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The 6 Best Tips for the Dining Plan

by Brittany DiCologero

The Disney Dining Plan can be a great value for those looking to save extra money on food during their vacations. While the obvious purpose of the plan is to save you money, a bit of strategizing is involved to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re new to the dining plans, or just looking for some helpful advice, read on to discover my top 6 tips for the plans.

 

  1. Decide whether or not the dining plan would be beneficial to you.

It’s a no brainer that you can save a lot of money with the dining plan, but in order to do this you need to plan your meals out accordingly and be prepared for what the dining plan entails. The dining plan is not for everyone—its value is entirely dependent upon how much you want to eat, and how much time you want to spend eating during your vacation. If one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack, per person, per day, sounds like too much food to you, you might be better off paying for meals out of pocket. If you only actually eat ¼ of your table service meal, because you’re full from all of your quick service meals and snacks, the dining plan might not be for you. You also need to factor in the time aspect of eating out. I know families who eat a quick service breakfast and snack throughout the day, only sometimes having another actual (quick service) meal later at night. If you have no interest in table service meals, the Disney Dining Plan is not for you, and if you’re really looking to save time, the quick service plan may not work either. On the contrary, if dining is an important aspect of your vacation, and you know you’ll be eating the same amount of food as the dining plan offers anyway, you’d likely be a perfect candidate for the plan!

  1. Now that you’ve decided on the dining plan, start thinking about which plan you want to purchase.

Disney offers a variety of dining plans, the most popular ones being the Disney Dining Plan, and the quick service plan. The Disney Dining Plan entitles each member of your party to one snack, one quick service meal, and one table service meal, per person, per day. The quick service plan, as you’d expect, replaces the table service meal with a quick service meal, and costs slightly less. There are also deluxe plans that offer multiple table service meals as well. Before you commit to a plan, read menus and restaurant reviews online, and decide where you’d like to eat, then you can determine which plan would work best for you.

  1. Use your snacks wisely.

You’ll know which items count as snacks on your plan by the dining plan symbol being located next to those items on signs and menus. The general rule for what makes something a snack is that it costs $5 or less. To maximize the value of your plan, you’ll want to use snack credits for the more expensive options, and pay out of pocket for the cheaper ones. For instance, a bottle of soda will cost less than $3, and a Minnie’s Bake Shop cookie will cost $4.95—in this case you should pay out of pocket for the soda, and use a snack credit for the cookie.

  1. If you don’t think you’ll eat all of your snacks in the parks, purchase snacks you can bring them home.

If you have a feeling you’re not going to use all of your snack credits, don’t worry! You can use snack credits for things like rice krispie treats, cookies, pretzels, candy, and more! Just go to any merchandise location that sells these treats, look for the dining plan symbol, and pay at the register using your snack credits. Another bonus to doing this is that these items are generally on the more expensive side of snacks, so you’ll be further maximizing the value of your plan.

  1. Don’t use the plan for meals that cost more than one credit per person.

Many signature restaurants cost two meal credits per person on the dining plan. While these restaurants are generally more expensive, so it may be tempting for you to use your pre-purchased credits, it is a better value to pay out of pocket at these locations and save your meal plan credits for something else.

 

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  1. Save up tip money ahead of time.

One of the best things about the dining plan is that your meals are paid for in advance. While your meals are already taken care of, gratuities are not included on the plan. When I visit Walt Disney World and use the dining plan, I find it helpful to have tip money ready to go ahead of time. Looking at menus online gives me a pretty good idea of how much I’ll be tipping, and I always have this money set aside before my trip, so the tips are essentially already paid for just like the meals are.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero Bio Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.