View Full Version : Do I really want to go during free dining?

05-17-2007, 09:33 AM
DH and I are talking about an Anniversary weekend away this fall...sometime between late Sept and mid-Nov. With just the 2 of us, we're leaning towards DDP and enjoying some nice sit-down meals. I know that "free dining" greatly increases the crowds at the restaurants, but does it make the parks and resorts nutty as well? We want to take it at a slow, easy (and romantic) pace, and I'm wondering if waiting until the beginning of November would be less hectic...?? I'm sure the value resorts will be bursting at the seams, but we are looking at doing a moderate.

Any opinions?


05-17-2007, 10:45 AM
We visited early last November for a quick 4-day trip and the crowds were moderate. We stayed at SSR and, because we arrived later in the day - after 6:00 pm - did not get the room of our choice. The resort seemed pretty busy. November is usually when the soap stars visit MGM - early to mid-month? - and the Epcot food festival is winding down. The weather was very humid :rolleyes: , but the temps were mid-70's or so. I did not find the crowds to be overwhelming, except for perhaps the weekend. Especially at DTD, the weekends tend to be pretty hectic. The rest of the week was busy, but not overwhelmingly so.

05-17-2007, 11:18 AM
If I were in your shoes, I would wait until early Nov. The change in the weather would be worth the extra cost, IMHO. Plus, a code may be released that will drop your overall price. Heck, I'd rather go in Nov. and stay at a value than go during FD to a mod.

The ONLY reason we are going during the summer is that dh is a teacher. We are in the NE, so our schools start later than much of the country. Since his vacation and FD fall into the same timeframe, it makes sense for us to go.

05-17-2007, 11:32 AM
Yes and NO is my answer. Yes, because hey - we are talking FREE food here - saves a bundle!. No, because the crowds really pick up during this time. Last August, I checked in a week before FREE dining and the crowds were the lowest I've ever seen (early August has been low attended the last few years). Like I've stated SEVERAL times, I was able to "do" a park in a day. I hit almost EVERY ride in MK and EVERY popular ride with little or no wait. I did a few back to back with no wait. No reservations were made and we were able to walk into our favorite eating spots. It was absolutely fabulous. I guess the final question you have to weigh is what trumps - free food/saving money vs. free time/crowds! :confused:

05-17-2007, 11:37 AM
DH and I are talking about an Anniversary weekend away this fall...sometime between late Sept and mid-Nov. With just the 2 of us, we're leaning towards DDP and enjoying some nice sit-down meals. I know that "free dining" greatly increases the crowds at the restaurants, but does it make the parks and resorts nutty as well? We want to take it at a slow, easy (and romantic) pace, and I'm wondering if waiting until the beginning of November would be less hectic...?? I'm sure the value resorts will be bursting at the seams, but we are looking at doing a moderate.

Any opinions?


Yep, the free dining is going to bring in the crowds (that's the intent) especially at the TS restaurants. Remember now you have quite a number of folks who would normally not eat at TS restaurants for whatever reason booking. Also folks who may be on a budget can now bump up to the moderates because they don't have to budget for food. Last August it was packed It may not really affect you because you're taking a slow, leisurely pace so you have a lot of flexibility. So I wouldn't necessarily count September out just know its going to be crowded.

05-17-2007, 11:44 AM
If you want to enjoy a slow and romantic pace, then I would definitely recommend visiting at a time other than the Free Dining Aug/Sept. period. I think the DDP in and of itself has changed the entire feel of dining at Disney and during that promotion I suspect it will be even crazier. Also, I think there will be more young children, as they're appealing to families with children not yet in school, or maybe who are in preschool and can miss without any repurcussions.

Go during a time period when older children are not out on school break and when WDW is not offering Free Dining and I suspect you will increase your odds of a more relaxed experience.

05-17-2007, 11:58 AM
We love going during free dining. We were there in 2005 and the wait time for Splash Mtn was that you walked right on! The longest wait time we had was 15 mins for Soarin. We didn't go last year but had friends that went and said it was virtually the same thing.

The parks aren't crowded except on the weekends during NOJ and MNSSHP. The restaurants are where you see the difference. They are crowded and hard to get your ADRs.

05-17-2007, 12:16 PM
I'd do early November. If you go during the Food & Wine Fest I think it's the ideal time for a couple who want to take a leisurely pace. Wandering among the food & wine kiosks, tasting new things, sharing some champagne. To me it's the epitome of "Disney for Grownups". The resorts that will be difficult would be any of the Epcot resorts (BW, BC/YC, Swan, Dolphin). You should be fine with a moderate.

