While our family has been traveling to Disney World for the last 20 years, we had never used the Disney Dining Plan, so we thought we would give it a try and share our impressions with you. This past Christmas week, we had a split stay with three nights in a DVC Studio at Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows followed by four nights at the Polynesian Village Resort hotel. We thought, "Why Not? Let’s give it a try for part of our stay and add on the Disney Dining Plan for those first three nights."
About the Disney Dining Plan
In 2017, the cost was $69 per person per day for everyone in the travel party; prices have since gone up ($78.01) but with alcoholic drinks now included. For that flat fee, each of us got one table-service meal, one quick-service meal and two snack credits per person per day during the trip. We also received resort-refillable mugs, which we rarely used. Disney pools the credits for everyone in the party, so for a three-night stay with a party of four, we had 12 table-service credits, 12 quick-service credits and 24 snack credits to use up over 3 nights/four days. The credits are on your MagicBand, and if not used up they disappear — like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage at midnight of that last day.
What did we learn?
Don’t sweat the small things: It was a bit of a burden to be wondering, “Am a getting my money’s worth?” Some visitors on the plan are very scientific about making sure they maximize its benefits, but we did not want to feel like we had to order the most expensive thing on the menu if it was not what we ultimately wanted. We found it was a balancing act. It seemed like too much work to tally and track what we would have spent, or deny someone what they really wanted because of the plan. We would get it anyway, and figure we could use that credit another time during our four days. Once we let go a bit, we enjoyed it more.
Not all snack credits are created equally: We were kind of stingy with our snack credits; wanting to maximize our use of the credits, not wanting to spend a credit on a bottle of water, but looking for something more worthy like Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Dole Whip in the Magic Kingdom (yum!). We found some other favorites — any-size fancy drinks at Starbucks were very credit-worthy. A hot Mickey pretzel with a cheese dip was satisfying. In the long run, however, we found we kind of saved our credits and had a lot left on that last day. We ended up snacking our way around World Showcase at Epcot. Because we were there during the holidays, each country had special kiosks with celebratory food not available during other times of the year. A nice big bowl of soba noodles in Japan — wonderful on a slightly chilly day, and it was only one snack credit! A Shredded Beef Tamale, or a Maple Buche de Noel are both 1 snack credit. Walking around the countries sampling the foods, we used up all of our remaining snack credits and had a wonderful time doing it. If you end up with lots of snack credits left, I would recommend a trip to Epcot or Disney Springs on that last day.
Best table-service meals: Without a doubt, the best use of table-service credits was Tusker House for dinner! What a fabulous meal: we had a wonderful server, who kept us supplied with drinks and also gave us some cups so we could take some dessert with us. The other two nights we ate at Spice Road in Morocco and Kona Cafe at the Poly, and both very good meals.
Table-service meals are NOT free on the plan: Warning: your alcoholic drinks and any added appetizers are not free, and do not forget to tip well. For our party of four, we easily spent close to $100 per meal on top of using the credits. In the 2018 plan, some alcoholic drinks were included, but you will still want to generously tip the wait staff. Credits or no credits, they still had to serve you.
Did we get our money’s worth? $69 a day? Average counter service was probably $15 with the fountain drink, average snacks cost $5 times 2, and the average table service meal was $35 to $50 (meal, fountain drink and dessert), plus the occasional drink at the resort in the refillable mug. Yeah, we probably did come out ahead, and it was definitely fun using up the snack credits at Epcot.
Would we do it again? Short answer — maybe. Maybe on a split stay for part of the trip. Or maybe we would just try the counter-service version, with two counter service meals and two snack credits per day, during Food and Wine Festival or the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. We do not need a sit-down, table-service meal every day but would enjoy "Snacking around the World."
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