Thrifty Thursday: I Can’t Get Free Disney When I Plan to Go!


We have our dates set and Disney just released the Free Dining Plan dates, but alas those dates don’t coincide with my magical vacation. Do I change my dates? Will I still be able to enjoy sit-down restaurant meals? What to do?!?!?!

First of all, don’t panic………. Relax, this is your magical vacation after all! Think about your plans for the days you will be there. How much time do you have set aside for meals? If you are planning sit-down meals each day, you will need to plan on time to get to the restaurant, then at least an hour for a leisurely meal and then, what will you feel like doing after a meal of appetizers, entrees and possibly a desert. Does your schedule or plans allow for up to 2 hours down time in the evening? Maybe you don’t want all those table service meals after all….. Rather than a sit-down meal each day, why not plan on just one special evening to relax and enjoy some down time at a favorite restaurant you’ve wanted to try. You get a much needed rest, the chance to enjoy a special meal and your pocket book will thank you !

Whether you are you are a real foodie or you want to plan on a few sit-down meals – here are some other ideas that have helped us in the past:

  • Plan on lunch instead of an evening meal: some restaurants have specific lunch menus or pared-down entrees that are less expensive. I have also found restaurants to be less crowded during the day.
  • Book a mid-afternoon meal instead of dinner time. Not only will the restaurant be less crowded, you will still have the evening free.
  • Split an entrée. This of course only works for restaurants with a full menu and not a buffet. Most entrees are quite large, so splitting them will let you also include a dessert or appetizer and you won’t feel so full.
  • Try some of the counter-service restaurants in World Showcase. Most include smaller versions of the sit-down restaurants at reduced prices.
  • I have had some luck booking a sit-down meal once I arrive at Walt Disney World: the key here is flexibility! There is absolutely no guarantee you will get in when you want and where you want or if you will get a reservation, so be prepared to take the time to work with the cast members when talking to them. I once called the morning before I wanted something in World Showcase. My only agenda was in World Showcase for that evening – I didn’t care where or what time. With luck, I ended up at the Chefs de France for late that evening. Believe me – that was luck, not skill, but I was willing to be flexible which helped me.

Is the Disney Dining Plan important to you? Is it something you plan your vacation around or do you find other ways to enjoy the fantastic food Walt Disney has to offer? Not getting Free Dining isn’t the end of the world, there are lots of ways you can still save on food and have a magical vacation!

Find out how the FREE services of a Disney World travel agent can make planning your Disney vacation simple and STRESS FREE!

Debbie and her husband live in Collegedale, TN where her youngest son is going to college. She is a huge Disney fan who dreams of someday retiring and working as a tour guide at Walt Disney World. She has enjoyed many trips to WDW with children, grandchildren and sometimes adults only. It is her ultimate goal to make sure everyone who visits WDW has the same magical time that she enjoys every time she visits.

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