Planning Your Trip – Where to Start – Dining Plans

One of my most favourite things about Orlando is the food, I literally dream about it!! Seriously! A lot of the planning for our upcoming trip is choosing what places we want to eat in – the places we loved the most last time (Longhorns) and the places we couldn’t get a reservation in (Be Our Guest).

All the parks have some sort of Dining plan you can purchase, whether it be the Disney dining plan or one of the all day dining packages at some of the other parks.  Whether they are worthwhile for you is all about personal preference and of course how much you eat!!! Today I’ll cover Disney (as there’s loads to cover) and I’ll do the other parks in another post.

There are also some really fun dining experiences in all the parks as well but I’ll cover those and character dining in another blog 🙂 As well as the dining events such as Epcot food and wine and Magical Dining Month.

This trip we booked when the Disney Dining plan was being offered free – which is worth doing I think if you can. I haven’t had the plan before at WDW but I did have it on a recent trip to Disney Paris and from what I can gather the idea of it and the way that it works is pretty similar. Having on that trip was brilliant and it did allow us to eat in some of the fancier resturants without it costing us the earth.  Of course we could have just had quick service meals for a little less but when you like good food it’s well worth having.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking into how the plan works and some of the dining packages available  to those staying off site and in the other parks so hopefully this should give you a little more information on the Disney one and see if it’s worth it for you.

Obviously the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is something that is much talked about on blogs and the internet and there are some really good sites that explain it all in intricate detail. I’m going to attempt to do it a little more concisely then if you want a bit more info you can head over to Disney Food Blog and fill your heads with loads more info!!

DDP is only available to those staying on site at Disney and are only available when booking your hotel and tickets as a Disney package. There are 3 different ‘plans’ available and give you the following for each NIGHT that you stay in and on site resort.

Quick Service Dining Plan – 2 Quick Service (counter) meals, 2 snacks and a refillable resort mug (roughly £38 per adult per night and £16 per child (3-9))

Dining Plan – 1 Table Service, 1 Quick Service, 2 Snacks and refillable resort mug (roughly £54 per adult and £20 per child)

Deluxe Dining Plan – 3 Table Service or Quick Service meals, 2 snacks and refillable resort mug. (roughly £84 per adult and £30 per child)

To put it into perspective the average quick service meal (entree and drink) costs around $17, average table service $30, Buffet $30 and Character Dining $50.

My Disney Experience (MDE) has all the menus and prices listed, just choose your restaurant and click on view menu. That should give you a really good indication of whether or not you would actually eat enough food to warrant paying for the plan and help you decide on the places you really want to eat in – be careful though it will make you hungry!

This year Disney also trialed a one day dining plan called ‘Dine on the Go’ through Jan-Feb which is Quick Service only and only valid at a few restaurants in Magic Kingdom. There’s no word on if this will be extended but I would imagine it’s something that they will continue to do if it’s popular.

How does it work?

Your dining credits are loaded on to your Magic Band or ticket. When you go to your selected restaurant you tell the server how many of your credits you want to redeem. You will be given a receipt that will show you how many credits you have left. I would think that there would be something in MDE that would show as well but looking online I have found no information as to whether it does or not.  I’ll let you know after my trip.

Where can I use my dining plan?

If you’re looking on the MDE app at restaurants it will say if dining plans are accepted or not.

What is the difference between ‘counter service’ and ‘table service’?

Table service is where you would be sat down at a restaurant and your order taken by a server and bought to your table. Counter Service is what we expect from a fast food restaurant over here. You order your food and then take it yourself to the table.

I don’t want to just eat burgers all the time is there anything else?

It’s a common misconception that ‘quick service’ just means burgers.and hotdogs. There are some surprising things on offer at Disney in Quick Service locations.

Magic Kingdom – Be Our Guest has quick service for Breakfast and Lunch with some french inspired food, Columbia Harbour House has healthy salads and fish, and Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn is mexican inspired with Fajitas and Tacos.

Hollywood Studios – ABC Commissary has club sandwiches and Mediterranean style salads,  Catalina Eddies has pizzas and salad.

