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Do’s & Don’ts of the Disney Dining Plan

Do’s & Don’ts of the Disney Dining Plan

While the Disney Dining plan is a great value and convenience to most Walt Disney World guests, there are a few Do’s & Don’ts that everyone will want to keep in mind.

Do:

Make reservations and plan head! It is, after all, a Dining PLAN. Most Disney Dining Plan locations open their reservations at 180 days out. Yes, I realize it is hard enough to figure out what you want for dinner tonight, much less 6 months from now, but it really is a necessary evil. You want to plan as far in advance as you can so that you can secure your favorite dining spots and make the most of your Dining Plan credits. Several popular locations like Le Cellier, Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s book up very quickly, and if you wait to make your reservations you will lose out. You also want to make sure you have a plan for how you will use your Quick Service and Snack credits (especially if you are on the Quick Service Dining Plan). Although you don’t make reservations at these locations, knowing which park you will be in each day to decide which quick service locations are going to be convenient to you and have a menu your family will enjoy will help you make the most of the plan’s benefits.

Don’t:

Wing It! If you have any version of the Disney Dining Plan and decide you are going to fly by the seat of your pants without any planning or reservations you are going to be disappointed. There are very few table service restaurants where you can walk-up and get a table, even if you are willing to wait for hours. And those that do have room for walk-ups are obviously not the most popular eateries. If you want to get the best value out of your Disney Dining Plan investment—plan ahead!

Do:

Utilize your refillable resort mug. All of the Disney Dining Plan options include a refillable resort mug. Not only does this make a great souvenir that you can use to take your own coffee to work (simultaneously saving money over that expensive Starbucks coffee to save for your next Disney trip while making your co-workers jealous by reminding them of your recent trip), but it is also a great value to help you maximize the Dining Plan. For example, for breakfast you could visit your resort’s food court and select a muffin (a snack credit) and fill up your mug. You’ve saved your quick service credit for later in the day, and you only used 1 snack credit. Or, you’re back at your resort for lunch so you visit the food court again. You can select a bottled drink for your beverage included in your quick service credit, and fill up your mug. Now you have a bottle of water or juice to use in the parks or in your room later on; maximizing your dining credits. The only drawback is the limitations of the choices of what you can fill in your refillable resort mug—at most resorts you are limited to soft drinks, coffee, and occasionally hot chocolate. If you are looking for milk or fruit juice this isn’t going to work for you.

Don’t:

Waste your snack credits on drinks in the park, especially bottled water. There are so many snack options available to you on the Disney Dining Plan (remember to look for this sign ), please don’t waste your credits on a beverage, unless you are desperate. There are several ways around needing to use your snack credits for a bottled drink. Ask for a cup of ice water. These are given away free (yes, I know that is a foreign concept at Disney) at most quick service restaurants. You can make it more palatable by brining those Crystal Light or other brand packets to mix in. Bring your beverage with you. Invest in a high quality double walled stainless steel water bottle and fill it with ice and water from your hotel room before you head out to the parks for the day. I love the hydroflask brand (www.hydroflask.com). They come in a variety of sizes, styles and colors and they truly work keeping your beverage cold (and I mean ice cold) for 24 hours (or hot for 12), and they don’t sweat. This is the most economical way to carry your beverage into the parks. Or you can purchase a 24 pack of water from a local grocery store, or some folks even have it shipped to their resort from places like Walmart.com or Staples.com. Freeze the bottles or have them well refrigerated and take them with you to the parks. When you have choices like gourmet cupcakes, French pastries, humongous cinnamon rolls, ice cream sandwiches and dole whips why would you waste a Disney Dining Plan credit on a bottled water??

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Do:

Keep track of your Disney Dining Plan credits. After each purchase using the Disney Dining Plan you receipt will show you how many credits, and what type of credits, you used on that purchase; along with how many credits you have remaining for you vacation. Don’t forget to check these receipts to make sure you were charged correctly for that meal or snack, and to know what you have left to spend. This is the perfect segue to our next don’t . . .

Don’t:

Leave Credits on the Table. Literally. Because you are being a good mouseketeer and keeping up with your Disney Dining Plan credits after each use you know what you have left, but you still may be surprised to find that you didn’t use all of your credits. At the end of the trip you don’t want to leave these credits unused because then you won’t be getting the value out of the Disney Dining Plan. You should have all of your Table Service allotments spoken for because you followed Do #1 and made your dining reservations to take care of those. If you have quick service credits remaining you can do a couple of things. It has been reported that you can exchange a quick service meal credit for a quantity of snacks at a merchandise location, but your results may vary with this; this falls into the “it never hurts to ask” category. You can definitely use those credits to get a meal to go to take with you on your trip home. Leftover snack credits are the easiest to use up. Visit your resort store, or many merchandise locations in the theme parks, and look for that little purple and white square. You can find all kinds of packaged snacks to take home with you for a little reminder of your Disney vacation—remember making your co-workers jealous? How about bringing in a custom crispy rice treat for lunch when you return? Or thank them for covering for you with a bag of Disney gummies.

Do:

Use the Disney Dining Plan as a license to experiment with new foods. Many people like the inclusive nature of adding the Disney Dining Plan to your resort package because everything is pre-paid. When you don’t feel like you are paying an actual bill at the end of your meal you might feel more freedom to experiment with restaurants or entrees that you don’t normally try. Depending on where you live, Japanese may be exotic for you, or you could try Moroccan cuisine at Restaurant Marrakesh while enjoying the belly dancer for entertainment. The African flavors of Boma or Tusker House, Indian cuisine at Sanaa, or maybe a buffet of German specialties might be a nice change from your ordinary dining routine. If you like fish but don’t normally order it, give it a try. Always wanted to try crème brulee at home, but never splurge for dessert? Now is the time! Disney has such a variety of cuisines and offerings that are well prepared, it is a shame not to experiment a little on your vacation.

Don’t:

Order the most expensive thing on the menu every single meal just to achieve the greatest “savings” on the Disney Dining Plan. If you do this you may get the greatest savings, but not the greatest value. Ordering some variation of a filet at every meal will make for a very boring and monotonous culinary experience on your vacation. You may be able to crunch the numbers when you get home and brag that you saved 45% on your dining by using the Disney Dining Plan, but did you enjoy it?

And, the final

Do:

Remember to tip your servers. They work hard to maintain a high level of service at Disney Dining locations. None of the Disney Dining Plans include gratuity, you must add this and pay for it out of pocket at the time of service. You can determine the amount of the tip based on the service you receive, but don’t forget that you do need to add it and you need a way to pay for it (either your room charge with your Key to the World Card, with cash, or with another credit card).

 

What are your Do’s & Don’ts for the Disney Dining Plan?

 

 

 

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).