By Rebekah Craig


Free Dining is always a popular topic when it comes to Disney World. Those of us in the military always ask if Free Dining is a better deal than the military discount. So we at Mission Mouse decided to run the numbers and help explain which is the best discount for those with a valid military ID.


The first question asked – can I get the military discount AND free dining? Disney does not allow us to double up on discounts so you have to choose between the two.

You Had To Say Free Dining


Let us review Disney’s three different dining plans – they are based on each night stay, per person.


The Quick Service Dining Plan includes:

2 Quick Service Meals (entrée and a non-alcoholic beverage)

2 Snack Credits

Resort-only, refillable drink mug

We don’t usually recommend this dining plan for most families because if you choose to do a table service meal (including buffets or character meals) you pay extra/out of pocket (you cannot use your dining credits for these).


The Standard Dining Plan includes:

1 Table Service Meal (entrée, side, dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage)

1 Quick Service Meal

2 Snack Credits

Resort-only, refillable drink mug

This is the plan we usually recommend because you receive the most savings. The table service meals cover most character meals, all-you-can-eat restaurants and buffets. Note: Signature restaurants, dinner shows and Cinderella’s Royal Table require 2 table service meal credits instead of 1 (but you do have the option to use 2 credits instead of paying extra/out of pocket).


The Deluxe Dining Plan

3 Table Service Meals (appetizer, entrée, side, dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage)

2 Snack Credits

Resort-only, refillable drink mug

The Deluxe Dining Plan is not one we typically recommend unless you plan to eat a lot of meals that require 2 table service credits or your primary focus is to dine at Disney (such as Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival).

*Please note this is a very brief description of the dining plans; breakfasts, buffets, and restaurants can vary their offerings. Children under the age of 3 years are not included in the dining plan.


In the past Disney has attached many restrictions to the Free Dining special. Previous requirements/restrictions were:

  • At least a 4-day (non-discounted) Park Hopper ticket
  • Must stay at a Disney Resort (non-discounted)
  • Limited travel dates
  • Value Resort guests (such as Pop Century, All Star or Art of Animation Family Suite) receive the free Quick Service dining plan but can upgrade to the Standard Dining Plan for an extra fee.


Our Test Case:

  • A family of 4 (2 adults & 2 children ages 6 & 9 years)
  • Traveling November 12-18, 2017
  • Staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with a savannah view room
  • 4 Day Park Hopper Tickets Vs. Military Salute Tickets

For the Free Dining special the room, tickets and free dining package totaled $5,239.64. The discounted military pricing for the room, dining package ($3,183.85) and 4 Salute tickets totaled $4,019.85.

That’s a savings of over $1,200! (For using your military discounts instead of free dining).


While ‘free’ always sounds appealing, Free Dining is not the best Disney discount offered for those in the military. Even for those who are not military, Disney’s Free Dining often ends up costing more than other discounts offered throughout the year.

In general, when comparing all other Disney offers, the military discount is the best price you can receive without working directly as a Cast Member at Disney. It is always good practice to double check pricing (especially if you are traveling during the blackout dates or if you have used all of your salute tickets for the year) however in this scenario the military discount is definitely the best choice!


If you want more help booking a stress-free magical Disney trip, contact hbalbi@themouseexperts.com and ask about complimentary planning and concierge services for Disney Resort guests.