The dining plans at Walt Disney World are a way for on-property guests to prepay for their meals as part of a vacation package, then pay for their food with credits at the resort. It’s a polarizing topic. To help you decide if a dining plan is right for your family, here are eight do’s and don’ts.
1. DO Get it Free:
In recent years, Free Dining has been a popular promotion at Walt Disney World. Basically, guests get a dining plan added to their vacation for free when booking a room and ticket package. Guests who book at a Value or Moderate Resort get the quick service plan added to their vacation. Guests Deluxe resort receive the standard dining plan with their vacation. Act fast, because these deals will sell out quickly!
2. DON’T Forget to Tip:
You might think the dining plans make it possible to walk into a park without any money in your pocket, since your meal credits are stored on your MagicBand. But the servers’ tip is not included in your dining package. So be prepared to either give your server cash, or charge the tip to your credit card or to your room. Dining credits cover only the meals, not the service chargers.
3. DO Your Research:
Before you leave home, research the various restaurants at Walt Disney World. You’d be surprised how many there are! Look at menus and reviews online, and ask friends and coworkers for opinions. You never know where your next favorite restaurant will be hiding. And using dining credits is the perfect time to try someplace new-to-you!
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4. DON’T Bring the Light Eaters:
All the dining plans offer a ton of food. If you’re a family of light eaters, the dining plan may not be right for you. It could easily feel like your vacation revolves around eating. And if that’s not your style, that’s ok! Especially think twice if you have a tween who doesn’t eat much, since you’ll be paying the adult price for a child sized appetite.
5. DO Trade Meals for Snacks:
You can use a counter service meal credit on three snack items at once in many locations in the parks This is ideal for guests visiting during Food and Wine or Flower and Garden Festivals in Epcot where snack kiosks abound. It’s so much fun to snack around World Showcase, and using your meal credits to do so makes it easy. There’s always a few kiosks where my family has to try everything, and using a counter service meal credit instead of snack credits is perfect!
6. DON’T Forget to Make Reservations:
You can make Advanced Dining Reservations up to 180 days before you check into your hotel. It might sounds crazy, but the popular restaurants (like Chef Mickey and Be Our Guest) do fill up that far out. To really get the most out of your dining plan, you ought to make dining reservations. Make them as soon as you can to get the best chance at your ideal restaurants and meal times.
7. DO Consider Value:
Disney touts its dining plan as a way to save 10% on dining. And that’s true, but only if you order the big ticket items. If you’re a family of steak lovers, and would order a steak most nights with or without the dining plan, then you probably would save about 10%. To really maximize your credits, order the steak or market priced seafood, the combo plate, a smoothie or milkshake as your beverage etc. Basically, ordering the top priced item in every category and buying with credits will save you money over buying those same items with cold hard cash. But chances are your whole family won’t want the biggest ticket item at every single meal. And that’s ok. Look at the dining plan as a convenience, not a money saver. Because trust me, you don’t want all those rich, heavy meals for a week in sultry Florida! If you truly want to save money, you’re better off ordering less expensive menu items and paying out of pocket. The true value in the dining plans comes from their convenience.
8. DON’T Forget About Your Snack Credits:
I see it every time: a family buying handfuls of rice krispy treats in a Minnie Mouse wrapper with snack credits. Inevitably they leave for home that afternoon and just realized they have leftover snack credits and are just trying to burn through them. There are better ways to use your snack credits. Get a muffin, bagel, or fruit for breakfast. Get your favorite Starbucks drink. Get a Dole Whip, Mickey pretzel, turkey leg, or other iconic Disney snack. Get an ice cream sundae. Get a traditional pastry from World Showcase. Get a seasonal cupcake. Any of these is a better use of your snack credit than panic rice krispies.