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The Disney Dining Plan for First Timers

Although the Disney Dining Plan offers a lot of convenience to guests, it can be a bit intimidating to first timers.  Here you will find all of the information you need to make the most of your Magic Your Way package with one of Disney’s Dining Plans.

The first thing you will need to do is select the best dining plan to fit your family’s vacation preferences.  Disney offers three basic dining plans, the Quick Service Dining Plan, the “Plus” Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan.  In regular season, the Quick Service Plan costs $41.99 per adult per night, and $16.03 per child per night in 2015 and $42.84 per adult per night, and $17.47 per child per night in 2016.  This plan allows you two quick, or counter, service meals and one snack per night of your resort stay, plus a refillable resort mug.  The “Plus” Dining plan is $60.64 per adult per night and $19.23 per child per night during regular season and for 2016 $61.84 per adult per night, and $20.96 per child per night.  The Plus plan is the most popular of the choices, and gives you one counter service meal, one table service meal, and one snack per night of your resort stay, plus a refillable resort mug.  Finally, the Deluxe Dining plan has regular season pricing of $109.53 per adult per night, and $29.86 per child per night or $111.73 per adult per night, and $32.56 per child per night in 2016.  This more elaborate plan allows three meals of any type (counter or table service) and two snacks per night of your stay, plus a refillable resort mug.  If all of these choices seem overwhelming, and they easily can for even the most seasoned Disney traveler, I recommend consulting the services of an Authorized Disney Travel Planner.  Most agencies are fee free, and can help you navigate the ins and outs of the Dining Plans when you book your Magic Your Way Package through them.

After you select your ideal package, you need to make Advance Dining Reservations.  Unless you picked the Quick Service Plan with only counter service meals, you will want to make reservations as far in advance as you can.  Most dining locations begin accepting reservations at 180 days prior to your desired dining date.  Since you are a resort guest (if you have the dining plan) you can make your reservations for up to 10 days at the 180 day mark of your check-in date.  There are several popular restaurants (Le Cellier, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s) that fill up quickly, so if you have your heart set on dining with the princesses to use your Table Service Credits you need to be on the phone, on your computer, early in the morning at the 180 day mark.  Or have your Authorized Disney Travel Planner take care of it for you!  The Dining Plan will not be a good value for your family if you can’t eat at the restaurants you prefer.

Once you have your reservations lined up, you need to know how to use it in the parks.  For the sake of this article we will focus on the “Plus” Dining Plan since it is the most popular among guests.  With the Plus Dining Plan a counter service meal consists of an entrée (or combo meal if available) and a non-alcoholic beverage.  At lunch and dinner you also receive a dessert. You can exchange that dessert for a snack item or bottled drink if you prefer.  Table service entitlements include an entrée and non-alcoholic drink, or a full buffet with beverage. Again at lunch and dinner you get dessert too, or you can exchange your dessert for a salad, soup or fruit plate.  Of course other items can be ordered and paid for out of pocket like an appetizer or alcoholic beverage.  You will be charged an automatic gratuity for those add-on items at Table Service restaurants.  All of your entitlements or credits are linked in your account through your Magic Band, which is also your room key and park tickets.  You will present this card when paying for your meals and snacks.  Be sure to tell the cashier or server how many meals you are redeeming.

Most of the table service restaurants in the parks and resorts are straightforward; they cost one Table Service Credit.  There are some locations, however, that require two Table Service credits.  These are the Signature Dining Locations:

  • Jiko, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (Dinner)
  • Flying Fish Café, Disney’s BoardWalk (Dinner)
  • California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort (Dinner)
  • Citricos, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (Dinner)
  • Narcoossee’s, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (Dinner)
  • Artist Point, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (Dinner)
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts (Dinner)
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse, Epcot (Lunch & Dinner)
  • Monsieur Paul, Epcot (Dinner)
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby, Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Lunch & Dinner)
  • Fulton Crab House, Disney Springs (Lunch & Dinner)
  • The Boathouse, Disney Springs (Lunch & Dinner)
  • The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Café, Disney Springs (Dinner)
  • Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner)

You may also use your Dining Plan credits for Private In-Room dining.  This will cost 2 Table Service Credits for a meal consisting of an entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage.  In-room pizza delivery can also be utilized on the Dining Plan.  One pizza, two desserts and two non-alcoholic beverages will cost 2 Table Service credits.  Dining Credits can be used to experience some of Disney’s Dinner Shows.  The Hoop Dee Doo Revue, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are each 2 table service credits for category 2 or 3 seating.

