6 Things They Won’t Tell You About Free Dining at Walt Disney World… But We Will!

The Free Dining promotion is one of the most sought after and popular deals at Walt Disney World. Basically, the promotion offers guests one of two Dining Plans for no cost as part of a room and ticket package. The Dining Plans are available to guests all year round as an add-on to their vacation package. A dining plan is not required to eat at any of the restaurants at Walt Disney World. Many guests choose the Dining Plan to facilitate budgeting and planning, but if it’s free, even better! If you’re planning (or even pre-planning) a Walt Disney World vacation taking advantage of the Free Dining deal, here are six things to think about.

6. You Need to Pull the Kids Out of School

Disney uses promotions like Free Dining to draw in visitors during otherwise slow season. The parks generally quieter while most children are in school. That means, if you want to take advantage of the Free Dining Promotion, your children will most likely need to miss school. The promotion usually has a minimum stay requirement of two or three nights, so you won’t be able to go just over the weekend. If you plan it right, you may only need to pull them out for a couple days.

5. Upgrade Your Plan

The Dining Plan you get for free depends on the level of your hotel. Guests staying in a Value hotel receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, which is two counter service credits. Guests staying in a Moderate or Deluxe hotel get the regular Disney Dining Plan, which is one counter service credit, and one table service credit. Both plans also include one snack credit, and the Rapid Fill mug. All credits are based on the number of nights in your stay. But, you can upgrade from the Quick Service plan to the regular Dining Plan for just the cost difference between the plans. You get to take advantage of the lower hotel rates, plus the dining plan for a very low cost. It’s basically the best of both worlds.

4. It’s a Lot of Food: No matter what plan you have, you get two full meals (including dessert!), a snack, and the refillable mug. Portions at Walt Disney World are huge. That means guests on the Dining Plan get a lot of food. For guests with small appetites, it may be too much food. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Look at what the various plans offer and at some menus online before deciding if a Dining Plan is right for your family.

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3. Does Not Cover Tips

Getting the Dining Plan for free is great, but don’t forget about tips for your servers. The Dining Plan does not include gratuity. Don’t worry too much though, Disney does the math for you, and when you get your bill, there will be a suggested tip amount, at both 18% and 20%. You’re free to tip that amount, or one of your choosing.

2. Or Appetizers and Alcohol

Another thing the Dining Plan does not cover is appetizers or alcoholic drinks. You will need to pay for those separately from the Dining Plan if you order any. The extra cost is definitely worth the price at many restaurants. For example, the Na’an Bread, an appetizer from Sanaa, is one of my absolute favorite dishes at Walt Disney World.

1. Better Deal For Adults and Older Children: At Walt Disney World, children aged 3-9 qualify for the child’s price for tickets and dining plans. Children two and younger don’t need a ticket or a dining plan. In 2016, the price for an adult on the standard Disney Dining Plan is $63.70 per night, and a child costs $22.85 per night. That’s quite a difference between child and adult prices. The Free Dining promotion gives a better value for a family with older people. A family with only small children may actually save more money by choosing a room discount instead of free dining.

The Free Dining promotion is a great deal! What are you favorite reasons for taking advantage of the discount? Let us know!

About Robin Swanson

Robin’s Disney journey began with Beauty and the Beast bedsheets, a Jasmine dress up set, and a purring Nala plush. As a child in the 1990s, the renaissance and classic animations alike captivated her imagination. In 2008, Robin visited Walt Disney World for the first time, and the obsession really took hold. Since then, Robin has enjoyed visiting the Happiest Place on Earth many more times. She lives in the Chicago suburbs where she is wrapping up a Masters in writing. When not at Disney World, Robin enjoys researching fairytales, eating ice cream, Netflix binging, reading and, of course, planning the next Walt Disney World vacation!