Unless you regularly eat three full meals a day at WDW, I don't think the "free dining" is the least bit free. You have to pay full rack rate to get it, schedule all your time around it, and then eat more than normal to make it pay. Believe me, you are paying for it! JMHO

05-17-2007, 12:26 PM
Don't go mid-November, the resorts are packed from the Super Soap weekend.

Free dining is a great promotion, but lots of kids are in school and can't go during that time. I've never seen the parks very busy during it. On the other hand, the Food and Wine festival packs the resorts also and the parks tend to be much busier. That doesn't mean it's not a great time to go, though.

05-17-2007, 01:50 PM
I went during free dinning last year (short trip) and my friend and I had a great trip. Not only did we eat a lot of good food but crowds were really easy to manage. I remember we did MK arriving at the park early and we were probably done with all the major rides by 3pm. Epcot was a breeze and so was MGM. Our only problem was Animal Kingdom but that was/is because of Expedition Everest.

I'm doing free dinning this year as well for another short trip. Since we did it last minute we considered ourselves very fortunate with ADRs -- we are going August 30-Sept 3 (Labor Day weekend) and got: California Grill, CRT, and 50s Prime Time Cafe at the times we wanted!

Hoosier Mom
05-17-2007, 01:58 PM
We went last year for a week (Sept 16). Loved the free dining. It saved us a bundle.

There weren't hardly any lines on Mon thru Fri, more people on the weekends, but still not too crowded. We went to whatever park wasn't having the extra magic hours in hopes of dodging more crowds.

Our main problem was I could not handle the heat. We had a misting fan that we filled with ice water every day. Our next trip will have to be a winter one. I still want to get the dining plan though.

Oh, also we did not run into huge crowds in the restaurants because we picked early times. Our lunches were all 11:15 or so. Our suppers were all 4:30 pm. We like to eat early especially since those are some pretty big meals. Get ADR's as soon as possible.

05-17-2007, 02:02 PM
DH & I honeymooned at WDW in November 1997. LOVED IT! weather, crowds were perfect! Went back for our anniversary in 2000. Same experience with the addition of the F&W Festival. This year we're celebrating our 10th anniversary at WDW. But we decided to change our reservation to the last week in September to take advantage of the Free Dining since normally we can't afford to eat at the TS Restaurants. It saved us $700 to make this change! :cool1:

I'd say if the slow pace, great weather, and low crowds are important to you, the November (early november). If saving some money while still experiencing fairly low crowds (but not as great weather), then go with late Sept.

We are arriving on the last day of the FDP so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the crowds won't be AS crazy as they were during the Free Dining period. :rolleyes1

05-17-2007, 02:13 PM
We didn't find the crowds to be terrible during free dining, but I didn't want to go back for it this year. Why? Mainly because I knew we'd be deciding on our dates less than 180 out, and that we'd likely be shut out of some of the nice dinners that we really want to try because we didn't get our ADRs early enough. For us, free dining isn't worth it if it means settling for restaurants we've already been to or aren't all that interested in, and missing out on our "must-dos" and trying new places.

In 2005, we checked in with only a couple days left in the free dining promo. Crowds weren't bad except at Epcot, which was almost certainly because of other people like us who went for the overlap between free dining and food & wine festival. Restaurants were packed in the parks, not as bad at DTD and the resort (we were at POR). However, we made our ADRs in May when we booked and couldn't get any ADR for Le Cellier (lunch or dinner) or CRT (breakfast or lunch), could only get a late seating for 1900 Park Fare, etc. And I learned my lesson - I won't plan less than 180 out again, unless it is a short trip where we don't care so much about having a variety of nice, relaxed TS meals.

05-17-2007, 03:10 PM
We went last year during free dining (Sept. 8-13). My DH and I played golf twice and my kids enjoyed the BW pool with Grandma, they had the pool to themselves - it was great. Before playing golf, DH and I went to get breakfast at the BW bakery and we were the only people on the entire BW. On the day we arrived (it was a Saturday) we were practically the only people walking from BWV to Epcot in the middle of the afternoon. Pin trading was going on but the rides were all walk ons. They were all walk ons for the entire week, even EE was only about a 5 min. wait, we rode SM 3 times in a row. However, evening EMH at MK was more crowded than expected, I mean we had to wait like 15-20 mins. so we just left and did MK on another day. As far as dining goes, I had made ADRs well in advance, we decided during the day the place we had made the ADR for did not sound good, or wanted to go somewhere esle, I called around 3p.m., cancelled the ressie and was able to make a new one with no problem (and there were 7 of us in our party) with the exception of LC which I had an ADR before we left. We did not have wait times at TS longer that 5 mins.

