Having been to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World several times, with and without kids, and even as a kid, I have come to learn a few things.…
Things They Won’t Tell You About Free Disney Dining Plan… But We Will!
by Jason Stucky from All Things WDW – Facebook group
The Free Disney Dining Plan promotion is one of the most sought-after and popular deals at any Disney location. Basically, the promotion offers guests one of two Dining Plans for no cost as part of a room and ticket package. The Disney Dining Plans are available to guests all year round as an add-on to their vacation package and a dining plan is not required to eat at any of the restaurants. Many guests choose the Dining Plan to facilitate budgeting and planning, but if it’s free, even better! If you’re planning (or even pre-planning) a Disney vacation and taking advantage of the Free Dining deal, here are a few things to think about.
8. Only available with very specific requirements. Disney isn’t just going to give dining away without asking for something in return. “Enjoy a FREE dining plan when you purchase a non-discounted 5-night/6-day Magic Your Way package that includes a room at a select Disney Resort hotel and a ticket with a Park Hopper® Option“.
7. Not stackable with other offers. If you have already made your reservation with a discount on either your room or your tickets, you will need to forfeit that discount in order to add this one.
6. It’s not totally free. You may need to choose between a free dining plan or a discount on your hotel stay. To determine which is best for your family. Don’t let free distract you from a hotel discount. Each year it varies the discount and which resort is offering the best deal. So do your math and figure out which comes out ahead.
5. Upgrade Your Plan. The Dining Plan you get for free depends on the level of your hotel. Guests staying in a Moderate or Value hotel receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, which is two counter service credits, 1 non-alcoholic/alcoholic drink per meal, 2 selected snacks and a refillable mug. Guests staying at a Deluxe hotel get the regular Disney Dining Plan, which is 1 waiter service meal, 1 self-service meal, 1 non-alcoholic/alcoholic drink per meal, 2 selected snacks and a refillable mug. All credits are based on the number of nights in your stay. But, you can upgrade from the Quick Service plan to the regular Dining Plan for just the cost difference between the plans.
4. It’s a Lot of Food: No matter what plan you have, you get two full meals (including dessert!), a snack, and the refillable mug. Portions at Walt Disney World are huge. That means guests on the Dining Plan get a lot of food. For guests with small appetites, it may be too much food. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. Look at what the various plans offer and at some menus online before deciding if a Dining Plan is right for your family.
3. Does Not Cover Tips. Getting the Dining Plan for free is great, but don’t forget about tips for your servers. The Dining Plan does not include gratuity. Don’t worry too much though, Disney does the math for you, and when you get your bill, there will be a suggested tip amount, at both 18% and 20%. You’re free to tip that amount, or one of your choosing.
2. Or Appetizers. Another thing the Dining Plan does not cover is appetizers. You will need to pay for that separately from the Dining Plan if you order any. The extra cost is definitely worth the price at many restaurants. For example, the Na’an Bread, an appetizer from Sanaa, is one of my absolute favorite dishes at Walt Disney World.
EDIT; once upon a time, the Disney Dining Plan did not cover alcohol. They have answered our figurative prayers and added a little something for the adults (aged 21 and over of course).
1. Better Deal For Adults and Older Children: Children aged 3-9 qualify for the child’s price for tickets and dining plans. Toddler’s two and younger don’t need a ticket or a dining plan. In 2016 at Walt Disney World, the price for an adult on the standard Disney Dining Plan is $63.70 per night, and a child costs $22.85 per night. That’s quite a difference between child and adult prices. The Free Dining promotion gives a better value for a family with older people. A family with only toddlers may actually save more money by choosing a room discount instead of free dining.
For more information, check out the Official Walt Disney World website. If you have any questions or comments about anything you have read here, or want to add your two cents to the conversation, please comment below.
You may also like:
- Using free Half-board plus
- Disneyland Paris Winter Guide to Meal Plans
- Disneyland Paris Planning Guide
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Get the most meal for your money
When booking your Disneyland Paris or any Disney holiday for that matter, what is the first things they offer?
