Disney’s dining plan – something that I think is useful in some way, shape, or form to nearly every family who travels to Disney. There are a few exceptions to every rule, but truly without any of Disney’s dining plans, how are you going to eat?
What are these exceptions? Family members with extremely limited diets due to medical restrictions (i.e. need to cook my own meals or else…) and potentially those that are staying in a 1 or 2 bedroom villas and have the ability to truly cook their own food. Disney fits the mold of everything else. Have picky eaters? No problem – Disney totally understands picky kids and adults, so there’s something for everyone if you know where to look (and we can plan together to find the best option for your crew). I think I’ve truly dealt with it all. Food allergies? Again, no problem! Disney has equipped kitchens (even with buffet style meals) to help accommodate all sorts of allergies. Even if there are multiple allergies or truly limited options, a chef will come to your table and get a sense of what you or your family member can eat and make sure it’s prepared in a safe, allergy free manner. I’ve been truly impressed with all Disney has done for guests with allergies (going beyond the simple gluten and peanuts!)
First, how does the dining plan work?
Each guest receives credits for their length of stay (breakdown below) – you cannot pick and choose dates or people in a room to have a dining plan. It’s all or nothing. Guests age 3-9 will receive child credits while guests 10+ will receive adult credits. Your tiny guests under age 3 will be free, but will have to share from another guest’s plate. If you are choosing a buffet style meal, he or she may have a plate of food at no cost (because truly that’s what sharing is at a buffet!)
Your credits are issued to you at the time of check in and can be used in any way, shape, or form you wish. If you’d like to use all of your snack credits in one day (say during Food & Wine Festival in the fall), you may do so. If you choose to add 2 table service dining credits together to use toward a dinner show or Cinderella’s Table and then just eat quick service the following day, that’s perfectly ok as well! There’s no “per day” usage requirements, so the plan truly is flexible. The only “rule”, I have is USE ALL OF YOUR CREDITS!!
In addition to your credits, each of your guests age 3+ will receive a refillable mug which can be used at any of Disney’s resorts (not inside the theme parks – but still useful to bring 1 to split soft drinks or use as a water cup). The refill stations at the resort include Coca Cola products, blue PowerAde, Coffee, Iced Tea, water, and hot chocolate. There’s a mug rinse sink as well but we bring a small container of dish soap because coffee followed by diet coke does not taste very good!
Next, what Disney dining plan is for you (since we’ve established, that it’s for almost everybody!)
- Quick Service Dining Plan – This plan offers guests 2 quick service credits plus 1 snack credit per person per night of stay. This is a good option for families that aren’t interested in sitting down to meals or those with extremely picky palates (especially if the picky palates are over age 10 as there are less options to choose at sit down meals for the “big” kids). While you receive 2 meals per day, there are ways to stretch your credits to feed yourselves for a full day – sharing a breakfast and lunch quick service is a good start (or using your snack at breakfast time and bringing a few snacks from home at the park). There are several options inside the theme parks that have very large portion sizes which can be shared between 2 adults.
- Disney Dining Plan – This plan offers guests with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and 1 snack credit per person per night of stay. This plan is best for those that want a taste of some of the 80+ table service restaurants but don’t want to sit down to most (or every) meal. You have the option to couple your table service credits together for dinner shows or signature dining (the best of the best in steak and seafood). You can also redeem your table service credits for character dining. For families with at least 1 child under the age of 10 and interested in at least 2 character dining experiences, this is truly worth its while. I know it seems like a bit out of pocket expense, but it’s difficult to only spend $20 per day on a child’s food in the absence of a dining plan. Plus, a dinner at Chef Mickey’s is over $40 per adult and a dinner at Ohana (which is one of our favorites) is just under $100 for a party of 2 adults. Knowing WHERE to dine is how to make this well worth its while, and doing the math on paper with what is included in your plan, makes true dollars and cents!
- Deluxe Dining Plan – If you need 3 meals each day, or you are a family that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, this is the plan for you! If you’ve got any “foodies”, this is also the plan for you. This plan offers 3 meal credits per day (and can be used in a mix of quick service and table service at your preference). You also receive 2 snack credits per person per night of stay. Those that feel most successful with this plan often plan 2 table service meals and use snack and quick service meals to “fill in”. Lunch and dinner on this plan come with an appetizer, entree, and dessert per person so it’s a lot of food but a great way to try new things and great for the adventurous people (or great for those that want a ton of character dining)! I’d never shy anyone away from deluxe dining, but would hesitate to schedule every single dining credit ahead of time (as many people end up cancelling a few along the way because they are just too full to eat 3 full meals per day – at least in my family that’s how it goes!)
- Platinum Dining Plan – This plan is for families who want to PLAY and DINE! You receive all of the accompaniments of the deluxe dining plan plus additional water sports and activities. This plan is less about the park time and more about everything else and is most geared toward adults and older children. You cannot use this dining plan under any promotional rates, but it’s a great way to do some of the lesser known Disney experiences if you’re not a “theme park” person!
What do my credits include?
Disney’s dining credits are not just an entree, it’s much more!
Under the quick service plan & the Disney dining plan, your table service and quick service meals include an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per person. At some locations, you can get an “upgraded” beverage besides lemonade, iced tea, or coke products. If you choose breakfast for any of your credits, you will not receive a dessert (just entree and beverage).
Under the deluxe and platinum dining plans, you receive an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per person at lunch and dinner. Breakfast again does not include a dessert and on this plan; no appetizer either!
Any table service credit can be exchanged for a buffet meal which includes “all you can eat” and at least one beverage (as big fans of a few breakfast locations, you can get coffee and their delightful POG juice) which are both included. If you want coffee with your dessert, ask your sever if you can do coffee as your beverage and just order water with your meal or if the restaurant will allow both.
Quick service credits are much more than just burgers and fries. You can find BBQ ribs, lobster roll, fish and chips, tacos, stir fry, and much more if you know where to look! For the picky eaters, you are able to find the basics, but try to go beyond it if you can because there are truly some unique and tasty options around Walt Disney World!
Snack credits are a really relative term. A snack can be a piece of fresh fruit, a pre-packaged drink like juice, milk or bottled water, but can also be used for caramel apples, gourmet cookies and cupcakes, pastries, and sometimes real “food” during Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festival in Epcot. We can make a day out of snack credits and be completely full without every touching a quick service or table service credits during these events. You can receive sampler platters of tacos, sandwiches, and more under the “cost” of a snack credit. It’s truly a great value with some items holding an out of pocket cost of $6 or more!
But we’re not dessert eaters…
For the non-dessert eaters of the world like my brother in law (seriously, I don’t get it), there is an option for you. You can exchange your dessert portion of quick service or table service credits for something that is a snack credit. These are easy to ascertain at quick service dining locations as they are labeled, but please ask your cast member if you can sub in a cup of soup or a salad at your table service meals in lieu of dessert. This is NEW for 2016, and something I’m really excited about so the non-dessert eaters of the world are not just stocking up on bottled water!
How do I keep track of all of this?
Disney makes it easy and you have a few ways to track your dining credits – after you use a credit, the bottom of your receipt will show your remaining credits in that category (and the cashier will often verbally tell you the amount as well). If you are trying to get an overall view of the details, stop by your resort’s concierge desk and ask for a printout. It will give you an up to the moment review of all of your remaining credits for your trip and if you feel like something is incorrect, you may ask for a more detailed review of what has been used where!
I truly hope this makes you more comfortable with Disney’s dining plan. It’s a money saver and advantageous for about 99% of families! I hope it’s something you’ll consider for your next vacation.
Interested in experiencing either a Disney World vacation in 2016? 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 vacation 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!