Over the past two decades, Walt Disney World has created vacation packages that really give your vacation an all-inclusive feel. My family and I love the convenience of the Disney Dining Plans, and they are also a great value.
Disney Dining Plan Lingo
If you are planning your first Disney World vacation, you may have discovered that there is a sort of “Disney language” spoken by frequent guests. It can be confusing until you understand it.
Everything with the Disney Dining Plans is based on credits. Depending on the dining plan you choose, you get an allotment of credits to use for your snacks and meals. You can use these credits from the time you check in at the resort until midnight on the day of checkout until they are gone.
A table service restaurant is a traditional, sit-down dining experience which can include a buffet or menu-based selections. Character meals fall into this category.
A quick service restaurant is generally a restaurant where you walk up to a counter, order your food and find a table after picking up your order. Quite-service meals do not require reservations (with the exception of Be Our Guest Restaurant for breakfast and lunch in Magic Kingdom).
Snacks are food items ranging from about $2 to $8 and can be anything from a side salad to a cupcake or ice cream cone. Items which are eligible for use as a Snack Credit are denoted on menus with the purple Disney dining plan symbol.
A Quick Service Credit includes one entree or combo meal and one non-alcoholic drink (an alcoholic drink may be chosen if the guest is 21 years or older). If you’re eating at a resort and using your refillable mug then you may substitute your drink for a snack credit eligible item.
A Table Service Credit consists of one entree, one non-alcoholic drink (an alcoholic drink may be chosen if the guest is 21 years or older) and a dessert. For guests on the Deluxe Dining Plan, a table-service credit will also include an appetizer.
Disney also has some more upscale dining options that they distinguish as Signature Dining Locations. These locales require two table-service credits per person per meal. Some examples of these include California Grille, Citricos, Le Cellier, Hollywood Brown Derby, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Tiffin’s and Morimoto Asia. These locations are spread out amongst the theme parks, resorts and Disney Springs. Walt Disney World’s Dinner Shows also fall into the two table-service credit per person category. These shows are the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue and the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. My favorite of these is Hoop de Doo which is one of the longest-running Dinner Shows in the United States. My parents visited on their Anniversary and soon found themselves to be part of the show.
Quick Service Dining Plan
The Quick Service Dining Plan includes two quick-service credits and two snack credits per person per night of stay. Each person also receives a free resort refillable mug which can be used for free refills at resort quick-service locations. This dining plan is great for families that don’t want to plan any dining reservations and just want to grab food on-the-go.
Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan gives you one quick-service credit, one table service credit and two snack credits per person per night of stay. Each person also receives a free resort refillable mug which can be used for free refills at resort quick-service locations. This dining plan is great for families that don’t eat three meals per day but want to enjoy some nicer, sit-down dining locations.
Deluxe Dining Plan
The Deluxe Dining Plan gives you three meal credits and two snack credits per person per night of stay. The meal credits can be used as quick-service or table-service credits. Each person also receives a free resort refillable mug which can be used for free refills at resort quick-service locations. This dining plan is perfect for families that want three meals per day or want to experience dining with the princesses inside Cinderella’s castle or one of the dinner shows.
Benefits of the Disney Dining Plan
There are several benefits of the Disney Dining Plans. By purchasing one of the dining plans you pre-pay your meals and snacks. You don’t have to worry about what to budget for food during your vacation because it’s already taken care of! You also save money by pre-purchasing the dining plan. How much you save varies by the plan you choose. Your dining plan is also linked to your Magic Band making it extremely easy to use. If you’re traveling with older kids who may want to go off on their own, its also nice that they can just tap their Magic Band to purchase a snack or quick-service meal using the dining plan instead of constantly asking you for money! You can view your dining credits online in the My Disney Experience app and they are also printed on the bottom of every receipt.
My family and I always use the Disney Dining Plan when we visit Walt Disney World. My family loves the experiences offered at Character Meals. We use the majority of our table service credits as a way to meet the characters while we dine rather than waiting to meet them in the parks. By using our credits on the character meals we get a lot of value out of the dining plan. It’s easy for a family of four to spend $200 or more one table service meal if paying out of pocket, but with the dining plan you have already paid for the meal and saved money!! This is especially great if your family is budget-conscience. I love the fact, that we can sit down at any participating restaurant and whichever entree we choose it’s already been paid for; whether we’re hungry for a salad, burger, pasta or steak
With two snacks credits per person per day, we make it a point to make sure that we use our snack credits, whether it’s on cupcakes, french fries, a cup of soup, a non-alcoholic specialty beverage, or pre-packaged goodies there are ample choices.
The dining plan also affords a lot of flexibility. One quick service credit can be split into three snack credits if used in one transaction. You can share credits with members of your party who may not be on the dining plan. I should note that when booking a package everyone staying in the room must have the same components (i.e. tickets and dining plan). But, if you’re traveling with friends or grandparents and they’re on a different reservation then you can use your credits to pay for their meals.
A terrific use of snack credits is during the festivals at EPCOT; Food & Wine, Festival of the Holidays, Festival of the Arts, and Flower & Garden. They all include food booths or kiosks which showcase culinary delights that highlight the theme of the specific festival. These items are generally an eligible snack credit item. Snacking around World Showcase is a pastime enjoyed by many Walt Disney World visitors.
You may be wondering how a family survives on only two meals per person per day? Let me just say that my family generally uses a snack credit for breakfast items at our resort. We’ve also been known to pack cereal and a half-gallon of milk, along with some breakfast bars to keep in our resort room. Most food courts have a selection of pastries and fruit and some even offer biscuits and gravy as a snack credit. Just use your refillable mug for a drink and you have a full breakfast. I’ve also stopped by Gastons Tavern in the Magic Kingdom and picked up their huge cinnamon rolls to take bake to our room for breakfast the next day. If we don’t use snack credits for breakfast then we generally schedule pre-park opening breakfast reservations and then use our snack credits to get us through until dinner. I’ll also add that my children often share meals at quick-service locations; this strategy gives us extra quick service credits to use later in our trip.
I highly recommend that you consider one of the Disney Dining Plans when planning your next Walt Disney World Vacation. Depending on how your family eats and the restaurants that you plan to visit during your trip, you may just find that the dining plan would be a great addition to your package!
If you have any questions about any of the dining plans or anything else Disney related, you can contact me by email at Stacym@startswithawishtravel.com or visit my Facebook page.
Any of the great Vacation Planners at Starts With a Wish Travel can also help you with all things Disney!