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by Daisy Diva

So far I have covered the basic terminology of the dining plan, given the details of the five dining plan options, and answered some of the most frequently asked questions about using the dining plan.  Now I am here with 12 tips for how to get the biggest bang for your dining plan buck.  I’ll start with some of my favorite Disney foods:  snacks!!

Snacks

Tip #1:  Don’t waste your snack credits on bottled water.  You can get cups of ice water for FREE from most of the Quick-Service locations around the parks.  And if you don’t care for tap water, you can bring in your own bottled water.  There are way too many yummy snacks at Disney World to enjoy!  Don’t squander a credit on something you can bring from home!  And speaking of…

Tip #2:  Don’t waste your snack credits on items you can get at home.  Yes, a piece of fruit is a snack credit item, and fruit is healthy and delicious, but let’s face it  You can get an apple or a banana at your local grocery store—maybe even from your own kitchen.  Use your snack credits on Disney specific items.  You know what you CAN’T get at home?  A Dole Whip.  Or a cupcake the size of a baby’s head.  Or a Mickey ice cream bar.  Or a sweet cream cheese pretzel.  These are items worthy of a snack credit.  Save the bag of chips and the bottle of Diet Coke for the convenience store you are sure to stop at on the way home.

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Tip #3:  Don’t go home from with unused snack credits.  Every dining plan includes snack credits, and while you may not think you have that many, you may be surprised to find that on your last day you have a couple of snack credits left over.  Pick up some snacks to go.  Places like Goofy’s Candy Co. and Starbucks have individually wrapped items like cookies and rice crispy treats that you can toss in your bag and take home.  When you are struggling with Post Disney Depression, pulling out a snack that you bought on Main Street might provide some temporary Disney happiness.

Quick-Service Credits

Tip #4:  Remember dessert!  It’s included with each credit.  And even if you aren’t in the mood for dessert, or your entrée fills you up, grab that dessert and take it with you.  You may find that a left over little cup of chocolate cake makes a very yummy breakfast the next morning.

Tip #5:  Don’t forget about the kids menu.  Here’s the big secret (that’s not really that much of a secret):  a Quick-Service credit is a Quick-Service credit.  There really is no kids credit v. adult credit like with Table-Service credits.  That means that your kids don’t have to order off of the kids menu if they don’t see something that suits their taste buds.  It also means that that adult in your party that still eats like a kid (pizza, burger, and nuggets only for them) can order off of the kids menu with their credits.  And sometimes the kids meal actually has more food than the adult meal because they come with an additional side like grapes or carrot sticks.

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Tip #6:  Keep portion size and price in mind.  Sure you can go to Cosmic Ray’s and get the hot dog and one side (apple slices, fries, or green beans).  But with the same credit, you could get the ½ chicken and ribs combo that comes with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.  If you look at out of pocket cost, the chicken and ribs meal is almost twice the cost of the hot dog meal.  Talk about bang for your buck.  In the same vein, don’t order the chicken meal just because of the price if you are really craving that $9 salad.

Tip #7:  Don’t forget sharing is an option.  The chicken and ribs meal that I mentioned above is a large meal that could very easily be shared between two light eaters.  That means that you could save a credit for another large meal that could be shared between two light eaters.  And there are lots of Quick-Service menu items that are large enough to share.  The rotisserie chicken meal with two sides is available at lots of places around Disney World.  Another example of a large meal is the Chicken and Lamb Shawarma Platter at The Tangierine Café that includes a side of hummus, tabbouleh, a couscous salad, and Moroccan bread.  That’s a lot of food!

Tip #8:  Go to Be Our Guest Ok, I know that is very specific.  But this is a Table-Service restaurant with a Quick-Service price tag for breakfast and lunch.  The food is delicious and a very high quality for a Quick-Service credit.  I mean, come on—coq au vin versus a burger?  It’s kind of a no brainer.

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Table-Service Credits

Tip #9:  Don’t forget the buffets and family style restaurants.  The out of pocket cost of a Disney World buffet or family style restaurant is pretty high—and significantly more than most of the entrées you would order off of a menu.  And both of these choices are all-you-can-eat which usually means a salad and/or appetizer, more than one meat, more than two sides, and maybe more than one dessert which is more than you will get with a traditional entrée you order off of a menu.

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Tip #10:  When you go buffet, choose dinner over breakfast.  Bottom line—dinner costs more than breakfast.  So using your credit for dinner automatically gives you more bang for your buck than using a credit for breakfast.  But to contradict myself, I do love a good Disney breakfast buffet.

Tip #11:  Don’t neglect the character meals.  This is a huge bang for your buck tip AND it’s also a time saver.  Why stand in line for an hour to meet Mickey Mouse, when he (and his friends) can come to you while you eat?  All but one of the character meal restaurants are one credit meals (Cinderella’s Royal Table requires two credits per person) and are a great way to spend an hour, enjoy some good food, and check four or five names off of that meet and greet list.  Some fan favorites are Crystal Palace, Tusker House, Akershus, and Chef Mickey’s.

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Tip #12:  Enjoy your meals!  Regardless of what dining plan you have, choose restaurants that offer foods you know that you and your family will enjoy.  If your whole family hates Mediterranean food, don’t make a reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh.  If half your group is vegetarian, don’t opt for dinner at ‘Ohana just because everyone says it’s a “must do.”  If a member of your group has sensory issues, avoid the loud places like Whispering Canyon Café and Chef Mickey’s even though they are popular spots.  Choose dining experiences that will suit your group’s personal and culinary needs.  And have FUN!  Some of our family’s most fun and memorable Disney experiences have been during meals.  Don’t just use those credits to eat—use them to make memories!

Contact Patricia for All For Dreams Travel to plan your vacation.

I am a Disney-loving former second grade teacher turned stay at home mom of two kids whom I homeschool and the wife of a Disney-tolerating husband. (But I think I am slowly starting to convert him!) If I'm not at Walt Disney World, you can probably find me planning my next Disney vacation or day-dreaming about being in the Magic Kingdom. I also love monograms, reading, Sonic Cherry Limeade's, autumn, and teaching kid's church.