Disclaimer: I am a lover of food, and in this ZADD Crew community, we call that #foodmotivated. (You want to see how food motived we are? Check out this awesome list from Beth here.) I am 100% totally motivated by food. I only ran half marathons because I knew that afterward, I could eat like 3 whole pizza pies by myself and the calories wouldn’t matter. (Okay, not really, but you get my point.) A big part of vacations for me is all about food. I’m constantly asking “Where are we going to eat?” and “What are we going to eat?” and “How much longer until we eat?” So, the Disney Dining Plan has a HUGE appeal to me. Throughout this article, I will tell you the facts about the Disney Dining Plan, my opinion of it, and then, lastly, tips and tricks for using it.
What is it?
The Disney Dining Plan is basically just a pre-paid meal plan. You can purchase the dining plan while booking your Disney World vacation package. (Side note — if you need help booking any Disney vacations, contact CJ! Click here to email him.) There are three different Disney Dining Plan options. Below, I list the different ones and what they come with.
- Quick Service Dining Plan: in this plan, everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their stay:
-2 Quick Service Meals
– 2 Snacks
- Dining Plan: (a little confusing, I know. Disney just refers to this one as the “Dining Plan,” but it’s basically the middle of the three plans). In this plan, everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their stay:
-1 Quick Service Meal
-1 Table Service Meal
- Deluxe Dining Plan: In this plan, everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their stay:
-3 Meals (quick service or table service)
The Deluxe Dining Package gives you more opportunities to dine at some of Disney’s Signature Restaurants. Signature Restaurants require two dining credits per person. I will explain about this a little down below.
Now, I will try to explain what all of this means.
First off, Quick Service Meal: quick service meals are generally either cafeteria style or counter service style restaurants and do not require any reservations (with Be Our Guest as the exception, but I will explain that later). You order your meal, pay for your food, and sit down to enjoy your meal. Simple and easy. Through the dining plan, each table service credit will get you a meal (generally comes with an entree and a side or two) and a drink.
Table Service Meals are restaurants that you sit down and are served a meal at. These restaurants generally require a reservation. And I HIGHLY suggest reserving them 180 days in advance. If there’s a certain restaurant and time that you want, it’s really in your favor to book that far in advance. Through the dining plan, each table service meal will get you
- Breakfast: one meal and one drink
- Lunch and Dinner: one entree, one drink, and one dessert
- The full offerings of a buffet or family style meal
Also, the drinks that come with the quick service meal or table service meal can include a specialty drink instead of just a soda, juice, or water. This means, if available at the restaurant, you can get a milkshake, coffee beverage (like a latte, cappuccino, etc..) or, for those 21 and over, and alcoholic beverage. These are all great choices in order to maximize your meal.
Snacks are usually single servings of a food or drink items. This can greatly vary throughout the parks. It can be anything from a bottle of water to a cupcake. Usually, they will be served at either at quick-service restaurants, most outdoor carts or booths, and some merchandise locations. Disney will typical have a purple icon next to items that would be considered a snack credit. (Pictured above)
Another thing that comes with all three dining plans is a refillable resort mug. They are 16 oz., insulated coffee mugs that can only be used at the resorts (but you can refill it at ANY resort, not just your own. So if you are resort hopping one day, take this mug with you!) With this mug, you will get unlimited free refills on fountain drinks, coffee, and tea from self-service beverage locations at Disney resorts for the length of your stay.
Signature Meals are from Disney’s fine dining restaurants. So, you know what that means. The fancier the food, the higher the prices. To compensate for this price difference when using the Disney Dining Plan, you are charged for two table service meals at these locations. If you are on the Deluxe Dining Plan, doing Signature Meals is for-sure something that you should take advantage of.
Character Dining can cause some confusion among guests. Character restaurants like Chef Mickey’s, Tusker House, Crystal Palace, and many more cost just one table service dining credit. But then you have restaurants like Cinderellas Royal Table and a few others that cost two table service credits because of their Signature label. Just make sure when you are booking each restaurant you know what category it falls under.
