Everything you need to know about Disney Dining Plans in 2017

dining2017

Disney’s dining plans can be a confusing, but it’s meant to simplify your your trip. Adding the dining plan to your package reservation essential makes it an all inclusive stay! So what do you need to know about it and is it for you?

Adding the dining plan to your reservation

In order to add a Dining plan to your reservation, you must be an on site guest and booking as a package ($200 deposit required and final payment due 30 days prior to your arrival). Disney does allow room + dining packages with no tickets and full packages with room, tickets, and dining coupled together. Military families can only book room + dining packages (tickets must be purchased separately from their local ticket office. If you elect to add the dining plan to your package reservation, each guest in your room MUST be included and it must be for your entire length of stay (there are some ways around this policy including booking a “split stay” reservation).

What about free dining?

The free dining promotional offer has been available over the last several years. Disney used to offer the same discount for January and February, but that seems like it is going by the wayside with other similar promotions (discounted but not free). During the fall months, Disney has offered this promotional offer for select dates but I think we’re all waiting for the year when it does go away. These big package promotions are used to help fill unbooked rooms but with overall park attendance up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go.

Dining credits?

All of Disney’s dining plans provide you with dining credits to be used during your stay. Your credits are broken down into credit categories – quick service, table service, and snack. All of your credits will be given to you upon your arrival at your Disney World resort to be used any way you choose during your stay. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll receive credits for each NIGHT you stay.

Who gets credits?

Anyone on the dining plan age 3+ will receive credits. Children under age 3 are free at Disney and therefore will not need their own credits. This means they must share with a sibling or another adult at any plated table service meal and quick service locations. Credits are broken down to child credits (ages 3-9) and adult credits (ages 10+). This is important for table service and buffet restaurants. Child quick service credits can be used for adult meals (SHHH! Little known fact – helpful if you stretch your dollar and share more meals during your stay).

Dining Plan Options

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2017: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Regardless of your choice, each member of your traveling party will receive a refillable mug to be used at your resort. It can actually be refilled at any resort during your stay. No refills at the parks though!

The quick service dining plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  • Each quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

PLUS dining (or the Disney dining plan) provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and TWO snacks for each night stayed.

  • Quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, non-alcoholic beverage and dessert. No dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast.
  • Table service credits can also exchanged for a buffet or family style meal.

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides you with 3 credits which can be used for either table service or quick service and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  •  Quick service credits come with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage. 
  • Table service credits come with an appetizer, entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert. No appetizer or dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast. (This is an appetizer per person – not for your entire group so if you have a group of 4 you will receive 4 appetizers)
  • Table service credits can also be exchanged for buffet or family style meals. 

What is a snack?

Disney suggests a piece of fruit or box of popcorn as a snack. I suggest any drink at Starbucks (yes my venti raspberry white chocolate mocha was covered!), a cupcake, Mickey premium bar, giant pretzel, etc. There are so many great snack options available at Disney, so don’t limit yourself! In years past, there used to be a correlation to a dollar value for snack credits but I’ve seen snacks that are anywhere from $5-8!

What about two credit dining options?

Several Disney table service restaurants require 2 credits on Disney’s Dining Plan. These are listed as “dinner shows” or “signature dining” when searching for dining options. These include:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table

    Cinderella's Royal Table is one of Disney's most popular restaurants

    Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of Disney’s most popular restaurants

  • Le Cellier
  • Monsieur Paul
  • Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Jiko
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • California Grill
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
  • Citricos
  • Narcoosee’s
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Artist Point
  • Fulton’s Crab House (becoming Paddlefish in Late 2016)
  • Flying Fish
  • The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

As always, this is subject to change and up to Disney’s discretion!

What about tipping?

All table service restaurants do require gratuity. This includes buffet restaurants. This is NOT optional as your servers are providing you a service. The exception are the dinner shows and Cinderella’s Table which have gratuity included in the price of the experience.

Should I add the dining plan to my package reservation?

Generally yes! Most families benefit from one of Disney’s dining plans. You have a lot of food but it doesn’t limit your options/choice in terms of menu items.  Disney says you can save up to 15% on your food by choosing the dining plan. Out of pure curiosity, I kept all of my receipts from a recent trip and we came out ahead after we used all of our dining credits!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!w!

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Two credit meals on the Disney Dining Plan are they worth it?: The ultimate debate!

