I honestly don’t think there’s a bad time to visit Walt Disney World resort in Florida (incidentally, for a heads up on the best times to go and loads of other info, visit my My Walt Disney World top tips post here), but the free Disney dining offer makes a family holiday at Walt Disney World considerably better value. I always recommend you stay at a Disney resort hotel if you’re visiting Walt Disney World (I think all the perks like Extra Magic Hours and free Disney’s Magical Express airport transfers add significant value), but now it’s even better value. If you’re a bit confused about what free Disney dining would mean to your family holiday booking in 2019, read on. I’ve got all the info on how the offer works, plus some top tips on the best places to book, too.
What’s the free Disney dining offer all about?
Well, it can get a bit complicated in the finer details, but put simply, the free Disney dining offer, which launched on April 19th this year, means that if you book a Disney Resort Hotel and ticket package for 2019 for a minimum of five nights, everyone in your party will dine (and drink) for free at over 100 locations all over Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, including the parks, Disney Springs, and the resort hotels.
Can I go in the school holidays?
Yes! Actually, most dates in 2019 are covered. The official blurb says to book by 6th November 2018, for arrivals from 1st January to the 7th April, then 26th April to the 30th November 2019, so you can see there are a few missing days there.
Is it fast food, though?
Absolutely not. Disney dining is some of the finest in world, running the whole spectrum from tasty quick bites to seriously high end fine dining. Disney Springs, the awesome new entertainment district, offers a wide range of restaurants serving everything from pizza to Japanese cuisine, steak, seafood and more (see my guide to Disney Springs here), and the resort hotels always have incredible restaurants too.
What do I get with the offer?
Well, that depends upon the level of resort hotel that you book. With a Disney value resort hotel, like Disney’s gorgeous Art of Animation Resort, each person will get a free breakfast.
With a moderate resort, like Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, or Disney’s Coronado Springs, for example, each guest will get two self-service meals with one alcoholic or soft drink per meal, plus two selected snacks and a refillable resort mug that allows you unlimited refills of tea, coffee and soft drinks at any Disney Resort Hotel (this alone will save you an absolute fortune – if you have kids you’ll know that you’re constantly buying drinks on holiday).
Also, for the very first time, the free Disney dining offer this year includes speciality drinks, such as smoothies, milkshakes, mocktails and hot chocolates, as well as alcoholic drinks for over 21s (sorry Charlie), like cocktails, wines, beers and spirits.
Book a Disney Deluxe Resort or Deluxe Villa, like two of my faves: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, for example, or Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and each guest will receive one self-service meal with one alcoholic or soft drink, one waiter service meal with one alcoholic or soft drink, two selected snacks (see below) and the refillable resort mug (one per stay).
One tip here: if you’re booking at a value or moderate resort, seriously look into upgrading your dining plan to the table service plan. It’s up to you to weigh up how important dining is to you, but it’s worth looking into the cost as it’s going to give everyone in your party a proper sit-down restaurant meal every night and save you a fortune.
If you really want to splash out, you can pay extra to upgrade to the Disney deluxe dining plan, which offers three self service meals OR three waiter service meals as well as the two snacks and refillable cup.
What’s a snack? Well, they’re specific to your dining plan, but there are some fab snacks on offer – many of which are more like proper meals. You can get stuff like mac and cheese, loaded fries and huge sundaes, so do your research and don’t waste your snacks on a bottle of water! There are some really good blog posts with recommendations for the best way to spend your snack credit, including this fab video from the Disney Food Blog, which features one of my favourite drinks, the delicious (and very Instagrammable) Night Blossom (below left) which is available in Pandora as a snack item.
Booking your dining
Remember that some of the waiter service restaurants are going to get booked up well in advance, so get on the My Disney Experience app and book your dining well in advance (you can do it up to 180 days before your visit). You can even even pre-order your food before arriving at the restaurant.
How much will I save?
Well, I haven’t costed it out personally, but according to several retailers, depending on the plan, you could easily save between £2000 and £2500 for a family of four.
To sum up, then, here’s my lovely friend Dave:
Where should I book?
Of course a lot of people decide to book direct with Disney, but I have a couple of favourite companies that I feel offer brilliant value depending on how you want to book:
Want to book your tickets and hotel but not your flights?
Maybe you’ve already booked your flights, or want to use air miles, or maybe you’re already going to be in the USA and are adding Walt Disney World on to your holiday. In these case, I’d recommend Attraction Tickets Direct. I’ve worked with them for years, know the team and know that they try hard to give you the absolute best value, with brilliant benefits like booking for as little as £100 deposit, plus free amendments on your Disney holiday booking.
Booking a package including flights?
For flight-inclusive package holidays to Walt Disney World, the experts are of course, Virgin Holidays, who fly direct from London, Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast. Virgin Holidays have very kindly given me some example pricing which I always think is really handy if you’re considering booking a holiday:
Flying from Manchester and staying in a moderate resort hotel:
7 nights in Orlando from £1,255pp with Virgin Holidays including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from Manchester to Orlando, accommodation at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort with car hire included. Price is per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a Port Orleans Riverside standard room, including Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, Disney Memory Maker, Disney’s 14 day for the price of 7 Ultimate tickets, and $200 Disney Dollar spending money*, as well as all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on June 15 2019. To book visit www.virginholidays.co.uk, call the Hotline 0344 557 3870 or visit one of our stores in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or V-Room stores nationwide. *Book before 3rd July 2018.
Flying from Gatwick and staying in a deluxe resort hotel:
7 nights in Orlando from £1,339pp with Virgin Holidays including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Orlando, accommodation at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge with car hire included. Price is per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a standard room, including Disney Dining Plan, Disney Memory Maker, Disney’s 14 day for the price of 7 Ultimate tickets, and $200 Disney Dollar spending money*, as well as all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on November 23 2019. To book visitwww.virginholidays.co.uk, call the Hotline 0344 557 3870 or visit one of our stores in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or V-Room stores nationwide. *Book before 3rd July 2018.
PHEW! I think that’s covered everything. As usual, if you have any questions, give me a shout, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll be able to find it out for you.