Our 10yr. anniversary is this Sept., we Disneymooned there as well, and we are excited to be going back again this Sept. How fun will it be to celebrate our 10yr. anniversay with our 4 kids (DD8, DD6, DS5, & DS5), my mom, and DHs mom and dad. We will have a blast, hope you do too. Needless to say, my vote would be Sept. with free dining. (I have not had any problems getting ADRs for 9 people either.)

05-17-2007, 03:17 PM
There is a reason they offer free dining during this time. :thumbsup2

It's not overcrowded. Go.

We went last year from 9-7 to 9-13 and had a blast.

Going back this year from 9-21 until 10-1.

05-17-2007, 03:35 PM
I'd go during free dining. We went at this time last year, and the parks were very manageable (rode most roller coasters 7-10 times each because there were almost no lines. Even Expedition Everest had a 10 min or shorter wait.) It is not so uncrowded for the preschool set, though, since they aren't in school yet.

We decided a week or so ago to go during free dining again this year. I thought I would have trouble with ADR's but got all my first choices at the times I wanted (Crystal Palace, Scifi, Coral Reef, Marakesh, Narcoosees and Boma.)

I've never been to WDW in November, and I hear the weather is nicer, but I'm guessing it's more crowded.

05-17-2007, 03:37 PM
I'm thinking the last check-in date for fee dining is September 22nd. Earlier than last year (we checked in September 30th). Parks weren't horrendously crowded when we were there, but TS restaurants were! :lol:

Probably the second week of October until other special events would be good. Possibly avoiding Columbus weekend, but I'm not sure many people are off work/school then any more. You could plan around MNSSHP or to include it, as you please.

05-17-2007, 03:40 PM
I was there September 13-18, 2006 and decided that I would go every September if I can swing it.
Perfect conditions for me. Low crowds, hardly any waits, not too hot, not too rainy... I loved it!

05-17-2007, 03:43 PM
I'd say yes, if you get the room, and the dining ressies you want. As alot of dining ressies, are already booked up. If you can get what you want. I say go for it. You can always go back to the room for snuggle time with hubby if the crowds seem overwhelm, you both. :goodvibes

05-17-2007, 04:15 PM
go in November avoid the crowds. hey and that would be two less in the parks and restaurants. :rotfl:

05-17-2007, 08:22 PM
Ana, we will be at Coronado Springs the same time as you Aug. 30- Sept. 4. this will be our second time going during free dining, we went the end of Sept to the beginning of Oct. it was a great time to go. We have also gone twice in the beginning of Nov. the weather was nice, barely any rain, but if I had a choice I would do free dining at the end of sept.

05-18-2007, 06:08 AM
keep in mind that the end of September is PRIME Hurricane Season. (not that that would keep me going ;) )

05-18-2007, 06:31 AM
We went in september in 2006 during free dining and the crowds were not too bad but it was sweltering hot and the restaurants were busy. The parks were moderately crowded but if you go in the morning it wasn't bad at all. Also it's cooler in the morning. It didn't rain much I guess we were lucky though. It rained only 1 night for a few hours. We also went in November right after jersey week in 2003, I think Nov. 14-21 and it was the ebst trip ever. Beautiful weather and low crowds. that is my favorite time to go. November is good before Thanksgiving and after Jersey week. You would want to check in the 10th or 11th when the crowds head home. Unfortunately we can't pull DD from school during this time so we are going during fall break. It was just too hot for us during free dining and again DD would miss some school. We are just paying for the DDP this time.

05-18-2007, 06:33 AM
Thanks for the replies everyone! We're going to have to make a decision soon...especially if we go in Sept. for the free dining. There won't be any ADRs left if we wait too long! I've always wanted to go during F&W though..... decisions, decisions :confused3

05-18-2007, 03:50 PM
I went during free dining last year (August 16-27) although I booked too late to get the dining plan for free. :mad: Anyways, lol, it wasn't that crowded at all. The longest wait we had was for space mountain and it was 25mins at most. We also made ADR's for all the restaurants we wanted to eat at about three weeks before we left and had no probelems.

I'd say go, enjoy free dining, and the parks being not-so-crowded :cloud9: