Yesterday, Disney kicked off what will be the longest Epcot International Food and Wine Festival ever (62 days!) in grand style. With 30 individual kiosks this year and over two dozen new menu items, there is a lot to check out in 2016, no matter whether you are a seasoned Food and Wine Festival veteran, or a first-timer. However, no matter what category you fall into, if you are planning a visit to this annual event during the next three months, there are some things you definitely should know before you go.

1. Don’t bother with the tasting sampler deal unless you are planning to drink…a LOT 

Image: Disney

Similar to last year, Disney is once again offering guests who want to pre-pay for their Food and Wine Festival samples a “tasting sampler” deal. However, it looks like Disney has gotten rid of the guaranteed seating for Eat to the Beat that was offered last year, and has increased the price to $59 for eight food or beverage samples and $109 for sixteen. And even though this year’s tasting sampler comes with a pin and lanyard, it is actually a pretty bad deal for the price if you are planning to use your coupons for anything other than booze.

Don’t believe us? A quick look at this year’s menu (courtesy of Disney Food Blog) reveals that the vast majority of this year's food choices are priced between $4-$5. And even though there are a few outliers (the New England Lobster Roll at Hops and Barley and the Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce tied for most expensive food item this year, both costing $7.75 each), most menu items are still under $5.

So, with these costs in mind, let's do a little math: In the simplest terms possible, for guests to get their full money's worth, they'd have to spend $7.38 per food item for the smaller package or $6.81 for the larger package. Even if we subtract $14 from the cost for the pin and lanyard, guests would still need to spend over $5 per item (no matter which package you get) to get their money’s worth, and with more than half of the food items failing to reach the $5 threshold, guests who chose this option would have to be very strategic with their ordering to get the most out of this deal if we are just looking at food. 

Image: Disney

However, if you add alcohol into the mix (which has a higher average price, with most items falling between $6-$8, again with a few outliers on either side), this package looks a little better, as guests could easily redeem eight coupons for $65 (or more) of alcohol, which would actually make this package a good value. However, you’d have to be pretty brave to walk around Epcot after eight drinks (and no food!), which still makes this a tough “deal” to recommend in 2016, which is a bummer as last year's tasting sampler was a much better value. 

2. Make sure to visit the Chase lounge early to get reserved seating for Eat to the Beat

Image: Disney

Though the Chase Visa lounge has been a great respite in the past for Chase Visa cardholders to grab a seat and a complementary soft drink, this year cardmembers are getting an additional perk: reserved seating at the Eat to the Beat concerts. Head to this lounge early (located in the American Adventure pavilion) and grab one of a limited number of wristbands to ensure your spot at any of the day's concerts. We don't know how many wristbands will be made available daily, but if there's a band you really want to see (you can check out the full lineup here) and you don't want to wait outside in line, this should be your first stop. 



Last year my husband and I both purchased the Tasting Sampler, we divided out the cost per "tab" and then when we went to a kiosk, we would either purchased two different drinks to try and share, or two snacks, or a snack and a drink. But each item has to be more than the per tab price!! And we didn't always do two, we would find one item at one kiosk and then something else at another. Some places we just paid with our gift card if we saw something we really wanted to try but was less than the "per tab price". We made it worth it! And I think we saved about $20 each. (That's been a year ago, can't remember! lol)

We were actually planning on getting one of the Tasting Samplers for the drinks - we can use our dining plan snack credits on the food but not alcohol, so this will be a way for us to get both without the hassle of paying each time - and my kiddo gets a pin. May not be the most cost effective, but it works for our plan.

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