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disney free dining

Is Disney Free Dining the best Disney Discount?

In 2006, shortly after Walt Disney World released the Disney Dining Plans that we all know and love today, they also unleashed the beast known as “Disney Free Dining”. This discount gives your family one of the Disney dining plans for free with your stay at a Walt Disney World hotel, but only during select dates. In 2006, it was made available for travel dates between August 13 – September 30, 2006, and everyone received the Disney Dining Plan for free regardless of their resort. Recently, the discount has been changed so that guests staying at a Walt Disney World Value Resort receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan for free while guests staying at a Walt Disney World Moderate, Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resort receive the Disney Dining Plan for free.

For 2015, it was made available for select Fall dates:

  • August 28 – October 2, October 25 – 31, November 8-19 and December 15 – 21, 2015

Many of the dates after October 2 had very few rooms and resorts made available.

While everyone agrees that Free Dining is a fantastic deal, and without a doubt the most watched for and also mis-understood discount of the year, is it the best deal?

Not Always!

The answer really comes down to your travel party and where you are staying on Disney property:

If you normally stay at a Walt Disney World Value or Moderate resort, Disney Free Disney is the best discount of the year, by far. Well, there may be situations that if you travel alone and stay at a moderate resort that some other discount may be equal or slightly better, but that would be very, very few situations.

If your family consists of 2 adults and 2 or more teens, Disney Free Dining is almost always the best discount of the year.

However, if your family likes to stay at the Walt Disney World deluxe resorts, and is only 2 adults, or maybe even 2 adults and 2 young kids, Disney Free Dining is rarely the best discount, and you can almost always find better deals throughout the year.

Let’s look at the math:

2 adults, 1 child staying at the Polynesian Village, theme park view room for 7 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $1,052
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $1,566

2 adults staying at the Grand Floridian, garden view room for 5 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $637
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $989

2 adults, 3 children staying at the Saratoga Springs, 2-bedroom villa for 10 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $1,959
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $2,086

Of course, Disney Free Dining can be a fantastic deal for most families:

2 adults, 2 teens staying at Pop Century, standard room for 7 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $1,236
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $271

2 adults, 3 teens staying at Caribbean Beach, standard view room for 10 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $3,185
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $643

2 adults, 4 teens staying in a cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort for 5 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $1,911
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $538

2 adults staying at All-Star Movies, standard room for 7 nights:

  • Disney Free Dining Savings: $618
  • 30% Room discount Savings: $248

Please note that these prices are just estimates, and are only used as an example for this article.

So, you can see that for most people going to Walt Disney World, the Disney Free Dining deal is the best deal of the year, by far. But for others, it really doesn’t help much as they can get better savings just about anytime.

We have not seen a Disney Free Dining discount for 2016. In 2015, the discount was released on April 27, and if we are to see Disney Free Dining again in 2016, I would expect it to be released around that same time, late April or early May, and I would expect to see it cover similar dates as 2015. However, we will not know if we will see it at all until it is actually released to the public.

Want to keep an eye out for Disney Free Dining?

  • Check out our facbook page, any information we have will be posted there as soon as we have it.
  • Stop by our main website at Mouseketrips, again, any information will be posted there first. We even have a newsletter that you can subscribe to that will email you once a discount is released.
  • Check out this Disney Free Dining website, it features complete information on historical Disney Free Dining release and travel dates. They also have a notification system you can sign up for to get notified as soon as Disney Free Dining is released.

Well, there you go. Feel free to ask any questions about Disney Free Dining that you may have.

best epcot character meal

Best Walt Disney World Character Meal in Epcot

Everyone loves a character meal at Disney. Even if you have teens, you know deep down they love it when a princess comes over to your table, regardless of the look on their face. A Disney World character meal can be one of the memories you are your kids may think back on for years. In Epcot, while there are more restaurants than at any other Disney theme park, there is a real lack of character meals, with only 2 offerings!

So you are fully aware of the character meal options in Epcot, here are they are:

  • The Garden Grill Restaurant (Land Pavilion) – Breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Chip ‘n Dale’s Harvest Feast features your best chipmunk friends Chip and Dale, along with their friends farmer Mickey and Pluto.
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway Pavilion) – Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Princess Storybook Dining features your favorite Disney princesses, including Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel and Mary Poppins, though most likely not all of those princesses will be in attendance, they have busy schedules after all.
  • Cape May Cafe (Beach Club) – Breakfast only. I am including this on the list for you since the Beach Club is a short walk or boat ride away from the International Gateway in Epcot, so while not in Epcot, it is an option for most families visiting the park. Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast features Minnie and friends, including Mickey of course, as well as Goofy and others. A great way to see your favorite Disney characters in their beach attire.

Well, there you go! So many options, but which one is the best?

The Dis/dom choice for best Disney World Character Meal in Epcot?

princess storybook dining epcot

This one really isn’t close. While I really like the uniqueness of the Garden Grill, which rotates and gives you a view of Living with the Lane (my favorite Epcot ride), I think the Princess Storybook Dining in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is a much better option for most people, including families with boys.

