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Planning a trip to Disney World and decided to get the Disney Dining Plan? That’s great! I personally love the dining plan. We get it on almost every trip. My husband enjoys having a nice sit down meal each night at Disney World, while I like that I can prepay for meals and not worry about the price during our vacation. Now that you have decided to get it, let me show you how to get the most bang for your buck with the dining plan. Here are 15 tips for using the Disney Dining Plan to its fullest potential. (If you aren’t sure if the dining plan is worth the money, see whether it is right for you.) (Updated March 4, 2020.)
Tip #1: Use your table service credits for dinner.
One of the easiest tips for using the Disney Dining Plan to get your money’s worth is to use your table service credits for dinner. The reason for this is that dinner is the most expensive meal of the day. Menu prices for breakfast and lunch are considerably cheaper than those for dinner. Yet, the dining plan cost you the same per day, regardless of which meal you use your credits on. Many people make the mistake of using most of their table service credits for breakfast. But, to get the most out of your plan, you should choose sit down dinners instead.
Tip #2: Use your table service credits for character meals.
Another great use of your table service credits is for character meals. Character meals are more expensive than meals without characters. Most non-character dinner entrees at Disney World cost between $17-52. Character breakfasts, on the other hand, range from $25-55 per person. The prices for lunches and dinners with characters are anywhere from $38 to $65. So, if your family loves breakfast, or you want to mix things up, add in some character meals! You can almost recoup your day’s cost for the dining plan with one character dinner. See our list of character meals for options.
Tip #3: Use snack credits for a light breakfast or lunch.
All of the dining plans, except for the Deluxe Dining Plan, give you two meals and two snacks per person per day. To avoid paying out of pocket for a third meal, use your snack credits for a light breakfast or lunch. My family usually eats a bagel or muffin for breakfast. These, along with yogurt parfaits and fruit cups, are all wonderful breakfast items for light eaters. They also all qualify as snack items on the dining plan. For lunch, you could get a pretzel, pulled pork mac-and-cheese, a basket of onion rings, or a Mickey waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. These are excellent uses of snack credits as meals on the dining plan.
Tip #4: Ask for dessert to go & enjoy it later.
Let’s be honest, you get A LOT of food on the dining plan! To prevent wasting food, ask for your dessert to go if you are too full to enjoy it right then. The Disney wait staff will happily box it up for you so you can enjoy it later. What could be better than a sweet treat for a bedtime snack or breakfast the next morning?
Tip #5: Consider sharing to stretch your snack credits further.
Each person gets two snacks per day on the main dining plan. To get the most of out them, share with a family member. For instance, use one snack credit for a soda and another one for a cupcake and then share them with your husband. This tip is especially useful for kids who don’t eat much. Get one drink and one pretzel and have your kids split them.
Tip #6: Keep prepackaged fruits & veggies for later.
Many kids’ meals at Disney World come with prepackaged grapes, apple slices, or carrots. If your child doesn’t eat them at meal time, throw them in your park bag and take them with you. Later, when your little ones get hungry, you will have an easy snack on hand. This will not only save you a snack credit, but it can come in handy if hunger strikes while you are standing in line for a ride.
Tip #7: Opt for more expensive items on the menu.
One of the most useful tips for using the Disney Dining Plan is to opt for the more expensive items on the menu. When using the Disney Dining Plan, you are not restricted to certain items. You can pick anything. For instance, at Columbia Harbour House, the same quick service credit will get you the $16 lobster roll or the $10 chicken nuggets. And at La Hacienda de San Angel, you can spend one table service credit on either the $18 vegetable tacos or the $37 carne asada. So, go ahead and splurge on the steak or lobster! Picking these higher priced meals will allow you to make the dining plan work to your advantage and make your vacation that much better.
Tip #8: Review menus online before making reservations.
Not all restaurants on the dining plan are created equal. Some are better values than others. For example, Beaches and Cream Soda Shop is a bad use of your table service credits because there is nothing on the menu over $20. This means that you will be losing money by using your credits here. Likewise, ‘Ohana is a great choice where dinner is $40+ per adult. And dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is an even better choice where prices range from $55-65 per adult. So, before making your advance dining reservations, review menus online at allears.net. These menus include prices, so you can make wise choices on how to spend your dining credits.
Tip #9: Make advance reservations for all table service meals.
