One of the many purposes of the Disney Dining Plan is to give resort guests an all-inclusive resort experience. It can also be a relief to not have to worry about how much every meal costs and if you’re overspending on your food budget. With research and some careful planning, you’ll find that the dining plan offers flexibility and control of when, where and how you spend your dining credits. And while the dining plan isn’t a discount program, if you know how to use it properly it can offer significant savings for your family.
Remember, the Disney Dining Plan is only available to registered guests of a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. You must purchase the dining plan at least 48 hours priors to check in, for all members of your party and for the complete length of your stay.
Our 7 Must Know Disney Dining Plan Tips will show you how flexible the dining plan is and will give you some great tips on how to get the most out of every dining credit.
Research and plan ahead
There are so many dining options and types of cuisine at Walt Disney World, that if you don’t take the time and plan ahead, you may miss out on some amazing meals. Check out a list of dining options, read the menus, read reviews, look for videos. Then make a list of restaurants you definitely want to try. That way when your 180 day window comes up you’ll be ready to grab those hard to get dining reservations.
Make Advanced Dining Reservations. Advanced dining reservations are required for table service restaurants, character meals, signature dining restaurants, buffets and dinner shows. Disney allows guests to make dining reservations 180 days prior to check in. Don’t wait until the last minute or you may not end up getting your top priority reservations.
Some of the hardest dining reservations to get at Disney World are:
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
- Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort)
- Victoria and Alberts (Grand Floridian)
- Akershus (Epcot)
- Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
Some tips to get the reservations you want:
- Check the My Disney Experience App every day. Reservations get cancelled regularly and you may just be lucky enough to get one at the last minute.
- Have flexibility with your dining time choices. Peak dining times will be harder to get at the most popular restaurants. Look for late lunch or early dinner reservations.
Take advantage of the dining plan’s flexibility
Before you arrive at Walt Disney World, take the time to really understand how the dining plans work. Be prepared so you don’t end up wasting credits or worse, running out before your trip is over. The most important thing to understand is how flexible the dining plans are.
The plan combines your party’s meal credits into one pool. This means that everyone in your party has access to the entire pool of meal and snack credits. This allows you the flexibility to decide how best to spend your dining credits.
- Example: If you are a family of 4 on the Deluxe Dining Plan for a 4 night stay you will receive 48 table service meal credits and 32 snack credits the moment you check in to your resort. From that point, you may use those credits however you choose. One person may use more than the others and one person may use less. It is up to you how you divide those credits.
You can break up your credit uses. Just because one person in your group eats at a certain restaurant doesn’t mean that you all have to eat there. You can buy a meal from one place and move on to the next place. This is perfect for picky eaters or when everyone is in the mood for something different. This is helpful at a place like the World Showcase at Epcot.
Spend your meal credits whenever you want. It is not a requirement that you have 3 meals and 2 snacks every day. One day you may spend 5 snack credits and one meal credit. Another day you may spend 4 meal credits and no snack credits. Any unused credits from day to day will remain in your credit “pool” for use on another day.
You can use a table service credit at a quick service location, as long as you’re out of quick-service credits and still have a table service credit left. You cannot, however, go the other way. Quick service credits are not worth anything at table service locations.
You can exchange one quick service meal for three snacks. You cannot exchange three snack credits for a quick service meal however. This is helpful if you still have quick service credits left over at the end of your trip and you want to purchase snacks for the trip home.
At most quick service locations you can trade your beverage for a snack or a bottle of water.
You can trade in your dessert for a soup, side salad or other side item (such as a fruit plate or side of fries) at most table service locations.
Know how and where to get your money’s worth
How to Get Your Money’s Worth
Know the value of each credit. Your main goal with the dining plan should be to maximize each dining credit. To do that, first you need to know how much each credit is worth.
- Each quick service credit is worth about $18
- Each table service credit is worth about $41
- Each snack credit is worth about $5
Quick service meals are 1 credit whether the meal costs $10 or $20. You might as well order the more expensive meal and get your money’s worth. This is the same for table service meals and snacks. Some snacks can be as much as $10 but still only cost 1 snack credit. So go ahead and order the most expensive thing on the menu. This is how you maximize your meal credits!
