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!

 

My Favorite Disney World Quick Service Meals

 

A little change of pace. While everything in my blog has a little bit of Melissa flair and is sometimes slightly biased of my likes and dislikes, this one is all about my favorite quick service  meals in Disney World. These vary by location, you can get a little taste of the things I really love in Disney World. These are typically places that we hit up every single time we go to Disney or places that I’m attempting to try everything on the menu. Instead of making a countdown, I’ll list them in order of location (partially because after Be Our Guest,  I just can’t choose an order!) This is perfect timing in light of FREE DINING expected to be released on Monday next week.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. Disney’s newest and most popular restaurant in new Fantasyland. We were lucky enough to get a FastPass+ reservation for lunch. I know my husband well, and armed with some insider information from a coworker, I order our food ahead of time. We had 2 opportunities to make changes, but I didn’t feel the need. I ate the Croque-Monseiur and he had the Braised Pork. Both were delicious and I’d eat them again. The braised pork was something that could have been on a dinner menu at a table service restaurant. The plating and the quality were great. Ending with a cupcake was delicious as well. Four thumbs way up. We’ll definitely be going back here.

For information on snagging a reservation for lunch, check out FastPass+ for Be Our Guest.

Pecos Bill’s. Easy in, easy out, plenty of seating. A great resting place and a really yummy toppings bar. The toppings bar makes it even easier to share a counter service meal. I often order the taco salad and I forget it’s good but not my favorite thing. My husband tried the BBQ pork and the sweet BBQ sauce was right up my alley. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before an afternoon parade, it’s right on the beginning of the parade route.

Epcot

La Canita de San Angel. By far this is my husband’s first choice of quick service restaurant in Epcot. He really loves the steak tacos. Thankfully it’s easily accessible once you hit world showcase as Mexico greets you as the first country in the line of many. I’ve had most of the items on this menu and the nachos and steak tacos are by far my two favorites. The churros with caramel sauce are a great dessert. Pair anything with a drink from Cava de Tequila right across the street, and you’re set! Nachos are definitely large enough to share. Tacos come with a large portion of chips, and 2 types of salsa are available at the condiment bar.

Sunshine Seasons. Located in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there’s an extensive and different menu. There’s plenty of healthy options here too (healthy food on vacation? Preposterous!) There are some awesome desserts too! If you’re in Epcot during Extra Magic Hours in the evening, there is some limited service before or after hitting up Soarin’ with a short line. It’s also one of the few locations open for breakfast.

Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls. While this is one of my favorite locations for a cupcake or a quick break at Hollywood Studios (and it’s especially perfect because it’s right in the middle of Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller Coaster). This is also a great hidden gem of quick service locations. The sandwiches here are enormous and definitely large enough to share, especially if you pair it with a cupcake as your dessert. We like to just share one of the amazing cupcakes. We’re just short of trying all the varieties because we chose an adorable seasonal cupcake instead of the last one on the “to do” list of their regular menu. 

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree BBQ. Not only is this my top choice for Animal Kingdom, but it’s one of my top choices in all of Disney. I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ, but I really love this place. For those looking to save a few dollars, try the chicken and ribs platter to share. This location both smells and tastes amazing. We didn’t make a stop at Animal Kingdom on our last, short trip, but I almost did just to eat there!

Yak & Yeti Counter Service. A quick taste of the table service without the extra cash or time of a sit down meal. The portions are definitely big enough to share if you’re not super hungry, but you may not want to because the food is so yummy. A late afternoon lunch could fill you for the rest of the day. There’s also a small amount of snack-worthy items here as well.

Downtown Disney

Earl of Sandwich. While this is a terrible use of a quick service dining credit, it’s a great out of pocket meal and a tasty one at that. The menu seems a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone who loves this place can’t be wrong! It’s not a must visit every time, but it’s a tasty meal and a good break from the heat or the rain while in Downtown Disney!

Wolfgang Puck Express. With some delicious Italian options including huge portions of pasta and amazing individual pizzas that really should be shared, I love this place! It’s a great place to have a 30-45 minute break in Downtown Disney. There’s not a ton of seating (or there wasn’t last time we visited), but it’s one of the best uses of quick service credits I can think of.

Resorts


Contempo Cafe. I admit it. Once again, this location is chosen partially because of cupcakes, but it’s so delicious! The menu here is different from the standard burgers and chicken. Flatbreads and warm sandwiches and grab one of the huge cupcakes (to share or not to share, that is the question). This location is rarely crowded and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a great little break from Magic Kingdom: just a monorail ride away! Plus it gives you a chance to scope out a location for your next trip.

The Mara. Unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a trip to The Mara is a little out of the way, but two words: Zebra Domes. These delicious little pieces of heaven are worth every penny. The food here is also good for a quick service (I’ve only had lunch) but it’s tasty. Or have breakfast at Boma and take these tasty morsels to go (just be careful, they don’t keep well unless they are cold!)

Did I miss any of your favorites around Disney World? I haven’t tried everything yet, but these are definitely my top choices. Can’t wait to go back next year and try something else new!

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!