The Disneyland Paris Dining Plan.
- But what do we really know about the plan?
- Is it really for you?
- What is included/excluded,
- Will you be restricted in where you can eat?
All of these questions have been asked and answered a thousand times, with hundreds of different opinions, around the internet.
Disneyland Paris Dining – Meal Plans
Today, I spoke with a professional versed in these matters. Britani Stratton from Ears of Experience, a Certified Disney Planner. I asked Britani for her expert opinion of the Disney Dining Plan and which plans work for each type of traveller. We will also provide a little insight into some of the sit-down restaurant reservations you might be interested in dishing-up during your visit. You can expect to part with good money for a Disneyland Vacation, budget accordingly. At Tapped Out Travellers we want to ensure you are well-informed and have the most exciting and cost effective Disney holiday experience possible.
Disneyland Paris Meal Plans
Only guests staying on-site are eligible for the Disneyland Dining Meal Plan. It is recommended that you purchase the dining plan if you intend on having any sit-down dinners, especially the Character Dining. Disney’s fabulous Character Dining can cost a pretty penny per person but are well worth it for the kids. Character Dining is very popular, and we strongly recommend that you make reservations well in advance.
On the other hand, if you are a day packer and only want quick service (fast food) for all your meals, the dining plans may not be for you. By this method, you will not see a return on your investment, as a combination of quick service dining and sit down service is the only way to make Disneyland Paris Dining cost effective.
From 29th March 2017, buffet breakfast will no longer be included with Disneyland Paris hotel bookings as standard. Except for Disney Hotels Club rooms (Castle Club, Empire State Club, Golden Forest Club) and suites.
You’ll receive 1 Breakfast Voucher per person per night of your stay, allowing you to enjoy breakfast at your own hotel’s Buffet Service restaurant only.
* Breakfast Vouchers only apply from 29th March 2017. For bookings before this date, breakfast is included at Disney Hotels as standard.
Also, from 29th March 2017, all Half Board and Full Board Dining Plans will include breakfast. This means that breakfast has been added to the standard meal plan which has definitely added value.
Check out these handy-dandy graphs showing you where and when you can use your meal plan, depending on which tier you purchase before 29th March 2017;
DLPGUIDE has produced a detailed guide for Disneyland Paris Dining Plans.
Just a note, gratuity is included on the check in Europe but if service is very good, an additional few euro is customary. Nothing crazy like in North America, though. 5 euro for a family is acceptable, even at the fancier restaurants. And to clarify, you do NOT have to stay on site or have the Dining Plan to do Character Dining or any of the sit-down restaurants. You can still make reservations and pay out of pocket for table service.
Disneyland Dining Reservations
Disneyland Dining Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance. We recommend getting reservations for Character Dinners because the meet and greets in the park can have extremely long lines, cutting into your attraction times.
In our experience Disneyland Dining Reservations are strongly recommended for:
- Bistrot Chez Rémy, the restaurant inspired by the Disney film Ratatouille,
- Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Disney Village,
- Character meal – Auberge de Cendrillon in Disneyland Paris,
- Character meal – Disneyland Paris Hotels Inventions Buffet,
- Rainforest Cafe in Disney Village
Café Mickey in Disneyland Paris.Cafe Mickey no longer has character breakfasts. They since been moved to Plaza Gardens permanently.
Call the Dining Reservation Service at +33 1 60 30 40 50, online during hotel booking, or through your Travel Agent.
Bistrot Chez Rémy
At Bistrot Chez Rémy, just like the movie, we were shrunk down to the size of a rat and ate in style. The menu was a little interesting to understand at first; there is a main course, and you can either pay for just the meal or meal plus drink and dessert. There are only a handful of options for adults and even few for the children, but this does lead to a quick turn around time. The food was a little expensive for my taste, but this is a Disney sit-down dinner so I wasn’t too surprised. We sat at 5:30 pm and the place was practically empty. When we left, however, closer to 7 pm, it was starting to get full, and with families, so there is something to be said for beating the rush. Also, we only made reservations at 11 am after we finished the ride and the kids say the front entrance. They were full for lunch but clearly, dinner was available: this was during our October visit, by the way. So slow season equals fewer requests for reservations.
