From the moment you book your trip of a lifetime to Disney World there’s so much to look forward to and the excitement begins way before you get there. The planning, preparation, organising; for me it all adds to the anticipation and one major part of our planning was organising our dining. The countdown for me truly began when we reached the 180 days mark and we could pre-book our advance dining reservations (ADR’s). As we are staying onsite during our trip in August this year, we have taken advantage of the “Free Disney Dining” and already I cannot believe how much money we have saved by doing so (almost £1,000 if booking the quick service plan!). It also means that I know we can reserve character dining, upgrade to VIP dining packages and even make sure we get a reservation at some of those oh-so-hard to get restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Chef Mickey’s and O’hana, without any extra cost to us! The 2019 Free Disney Dine offer is now open, so I figured it was the perfect time to chat in more detail about it.
I’ve written specifically about everything you need to know regarding the Disney Dining Plans, but wanted to share with you a little info now that we have actually booked the majority of our ADR’s, and the tips and ideas that I learned throughout the process. If you’re on one of the dining plans you’re able to choose from restaurants in all Disney Hotels, 6 Parks, Disney Springs and Disney Boardwalk – not just your hotel as some people might think! This is up to 50 restaurants on the Quick Service plan and a whopping 100 restaurants to choose from (to eat free at!!) if on the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Dining Plan so it can seem quite overwhelming at first, and not really something you’d want to leave until you get there.
2019 Free Disney Dine Now Open!
Planning really is key; from having a look at the kind of restaurants you’d like to eat at, to finding out where your favourite characters will be. I started out by drafting a simple itinerary of where we will be on each day and from that looking at which restaurants we liked the look of within the parks that we would be at on those days. Some character meets will be different for breakfast than they will be for lunch, so keep that in mind.
I then looked at what each park offered and then chose either a character breakfast (usually table service) lunch or dinner as our table service and then gave a rough guide for my own benefit for the kind of quick service meal we might like to find for the other meal of the day. With the portions being as ginormous as they are we really didn’t need to book 3 meals a day so for us this plan was just perfect.
We booked to stay at Port Orleans, which came with the Quick Service Plan, however we chose to upgrade to the Disney Dining Plan because I knew it would save us hundreds of pounds. The cost to do this worked out at a fraction of the cost of what we would have spent without it so it really was a no-brainer! Our booking also came with a $100 resort gift card for us to spend on any extras we need. Our plan allows for 1 quick service meal, one table service and 2 snacks, plus drinks – Speciality drinks were also added to the free dine plans from last year too!
Top Tip –
Look out for “VIP Package Upgrades” when booking your meals, at no extra cost. For example, if booking a meal in Magic Kingdom, there is an option to choose the package where by you can get a VIP position for the parade in the afternoon, we booked at Tony’s Townhouse for this reason. (Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package) Similarly, if dining in Hollywood Studios you can get upgraded to VIP seating at the Fantasmic show by booking the Hollywood and Vine package.
At 11 am, 180 days out from your trip you can start booking your Disney dine reservations and this is for the entire length of your stay. You might like to familiarize yourself with the booking system before you go to book too so there are no delays. From experience I would recommend booking your most favoured reservations first – The first one I tried to get at 11.01am was Be Our Guest for breakfast and they had all gone already! This was the only reservation that I didn’t get though, so I don’t think you’ll have a problem if you’re looking to book yours. Alternatively, book these hard to get restaurants for the back end of your trip – as everyone else 180 days out will likely be booking them in the first few days!
Top Tip –
Always try again if you can’t get your desired reservation at first attempt – even the day before spaces become available so don’t give up! Try the Disney dining line as they are super helpful and may be able to get you a spot that you couldn’t get online.
I have made sure that we have 2.5 days of our holiday where we don’t have any firm plans and thus any dining reservations. This is because I do want to have an element of flexibility during our time at Disney. So that if, for example, we’re desperate to go back to one of the parks that we feel like we need more time at (I have my money on this being Hollywood Studios or Epcot) or even that perhaps we just want a morning of relaxing at our hotel pool and giving the boys some down time, we can do and we aren’t tied to any reservations. That said I should mention you’re free to cancel dining reservations 24 hours in advance without incurring a fee – so I would probably say to book up what you think you might need and then as the time goes on while you’re there and you have more of an idea you can cancel in advance.
Top Tip –
Not all reservations use 1 credit each, look out for signature dining which will take up 2 credits such as Cinderella’s Royal Table and Flying Fish in Disney Springs.
I have found using a site like The Dibb has been really beneficial to have our plans stored all in one place, as time goes on and we can book our Fast Passes I can add these to our itinerary on there as it’s so much simpler seeing it all in one place. I love the area of the Disney website where you can view all reservations too and add and cancel as you wish. The app is incredible and I would 100% recommend downloading it, basically the minute we could link our booking I was on it and always check in every few days to up my excitement levels!! You can use the app or the website to book and amend reservations, you can even see wait times and where characters are on it at any given time, magic!
Next on our planning list, at 60 days out, we will be booking our Fast Passes! If you’d like me to write a similar post on how we have approached this and the tips I’ve picked up along the way just let me know in the comments below. I’d also LOVE to know where your absolute favourite Disney dining experience has been or where you are going to be booking when you reach 180 days! Don’t forget to come and subscribe to my YouTube channel where I will be sharing even more tips and videos of our time at Disney World; it’s free and I’d love to have you there!
If you get any trouble at all when trying to book your dining reservations give the customer services (0800 028 0778) a call, I spoke to a lovely lady named Tipper (I know, right!) who literally solved my query straight away and we spoke for about 20 minutes about all things Disney and I came off the phone SO excited about our trip, even more so than normal that is!!
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