Plan to eat a lot. Especially on the Disney and Deluxe Dining Plans. For example, on the Deluxe Dining Plan imagine if you have to spend $41 per meal (or 1 table service credit) on 3 meals per day in addition to two snacks per day. That is a lot of food. It’s also a lot of time spent sitting in a restaurant eating rather than enjoying the parks. Now, if you enjoy fine dining and plan to have several character meals, buffets and signature dining meals then this may definitely work for you. However, for light or picky eaters or vegetarians, the Deluxe Dining Plan would be too much food and the money spent on it would go to waste.
Where to Get Your Money’s Worth
There are many amazing dining locations at Walt Disney World where you’ll get your money’s worth.
Great quick service locations to maximize your dining credits include:
Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom has a Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork Platter that is $18.99 but still only costs one quick service dining credit. It is also huge and can definitely feed more than one person. A great value and a great way to make your credits go farther.
Wolfgang Puck Express in Disney Springs serves Oven-Roasted Salmon for $20 and Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf for $18.
Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom has breakfast entrees that cost $25 but still only costs 1 quick service credit. Note: Even though Be Our Guest is quick service for breakfast and lunch, you will still need to make Advanced Dining Reservations.
The Polite Pig at Disney Springs has Baby Back Ribs for $23 and the BBQ Cobb Salad with Brisket is a whopping $21!
Some restaurants have topping bars that are a great way to add more value to a meal credit. For example, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe both have topping bars. Add as many toppings as you can eat for no additional charge.
Many of the Disney’s resort food courts have a great selection of high-end quick service food selections. Try the following food courts:
- Art of Animation Resort has a wide variety of unique offerings and some delicious healthy choices as well. The usual burgers, fries and Mickey waffles are also available.
- Pop Century Resort has a great selection of food options.
- Coronado Springs Resort has many more selections than the average quick service location.
Table Service locations that are great choices for maximizing your credits:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot)
- Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)
- Ohana (Polynesian Resort)
- Cape May Cafe (Beach Club Resort)
A great way to use your table service credits is for buffets and character meals (including breakfasts). These are generally the most expensive table service meals and they only cost one table service credit.
The best value you can get out of a table service credit is a dinner buffet. Buffet dinner prices are very expensive and if it includes the characters it is even more expensive. Eating at buffets is a good way to get the full value from the dining plan.
Use a table service credit for for preferred seating at the Fantasmic Dining Package at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios.
Know when not to use a dining credit
Don’t use a meal credit if you or someone else in your family isn’t very hungry for one meal and decides to buy a salad instead of a full meal. Pay for it out of pocket and save that meal credit for later.
Don’t use a meal credit for breakfast. It’s very difficult to get your money’s worth out of your credits for breakfast. You can either pay out of pocket for breakfast at your resort or buy a few groceries and have a light breakfast in your room every day. Many breakfast items can also be purchased using a snack credit. The only time it is worth it to use a meal credit for breakfast is if it is a character meal or all-you-can-eat buffet.
Don’t use 2 meal credits for Signature Dining restaurants. These meals cost 2 table service credits ($82) and you will not get your money’s worth. The only exception to this rule is Cinderella’s Royal Table. This is a very nice (and expensive) restaurant and the meal and experience is definitely worth the cost. You’ll actually save money here by using your 2 table service credits.
Do not use a deluxe or table-service credit for a quick-service meal. A table service credit is worth more than twice the amount of a quick service credit. You’ll be paying $41 dollars for an $18 meal. Pay cash instead and save that table service credit for later.
Be smart about snacks
Get the most out of your snack credits by knowing which snacks cost more than $5.
