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Planning a Disney World vacation is a big deal. You spend a lot of time, money, and effort to have an amazing trip, but does the Disney Dining Plan need to be a part of it? (read more)
I'm rather new to Disney vacations. My parents tell me they took my sister and I when we were little, but I don't remember it.
I do distinctly remember going with my mom when I was a teenager, probably 14 or so. She had a work trip in Orlando, so she pulled me out of school for a few days and brought me along.
She also bought me a 75 pound rubber snake from a kiosk near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. She had to pay extra to get it on the plan back home.
That's not something I'm likely to EVER forget. It was the epitome of a cool parent thing to do.
That was the extent of Disney for me until just a few years ago when my husband I decided to take our kids on a Disney Cruise. Since then I have consistently either met up with friends, taken my family, or gone with just my mom or husband at least twice a year.
Still, I'd never really used the Disney Dining Plan until I booked a trip for my mom and I in 2017.
I say "never really" because I did have the Dining Plan when I took the family in 2015 (I think it was 2015), but I didn't pay a ton of attention to it. I know we used it all, there's that.
Now though, I know a whole lot more.
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WE HAD A DAY WITH A DISNEY VIP TOUR GUIDE
WHAT IS THE DISNEY DINING PLAN?
The Disney Dining Plan is a way for you to pay for your snacks and meals in advance of your trip. You pay on the front end so you don't have to think about the cost of the meals while you're in the parks having the best day of your life.
If you want a snack, you just go up to the counter, verify that your snack is on the Dining Plan, and tell the cashier you'd like to use a snack credit, easy.
They deduct the credit from your total, no money is exchanged, and you head off on your merry way.
For budgeting purposes, it's a great way to know what you're spending up front, without having to worry about extra costs you weren't planning on when you booked the trip.
UNIVERSAL YUMS IS OUR FAVORITE SUBSCRIPTION SNACK BOX
LET'S DEFINE SOME TERMS
We're going to talk about Snacks, Quick Service, and Table Service.
A Snack is exactly what it sounds like, a snack. You will see a little icon next to snacks that are included on the Disney Dining Plan.
A snack could be anything from a bottle of water to some of the tasty treats found at the Epcot kiosks. There's a wide variety to choose from.
For budgeting purposes, the average value of a snack credit in 2019 is $5.
The icon looks like this:
The cup in my mom's hand was a snack credit in Pandora, and it was amazing!
Soda for number one son, snack.
Soda, and a churro with chocolate dipping sauce, two snacks.
Sugary drink with sugar crusted straw, snack.
Some amazing stuff at the Epcot kiosks during The Festival of the Holidays are also snack credits.
Quick Service is a term used to denote a place you eat where you can sit down, but waiters are not dedicated to your table. You'll find these places all over the parks, and at your resort.
Think of it like McDonald's. You order, you wait, they call your name, you pick up your food, and then you can eat it there, on a bench, as you walk, or at your hotel room.
Each Quick Service meal comes with an entree and a drink. If you're 21 or over, it can be an alcoholic drink as long as you're in a park that serves alcohol.
Examples of non alcoholic drinks would be:
Examples of alcoholic drinks would be:
The approximate value of a Quick Service credit is $18.
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Table Service is exactly what it sounds like. You eat at a traditional restaurant, you have a dedicated waiter, meals are typically more expensive, the location is nicely themed. It's just like having dinner at a nice restaurant at home, only better, cause it's Disney.
Table Service inclusions are broken up into Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
Lunch and Dinner Include:
The approximate value of a Table Service credit is $41.
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HOW MUCH IS
MEALS THAT TAKE
TWO TABLE SERVICE CREDITS
This is rarely worth it, in my opinion. A good option would be to use your table service credit for something else and simply pay for the two credit restaurant out of pocket instead.
If you insist on using your credits for a two credit restaurant, make sure whatever you order costs more than $82 per person.
Restaurants that require two credits are:
- Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom, 2 credits at dinner only)
- Le Cellier (Epcot)
- The Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)
- Tiffins Restaurant (Animal Kingdom)
- The BOATHOUSE (Disney Springs)
- California Grill (Disney's Contemporary Resort)
- Cinderella's Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
- Citricos (Disney's Grand Floridian Resort)
- Flying Fish (Disney's Boardwalk)
- Jiko - The Cooking Place (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Monsieur Paul (Epcot)
- Morimoto Asia (Disney Springs, 2 credits at dinner only)
- Narcoossee's (Disney's Grand Floridian)
- Paddlefish (Disney Springs)
- STK Orlando (Disney Springs)
- Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club)
- Hoop-De-Doo Review
- Spirit Of Aloha
Gratuity is never included unless otherwise noted, so you will need to leave a tip for your Table Service meal.
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IS THE DISNEY DINING PLAN
WORTH THE COST?
I sat down and planned out every place we'd eat, cross referencing it with which park we'd be in, our Fast Passes, etc.
It was a whole deal, there was a spreadsheet.
