Why Has Everyone Gone Crazy for Free Disney Dining?!

FREE dining dates at the Walt Disney World Resort for fall of 2012 were recently released, and for those who follow Disney on Facebook or the Internet, this topic was everywhere.  What’s the big deal? Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Free Disney Dining offer.

How does this whole Free Dining Deal thing work?

Your food amount is based on the resort level you choose.

Value Resorts:

Guests staying at a Disney World Value Resort will receive the Quick Service Dining Plan for free.

  • All-Star Sports
  • All-Star Music
  • All-Star Movies
  • Pop Century
  • Art of Animation

For each person on the room reservation, the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • two counter-service meals per night
  • one snack per night
  • a refillable drink mug per stay

The current daily price of the Quick Service Plan is $37.58 per adult and $14.32 per child ages 3-9 for a stay during regular season. This is the lowest level for the dining plan.

Guests will be able to upgrade to either the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan by paying the price difference. More about that in a minute.

All Other Resorts:

Guests staying at Disney World Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villa resorts will receive the Disney Dining Plan included for free.

For each person on the room reservation, the Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • one counter-service meal per night
  • one sit-down meal per night
  • one snack per night
  • a refillable drink mug per stay

The current daily price per night for the Disney Dining Plan is $55.59 per adult and $17.16 per child for most times of the year except peak season. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate. Your gratuity is not included for table service meals. Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery.

Disney World guests at Moderate, Deluxe and Villa Resorts will also be able to book the “Free Dining” and upgrade to the Disney Deluxe Dining for the normal price difference.

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan Cost

For each person on the room reservation, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • three meals at your choice of counter service restaurants or table service restaurants per night
  • two snacks per night
  • one refillable drink mug per stay

The current daily price of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $99.97 per adult and $26.84 per child during regular season. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate.  Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery. Gratuity is not included for the table service meals.

So here we go with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for the Free Dining offer. 

The Good.

1. Free food –  that’s good.

2. Your vacation can extend outside of the available dates, and you will still receive the free dining for your entire stay. Stay longer, play longer, and eat for free longer.

3. The Free Dining offer can save you a ton of money on really nice meals, especially if you were already planning to stay at a Disney resort during your vacation rather than a cheap hotel in Kissimmee.

4. Free Dining will you allow you to order expensive menu items without worrying about the cost. This is the way most people I know have enjoyed multiple character meals on one trip. You might not normally take a family of four people over the age of ten to Chef Mickey’s for dinner, simply due to the cost, but what is to stop you now that it’s free?

5. Free Dining is great for those who really enjoy Disney snacks. If a snack can run upwards of $7, now is the time to get one guilt free.

The Bad

1. You can not just vacation any night in the fall.  Availability is extremely limited, and not all resorts may be available. You must check in to your Disney resort on one of the following available dates:

  • September 30 – October 4, 2012
  • October 19 – November 1, 2012
  • November 9 – 15, 2012
  • November 23 – 29, 2012
  • December 10 – 13, 2012

2. You cannot check in before an available date and receive the discount.  You only qualify depending on the day you check in to the resort.

3. If you extend your vacation outside of the available dates, you will still receive the free dining for your entire stay, but this can lead to other expenses. More gas for your car, more money for your hotel, more temptation for all those amazing souvenirs, and extra expenses that just pop up on any vacation.

4. Your vacation must be booked by September 29, 2012. For those who fly by the seat of your pants and make your hotel reservations from your iPhone on the drive to Orlando, this deal is going to pass you by. All the hotel rooms will be booked by the time you make plans.

5. A three night minimum stay is required, and a maximum stay of 14 nights is allowed per reservation. Disney is not going to feed you for a two-night weekend or a month vacation.

6. Your gratuity is not included for table service meals. So while you may not be paying for your meals during free dining, Disney’s “suggested tip” for your wait staff is 15 to 18 percent. This is going to add up fast for character and other pricey meals, so bring your wallet.

The Ugly

Is anything really ugly at Disney? Not exactly, but there can be drawbacks.

1. Did I mention availability is extremely limited, and not all resorts may be available? You may not be able to book a room at the resort of your choice.

2. The type of dining plan you receive depends on which resort level you choose (see the Good section above for specifics) and holy cow, some of those upper Deluxe Resort level rooms are expensive. If you want to eat all day for free, you’ll be paying for a really fabulous room or for the dining plan upgrade, which cancels out the notion of free dining being free. You pay for what you get, one way or another.

3. All suites, campsites and three bedroom villas seem to have been excluded from this offer, as well as the standard Little Mermaid rooms the new Art of Animation Resort.

4. If you normally stay at the Motel 6, then upgrading to a Disney resort is going to be more costly for you, and the better hotel upgrade, the more it will cost. In this way, free food isn’t really free since you are paying more for it by staying at a nicer hotel.

5. If you booked your trip before the new ticket prices came out in June and you switch to free dining now, expect your ticket prices to go up to the new price even while your dining price goes down. Whoops, there is another expense.

6. Can you really handle all those meals each day? For people accustomed to eating small portions, you may have trouble finishing everything, even if it is free.

This snack is not covered under the Disney Dining plan, but with all the money you will be saving with free dining, now is the time to order this. You won’t believe how big it is or how scrumptious it looks!

The Kitchen Sink: Can You Handle Disney’s $25 Dessert?!

Why does everybody go crazy for Free Disney Dining? Because everybody loves the idea of getting something for nothing.  Good luck with making your free dining plans, make sure you make your reservations by the correct date, and schedule your ADRs as soon as you can.

Like to read about Disney? Here ya go!

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