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6 Secrets Most People Don’t Know About Free Dining

by Brittany DiCologero

Anything with the word “free” in the name sounds like it would be a great deal, but as with any large purchase it is important to fully understand what costs might be included. When looking into Disney’s free dining plan promotions, keep the following advice in mind to guarantee the most savings during your trip:

1. It cannot be combined with other offers

The free dining promotion cannot be combined with any other offer while booking a Walt Disney World vacation. Apologies for being the bearer of bad news, but if you were planning on using a free dining promotion with a resort room discount, you’re going to have to do some estimating and choose whichever one is a better deal. While free dining outwardly sounds like the better deal it is important to do some research before booking the trip with this offer because how good of a deal it is really depends on each individual family and their eating habits.

2. But it can be a really good deal…

The dining plan itself (when paid for in a regular, non-discounted vacation package) has the potential to save you up to 35% off the cost of dining in Walt Disney World. If you are planning on eating at a couple of the pricier locations, or even ordering the pricier items on the menu, or paying for multiple family members, the dining plan can be a great way to save some extra money, and of course the free dining promotion would be an even great value!

3. … if you are certain the dining plan is for you

If you are torn between the free dining offer and a resort discount, you’ll want to do some serious math before choosing which discount to go with. Since the free dining plan cannot be used with another discount it is extremely important to make sure that you would get enough use out of the dining plan for it to outweigh any other discount you could use. If the dining plan itself doesn’t look like it would be a good deal for you and your family, compare the cost of your trip with the free dining plan but full priced resort stay with the cost of a discounted resort stay and meals paid for out of pocket.

4. You should still try to get the most value out of the plan

Many guests who book their trips using the free dining promotion tend to pay less attention to how they spend their dining plan credits. When you pay for the plan outright, you might be very on top of what your credits go towards, as you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, however when the plan is marketed as “free,” guests often become a bit less picky. To get an even greater value, I would still suggest using your credits for the more expensive items, and using snack credits wisely.

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5. You still need to make reservations

Unfortunately, some guests book trips using the free dining promotion thinking that this will somehow cover their reservations. If you plan on dining at some of the more popular restaurants at Walt Disney World, you’ll want to make advanced reservations as soon as possible. Disney’s table service restaurants can fill up leaving little or no room for walk in guests, especially during busy times of year or when the free dining discount is offered, and therefore more guests are on the dining plan. To ensure a table wherever you’d like to eat, it is still important to make reservations before your trip.

6. It does not include gratuities

One of the biggest misconceptions about the dining plan, including the free dining plan, is that it is a sort of all inclusive program that also includes tips. This is not the case however. Even without paying for any of your meals using the free dining plan offer, you should still set aside enough money for tips, as they are never included in Disney dining plans. Disney even makes figuring out gratuities easy, as the itemized slip you’ll receive when dining in any Disney restaurant will also show you what the tipping amount should be for various percentages of the cost of the meal.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.