Edit – When the park closes earlier, Bistrot Chez Rémy does adjust it’s schedule accordingly.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
The Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is very exciting and set in the heart of the Old West it is the biggest Disney dinner show in Europe, great for families! We paid extra for front row seats, to make sure no one was in the way of our son seeing the show. They said under 3 doesn’t need to purchase a seat, which was great. In the fine print, however, they said that they will give him a chair for free if one is available, otherwise, he is on my lap. Since there were only enough buyers for one row of special seating, they decided not to open up the second row just for my son to have his own chair. We were nice and tight at the table…for 2 hours. He was served dinner first, all finger foods, and they brought out plenty of tortilla chips to keep him happy, but the older couple next to us didn’t appreciate all the fidgeting and complaining he was doing. Next time, I’m paying for a seat.
“Notably Medieval Times in Toronto, Canada has a beautiful dinner with arena show of “Knights of the Realm” performing skills competitions on horse back.”
Café Mickey was a cute little continental buffet breakfast in Disney Village. We arrived at the opening so we didn’t have to wait long for our table. Shortly after everyone sat down, the characters were escorted out, one by one, with a few minute intervals between them. This allowed each character time at each table, before being whisked away to another family. Our 2.5-year-old was not interested in the characters at all and refused to get anywhere near them unless in my arms, and even then. Be sure the kids can tolerate characters before trying your hand at a character dinner.
The Rainforest Cafe is also in the Disney Village, across the street from Cafe Mickey and near the Lego store. I mention this because you run the risk of your kids seeing it when you enter or exit the restaurant. You have been warned.
The prices are in line with Disney’s, and so are the long lines. While a reservation is not technically required to get you in the door, it will significantly reduce your wait time, like a fast pass vs standard queue. Around 530 pm is when the real lines start to form so be sure to jump in line before then. We arrived at 7 pm during the off-season on a Thursday night in October and still waited 45 minutes to be seated. The service was not as fast as I would have liked but the restaurant was full, loud, and included running children that had grown bored of waiting for their food to arrive. We love coming here on our first night (before grabbing tickets in the morning).
In case you haven’t realized yet, I have been working closely with my very own Certified Disney Vacation Planner, Britani Stratton, to compile all of this great information for you. She has also graciously provided a handful of these images, as I am clearly too involved in my food to remember to take any decent photos in the restaurant.
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Planning a trip to Disneyland Paris?
Whether you are planning a Disneyland Paris vacation for the first time or the hundredth time, there will always be something that you missed; a discount here, a tip there. It’s endless. Throw in some exclusive offers like Disneyland Military Discount, and your whole train has been derailed; start again from scratch. These Disneyland Paris Travel Tips are tailored to helping military personnel
Why use a “Certified Disney Vacation Planner”
A Certified Disney Vacation Planner will slowly but surely become your new best friend. First and most importantly, they are free of charge to you- that’s right, you don’t pay a penny for their services, they get paid on commission just like any other travel agent. This means it is their goal to sell you what works, not sell you everything. Travel agents work best by word of mouth; if you don’t like them, they don’t work, so it is in their best interest to make you happy.
A Certified Disney Vacation Planner will be able to reserve your hotel, tickets, and make dinning reservations, all in USD so there is no fussing with currency exchanges. They also give pages full of tips and tricks for the parks and provide a daily itinerary on what park to go to each day based on crowd prediction. When booking through a Certified Disney Vacation Planner, they are also able to price watch and adjust packages. So once you book, if a deal opens up down the road and your room qualifies, they are able to adjust everything so you are always saving the most money.
