By Diva Vida
Every family is different, and every Walt Disney trip is different. I have used many of the Dining Plans on different visits to the park and these are my tips based on the experiences of my family.
Disney offers different plans at different price levels. The key is to know your group and know your needs so that you can take advantage of a plan that makes your food economical, convenient, and enjoyable.
Most basic – Quick-Service Plan:
This is a no-frills plan that keeps your family fed without spending a lot of time and fuss in restaurants. The plan includes 2 meals a day at Quick-Service (i.e. cafeteria style) food spots throughout the parks and 1 snack for each person on your plan per night of your stay. This plan is fast, easy, and economical. It is perfect for families that don’t want to spend time on long drawn-out sit down meals in restaurants. I also think it is perfect for families with older kids or groups of adults who may split up throughout the day and will want to eat on their own. With teenagers, it is easy to treat these meals as a virtual allowance of food that the kids can spend on the food they want when they want it without having to make complicated plans for the whole group to sit-down together during busy points of the day in the parks. The drawback is that if you do want any restaurant style meals, you will have to pay for them out of pocket. But if you are on a shorter trip, or only plan to eat at a restaurant one or two times during your stay, this could be the best option for you.
Mid-level – The Dining Plan:
This is the most popular plan. The standard Dining Plan includes 1 Quick-Service Meal (i.e. cafeteria style), 1 snack, and one Table-Service Meal (Buffet or restaurant style) per person per night of your stay. This plan gives the most balanced options of the plans. It allows for families to eat a combination of cafeteria style and restaurant style meals based on their own schedules. Though some Signature Restaurant meals count as two Table-Service Meals, families can skip a table-service meal one day to pool together for a Signature meal if necessary. But really, there are so many great restaurants that are not considered Signature that there is no shortage of great food options! This plan is perfect for families that want a combination of sit-down meals or buffets (especially Character meals where the Characters visit your table during your meal for perfect photos with your whole group without the wait of lines in the park) and Quick-Service for a quick bite in the park between rides and entertainment. This plan can be very economical and allows for flexibility.
Upper-level – Deluxe Dining Plan:
This plan includes three Table-Service Meals (restaurant or buffet style) a day and two snacks. This plan is good for those who want food to be a large part of their trip and want to have multiple dining options. Though these Table-Service Meals can be redeemed for cafeteria style Quick-Service meals, families need to weigh out the pros and cons of convenience and speed with cost. Each Table-Service Meal is worth more money than a Quick-Service meal. With three Table-Service Meals a day, it is easy to pool together multiple meals to add up to Signature Restaurant meals, and this is why my husband and I choose this plan for our Honeymoon when we wanted to enjoy more luxurious meals. We enjoyed being able to go the best of the best Disney Restaurants and we ate amazing food, however, we were often too full from the amount of food offered to eat all of it (we often skipped either the included appetizer or the included dessert). Also, we found ourselves spending more time in restaurants than we wanted when we could have been enjoying rides or other Disney entertainment. For a honeymoon or for a group that really wants to enjoy good food, this is a good option, but only if you are willing to spend time and money on your food.
Luxury Level – Premium and Platinum Plans:
These are the all-inclusive plans that allow you to dine without restrictions. These plans are for those who want it all and aren’t afraid to pay for it. Luxury is the key here. If you are looking to save money or work within a budget, these are not the plans for you. These plans both include three meals a day of any level (including Signature Restaurant meals and full Room-Service options) and two snacks per person. That is a lot of food if you intend to eat a full sit-down meal for each meal, but, like the other plans, you can use the meals for lower-cost meal options like Quick-Service meals. These plans basically allow you to eat whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want, already pre-paid. Like all the plans, you still need reservations at many of the more popular restaurants, but if you can get a table, you have almost unlimited options on what you can order. These plans work for those who don’t mind spending big bucks on food, who want to focus their trip on the Walt Disney World Cuisine, or those who would rather pay for total access than plan food around a less inclusive Dining Plan.
Things to know for every plan:
- Children under 3 are not included on the plan. They can share off another group-members plate for free or their food needs to be purchased separately.
- Children age 3 – 9 must order of the Children’s Menu when there is one.
- All plans come with a re-fill-able drink mug that can be re-filled at the hotel. This is great for filling with your morning coffee to bring along with you to the park and keeping extra soda, sports drinks, or water with you. Though Disney states that you can only re-fill your mug at the hotel you are staying at, you can always use the empty mugs to re-fill with water in the park throughout the day.
- None of the plans include alcoholic beverages. Any wine, beer, or other adult drinks will be an extra cost.
- Gratuities are usually not included in the plan either. There are a few restaurants that do include them, but if you are on a tight budget, expect to need extra money for tipping your servers at all Table-Service meals.
- Though you are allotted a certain number of meals or snacks per day, you can pool together snacks and meals to have more or less each day. Think of your meals and snacks as a total number per trip instead of a daily amount. Therefore, if you want to skip a snack one day (maybe you brought along granola bars from home or you are planning to eat extra at the buffet) and have extra snacks the next day, that is totally fine!
- Not every meal or snack is equal. If you are budget savvy, make sure you get the best bang for your buck. A water or soda is not as good a choice for your budget as a Dole Whip or a specialty coffee drink (especially since you can get free water anywhere in the parks and free soda at your hotel).
- Quick-Service is 2 Quick-Service Meals (breakfast includes an entrée and a drink, lunch and dinner include an entrée, dessert, and drink) and 1 snack per day per person plus a Resort Refillable Mug. Meals only work at Quick-Service locations, not at Table-Service Restaurants. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2014QuickService.pdf – Quick-Service Plan
- The Dinning Plan is one Table-Service meal (including a buffet meal or 1 entree, desert and drink) and one Quick-Service Meal (breakfast includes an entrée and a drink, lunch and dinner include an entree, dessert, and drink) and one snack. Plus a Resort Refillable Mug. Two Table-Service meals can be pooled for Signature Dinning meals, Dinner Shows, or for Room Service Meals (including entree, dessert, and drink or 1 pizza, 2 drinks and 2 desserts which counts as 2 Adult Table-Service meals). http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2014Dining.pdf – Dinning Plan
- The Deluxe Plan is three Deluxe Table-Service meal (including a buffet, breakfast of an entree and drink, or dinner/lunch of appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink) and two snacks. Plus a Resort Refillable Mug. Two Table-Service meals can be pooled for a Signature Dinning meal, Dinner Shows, or for Room Service Meals (including entree, dessert, and drink or 1 pizza, 2 drinks and 2 desserts which counts as 2 Adult Table-Service meals). https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2014DeluxeDining.pdf – Deluxe Plan
- The Premium and Platinum Plans are both include breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus two snacks. Each meal can be redeemed at any Dining Plan restaurant, including Signature restaurant meals, Dinner Shows and Room-Service meals. There is no need to pool together meals. Premium and Platinum Table-Service meals include buffet, breakfast of entree and drink, or lunch/dinner of appetizer, entree, dessert and drink. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2014Premium.pdf – Premium Plan https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2014Platinum.pdf – Platinum Plan
The most important thing to know is that each plan has pros and cons for different families and vacations. The plan you choose should best meet the needs of your group so that you can eat what works best for you. Don’t pick a plan that will stress you out, be outside of your budget, or hinder your time in the park. Make the plan work for you so that you can enjoy your food and your whole trip to Walt Disney World.
~ Diva Viva