Have you noticed lately that everyone seems to be talking about the meal plans at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida? One thing in particular that keeps coming up is this idea of ‘Disney Dining’. What’s it all about? What’s the catch? And when does Free Disney Dining 2019 start? (It’s started! Click here to book and save today. – Ed.) None the wiser after a bit of poking around online, I decided to ask Kenwood Travel’s very own Orlando oracle to shed some light on the situation.
With 17 years’ experience under her belt, Pam is one of our Florida team’s top experts on all things Disney. I grabbed five minutes with Pam to get the low-down on what to expect from the next instalment of Free Disney Dining.
1. What is Disney Dining all about, when it’s not free?
Disney Dining is a special meal plan package. Basically it’s a certain amount of meals and snacks paid for on a credit basis before you travel. So while you’re at Disney you can use it to pay for your meals, and they do say it should save you about 25% on what you would spend if you were purchasing food locally. Different levels of the plan are priced differently so you can select the one that suits you best.
2. What is Free Disney Dining all about?
The same concept as above, but free! Basically, Free Disney Dining means that during the time of the promotion you pay the same cost for room only or for dining packages. So the dining genuinely is for free at that time.
3. When is Free Disney Dining 2019 coming out?
Well there’s no official release date as yet and they’ve not confirmed that it will be coming out in 2019 at all, but going on previous years, they would normally release a free Disney Dining plan for the following year around March or April, and that’s what we’re hoping for. But Disney won’t ever give you that information before the release date.
(Since this article was written, Free Disney Dining 2019 has been released. Book between 19 April–6 November 2018, for selected arrivals 1 January–30 November 2019 – Ed.)
4. How long before the release date is Free Disney Dining announced? Days, weeks?
No, they’ll just announce it on the day: ‘Free Dining is now available’. It could be any day, so no confirmation as yet.
5. Can I get Free Disney Dining if I’m not staying at a Disney hotel?
No, you have to stay a minimum of five nights in an official Disney hotel. You also have to purchase your theme park tickets on the same booking.
6. What is the Quick Service Dining Plan?
So the Quick Service Dining plan basically means self-service meals. But you can get these meals in any hotel or any theme park, or Disney Springs, and it’s available morning till night. It’s great for just grabbing food on the go and easy to use your credits to pay.
7. What is the Regular Dining Plan?
Regular Dining is an upgraded package where you get one table service meal, including waiter service. This is usually a la carte and you can also use it for character dining, or double up two of your table service credits in exchange for signature dining, for example a boat house at Disney Springs or California Grill or Grand Meridian. It gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of where you can eat.
8. What is the Deluxe Dining Plan?
Deluxe Dining is a lot of food! You get three sit-down meals plus two snacks per person per day, but to be honest, you wouldn’t have enough time in your day to eat all that food. It’s good if you want to eat in Disney’s signature restaurants every day, but if you’re not going to be in those restaurants we wouldn’t recommend it.
9. How do I know where I can eat on the Disney Dining Plan?
You can pretty much eat anywhere. You can eat at the hotels, at the theme parks, at Disney Springs, and you’ll see clearly marked signs everywhere pointing you in the right direction of the participating restaurants. When it’s time to pay the bill, just use your credits instead of cash.
10. So it’s really easy to spot where you can eat?
Very, very easy, yeah. Everywhere you look around Disney there are ‘Disney Dining Available’ signs.
11. With Free Disney Dining, what is meant by a ‘snack’?
So snacks would be a pot of fruit, or candyfloss, ice cream or you can get a coffee or other drink instead if you like. In the mornings you can use snack credits for a bagel or croissant or cereal. In the afternoons you can grab a pastry or fruit for example, so you can use it in many different ways.
12. What does Free Disney Dining ‘table service’ mean?
Table service means you get to sit at a table and have waiter service. It might be buffet, it might be a la carte, but it means you get to sit comfortably and enjoy service with a smile to your table.
13. Do I need to make meal reservations when I’m on the Free Disney Dining Plan?
There are some popular restaurants that do get booked up at Walt Disney World Resort, like Tusca House at Animal Kingdom, and Chef Mickey; anything with character dining we’d always recommend that you pre-book. Booking can be taken 180 days before arrival, once the Free Dining has been announced.
14. What is a Free Disney Dining two-credit meal?
We mentioned this when we were talking about signature dining. A two-credit meal like signature dining requires two of your table service credits, and permits you to dine at certain Disney signature restaurants.
15. Do I have to use a certain number of Free Disney Dining meal credits each day? If I don’t use them, do I lose them?
You can use your meal credits at any time during your stay at Disney, but after 12am (midnight) of the day you check out they expire. With any credits you’ve got left over on your last day you can pop into one of the Disney shops, for example your hotel convenience store, and buy items depending on your plan: Per snack you get one credit; per Quick Service you get two credits; per Regular plan you get three credits and so on. You can exchange your credits for sweets or Disney cookies and things like that, and take them home as souvenirs.
16. How much would Free Disney Dining save you on your holiday?
Well, to purchase the non-free Dining Plan for an adult on the Regular package would cost £50 per person per day. The Free Dining Plan genuinely is free, so in this example you stand to save £50 per day of your Florida holiday. Per child it’s £20 per day on the normal Dining Plan, so depending on how many guests are on your booking, you could be saving well over a hundred pounds a day. A family of four with two kids would save £140 per day; nearly £2,000 for a two-week stay!