Author: Canadian Diva
“FREE DINING”… these 2 words usually causes a feasting frenzy in the Disney World community, with veteran vacationers to newbies wanting to know – what’s the big deal!?!
So what’s “Free Dining?”
Free Dining is one of Disney World’s most popular promotions. For a select time and at select Disney World Resorts, when you book a Magic Your Way Package, a popular Dining Plan is added FREE to this package.
For select* Value Resorts, your package will include the Quick Service Dining Plan. For select* Moderate, Deluxe and Deluxe Villa resorts, your package will include the Dining Plan. Please see this informative article on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) which includes tips on maximizing your plan!
(You may also “Upgrade” your plan: staying at a Value Resort, you can pay to upgrade to the Disney Dining Plan and for all resorts you can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining plan.)
Diva Tip: Our family LOVES Free Dining and when staying at a Value Resort, we upgrade from the Quick Service Dining Plan to the Disney Dining Plan and found it was well worth it. However, please contact a Disney Travel Specialist, like our official agent PATRICIA. Depending on the resort you want to stay at, as well as the dates you are visiting, you may get a really good deal at a Moderate or Deluxe resort.
Here are 5 reasons why I LOVE Free Dining…
1. ‘FREE’DOM – (George Michael suddenly popped in my head)
Singing the praises of all things FREE, it’s exactly what the DDP helps you feel.. FREE, though it’s not exactly free because you do, in turn, pay full price for the Resort Rooms and Tickets. Weighing in on your situation and how you and your family likes to eat, it may not be a good deal. For our family, we calculated the costs of the Free Dining Plan vs. other promotions and it ALWAYS came out a winner for us. It feels a bit like an all-inclusive package, where everything is paid upfront (keep in mind that Alcoholic Beverages, Appetizers and Tips are extra!). Another reason why we like to have this package is, being from CANADA, we don’t have to worry about the exchange rate for meals on our vacation since the Dining Plan was already included.
2. Hands ‘Free’
As mentioned above, being from another country, we don’t have to worry about the money exchange and calculating everything when on the Disney Dining Plan. Even if you are from the United States, everything is literally, hands free – though you do need your wrist. With the new MagicBands, it makes life so much sweeter! You simply wear your band everywhere and it is scanned when you are dining. It will recognize your meal plan and Voilà, no wallet, cards or coin purse needed. But what about tip you ask? Well you can charge the tip to your Magic Band which will then be added to your room which you pay at the end of your trip. See my article here for calculating “tip” on the Disney Dining Plan.
3. ‘Free’-kin Awesome Restaurants
With over hundreds of restaurants and counter service places participating in the Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, you have so much to choose from. Disney World has a great variety of food beyond imagination. The Theme-ing of the many Disney World Table Service Restaurants and “Quick” Counter Service Eateries are brilliant, with tastes from literally around the World or experience flavors you could ever dream of from staples you are already familiar with. Visiting a Disney World Restaurant is awe-inspiring itself, it’s such a treat to experience every day of your trip. One of my favorite sites to visit regarding Disney Food is AllEars.net (with great updated menus) . Plus search many of the Tips from the Disney Diva’s array of Restaurant reviews which will leave you hungering for your trip. If you have children, you will get so much out of CHARACTER DINING, which can be very expensive. Our family has done most of the Character Meals at Walt Disney World, thanks to the Disney Dining Plan. And an added bonus, by dining with the Disney Characters, you can save a lot of time in the Parks because you have met many of the Characters already. Read Diva Viva’s helpful tips on Character Dining!
Well, nothing is technically ‘free’ at Disney but it will feel like you are getting “Free”bies if you plan things right! From snack credits which could turn into souvenirs at the end of your trip (leftover snack credits on the last day of your trip can be used for lollipops, packaged snacks and the like, to bring back home for gifts!), to a ‘free’ photo package with a Princess at Akershus or Cinderella’s Royal Table (don’t forget CRT takes 2 Table Service Credits), to Free Birthday Cupcakes and Birthday Cards (at select restaurants). Search around and see what ‘free’bie you can score.
Note: some of the Freebies like the Birthday cards, Photo Package and Birthday cupcakes are available whether you are on the DDP or paying meals out of pocket, but by having it part of the “FREE DINING” plan, makes it feel a bit more free.
Here are more quick reasons and tips to love FREE DINING…
- Snack Credits can be used for the annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival (which is usually when the Free Dining Promotion is offered). The Snacks here are usually more expensive than a regular priced snack! A truly great way to use your snack credits while on the Dining Plan.
- For Lunch and Dinner Quick Service meals, a dessert is always included. If you are too full to eat a dessert, request a bottle of Dasani water instead of the dessert (don’t forget you also get a drink with your meal so you can save the water bottle for later). With the heat and all the walking, the extra bottle of water in place of dessert will be refreshing.
- I’m not going to lie, the Disney Dining Plan has an INSANE amount of food, it could almost be wasteful. Yet, if planned right, you can make the most of your plan. My daughter and I are lighter eaters, so we can share Quick Service meals and extend our meal credits for another time. My husband eats A LOT and many times if I couldn’t finish something, he was more than happy to help me. Also with many Quick Service meals, packaged snacks are available especially with the Children’s meals (like fruit and vegetables, PB and Jam sandwiches), just bring a small insulated cooler (we brought a soft covered lunch bag type cooler) and store the snacks away for later.
- Speaking of insulated coolers, use it to pack extra DESSERTS like Cakes from your Table Service meals (if it is not a Buffet) and save it for later as an evening snack, or eat it for breakfast like I explained in this article!
- Re-fillable Resort mugs are available on ALL dining plans and can be used only at your resort. You can drink all the coffee, tea, hot chocolate, soda and other select drinks at your resort!
- Craving Ice Cream? For many Quick Service meals, ask to stamp your receipt and after you finish your meal you can go back and get your ice cream, melt-free! (the Lychee Ice Cream, at the Lotus Blossom Café in the China Pavilion at Epcot is to die for.)
*as mentioned above, only select resorts participate in the FREE DINING plan. The resort you want to stay at may not have the Free Dining plan promotion included. Also, Free Dining is only available on Select Dates , usually in the Fall when it is low season. So the timing may not work out for you to be able to vacation during the Free Dining Promotion. (Diva Tip: our family has had exclusive FREE DINING offers in the Spring through a special PIN code. These PINS are rare but you can try your luck by signing up at Disney.com)
Children 10 years and older are considered Adults according to Disney, if your pre-teen is a light eater or if any Adult with you, just can’t eat that much, you may be better off with a different offer like a Room Discount and pay for your meals out of pocket. Many of the Diva writers swear by paying OOP, see this fantastic article here on how to save money out of pocket!!
Popular Restaurants book FAST, so make sure your make your Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) or you will be out of luck. Again contact a Disney Specialist like our agent Patricia who can book all your ADR’s FREE for you, as long as you book a Walt Disney World Vacation Package.
Be FREE, Feel FREE on FREE DINING!