Hailed by some Walt Disney World regulars as the most convenient add-on to a Disney vacation, using a dining plan requires some savvy. If you can purchase a dining package beforehand, you can (theoretically) never have to take out your wallet to purchase food or beverages. All you have to do is scan that oh-so-luxurious MagicBand. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy a number of snacks, beverages, quick-service meals, and table-service meals on a daily basis. That being said, while the plan is convenient during checkout, it can be pricey. With some planning though, you can actually save money in the end! Take our advice and maximize the most value out of every dollar invested.
1. Understand the Tiers
There are various types of Disney Dining Plans. Each plan offers a set number of meals which are redeemed by either meal or snack dining credits. First of all, the Quick-Service Plan provides guests with two quick-service meals and two snacks per day. Then, the Disney Dining Plan allows guests to enjoy one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and two snacks each day. And lastly, the Deluxe Dining Plan includes (also on a daily basis) three quick-service or table-service meals and two snacks. (This high tier also includes appetizersand dessert at table-service dinners, whereas the tier below only includes dessert.) Many guests prefer the second option as it provides table-service options without deluxe tier pricing and amounts of food. Naturally, needs and preferences will vary among groups.
2. Decide Whether or Not to Purchase
Speaking of which, once you understand what all of the different packages cost and include, take the time to decide if you’ll need it. If you don’t like working around a dining schedule, this may not be the option for you. Also, you may not eat enough to justify the cost. (Keep in mind, the plans are designed with the assumption that you and your family will use up every dining credit.) It may seem like a pain, but estimate what you’d pay out of pocket based on your family’s eating habits. If you’re dealing with a picky spouse or small children, the lowest tier may still be too much food. On the other hand, if you like to indulge when traveling, a dining package will simplify your days and satisfy your appetite. Take the time to select the right plan for you!
3. Plan a Dining Itinerary
After you book a dining package, map out where you’re going to feast. While almost every restaurant participates in the dining plan, there are exceptions. Also, you’ll need to understand how many dining credits you’re allotted per day. Map out how you’ll spread them out over your visit. If possible, avoid running out of credits. In fact, be open to sharing a meal or two before you start paying for any meals out of pocket. And honestly, many places offer very shareable portions. Take advantage of this!
4. Avoid Booking Table-Service Breakfasts (Mostly)
When deciding where to use table-service credits, avoid booking breakfasts. These are the cheapest times to eat, so in theory, you will be paying much more in credit value than you would pay out of pocket. This tip doesn’t apply to character breakfast meals since those are more expensive. As a general rule of thumb, if a character meal only costs one table-service credit, you are definitely getting significant bang for your buck!
5. Stick by One Credit Table Service Meals
Regarding the point system for table-service meals, let us explain. Most table service restaurants cost one table service credit, but restaurants in the ‘Signature’ tier will cost you two. (The Signature restaurants consist of more upscale establishments.) At one-table service credit restaurants, it’s much more feasible to enjoy a delicious meal and maximize your credit value.