To quote one of our favorite Disney websites, the Disney Food Blog, ‘Food IS a Theme Park’. But really – when I’m listing my five favorite things about the Disney theme parks, four of them are food related. Maybe that’s a me problem, maybe that’s a them problem, but it doesn’t change the fact that dining at Disney beats dining everywhere else. Disney makes eating an experience – I mean where else can you eat inside Cinderella’s Castle, or in an aquarium? But, like the creepy as all hell Rumpelstiltskin says, all magic comes at a price. That price, for the magic of Disney dining, is actually quite high at times. Disney offers a special every year, called ‘Free Dining’ (which is exactly what it sounds like it is), that has a cult following. People love it more than puppies and Christmas combined. Today, we’re going to talk about whether or not it’s ACTUALLY a good deal, and if you should plan your vacation around it.DSC_0279DSC_0262

What:
Free Dining is free dining (mind blowing, I know.) At certain times a year, normally during the Fall (aka off season, when Disney wants to fill rooms), Disney will offer a Free Dining Package to families that book room and ticket packages at WDW. In the most basic terms possible, if you book a Value Resort, you will receive a free Quick Service Dining Plan, and if you book a Moderate or Deluxe Resort, you will receive a free Standard Dining Plan. You will have the option of upgrading your dining plan (and paying the difference!), if you want to. It’s important to note, that just because you book a room during Free Dining, doesn’t mean that you will get Free Dining. There are only certain rooms that are eligible for the Free Dining offer (confused yet?). If you have your heart set on booking Free Dining, we always recommend using a Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, like our friends at Small World Vacations.20170116-LJP_267820170101-LJP_0532

Pros:
FREE FOOD. You get a steak! You get a steak! EVERYBODY GETS A STEAK! But really. Free food is my favorite kind of food. I feel like the orange chicken that they pass out on sticks in the food court in malls, is the best tasting chicken in the world. Why? BECAUSE IT’S FREE. We don’t always get the Dining Plan, but we are fans of it, and suggest it to people, even if it won’t always save you money. Here’s the thing with the Dining Plan – it will always, always, always give you peace of mind on your vacation. There’s nothing worse than having to stress over price points, and ordering something you don’t want, because you are over budget.20170101-LJP_046220161229-LJP_9508

Cons:
It’s not really free. If you book ‘Free Dining’, you aren’t eligible for room discounts that might be available at that time, booking with DVC Points, renting DVC Points, using an annual pass, staying off property, sharing meals, or a whole host of other things that can save you money. We’re of the opinion, since we’re annual pass holders, that it’s better to book a Deluxe Resort with DVC Points, and eat breakfast in the room, and share food at restaurants, instead of staying at a full priced moderate resort for Free Dining. But that’s just us.20161203-LJP_806520161203-LJP_8100

Conclusion:
There’s no right or wrong answer here (don’t throw things at me!). At the end of the day, you need to evaluate how much your family eats, how many sit down meals you want to commit to, the dates and flexibility your family can travel before making the decision of if free dining is the perk for you.