This is the final article in a series of three that details a Walt Disney World vacation on a budget. So far, we’ve offered one plan that includes an on-site hotel with a promotional room rate and one plan that includes an off-site hotel. For this plan, we take advantage of Disney’s most popular promotion, Free Disney Dining. For the past three years, Disney has offered this promotion for most dates during the months of September, October, November and December (generally ending just before Christmas). The booking period for these free dining dates has run from late spring through late summer. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that Disney will offer this promotion in the future, but if you are able to book a vacation during the late summer to late fall time frame, you have a chance at securing this awesome and economical deal! As in the previous articles, this plan is designed for a family of 4 (2 adults, one “junior” over the age of 9, and one child under the age of 9 for a week long visit.
The details of Free Disney Dining are as follows: Guests staying at a “value” level resort are entitled to free quick service dining plans for each person over the age of 3. The Quick Service Dining Plan includes two “counter service” meals and one snack per person per day, as well as a resort refillable mug good for unlimited coffee, tea, or soda refills for the entire length of your resort stay. A quick service meal includes an entrée, a drink, and a dessert at any quick service location. Little Mermaid rooms (standard rooms for 4 people) at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort are generally excluded from this promotion. Some people are concerned about the idea of having only “quick service” dining for an entire length of stay, thinking it means having to eat hotdogs and burgers every day for a week. But that could not be less true. Disney offers amazing options at their quick-service locations. As always, some are better than others, and we have suggestions in this article for some of the best quick service locations.
Although the Art of Animation rooms are not included, they have arguably the best “quick service” food choices of any of the Disney resorts. The best compromise is a stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, which is a short walk from AoA. “Landscape of Flavors”, the Art of Animation food court, is open daily from 6am to midnight and offers a wide variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options at various “stations” around the restaurant. Breakfast offerings include Challah french toast, “steak” and eggs breakfast burger, and character shaped waffles. Lunch and dinner offerings include Mongolian Grill Beef Stir Fry, “create your own” pasta, and a Buffalo-style turkey sandwich. I have personally eaten at this food court several times, and have never been disappointed. There are SO many choices you will be amazed!
Budget Amount – $2200
Accommodations: Disney’s Pop Century Resort with FREE Quick Service Dining
Season: Early September
Cost of Room: – $754 for 6 nights
Cost of Park tickets: – $1,232 (3 adult tickets and 1 child ticket for 4 days, no park hopper)
Cost of restaurant meals: FREE!!!
Day 1 – Arrive mid-day. Take a bus to Downtown Disney and enjoy lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express. Take a bus back to the hotel and enjoy time at the pool. Walk across the bridge to the Art of Animation Resort food court for dinner.
Day 2 – Grab a quick breakfast at the Everything Pop food court using snack credits. Possible choices include muffins, bagels, or breakfast pastries. Use your resort refillable mugs for coffee or other beverages. Head to the Magic Kingdom. Use counter service credits for lunch and dinner. Excellent quick service locations in the Magic Kingdom include Be Our Guest, Columbia Harbor House, and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café.
Day 3 – Walk across the bridge to Landscape of Flavors food court at AoA. Use quick service credits to get breakfast. Use resort refillable mugs for coffee or other beverages. Head to Epcot. Use snack credits to get a light lunch (try the Croissant Jambon Fromage at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie or Chicken Corn Chowder at Sunshine Seasons). Remember to ask for a free cup of ice water! Use quick service credits for dinner. Excellent quick service locations in Epcot include Sunshine Seasons and La Cantina de San Angel.
Day 4 – Take a bus to Downtown Disney and enjoy breakfast at Wolfgang Puck Express using quick service credits. Enjoy some shopping for souvenirs. Take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House. Enjoy the wildlife in the savannah behind the Lodge. Take a bus back to Pop Century and enjoy some time at the pool. Walk across the bridge to Landscape of Flavors food court for a light lunch using snack credits. Some possible examples include Cheesy Pesto Bread or a smoothie. Remember to bring your refillable mug! Take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and take the monorail to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Enjoy dinner at Capt. Cook’s using quick service credits. Take the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom and transfer to a bus to Disney’s Fort Wilderness for the FREE Campfire Sing-a-long with Chip and Dale!
Day 5 – Grab a quick breakfast at the Everything Pop food court using snack credits. Take a bus to Hollywood Studios. Use quick service credits for lunch and dinner. Excellent quick service locations at Hollywood Studios include Backlot Express and Fairfax Fare.
Day 6 – Walk across the bridge to Landscape of Flavors food court at AoA. Use snack credits for breakfast. Take a bus to Animal Kingdom. Enjoy lunch using counter service credits. Excellent quick service locations at Animal Kingdom include Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbeque. Take a bus to AoA for a counter service dinner at Landscape of Flavors. Walk back to Pop Century and enjoy time at the pool. Pack up and get ready to go home.
Day 7 – Utilize any leftover snack credits for breakfast or snack items for your trip home. Depart Disney.
Keep in mind that with this plan, there is a little over $200 left over after your hotel stay and park tickets. That money can be used to purchase souvenirs, splurge on a dinner show like the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, or buy additional food items to go along with “snack-credit” meals. If you can manage to spend an additional $144 dollars on top of the budgeted $2200, you can upgrade your meal plan to the “standard” Disney Dining Plan, which includes one table service, one counter service, and one snack per person per day as well as the refillable mug. Disney allows its guests to upgrade from the quick service dining plan to the standard plan if they so desire by simply paying the difference in the price of each plan per person for each day. For a family of 4, the cost for this upgrade is around $57 per day.