Walt Disney World released their “Free Dining” Offer for 2017.
I like to consider myself the Disney travel expert in my circle, only being out done by one of my best friends – my Aunt. She isn’t military so I get my claim to fame on being an expert on all things Military and Disney related. I am not a travel agent, or getting paid- I just like to put this info together as it is one I personally compare year after year to see if it is worth it for our family. I love trying to find a way to take a magical Disney vacation while on one enlisted pay income- and the Military Discount usually helps us do just that.
I’m often asked if Free Disney Dining is better than the Disney Armed Forces Salute.
I usually would say no, but it really depends on your personal vacation! Military discounts for Walt Disney World are actually regulated by the DoD!?! So they are the ones writing who qualifies, and Disney sets the actual prices. Anyways- Back to the topic.
“Can I combine “Free Dining” with the Disney Armed Forces Salute room discount?”
Uh, womp womp womp – Nope. No. Not even a little.
You will have to choose one or the other.
Which Disney Discount is right for you?
Honestly there is no easy answer. There are many variables such as, the number in your party including the number of adults and kids, the length of your vacation, your Disney Resort level desired, and your eating habits while on vacation.
No two Disney vacations are able to be compared- you honestly just need to run the numbers with both situations in
Everyone interested in which of these two offers would be best has to run the numbers based on their individual party and vacation plans.
In this post I’ll walk you through the process.
“Free Dining” Specifics
Free Dining is available for the following arrival dates:
- August 21 – September 30, 2017
- November 14 – November 20, 2017
- November 25 – November 27, 2017
- December 8 – December 23, 2017
You must book by July 7th to get the offer.
Guests booking at the Disney Value or Moderate Resorts get the Quick Service dining plan for free. You can upgrade to the standard or deluxe dining plans by paying the difference in cost per night.
Guests booking at the Disney Deluxe Resorts and DVC properties get the Standard dinning plan for free. You can upgrade to the deluxe dining plan by paying the difference in cost per night.
Excluded resorts include:
- Fort Wilderness Campsites
- 3-bedroom villas
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows – Bungalows
- Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Additional exclusion for Nov. 14-20, Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 8-23, 2017:
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
To get “Free Dining” you must book a minimum stay of 3 nights to a maximum stay of 14 nights at a Disney-owned resort at the Full Non-Discounted (military or otherwise) Rate!
You also need to purchase AT LEAST a 2-day Magic Your Way Disney World ticket with a Park Hopper AND/OR the Park Hopper Plus Option!
So is “Free Dining” for you? The longer your trip- it is likely going to start to be more and more for you! For us the military Disney discounts on hotel and tickets- – we just don’t eat enough meals or snacks to make it worth it. We bring our own water, snacks, and breakfast to reduce cost. While the larger the party, and stay this dining plan should essentially save you money overall- The only way to decide which offer is right for you is to run the numbers both ways and compare.
Armed Forces Salute Cost: Here is how to crunch those numbers.
First figure how much it will cost to use the Disney Armed Forces Salute. You’ll figure the cost of: Tickets, Room, and Food.
Tickets: Disney’s Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets offer 4 & 5 day tickets at about half off the regular gate prices. You are allowed up to 6 of these tickets and they may be used back to back for longer stays. Longer stays or large parties may require additional- Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way Tickets.
There are many rules for the Salute offer and I found calling Disney directly helps me to answer them. Actually even though I find myself to be an excellent travel planner- I have used a Disney Certified Independent Travel Agent before and she helped me navigate the Disney discounts, planning, and military discounts! I like control over my fast passes but if you find a good TA they will crunch the numbers, plan your itinerary, and snag you the best dining reservations. I just like having control over this.
- Determine what type and how many Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets that you will need
- Determine if Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way Tickets or Shades of Green Stars and Stripes Passes are needed.
- Enter the Total Cost of your tickets
Room: Disney’s Armed Forces Salute offers 30%-40% off their full price room rates for up to 3 rooms. First you’ll need to figure the full price cost of the room you are interested in.
