Without a doubt, questions about the Disney Dining Plans seem to come up more frequently than any other question about meal planning at Disney World. It seems that Disney, in their efforts to provide flexibility and choices to their guests….has also provided a good deal of confusion. So I am going to take the next few weeks to discuss different aspects of the Disney Dining Plans, in the hopes of making things a bit clearer. 🙂
What Exactly IS the Disney Dining Plan?
Actually, the Disney Dining Plan is several different plans that allow you to pre-pay for most if not all of your food. In doing this, you (and everyone in your room) receive “credits” for a various number of table service meals, quick service meals, and/or snacks, depending on the Plan that you choose. Done with the eating habits of your family in mind, choosing to use a Dining Plan *can* save you a good amount of money on your meals.
How Do I Purchase a Disney Dining Plan?
You basically have two options for buying a Dining Plan:
- You add it on to a Disney Vacation Package (or buy a package that has a Dining Plan already included in the cost) that includes accommodations and park tickets for at least one day for each person in the party.
- If you are a Disney Vacation Club member or Annual Passholder, you may purchase a Dining Plan without purchasing tickets, by adding it to your room reservation or contacting DVC Member Services.
So in other words, you have to stay at a Disney owned/operated hotel. (And this is one very important reason why, when trying to make your Disney vacation as affordable as possible, you don’t immediately assume that staying off property will be cheaper. When you factor in the potential savings that you may get with one of the Dining Plans, it often *is* cheaper to stay with Disney.)
How Do the Dining Plans Work?
As already mentioned, depending on which Plan you choose, you and each person in your party will receive varying numbers of credits towards table service and counter service meals, and snacks. What exactly you get for each credit can vary somewhat, but roughly, with table service meals you get an entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink. With counter service, it’s an entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink. Snack credits can be used on hundreds of different types of items throughout property, and are identified on menus by the DDP snack symbol.
You can also usually use table service Dining Plan credits at buffets, signature dining (2 credits/person in most cases), as well as dining shows, and dinner packages.
So, once you get to Disney World and are ready to start eating, the process is very simple and works very smoothly. Your party’s total credits for each type are noted in your account: when you get ready to pay for your meal, the number of credits used are deducted from your account by swiping your Key to the World Card, and you get a receipt noting how many of each type of credit you have remaining.
So other than gratuity for table service meals (and any additional items you may order that are not included in your plan), you pay nothing, as it’s all pre-paid.
What Are the Different Disney Dining Plans?
There are a number of Dining Plans available for a wide range of costs as well, so no matter your budget and/or your eating preferences, you are likely to find a plan that works well for your family. Briefly, the most popular choices are:
- The Quick Service Plan is least expensive and provides for 2 quick service meals, and 2 snacks per person/per night, as well as 1 resort-refillable drink mug per person/per visit.
- The Basic Dining Plan provides 1 table service meal, 1 counter service meal and 1 snack per person/per night.
- The Deluxe Dining Plan offers 3 meals per person/per night at either counter service or table service restaurants, 2 snacks per person/per night, and 1 refillable drink mug per person.
- There are also Premium, Platinum, and Wine and Dine Plans.
I will go into detail on each of these plans including costs in the next few weeks.
Is There Anything Else to Know About the Disney Dining Plans?
One of the major complaints about the Dining Plans is that it is a LOT of food. For this reason, it’s really important to think about the eating habits of your family, to determine if any of the plans are a good fit for you. Buying a Dining Plan and then throwing out half the food because you can’t eat it all is not a good value.
Likewise, you will want to consider how you eat and if your habits actually match the credits that Disney dining has allotted to each person each day: while many people love the convenience of having it already paid for, if you find that you are constantly buying additional food beyond what is on your plan, then again, it’s not really going to be a savings for you.
Finally, keep in mind that when you purchase a Dining Plan, everyone in the room must have the same package/ticket options. You cannot purchase a Dining Plan for children under the age of 3, but kids under 3 can eat from an adult meal, or you can pay out of pocket for them if you wish. Likewise, children ages 3-9 will be on the kids Dining Plan and must order from the children’s menu where available.
So there you have your first Disney Dining Plan lesson. 🙂 Next week, we’ll start discussing the individual types of plans available, to help you decide which, if any, is right for you!