Be Our Guest Resturant (for breakfast and lunch) is the one quick service restaurant that you HAVE to make reservations for. Again, I HIGHLY suggest booking reservation 180 days in advance. You can even preorder your meal up to 30 days in advance! This isn’t completely necessary if you don’t want to do it, but it will save you a little bit of time once you get to the restaurant. I always preorder just because time is money when it comes to Disney 🙂
Is the Dining Plan worth it and will it save me Money?
Short answer…. maybe! It really all depends on how you look at it and what you eat. I honestly love it and do a dining plan every trip. I look at it this way: I am on vacation and I want to relax, not stress! With the dining plan, I already have my food paid for. Besides tipping, I have nothing to worry about paying for. Also, I’m kind of a big ol’ cheapo. Usually, when I go out to eat, I look at the prices and pick the cheapest thing on the menu. While on the Disney Dining plan, I also look at the prices on the menu but then order the most expensive thing. Hey! I want to get my money’s worth! Bring on the steak! If I wasn’t on the dining plan, I also probably wouldn’t eat 2 snacks a day along with my 2 meals a day. So, you have to see whats worth it to YOU. If you like the ease of eating whatever you want and not having to worry about the price, then Dining Plan is for you! Now, you just have to decide which plan is best for you and your family.
Dining Plan Tips and Tricks
In this section of this article, I will list out all of the tricks and tips I have learned over the years.
- Starbucks drinks count as a snack credit. And no, not just a tall. You can get a Venti with extra shots of whatever you want and it’s still one snack credit! Pro Tip: want to save snack credits? Get a venti of whatever drink you want, then just ask for an extra cup. Split it with whoever you are traveling with. Now you have an extra snack credit between you! (More Micky pretzels for me!!)
- DO NOT waste a snack credit on water. You can get free water at any quick service restaurant and many snack booths. You can also get free soda at Club Cool in Epcot. So, save those snack credits for something else!
- To maximize your Table Service Credits (get the most bang for your buck), eat dinner at Character meals like Chef Mickey’s, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, and many others like that. These restaurants tend to be some of the more expensive restaurants, so this way you will be using a credit wisely.
- You can use snack credits on most festival food items. So, take Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, for example. It has booths all over the World Showcase where you can get some really yummy food! And lots of these snack items are pretty filling and could even be a small meal.
- If you truly want to get your money’s worth, then stay away from table service breakfast. You do not get a dessert with this meal, and breakfast tends to be cheaper than dinner.
- Now to contradict what I just said, eat at Be Our Guest for Breakfast. Be Our Guest counts as a quick service credit for breakfast, and it’s one of the most expensive quick service meals (again, getting your money’s worth). Also, they serve you your food. So it’s a quick service that feels like a table service.
- If you are eating at a resort for a quick service meal, and you have your refillable mug with you, there is no need to get another drink. Just ask what you can sub a drink for. Usually, it will be another side or a small snack.
- Continuing with the subbing idea, if you are at a table service restaurant and don’t feel like a dessert, chances are that they will let you sub your dessert for a side. This might not happen at every restaurant, but it happens a lot for me. So there is no harm in asking!
- It’s your last day in the parks, and for some reason you still have a quick service dining credit left, what do you do? Well, you can trade it in for 3 snacks! Now, you have to do this all at once though. Quick story time… last trip, my poor husband was sick one day, and we had to spend all day in our resort. We didn’t use ANY credits that day at all. So on our last day (once my hubby was feeling better), we went to the Confectionary on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom and just went crazy! We brought home so many cookies, rice crispy treats and more! We had Disney treats to last us through our post-Disney Blues.
- Not really a Dining Plan specific tip, just a dining tip in general… try to eat at off-times. Consider having a late lunch or an early dinner. This will most likely save you time while in the restaurants.
Well, there you have it! The Dining Plan in a nutshell and why I think its worth it! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section down below! Have any yummy Disney food photos that you would like to share with me? Then tag me @TheDisneyGrl on Instagram!
Also, a huge thank you too @ApopkaPete, @DougDoesDisney, and @TheZipadeedooCrew for the use of their photos!