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disney free dining

Why Disney Free Dining isn’t really Free

Every year since 2006, Walt Disney World has released a Disney Free Dining discount, typically for Fall dates, though early on we did see some Spring dates included. The Disney Free Dining discount for 2017 was released earlier this week. Historically, this is the most popular and most looked forward to discount for regular Disney visitors. The basics are the Disney Free Dining discount is that you book a package at a Walt Disney World resort that includes your hotel and park passes, and Disney includes the dining plan for free. But, it really isn’t free.

One thing to note here, Disney DOES NOT love you, they are not giving you something free because you have been a great customer, or because they think you deserve it, Disney releases discounts, whether free dining or any other package or room discount, to fill rooms. If there is a time when they can’t fill up at full rate, they offer an incentive to get you to come to Disney. Disney Free Dining is just another marketing scheme to get you to come to Disney. Plus, Disney is smart, they know that when people hear “free” they go crazy and don’t even consider doing any math to see if it really is free, or even if it is a good deal.

Why Disney Free Dining isn’t really Free

  • Minimum Night Stays – As part of the Disney Free Dining discount, Walt Disney World requires you to stay a minimum of three nights, a maximum of 14. While this really does not affect many people, there are some that may want to visit Disney just for 1 or 2 nights, but must extend their vacation an extra day or two in order to get free dining.
  • Minimum Ticket Purchases – Disney requires the purchase of a minimum 2 day ticket with you Disney Free Dining package. This is a requirement regardless of the length of ticket you really want. If you are an annual passholder, you still must purchase a 2 day ticket. If you are a Florida Resident and have access to cheaper tickets, still, you must purchase a 2 day ticket. If you have tickets left over from another trip or happened to purchase tickets elsewhere, everyone on the package must purchase a 2 day ticket. While this doesn’t sound like a huge deal, a 2 day base ticket is roughly $212 per person, so for a family of 4, you are talking a minimum ticket purchase of $848 just for the right to get the free dining.
  • Park Hopping Add-on – Another requirement added in recent years, in addition to purchasing the minimum 2 day ticket, Disney also requires that you purchase the park hopping add-on for everyone in your room. The park hopping add-on runs about $80 per person, so a family of four must pay an additional $320 whether they want park hopping or not.
  • Limited Resorts – As part of the 2017 Disney Free Dining discount, Disney did not include many of the popular resorts as part of the discount. Want to stay at Port Orleans French Quarter or a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation? You are out of luck. Plus, many of the resorts were included, but have zero availability? Wilderness Lodge was included, but good luck finding a room there with Disney Free Dining. Same goes for Polynesian Village and Port Orleans Riverside. While this doesn’t necessarily increase your cost, you may have to stay in a resort that you have no interest in staying in just to get a discount. Many of my clients have actually had to upgrade to a more expensive resort to get the Disney Free Dining, they want to stay in a Value resort, but because they are all sold out, they are forced to pay more and upgrade to a moderate resort just to get a discount.
  • More expensive rooms – Availability with Disney Free Dining is very tight. While you may find a room at Pop Century (your preferred resort), they may be sold out of the standard view rooms you normally stay in. So, you are forced to upgrade to a more expensive room just to get a discount.
  • Bypass other discounts – At Walt Disney Wold,  you are not allowed to use more than one discount. Even though Disney released two discounts the other day, the Disney Free Dining and the Late Summer discount, which overlap for many of the Disney Free Dining dates, you cannot use both discount. So, if you opt to take the Disney Free Dining discount, that means you exclude yourself from the Late Summer or any other discount that comes along.

I am not saying that the Disney Free Dining discount can’t be a great deal, but DO THE MATH! I have clients that can get a better deal with a different discount, they insist they still want free dining, because it was “free”, even though they end up paying more in the end. Sometimes it is hard to understand that free really isn’t free.

