by Brittany DiCologero
1) Free dining offers are dependent on which resort you choose
Disney offers different versions of the free dining plan based upon which resort you will be staying at during your trip. While moderate and deluxe resort guests will be given a free Disney Dining Plan, value resort guests receive a free quick service plan. Both plans can be a good value depending on your dining style while on vacation, but it is definitely worth knowing that the plan offered highly depends on which resort you’ll choose to stay at.
2) You can pay the difference and upgrade from the quick service plan
If you choose to stay at one of the value resorts, but would prefer to upgrade to the standard Disney Dining Plan rather than use the quick service plan, know that you are definitely able to do so however you will need to pay the difference in price between the two plans. Before you go ahead and do this, I would suggest doing some estimating and trying to figure out what the better value would be. Personally, if the added price for the change of dining plan made the total cost of my trip close to what it would have been if I had booked a moderate resort instead, I would probably just switch to a moderate resort, which would come with the regular dining plan anyway.
3) The free dining plan is the same as the other dining plans
Although these dining plans are “free,” they offer all of the same choices as the regular dining plans. With the free Disney Dining Plan, you’ll still be entitled to one snack, one quick service, and one table service meal per person per night of your trip, which can be used at your choice of over 100 locations around the Walt Disney World Resort. While the plan is free, or at least cheaper than usual if you’ve paid a little bit to upgrade, you won’t be losing out on anything that is regularly offered as part of the plan.
4) It can be a lot of food
One of the most stated comments about the dining plan is that it includes a lot of food. For some guests, the value simply isn’t there for the dining plan as it comes with more food than they would ever feasibly eat. In these instances you are probably better off skipping the plan, and paying for your meals out of pocket. If you would have ordered less food without the plan, there’s a fairly good chance you’re dining might be cheaper without the plan as well. But wait, aren’t we talking about free dining plans…?
5) It’s not really “free”
The dining plan itself is free, however when the free dining plan is offered, you should know that you will in turn be paying more for your resort stay. The free dining plan can be a good deal if you know it will save you enough money on food to make the lack of resort room discount worth it, however you should definitely be aware that the free dining plan comes at the cost of higher room rates. Even if a resort discount, such as package discounts for a given time, or a percentage off the nightly rate, is offered at the same time, you will only be able to apply one discount to your trip. So if the dining plan sounds like too much food, you might be better off sticking to a resort discount and paying for your meals out of pocket instead.
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6) Before booking, figure out the best possible deal
When booking a trip during free dining season, I look at so many factors before nailing down a resort stay and dining package for good. Like I mentioned before, if the cost to upgrade the quick service plan brings me closer to what it would have cost to stay at a moderate resort, I would probably just switch resorts. If you are trying to stick to a tighter budget however, this might not be the best option for you. And you should look at some menus and do a little bit of math to figure out if the free dining plan with the fully priced resort room will still be worth it before you commit to this package.