All inclusive packages can be the way to travel, but when going to Disney, does the Dining Plan make sense?
We have given you our favorite places to eat, now Modern Boca Disney Mom along with Disney Vacation Planner and fellow Boca Mom, Kim Chodash, guide you around the often-confusing land of the Disney Dining Plan with tips and tricks on how to get your family the most bang for your buck!
The 5 Kinds of Disney Meal Services
There are several versions of the Disney Dining Plan available for purchase depending on appetite and budget. A few things to note before we get into the details.
Quick Service is the fast-food or cafeteria type cuisine where you order at the counter and bring it back to your table (ex. Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom or Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation).
Table Service are your sit-down restaurants where menus and atmosphere vary, but are 1 point per meal (ex. Chefs de France in Epcot or Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom). Included in Table Service is Signature Dining, which are the more expensive restaurants and require you to use 2 dining points per meal. (ex.The Brown Derby or California Grill).
And finally, Character Dining are typically buffets or family style meals with your favorite characters (ex. Tusker House or Ohana). The point value of these meal is typically 1, although Cinderella’s Royal Table is 2 points. All Dinner Shows, such as Spirit of Aloha and Hoop Dee Doo Review are 2 points as well.
Now that we have the basic gist of the types of meals Disney offers, here is the breakdown of the meal plans:
- Quick Service – 2 Quick Service Meals per night of your stay, one snack, and a refillable resort mug for $41.99 for ages 10 and up, $16.03 for ages 3-9.
- Basic Disney Dining Plan – 1 Quick Service and 1 Table Service per night of your stay, 2 snacks, and a refillable resort mug for $60.03 for ages 10 and up, and $19.23 for ages 9-3. Table Service includes entrée, dessert and a non-alcoholic drink at lunch and dinner.
- Deluxe Dining Plan – Includes 3 meal credits a day (your choice), 2 snacks, and a refillable resort mug for $109.53 for ages 10 and up, $29.86 for ages 9-3. Table service meals on this plan include an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink at lunch and dinner on this plan.
*Reservations on the Dining Plans typically do not include Gratuity, unless otherwise noted. Children under 3 can eat off the buffet or a families member plate, but there is not a meal plan for those under 3.
How Do I Know if I Should Get the Dining Plan?
Well, first ask yourself these two questions: 1) How much does my family like to eat? And 2) are we planning to do a lot of Character and Signature Dining? If you answer A LOT and YES to these two questions, then the Dining Plan is for you.
For our family, we love to try all the different restaurants in Disney, so we often make one Character or Table Service Dining Reservation per day.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Disney Dining Plan. I love having most of my meals paid for in advance. I like making Dining Reservations and having new experiences at the huge choices of restaurants in Disney. I kind of like the strategic game to make sure I am actually saving on the Dining Plan.
What i dislike is that it is rather easy to use your points improperly by choosing to eat snacks instead of that quick service meal per day and then in the end you have points left over. When traveling with a big party, a few missteps here and there and you either have meals left over or are paying out-of-pocket for your last few meals.
How Modern Boca Disney Mom Does The Dining Plan Right
My recommendation is for the Basic Disney Dining Plan. I think Character Dining is totally worth it! And this is one area that makes the Dining Plan make a lot of sense.
For that very reason, I would not recommend the Quick Service Plan. I have gotten the Deluxe Plan, but in the end, it is SOOOO much food that you really can have a lot of unused credits at the end of your trip.
We have had trips where I have gone up to strangers and offered to buy them ice cream. I also have come home with a dozen mickey shaped rice krispie treats to give as gifts.
TIP: If you do happen to have points left over, you can go to your hotel and trade in 3 quick or table service meals for 3 snacks, hence the rice krispie treats.
On the basic plan, which includes the 2 snacks, 1 quick service meal, and 1 table service, I plan our day around whatever meal we have reservations for. For me, Character Dining is best for breakfast, so we will use a snack for lunch and then grab a quick service dinner. If our Table Service is Dinner, then I could grab a bagel or danish or breakfast parfait and use a snack credit or have a quick service breakfast at the hotel with eggs and Mickey Waffles and grab that snack for lunch.
The key is to use your snacks wisely. Snacks are a lot of things, ice cream sundae, a yummy croissant at France in Epcot, an ooey gooey cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern at the Magic Kingdom or even a Turkey Leg! It’s a waste to use your snack for a bottle of water or a bag of chips, in my opinion, so make the snack something that is going to tide you over until your next meal.
Tips and Tricks from a Disney Vacation Planner
- Make Reservations at Ohana, Sanaa, or Akershus. You will get the best value for the Dining plan. There is also good value at any of the restaurants in the Epcot World Showcase.
- If you are going to a buffet for lunch or dinner, share a lunch at Columbia Harbor House in Magic Kingdom and split the lobster roll. It is plenty of food for two adults, especially when eating a big buffet meal a few hours later.
- Don’t forget about the value of the refillable resort mugs! If you are the type of person who will have their coffee in the morning, drink at lunchtime, and tea or hot chocolate in the evening, you are saving yourself at least $10 a day.
- Disney often offers a package with Free Dining with a full priced room and tickets, so if you have family coming from out-of-town, this is a great time to go to Disney.
- If you are a Disney Pass Holder check out Tables In Wonderland. For an annual fee, you receive 25% off many Disney Restaurants.
*If you need further tips for a future Disney trip, Kim’s services are always FREE of charge. She can be reached at Kimc@mickeyworldtravel.com.
Is the Meal Plan Worth It?
You have to decide for yourself. In my opinion, you have to be pretty darn strategic to get your monies worth, plus be willing to eat a lot, and really commit. I would consider saving the money spent on the Dining Plan for an upgrade to a Suite with a kitchen, like Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village.
Bring your own food and coffee, make lunches and snacks to take into the park. Traveling far to get to Disney? Kim suggests companies like the Garden Grocer who will deliver groceries to your hotel, the bellhop will hold the food in a refrigerator and then deliver them to your room upon arrival.
That doesn’t sound like a bad idea to me!
So, how does the Disney Dining Plan sound to you? Do you have any tips that could help our fellow MBMoms? Let us know in the comments below!
Casey has traveled to 47 out of the 50 States, and Disney World probably as many times. The mom of Irish Twins Hunter and Ruby, she runs a blog called Hunting for Rubies that focuses on Family, Travel, and Adventure here in South Florida and beyond. Interested in travel tips and fun adventures to be had, follow Hunting for Rubies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.