The good thing about the dining plan is that although you have one credit per night of your stay, you can use two credits at a time.  So, if you choose a signature dining location for one night of your stay, you will have one less meal overall.  On a 7 night stay you could have 1 Signature Dining experience, 1 Dinner Show (two credits each) and 3 “regular” table service meals.  Please note that some restaurants may have restrictions as to which entrees or non-alcoholic beverages you can purchase with the dining plan.  If there is something you want (bottomless milkshake anyone?) it can’t hurt to ask your server if it is included.  Additionally, there are some prix fixe menus that require a surcharge in addition to the meal credits if you select those items.  Children ages 3-9 will be required to order from the children’s menu where available at table service restaurants on the Plus Dining Plan. On the Deluxe, Premium and Platinum plans table service meals can be used interchangeably, so children may order from the adult menu if you have one of the upgraded plans.  At Quick Service locations all credits are interchangeable, so children may order from the adult menu if they prefer. Children under 3 are not on the Dining Plan and may share from an adult’s plate, or a meal can be purchased for them and paid for out of pocket.

Your counter service meals are very straightforward.  The combo meals in particular make a good value when using Dining Plan credits.

For your snack credits you have a wide variety of choices.  You need to look for this symbol on counter service menus, snack carts, and in merchandise locations:

DDP-logo

This indicates the items that are eligible to be redeemed for your snack credits.  There are certainly some items that make your snack credits a better value than others, but you can get anything from a bottle of Coke to a fabulous cupcake. In general you can use them for any single serve item, and soups and side items at any Quick Service restaurant.

Now, how in the world are you going to keep up with these credits?  It could get complicated, but Disney has a nice system in place to help you track what you have used and what you have left over.  Each time you purchase food using your Disney Dining Plan entitlements, the remaining number will print at the top of your receipt.  The receipt also outlines what type of credit you used for that purchase, for example child’s table service, adult table service, snack, etc.  If you ever have any questions the resort concierge desk can help you and print out a report of your balance.

Here are a few other tips and tricks for your first time using the Disney Dining Plan:

  • Remember that gratuities are NOT included with the Dining Plan except for Dinner Shows, In-Room Dining and Cinderella’s Royal Table.  These will need to be paid out of pocket at the time of service.  You can charge the gratuity to your room account.
  • You may have left over credits at the end of your vacation.  Don’t let them go to waste!  Even if you are about to leave for your return home, you can spend any remaining snack credits in the gift shop of your resort.  Just look for that handy purple and white square. You can even exchange leftover meal credits for snacks—just check in with a Cast Member to see how they convert, and you can only do this in select locations.
  • You can redeem as many meals and snacks as you would like each day, but once you’ve used up your allotment for your resort stay they are gone. You can even use your credits to pay for someone else’s meal if you have day guests visit you who are not on the Dining Plan.
  • Take advantage of that refillable resort mug.  You can use your snack credit for a breakfast item like a muffin at your resort food court and fill up your mug.  Or, if you use a counter service credit at your resort food court fill up your mug to drink during your meal and take your bottled beverage to the parks.
  • Use the Dining Plan as a way to experiment with foods or dining experiences you might not normally choose.  Since the Dining Plan makes your package “inclusive” it is a little easier not to worry about the cost of your meals, so go ahead and try Boma or Sanaa, or Restaurant Marrakesh.

Give the Disney Dining Plan a try; it can be a great value and can make for a more relaxing vacation since everything is paid in advance.

 

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).