The Disney Dining Plan can be a great deal for vacationing families. With a bit of extra planning, however, you can ensure you get the most out of your Disney culinary experience. Today we will look at some of the top things 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 service restaurants. To be sure you get the restaurant you want at a reasonable time, you need to be prepared to start making reservations 60 days prior to your trip. For those who loathe the thought of planning what they will eat three 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 Service Meals
Just because you can’t make a reservation for quick service meals, doesn’t mean they don’t need a little planning. This is especially true when 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 restaurant 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 challenging. However, some options give you a little more bang for your Disney Dining buck. Here are a few that should be at the top of your quick service list.
Columbia Harbour House
Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom may not have a table service feel, but if you want 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 service restaurants. The famous Harbour House Lobster Roll is a favorite of seasoned Disney fans.
Another one of our favorites is Satu’li Canteen inside Pandora – The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This restaurant serves international-inspired cuisine, vegetarian options, and specialty libations and offers indoor and outdoor seating. There are endless possibilities with their combination bowls and the Cheeseburger Steamed Pods are out of this world!
“DON’T” Waste your Snack Credits
Learn the value of your snack credits and use them to their most significant advantage. Don’t spend what is essentially a $5.00 snack credit on bottled water or soda. Bring extra bottled water 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 excellent snack choices out there to be wasting a credit on a drink. You can even use any leftover credits to bring snack items home at the end of your trip! 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 of 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. 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 exceptionally 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 were not when the dining plan was last available. 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 can 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 service meals to split up your day. If the park closes 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 and you plan on staying till closer to midnight, you might want to make your table service for 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 Disney Springs 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 essential to recognize when plans need to change. Countless unpredictable variables in a Disney trip could require changing your planned dining options. Perhaps the weather changed your scheduled 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 restaurant reservations 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.