Free Dining: Get It For Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival?!

by on August 5, 2011 22 Comments

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Those of you who follow my rabid postings all over the internet may know that I’m not exactly the most ardent supporter of the Disney Dining Plan. My recent review of the Disney Dining Plan and my “No Such Thing As A Free Dining Plan” posts more than bear that out. That said, if you’re heading down to Walt Disney World during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, you should get the Dining Plan. No matter how many people are staying in your room.

Actually, let me back up a second, because it actually isn’t that simple of a rule. (When is determining if the Dining Plan is right for you ever simple?!)

If you are taking a trip during the Food & Wine Festival, and you are staying in a Value Resort, or wouldn’t mind staying in a Value Resort, book the recently announced Free Dining. You will only receive the Quick Service Dining Plan, but don’t fret on this point. Now I know some of the resort snobs out there might cringe at this prospect, so this certainly isn’t for everyone, especially those who book an Epcot Resort so they can stumble back to their room after partaking in a marathon day of food and wine sampling. That said, if you don’t mind staying at a Value Resort, this is almost certainly a great deal for you.

This is such an attractive offer mainly for one reason: snack credits. If you’re on the Quick Service Dining Plan, each night of your stay you receive two quick/counter service meals and two snack credits per person. While snack credits normally may not be that attractive of a part of the Dining Plan (raise your hand if you’ve ever stocked up on fudge, candy, or Mickey Rice Krispie Treats to take home with your leftover snack credits), during Food & Wine Festival, snack credits are huge. HUGE!

This is because, in the past, Disney has allowed Guests to use these snack credits to purchase many of the smaller items at the country kiosks located throughout World Showcase during Food & Wine Festival. If you’ve ever paid out of pocket for an afternoon of strolling and snacking on these snacks before, you know that the cost can add up very quickly, especially when these relatively small portions can cost $6 or $7 each!

Plus, since Food & Wine Festival is going on, it’s more likely that you won’t desire to do as many Table Service meals anyway, as you’ll be filling up on snacks offered at the country kiosks and the awesome reasonably priced seminars that take place during Food & Wine Festival. Presumably, you’ll be spending more time in Epcot than usual during a Food & Wine Festival trip, so the counter service credits plus two snack credits

At this point, I’m sure some of you are grumbling about Walt Disney World’s Counter Service. “I can’t eat only disgusting burgers and hot dogs all week,” you might be saying. To anyone contending that Disney’s Counter Service food is subpar: this is a patently untrue statement. Perhaps if you eat nothing but Casey’s Corner hot dogs and Pecos Bill burgers, your body won’t be thanking you at the end of your trip, but Disney Counter Service Dining is so much more than this. My favorite Disney Counter Service restaurant, Sunshine Seasons, serves an array of healthy and quite appetizing options. Other Counter Service restaurants, such as Flame Tree BBQ, Tortuga Tavern, Cantina de San Angel, Tangierine Cafe, and Captain Cook’s Snack Company, just to name a few, all have some delicious menu options. All of these excellent options prove that nagging criticism that all Disney “fast food” is pizza, hot dogs, and burgers is simply false.

Since we’re all about developing “plans” for “touring” here at, here is my double-secret, ultra-effective, and undeniably top Touring Plan For Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival Dining While Using The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan. Not only does this awesome plan hold the crown for the longest Touring Plan title, but it also holds the crown for not being a real Touring Plan. I guess maybe the second negates the first? Anyway, here goes.

As much as possible, don’t use your snack credits on days you’re in parks other than Epcot. They carry over from night to night, so you’re not out anything if you don’t use them on the day for which they are allocated (just use them by midnight of your checkout day). Instead, if you’re up for it, eat three Counter Service meals on these days. I’m not a huge fan of Disney breakfast, so invariably, for me this means eating early lunch, early dinner, and late dinner. For those raising your eyebrows at this, there is nothing wrong with eating two dinners. In fact, it’s quite awesome.

