Disney Dining Plan Tips and Tricks
Disney’s Dining Plans at Walt Disney World, including the Magic Your Way Package with Quick Service Dining, Magic Your Way Package with Dining and Magic Your Way Package with Deluxe Dining, are very popular, but have not been a bargain for some time. You can save money by using them — IF you plan and use the options carefully.
If you aren’t familiar with what’s included in the Disney Dining Plans, click on the links above.
Please note that all information below is subject to change at any time.
- Helpful Tips for Making the Most of the Disney Dining Plans
- Getting the Most Value for Your Table Service Meal Credits
- Getting the Most Value for Your Quick Service Meal Credits
- What Can You Get With Snack Credits?
- All of the meal credits for everyone in your party are “pooled” in the sense that any member of the party has access to all of the credits assigned to the entire party. For instance, if you have a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) and stay for 5 nights, you’ll have a “pool” of 20 table service credits to use (10 adult credits, 10 child credits).
- You can use the meal credits whenever you want during your Disney World vacation. For example, if you’re on the regular or Deluxe Disney Dining Plan and you want to eat two table service meals one day and three quick service meals the next day, no problem. Or if you’re on the Quick Service Dining Plan and you want to use up all of your snack credits in one day, that’s fine.
- Gratuities are NOT included except for In-Room Dining (room service), Pizza Delivery, Disney Dinner Shows and Cinderella’s Royal Table, so you’ll need to budget for that.
- The list of participating restaurants changes occasionally. Note that when packages are first put on sale for the following year, contracts may not be in place with all of the non-Disney-owned restaurants yet. (Many restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially at Coronado Springs Resort, Epcot and Downtown Disney, are not owned or operated by Disney.) If your favorite restaurant was participating in past years and is suddenly dropped from the brochure for next year, don’t panic — it will probably be added later, when the contract is signed.
- Some special menus (i.e. special prix fixe menus at certain restaurants) and menu add-ons (such as “add lobster tail” to a steak entree) will not be included in the dining plans. The menu will note an upcharge, which may be based on the type of dining plan you’re using.
- If you don’t want the drink that is included with your quick service meal, take a bottle of water to go.
- The dining plan includes dessert with both lunch and dinner, which is a lot. Fresh fruit can be used as a dessert, so if you don’t want dessert when eating a quick service meal, take a banana or apple to go and use it as a snack later in the day. Or pick a muffin as your “dessert” and save it for breakfast the next day.
- Any leftover snacks or quick service meals can be used to pack a lunch for the trip home. Your resort’s food court has packable food.
- If you have snack credits left over at the end of your vacation, many of the quick service restaurants offer Mickey-shaped rice krispy treats on a stick that you can get with snack credits. These make cute gifts to take home for friends and family — or you can eat ‘em on the plane!
- MouseSavers.com reader Christie B. says she learned “we could use our snack credits to buy German, Swiss and Belgian chocolate bars in the candy store in Germany at Epcot. On our last day we used all of our remaining snacks at the candy store on Main St in the Magic Kingdom. After eating all we could, we brought pounds of homemade fudge, candy apples, truffles, etc. to friends and family back home. Don’t think all your snacks have to be used at the carts — we found out several stores had included items.”
- The author and founder of The Disney Food Blog, AJ Wolfe, has written The Disney Food Blog Guide to Dining at Walt Disney World, a stunningly illustrated, annually updated guide that lays out what meal choices are available at Walt Disney World, provides excellent planning tools, and offers useful tips and tricks that you just can’t find in one place anywhere else.
Thanks to Heather G and Small World Vacations for suggestions.
Children’s Meal Selections
Kids’ selections at some restaurants can be limited. Some table service locations in the theme parks are now using a standardized kids’ menu that some feel is not very good. Two things to keep in mind:
- Ask for alternatives. If your kids don’t like anything on the kids’ menu, ask the server if they can have a child-sized portion of something from the adult menu. Often this will be accommodated.
- Ask to see the chef if your child has an allergy or dietary issue (i.e. vegetarianism) that causes a problem with selecting from the standard kids’ menu. Better yet, call Disney Dining at (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463) before your visit and have this noted on your reservations. Disney is very good about accommodating this sort of issue.
