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 sure to check out this in-depth Disney Dining plan guide, I put together.
In short, the Disney Dining Plan is system in which Disney World resort guests prepay for their their meals and snacks using credits.
Typically, on a standard Disney 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. If used correctly, you can essentially dine at certain restaurants and spend less than you would if you weren’t on the DDP.
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 23% 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 some surefire tips to help you make the most of your Disney Dining Plan.
1. Get the dining plan if you plan on eating more than $95 worth of food daily (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, and quick service meals. Most people, myself included, tend to go with the standard DDP 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 $95 a day for food. If you know for sure that you can eat more than $95 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 $95 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 $25 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 ribs and chicken combo (Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom)!
4. Undertand that table service meal credits are worth $65 so maximize every dollar.
Since you need to make the most out of $65 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, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
5. Understand that snack credits are worth $6 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 or family-style restaurant.
Buffets, especially character buffets (for dinner) are usually the most expensive restaurants.
That’s why I recommend going to ‘Ohana, Biergarten, Chef Mickey’s, or Akershus.
It’s honestly the best value for your money.
After buffets, family-style restaurants are the next best option.
7. Use your table service meal credit at a character dinner.
Character dinners are generally more expensive than 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 $51 per adult and $33 per child.
8. You can trade in your dessert for a soup, salad, or side
If you don’t want dessert or just don’t see anything worth trying on the dessert menu, then you can opt to swap out your dessert for a soup, salad, or side.
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 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. Add the Disney Dining Plan if you’re a Passholder staying at a Disney Resort
If you’re an Annual Passholder, you can add the DDP to your Disney Resort stay without having to purchase a package that includes park tickets.
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 $6) at almost every booth during the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. 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, and the seafood dinner buffet at Cape May Cafe are some of the most expensive table service restaurants.
14. Never buy water with your Disney Dining plan snack credit.
Your snack credit is worth $6, don’t buy the water for $4.50. 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 $5.
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 no 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 transaction. 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, 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 the 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. Skip the Disney Dining Plan if you don’t drink alcohol
On both Disney Dining Plans, your meal at both Quick Service and Table Service restaurants include a mixed cocktail, beer, or wine. Alcohol prices average around $9 to $13, so if you don’t get an adult beverage, you’re essentially losing money.
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 may not be the best option for you.
28. Vegetarian or Vegan? 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 at a significantly discounted rate.
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 purchase the 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. Spend over $25 for quick service meals
Regardless of which Dining Plan your purchase, a single Quick Service meal is worth around $25. So if possible, try to spend at least $25 or more. This can easily be done by ordering either an alcoholic drink or a specialty beverage like a milkshake.
33. You can trade one Quick Service credit for three snacks
At most quick service restaurants (and not booths, kiosks, or carts), you can actually trade in your credit for 3 individual snack credits.
You will have to use all 3 at the same time on 3 snacks at that partial Quick Service restaurant.
34. Order an alcoholic drink with your meal
If you’re someone who typically drinks alcohol with your meals, then the Disney Dining Plan is the best option since every Table Service credit includes a speciality drinks (and that includes alcohol now).
35. 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.
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