Love it or hate it, the Disney Dining Plan gives guests the ability to focus more on their vacation and less about food costs.
In case you have no idea what the Dining Plan is, be uure to check out this in-depth Disney Dining plan guide, I put together.
In short, the Disney Dining Plan is system in which once Disney World resort guests prepay for their Dining Plan, they can then pay for their meals and snacks using credits.
Typically, on a basic dining plan, you’ll get 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and 1 snack credit.
Since this packaged is prepaid, you have the ability to either eat more than what you paid for, or worse eat less. All in all, on average, it’s a pretty good bargain, if you do it right.
But did you know that there are actually tips, tricks, and secrets in which can help you maximize you Disney Dining plan, essentially allowing you to eat up to 33% more than what you paid for?
It’s true! Below, you’ll find some of my best, most helpful Disney Dining plan tips, tricks, and secrets to help you save money and better, fill up your belly with plenty of good eats.
So with that being said, let’s jump straight into it.
Disney Dining Plan Tips, Tricks, and Secrets
Here are 30 surefire tips to help you make the most of your Disney Dining Plan.
1. Get the dining plan if you plan on eating more that $60 worth of food (per person).
The Disney Dining plan works by giving you a certain number of meal and snack credits to use during your trip. These credits are for snacks, table service restaurant meals, quick service meals, and even Fine Dining meals depending on your plan. Most people, myself included, tend to go with the Basic or Plus plan which gives you one snack credit, one quick service credit, and one table service credit. All of these credits will equal out to around $60 a day for food. If you know for sure that you can eat more than $60 worth of food, then get the plan. If not, it may not be for you. But also, don’t forget, Disney is pretty expensive so $60 might be pretty easy to attain.
2. Maximize every meal with the Disney Dining Plan.
Since you already prepaid for you Dining Plan before you arrived, your #1 priority is to make the most out of it. And please don’t be cheap either.
3. Understand that quick service meal credits are worth $15 so maximize every dollar.
Be sure to find the most expensive (and most delicious) options at quick service locations so that you get your money’s worth. Don’t go for the salad, go for the barbecue rubs and chicken combo (Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom)!
4. Undertand that table service meal credits are worth $35 so maximize every dollar.
Since you need to make the most out of $35 I recommend that you order the most expensive things on the menu. Or better, go to some typically expensive restaurants like ‘Ohana for dinner, Boma’s Dinner Buffet, Cinderella’s Happily Every After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
5. Understand that snack credits are worth $5 so maximize every dollar.
Whatever you do, don’t use your snack credits on bottled water. You can easily get free iced water from all quick service locations. I recommend you use your snack credit on something delicious and pricey like a Dole Whip Float.
6. When in doubt, use table service for a buffet, especially something like ‘Ohana, Biergarten, or 1900 Park Fare.
Buffets, especially character buffets (for dinner) are usually the most expensive restaurants. It’s honestly the best value for your money.
7. Use your table service meal credit at a character dinner.
Character dinners are generally the most expensive, than most other meals, including character breakfasts. One of the best is places to use your credit is Chef Mickey’s where an average meal costs around $43-45 a person.
8. Use kid dining plan credits on adult entrees at quick service locations.
Some quick service restaurants don’t offer a kid’s menu, so your kids will have to get an adult meal. Restaurants where this applies to include Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom, Catalina Eddie’s at Hollywood Studios, Golden Oak Outpost, Toluca Turkey Leg Company at Hollywood Studios, Sommerfest at the Germany Pavilion in Epcot, and Yorkshire Fish Shop at the United Kingdom Pavilion in Epcot, just to name a few.
9. Never use the meal plan when dining at Signature Dining restaurants.
Most people do, but I truly don’t recommend it. Since these restaurants require 2 table-service credits ($70), you’ll never truly maximize your credit. There is one exception however. See the next tip. My advice, just pay out of pocket at these places.
10. Use the dining plan (2 table service credits) at Cinderella’s Royal Table.
This restaurant is really expensive and it requires you to prepay. By using your 2 dining credits, you’ll definitely save more money going this route as opposed to paying out of pocket.
11. Use your dining plan snack credits during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival or Flower and Garden Festival.
You can actually use your snack credit (worth $5) on tasting proportions during the Food and Wine Festival. It’s a good way to truly maximize your credit. I remember using my snack credit for a lobster roll which would’ve costed me $9.50. Not bad if you ask me!
12. Go for steak, lobster, milkshakes, and orange juice since these are the most expensive.
You should definitely skip the cheap salad and go for the filet mignon. Why? Because there’s no limit as to how expensive your meal can get! Worse case if you really want that salad, you can just order it additionally to your meal.
13. If you’re on the dining plan, be sure to eat at the most expensive restaurants.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, Ohana, Garden Grill, 1900 Park Fare Diner, and the seafood dinner buffet at Cape May Cafe are some of the most expensive 1 table service credit restaurants.
14. Never buy water with your Disney Dining plan snack credit.
Your snack credit is worth $5, don’t buy the water for $2.50. Get the Dole Whip Float instead. Or better, go to Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie and get a tasty freshly baked French treat, or other tasty treats around the “World.” Just make sure that your snack is at at least over $4.
15. Don’t use table service or quick service meal credits on breakfast because it doesn’t include dessert. Lunch and dinner does, however.
Use your meal credits on lunch and dinner because you’ll get an entree, side, drink, and dessert. For breakfast you’ll only get an entree and drink.
