurants

  1. Cinderella’s Royal Table – the best Princesses character meal around, since you get to eat in the castle!  I still love going here as an adult.  All parties will get their picture taken with Cinderella and complimentary photo packages will be delivered to you during your meal.  (2 credits)
  1. Crystal Palace – This is a buffet meal located on Main Street of Magic Kingdom.  Any meal here is good, although breakfast is the best, in my opinion.  This is another character meal – you can meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet.  I really like this character meal.  (1 credit)
  1. Be Our Guest Restaurant – This is the newest restaurant in Disney World, themed like the ballroom of Beauty and the Beast.  It’s beautiful!  You can eat here at lunch without reservations and it’s more informal, or you need reservations for dinner with more formality.  At dinner, you sometimes get to meet the Beast and get your picture taken with him.  This restaurant is part of the new Fantasyland that Disney has been advertising.  (1 credit)
  1. Liberty Tree Tavern – Lunch is my favorite meal here – the pot roast is wonderful, the fried cheese app is very good, and the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake dessert is really not to be missed.  If you eat here for dinner, you meal is served family style, or you get platters of Thanksgiving-type foods, with a cobbler for dessert.  (1 credit)
  1. Tony’s Town Square – This restaurant serves typical Italian foods with a Lady and the Tramp theme and decor.  It’s right off Main Street, too, with a nice view of all comings and goings.  (1 credit)
  1. Plaza Restaurant – This small ice cream parlor (on Main Street) is a great lunch place!  The sandwiches are great, the milkshakes are classic, and the atmosphere is wonderful.  A fun place for a meal.





My pre-game notes on Drinking Around the World

There are 85 days until June 1, 2013 – my next trip to Disney World.  I’m very much looking forward to my trip, for all sorts of reasons, but something I’m especially looking forward to is Drinking Around the World.  I’ve never attempted to drink around the world showcase in Epcot, but this June, I’ll try to complete the game!


The rules vary depending on what you read, but my goal is to get 1 drink at each country, excluding the African Outpost, and to do it all in one day.


Some tips I’ve read – eat a BIG hearty breakfast before going to Epcot.  And start promptly at 11am in Mexico, working your way around to Canada.


In preparation for this, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on what are the best drinks at each country (and also the best snacks, because I love food).


So here are my notes what I’ll use in June.  I’ll give a full report, with pictures, once I’m back.

AMERICA:  Fife & Drum Tavern – Snack: Cream Cheese Pretzel/Drinks: Bud Light or Sam Adams for beer and Frozen Red Stag Lemonade

NORWAY:  Kringla Bakeri og Kafe – Snack: Sweet Pretzel, School bread, Lefse, Ham & Apple sandwich, etc..  Drink:  Bailey’s Coffee

CHINA:  Joy of Tea Stand – Drink: Tipsy Ducks in Love drink (2nd choice: Canto Loopy)

Lotus House – Snack:  Egg Rolls

UNITED KINGDOM:  Rose & Crown bar – Drinks: English Rose cocktail, Pimm’s Cup, Welsh Dragon, Harp Lager, Bass Ale

MEXICO:  La Cava Del Tequila – Drinks: Any Margarita but esp Blood Orange or tequila flight.   Beer: Bohemia.  Snack:  Churros

GERMANY:  Bier Stand – Drink:  BEER (Altenmunster Oktoberfest, Radeberger Pilsner).  Snack:  pretzel

ITALY:  Gelato Stand – Drinks:  Italian Margarita, Bellini.  Via Napoli – Snack:  Pizza.  Italian drink cart – Drinks: Limoncello or Peach Bellini

JAPAN:  Mitsukoshi Department Store – sake flight

MOROCCO:   Best option:  Habibi Daiquiri

FRANCE:  Kiosk in the France Pavilion – Drinks:  wine of any kind

CANADA:  Kiosk – Drinks:  Moosehead Lager or Torontopolitan

And there you have it.  My master drinking (and eating) plan for the World Showcase.  I hope I can make it and still walk at the end 🙂


Via Napoli Food Pictures

I had a dinner recently at Epcot’s Via Napoli located in Italy in the World Showcase.  It serves authentic Italian fare, with 3 wood burning ovens, named after the 3 active Volcanos in Italy:  Etna, Vesuvio, & Stromboli.

I totally should have taken some atmosphere pictures for you, but forgot completely.  So this is just a quick post on the food we ate.  Both the entrees were very tasty, but the pizza could have easily fed 2 people!

Candele – candle stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine meatballs, mozzarella, ricotta $24.00

Signature Pies
Individual $19
Quattro Formaggi – mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, provolone
The dessert options weren’t all that enticing (personally, I thought there should be more chocolate).  The tiramisu wasn’t very sweet and the cherry covered gelato isn’t on the menu now, and I can’t remember the official name.
Tiramisu – Mascarpone cream, espresso coffee, lady fingers, and chocolate $8.00
I would go back to Via Napoli, but only for the pizza.  In fact, I’m working on a plan for drinking around the World in June and one of my stops will be at Via Napoli for a pizza for dinner 🙂

Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot

Le Cellier Steakhouse, found in Canada in Epcot, is a love it or hate it restaurant of late.  People hate change and Le Cellier has undergone significant changes in the past year (getting rid of the lunch menu, going to 2 dining credits, etc).  But in spite of that, I am a love-it-so-much-I-dream-about-it person.  My dining highlight each trip is my dinner at Le Cellier.

It’s fairly easy to spot the sign for the restaurant.


When you enter the restaurant, one of my favorite Hidden Mickeys can be found behind the check-in counter.



After you are seated, the first thing you should order is the cheddar cheese soup.  It’s SO great for dipping your bread in AND it’s the cheapest appetizer on the menu (bonus).

Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup – made with Moosehead Beer and Bacon $7.49







I always order the Filet when I go to Le Cellier.  Typically I am not a steak person, but this is not your typical steak.  It melts in your mouth – melts I tell you.  I like the steak better than the desserts and that’s really saying something!

Le Cellier Mushroom Filet Mignon – 8 oz. Canadian AAA Beef Tenderloin with wild mushroom risotto, white truffle butter sauce and micro chervil $43.00





The last time I was there, my mom ordered the Ribeye and raved about it.

Grilled Bone-in Ribeye – 18-20 oz. bone-in ribeye with herb-parmesan potato wedges and roasted garlic butter $46.00



For dessert, I typically go the Creme Brulee route.  My mom had a raspberry cheesecake that is no longer available on the menu (there’s a pumpkin cheesecake instead).  She loved it, so I am sure the pumpkin cheesecake would be wonderful.

Maple Créme Brulée $6.99



The Raspberry Cheesecake




A note about a couple axed menu items.  My husband maintained that the BEST burger he’s ever had anywhere was at Le Cellier.  When they got rid of the lunch menu, the burger went to burger heaven.  RIP.  Also there was a chocolate whiskey cake that I really liked that didn’t make the new all day dinner menu.  It was the best dessert on the menu in my opinion and I was sad to see it go.

Best Burger Ever



Chocolate Whiskey Cake




In summary – Le Cellier is a must do for us on any trip to Disney World.  If you decide you, too, want to eat there, make sure to book your advance dining reservations at least 3-4 months out.  It’s a popular place to eat. 🙂