The Basics of the Walt Disney World Dining Plan

In the first post, I talked about the Free Dining promotion that Disney is running throughout the fall.  However, I didn’t go into a lot of detail about the dining plan except for the savings that a family could have in using the promotion.  This post is going to go into more detail about the dining plan and more specifically the dining plan at Walt Disney World.

To the average person making their first trip, the Disney Dining Plan (DDP for short), can be overwhelming.  There are lots of options.  Lots of categories for meals.  Will I be able to use all my credits?  And so on.  Yes, the DDP can be overwhelming….at first.  Just take a look at the standard brochure that Disney gives up discussing DDP.

2014Dining

There is a lot of information in the brochure and a guest would need to take some time to sit down and read it.  When you get to your room for the first time, who wants to sit down and read that?  Not very many people.  It usually gets pushed aside under “I’ll read it later,” and it never gets read until the guest gets home from their vacation.

There are three categories of food at Walt Disney World: a snack, a quick-service meal, and a table service meal.

A definition for all three:

A snack: A snack is something can be purchased at either a snack cart or a quick service restaurant.  Examples of snacks are a 20 oz. bottle of soda or water, a scoop of popcorn, 12 oz. coffee, or a bag of pre-packaged snacks.  Typically, if it costs under $5, it counts as a Disney snack.

An example of a snack menu:

Snack Menu
Snack Menu

A quick-service meal: A quick-service meal is exactly what is says.  It’s a meal where a guest goes up to the counter, orders their food, and waits at the counter for your food to be ready.  The only exception to this is Be Our Guest where for easier queue management a guest orders their food from an electronic kiosk and then goes to find a table.  A Cast Member will bring the food to your table.

An example from Columbia Harbor House:

Columbia Harbor Quick Service Menu
Columbia Harbor Quick Service Menu

A table-service meal: Very easy to define.  A meal like going to out to eat at restaurant.  Guests are seated at the table, menus are brought to them and guests are waited on by a Cast Member.

An example from Coral Reef Restaurant in EPCOT:

Coral Reef Dinner Menu
Coral Reef Dinner Menu

Disney, for purposes of the DDP, allocates the number of snacks, quick-service meals, and table-service meals based on the number of NIGHTS in a stay.  For example, a family that has a four-night and is on the standard dining plan, each person in the family will get 4 snacks, 4 quick-service meals, and 4 table-service meals.

Starting in 2013, Disney also included the price of a refillable mug in the Dining Plan.  So each person would receive a refillable mug.

When a guest adds the Disney Dining Plan to their resort stay (guests staying off-property can not take advantage of the dining plan), the guest has three packages to choose from: quick-service dining, regular/standard dining, and deluxe dining.  Here’s a breakdown of what’s included in all three packages.

Quick-Service dining (per person): 2 quick-service meals (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay)  There are NO table-service credits included in the quick-service package.  The cost per night of this dining package is $41.99 for guests aged 10 and up; $16.03 for guests aged 3 through 9.

Regular/Standard dining (per person): 1 quick-service meal (per night), 1 snack (per night), 1 table-service meal (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay).  The cost per night of this dining package is $60.04 for guests aged 10 and up; $19.23 for guests aged 3 through 9.

Deluxe dining (per person): 3 counter or table service meals (per night), 2 snacks (per night), 1 refillable mug (per stay).  The cost per night of this dining package is $109.53 for guests aged 10 and up; $29.86 for guests 3 through 9.

Note: gratuity is NOT included in the cost of the table service meals under the regular/standard and deluxe dining plan.  This comes “out of pocket” and can be charged back to the room.

Reminder about the gratuity
Reminder about the gratuity

At the end of every quick or table meal, a guest will get a receipt with the prices for everything order, typically, zeroed out and at the bottom will be reminder of how many credits they have remaining on their stay.

Receipt example
Receipt example

For snacks and quick service meals, there is no distinction made between “adult” snacks and “children” snacks.  They are all lumped together.  For table service meals, however, they do make the distinction and the credits are broken down into “adult” table service credits remaining and children table service credits remaining.

One Credit and Two Credit Table Service Meals

Within the table service meals, the majority of the meals cost only one table-service credit.  However, there are some meals because their cost and/or popularity will cost the guest two table-service credits.  Those restaurants are:

Jiko – The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Flying Fish Cafe (Disney’s Boardwalk), California Grill (Contemporary Resort), Citricos and Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridan Resort and Spa), Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge), Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht and Beach Club Resorts), Le Cellier (Canada Pavilion in EPCOT), Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion in EPCOT), The Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios), Fulton’s Crab House and The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck’s Grand Cafe (Downtown Disney).

There is also one character meal: Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table which will cost guests two credits.

Three dinner shows: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show will also cost guests two credits.

All room service meals and pizza deliveries will cost guests two credits.

Making Table Service Reservations

Disney strongly recommends making reservations for all table service meals.  Guests can start making reservations at 180 days from the start of their vacation.  Does it seem odd to know what you are going to eat on vacation but not know what you are going to eat next Tuesday?  Yes, it does.  But this planning is necessary.  Reservations, for some restaurants, fill up very quickly.  The best plan of attack, in my opinion, is use the table reservations as your day-by-day planning guide for the parks.

This is what my family does.   If we have an evening table-service  reservation at Hollywood Studios, we may choose to go to another park in the morning.  Then, we would return to our room after lunch and recharge by the pool in the afternoon.  Then head to Hollywood Studios before our reservation and try to ride an attraction or two before having our dinner reservation.  The opposite would hold true for a morning table service reservation.

But overall, my best advice for making dining reservations is to make right on the 180 day mark.  This provides the guest with the best chance of getting reservations they want at the time they want them.  Ideally, the guest should have a prioritized list of restaurant ready to go when making reservations.  This provides the guest with back-up plans if Plan A should happen to fall through.

Hopefully this article provides the reader with some insight to the complicated world of the Disney Dining Plan.

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Thanks for reading!

 

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