Animal Kingdom – has loads of different food in keeping with the african/asian themeing of the park Flame Tree Barbeque – has BBQ meats, salads and ribs,  Harambe Market has curry, flatbreads and skewers.

Epcot unsurprisingly has the most choice with food and there are loads of quick service places in Epcot with some incredible looking menus Katsura Grill is Japanese with sushi and noodles, Kringlan Bakeri Og Cafe is in Norway with fresh sandwiches and meatballs and lots of cakes!, La Cantina De San Angel can be found in Mexico and serves all sorts of tacos, Lotus Blossom in China does a variety of rice and noodles, Sommerfest in Germany has different types of german sausage and strudel, Sunshine Seasons has the most choice and is very much like food courts in the mall with all different variety of  foods all under one (very big) roof. The one for me that is top of my list is Tangierine Cafe in Morrocco with wraps, hummus and taboleh.

Epcot is quite literally foodie heaven!!

What does a quick service credit get me?

It gets you an entree (main as we call it here) and a non alcoholic drink. It does not include dessert. That’s what your snack credits are for.

You can use a quick service credit to get 3 snacks as long as they’re all from the same participating place and purchased at the same time. This would be particularly useful during Epcots food and wine festival as some of the food stands will allow you to do this meaning you can quite literally eat your way around the world.

What does a Table Service credit get me?

An entree, dessert and a  non alcoholic drink at a table service restaurant. Or a buffet and drink at a buffet restaurant.

Can I have a starter (appetizer) instead of dessert?

Strictly speaking no, but it’s always worth an ask as I’ve had differing answers to this question.

What can I use my snack credits for?

Snack credits can be used for bottled water, juice and fountain sodas. Most bakery products and ice creams. Generally most things around $5 are covered by your snack credits at places that accept the dining plans. If in doubt ask a cast member. You can get the Mickey Ice Creams, Mickey Pretzels, Dole Whip, La Fous Brew (but not in a souvenir cup)…

Can I use my Dining Plan for character dining?

If you have the Dining Plan or the Deluxe dining plan you can use your table service credits for Character Dining.  Most character dining will use 1 of your credits with the exception of Cinderellas Royal Table which will take 2 of your credits.

Can I use 2 counter service credits and have table service?

No. You can only use the counter service for counter service food. You are unable to double up on them.

How do I find out how many credits each restaurant/meal costs?

The servers will tell you but I found a really interesting page on WDW Prep school that lists it all for you.

What if I want to use extra credits than my daily allowance?

The credits do not have be used by ‘day’. For example if you have the regular plan you don’t have to have 1 Quick, 1 table and use both your snack credits every single day. You just have however many days you’re there to use them all. Most Brits won’t spend all of their trip at Disney so the days you’re at other parks like Universal or days at the beach you won’t be using your dining credits.

So you could use 2 table service credits in a day if you wanted to. You could even use 3. You’ll still have enough to keep you fed for the rest of your trip.

I’ve got a refillable mug can I use that in the parks?

No. You can only use your refillable mugs to fill up in resort hotels not the parks.

What isn’t included?

Tips are not included with the dining plan and neither is alcohol.

Do I need to book?

Some of the more popular restaurants and character dining would require an advance dining reservation (ADR). These can get booked up really quick. You are able to book these 180 days before the day you wish to dine using your MDE app. Quick Service you do not need to book. These can get quite busy during peak times eat a big breakfast and have a late lunch or an early dinner to avoid the queues if you’re going for quick service.

Can I buy the plan just for a few days of my trip?

No you can’t. It has to be for the duration of your stay on the Disney resort. Also all members of the party have to have the same level of dining plan.

Hopefully that should have answered some of the questions surrounding the dining plan. I’ll be able to go into more detail and tell you all exactly how it works after my trip in September and I’ll no doubt have some restaurant recommendations for you as well.

It’s a personal preference with the dining plan though so it may not be for everybody. I think it’s a great idea but I do like to eat so for me and my family it’s worth it.

 

 

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