Some examples of snacks over $5 include:
- Prairie Outpost And Supply (Frontierland)
- Chocolatears Family Size Bagged Candy
- Sleepy Hollow (Liberty Square)
- Funnel Cake Topped With Strawberries And Whipped Cream
- Waffle With Strawberries And Whipped Cream
- Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies (Tomorrowland)
- Smoothie – Includes A Souvenir Mickey Straw Strawberry Or Raspberry
- L’Artisan Des Glaces Ice Cream (France Pavilion)
- Double Scoop Ice Cream Or Sorbet Choice Of Waffle Cone Or Cup
- American Adventure (World Showcase)
- Funnel Cake With Sugar
- Block & Han Mickey-Shaped Pretzel With Cheese Sauce
- Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (Norway Pavilion)
- Anna’s Birthday Cupcake
- Chakranadi (Asia)
- Asian Noodle Salad
- Pizzafari (Discovery Island)
- Garlic Knots with Cheese and Marinara Sauce
- Terra Treats (Discovery Island)
- Flavored Rice Chips
- Hollywood Scoops (Sunset Boulevard)
- Apple Crisp A La Mode Cinnamon Apple
- Brownie Sundae
- Anaheim Produce (Sunset Boulevard)
- Lundberg Rice Chips Wasabi Or Sea Salt
- Catalina Eddie’s (Sunset Boulevard)
- Souvenir Mug With Soft Drink
Don’t purchase bottled water with your snack credits. A bottled water only costs $2.50. You can get a free cup of ice water at all quick service locations. Use a snack credit for a delicious Dole Whip if you want something cool and refreshing.
Use a snack credit for Starbucks. There are Starbucks locations in all 4 parks and Disney Springs. All coffee sizes are just one snack credit!
Use your snack credits during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival or Flower and Garden Festival. Individual food portions can be quite expensive but many will accept a snack credit for something that would normally cost double that amount. This is one of the best ways to get more bang for your buck.
Turn unused snack credits into souvenirs. If you have unused snack credits at the end of your stay turn them into souvenirs or treats you or your kids can enjoy on the way home. Pick up a package of Minnie’s Bake Shop Cookies or some prepackaged Rice Crispy treats or a bag of candy.
Stop by Goofy’s Candy Company at Disney Springs. This is one of the best places to find pre-packaged candies and treats to spend snack credits on.
Turn unused quick service credits into snack credits. Each quick service meal credit will exchange for 3 snack credits. All three items must be purchased together in one transaction and be identified as “snacks”.
Share the wealth
Many meals and most Disney snacks are very generously sized. Make your meal and snack credits go farther by sharing with another member of your party.
Two family members can get one meal to share, and save a dining credit for another time. Cosmic Rays at the Magic Kingdom and Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom are just two examples of places that have large meal sizes that could be shared. Four people on the regular Disney Dining Plan, might stretch out quick service meal credits by ordering two quick service meals to share and use snack credits or pay out of pocket for extra side orders or drinks. Also, look for those generously sized snacks that are just perfect for two people.
You can share meals at Quick Service and most Table Service restaurants. However, there are some types of restaurants that do not allow sharing:
- Buffet style
- Family style
- prix fixe menu
- Character dining
- Special dining reservation packages
- Dinner shows
Don’t forget the drinks
One of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck from the dining plan is to order alcohol everyday for lunch and dinner. Alcohol is included as a drink option in all the dining plans, so if you’d like to indulge, go right ahead.
If you aren’t an alcohol drinker, here are some other specialty drinks you can get with the dining plan:
- Try the PB&J milkshake at the 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios
- D-Luxe Burger in Disney Springs has delicious Artisanal Milkshakes.
- Strawberry and Mango smoothies are included on the DDP at San Angel Inn at Epcot
- Pepper Market at Coronado Springs offers a smoothie of the day.
- Hot Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Fountain Drinks are also covered on the DDP.
If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan you can order either a regular or large fountain drink at Quick Service restaurants. Just make sure to specify that you want a large otherwise it will default to regular.
Finally, don’t forget to grab your complimentary refillable mug at your resort. These can be refilled for free at all Disney resorts. Unfortunately they are not refillable in any of the theme parks.