As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
Welcome to those of you joining me from Disney Mamas and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the Final stop on our Magical Blogorail. This week, we are focusing on some of the Disney Vacation Basics. If you familiarize yourself with the topics we’re sharing about this month, you can plan a very successful Disney trip!
Our family first took advantage of the Disney Dining Plan during a Free Dining promotion in January 2012. The dining plan wasn’t something that I’d have ever considered paying for out-of-pocket (remember: I’m a confessed cheapskate). We had dined with friends at Mama Melrose’s a few years previous to that trip and were amazed by the huge amount of food they got through the dining plan. Honestly, at the time, it seemed like a waste to me.
However, after experiencing it for ourselves, I have to say that we love the Disney Dining Plan. The kids and I went back in September of 2012 (also during a free dining promotion). After that, rumors started floating around that Disney was doing away with free dining promotions. Fortunately, though, that hasn’t yet been the case. We’ve enjoyed the free dining promotion several times since.
What’s to Love?
Here are just a few of the reasons why we love the Disney Dining Plan:
- I love being able to plan (and reserve) our sit-down meals in advance. (Sure, you can do this without the Disney Dining Plan, but it somehow doesn’t seem as fun to me.)
- I love knowing that we will be able to sit down and enjoy a relaxing table service meal each day.
- I love the flexibility of the Disney Dining Plan.
- We all love the opportunity to choose and try new Disney dining options that we might not be able to try otherwise.
So, what is DDP?
The Disney Dining Plan is an optional add-on to your Magic Your Way vacation package. It is available exclusively to guests staying on-site at a Walt Disney World resort.
There are various versions of the plan available including the Quick-Service Dining Plan (which includes 1 snack and 2 quick service meals per day), the Premium Plan (which includes 2 snacks and 3 quick or table service meals per day), and the Platinum Plan (which includes the same meal options as the Premium Plan, plus recreation and entertainment choices).
For the sake of this post, we’re going to stick to the regular Dining Plan – simply referred to as the Disney Dining Plan (or DDP, for short, because – as you know – Disney has abbreviations for EVERYTHING!). Clicking the link will take you to a downloadable .pdf, which will explain the plan in detail and list all available restaurants and food-service locations that participate in the plan.
Each plan also includes one Rapid Fill Resort refillable mug for each member of your party. These can be filled as many times as you would like during your current stay. They can only be filled at resort quick-service locations (not throughout the parks).
How Does DDP Work?
With the Disney Dining Plan, each member of your party is entitled to 1 snack, 1 quick service meal, and 1 table service meal each day. (Actually, the number of meals included in your plan is dependent upon the number of nights you are staying at your resort.) In other words, if you make a reservation for 6 nights, each person in your party is entitled to 6 snacks, 6 quick service meals, and 6 table service meals during your stay.
*Please note that, starting in 2017, the quick service meal will NOT include a dessert, but you will be entitled to 2 snacks per day instead. (I love this change as I’m not always hungry for dessert after a meal, and the quick service desserts aren’t always the most appealing. So, now you have the option of a 2nd snack throughout your day – and there are so many awesome snacks at Disney!)
Using Your Meal Credits
Meals are not dependent upon the day. In other words, you can redeem more than one quick-service or table service meal, or snack, each day, as desired. Once you have used up your allotted meals, you are done.
Any unused meals or snacks will expire on midnight of the day you checkout of your resort.
Finding Dining Locations
Most of the restaurants throughout the Walt Disney World resort (including theme parks, water parks, resort hotels, and Downtown Disney) participate in the Disney Dining Plan. (A complete list of participating restaurants is included in the .pdf file linked above.)
Snack credits can be used anywhere that you see this symbol. Look for it on menu boards at quick-service locations, as well as food carts and select merchandise locations.
Some Things to Note
Everyone in your party must utilize the same dining plan. (In other words, you can’t have 1/2 your party on one plan and the other 1/2 using another plan.)
Guests ages 3-9 must order from the children’s menu, where available. Children under the age of 3 are not eligible for the Disney Dining Plan, but may share from an adult meal at no additional cost.
Gratuities are not included (except at dinner shows & Cinderella’s Royal Table). You will need an additional form of payment for your gratuity, unless you have a credit card associated with your Magic Band. An 18% gratuity is added to your bill for parties of 6+.
Character dining experiences are included!
Table service credits can be combined. For example, dinner shows and signature dining experiences “cost” 2 table service credits. So, you could use 2 of your credits for the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness or the Luau at the Polynesian.
Heidi’s Personal Tips
Be sure to keep track of your dining plan usage. Check your receipts at each location and make sure that the total remaining agree with your personal records. If they don’t, notify your server right away. You may have to go to Guest Services to get the total corrected. Computers do make mistakes, so make sure you are keeping track as well. (FYI: There are people on the DISboards who will design little check-list/cards to carry with you to help you track your usage.)
Make advance dining reservations (ADR). Availability fills up fast, so book those reservations 180 out, if possible, especially if you’re interested in character dining experiences and dinner shows. Even at 180 out, you might not be able to get your dining locations of choice. Be persistent and keep checking back – people make changes all the time, and reservations can open up.
Plan ahead! This goes along with the tip above, but is important in and of itself. Why? Because theme park admission is needed to eat in the parks, and in order to make your ADR’s, you need to have some idea of which park you plan to attend on a given day.
Try new things! My family makes it a point to try at least one new dining option on each trip. Of course, we like going back to some of our tried and true favorites as well, but it’s always fun to be adventurous and try new things.
Be flexible with your travel dates. If you’re traveling during a time when Disney MIGHT offer free dining, flexibility could ensure that you can take advantage of the specials. For example, we had a December trip planned for the 5th-15th. Once free dining was released, we had to change to the 12th-22nd. It meant moving our trip by a week, but allowed us the free dining, which wasn’t available during our original dates.
Use leftover snack credits to purchase pre-packaged snacks to bring home to share with family and friends. These make great souvenirs. (We usually use our leftover credits at Goofy’s Candy Company or our resort gift shop.)
Don’t forget Downtown Disney! There are some great dining options at Downtown Disney. Our family loves T-Rex Cafe for table service, but 2 of our favorite quick service options are here as well – Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express.
If you’re staying at a Value Resort during a free dining promotion, UPGRADE! The free dining at Value Resorts is the Quick-Service plan. It doesn’t cost that much to upgrade to the plan outlined in this post. I’m a big proponent for that one sit-down meal each day. It’s a great way to relax, regroup, and chat about your day!
And last, but not least, don’t rule out restaurants based on the reviews of others. I do read reviews – I write reviews – I pretty much love reviews. But, if I’d allowed bad reviews to scare me off, we’d have missed out on the awesome atmosphere that is the Coral Reef. And Ashley and I wouldn’t have tried Tony’s Town Square – which I thought was absolutely delicious. I find that most people like to complain more than they like to compliment, so you’re going to see more bad reviews than good of just about anything. Live dangerously! And then write a positive review if you have a good experience!
Did I miss anything?
Do you have any Disney Dining Plan tips to add?
Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Orange this month. We will be back on September 25th with an all new theme. Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Capturing Magical Memories – WDW Park Tickets
2nd Stop ~ I Am a Mommy Nerd – Disneyland Fastpasses
3rd Stop ~ Disney with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers – Resorts
4th Stop ~ Disney Mamas – Understanding FastPass+
Final Stop ~ Heidi’s Head– Dining Plan Basics