- Go to WDW’s room reservation page
- Input your dates
- Select your resort
- Select the full price rate
- Get the total (write this number down)
- Apply the discount based on the resort category
- Multiply the total by .6 for Deluxe Resorts
- Multiply the total by .65 for Moderate Resorts
- Multiply the total by .7 for Value Resorts
- Then add in the room tax
- Multiply by 1.125 (1.13 for the All-Stars)
You now have the Disney Armed Forces Salute discounted rate for your room.
Note Salute rates are not always available for all room types as Disney only offers a certain amount per day at each resort. I have personally found it has become almost impossible to this discount unless booking as soon as these rates are announced.
Food: Here is the hard part… You’ll need to figure what it would cost you to eat on your vacation if you did not have the Free Dining Offer.
You can do this one of two ways. Which depends on whether you would use the Paid Disney Dining Plan or not.
Be sure to include any tips at table service locations that you would use: Tips are not included in the Dining Plan.
An automatic 18% gratuity charge will be added to your bill for parties of 6 or more. Merchandise or photo-imaging products that may be offered at Character Dining experiences are also not included, except at Cinderella′s Royal Table and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
Disney Dining Plan
– Those staying at a Value or Moderate Resort would receive the Quick Service Dining Plan under the “Free Dining” Offer. Compare this plan at $48.199 per night (ages 10+) and $20.88 per night (ages 3-9).
– Those staying at other resorts would receive the Regular Dining Plan under the Free Dining Offer. Compare this plan at $69.35 per night (ages 10+) and $24.95 per night (ages 3-9).
– If you think you’d purchase any meals, snacks, or alcoholic beverages on top of what is included in the Dining Plan add these in too.
A La Carte
To figure your cost this way you will need to figure the daily cost for how you think your family will actually eat while at Disney World.
You can go to the My Disney Experience menus- Just select the items your family would eat at each meal at the restaurants you think you’d like to eat at and total it up. Remember to include drinks, snacks, alcoholic beverages, and special meals & dining experiences.
Disney Armed Forces Salute Total – Combine the cost for Tickets, Room, and Food, this is your Armed Forces Salute total cost that you’ll use to compare to the Free Dining Offer price.
Free Dining Cost
A minimum 2-Day Magic Your Way Hopper or Hopper Plus tickets are required for each person on the reservation age 3 and up in order to qualify for Free Dining.
2-Day Magic Your Way Base Ticket Cost (with tax):
- Adult (10+) – $275.84
- Child (3-9) -$263.06
2-Day Magic Your Way Base Ticket Cost (with tax):
- Adult (10+) – $291.81
- Child (3-9) -$279.03
So you have to buy these full price 2-day tickets, now what?
You have several Options depending on the length of your trip:
- You can just do 2 park days with the hoppers, or 2 park days and 2 water park or other extras days
- You can go all in and buy full price tickets for your entire stay
- This is the most expensive option
- You can use your Disney Armed Forces Salute Tickets instead
- The 2-day full price tickets can be used on another visit
- Can be used towards annual/seasonal passes later
- You can mix your full price 2-day tickets with Disney Armed Forces Salute tickets or Regular Military Discounted Magic Your Way Tickets.
Remember the full price room rate I said to write down?
That is what you’ll pay for your room to get “Free Dining”.
Included in the offer
- Value and Moderate Resorts – Quick Service Dining Plan Included
- Deluxe and DVC Resorts – Standard Dining Plan Included
Tips are not included in the Dining Plan, be sure to include any Tips at table service locations.
Disney Dining Plan Food Extras
The Disney Dining Plane will not cover all of your eating needs while on vacation! Remember to figure in the cost of extra drinks, snacks, alcoholic beverages, as well as special meals/dining experiences that go over and beyond what is included in the DDP.
Compare The Totals
Now that you have your two totals, you can compare to see which option, Walt Disney World “Free Dining” or the Disney Armed Forces Salute would be best for your party.
Let me know if I missed anything or if you have questions or comments in the comment section below! I do not have a Independent travel Agent, and personally use Disney directly, but if you know of any great ones specializing in military Disney vacations- please leave their information below to help spread the word!