Tipping at Disney World Restaurants: A Cheapskate Guide


Chef Mickey's sign, Disney buffet, Disney restaurant, I love Disney food,

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 the 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 mistakeDisney 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?

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

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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.


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?

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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.

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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 is 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. My fifth grade son decided he wanted to put himself through college by becoming a Chef Mickey’s waiter when he saw our bill. My sons 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.

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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. Table service meals includes an entrée, an appetizer and dessert, or a full buffet plus a non-alcoholic beverage. Depending on how many table service meals you enjoy, 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.

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.

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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.

 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 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.

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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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Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from  Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com. 

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  1. Charlotte says:

    Hi im travelling to disney world from scotland next month,we have a party of 6 (just realised the 3month old baby is included!!) so the 18% automatic charge will be added on,my question is does this mean that is our tip on the 18% or do we still have to tip on top of the 18%? Its all so confusing to me because we dont tip in scotland !thanks xx

  2. mary says:

    I think its crazy that we have to tip in Disney if you have a dining plan…. I mean your spending thousands for the Deluxe plan dining and then they expect u to tip 18-20% yea right I saved for 5 years to be able to go on this trop and have it be a dream vacation…. We have eaten at very nice places and some ok ones but the prices are ridiculous and because we have dining we don look at the prices but the prices determine how much tip you have to leave… Sorry but did it for a couple restaurant and about 80% of the places we ate they got nothing. Every meal has been nothing short of $100 and at 20% that $20 out of pocket AGAIN… and x3 is $60 a day and we were staying for 10 days that $600 and NOT HAPPENING and DID NOT HAPPEN… Sorry for the cast members that rely on tip but i don’t have that much to spend on tips.

    • bp says:

      If you cant afford the tip then you shouldnt eat there. Although 20 percent might be high leaving nothing is ridiculous!! You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • X says:

      Tipping is how wait staff makes a living. As BP said, if you can’t afford to tip, you shouldn’t eat there. Shameful.

      • Jim says:

        I see a valid point in his rant, just too extreme.

        For example. If my fam of 5 eats at Cali grill, what will the bill be for apps, entree, dessert, beverage? Easily over 200. A $40 tip would mean our server could work ONE table at a time and haul in $70k a year.

        Put differently, Disney could double menu prices…not change ddp prices, and suddenly our server deserves an $80 tip?

        We leave in a week. I plan to tip well if deserved, but VERY commensurate with level of service. V&A I know will be $100 tip. Expecting that to be world class service and attention tho!

    • Former Restaurant Employee says:

      In most restaurants, the wait staff has to split the tips with the bussers, cooks, and bartenders so they don’t make as much as you would think (and there are enough customers who feel they don’t need to tip to keep it that way). Sure, some still do well and there are some really good nights but other than Flo at the local diner overall you don’t see many making it their life’s work – which far more would if they really pulled in $50+/hour eight hours a day. They also have to claim tips to the IRS based on their sales so you actually cost them real money if you have a meal and don’t tip.
      Although I really enjoyed being a server/bartender for many years in a few restaurants, when it came time to providing for a family with benefits and real money, I put in my notice and never looked back.
      Tipping is part of eating out. If you can’t afford it, you don’t do it.

  3. Den says:

    I don’t think it’s fair for waitstaff at a buffet to be entitled to a 18-20% tip on the bill. They bring you a few drinks. My family of 5 would have a bill of about $130 for a disney buffet. $26 dollar tip for 5 cups?

    • Lin says:

      I agree. I’ve always heard rule of thumb for buffets to be $1 per person. Buffet servers get more tables to wait at a time because they are only refilling drinks and clearing. If they go above and beyond, throw in an extra dollar or 2, especially with messy kids. But I don’t think that they should get the same as full service restaurants.

  4. Den says:

    Also, disney staff doesn’t make $2.26 an hour like most waiters

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