By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

Category — g. How to Eat at Walt Disney World

Update on Disney World Deals

A couple of major Disney World deals have been recently announced—an extension of the Disney Armed Forces Salute into the fall of 2012, and the return of free dining for late summer 2011.


Update May 24: key details for this Disney military deal are now out!! Click here for more.

The military salute extension was announced on ABC-TV about a month ago, as part of a White House initiative to show support for the troops and their families.

However, Disney’s web page for military families still reads “Details regarding the September 2012 pricing extension of this offer will be available soon. “

The missing details, while frustrating, don’t mean the deal is not happening. Rather, it’s that the details are still being worked out. Getting the details right means a couple of things—first, coordinating with the U.S. Military about its role in the eligibility setting and purchasing process, and second, getting the right blackout dates for 2012.

My suspicion—based on how the Disney military deals have unfolded in the past—is that coordinating and collaborating with the military is not as quick and simple as it perhaps should be—this will surprise no one with experience of DOD. All could be solved in one day by an empowered E-7…but Oprah has not yet tasked one.

The other issue likely is the blackout dates. These are not relevant to the military alone—blackout dates are about Disney World’s entire 2012 calendar, and I’m guessing that fixing that in stone now is outside of the typical management process, and is also creating some delays.

My belief is that Disney collaborated as a good corporate citizen with the White House to announce this extension as part of the initiative to support the troops, and the operational complexities of actually delivering on the specifics at this time of year weren’t high on anyone’s radar scope at the time the program was agreed to.

E-7s will also recognize this situation…


The recently announced free dining deal, in contrast, was built to the usual calendar, is in Disney’s full control, and is up and running.

Free dining at Walt Disney World follows the basic structure of the deals of recent years, but with a twist.

Those reserving a moderate or a deluxe resort, and meeting other criteria (dates, length of stay, at least two days per tickets) get the regular dining plan for free. Those staying at a value resort get the “Quick Service” dining plan—still a savings, but not as much of a deal as the regular dining plan.

The twist is that all reservations taking advantage of the free dining option must also buy a ~$100 photopass package—a new development in 2011.

This package reduces the value of the savings by the equivalent amount—at least for those who would not otherwise have bought this pass. Depending on family size and ages, this requirement may in effect wipe out the value of the first day or so of free dining.

This is in effect a surcharge over normal resort pricesduring this period. You could re-state the deal as “get free dining for $100.” This doesn’t make it a bad deal—juts not as good a deal as offered in the past.

This “surcharge” is consistent with Disney World’s current strategy of reducing the scope of the discounting it is offering as the economy continues to slowly rebound.

As noted elsewhere, I’m not yet convinced that this overall strategy will work as well in the short term as Disney hopes it will…but I also expect that enough families will find “$100 for free dining” a compelling enough deal that the best-loved Disney World restaurants—and many others—will book up quickly for the relevant August and September 2011 dates.

May 17, 2011   4 Comments

The 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)


Every year from October through mid-November, Walt Disney World presents the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

In 2011, the dates are Friday September 30 through  Sunday November 13.

There are two components to the festival, one available to all Epcot visitors, and another made up of a bunch of events which have limited capacity and require reservations.

Neither has an extra ticket admission cost–you get to participate by virtue of your theme park ticket–but there are cash costs for the food, wine, and for entry to some special shows and events. [Read more →]

March 14, 2011   1 Comment

Dining at Walt Disney World

March 13, 2011   13 Comments

The Tightwad’s Guide to How to Eat at Walt Disney World, Continued

This is the second page on this topic.  For the first page, click here.


Even well-stocked Disney stores have a very limited selection. Moreover, as noted above, beer and smokes will kill your budget.

So the answer—especially if you are looking for beer and smokes—Mickey would not approve, but Donald would—is to find your way to getting at least some of your supplies outside of your resort.

There are three Hess stores on property—one of which is accessible to all Disney World resort guests, and another to those staying at a deluxe Epcot resort.

Hess isn’t going to solve “food” problems—e.g. you can get bread there, but not butter—but is great for snacks and other convenience store items.

Note also that you can’t get hard liquor in the Hess stores noted below—for these you’ll need to find your way to one of the two grocery stores listed after them, each of which is accompanied by a liquor store. Hard liquor savings can repay the cost of a cab.

Two of these Hess stores are easily reachable to Walt Disney World resort hotel guests without cars—one near the BoardWalk Inn, best for those at one of the Epcot deluxe resorts, and one near Downtown Disney, best for everyone else. [Read more →]

September 6, 2010   6 Comments

The Tightwad’s Guide to How to Eat at Walt Disney World

(This page is part of the series The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World)


This site recommends here that families following one of its itineraries purchase the Disney Dining Plan, and has other suggestions here for those who can’t, or won’t.

This page addresses a different group: those trying to spend the least possible on food at Walt Disney World.

It’s part of the The Tightwad’s Guide to Walt Disney World, a series about the most inexpensive way  to visit Walt Disney World.


The basic dining plan can be quite expensive unless you were going to buy the same number of sit down meals anyway.  The quick service dining plan is much less expensive, and, particularly if your kids are younger than 10 when they visit, can be hard to beat.

But even so, neither of these plans will cover everything you eat, and some may wish to spend even less than the cheaper dining plan costs.

The only way to do that is to gather and assemble meals and snacks in your room, taking some of them into the parks with you to eat there.  This works very well for breakfasts, sandwiches—which can be either lunch or dinner—and snacks.

Doing so will cost you time, both gathering your foodstuffs, and preparing them.

The rest of this page has some suggestions on how to gather your supplies. [Read more →]

August 30, 2010   24 Comments

Refillable Mugs at Walt Disney World


The To-Do Lists on this site have picking up refillable mugs, either as part of your Disney Dining Plan, or for cash, as one of their early steps.

RapidFill Mugs

A refillable mug entitles you to free refills of the drinks available at your resort’s beverage island—and sometimes from its pools as well—as well as at other Disney hotels, for the number of calendar days purchased.

Drinks typically available are soft drinks; other drinks usually found in soda fountains—lemonade, PowerAde, iced tea, etc; coffee, hot water and tea bags, and hot chocolate.  Other drinks may be available as well.

Drinks almost never available are milk and juices—you need to buy these anew each time you want some.


Even with milk and juices out, given the prices of buying the beverage island drinks over a trip of any length greater than 3 days, the refillable mugs are a good deal for almost all families. They are included free in the dining plans and if bought for cash, cost around $18, so you’ll break even after half a dozen or so refills.


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August 10, 2010   9 Comments