When booking your Disney vacation, I would strongly suggest to book your initial reservation at a price you are comfortable with, and do not expect to see any discounts. Then, if and when a discount does come along, consider that as a bonus and upgrade your resort or dining plan and have a better trip than what you were expecting.

best adult restaurant animal kingdom

Best Restaurant for Adults in Animal Kingdom

When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened in 1988, the restaurant choices were very, very limited, and there was only one sit down restaurant in the entire park (two if you count the Rainforest Cafe, but it is technically outside the park, located near the entrance). That really was not a big deal as the park typically closed around the time that the sun went down, so most people just went elsewhere for dinner. With the extension of the park hours in the last year, and the new night time show (Rivers of Light), there is an increased need for additional sit down restaurants in the park. Disney recently added Tiffins, a signature restaurant located near the Tree of Life. Unfortunately, Disney will not be adding another table service restaurant once the new Pandora (Avatar) section of the park opens. there will only be once new restaurant there, Satu’li Canteen, which will be a fast/casual restaurant. Hopefully at some point they will make dinner a table service restaurant at some point in the future.

Best Restaurant for Adults in Animal Kingdom

Best Restaurant for Adults in Animal Kingdom

  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant – Trust me, at this point, it isn’t even close. Yak & Yeti features asian inspired meals in a fantastic, beautiful setting. Some of my favorites are the Pork Pop Stickers, the Ahi Tuna Nachos, the Crispy Honey Chicken and the Seared Miso Salmon. Yum! Yak & Yeti serves both lunch and dinner as a table service meal, both meals offer the same menu and the same prices. Yak & Yeti is also on the dinning plan, and counts as one table service credit. Also, please do not be confused. In Animal Kingdom, there is also a quick service restaurant that goes by the name Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe, and while the food is quite good there, it isn’t the same thing.

While Yak & Yeti won’t make my top 10 list of Disney World restaurants, it is head and shoulders above the other Anima Kingdom options. Tiffins launched last year, and looked very promising, but to this point, the restaurant has had really poor reviews for both food and service. Maybe someday this will be a decent option for adults, but for now, just stop by the Nomad Lounge and enjoy a cool drink. Tusker House is a fun restaurant, but the food is served family/buffet style, and it tends to be pretty loud and busy, not relaxing at all. While the food is decent, it just isn’t on par with Yak & Yeti. Rainforest Cafe is Rainforest Cafe, you pay for the atmosphere and not the food. If you idea of a nice dinner includes gorillas and elephants along with a lot of thunder and lightening, the feel free to stop by.

Want to enjoy something outside the park, but close by? Animal Kingdom Lodge has three great restaurants, Boma, Jiko and Sanaa. Both Jiko and Saana are better than Yak & Yeti, and Boma is quite good, if you like buffets. Animal Kingdom is only a 5 minute bus ride away, and a nice break from the park.

What is your favorite restaurants for adults in the Animal Kingdom theme park?

5 disney things

5 Disney Things You Should Know This Week – August 26, 2016

Welcome to another week of Disney things you should know. Not everyone can keep up with all of the Disney news (not even me, and I do this stuff full time), so we provide you with 5 Disney Things you should know from this week to help you keep up to date. This week features a new discount and dinner show at Aulani, a live stream of the soon to be discontinued Main Street Electrical Parade as well as a new Disney cookbook and more fun at Raglan Road. Enjoy!

Watch the Main Street Electrical Parade Live From the Magic Kingdom

main street electrical parade

Are you a fan of the Main Street Electrical Parade? Did you know it is leaving the Magic Kingdom later this year? Well, you are in luck, as Disney has decided to live broadcast the Main Street Electrical Parade this weekend, for free!

The Main Street Electric Parade will soon be “glowing” away to inspire our friends at Disneyland Resort in California. But before it makes its cross-country journey, guests have until October 9, 2016 to enjoy this sparkling spectacular here at Magic Kingdom Park. We hope many of you will be able to see the parade in person before it leaves, but if not we have you covered with our live stream!

It will be broadcast Sunday night at 8:55 p.m. ET. Just check the following link right before then for broadcast details:

Broadcast Details available Sunday evening: Disney Parks Blog

Aulani Winter 2017 Discount

aulani winter discount

Aulani is a Disney resort located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. While not adjacent to a Disney theme park, Aulani provides you with the Disney magic in one of the most magical places on earth. The resort is down right beautiful, with fantastic rooms, pools and a near perfect beach. Plus, there are no resort fees, so there isn’t any additional cost to use the pools, beach or any of the fantastic kids clubs or other activities.

