Is free dining really free

Discussion in 'Disney Dining Plan' started by pgianna, Mar 12, 2012.

  1. pgianna

    pgianna Mouseketeer

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    What have people's experiences been with free dining. How much have people spent on food amd drinks even though they have free dining. My theory is that you still pay a significant amount even though you have free dining. Plus you pay a higher hotel rate if I understand it corectly. Am I totally wrong.
     
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  3. Mousemommy1

    Mousemommy1 DIS Veteran

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    Free dining is free. You do however pay rack rate for the room vs. some sort of room discount. We have had free dining but have also paid for the DDP. For our family, the cost of the DDP does give us a little discount on food (we like character meals and several signatures). We've done the comparison from what we would pay OOP vs. what we pay on the DDP and there is a small savings. If we are staying values or mod, this is a great deal. However, I would not use FD to stay deluxe, I'd rather have the room discount for greater savings.
     
  4. mickeyplanner08

    mickeyplanner08 DIS Veteran

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    OK, so in our previous 4 years of free dining experience we have spent a grand total of $4.50 OOP on food while at Disney. And that was for bags of Cheetos and Doritos at the bus stop before going to Hoop De Doo and it about killed me to let the kids do it:rolleyes:

    For our family, we haven't found a better discount to make going to Disney more affordable. The reason that I am able to get my husband to return to Disney year after year is the food, so for us the dining plan is a must do.

    We tried the QSDP last year for the first time, and we enjoyed it. Since they took the 2nd snack away this year, we decided to bite the bullet and upgrade to a moderate since it was only a small increase over staying at a value and upgrading to the regular dining plan.

    We love free dining!
     
  5. Sheaboys

    Sheaboys DIS Veteran

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    When we went in 2005, tax and tip were included and we only had 3 kids that were still disney kids. We spent NOTHING on food the entire week and left with 8 unused snack credits and 2 counter service meals. We had the Regular Dining Plan.

    This year, we have 5 kids, 3 of which are Disney Adults, 2 disney kids and dh and I. While we have to pay for tax and tip, it is still a huge savings. I love that we have a place to sit down and eat every night, average cost for the 7 of us is about $200 just on the table service restaurants alone.

    So in my eyes, yes it is free.
     
  6. jcarwash

    jcarwash DIS Veteran

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    I totally agree with your main point that free dining is still worth it even though some parts of the dining are no longer covered. But I think it's just the tips, not the tax, that aren't included with table service dining.
     
  7. pgianna

    pgianna Mouseketeer

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    Thank you for your feedback everybody, once thing still kind of confuses me though. The standard Disney dining plan covers one table service and one counter service per day night. For the people they don’t spend anything on food when they have free dining, what do they do about the third meal, do they just skip it. I assume they aren’t including tip either. For my family, 2 adults and a 7 and 11 year old, we may have a sit down breakfast or just bagels coffee or juice in the hotel coffee shop, depending on how we feel that morning, than quick service meal at lunch and a table service for dinner. So for us I think we would still pay a 150-200 for a week stay out of pocket if you include breakfast and tips. So for me, I would add about $200 even though I am getting free dining. That’s the point of this thread I guess.
     
  8. JustCallMeMommy

    JustCallMeMommy DIS Veteran

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    I would imagine those who don't pay anything are on the Quick Service plan.

    The time we did "free" dining, it was a good deal for us. We were staying at a peak time and checked in on the last day of free dining. I had 14 nights of the regular dining plan when no discounts were available.

    As far as out of pocket costs, for our family of 3, we average $15-20 in tips for most table service meals, and on the regular dining plan, we'll occasionally order an appetizer or alcoholic drink that we have to pay for.
     
  9. jcarwash

    jcarwash DIS Veteran

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    Our method for breakfast is to pack bags of bagels and a jar of peanut butter. That is our light breakfast in the room each morning. I also grab packs of jelly from the food court. (Value resorts like Pop Century don't have free PB packs; other level resorts might.) All the dining plans include refillable mugs, so that covers coffee each day. We will use a snack credit for milk or juice if we want it.

    With that light breakfast, we reserve our meal credits for lunch and dinner. We'll also tend to eat lunch early, between 11-11:30, which is not a bad idea either to beat the rush. With all the snacks and meal credits, I feel like this is plenty of food for each day. I wouldn't discount the power of the snack credit -- you can get snacks that really fill you up.

