Now is the time of year that I begin to get more and more requests for Walt Disney World. With summer vacation right around the corner, and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party starting in September, now is a great time to plan a trip to see the most famous mouse in the world. The only problem is that there are soooooo many decisions that need to be made:
- Which hotel? Deluxe? Moderate? Value? To find out more about the different resort options at Disney World, check out my past article Choosing a hotel at the Walt Disney World Resort.
- How many days at the park? Is a Park Hopper necessary? What about the water parks?
- Is a dining plan really worth it? And what are the differences between all of these plans?
One of the most common questions that I am asked when working on a Disney trip: “Is the dining plan really worth it? Will it really save me any money?” The answer depends on a number of factors. Before we get too deep into this, though, let’s start by looking at the 3 most common dining plans:
- Quick Service Dining Plan: Each guest will receive the following dining credits per night
- 1 Snack
- 2 Quick Service Meals
- Disney Dining Plan: Each guest will receive the following dining credits per night
- 1 Snack
- 1 Quick Service Meal
- 1 Table Service Meal
- Deluxe Dining Plan: Each guest will receive the following dining credits per night
- 2 Snacks
- 3 Table Services Meals
To clarify the above, snacks are exactly what you think of: cookies, ice cream, popcorn, bagged apples, bottled water, sodas, etc.
Quick Service meals are like fast food (you stand in line, order, and wait for your food before taking it to a table to eat). The nice perk about this is that many restaurants offer healthy or non-typical fare (like the Lobster Roll at Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom). The only option at this time for reservations at a Quick Service restaurant is Be Our Guest.
Table Service meals are like going to restaurants (you sit down and are served your food). Many of these options include characters meals–where the characters come to your table for photo ops and to sign autographs. This is a great way to meet a number of characters without standing in line or burning up your Fast Passes.
So, do these options really save you any money? In all honesty, I have found that the Deluxe Dining Plan is usually the most cost-effective if you plan for a number of sit down meals, dinner shows, and specialty dining experiences. However, if you opt for the Deluxe Plan and eat at least 4 counter service meals, you will have overspent for dining. If you really only eat 2 full meals a day and can rely on snacks, then the Disney Dining Plan is definitely the way to go! The key is to find the best balance for you and your family–and to be honest about how much and how often you will want to eat! Another wonderful reason to get a dining plan is to know that yet another cost is taken care of up front. I definitely recommend at least getting the Disney Dining Plan–if it is your first time, the Deluxe is a must for the character meals!
To finish up, here are a few more Disney Dining Tips:
- Unless specifically noted, gratuities are not included
- If you choose a restaurant inside a theme park, you must have valid park admission–this is where the Park Hopper becomes essential
- Alcoholic beverages and specialty drinks are not included–unless you go to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue where alcohol is included with your meal
- For all character dining, I suggest reservations 180 days in advance
- If you choose the Disney Dining Plan, use your snack or pay out of pocket for breakfast as this is the least expensive meal of the day
- Be flexible with your dining times
- Use you table service meals as a time to unwind and relax in air-conditioning–don’t hurry through as these are meant to be an experience
- If you have the Disney Dining Plan, use your table service meal as the one that you normally have as the largest meal (for my family, that is definitely dinner!)
What are your experiences with Disney Dining? Do you have a favorite restaurant or “must do” dining?