Home » 5 Disney Dining Plan Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

    5 Disney Dining Plan Mistakes Almost Everyone Makes

    Minnie at a meal

    The Disney Dining Plan aims to make paying for meals less stressful at the parks and resorts, and it can be a good deal for guests — as long as the credits are used properly. But since the program’s terms changed this year, how can you be sure you’re getting the most for your money? Here are some common mistakes guests using the Disney Dining Plan can make (and some easy fixes that will ensure you are getting the most out of your credits!)  

    1. Not being aware of the plan’s changes

    Minnie at a meal
    First things first: Even if you’ve used the Disney Dining Plan in the past, you may not be aware of the program’s new rules. Starting May 31, 2016, changes went into effect that include the option of “paying” with an unlimited number of available table service credits at one meal (so you could pay for your non-Disney Dining Plan friends at your table); the ability to substitute a dessert for a fruit plate, side salad or cup of soup at a table-service meal; the opportunity to swap a dessert or non-alcoholic beverage for a snack credit on a quick service entitlement (as long as it’s done in the same transaction); the chance to substitute a quick-service meal for up to three snacks; and the ability to use a snack credit to purchase breakfast items such as cereal, oatmeal, quinoa or French toast sticks.

    In addition, the plan has changed its definition of “snacks” to include any soup, ice cream novelty, two scoops or less of ice cream (including sundaes but not including souvenir containers), any menu item listed as a side and any non-alcoholic beverage (just no souvenir cups) at quick-service spots.

    The 2016 Disney Dining Plan costs $63.70 per night for adults and includes one quick-service meal, one table-service meal and one snack. (Other plans, such as the Quick-Service Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan and Premium Dining Plan, have different pricing and credits. More information is available here.) 

    Some of these changes, like the ability to swap a counter-service meal for three snacks, were “unofficial” rules before, but it’s nice to see that Disney is getting all of its dining-plan-participating restaurants on board now.

    2. Spending two table service credits on a Cinderella’s Royal Table breakfast

    Cinderella's Royal Table
    It’s the most important meal of the day, but table service can be slow (right when you’re anxious to get on rides at the Magic Kingdom) and the meal can be costly (since breakfast in the castle will mean you’ll probably be shelling out money out of pocket for another meal during your trip). Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table is the only option on the list of table-service character meals that requires two credits. You could enjoy an ‘Ohana’s Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo & Stitch at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or a buffet with many more characters at the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace for only one table-service credit each.

    But the bottom line is that breakfast anywhere isn’t really a great use of a table-service credit — especially when, as mentioned earlier, you can use a snack credit for a variety of quick breakfast options. (And if you’re set on seeing Cinderella and her prince, you can head to their Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for a meal that costs just one table-service credit.)

    3. Using snack credits for bottles of water

    Water bottleThink of your snack credits as five-dollar bills. You likely wouldn’t want to spend $5 on a half-pint cardboard container of milk or a single banana at home, so you may want to think about avoiding that while you’re on vacation too. If the item costs a lot less than $5, you’re better off paying out of pocket for it. And water, especially, is a poor use of a snack credit when you can either bring your own bottle and refill it from the many water fountains all over the parks or ask for a cup of water at any counter-service establishment.

    Since you can now use snack credits for side dishes, why not try making a small meal out of those? Disney is usually pretty generous with its side portions, and a bowl of New England Clam Chowder from Columbia Harbour House at the Magic Kingdom or a Fruit and Cheese Plate from Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons will likely fill you up (without making you feel too full) — and that’s a good thing before you get on Space Mountain or Test Track!

    And if you have a choice of exactly when to use those snack credits, you might want to time your trip to correspond with the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (in the fall) or the Flower and Garden Festival (in the spring). One of the best uses of a snack credit ever has to be at the Canada booth during the food and wine fest, where you could get a wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter sauce. The nice-sized portion would have cost $7.50 out of pocket, but the more important reason why this is such an awesome deal is because it’s the only chance to get a taste of Le Cellier without spending a whopping $52 on the filet mignon at the restaurant. Add a cup of Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup for another snack credit and you have a meal that you didn’t have to pay nearly $65 for — and you didn’t even have to make a hard-to-get Le Cellier reservation.

    4. Using counter service credits for small portions at some restaurants

    Yorkshire County Fish Shop
    Sometimes all of that running around from attraction to attraction does make you super hungry, though —and some Disney restaurants definitely have larger portions than others. While the fish and chips at Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the World Showcase’s England is a better value than the same-named dish at the Rose and Crown Dining Room, you get a pretty small portion at the counter-service restaurant. Maybe that’s to entice people to hit up the table-service restaurant for more, but you’re better off spending counter-service credits at China’s Lotus Blossom Cafe, where you can get a large dish of Sichuan Spicy Chicken with seasoned rice or Mexico’s Cantina de San Angel, where you can indulge in a huge plate of nachos that you might not even be able to finish.

    Many World Showcase restaurants feature pretty reasonable prices, even on dinner fare, so you might be better off paying out of pocket for some of them —especially if you want to “eat your way around the world” and try a small sampling from each country. There are other counter-service restaurants that also offer a lot for a little price, such as Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs (and that restaurant even gives AAA members a 15 percent discount), Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom and the eateries such as Catalina Eddie’s near Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

    When it comes to table-service restaurants, some of them, like the Magic Kingdom’s Plaza Restaurant, Beaches & Cream (between Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort) and Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness are also affordable without the plan.  

    5. Not getting what you want

    Tusker House
    Servers at Disney restaurants have reported that some patrons order the highest-priced item on the menu — and then the guests are surprised when they see what they get and they don’t end up liking it. Yes, dining plan credits are a way to order anything without having to pull out your wallet, but if you’re only ordering something expensive to try to maximize your dollars, it’s not a good deal after all. If you order lobster and forget that you hate seafood, you won’t end up eating it and you’ll be wasting your credit (as well as more money when you have to shell out for more food). Those menu prices can be dazzling to anyone’s eyes.

    On the other hand, you could use your credits to visit restaurants that you might not have tried without the plan. And some eateries, like Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs, are a great place to use counter-service credits. The entrees here, like Oven-Roasted Salmon, Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf and a Half Rotisserie Chicken, can run up to $20 out of pocket, and the portions are huge. Other good counter-service offerings on the plan include Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom (for lunch) and the Pepper Market at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

    You could also save your table-service credits for character meals, which can be pricey without the plan. For example, the dinner at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort runs $45.53 to $52.05 for adults (depending on the time of year and day of the week). Other table-service meals worth spending credits on can be found at Tutto Italia and Chefs de France in the World Showcase and the Grand Floridian Cafe.

    Finally, you’ll want to make sure you spend all of your credits. One easy way to do this is to trade leftover snack credits for pre-packaged snacks (these make great souvenirs for your friends and family back home too).

    More changes have been proposed for the Disney Dining Plan in 2017. They include adding one snack credit each day, bringing the nightly total to two, and possibly eliminating the Premium plan. But no matter what changes are ahead, the plan will continue to be a good deal if it’s used wisely. Do you have any other tips for dining plan participants? Share them in the comments below!