    On some trips we've also spaced out our quick service credits -- not used one per person at each meal -- and we needed to use them on breakfast to make sure we used them all. But typically we reserve all our meal credits for lunch and dinner.
     
  10. sammielynn

    sammielynn DIS Veteran

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    We were on free dining in December. I have two sons 20 and 22 that can eat all day long and still want more. They had plenty to eat. We were ther Dec. 17 - 21. Arrived after lunch on the 17 and left early on the 21. We were able to have credits for all but two meals. One breakfast we went to the Yatch Club and paid OOP, very reasonable cost. One morning DS22 and I split an order of Beignets and the other used our final meal credit. With leaving a $20 tip at the four TS meals and the two breakfast we spent less than $100 OOP.
     
  11. Avery&Todd

    Avery&Todd DIS Veteran

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    for our family 'free dining" is not really free, but its a better discount than even a 30% off..

    We're a family of 4 - 2 adults and 2 disney adults - so my youngest who just turned 10 is now an "adult" - and he eats like one too..

    and b/c DH likes to have 3 sit down meals together (in the a/c since we go in June and its HOT) we have always gotten the DxDP..

    and YES, I did pay to "upgrade" from the regular dining plan, and YES, I will still have to pay OOP for tips, but even with that, we saved several hundred dollars off the price of our package deal at the BC with the 30% off pin..

    FD works better for families that have more adults vs. kids...
     
  12. I loveStitchnippyjon

    I loveStitchnippyjon DIS Veteran

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    We always come out ahead without a dining plan (and we have done both full and QS plans in the past) There are really only one or two TS restaurants that we enjoy, so we save money doing CS out-of-pocket.
    We go to WDW for the parks, not to eat!
     
  13. summermac

    summermac DIS Veteran

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    I don't think that's necessarily true, especially if b/c of the kids you will plan more character meals. The price for a character meal for a child is MORE than the cost of the dining plan per day for the child, even breakfast. Well actually I guess breakfast is the same price as the dining plan for a day, at least at CP (I just looked).
     
  14. TDC Nala

    TDC Nala <font color=red>1937, what a year that was<br><fon Moderator

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    Free dining is a discount like any other discount. They just assess the discount differently. Rather than taking a percentage off the resort room, they throw in a free dining plan and have the guest pay rack rate for the room and make a minimum ticket purchase. How much of a discount it turns out to be is going to depend on the alternatives one has for booking at a different discount. Might a percentage discount on the room be better, maybe it would work out better to rent DVC points, maybe a family would prefer to go through the YES ticket program and get big discounts on the tickets, then combine it with a room only percentage discount.

    Free dining isn't supposed to be interpreted to mean that all the party's food for the entire trip should be free. It means they get a free dining plan. If the dining plan isn't enough food for the party for the entire trip, then yes, they are going to be purchasing some extra food off the plan. If they want to do dining-related events that are not covered by the dining plan, like the Magic Kingdom fireworks dessert party or Lunch with an Imagineer, they're going to be paying extra money for food. Guests on the regular plan are going to have to pay tips, so it's not like they go in expecting to pay nothing at restaurants.

    NOTE: I removed one post where the poster was asking the amount that someone else tips, and another where a poster responded with how much they tipped. Please see the Tipping Information Sticky Thread at the top of the forum, the first post has an FAQ as to why we have a single thread on tipping and why we've had to stop allowing discussion of personal tipping habits and preferences on the Restaurant Boards.
     
  15. Avery&Todd

    Avery&Todd DIS Veteran

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    in our case since my "kids" are now "adults" on the dining plan, we saved more with FD than even the 30% off the BC..

    and we do book several character meals and we're doing a few signature dinners too..

    I think the various discounts work better for different families with different situations...not everyone will save more with the same discount...there are too many other variables to take into consideration..
     
  16. pgianna

    pgianna Mouseketeer

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    So it appears, it’s a case by case basis, but everyone does have to pay for tips and other items not covered by the dining plan. I wonder if Disney ever considered an all inclusive price, where everything is covered and you would truly not spend a penny on food/ drinks, and including tips as well. I wonder if people would be willing to pay extra for that. Where you would just get an arm band or something, just show that at any restaurant and that’s it, and maybe exclude signature dining and special character meals. There would no more keeping track of credits or anything. I am sure there is a reason why they don’t.
     