Obviously, if you’re eating three Counter Service meals per day at the non-Epcot parks, you’re going to have a shortage on the days you go to Epcot. This plan only works if you go to Epcot as many days as you go to all of the other parks combined, and during Food & Wine Festival, I don’t think this is too bad of an assumption (if it is, adjust and only eat two Counter Service meals per day at the other parks, as necessary) given all of the wonderful offerings at Epcot during Food & Wine Festival.

On the days you visit Epcot, eat an early lunch with one of your Counter Service credits. I think it’s best to eat at Sunshine Seasons so you can enjoy some of the Future World offerings before venturing off into World Showcase, but reasonable minds may differ on this. After eating, wait a few hours. Enjoy classic Epcot attractions such as The American Adventure, SpaceShip Earth (gather your strength by using the darkened descent for valuable nap time), Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and Maelstrom. Then, at around 3 pm or so, starting working your way around the country food kiosks, liberally spending those snack credits you’ve accrued over the course of your trip. Along the way, be sure to make a couple of stops at the all new for 2011 Craft Beer Stand, which hopefully won’t be a letdown, to grab brews to pair with your snacks. By employing this Touring Plan, it’s unlikely that you’ll be hungry for dinner, thus allowing you to save a Counter Service credit for another day, at another park.

If all of this sounds appealing, I implore you to take advantage of it, and book Free Quick Service Dining at a Value Resort immediately. After this year, the Quick Service Dining Plan will only include one snack, so this strategy won’t be nearly as viable, and the Quick Service Dining Plan will lose a lot of its allure during Food & Wine Festival.

So what do you think? To those who despise the Dining Plan, have I piqued your interest in giving it a try? If you’re a Dining Plan fan who has already employed this strategy, or a fan of Food & Wine Festival in general, what are your favorite snacks to get from these country kiosks?

Posted on August 5, 2011

22 Responses to “Free Dining: Get It For Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival?!”

  • We never get the dining plan but, yes, you piqued my interest so much that I checked the dates. Unfortunately, our October trip falls outside of the free dining plan dates. Oh well 🙂

    • Ours too. On top of that, there were no good discounts at the Swalphin. We ended up going with 40% off of Caribbean Beach Resort. I guess that’s the downside of going for WDW’s 40th, the first weekend of Food & Wine, and the Wine & Dine Marathon. 🙁

  • So, what if you aren’t staying at a value resort?

    Would it be preferable to stay at a value resort and get free dining or an Epcot resort w/o the DP but are within walking distance to Epcot?

    • That all depends on whether you’re looking to save money or money doesn’t much matter and you’d rather have convenience. My ideal location would be an Epcot Resort, but that isn’t monetarily feasible for us. For the best of both worlds, check to see what discounts the Swan & Dolphin have for your weekend!

  • We did this exact same thing for our 2010 trip. It made the F&W Festival so much more enjoyable. And we actually had to skip lunch because we ate more than enough of those “snacks” it was like eating a full lunch. Im glad to see this blog more positive about the DDP than your last one.
    One thing you may want to add is next year, Disney has reduced the snack credit to only 1 per day instead of 2.

    • Admittedly, a few of the bloggers (not just me), aren’t all that keen on the Disney Dining Plan. However, I think we’re objective in our criticism, and I do think there is much to criticize. The Free Dining bandwagon is one too many people blindly jump onto, when in reality, it’s only the best deal for *some* people. I won’t even get started on how I think the Dining Plan has decreased menu quality in restaurants.

      As for your second point about 1 credit–it’s there in the second to last paragraph.

      • I am joining you on the “Free Disney Dining” isn’t free bandwagon. It’s only a good deal for some families. My feels about the Disney Dining Plan used to be so much more positive than it is now. Every single year Disney is giving people less food/quality but charging them more for it. Yes, I’m a jaded soul. Following the golden rule… When something sounds too good to be true, it probably is (for some people).

