The Disney Dining Plan is a way to prepay for your meals while you’re at Walt Disney World. It is not meant to save you money, it is meant as a convenience. Some people do save, and if you travel when Free Dining is offered then it can be a great deal. Only you can decide whether or not the Disney Dining Plan will work for you on your vacation. Some people swear by it, while others run away. Here are the basics to help you to make up your mind.
Before going into too much detail on what the Disney Dining Plan is all about, you should know whether or not you will even qualify. You must be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel in order to be eligible. The resort needs to be Disney owned, which is why those staying at the Swan or Dolphin do not qualify. Everyone in your room needs to be on the plan, and needs to be on the same plan. Your plan will cover your entire stay, and Disney counts nights instead of days. If you’re staying five days and four nights you’ll receive four days worth of the Disney Dining Plan. You can’t add an extra day on, you’ll pay out of pocket for anything extra.
Children who are ages 3-9 need to be on the Disney Dining Plan if they are in your room. Kids two and under aren’t eligible, you can’t add them on. At most restaurants kids under three will either eat off of your plate or you’ll need to pay out of pocket for them. If you’re at a buffet, they are allowed to get their own plate.
You’ll receive credits for your meals and snacks. You can keep track of them on your receipt or on the My Disney Experience App. You can use your credits however you want, meaning that you can use them all the first day, for example. Your credits are also not assigned to each person, they are per room. It’s pretty flexible. One thing that you will want to keep in mind is that your credits will expire at 11:59pm on the day that you check out. You can’t roll them over until your next trip, and if you’re still in the area they won’t be available the next day. If you have leftover credits, they don’t necessarily have to go to waste. Go into any Walt Disney World store that sells snacks, and ask a Cast Member what you can use your credits for. A quick-service credit can be exchanged for three snack credits, provided that you use them all in the same place.
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The Different Dining Plans
There are three different Disney Dining Plan options. Each one includes a refillable mug, which you can use at any Walt Disney World resort. The mugs can’t be used in the theme parks, but you can fill them at another resort, so bring yours with you if you go resort hopping.
- Disney Quick-Service Plan: With this plan you’ll receive two quick-service meals and two snacks for each night of your vacation. The meal will consist of one entree and one beverage.
- Disney Standard Dining Plan: This is also sometimes called the Disney Dining Plan. With it you will receive one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and two snacks each night of your vacation. The quick-service meal is the same as above. With the table-service meal you will receive an entree and a beverage for breakfast. For lunch and dinner dessert is included with table-service as well. Buffets and character meals are eligible for the table-service credits. Make sure you keep and eye on your total, because some table-service restaurants cost two credits instead of one. Please remember that the gratuity is not added on the Disney Dining Plan, so if you’re at a table-service restaurant please be generous.
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: This plan offers the most flexibility, and the most food. You will receive three meals and two snacks for each night of your stay. If you use your meals at a quick-service location you’ll receive an entree and a beverage. Table-service for breakfast includes an entree and a beverage, and for lunch and dinner you’ll also receive an appetizer and a dessert.
Non-alcoholic beverages with your meals include fountain drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. A new addition to the Disney Dining Plan in 2018 is that alcoholic beverages can count as the beverage if you’re of age. The alcoholic choices are beer, hard cider, wine, sangria, mixed drinks, and specialty cocktails. If you want a bottle of water or soda, you’ll need to use a snack credit for it. The beverage comes as part of your meal, you can’t order a beer from Block & Hans and have that count as your beverage.
There are plenty of snack options on the Disney Dining Plan. You can get popcorn, ice cream bars, a two-scoop sundae, candy, crispy rice treats, fresh fruit, cupcakes, bakery items, and many other things. Look for the Disney Dining Plan symbol next to an item, or ask a Cast Member. You can also use your snack credits at the food booths during Epcot’s festivals.
Sometimes Walt Disney World will offer what is known as Free Dining. It’s usually announced in late April for dates the following fall. With Free Dining you’ll need to stay in a select resort, purchase tickets (an Annual Pass won’t work), and meet other criteria. Free Dining saves some people a lot of money. If you’re staying in a Value or Moderate Resort you’ll receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan, while those at a Deluxe Resort will receive the Standard Dining Plan. You can pay the extra and upgrade if you want. There is no guarantee that Free Dining will continue each year, and with new lands on the way and Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration around the corner in 2021, there is a chance that the program could be discontinued at some point.