When you add the Disney Dining Plan to your vacation, a huge buffet of dining possibilities opens up to you. But how can you make sure that you’re getting the most value for your money? There are some ways to use those credits that even some dining plan veterans may not know about. Here are 7 ways to get the best bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan:
1. Understand your plan
The Disney Dining Plan comes in three varieties: the Quick Service Dining Plan, the Regular Dining Plan and the Deluxe Dining Plan. Each variety escalates in price, and each comes with a refillable mug that you can use at your resort. On the Quick Service Dining Plan, you get two quick-service meals and one snack per day per adult. The Regular Dining Plan offers one table-service meal and one quick-service meal per adult each day, and the Deluxe Dining Plan provides three meals (any combination of quick-service or table-service meals) along with two snacks per adult per day.
Disney recently announced some changes to the plans that will go into effect on May 31. Snack entitlements will be expanded to include all single-serve non-alcoholic beverages that aren’t in a souvenir container, all ice cream novelties and all hand-scooped ice cream offerings (including sundaes that don’t exceed two scoops or ice cream that isn’t served in a souvenir container). Other snacks that were previously not included in the plan are now included, such as caramel or candy apples (with or without nuts, but not including character-inspired apples), large Mickey Cookies and 1.5-ounce Tin Mints and freshly popped popcorn at Big Top Souvenirs in New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and Karamell-Kuche in Epcot’s Germany pavilion (though pre-bagged popcorn is no longer included in the plan).
Disney also announced that starting May 31, dining-plan participants can exchange one meal entitlement for up to three snack credits within the same transaction at certain quick-service locations and shops. Some cast members previously allowed guests to do this, but the company is making the policy official. This is a great idea especially during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, when three snacks can easily make a meal and those snacks can cost up to $8 each!
2. Peruse the menus
Menus and prices for Disney restaurants can be found online, so it’s a good idea to check them out even before you choose a dining plan. Make a list of items that you and the other people on your reservation would typically order, and compare that to the prices of the plans. You should also factor in your own vacation habits. If you plan on hitting every ride in the parks from open until close, you may not want to spend hours on table-service meals, so a quick-service plan could be a better choice. On the other hand, a table-service dining credit could save you money on an expensive dinner at Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom, for example.
While you’re looking at menus, keep in mind that some restaurants will charge you two table-service credits for a meal instead of just one. Luckily there aren’t many that do this, but some of the “signature” restaurants at several resorts and the Fairytale Dining experience at Cinderella’s Royal Table (along with two Star Wars character meals on select weekends) will cost you two table-service credits for one meal.
3. Head to Epcot
In many of Epcot’s countries, you can have a “signature”-style dining experience for the cost of only one table-service credit. The plan will save you money on a wide variety of dishes from all over the world, including beef tenderloin in France, Beijing chicken in China and filet of sole in Italy.
On the other side of Epcot, Sunshine Seasons is a great place to spend your snack credits. Some of the “snacks” make for very filling small meals, such as a plate of garlic udon noodles (which is on the menu as a “side dish”) or butternut squash soup.
World Showcase also has several interesting items to spend snack credits on, including sushi at Kabuki Café in Epcot, a curry chicken pocket at Joy of Tea in China and coconut Paletas (traditional fruit popsicles) at La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico.