Understanding the Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan can be both a blessing and a curse. Some people love it and won’t visit without it. Others hate it and refuse to use. And then there are people like me. People that don’t really care one way or the other and only use it when they can get it during a “free dining” promotion. When I do get it for free, I try to use it to the fullest and in the best possible way. Unfortunately I have witnessed some guests standing in line at a quick service restaurant totally confused by the dining plan. It is really an easy process once you get the hang of it!
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is available for Disney resort guests who purchase a Magic Your Way Package or book accommodations through Disney Vacation Club (DVC) points. When you use the DDP, you are purchasing a certain number of meals ahead of time. You must purchase the plan for each night of your stay and everyone on the reservation must have the same dining plan, with the exception of children under 3 years old. Children under 3 can eat from the adult plates in their party. Each guest on the reservation receives an allotment of meals and snacks depending on the specific plan you have chosen.
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) comes in three levels:
The Quick Service Dining entitles each member of your resort reservation to 2 quick-service meals, 2 snacks and 1 refillable mug.
The Basic Dining plan entitles each member of your resort reservation to 1 table-service meal, 1 quick-service meal, 2 snacks and 1 refillable mug.
The Deluxe Dining plan entitles each member of your resort reservation to 3 meals (any combination of table-service and quick-service), 2 snacks and 1 refillable mug.
2017 Disney Dining Plan Locations
Your MagicBand (or Key to the World card) electronically and automatically monitors your groups allocated meals. After each meal, your receipt will display the number of meals/snacks remaining for the entire party on your reservation (not per guest). Your meals and snacks may be redeemed in any order, at any time, during your vacation until there are none left or until midnight of the night you check out, whichever comes first.
The DDP can give you the opportunity to eat at some of the restaurants you wouldn’t normally choose because of the cost. Based on how your family likes to eat, only you can decide if the dining plan is worth purchasing for your family. If you are a frequent visitor buy the dining plan – or the next time you get a “Free Dining” promotion – keep all of your receipts that show what the meals would have cost versus what you paid for the dining plan to do your own comparison. If you do purchase the plan or get it free under a promotion, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Don’t use your snack credits on drinks. The cost of a drink is much less than the cost of a decent snack. You can bring your own bottles of water or refillable water park into the parks. If visiting during a festival like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I often save all my snack credits for my Epcot day and use those snack credits to purchase my food samplings from the many kiosks open during the festival. If there is no festival happening during your visit, you can use a snack credit for a light breakfast (muffin for example) or to pick up a late night before bed snack on your way back to your room. Always use your snack credit for the most expensive snack items allowed.
I never use the dining plan credits (table service or quick service) for breakfast. Breakfast is the least expensive meal you can purchase so that’s the meal I chose to pay for when using the basic Disney Dining Plan. We often have breakfast items in our room so save a few dollars that way.
Eat things you normally wouldn’t eat because of price – order those expensive meals/entrees. The easiest and quickest way to get the most of your dining plan is to order all those expensive entrees you normally don’t order because of the price or at the restaurants you wouldn’t normally eat at because of price.
Use your table service credits for dinner – not lunch. Dinner costs more than lunch so use your table service credit for the most expensive meal of the day and your quick service meal for your light meal. I will sometimes switch around my meals and eat my large meal (table service) mid-day and then a quick service meal before heading back to the hotel in the evening.
The absolute best value for using a table service credit is a one credit character meal.
You can use a table service credit at a quick service location. This is a terrible idea from a $ value, but it does give you some added flexibility. You cannot, however, use quick service credits for table service locations.
Gratuities are NOT included except for In-Room Dining (room service), Pizza Delivery, Disney Dinner Shows and Cinderella’s Royal Table (because CRT uses 2 of your table service credits).
At most quick service locations (not at any of the kiosks or carts), you can exchange one quick service credit for three snack items. All three items must be listed as eligible snack credit items, and all three must be purchased at the same time in one transaction. In my opinion this is only useful if you want to make a meal out of three sides dishes or if you are looking for some snacks for your trip home.
Extra Tip: If at the end of your stay you find you haven’t used all of your snack credits, head to the shops and pick up Mickey Rice Krispie Treats or Disney candy to take home!