When I realized how many Table Service restaurants we were planning on eating at, I thought I should go ahead and get the Deluxe Dining Package. Yes, it was a lot of money, but in my head we'd be spending that one way or another, right?
Yes, we did eat at a lot of those restaurants, but that's not to say we were hungry enough to eat the things that REALLY made the Deluxe Dining Plan worth the money.
If you aren't eating steak or seafood, you're wasting money. If you're not hungry enough to have the appetizer, entree, and dessert, you're wasting money.
We wasted so much money that trip. I swore I'd never do the Deluxe Dining Plan again.
They were nice enough to let me cash in the unused portions of my plan on our last day because there were so many times where we just ended up going, "Forget it, I can't eat that much, we're cancelling the reservation."
I was allowed to get snacks in exchange for some of my credits. We went to our resort shop, grabbed a grocery basket and picked out, I'm not kidding, TWENTY FOUR snacks to bring home to the kids.
Most expensive Disney snacks I've ever bought, in.my.life.
So, unless you're a BIG eater and you plan on eating the expensive food, the Deluxe Dining Plan is not for you.
Actually, after the first day of eating such rich food, I found that I had a stomach ache since I just wasn't used to binging on beef, lobster, and the like.
Take into account not only how much you normally eat, but what you eat, because trying to change it so you can make the most of the Deluxe Dining Plan might be more of a challenge than you think.
Not only that, but if you're trying to use three Table Service credits per day, you're going to be spending a lot of time sitting down at a table. That's time you can't spend riding rides, exploring the park, eating snacks you just happen to stumble upon, etc.
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NO DISNEY DINING PLAN
That's not to say I wouldn't use a plan, I would just pick something more suitable to my every day life, like the regular Dining Plan or the Quick Service plan.
It is nice to know that you've paid for your meals in advance, or at least that you've paid for part of your meals in advance.
There's something to be said for spontaneity in the parks, though. If you see a kiosk with a yummy snack, you can get it. If you decide you want to go to Chef's and JUST have the lobster bisque, you can.
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SHOULD I GET
THE DISNEY DINING PLAN?
REASONS TO GO FOR IT
PREPAID = NO STRESS
This is a big deal for a lot of people. There's a reason we love all inclusive resorts.
The dining plan makes it so you know your total on the front end.
KNOWING YOUR SCHEDULE IN ADVANCE
Alternately, you can order food from so many Quick Service restaurants via the app that it's simple to place an order, pick it up, and know that it's just being deducted from your already paid for credits.
Remember, a Table Service credit is worth about $41 in 2019, so just compare that to the out of pocket cost of any character dining you want to do.
REASONS TO SKIP
THE DISNEY DINING PLAN
YOU DON'T WANT TO COMMIT
YOU'RE NOT SURE YOU'LL USE THE CREDITS
Also, there are "best" ways to spend your credits so that you actually save money. If you're not into figuring that out, cash is way less stressful.
If you go to Disney on a fairly regular basis, there just may not be restaurants you absolutely want to eat at while you're there. You'd rather go with the flow, move where the crowds take you, and, if the mood strikes, head back to the hotel and take a nap.
Not having a meal plan (or at least not having a meal plan that involves Table Service) means you can be as spontaneous as you like.
I remember the year we brought the kids; we had reservations at Be Our Guest, but the kids were so tired by dinner that we just wanted to go back to the hotel.
In that moment, I was very glad we didn't have the big dining plan, cause it was our last day and we would have had to trade them in for snacks.
Like I had to do in 2017.
TWENTY FOUR SNACKS!
And, it's not a given that they'll let you trade in for snacks, as far as I know. It's one of those things they do, but are not required to do.
But you know Disney, they're going to make you happy. :)
Just remember that the average value of a Snack credit is $5, a Quick Service credit is $18, and a Table Service credit is $41.
As long as you are choosing restaurants, snacks, and foods that are more expensive than those numbers, you'll come out ahead.
RENTING DVC POINTS VS TRADITIONAL BOOKING
DISNEY DINING PLAN ALTERNATIVES
DISNEY GIFT CARDS
How about grabbing a $25 gift card each time you go to the grocery store up until your trip comes?
Stash the cards someplace safe, then bring them along when you head to Disney World.
It's a great way to save, and satisfying to see that little green line move in the right direction.
ROUND DOWN - ROUND UP
You could go further than that. Round up a whole dollar or down a whole dollar when you deposit or spend. Track it someplace other than your register so you don't feel like you "have" that money to spend.
It's a low tech Qapital. :)
HAVE YOU DECIDED?
If you've already got your vacation planned, be sure to check out my reviews of having a personal VIP Disney Tour Guide, doing The Ultimate Day Of Thrills VIP Tour, doing the Ultimate Nights Of Adventure VIP Tour, and weighing the pros and cons of Booking Through A Travel Agent VS Renting Points From DVC.
And, don't forget to check out Walt Life. I love their SURPRISE box. What a fun way to let the family know, "We're going to Disney!"
If you need some help packing for Disney, feel free to check out the list I put together on Amazon.
Ty On Amazon
Thank you for your support!
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