  17. TDC Nala

    TDC Nala <font color=red>1937, what a year that was<br><fon Moderator

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    Originally from 2005-2007 there was only one dining plan, the 1 TS, 1 CS and 1 snack a night version, and all table service meals included appetizer and tips. If you ate 3 meals a day and used your snacks for breakfast and resisted doing any off-plan meal events, you could certainly have gotten through an entire Disney trip without spending an extra dime for anything food-related.

    In 2008 they removed tips from the plans and appetizers from what is now the regular plan and introduced the deluxe plan (3 meal credits, 2 snacks a night, appetizers included).

    In 2009 they introduced the quick service plan. With 2 snacks a night on that plan it would have been possible to get through a trip without buying more food, because you dont' need tips for counter service, but now it's one snack a night.

    Disney really doesn't want to give guests an all you can eat armband. One of the greatest things about the dining plan from Disney's point of view is that the guests have to track and use the credits. If they don't use the credits, Mickey keeps the money the guest paid for food they never even ordered.

    Free dining works for Disney because it gets people into rooms that would otherwise sit empty - and they're gladly paying rack rate.
     
  18. DisDaze

    DisDaze Always planning a Disney trip :-)

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    "Free Dining" is just another form a discount, it's going to have varying savings from family to family and resort to resort, just like a room discount. Free Dining means you are getting the Disney Dining Plan for free. They don't advertise or even imply that any food item at Disney will be free - just the cost of the package dining plan.

    We have stayed at all levels of resorts at Disney, The Poly is, and will always be, my all-time favorite resort, but now that most of our kids are priced out as adults and we have no need or desire to nap or rest at the resort, as we did when they were small, we mostly stay at the value resorts now and do free dining. A room discount saves us about $700.00 off full rack rates at Disney (a decent discount), but a Free Dining discount saves us about $1,500.00. So, even with paying somewhere between $200 and $300.00 on tips, we are saving AT LEAST $500.00 more with a free dining discount over a room discount. Also, tips really are the only thing we pay out-of-pocket for, foodwise, while traveling to WDW on a free dining discount. We pack some quick breakfast items like donuts, muffins, granola bars, etc. that we eat on our walk to the bus stop and that's our "breakfast". We use our CS credit for an early lunch around 11 or 11:30, use our snack credit around 3:00ish and use our TS credit for dinner around 6:30 p.m. Sometimes we will use snack credits for breakfast items or drinks in the food court in the mornings. So, tips really are our only out-of-pocket expense when on a free dining discount.

    Free Dining is the reason we have never bought into the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and as long as they have free dining discounts we won't - it's just too big of a money saver. It's a minimum $25,000.00 buy in for us to do DVC, with the size of our family, and we haven't spent that much on Disney vacations in almost 8 years of free dining trips.
     
  19. ReneeA

    ReneeA DIS Veteran

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    We don't pay anything OOP while using the dining plan other than alcoholic beverages and tips. We pack breakfast bars for eating at the bus stops, eat an early CS meal, and have a TS dinner. We do occasionally share CS meals and then use the leftover credits for breakfast platters a couple mornings.

    We've used it several times, and it works great for the way we do Disney.
     
  20. MaddieC

    MaddieC Earning My Ears

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    Couldn't get free DDP this year, which really stinks. We have gotten it every year so far that we went, so we are spending a lot more then usual this year which makes us rethink the whole trip. If you can get free dining go with it.
     
  21. mommyrosa2

    mommyrosa2 DIS Veteran

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    Our family of 4 (2 adults, 2 teens 17 & 13) tend to use our snack credits for breakfast items and we set aside about an extra $100 for an 8 day stay for anything else that might pop up OOP. Last year was the first time we made a ressie for a character breakfast and used a TS for that. What we did though was we made our ressie later in the morning (at 10:45a), and then used our CS for dinner and we ate dinner a little earlier than we normally would have. This way we weren't hungry at lunchtime and the kids used their snack credits that particular day for a snack in the afternoon. Even with the extra $100 we set aside, the FD deal is ALWAYS a better savings for us and that does include deluxe stays as well.
     

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