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Category — g. How to Eat at Walt Disney World

Disney World Free Dining Dates Shifted, Shortened

AJ of the Disney Food Blog is reporting here on changes to the dates of Disney World’s free dining offer.

Those who have already booked free dining are fine, even if their dates aren’t covered any more; new bookings MUST follow the new dates.

I’ve got both the old dates and the new dates here–the old dates are slashed through, like this.

Analysis shows that with one exception  the Disney World free dining arrival dates now begin a day earlier (on Saturdays rather than Sundays) and in all cases end two days earlier, on Thursdays rather than Saturdays.

The effect is to add 9  Saturday arrival dates and subtract 20 Friday and different Saturday arrival dates, for a net reduction of 11 arrival dates.

Shifting the end of each arrival date period from Saturdays to the Thursdays two days before will make it harder for many families to take advantage of these deals during some popular weeks.

(Note: Not all of the black-out dates are popular weeks–for example, the October, early December, and early February blacked-out dates should all have low crowds.)

Again, according to AJ, if you’ve already booked, you are fine–the changed dates apply only to new bookings.

For more on the free dining offer, including both the new and old dates, click here.

August 26, 2011   No Comments

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   No 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   No Comments

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   4 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   18 Comments