One of the biggest decisions to make when planning a Disney vacation is whether you’ll get a Disney Dining Plan, or if you’ll budget food costs yourself.
Much like when deciding to stay on property or off, the Disney Dining Plan often boils down to deciding if you’d rather not have to think about food while you’re there… or do you want to be super budget conscious?
One of my favorite reasons to go to Disney is for the FOOD. There are so many options for food and there is truly something for everyone. Did you know that Disney has 5 James Beard Award Winning chef-owned restaurants on property?
There is no wrong answer, but there are some things to consider.
1. Do you have a family of bonafide FOODIES? I don’t know about you, but we LOVE our food. With the exception of my youngest, we all are adventurous eaters and enjoy eating out. If this sounds similar to your family, a dining plan may work well for you. The most fun part of planning a Disney vacation is getting our “ADRs” or advanced dining reservations. You will be able to reserve your character meals, table service reservations right from the convenience of the My Disney app.
2. It has to be all or none. You can’t choose to have part of your family on the dining plan and the others off. Anyone over the age of three will have to be on the plan.
#D4MProTip: If you have a child with special needs that cannot eat in the typical fashion, such as a feeding tube, contact Disney or your travel agent to see your options. While we haven’t located a written policy, we have heard from several families of children with G-Tubes that they were able to be reimbursed for unused credits, as they were checking out. Of course, that could change at any time. The important thing to do is communicate your unique scenario and get your options upfront to alleviate any surprises.
3. How many character meals do you plan on having? Character meals are definitely the most expensive dining experiences. So, if you plan to do several, getting the Disney Dining Plan or Deluxe Dining plan will be a good fit.
If you don’t each much, then often the dining plan doesn’t make sense. If you are staying off property, then the Dining plan isn’t an option. Of course, there are some people who stay on-property, but really enjoy the thrill of eating well AND coming in under what the Disney Dining plan would have cost. Some simply can’t afford it (let’s be real, we’re military families!). If you’re looking for ways to cut costs to get your family to Disney, food is an area where you can save.
Going back to my love of convenience, the best part of the Dining Plan for me is that once reservations are made, I get to just enjoy the experience. Often times Moms spend a bulk of the trip doing the same things they do on a daily basis in a new location (laundry, cooking, etc.). I love that for our Disney vacations, thinking and preparing food is something that’s taken off my to-do list. I can show up and enjoy the moment, too.
Disney has 3 Food Categories:
- Quick Service (QS) – consider this like a fast food restaurant. You’ll order your food, pick it up at the counter and sit to eat. There are no servers checking in on you, just like if you were eating at Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s.
- Table Service (TS) – This is your traditional restaurant, being seated by the hostess, with a server, etc. Restaurants either cost 1 or 2 Table Service Dining credits depending on how fancy the restaurant is, with 2 Table credits being higher end. This is called Signature Dining. Character Meals will always be Table Service, with some considered Signature Dining, like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Dinner.
- Snack– There are so many options for a snack credit. Everything from Mickey Bars, to Rice Krispie Treats, to some bites at the Food and Wine Festival (and I’m using the word bites loosely here, they’re good portions!), to Fried Rice at Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom.
Disney Dining Plan Options
Disney’s Dining Plans offers include a Quick Service Plan, the Disney Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan.
Quick Service Dining Plan
Knowing that Quick Service is very close to a “fast food” option, the Quick Service plan is a great on the go plan. The plan comes with 2 Quick Service meals and 2 snacks per day.
Regular Disney Dining Plan vs. The Deluxe Disney Plan
The regular Disney Dining Plan gets you 1 QS, 1 TS, and 2 snacks per day per person in your party. One adult beverage or non-alcoholic specialty drink per meal is also included.
The Deluxe Disney Plan comes 3 meals per day, along with 2 snacks. If using a Table Service credit for breakfast (like Character Meals, for example) your meal will include an entree/buffet/family style meal and a drink. However, if using your Table Service credits for lunch or dinner, it will include an appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink (per person!)
So, back to those decisions! If you love a great dining experience and normally enjoy appetizers and desserts at dinner, you might consider the Deluxe plan.
While our family loves to indulge, we tend to split appetizers and desserts, so the regular Disney Dining Plan is perfect for us.
Something else to think about is if you’re going straight to your room after dinner. If not, and you often have leftovers— do you want to cart around leftovers through the (hot) park? And most of the resort options do not have microwaves in rooms, including Shades of Green.
#D4MProTip: There is one known microwave on Shades of Green property on the Laundry Rooms, 3rd floor of Palm 2nd floor of Magnolia. If staying in a Disney Resort, the Food Court/Quick Service has microwaves you can use. So there *are* options, just not as super convenient as having a microwave in your room.
Additionally, if you’re staying in a Villa or Cabin, there are microwaves.
What happens if you don’t use all your credits?
The different levels of credits actually convert! So stock up on your favorite snacks and take them home as a souvenir!
There’s nothing like missing your Disney vacation and being able to grab a Mickey Rice Krispy Treat from the pantry!
Now that you have a good overview of the Disney Dining Plan, what option works best for your family?
You can also download our free eBook, “Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World for Military Families” and get our helpful tips and tricks to mapping out your Disney vacation package here.