        • Joining my bandwagons is never a bad idea. Obviously everyone has their own opinions, but I like to think my opinions are “substantially awesome” no less than 99% of the time. 😉

  • Oddly enough, this is actually very close to the same thinking I had about this year’s annual Free Dining trip. Initially I was thinking that it wouldn’t be worth it, since this is the first year we won’t be able to get the regular dining plan while staying at a Value, but then I reflected that the snacks would work at the F&W and decided to give it a try.

    I had heard that next year the CS plan might be losing a snack per day, in which case it’s probably back to not worth it again…

  • Tom, you bring up a good point here. Question: I booked AS Sports just before the start of Free Dining (I noticed it begins for check in dates right after the 40th anniversary on 10/1, the MNSSHP on 9/30, and the race…which I totally respect WDW for-they need to look at where the gaps are) but I wonder if I should add QS to my MYW at AS Sports. Can adults use kid credits at F&W? I am happy to buy my kid a hot dog so I can sample a crab cake. Is this doable, or do I have to use my kid credits on Uncrustables and the like? Never ran into this before.

    • I can’t answer this question for you, but I’d be curious to know the answer. Anyone with kids know?

      • I don’t have children but as far as I’ve known, snack credits are snack credits. General use. I don’t think that they will stop you from using one of your kiddos snack credits for something for yourself. They’d have no idea who it’s for anyway. I’m not 100% sure I’m right… just pretty sure. 🙂

        • Oh, and you’ll be bummed to know that if your heart really was set on that crab cake, it’s not on the list this year. Hope you like lobster! 😉

        • This is true. Your snack credits are in one big pool. If you want to go to Italy and use your entire families credits on canole, you can. (Not a bad use of credits, if you ask me)

  • by Jason in Iowa on August 5, 2011, at 12:56 pm EST

    We’ve done this using the standard dining plan during F&W. On a 9 day trip, you get 9 snack credits. Plenty, considering we had to eat a table service meal every day, almost stuffing ourselves to the gills. So we banked up those snack credits for 3 different days at Epcot, and voila! F&W smorgasbord trifecta!

  • What about those of us with AP’s? Do you think the money ‘saved’ by free dining would cancel out the discount offered for AP holders? As far as I know you cannot do both, correct?

    • It is not possible to do both, when I called, Disney said that the free dining plan required the purchase of a 1-day ticket for AP holders, and the room discount was less. I calculated that if we went instead with “Tables in Wonderland”, we would save 20% on food including adult beverages, and would be able to keep the deeper room discount. The total for 5 days in October with free dining and room, versus AP plus tables in wonderland, was that the Annual Pass and Tables in Wonderland saved about $175 for two adults, and that savings included the $75 cost of buying the Tables in Wonderland membership. HOpe that makes sense. bottom line: we save about 175 without the free dining plan…. Hope this helps.

      • It did thanks. We have AP’s through early Nov, so late Sep – early Oct. (coinciding with Epcot Food/Drink Gorgy). Thought about this as an alternative to staying off-site at one of our friendly Marriotts, but AP’s and TiW seem to pay to have a lot of value by themselves (e.g., free parking).

  • I had almost hoped for Quick-Service for moderates exactly for the reasons you have outlined here…all those snack credits well spent at F&W would be great! We did book free DDP for our upcoming trip (staying at POFQ) and have elected to dine at Narcoossee’s, ‘Ohana, Le Cellier, and a few others but will be lunching several times at Epcot, noshing at the booths with our snack credits!!! Our teenager will be denied comparably frivilous snacks in favour of the delectables at F&W. 😉

  • Are there Tables in Wonderland discounts at the F&W festival? We will be going in October with our daughter who is a DVC member and can purchase the quick service plan at discount, anyone know how much? I have a current Tables in Wonderland card and am a passholder so how can we combine all of that for the F&W festival? Can I use the Tables in Wonderland to get a discount on the “beverages”?

  • Great article! This is exactly what we are doing in October. It is a bummer they are going to one snack credit for 2012.