Now you can save up to 35% during the most popular time of the year to visit the islands. Travel between January 2 and March 24, 2017 and you can save up to 35% on your room reservation, plus book early and receive a free meal per person in your family at one of Aulani’s great restaurants, the Ulu Cafe.

For more information: Aulani Winter 2017 Discount

New Discover ‘Menehune Mischief’ Dinner Show at Aulani

Menehune Mischief

Speaking of Aulani, Disney has just launched a brand new dinner show at Aulani for guests. “Menehune Mischief” at Makahiki restaurant celebrates the story of the Menehune—the magical little people of Hawaiian legend—with the help of Aulani’s beloved Uncle and favorite Disney Characters. During a delicious buffet dinner, you’ll enjoy delightful tales brought to life through enchanting music, sing-along fun and engaging storytelling!

The essence of Makahiki – The Bounty of the Islands can be found throughout the restaurant’s art and design, as well as in the fresh, locally-sourced cuisine. My favorites include the rotating carving stations, the abundant selection of seafood and, of course, house-made desserts! There is also a special “Keiki Corner” for youngsters to fill up on macaroni pasta, baked chicken tenders and more!

Menehune Mischief is offered on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Dinner reservation times are 4:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. The character dinner experience is $49 for adults and $24 for keiki (ages 3-9 years old).

Delicious Disney Cook Book

delicious disney

Who doesn’t love having a little bit of Disney magic at home with them between Disney vacation? I find that eating one of my favorite Disney meals make me extra excited for any upcoming Disney adventure. Well, now you can enjoy your favorite Disney sweets with the new “Delicious Disney” cookbook.

Vacation is often a time for indulgence, so Disney dessert recipes are among the most requested, and the new “Delicious Disney Sweet Treats” cookbook features 40 irresistible recipes from the pastry chefs at Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa and Disney Cruise Line.

The book includes elegant sweets such as the madeleines from Chefs de France at the France pavilion at Epcot, the Warm Apple Butter Cake from Steakhouse 55 at the Disneyland hotel and the Mom’s Favorite Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake from 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Each recipe has been tested in a home kitchen to make it easier to re-create a vacation favorite. Now you can make your favorite desserts any time of the year!

This new cookbook will be available shortly at Walt Disney World, Disneyland and online in the Shop Disney Parks app.

Great Irish Hooley

Great Irish Hooley

Raglan Road is one of my favorite Disney restaurants, and a “DO NOT MISS” on every single Disney World vacation, no matter the length (I at there one time between the end of a Disney Cruise and my flight home that afternoon, and I nearly missed my flight because of it). Raglan Road just has fantastic food and an even better atmosphere.

This year, Raglan Road celebrates the 5th Anniversary of their “Great Irish Hooley” with craft beer, cool cocktails, authentic Irish food, and, perhaps most impressive, a brand-new “Rhythms of Raglan” show—a 90-minute live spectacle of music and dance, produced in Ireland and directed by David Hayes of “Riverdance” and “The Voice: Ireland Edition” and choreographed in part by Michael Donnellan, famous for his work in “Lord of the Dance.”

Taking place September 2-5, 2016 over the long Labor Day Weekend, this music-festival-meets-festive-food soiree mixes authentic Irish entertainment with some of the best bites and sips this side of the Emerald Isle. The fun begins at noon on Friday, September 2nd and runs through last call the following Monday.

Make plans now to make The Great Irish Hooley part of your Labor Day Weekend – and be sure to catch The Rhythms of Raglan show, taking place at 4 p.m. Sept. 2, and at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sept. 3, 4 and 5. (Tip: pencil in extra time for Celtic face-painting, happening Saturday through Monday!)

For the full entertainment schedule, visit www.raglanload.com and www.greatirishhooley.com closer to the event.

Did I miss any Disney news this week that should have been included?