Disneyland Hotel-Only Rate
There is such a thing as Disneyland Hotel-Only rates. Each hotel has a different discount rate, and this differs based on crowd predictions as well, but it can range from 35-45% off. In order to make this type of reservation, you will need to call the reservation desk, they can be reached at 08448 008 898, and only book the room. From there, mention your desire for a Disneyland Hotel-Only rate and they can tell you the discount rate. Because Disneyland hotels offer Extra Magic Hours with their tickets but you have now just purchased a hotel reservation only, they will give you a special card that allows you Extra Magic Access when combined with your Entrance Ticket. Off-site resorts do not offer any sort of hotel Military rate, but depending on the time of year, their full price rate may or may not be better than the Disneyland Hotel-Only Rate.
On site or off site
There is a lot to think about when picking a hotel at any Disney Location. Do I want to spend a little more money and have the Disney Experience, or do I want to save a ton of money and stay at a regular hotel/apartment outside of town. There are no wrong answers, as we are all different types of travelers with very different requirements from our vacations.
This is a quick breakdown of what Disneyland Paris hotels have to offer, that you will not experience from a regular hotel (also known as Off-site)
Read more about onsite vs offsite, as well as other tips for hotel preparedness here.
Disneyland Military Discount Tickets
Disneyland Military Discount Tickets are available for purchase, at the gate. The Ticketmaster only opens at 9 am, however, so if you qualify for Extra Magic Hours, you will have to wait on that first day until you are able to make the initial purchase, or buy the night before. A valid military ID is required. Disneyland Paris, because it is partly owned by a French company and is physically not in America, do not make distinctions between military nationalities. Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland California, however, have rigid policies regarding American Military members or Foreign Nationals working for the American Military.
In terms of numbers, Disneyland Military discount tickets go for 50% their standard rate, for 2, 3 & 4 day passes. They are not applicable to single day passes. A member must be present at time of purchase and can only purchase up to 4 additional tickets – unless the immediate family is larger than 5 (having 4 kids or bringing a grandparent, for example), they can make an exception and grant the Disneyland Military discount to all tickets, but this is based on the individual ticket agent’s discretion. There is anecdotal evidence to support that Spouse Cards are also an acceptable form of ID, therefore allowing two sets of 4 additional tickets.
We suggest getting a water proof pocket to hold your tickets, cards and phone.
As far as we can tell, there are no blackout dates. Several agents have called several times and always return with the same answer; blackout dates are issued on a monthly basis based on crowd predictions but they have yet to issue Military Discount Blackout dates.
To discount or not to discount
There comes a time in every planners itinerary when they must weigh the various options and decide which is the better deal. If you are booking off-site, like I mentioned, purchasing Disneyland Military Discount Tickets is the obvious choice. But what about those planning to stay on site? Sometimes the offers that a Certified Disney Vacation Planner are able to produce will greatly outweigh anything that Military Discounts are able to save you. For example, when tickets are free for under 7 (normally only free under 3), free meal plans, buy 2 days and get 2 days. While a Certified Disney Vacation Planner can’t tell you the Hotel-only rates, you can call for this information then speak to a planner and have them search for any better deals.
Again, there is rarely a room-only special so it is best to check all prices and combination options before making a final decision.
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I asked Britani for any tips that she would like to bestow to my loyal readers;
- Go to the parks at opening, especially during Extra Magic Hours
- Make reservations for Character dinners if you plan on seeing any of them
- Visit between fall and spring to save the most money, and the crowds are lower during this time
- Also, between fall and spring, the fireworks are earlier in the night since the sun will be setting earlier. Yes, that means the park closes a little earlier, but with little ones, is that really a bad thing?
- Not everything comes “standard” with the hotels, like we would think in North America. For example, the lower level hotels do not have Air Conditioning or Elevators.
- Purchase your souvenirs ahead of time and save a few dollars. The kids won’t know the difference.
For more information, be sure to check out our Disneyland Paris Planning Guide
Plan Your Trip – Stay and see everything
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- Blacklane.com Take your time and relax. Airport pickups include 60 minutes of free wait time, and all other pickups include a free 15 minutes. Limousine Service!
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