- Choose buffet locations, where the selection is broader and your child can pick what he or she likes.
Disney’s resort food courts tend to have the greatest selection of high-end quick service food selections. If you want a change from the typical burgers and chicken strips, consider these locations:
- Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland offers amazing theming and a menu of mostly traditional French food. It is a Quick Service location at lunch ONLY – in the evenings you’ll have to use Table Service credits to eat there.
- Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation Resort has many interesting offerings, including a tandoor oven producing items like naan, tandoori chicken and shrimp; a Mongolian grill; gelato; coffee/espresso drinks; and a variety of “better for you” foods such as multigrain rice, buckwheat pasta and waffles, egg white frittatas, make-your-own yogurt parfaits and low-fat smoothies. The usual burgers, fries and Mickey waffles are also available.
- Everything Pop at Pop Century Resort has a great selection, including flatbreads (pizzas), grill items, Italian and Asian options.
- Pepper Market at Coronado Springs Resort has many more selections than the average quick service location. From the various stations you can get Mexican food, steaks, ribs, Caesar salad with shrimp, pasta, pizza, rotisserie chicken and more. Note that this restaurant is not operated by Disney and may not appear on the list of allowed restaurants currently, but based on previous years, once a contract is signed, it will be added.
- Mara in Animal Kingdom Lodge has a few “exotic” quick service food choices. The soups are the same African-inspired ones served at Boma, the buffet restaurant at the Lodge.
- Contempo Cafe at Contemporary Resort has some nice options such as a spicy mahi sandwich, marinated beef flatbread and chicken basil pasta.
Kids’ quick service selections can be very limited. At some locations, the only side orders listed for kids are carrot sticks, grapes and applesauce and all the drinks are “healthy” (milk, juice, water), but you can usually substitute french fries and soda if you wish. If your kids don’t like the kids’ meals, here are a couple of ways around that:
- A few quick service locations don’t have a kids’ menu. That means you can order any combo or entree on the menu with a child credit. These locations are: Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom; Catalina Eddie’s and Toluca Legs Turkey Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Sommerfest at Epcot (Germany) and Yorkshire County Fish Shop at Epcot (UK).
- You can buy your two adult meals at a location offering meals the adults like, then go to another location that has better kids’ options and buy their meals there.
If you are on the regular Disney Dining Plan, you may want to consider sharing quick service meals. For instance, a family of four might try ordering two adult quick service meals and sharing the food, possibly supplementing the meal by paying out of pocket for a few a la carte items (like extra side orders or drinks). If this works for you, you may be able to stretch your quick service meals to cover two meals a day. Some of the best locations for this strategy:
- Sunshine Seasons at Epcot (Future World) – there’s an Asian combo that allows you to pick two entrees and two sides, plus they have a much more extensive selection of desserts than most counter service locations
- If you like chicken, the following restaurants offer a half chicken meal, which can serve two people who aren’t big eaters: Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom; Cosmic Ray’s at Magic Kingdom; Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Disney generally defines a “snack” on the Disney Dining Plan as a single serving item under $4 (pre-tax) that is edible, non-alcoholic, non-merchandise and non-souvenir. Some items that you might think would be included under this definition are excluded, but not many.
Snacks can be redeemed at quick service, theme park shop, resort shop or snack cart locations. Qualifying locations display a “dining plan” logo on their menus indicating items for which you can use your snack credits.
Among the items usually available with Disney Dining Plan snack credits:
- ice cream novelty
- frozen fruit bar
- box of popcorn
- piece of fruit
- snack-sized bag of chips
- bakery items
- caramel apples
- Mickey rice krispy treats
- bottled soft drinks
- bottled Powerade
- bottled water
- bottled fruit juice
- plain or flavored milk
Also, during the Food & Wine Festival, snack credits can be redeemed for most “tasting portions” offered in the booths around World Showcase.
Want more details on snacks? The author and founder of The Disney Food Blog, AJ Wolfe, has written specialized e-Books about the snacks at Epcot and Magic Kingdom, which are ideal for helping you get the most from your snack credits.
Thanks to Sue Pisaturo of Small World Vacations for updated information.