The Disney Dining Plan is very popular, but the specifics can be a little confusing, so let me break it down for you…
There are three main dining plans, the Quick Service, Disney Dining (formerly called Disney Dining Plus) and Deluxe Dining.
First, let me give you a few terms so you won’t be confused.
A “table service meal” is any meal where you sit, order off of a menu or hit a buffet… it’s important to remember that ALL character dining experiences are buffets. A table service meal consists of one entree, one dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage, or one alcoholic beverage (see note below). Any extra sides, appetizers and gratuity are not included) Some examples of table services are Be Our Guest Restaurant (dinner only) in Magic Kingdom, The Coral Reef in Epcot and The Tusker House in Animal Kingdom, which is a character meal buffet. Reservations are recommended at all table service restaurants.
A “counter service meal” is like a fast food meal, as you’ll walk up, order your food and either wait for it at the counter or have it brought to you. A counter service meal consists of 1 entree and 1 beverage. Examples of counter service meals include Pecos Bill in Magic Kingdom, The Dockside Diner at Hollywood Studios or Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs. Reservations are not accepted at counter service meals, with the exception of Be Our Guest, which is a counter for breakfast and lunch.
A “snack” is just what it sounds like. A snack can be anything from cotton candy to cookies to popcorn to candied apples to bottled drinks, and can be gotten at nearly all snack & drink carts and kiosks in the parks, and at most counter service restaurants.
Next, remember that you have to be staying in a Disney resort (because why would you stay anywhere else?) to get any dining plan.
Finally, the amount of dining you have is based on the number of nights of your stay, the amount of days on your tickets doesn’t affect it. So, if you have a 5 night stay, you have 5 nights worth of dining, no matter if your tickets are 2 days or 10 days.
Essentially, you are given “dining credits” for the room for each person to use. Though it averages out to a “per person per night” count, you can actually use them when and how you see fit. Some dining experiences, like Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle or Le Cellier in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion, are two table service credits per person, though the vast majority of restaurants are only one credit each. So you can use two or more credits in a single day, and then perhaps have some days of your trips that do not use table service credits at all.
Second, let’s talk about the dining plans themselves.
The first level is the “Quick Service Dining”, which gives each person 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks per person per night of your stay.
The second, and by far most popular, is “Disney Dining”, which gives each person 1 table service, 1 counter service and 2 snacks per person per night of your stay.
The final plan is the “Deluxe Dining”, which gives each person 3 table service credits and 2 snacks per person per night of your stay.
And everyone also gets a Disney refillable resort mug, available in your resort food court! These cups, which run over $17 each, are part of the dining package, and can be used for repeated fill-ups of any soft drink, tea and other beverages all during your stay (Note: they can be used at some other resorts, but cannot be used for refills in the theme parks)
And you have the option to forego your beverage for one alcoholic drink (beer, wine, mixed drink) or in some cases, a milkshake (where available)
WHAT RESTAURANTS ARE INCLUDED IN THE DINING PLAN??
All of them. Well, okay, not all of them, but nearly all of them — in all four parks, at the water parks, at Disney Springs, in all the Disney resorts… in fact, any restaurant that you’d likely want to go to would be included.
WHY SHOULD I GET THE DINING PLAN?
This is my own opinion based on experience, my own and many families, the dining plan is more ease than anything. You will go into your vacation with your food paid for, so you won’t have to budget for food. (You can expect to pay for a few things here or there… I usually just pay $2 for a bag of chips instead of using a snack credit). If you plan on doing several character meals, you can definitely save or at the worst, break even, as all character meals are set prices. When rolled into a promotion or discount, it may come up even cheaper (as in, the usual “Stay Play & Dine” promotion). And it’s a lot of food!
WHY SHOULD I SKIP THE DINING PLAN?
In a word, cost. It’s pricey, especially if you end up paying full price for your trip entirely. If you don’t want any buffets (set prices) and intend to eat at “off the menu” restaurants, you control your costs, and the total cost of your dining plan may be more than you would pay. And it’s a lot of food!
HOW DOES FREE DINING WORK?? (note: the booking window for 2018 Free Dining has closed, the following is just for info purposes)
Simply put, Disney has released a “free dining promo” the last several fall seasons annually, and 2018 was the latest. For value and moderates, guests can get the Quick Service plan complementary, and for Deluxe stays, guests can get the regular Disney Dining plan complementary. For an upcharge, guests staying in value or moderate resorts can upgrade to the regular Disney Dining Plan.
Only a certain number of rooms per resort are eligible for the promotion, and once those rooms are sold out, that resort is unavailable for free dining. Also, certain resorts are completely unavailable under Free Dining promotion, and only select dates apply. There are qualifications that have to be met — historically, a minimum 3 night stay; park hopper tickets required; see Disney promotion for details when/if released..
Contact me for details and to get your trip booked!