 

Continuing the theme of Disney Dining with Free Dining on the horizon…Disney’s Dining Plan offers credits for table service meals. You receive one credit per person for each night you stay at your Disney World resort hotel. A handful of Disney restaurants and dinner shows require 2 dining credits based on the cost of their meals or the experience provided. These are categorized as either Signature Dining or Dinner Shows. While many Disney veterans will argue that you lose money by choosing 2 credit dining options, I argue that some are just too hard to pass up! Plus, all Disney dining locations provide you with so much food that it’s almost hard to use all of your credits during your visit.

The 2 credit dining restaurants are as follows:

  • Artist Point – Wilderness Lodge

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

  • California Grill – Contemporary
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Magic Kingdom
  • Citircos – Grand Floridian
  • Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café – Downtown Disney
  • Fulton’s Crab House – Downtown Disney
  • Flying Fish Café – Boardwalk
  • Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios
  • Jiko – Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Le Cellier – Epcot
  • Monsieur Paul – Epcot
  • Narcoossee’s – Grand Floridian
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse – Yacht Club

Dinner Shows which are also 2 credits include (some alcoholic beverages are also included for adults at these locations):

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue – Fort Wilderness
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – Fort Wilderness
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show – Polynesian

While I haven’t dined at all of these locations, the food I have tried is definitely a cut above the rest. I’d absolutely go back to any of the signature restaurants again without hesitation.

Is it worth it?

Value of worth is really based on your definition of “worth it”. If you’re going purely based on dollar value and paying for the Dining Plan out of pocket, dining at a 2 credit location may not recoup the cost you paid for it.

A very quick math lesson on Disney’s dining plan for an adult assuming a very common vacation of 7 days, 6 nights.

Per night cost for an adult $64.58.

  • Subtract a per day cost of $3 for the cost of the refillable mug ($17.99 for length of stay if purchased out of pocket)
  • Subtract $4 for snack credit (any good snack will be around the $4 mark or above)
  • Subtract $9.79 + $2.99 + $3.29 = $16.07 (the average cost for a counter service meal with fountain drink and dessert included as part of your quick service credits).
  • This leaves $41.51 to make up for in cost for a table service meal each day.
  • Subtracting $3 for a drink and $8 for a dessert, that leaves the need for about a $30 entree for each counter service meal. While that sounds excessively expensive, that’s pretty easy to find in Disney.

Now for the argument of using a 2 credit table service meal. You’re not likely to recoup the cost of about $65 in an entree (assuming that a dessert costs a little bit more at a signature restaurant). Does that mean I don’t dine at signature restaurants, definitely not! It’s some of my favorite food and a totally different atmosphere and amazing service. If you choose a signature meal, you’ll likely be able to share a different 1 credit table service meal which will tilt the scale back to the green (1 and 1/2 times the cost of a table service credit is definitely feasible at a signature restaurant where some entrees are upwards of $50 – and worth every delicious morsel!)

I argue from the other side that any meal is “worth it” with free dining. While you are not getting a discount for your room, at a moderate resort, the discount over a 6 night vacation is only in the realm of $200-$300 while free dining can save you well over $1000. How’s that for math?

Confused yet?

Yeah, me too! It’s the continuous debate among Disney veterans, and those that just like to argue about things. There’s no right or wrong answer to Disney dining. The only right answer I have for you is check out the menus. If the food looks good, make a reservation. Don’t listen to one bad review online or one good review from a friend. Every experience is different and things change over the years. Enjoy yourself! You’re on vacation.  Try something new. And overall, HAVE FUN! It’s the only place you can be an adult but act like a kid again!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

 

 

My Favorite Disney World Quick Service Meals

 

A little change of pace. While everything in my blog has a little bit of Melissa flair and is sometimes slightly biased of my likes and dislikes, this one is all about my favorite quick service  meals in Disney World. These vary by location, you can get a little taste of the things I really love in Disney World. These are typically places that we hit up every single time we go to Disney or places that I’m attempting to try everything on the menu. Instead of making a countdown, I’ll list them in order of location (partially because after Be Our Guest,  I just can’t choose an order!) This is perfect timing in light of FREE DINING expected to be released on Monday next week.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. Disney’s newest and most popular restaurant in new Fantasyland. We were lucky enough to get a FastPass+ reservation for lunch. I know my husband well, and armed with some insider information from a coworker, I order our food ahead of time. We had 2 opportunities to make changes, but I didn’t feel the need. I ate the Croque-Monseiur and he had the Braised Pork. Both were delicious and I’d eat them again. The braised pork was something that could have been on a dinner menu at a table service restaurant. The plating and the quality were great. Ending with a cupcake was delicious as well. Four thumbs way up. We’ll definitely be going back here.