To ensure that you get a table at your choice of restaurants, make advance reservations for all table service meals. Many times, if you try to just walk up without a reservation, there will be no availability. You don’t want to waste your dining credits by not being able to get into the restaurants of your choice. You can begin making reservations 180 days before your arrival through Disney’s dining website or the My Disney Experience app.
Tip #10: Be aware that some table service restaurants cost two credits.
When making dining reservations, please be aware that some table service restaurants will cost you two dining credits instead of one. These are usually called “Signature Restaurants.” Generally speaking, this is not a good use of your dining credits because you don’t get two meals’ worth of value or food from them. The restaurants that require two credits include: Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier, Monsieur Paul, Tiffins, Hollywood Brown Derby, Jiko, Flying Fish, California Grill, Citricos, Narrcoossee’s, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Morimoto Asia, Boathouse, and Jaleo. Two credits are also required for dinner at Be Our Guest, the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue and the Spirit of Aloha Luau.
Tip #11: Pick a cheap meal to pay out of pocket for, if necessary.
Unless you have the Deluxe Dining Plan, you will not have enough meal credits for all meals if you use 2 for a signature meal or dinner show. If you decide to eat a meal at a place that requires two table service credits, pick a cheap meal to pay out of pocket for to make up the difference. For instance, if you really want to do the Spirit of Aloha Luau one night, then the next night, pay out of pocket for a quick service dinner or cheaper table service meal to compensate for the fact that you used two of your credits on one meal.
Tip #12: On the Deluxe Dining Plan, use most of your credits on table service meals.
If you choose to get the Deluxe Dining Plan, you will need to make sure to use all these tips for using the Disney Dining Plan to make the cost of the plan worth the money. It is the most expensive plan offered. This plan gives you three meals per day, and you choose whether to use those meals as quick service or table service restaurants. Use most, if not all, of your credits on table service meals. You will not come close to getting the full value of the plan if you eat a lot of quick service meals on this plan.
Tip #13: Choose Table Service Meals with the Dining Plan Plus.
Starting in the spring of 2020, Disney has added a new plan called the Disney Dining Plan Plus. This plan gives you two meal credits per day which can be used for either table service or quick service meals. Like with the deluxe plan, to make this plan worth the money, you will want to use your credits on mostly table service meals.
Tip #14: Don’t use snack credits on bottled water.
All of the tips for using the Disney Dining Plan are intended to help you get your money’s worth out of the plan. So, with this in mind, don’t use your snack credits on bottled water. Why? Because you can get FREE ice water in a cup from any snack or quick service location at Disney World. This free cup of water will allow you to use your snack credits on other choices, thereby getting more out of your dining plan.
Tip #15: Don’t use snack credits on soda at your resort.
Another smart way to get more out of your dining plan is to not use your snack credits on soda at the resorts. Included with each dining plan is a refillable mug, which can be refilled at any resort for free an unlimited number of times during the length of your stay. Therefore, instead of using your snack credits at the resort on tea, soda, or coffee, fill up your mug with your choice of these. Then use those snack credits on food.
Tip #16: Use leftover snack & quick service credits on prepackaged treats.
In the event you get to the last day of your trip and still have snack or quick service credits, use them to take home some edible souvenirs. Instead of letting these credits go to waste, use them on prepackaged treats, such as cookies, rice krispie treats, or candy, that you can take home with you.
You can use one quick service credit for three snacks if bought in the same transaction. While this is not the wisest use of these credits, it is a smart way to use them instead of letting them expire without being used when you leave Disney World.
Tip #17: Don’t use snack credits on popcorn refills.
Recently, refillable souvenir popcorn buckets have become very popular at Disney World. You can’t use your snack credits on these plastic buckets themselves, as they cost between $10-$16. However, the refills of popcorn are eligible snacks on the plan. This is not a good use of your snack credits though. These refills are $2 each. There are many other snack choices that are more expensive and therefore better uses of your credits. You would be better off paying for your popcorn refills out of pocket and using your credits for more substantial snacks.
The Disney Dining Plan is a great component to add to your Disney World vacation. However, it is only valuable if you get your money’s worth from it. The above tips for using the Disney Dining Plan will help you do just that! If you have questions about the dining plans, read our dining plan frequently asked questions. For help planning your trip, see my step-by-step guide, quick tips, and best resources. Happy travels!