Free Dining Package--Help a newbie! :)

Discussion in 'Disney Dining Plan' started by LibrarianBecky, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. LibrarianBecky

    LibrarianBecky Mouseketeer

    Dec 13, 2010
    Hi all,

    I am a semi-newbie to the Disney Vacation experience. I visited the parks (no kids) about 10 years ago and spent one day in MK and one day in Epcot. My husband and I loved it...and now we have a four year old son, who I know will love it too.

    We are hoping to go to Disney next September for a week. We want to stay on the property and get the dining plan, so that we can maximize our fun--and our money. I have not been vacation planning for very long. I see that Disney has a special running until December 20th for a free dining plan with a 4+ night stay. This seems like a good deal to me, but since I am unfamiliar with the deals Disney normally offers, I wasn't sure if this was considered a good deal to everyone else. At this point, I'm thinking that we should put down the $200 deposit so that we can 'lock in' that deal, but wanted other opinions.

    Thank you for helping a newbie make Disney dreams come true! :)
  2. jeannief

    jeannief Mouseketeer

    Dec 7, 2004
    Hi Becky, you'll get a variety of responses here! I personally love free dining, it forces me to plan ahead and I know what (more or less) my kids will be eating on which days. Yes, they are on vacation but we *try* to have a balanced week. :rotfl:
    I'd say lock it in, spend some time going over the threads here and the menus at and then sit down and start planning. You can always cancel it or if a better deal comes up then switch. All depends on if you qualify for other discounts or specials based on what Disney is offering for where you want to stay. We stay at values so free dining is a great deal.

    BTW, I found when my sons were 4 that the Character breakfast was such a waste...they were SO excited about seeing the characters that they didn't eat much and we had to buy them breakfast 1/2 hour after leaving. And we were paying oop on that trip. My newbie mistake was booking a character breakfast on our first day ever at WDW! 4 yo was freaked out at the beginning so that didn't help either. We're doing it again this year, but on our last day there. ;)
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  4. Nadjalu

    Nadjalu DIS Veteran

    Jul 8, 2009
    I agree with PP you will get 50/50 responses. Some for and some against.

    Personally I would go ahead and book it, as the promos only have so many rooms availabe, and if another/better discount comes out you can switch it. So they are very flexible with the reservation that way.

    Free dining is the best discount for our family. Yes you pay rack rate (full rate) on the resort to get the free dining. But if you are going to pay for free dining anyway it is a savings.

    Also depending on where you stay, value, mod or deluxe will indicate which discount is saves more for you.
    If you stay deluxe, often times taking a room discount is worth more than the free dining.
    But if you stay Value then usually free dining saves you more.

    So what you can do is book it now, do research on the discount plans available (now and in the future) and see, as I said you can change it or leave it the same.

    Have a happy trip!
  5. clanmcculloch

    clanmcculloch DIS Veteran

    Feb 20, 2009
    I would strongly suggest you get a knowledgeable Disney Travel Agent to help you figure out the best deal for your family. If you know the resort level that you want and what kind of tickets and dining plan you want then the TA will figure out what deal gets you the best price. In addition, a good TA will stay on top of the available deals and will change your package for you should a better deal come out. The TA can also make recommendations about resort levels, tickets and dining plan options based on discussing what you want out of your vacation, if that's something you need. A good TA is work his/her weight in gold, especially for somebody who isn't sure of what's available.
  6. tinkangell

    tinkangell Earning My Ears

    Dec 13, 2010
    Go for it if you can get in. December 20th is right around the corner. I am going to try to get a deal for free dinning too in September.
  7. hollyd99

    hollyd99 Mouseketeer

    Mar 27, 2008
    I got free quick service dining last year for the first time and found that it was a lot of food! And you save a lot of money.
    When you plan a trip there are a few major things you have to plan for and food is usually right after airfare and hotel costs. So if it's free, yay!

    I honestly feel you shouldn't put too much weight on what people on the boards say. Everyone has their own tastes and just because some people rave about one restaurant doesn't make it good! (Learned this from experience!).
  8. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

    Aug 17, 2006
    Hey there - you need to be slightly more specific before I can give you any advice.

    First off, you have to be sure you would want and use the dining plan, and whether you would want QSDP or DDP (I would not recommend someone new to it use the DXDDP, as it involves a lot of restaurant bookings and a high cost.) You should do a little research and check it out, but personally if I am staying on property, I want the DDP. (The savings discussed below doesn't include a discussion of how much the DDP saves you versus paying your own way - you can go to the following thread to see my opinion on that: )

    Free Dining is a VERY good discount for many people, but a lot depends on where you are staying and your tastes:

    If you are planning on a budget trip and staying at a value, you will get the QSDP for the "free dining". This is 2 counter service meals and 2 snacks per person per day (plus a resort mug). The savings using the plan is $35 per adult, $12 per child, so for your family, that would be a savings of $82 per day. This is MUCH, MUCH more than you would save should you get any other discount at a value. (At about $100 a night for the room, you might find a 30% off deal as it gets closer, but would only save you $30 per day. You can upgrade to the standard dining package for the cost difference between the two, about $11 per adult and $1 per child.

    At a Moderate or Deluxe, you get the standard DDP for "free", which includes one counter service meal, one sit-down (Table Service) meal and a snack which is a value of $46 per adult, and $13 per child. So, in this case you are getting a daily discount on your package of $105 per person. So, if you are staying at a moderate ($150-170 price range in September), and you get a 30% discount, you would save about $50 off the room-rate, versus $105 for the dining package. Still, the best deal you can get is the free dining.

    Now, if you stay at a Deluxe, you can get as much as 40% off a room rate at Deluxes more than likely - and at $300-400 a night, that'll save you $120 to $160 a night, which is a better savings than the free dining.

    So, the condensed version is - if you are planning on staying at a Value or Moderate resort, I would recommend booking the free dining plan now...if you change your mind, you can always cancel and get your $200 back. If you were going to stay Deluxe, I wouldn't bother with Free Dining with your family. There will be some pretty hefty discounts in September next year anyways. (They will likely re-open free dining as well, unless they are getting a HUGE response now.)

    ONE important thing to note - if you DO go during September free dining, be sure to book your restaurant ADRs (Advance Dining Reservations) at the 180-day mark. This requires careful and early planning, and is one reason many hate the DDP. If you are overwhelmed by the idea of planning this far out, getting a good Travel Agent may be your best bet, but you need to find one knowledgable on WDW...that I can't help you with. Or get a good guide book. The PP that said don't rely to heavily on DISers is right - you'll get 20 opinions on anything here, so if you ask a question, the answer might leave you more confused than you started.

    Good luck!
  9. LibrarianBecky

    LibrarianBecky Mouseketeer

    Dec 13, 2010
    Thank you everyone who has offered advice so far!

    Here are the specifics that I think I have figured out for us. I definitely know that we want a dining plan--I think the savings and 'ease of use' would make for a better vacation for my family. Deluxe is definitely out of our price range, but I was looking at a Moderate resort--Port Orleans, French Quarter.

    I know that my family would definitely want at least one table service meal everyday. I was looking at the standard Disney Dining Plan with 1 table, 1 quick serve, and 1 snack, but to be honest, that doesn't really seem like enough food for my family. The Deluxe package seems like too much. I think we may just go with the standard package and purchase some meals out of pocket, as the need arises.

    I love to plan vacations (when my extended family goes on vacation together, I make arrangments for all 15 of us!), so the planning aspect doesn't bother me. Just need to jump in and do it! :)

    Thank you!
  10. skier_pete

    skier_pete DIsney-holics Anon

    Aug 17, 2006
    POFQ is a great resort, especially with a little one. It's very compact so there's not a lot of walking, you won't be sorry on that choice. :thumbsup2

    What WE do on the DDP is we typically eat our breakfast in our room out-of-pocket (OOP) - we pack some food with us (cereal, pop tarts, bagels) and buy a 1/2 gallon of OJ and Milk at the resort. The prices are high for that (may $5 for 1/2 gall OJ) but still cheaper that buying 16 oz every morning for $2.69.

    The meal plan itself is MORE than enough food for the rest of the day. We use snack credits on any snack purchase over $2.50, but usually end up with some left-over at the end of the trip.

    When we've gone in August / September for free dining, we usually did our TS meal for a late lunch (around 1 PM), just because it was so nice to take a break in the heat of the day. These meals tend to be pretty filling between the meal and desserts. The CS meals are also usually good sized.

    Good to see you are a planner...using the meal plan DOES require a lot of forethought. You have to figure out which parks you will be going to which days, and book restaurants accordingly. And if you want to try restaurants at the resort, you have to plan on that as well, as unless you have a car on property, getting to/from the resorts is much lengthier than getting to/from the parks.

    I can't imagine using the Deluxe Dining Plan EVER. Every sit-down meal takes about 90 minutes out of your day, if we did that twice a day, it would really eat into park time, especially since it doesn't include transportation. Plus, the amount of food would be ridiculous. I suppose if you were only going to eat at Signature restaurants it would be worth it, but not for us.

    One other piece of advice to spread your dining plan meals out: With the TS meal, the credits are designated as Adult or Child credits - for example, if you have 7 days of DDP, you will have 14 adult TS credits, and 7 child TS credits. However, the Counter service / Quick service credits are not specific to adult versus children. Therefore, if you want to stretch the credits (get more than 7 meals out of them) you can pay for the kid's meals OOP - and use the CS credits for adult meals only. We usually stretch our meals to 8 or 9 instead of 7 this way. (This is considered "illegal" by some on the DISboards, and I might get flamed for even mentioning it, but since Disney does nothing to stop it, it is obviously permitted. When the DDP first came out, they did the same thing with the TS credits, no difference between adult and Child, and people took advantage of it, so they separated the credits back in 2007 - they haven't done that for the CS credits, so they obviously don't care.)

    Another FAQ you may not have heard - the # of credits you get is based on the # of nights stayed, NOT on the # of days. So if you have a 7-night package, you get all your credits on the day you check in. You have until midnight on the day you check out to use them up. And in case you haven't realized it yet, you don't have to use 1 TS, 1 CS, and 1 snack EACH DAY. When your package starts, you get all of them at once, so you can use them in any order you want. (Say you want to eat 2 TS meals one day, and eat only CS meals the next, no problem.)

    Hope that helps, not everyone on here likes the DDP, and in fact some hate it because they blame it for the downgrade in quality of food. While I disagree that this has even occurred, I also think one is not related to the other.
  11. blessedby3

    blessedby3 Actually Blessedby4 now, but cant change my userna

    Mar 7, 2003
    I always book a room or package when the discount or promotion comes out that I want. I can always change my ressie if something different comes along that is better, and the deposit is not lost. I would book what you want as soon as you know it, because the availabillity is limited:thumbsup2

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