16. When at Whispering Canyon, opt for the bottom milkshakes as your “non-alcoholic beverage.”
There’s not better way to truly maximize your meal credit than opting for a milkshake instead of a soda, juice, coffee, or tea.
17. Remember that gratuity is not included in the dining plan.
It’s easy to forget that you actually need to tip at a table service restaurant, especially if zero money is handled during your meal processes. So please don’t forget to tip. And don’t worry, you’ll get a receipt telling you how much your bill would’ve been without the plan, that way you can calculate an appropriate tip.
18. Don’t forget to get your free refillable mug.
Most dining plans will give you a free refillable resort mug which can be used on unlimited soda, tea, coffee, and water. Unfortunately, these mugs can only be used at your resort and are utterly useless at the parks. Worse case, you can fill them up with water from the water fountain.
19. You can break up your credit uses. Just because one person in your group eats at a certain restaurant doesn’t mean that you all have to eat there.
You can easily buy a meal from one place, and move on to the next eatery. This is perfect for picky eaters, especially at a place like the World Showcase at Epcot.
20. Share your meal with someone else in your group. Some restaurants actually offer meals that are big enough for 2 people.
If you or someone in your party aren’t big eaters, you can easily get one meal to share, and save that dining credit for another time. Some good quick service restaurants that offer big portions include Cosmic Ray’s (Magic Kingdom) and Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kingdom).
21. Bring your own drink when you’re at a quick service or table service restaurant if you have a toddler.
Unless if you’re at a buffet or family style restaurant, you will have to pay for a drink for your young child (3 years old or younger and not on the dining plan).
22. Spread out your dining plan credits.
Just because you have 5 days at the parks and 5 table service, quick service, and snack credits, doesn’t mean you have to use them every single day. You can honestly go to a character breakfast in the morning (1 credit), quick service for lunch (1 credit), get 2 snacks in the afternoon (2 credits), and then go to a signature dining restaurant for dinner and use 2 credits, all on your first day. I don’t recommend that, but hey, if you love to eat, then why not. The system is meant to be as flexible as you are.
23. Use any remaining snack credits on pre-packaged goods for the trip back home.
You might find yourself on your last day with 3 snack credits, yet no space in your stomach to eat any more. That’s why I recommend you buy some prepackaged snacks like gummy bears, caramel corn, rice crispy treats, hard pretzels, and fudge, just to name a few. These make perfect companions for plane or car ride back home.
24. Come during “free dining” promotional season.
There are times when you can get a free quick service dining plan when you book a stay for a certain amount a days during the offseason. These promotions come and go but if it fits your time frame, you should definitely consider it.
25. Consider a Premium or Platinum Dining plan if you want to eat at signature restaurants.
Unlike the Deluxe dining plan, which requires 2 credits for signature, these 2 premium dining plan packages only require 1.
26. Don’t go with the Disney Dining Plan if you don’t want to be forced to eat.
One bad thing about the Disney Dining Plan is that it kind of forces you to eat. Since you have certain amount of credits each day, you have to use them all before you trip ends so that you don’t waste your money. And honestly, you might have times when it’s your last day at Disney and you still have 4 table service, and 5 snacks left over. Once, I ended my trip a few days early and me and my dad had to go to Epcot and eat non-stop. (I know, first world problems…)
27. If you don’t eat that many meals a day, skip the dining plan.
If you’re someone who skips meals or fasts on occasion, then the dining plan my not be the best option for you.
28. Vegetarian? Skip the dining plan.
Okay so let’s be clear, the dining plan is truly meant for big eaters who have expensive taste. Unfortunately most vegetarian options are always the cheapest things on the menu. Investing in the dining plan would honestly lead to you losing out on a significant amount of money. So if I were you, I recommend skipping the meal plan and paying out of pocket instead.
29. Kid’s under 3 don’t need a dining plan.
At buffets, they’ll get their own plate, while at other locations, they’ll have to eat off yours.
30. If you’re getting a military room rate at any Disney Resort, you can actually get the dining plan too.
In case you didn’t know, in order to get the Disney Dining Plan, you have to buy a Magic Your Way vacation package which consists of your resort room, dining plan, and park tickets (only if you aren’t an annual pass holder or Disney Vacation Club member). But if you’re in the military (or reserve, retired, DoDo employee, or in the Coast Guard) you can get military Disney tickets for ($180ish) as opposed to anywhere upwards $250). So when booking a Disney room, you can also opt for the dining plan minus tickets. So when booking your vacation, consider this option!
31. Be sure to order your Disney Dining Plan before you get to Disney.
The Disney Dining Plan can only be added to your trip reservation prior to your trip (48 hours or more). You will not be able to purchase it at resort check-in, or at any theme park entrances.
32. Kid’s can get adult quick service meals.
Theoretically, a kid’s quick service credit and an adult credit is virtually the same. Therefore you should consider ordering an adult meal for your children with your quick service meal credit.
33. And last but not least, MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY DAY
Let the inner kid in you come out, have a blast, and most importantly, eat incredibly delicious food!
Bonus: Don’t spend your credit (or money) on the school bread. There are better things out there!
Thanks for reading!
Hopefully you found some great Disney dining tips and tricks that’ll help you maximize every single on the Disney Dining Plan.
Thank you so much for reading and please check out some other incredibly helpful Disney Dining tips on our blog.