Tipping at Disney World Restaurants: A Cheapskate Guide

Updated for 2017!

Like to make your Disney friends jealous? Just tell them that you booked your next vacation already. Like to make them turn green with Mickey Mouse envy? Casually mention you qualified for their Free Dining Offers. I am probably a shade of Mike Wazowski green, because I can never get to Orlando for the free dining promotion.  And make no cheapskate mistake, some Disney fans report that free dining is one of the best deals Disney ever offers. Depending on how many people you are feeding and the length of your stay, you can save hundreds of dollars.

One thing you should keep in mind though is that Free Dining does not include a tip for your server. How much should you Cheapskate Princesses be prepared to pay?

Read: Can a Cheapskate Princess Afford the Disney Dining Plan?

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While Disney World is crazy different from reality in a lot of ways, restaurant tipping is not one of them.  If you dine at McDonald’s for dinner, you pick up your own food and drinks from a counter, so no tip is necessary. If you dine at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn at the Magic Kingdom, you pick up your own food and drinks from the counter. No tip is necessary. What might be appreciated are some kind words and a smile, however. Ever stand at Pecos Bill’s counter waiting for your meal? Then you have seen how hard counter service Cast Members work, and usually under stressful conditions with fairly long lines. Smiles, friends, are free!

If you drive to Pizza Hut or Macaroni Grill to be seated at a table, where your server will refill your drinks and set your food down at your fingertips, standard tipping is considered to be between 15% to 20%.

Read: Want to Save Money on Food at Disney? Two Words: Kid’s Meals!

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Itipping.com provides some guidelines for tipping at table service restaurants.

Wait Staff

You should tip 15% – 20% of the total bill before taxes.  Some restaurants are now suggesting tipping after taxes because servers themselves tip out on the after tax amount.

Wine served with dinner

The safe recommendation to tip is 15% to 20% of the total bill, including alcohol, even for an expensive bottle of wine. However, some restaurants now say it’s OK to tip around 10% for expensive wines.

Bartenders

You should tip 15% to 20% of the tab, or $1 per beer or wine and $2 for mixed drinks.  Ideally, you should pay your bar tab before leaving for your table.

Hotel Buffets

At high-end hotel buffets, a 15% to 20% tip is frequently the norm and sometimes automatically added to your bill.

So outside the gates of Disney, people tip 15% to 20%, and sometimes tips are added in automatically. What about inside the gates of the Mouse House?

Read: To Save Money on Food At Disney, Bring This Bottle With You

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Table Service at Disney World

There are three standard types of table service options at Disney.

  • ordering from a menu
  • buffets
  • all-you-care-to-enjoy meals

Tipping is expected at Disney World table service restaurants, whether you are handing over your Disney Visa or whooping it up on the Free Dining offer. At the bottom of your ticket, Disney has listed tip options at 18% and at 20% of your bill. While this may strike some people as pushy, it’s actually to help out those of us that cannot do the mental math on 18%. Multiplying 20% on my own to determine the tip falls within my mental grasp, but 18% would require my iPhone calculator or a pen. While not making the amount decision for you, Disney makes the math itself easy for you.

Read: Free Disney Dining…Is It Really Always Free?

Disney's Brown Derby Restaurant

You are certainly not required to tip 18% or 20%; this is just a suggestion. This tip amount is generally expected for the level of service you can expect to receive on a Disney World vacation. While it does happen, it’s very rare for me to speak to someone who had a bad experience with the wait staff at Disney restaurants. Most Cast Members are doing some serious hustling, almost always smiling, and they regularly go above and beyond the norm to make sure you enjoy your meal.

With the cost of Disney table service these days, Cast Members stand to make a sizable tip based on the total amount of the bill. Your Chef Mickey’s ticket for a family of five could be double your ticket from Macaroni Grill. When my youngest son was in fifth grade, he decided he wanted to put himself through college by becoming a Chef Mickey’s waiter when he saw our bill. My sons really loved our Chef Mickey’s waitress/Cast Member and made sure I tipped the full 20%. I didn’t need their promptings; she was uber-friendly and extra attentive.

Read: Should You Bring Your Own Snacks to Disney World to Save Money?

Chef Goofy photo, Chef Mickey photo,

The Disney Dining Plan

The Quick Service Plan will give you two quick service meals, so no tip will be necessary.

The Standard Dining Plan gives you one quick service meal, plus one table service or buffet meal, so you will need a tip for one meal for your entire party for each table service meal you enjoy.

For the Deluxe Dining plan, Deluxe Dining Plan, you must purchase the Standard Dining Plan as an add-on to a Magic Your Way Vacation Package at Walt Disney World. You will receive three table service or quick service meals per person per night. If you take full advantage of what you paid for, you will definitely need to factor in multiple tips for multiple table service meal.

The Magic Your Way Premium Package Plus Dining Plan and The Magic Your Way Platinum Package Plus Dining Plan both include three meals, either table-service or quick-service restaurants. If you choose table service meals, you will need to factor in a tip.

Read: 5 Easy Tips to Save Money On Food at Walt Disney World

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Large Party = Six People

I’ve been in restaurants where gratuity was added when you were dining with eight or more people. Disney will automatically add 18% gratuity for the meal when your group consists of six or more people. This is a mandatory tip amount, there are no exceptions to this rule, and age is not a factor in this automatic gratuity.  If the 6th person in your party is a baby or an infant in a high chair, you will still be expected to pay 18% gratuity.

Does your check need to be split between several people? Your food charges will be split, and then 18% will be added to each party’s total, so you split the tip as well.

Read: To Save Money on Disney World Food, Eat Breakfast Here!

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Tables in Wonderland

 Tables in Wonderland is a program you join to receive a 20% discount on food, beverages, and alcohol, at over 100 participating Disney Theme Park and Resort restaurants for up to ten Guests. You also receive complimentary resort Valet and Theme Park parking for dining purposes, plus invitations to members-only special events. For people who dine at numerous table service restaurants, the cheapskate word is this is a good program.

When you enjoy a table service meal using your Tables in Wonderland card, you will be charged 18% gratuity automatically, regardless of the size of your dining party. At Victoria & Albert’s, regardless of the size of your party, a 20% gratuity is added.

Special Shows

Disney Dinner Shows like the Hoop Dee Doo Musical RevueMickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show all include tax and gratuity. Likewise, Cinderella’s Royal Table includes tax and gratuity. Thus for dinner shows, your tip is already factored in your cost.

 Read: How to Score Free Drinks at Disney World’s Epcot!

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Disney has so many amazing dining experiences and elegantly themed restaurants. Whether you are taking advantage of Disney’s occasional Free Dining offer or paying out-of-pocket, you should remember to factor in gratuity charges to your overall vacation budget.  This way you don’t come home to a big surprise on your credit card. Free Dining is not really completely free when dining at table service restaurants, because you have to factor in the tip.

If paying 18% to 20% in tips while at Disney is something you are not prepared to do, this may not be the right time to schedule your vacation. While you are having the time of your life at the Happiest Place on Earth, Cast Members who work really hard serving your table are counting on your gratuity to pay their bills. If tipping will be an issue for your family, there are oodles of counter service restaurants to meet any family’s budget.

Read: For a Fabulous Disney Meal, Make These Reservations ASAP!

Animal Kingdom restaurant

If you ever ate at home for months so you could take your family to a character meal at Disney World, then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!

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Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Elizabeth and Erin. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.