  1. Princesses come to your table! What could be better than having Snow White or Cinderella come to your table to talk to you? You get plenty of photo opportunities with all the princesses.
  2. Castle Akershus is beautiful inside, just a fantastic building, a great place to eat your meal.
  3. While Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is wonderful, if you happen to be on the Disney dining plan, it is also 2 table service credits per person, while the Princess Storybook Dining meals are only 1 per person, so basically half the price! Why pay twice as much to see Cinderella?
  4. New foods! Remember, this is the Norway pavilion, so you get a little bit of Norway with each meal. For lunch and dinner, the entrees are Norway themed. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to get stuck with a plate of pickled herring (unless you really want that), but you do get to choose Traditional Kjøttkake and Svinekotelett. Don’t worry, the princesses speak Norwegian and can translate for you. If you are a little afraid of trying new foods, stick with breakfast, you still get a little Norwegian starter, but the rest of the food is pretty traditional American fare.
  5. It is right next to the new Frozen ride, Frozen Ever After. While neither of the Frozen princesses appear at Princess Storybook Dining (yet), they are both just a short walk away. Please note, the Frozen Ever After attraction has not yet opened, but should open sometime in May, 2016.

What is your favorite Disney World character meal in Epcot?

Best quick-service restaurant in Epcot

Best Quick-Service Restaurant in Epcot

The Quick Service restaurants at Walt Disney World are the backbone of the dining options at Disney. Just about everyone in the park eats at one or more of them each day. In every other Disney theme park there are 5 – 7 options to choose from, but most offer very similar choices, such as hamburgers and fries. But in Epcot, there are quite a few additional options available, which makes choosing the best one even more difficult. With so many great options, it is really hard to narrow it down and decide which is the best quick-service restaurant in Epcot.

With the World Showcase area of Epcot, just about each “country” has their own quick-service restaurant, providing a wide variety of dining option for you to choose from. While I have my favorites, I make it a point to eat at others in the park, since they are usually quite a bit better than the quick-service places in the other parks. Since there are so many great options, I am actually going to include my top three quick-service restaurants for you:

  1. Katsura Grill – Japan Pavilion, Epcot: This is a bit of a strange choice, as the food at Katsura is decent, it earns its place in the top three due to its atmosphere. There isn’t anywhere in Epcot as serene as the Kasura Grill patio. I could spend a few hours there just relaxing. The lunch choices include sushi, udon, curry and teriyaki, usually a few options are available of each of those. I am a big fan of the chicken cutlet curry. My one downside of the Katsura Grill is the dessert options. They just seem like an afterthought. Green tea cheesecake or ice cream. A decent dessert could push Katsura Grill into the top 2, maybe.
  2. Tangierine Cafe – Morocco Pavilion, Epcot: Tangierine Cafe is my default Epcot quick-service restaurant, and has been for years and years. I have been known to skip out of free lunches at Disney meetings to run over to Epcot just to pay for lunch here. Not only is the food delicious, the restaurant is rarely busy, and I also think you get your best bang for your buck here too, whether paying with cash or using a dining plan credit. The Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter is a fantastic mixture of chicken and lamb with hummus, tabouleh, and tangierine couscous salad. My mouth is watering just typing that. While this may sound a bit too adventurous for some, trust me, the food is just fantastic. Again, the dessert is an after though which I rarely eat. They only offer baklava, and from what I remember, it isn’t even for sale, it is only available as a dessert if you are on the dining plans.
  3. Sunshine Seasons – Land Pavilion, Epcot: While the atmosphere at Sunshine Seasons is lacking, it is still my top choice for best quick-service restaurant in Epcot. Located in the Land pavilion, seating is in the open area of the building, surrounded by the entrances to Living with the Land and Soarin’, so there tend to be a lot of people around and plenty of noise. However, the food options make up for the lack of a decent dining area. Sunshine Seasons features several different “stations”, each offering a different type of food, and all of it is fantastic! You can choose from grilled salmon to spicy fish tacos to cuban sandwiches to stir-fry, all in one restaurant. This is heaven for a family of choosy eaters. Not to mention the kids meals are not the standard chicken nuggets and hamburgers, but you have options like salmon or a chicken leg. Really nice for kids who may be sick of the one option they like that happens to appears on every quick-service menu. Oh, did I mention the desserts? Sunshine Seasons is only rivaled by Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France Pavilion when it comes to desserts. The Key Lime Tart is my favorite, but so many other options are equally awesome.

Sunshine Seasons Epcot

Well, there you go, my top three. However, please note, there are plenty of other decent options in Epcot in addition to these three. Hankering for some fish and chips? The Yorkshire County Fish Shop has great ones for you, but that is all they serve. La Cantina de San Angel has a fantastic outdoor seating area with great views of the World Showcase. The aforementioned Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France Pavilion has great sandwiches and some of the best desserts in all of Walt Disney World.

Venture out, Epcot is a great place to find something for lunch or dinner that you might not get to eat at home.