For information on snagging a reservation for lunch, check out FastPass+ for Be Our Guest.

Pecos Bill’s. Easy in, easy out, plenty of seating. A great resting place and a really yummy toppings bar. The toppings bar makes it even easier to share a counter service meal. I often order the taco salad and I forget it’s good but not my favorite thing. My husband tried the BBQ pork and the sweet BBQ sauce was right up my alley. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before an afternoon parade, it’s right on the beginning of the parade route.

Epcot

La Canita de San Angel. By far this is my husband’s first choice of quick service restaurant in Epcot. He really loves the steak tacos. Thankfully it’s easily accessible once you hit world showcase as Mexico greets you as the first country in the line of many. I’ve had most of the items on this menu and the nachos and steak tacos are by far my two favorites. The churros with caramel sauce are a great dessert. Pair anything with a drink from Cava de Tequila right across the street, and you’re set! Nachos are definitely large enough to share. Tacos come with a large portion of chips, and 2 types of salsa are available at the condiment bar.

Sunshine Seasons. Located in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there’s an extensive and different menu. There’s plenty of healthy options here too (healthy food on vacation? Preposterous!) There are some awesome desserts too! If you’re in Epcot during Extra Magic Hours in the evening, there is some limited service before or after hitting up Soarin’ with a short line. It’s also one of the few locations open for breakfast.

Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls. While this is one of my favorite locations for a cupcake or a quick break at Hollywood Studios (and it’s especially perfect because it’s right in the middle of Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller Coaster). This is also a great hidden gem of quick service locations. The sandwiches here are enormous and definitely large enough to share, especially if you pair it with a cupcake as your dessert. We like to just share one of the amazing cupcakes. We’re just short of trying all the varieties because we chose an adorable seasonal cupcake instead of the last one on the “to do” list of their regular menu. 

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree BBQ. Not only is this my top choice for Animal Kingdom, but it’s one of my top choices in all of Disney. I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ, but I really love this place. For those looking to save a few dollars, try the chicken and ribs platter to share. This location both smells and tastes amazing. We didn’t make a stop at Animal Kingdom on our last, short trip, but I almost did just to eat there!

Yak & Yeti Counter Service. A quick taste of the table service without the extra cash or time of a sit down meal. The portions are definitely big enough to share if you’re not super hungry, but you may not want to because the food is so yummy. A late afternoon lunch could fill you for the rest of the day. There’s also a small amount of snack-worthy items here as well.

Downtown Disney

Earl of Sandwich. While this is a terrible use of a quick service dining credit, it’s a great out of pocket meal and a tasty one at that. The menu seems a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone who loves this place can’t be wrong! It’s not a must visit every time, but it’s a tasty meal and a good break from the heat or the rain while in Downtown Disney!

Wolfgang Puck Express. With some delicious Italian options including huge portions of pasta and amazing individual pizzas that really should be shared, I love this place! It’s a great place to have a 30-45 minute break in Downtown Disney. There’s not a ton of seating (or there wasn’t last time we visited), but it’s one of the best uses of quick service credits I can think of.

Resorts


Contempo Cafe. I admit it. Once again, this location is chosen partially because of cupcakes, but it’s so delicious! The menu here is different from the standard burgers and chicken. Flatbreads and warm sandwiches and grab one of the huge cupcakes (to share or not to share, that is the question). This location is rarely crowded and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a great little break from Magic Kingdom: just a monorail ride away! Plus it gives you a chance to scope out a location for your next trip.

The Mara. Unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a trip to The Mara is a little out of the way, but two words: Zebra Domes. These delicious little pieces of heaven are worth every penny. The food here is also good for a quick service (I’ve only had lunch) but it’s tasty. Or have breakfast at Boma and take these tasty morsels to go (just be careful, they don’t keep well unless they are cold!)

Did I miss any of your favorites around Disney World? I haven’t tried everything yet, but these are definitely my top choices. Can’t wait to go back next year and try something else new!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Tips and Tricks for the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

 

The deluxe dining plan. More food than you could ever imagine. This plan is great for foodies, people that really love sit down meals or want multiple signature meals.


As a refresher, here’s what’s included in the deluxe dining plan:

  •          3 table service or quick service credits per person (for each night stayed)
  •          2 snack credits per person (for each night stayed)
  •          1 refillable mug to be used at any Disney resort during your stay

Unlike the Plus Dining Plan (or the “standard” dining plan), you receive an appetizer with your meal. This is in addition to the entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. For any quick service choices, you will not receive an appetizer. And if you choose to eat breakfast, you will not have an appetizer or dessert.

Here’s some do’s and don’ts from those that have wined and dined via the deluxe dining plan:

DO schedule all of your reservations ahead of time via DisneyWorld.com/dining or ask your travel agent from help. Dining reservations open up 180 days before your arrival and with an active reservation you are able to book dining for the first 10 days of your trip which is a great way to get those hard to get reservations!

DO NOT try to eat three table service meals every day. Between 3 meals and 2 snacks, you’ll be dying. Try for two table service meals (either a breakfast and a signature dinner or an early lunch and a late signature dinner).

DO know what each credit allows you. On the deluxe dining plan you receive an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per person for lunch and dinner. Breakfast does not include an appetizer or dessert. Quick service meals do not include an appetizer. You can also use your credits for a buffet meal!

DO NOT feel like you have to clear your plate at every meal. It’s a lot of food, so enjoy what you want.

DO the math and see if this is what works best for you! While you may want to eat at many signature restaurants for dinner, you may not need an appetizer and dessert for each meal. It could be less expensive paying out of pocket. Plus you’ll get to save money through the date of your arrival. When choosing any dining plan, you are required to make final payment for your entire trip 45 days before arrival.

 DO try new things and be adventurous.

 DO NOT feel like you have to choose the most expensive item on the menu if you paid for the dining plan. The whole point of having credits is to not think about money!

 DO use your snack credits for things like Starbucks coffee. Now that it’s available in 2 parks AND Downtown Disney, it’s a perfect way to start the day, or keep you going.

 DO NOT just eat in the parks. Some of the best restaurants on Disney property are not located in any of the parks: California Grill, ‘Ohana, and Boma just to name a few.

DO share a meal if you’re too full! Almost every restaurant will allow you to share credits if you can’t eat everything. The exceptions I am aware of are buffet meals and Via Napoli in Epcot.

DO NOT  choose this plan if you are traveling with younger children. Signature meals can take 2 hours or more with appetizer, entrée, and dessert. The exception to this rule is if you want to hit all of the character dining restaurants which take considerably less time.

DO use all of your snack credits even if it’s to bring some souvenir snacks home to family and friends.

DO plan for tips in your budget. With lots of table service credits to choose from, make sure you budget for 18-20% gratuity for each meal.

Related Posts:

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

More Disney World Dining Tips and Tricks

 

Well from what my blog is telling me, Disney World Tips and Tricks seems to be the most important things to viewers on Pinterest and reader suggestions. Adding to the previous dining tips & tricks, here is a continuing list of dining suggestions. Whether you are taking advantage of the Disney Dining Plan or not, these should be useful on your next trip!

  1. Seasoned veterans know that it’s most ideal to book dining 180 day in advance. Most first timers don’t book their trip that far in advance. It’s good to know some alternatives to the most popular meals. There are some great dining options at the resorts surrounding the parks. Don’t be afraid to venture outside your home resort!
  2. When on the Dining Plan, don’t be afraid to tell your server that you’re new to the dining plan and would like some guidance. They are there to help and not mislead you in any way!
  3. Water is free at any Disney quick service restaurant. This is especially popular in the summer months. No need to order anything. A cast member can give you a plastic cup with ice water for no charge.
  4. Book a late morning reservation for breakfast and save money on meals – this is more pertinent to those not on the dining plan.(bring a snack so you’re not starving).
  5. Along the same lines, snacks can be meals! If you plan correctly, a well timed cupcake can suffice as breakfast (hey, it’s vacation!)
  6. Only pay for the food you want. This was lightly touched on in a previous post, but I figured I would expand: Only want a hamburger, ask for no cheese. Don’t want fries or chips? Ask for just the burger or sandwich. it will cost a lot less as well!
  7. Plan for food cost, even if you aren’t planning table service meals! Check out AllEars.net for accurate food costs for both quick service and table service restaurants.
  8. If characters are a must in your trip, find out where you can see them in the parks. If dining with a character is not important, then set up a FastPass when possible!
  9. Adults, don’t be afraid to order off the kids quick service menu (if not on the Disney Dining Plan).
  10. Learn about the Disney World Must Eat Snacks and decide which ones you would like to try. My short list:
  • Dole Whip Floats (Aloha Isle – Magic Kingdom)
  • Zebra Domes (Animal Kingdom & Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Specialty Cupcakes (various locations)
  • School Bread (Norway Pavilion – Epcot)

Related Posts


Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!) I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!