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Author: Canadian Diva

We were so excited to be on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP)…and then we read the small print:

ALCOHOL AND GRATUITIES ARE NOT INCLUDED (I enlarged the print for you!)
*Gratuities are only included at Cinderella’s Royal Table and Specific Special Dinner shows, please see for more details.

People on the Free Dining Promotion or adding the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) onto their Disney Vacation Package, may think that they can just show up to Disney World and everything will be all inclusive. It’s not! Even worse, people get the various Disney Dining Plans and show up thinking they don’t need Advance Dining Reservations (ADR’s). You need months to plan in advance, Patricia with All for Dreams Travel could help you with this!

So how do we know, what Gratuities or “tips” we should add? Here is what I did…

First, any party over 6 people (and over the age of 3), will have an automatic 18% gratuity added on top to their bill. So be prepared to always pay 18%,  if you have 6 or more people dining in your group.

We are a family of  3 and were on the most popular plan, the Disney Dining Plus Plan, which includes: 1 Quick Service, 1 Table Service and 1 Snack per night’s stay.

A great website is Once I established all my ADR’s (at least 3- 6 months in advance), I went on and clicked the menu selection of each restaurant. The menu includes a Price Range for Adults (anyone over 10 years old) and Children (any child over 3 until 9 years of age).  I typed out a simple table and calculated the tips we would need to pay for each restaurant. You can also go to but I prefer the ease of clicking on the for menu updates and pricing.

The common rule for tipping:

Character Meal Buffet’s like “Chef Mickey’s”!

10% for good service
15% for excellent service
20% for outstanding before taxes.
(Buffets are 1 Table Service Credit)

Table Service/Full Service Restaurants
15% for good service
20% for outstanding before taxes.

As you will see in the table below, I calculated 10%,  15% and 20% of the meals we will eat. However, we found the Disney Service so OUTSTANDING we always paid 20% for Buffets and when we dined at Kone Cafe, our server, Mauricio, was so amazing that we actually paid 25% for his incredible service.

Here is our proposed Tip Budget before our trip.



Chef Mickey 

(Lunch – Buffet) 

1900 Park Fare 

(Breakfast – Buffet) 


(Breakfast – Half Buffet)
Kona Cafe 


Crystal Palace


(Lunch – Buffet) 

Estimated cost for meal 

Adult: $46 x 2 

Kids: $23 

Total = $115 

Note these are dinner prices since Lunch has not been officially listed yet. Lunch would definitely be cheaper.
Adult: $27 x 2 

Kids: $15 

Total = $70 

Adult: $47 x 2 

Kids: $28 

Total = $122 


**includes photo package

(Half Buffet means, half of your meal is from a buffet however you are served entrees as well)
Adult: $28.99 x 2 =$57.98
Kids: $8.69
Drinks: $4.69 x 2 = $9.38
Dessert: $5.99 x 2 = $11.98
Total = $88.03
Adult: $31 x 2 

Kids: $17 

Total = $79
Approx. TIP 

Rounded off to highest 


10%: $11.50
15%:  $17.25 

20% :  $23 

10%: $7.00
15%: $10.50 

20%: $14 

15%:  $18.30 

20%:  $24.40 

15%:  $13.20
20%: $17.60
10%: $7.90
15%: $11.85 

20%: $15.80 

1/2 buffet, so I did not include 10%
*kid’s meals include drinks & dessert
Total GRATUITY for trip approximately:  $46 – $78.80
Total Out of Pocket to the highest number: $80

note: Arrival Sunday night, we eat Quick Service, so we don’t  need tips on this day.

Since we were not going during peak season, I knew the highest price, wouldn’t be the price our meal would cost. At the same time, I didn’t know if my meal would be at the lower end or in the middle. To simplify things, I always used the HIGHEST price listed. This ensured that I always had extra money left over which we could spend on souvenirs or other small expenses that may come up.

Buffets were easy to calculate because the price is set. For Full Service meals it gets a bit more complicated but here’s what I did: I took the most expensive item on the menu and multiplied it by 2 Adults (multiply it by the number of guests over 10 years old). Then I took the drinks on the menu and multiplied it by 2, as well as the desserts.  Even though I knew I probably wouldn’t order the most expensive item (my husband, on the other hand would), I wanted to over calculate, again so we can be prepared and have money left over.  All the Kid’s meals have a set price with entrees, drinks and dessert included. Ask your server which drink (non-alcoholic) is available on the Plan you have. I listed above $4.69 for drinks per person because the Berry Fruit Smoothie is included on the Dining Plan at Kone as well as regular Soda which is less expensive. note: appetizers and alcohol are NOT included in the meal plans, you would need to pay extra. Also, specialty drinks at all BUFFETS are extra,  please confirm with your server when ordering.

We had fantastic service at the “Kona Cafe” for Dinner.

Being from Canada, I prepared all the tip money in advanced by exchanging currency ahead of time.

Diva note: you could charge the tip to your room using your room key and writing the tip amount on the receipt which would then be charged to your credit card at the end of your vacation. However charges can add up and you may be hit with some surprises if you don’t be careful with this, see this article here.

On your receipt, they will list the 18%  and 20% of your bill for gratuities. This simplifies the math for you when you are actually dining and would like to pay these percentages. Do keep in mind that Signature Dining Restaurants (which take 2 Table Service Credits) like Le Cellier, Hollywood Brown Derby, Jiko, California Grille etc. are much higher in price, so you would need more money for tips!

One more note, prices CHANGE, so once you establish your budget, CHECK back again. I did so a couple weeks before leaving on our vacation and noticed on that some of the Restaurant Prices went up, so I had to re-do some of the calculations.

Okay, so about $80 may not be a lot to some people but when you are a family on a budget, every penny literally counts. It pays to be organized in advanced, so no surprises arises, and if they do, at least you will be prepared!

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of  checking menu prices and doing your own table, you could use the one I have provided as a general guide.

Happy Tipping!

The beautiful “San Angel Inn”  at the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot.