Why Fall is truly the best time to go to Disney World

 

While it’s always a good time to go to Disney World, fall truly is the best time to plan a vacation. Kids are back in school, the weather starts to cool, the prices start to drop, and the crowds begin to dwindle. Disney also entices guests with the biggest promotion of all: Free Dining. While dates are more limited this year than in years past, it’s still a popular options for families looking to save money.

2014 free dining runs from August 31-October 3, October 26-November 1, November 9-20, and December 12-20. As long as your check in day falls on one of these dates, your entire vacation will be covered.

If free food (and savings of over $1000 for most families) isn’t enough for you, outside of holidays and days off of school, fall brings some of the lowest crowd levels during the entire year. Many days in September have overall crowds in the 1-2/10 range each day and weekends still don’t get that high.

Still want more? How about special events! Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, and holiday events at Hollywood Studios are available throughout the seasons. While the 2 parties at Magic Kingdom are special ticketed events, they are only once a year and a really fun special opportunity to enjoy time in Magic Kingdom with even lower crowd levels than during the day.

Need a little bit more enticement? The weather throughout most of this time is still warm enough to swim and enjoy the Florida sun. Evenings are comfortable. You are likely to get away with a long sleeve shirt or light jacket in November and December.

And if that’s not enough, rack rates (or non-discounted rates) are some of the lowest all year. So even if you can’t find a free dining promotional rate, you are already saving money! I just priced out a 5 night vacation for my husband and me in September. With upgraded free dining and 4 days of park tickets, it was under $1300! That also included an evening at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Pretty impressive, since we paid more for a deluxe room and tickets without dining in April which is more toward peak season!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Disney World Free Dining: What’s all the fuss about? (an FAQ)

 

Most people go crazy for anything free, but Disney World giving something away for nothing? It’s true! Free dining is a favorite promotion for many Disney guests, both new and veterans, but what’s the big deal? Well, depending on your family size and length of stay, I’ve seen people save as much as $2100 after I did the math. That’s the big deal.


Frequently asked questions

Q. Who qualifies for free dining?

A. Anyone who is taking a Disney World during the promotional period qualifies for free dining.

Q.  I already have a reservation during that time, will Disney give me free dining?

A. No. You must call Disney to request that free dining be added to your reservation. If this was done through a travel agent (lucky you – you’ll save lots of time on the phone), your travel agent will have to call to make the update. This will require an additional $200 deposit. Be prepared to have a conversation about switching resorts as not all resorts have the free dining promotion available. It’s good to have a first, second, and third choice. Do your research before you pick up the phone.

Q. What resorts do qualify for free dining?

A. I won’t know the answer to this until the promotion is released (which is likely Monday, April 21st). The last several promotions going back to the end of 2013 and early 2014 have excluded all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Suites in Art of Animation, the Villas at Grand Floridian, and the campsites at Fort Wilderness. I would expect this promotion to be the same. Each promotion is different, so some of the value or moderate resorts may be included or excluded based on how many rooms are booked at the time the promotion is released.

Q. What dining plan is included with free dining?

A. In previous years the quick service dining plan was included at the value resorts and the full dining plan (plus dining) was included at the moderate and deluxe resorts as well as the deluxe villas. I have no reason to believe that will change.

Q. What is included with each dining plan?

A. See the tips & tricks for Free Dining and Flavorful Friday: Getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan for complete details

Q. Can I upgrade my dining plan?

A. Absolutely! If you choose to stay at a value resort, you can upgrade to plus dining or at any resort, you can upgrade to deluxe dining. This would be an additional out of pocket cost. You would be paying the difference between the two plans. To upgrade to plus dining from free quick service is usually only $200-$400 depending on the number of guests traveling and their ages (usually on the lower end). If you plan on 1-2 character meals during your time in Disney World, the upgrade is well worth it! If you don’t want any table service meals, then just smile and thank Disney for the free food!

Q. Are there any hidden costs?

A. No hidden costs. You receive the dining plan for free with any full price hotel reservation and a minimum of 2 days of park tickets as part of your package. As a note, the dining plan does not include gratuity for table service restaurants, so plan for 18-20% tips for each table service meal. Other than that, no other fees or hidden costs!

Q. How much Money will I save?

A. Let’s do the math

While you do pay full price for your hotel room stay, free dining saves each adult $64.58 for adults and each child$20.48 per night. The quick service plan (offered free at the value resorts, works out to be $44.72 and $17.07 for kids) . You also have to remember that any child 10 and older is considered a Disney adult and would pay the adult price for dining and park tickets.

 

Meet the Mouse Family

Meet the Mouse Family. Mr. and Mrs. Mouse are 2 adults and they have 2 children, a boy Mickey age 11 and a girl Minnie age 7. They would like to take advantage of free dining in September and stay 7 days and 6 nights at a moderate resort, giving them the plus dining plan (this includes a table service credit, quick service credit, and snack credit per person for each night stayed).  This gives them a total cost savings of $214.22 per night which equals $1285.32 over their length of stay. Many families fall into this category based on the ages of their children. Here’s a handy little chart to see where your family falls in the realm of possibilities:

Cost savings per night using free dining (click to enlarge)

Cost savings per night using free dining (click to enlarge)

To calculate your overall cost savings, multiple the number above with your total number of night’s stayed (NOT days or number of days of park tickets).

Still have questions? Please contact me at any time using the form below! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about free dining or any other Disney World promotion!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

Tips and Tricks for Free Dining at Disney World

freediningdisney

It’s that time of year again, the whispers begin about free dining for fall travel dates. The latest rumor is that free dining for September will be coming out before the end of April due to low DVC (Disney Vacation Club) bookings for that time of year. Great news for those that want to save a few bucks at Disney World this year! Free dining sounds like a great deal, and for most families it really is, but you really need to do the math to see what the best option is; typically Disney also offers a room only discount at the same time.


The Basics

Free Dining is offered at most Disney World resort hotels. Value resorts come with the quick service dining plan. Moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas come with the full dining plan. At any of the four resort classes, you are able to upgrade your plan (quick service to full dining plan or full dining plan to deluxe) at minimal cost. The cost of upgrade is based on the number of guests in each room, their ages, and how many nights you are staying

The Dining Plans

Quick Service dining plan: This plan provides 2 quick service credit and one snack per person for each night stayed.

Disney Dining Plan (the “full” dining plan): This plan provides 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and one snack credit per person for each night stayed.

Deluxe Dining Plan: This plan provides 3 credits (which can be quick service or table service) and 2 snacks per person for each night stayed. This is A LOT of food!

Each plan also includes a refillable mug for each member of your party. This can be used at any resort, but not refillable at the parks. A great suggestion is to bring them with to use them in the parks and make it easier to split a drink at quick service locations.

Quick service meals (also called counter service meals) are those that do not accept reservations. You order of a menu board in front of cashier and then wait for your food to be prepared. Think of McDonalds, Burger King, or Hardee’s but with better food and better variety! Quick service credits cannot be combined to convert to a table service credit (nice try though!) Feel free to share meals at any time!

Table Service meals are sit down restaurants in which you order off a menu with a server. This also could be a buffet meal. Some table service meals are 2 credits (signature meals, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner shows). Most meals can be shared with the exception of buffets for obvious reasons.

Snacks are everything from an apple, bottle of water, all the way up to a giant filled soft pretzel or cupcake. During the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, there are countless options considered snack credits that can make a meal.

You receive all of your credits upon check in to your resort. Children ages 3-9 will receive child credits for quick service and table service meals. If there happens to be no children’s menu, they are able to choose items off the full menu.There is no difference in snack credits for children or adults.

Comparing Discounts

A favorite argument of Disney fans is that “free dining isn’t free”. I will always disagree with them. Yes the dining plan is FREE, however you pay full price for your hotel room stay. In order to accurately compare the two discounts, you will need to price out free dining and then the room only discount PLUS tickets and the dining plan added. Free dining is a better deal at value and moderate resorts 99 out of 100 times (the exception is a family of two staying for a short period of time).

That math really becomes important at deluxe resorts and deluxe villas where discounts are typically 30% or more in the fall. Typically a 5-6 night stay makes for a $500 discount with room only. This deal would be greater for a family of 1 adult and 1 child or 2 adults during a short stay. For a group larger than two or three, the discount typically comes close or free dining is a better deal. Remember, if it saves you more money on a room discount, you can always pay for the dining plan and still save a few bucks along the way.

Making the dining plan work for you!

Even though the dining plan is free, it’s still good to know general dining plan strategy: choosing characters meals when available (these are all buffet but great if you’ve got kids), planning your table service meals ahead of time. You are able to book dining reservations up to 180 days in advance whether you have a resort reservation or not. Make sure you make enough reservations to use up all of your table service credits. These reservations are best made for lunch or dinner as these are typically the most expensive meals. A late lunch or early are my favorites – you can likely get away with meals each day plus a snack.

Depending on your arrival and departure times, you may need to plan carefully to use all of your credits. If you have an early departure on your last day, don’t be afraid to use all but one of your credits for a filling breakfast on your way back home. On the contrary, if you have a late departure, save at least one table service credit for a great lunch before you head home.

The Fine Print

Not all resorts are included in free dining. Typically Disney chooses resorts based on how many guests are booked in that resort at the time of the promotion (as a way to entice guests to fill specific resorts). Excluded for almost every promotion are all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Fort Wilderness, and the Villas at Grand Floridian. No specific information on what will be included this time around. The more flexible you are able to be, the better your chances of getting the dining plan for free!

Free dining requires a package stay (Disney resort stay PLUS park tickets). You are required to to have a 2 day base ticket if you are interested in adding free dining. This includes those that are Annual Passholders. You are able to put the cost of your 2 day base ticket toward next year’s annual pass if you wish to take part in free dining. You are also required a minimum of 2 night’s stay (while Disney’s promotional materials say 6 days, 5 nights, it’s not a requirement!)

Children under 3 are free at Disney World and therefore do not need park tickets or the dining plan. If you choose to eat at buffet locations, they are able to have their own plate of food. At table service and quick service restaurants, they can share with an adult or another child.

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Need help?

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!