Tipping on the Disney Dining Plan
Being on the Disney Dining Plan is a great way to reduce travel stress by pre-paying for your meals. It's important to remember though that the service tip for your waiter or waitress is not included in your dining plan costs and will still need to be left at the time of your meal.
Just like at the end of of any meal out, you will be brought a receipt once you are done. The receipt will show your meal and how much it would have cost if you were paying out of pocket. Located on the bottom of your receipt you will notice that Disney has calculated what you should add on for a tip at 18% and 20% of your bill before tax. It's a great tool that lets guests know how much of a tip it is customary to leave. Tips can be paid by using cash, credit card, or your Disney room charge.
If you would prefer to have an idea of what you'll be spending on tips even before you leave for vacation, I suggest doing a little research and pre-making tip envelopes. Over several trips I've noticed that I've begun using some standard tip amounts when traveling with two adults. $10 can usually more than cover buffet breakfasts, $20 for table service lunches and $40 for signature dining experiences. Though these amounts are on the high side, we usually order cocktails with our meal and want to make sure that there's enough tip to go around.
How do I know what my meal will cost before I'm there? I figure out where I have ADRs and then look up the menus with current pricing on the Official WDW Website or at AllEars.net. Going through the menu of each establishment we'll be eating at I take a guess of what we'll order and add up the bill while I'm still at home. Once I know what that total is likely to be, I round up and stick about 20% of the bill in cash into a small envelope. It's easy and I enjoy diving into the Disney menus even before we get there. I then tuck tip money into envelopes and take only the envelopes that I will need along with me for a day of touring.
Servers at Walt Disney World are held to high standards and frequently go out of their way to make your time in their care wonderful. However, tipping is one of those a personal things, with every patron knowing what works best for them and what sort of service that they expect in order to leave their best tip. I won't say that there's a right or a wrong way to calculate a tip, but across America it's customary to leave between 15%-20% for good service. You should figure out what amount will work best for your party, and least intrusive in your travel planning, but always be prepared to leave a gratuity for your servers.
If you'd like more information on tipping and how different travelers handle the issue, head on over to our forums and join in the conversation!