The Disney Dining Plan is already a great deal for vacationing families, especially during the popular free promo periods. With a little extra planning, however, you can make sure you are getting the most out of your Disney culinary experience. Today we are going to look at some of the top things that you should and shouldn’t do when vacationing on the Disney Dining Plan.
“DO” Plan Ahead
The Dining Plan has made Advanced Reservations an absolute must for your table services. To be sure you get the restaurant you want at a reasonable time, you need to be prepared to start making reservations 180 days prior to your trip. For those who loath the thought of planning what they are going to eat six months ahead of time, tough, do it anyway. It’s much better to have a reservation that you can later cancel if your plans change, than to realize two weeks out from your trip that the only reservation you can find for your romantic anniversary dinner is a 4:00 p.m. seating at Chef Mickey’s. Always plan ahead.
“DON’T” Limit your Planning to Table Services
Just because you can’t make a reservation for counter services, doesn’t mean they don’t need a little planning. This is especially true if you are traveling with a large group or family. Nothing takes away your park time like a dozen people huddled in a circle trying to decide where to eat.
“Where do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know. Where do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know. What’s close to us?”
After a 20 minute discussion and an examination of a park map, you end up at a quick service on the other side of the park where only half the group really wants to eat anyway. Plan your quick service meals ahead of time.
“DO” Make the Most of Your Quick Service Credits
There are so many quick service locations throughout Disney World that deciding on one can sometimes be a challenge. There are, however, some options that give you a little more bang for your Disney Dining buck. Here are a few that should make the top of your quick service list.
Be Our Guest for Lunch
This is as close as you will get to a sit down table service for a quick service credit. Enjoy the beauty of Beast’s Castle, have your food magically brought to your table, and with the new advanced ordering options, avoid the maddening lines of the typical quick service counter. All without costing you any of your precious table service credits.
Wolfgang Puck Express
This location at Downtown Disney features one of the most expensive and delicious quick service menus on Disney property. This makes it one of the best values you can find for a quick service credit. As with Be Our Guest, your food is brought to you at your table, giving it the relaxing feel of a table service experience. We ended up eating here twice on our last trip.
Columbia Harbour House
This location may not have the table service feel of Be Our Guest or Wolfgang’s, but if you are looking for a break from the typical burger, nugget, and sandwich selections, this is the place. With a menu featuring fried shrimp, grilled salmon, and New England clam chowder, the food is definitely a step up from many counter services. The famous Harbour House Lobster Roll is a favorite of seasoned Disney fans.
“DON’T” Waste your Snack Credits
Learn the value of your snack credits and use them to their biggest advantage. Don’t spend what is essentially a $5.00 snack credit on a bottled water or soda. Bring extra bottled waters with you or pay cash for a drink. Save your snack credit for something like a Ham and Cheese Croissant in France or Norwegian School Bread in Norway or even for the ever popular Dole Whip. There are too many wonderful snack choices out there to be wasting a credit on a drink. That being said, the exception to this rule is at any Starbucks on Disney property. This includes the Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom. At these locations a snack credit will get you any size drink your heart desires. So grab a Venti White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino and enjoy!
“DO” Stretch Your Credits
We are a typical family of four. On many days we will end up gorging ourselves on a table service lunch and by dinner time we still aren’t really too hungry. Rather than spending 4 quick service credits on 4 meals that only get half eaten, we will get 2 quick service meals and share. This works especially well if you are somewhere like Epcot and are planning on some really good snacks as you tour the world showcase. It is also worth noting here that while the table service credits are differentiated as adult or child credits, the quick service credits currently are not. Just because you have two small children with you, doesn’t mean they can’t share one adult-sized meal between them. By saving a credit here and there, we are able to collect enough to cover an extra meal on our last day on property. On an average trip we will spend 5 nights and get 5 days of dining credits, but we are actually on property for 6 days. So, the extra credits come in handy for that 6th day.
“DON’T” Lose Track of Your Credits
Make sure, after each purchase, that you double check your receipt to see that your credits are correct. This helps to avoid simple mistakes, and it helps you keep track of your credits. There’s nothing worse than ending up on the fourth day of your five-day trip and realizing that you have used all of your credits and you have no idea how.
“DO” Strategically Schedule your Table Services
A nice sit down meal is an excellent break from a long Disney park day. The mere thought of spending an entire day at Magic Kingdom can be exhausting. Plan your table services to split up your day. If the park is closing early at 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m., consider a late lunch table service to relax after a long morning. If the park is open late for extra magic hours and you plan on staying till closer to midnight, you might want to make your table service for a dinner later in the day. As exciting as Disney is, dragging from one attraction to another for a full day can leave kids tired and cranky. Use your meal times to break your day up and relax as much as possible.
“DON’T” Leave Credits on the Table
This isn’t too much of an issue with meal credits, but with a family of four, we start the week with 20-30 snack credits. Sometimes we are so full from our meals that we don’t think to use them. If you are at the end of your trip and find that you have a few snack credits left over, hit the resort gift shop or Down Town Disney and pick up some snacks for the road. It also helps with the sadness of leaving Disney, if you are munching on some Mickey popcorn or cinnamon pecans on the way home.
And finally, “DO” Be Flexible
As much emphasis as we put on planning ahead and being prepared, it is also important to recognize when plans need to change. There are countless unpredictable variables in a Disney trip that could require you to change your planned dining options. Perhaps the weather changed your planned park days or crowds changed which rides you went on and now you are nowhere near your planned counter service. Go with the plan when you can and adjust when necessary. If you have to make last minute dining changes, check with the concierge at your resort. Disney will hold out a certain number of reservations at restaurants for VIP guests and if they aren’t used, they release those reservations first thing in the morning. Don’t let a change of plans derail your entire trip. Just be flexible.
The Disney Dining Plan has revolutionized the Disney experience. With a little extra planning and effort, it can be what makes your next Disney trip the magical vacation it should be.
*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.
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