How The Disney Dining Plan Works.
by, 05-02-2012 at 12:04 PM
The Disney dining plan is one of the most popular options for Walt Disney World guests. Buying the dining plan lets you know ahead of time what you’ll spend on food and gives you an incentive to try a wider variety of restaurants, adding to your overall Disney resort experience. Used correctly, it can be both convenient and economical, but there are a few basics you need to know before you give it a try:
Types of Dining Plans:
There are three main types of plans: The quick-service plan, the base or plus dining plan, and the deluxe dining plan. Here’s what’s included with each plan:
1. The Quick-Service Plan: Priced at $34.99 for ages 10 and up and $11.99 for ages 3 – 9, the quick-service plan gives guests one snack and two quick-service credits per person per for each night of their stay. It also comes with a refillable mug for use at drink stations at your resort.
2. The Base or Plus Dining Plan. Priced at $51.54 ($53.54 during peak season) for ages 10 and up and $15.02 ($16.02 during peak season) for ages 3 – 9, the base plan gives guests one snack, one quick-service credit, and one table-service credit, plus a refillable mug.
3. The Deluxe Dining Plan. Price at $85.52 ($89.52 during peak season) for ages 10 and up and $23.79 ($25.79 during peak season) for ages 3 – 9, the deluxe dining plan gives you three table or quick-service credits, two snacks, and a refillable mug. You can use your meal credits in any combination you wish: Quick and table-service credits are equal under this plan.
Each quick-service and table-service meal comes with one non-alcoholic beverage, one entrée, and one dessert. On the deluxe plan, you’ll also get an appetizer with your meal. Disney dining plans do not include tips.
Get Park Wise Quick-service desserts are one of the weaknesses of the plan, appearing to add value to the plan while in reality offering you something you might not normally buy. Unless you’re eating at a better quick-service location like Wolfgang Puck Express, which has exemplary desserts, consider substituting your dessert for a bottle of water, yogurt, or a piece of fruit. Most cast members have no problem allowing you to do this.
How the Disney Dining Plan Works:
Disney dining plans are straight-forward and easy to use. Your credits are allocated per night, so if you’re staying for seven nights and you’re on the base plan, you’ll receive seven table-service credits per person for use during your stay. These credits are good from the time you check-in, which can be as early as you like that day (not to be confused with when you actually get your room, which is usually mid-afternoon) and are good until midnight the day of check-out.
Let’s say again you have seven table-service credits. You can use those credits in any order you wish, so if you want to eat at Akershus (one table-service credit) for breakfast and then California Grill (two table-service credits) for dinner on the first day of your stay, you can. You’ve just used three of your seven credits, leaving four left over for use any time during your stay.
Your Credits are “Pooled” by Room:Get Park Wise: You may want to pay out of pocket for less expensive meals or for certain members of your party. Just tell your server that not everyone is on the dining plan for this meal. You’ll just present your Key to the World Card for those on the plan and your credit card or cash for those who are not.
All credits are “pooled” under one reservation, so when you get your Key to the World card, everyone on that reservation, whether it’s one person or twelve, will have their credits on the same card. This means that if Cousin Orville prefers to stay back in the room while the rest of the family goes to Ohana , his credit is left over for another day. He, or anyone in your party, can use that credit during your stay.
Disney is, however, very strict about how you use children’s table service credits: Your child must eat from the children’s menu. You can switch your meal for their meal, but they will not be able to order from the adult menu with a children’s table-service credit. This isn’t the case with snacks ; if your child wants a cupcake as big as her head, she can use her snack credit to buy it.
Quick-service meals are another story. As of this writing, Disney does not distinguish between children’s and adult’s quick-service credits, which means you can technically order from the adult menu and use a child’s credit, however please note that some cast members may stop you from doing this. I’ve checked several times with Disney to verify that this practice is legitimate, going up the chain of command as far as possible, and have been told that while Disney’s official policy is that children must order from the children’s quick-service menu, there is no difference in how these credits are “pooled” and that in most cases, ordering from the adult menu is allowed. I’ve occasionally heard of guests being stopped, but it never hurts to try—even a kid can only take so many chicken nuggets.
Adding the Plan:Get Park Wise: Since dinner is usually the most expensive meal of the day, consider using your dining credits for that meal.
You can add the dining plan to any Disney resort reservation, but to do so you’ll need to create a package, which requires that you add at least a one-day park admission for each person in your group. Annual pass holders and guests who book under military room discounts may add the package without adding tickets. All guests who book under the free dining promotion will need to add two-day tickets to their reservation in order to take advantage of free dining.
The dining plan is simple to use and it’s a great way to manage expenses, but it’s not for everyone. While an exploration about whether or not the plan works for you is best left to another post, I would caution anyone reading this to check out current menus online to see if paying out of pocket is a better option for you, taking into consideration your park touring style and the way you eat. Food is one of the few expenses that you can control in a Disney park, so it’s worth checking out all your options before you make the decision to buy the plan or skip it.
What do you think about the Disney Dining Plan? Have you used it? If, so what was the experience like?
Park Wise is written by Chris Wood.
You can find her at Everything Walt Disney World.
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