So, you’ve decided that the Disney Dining Plan is right for you. You’ve checked the options, prices, and what’s included. You’ve weighed what’s important in your vacation to what’s not. Now, you need to plan your trip to make the most out of the experience. While organizing the Disney Dining Plan can initially feel overwhelming, a few tips and tricks can help you do so seamlessly. Let’s take a look at one of the many ways you can plan ahead for your next vacation to the World.
Image: Organizing the Disney Dining Plan can be easy. Take a look at my tips and tricks to help you plan your next vacation.
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is a meal plan option for guests who are looking for a more inclusive vacation experience. Those who book either a Magic Your Way package or use Disney Vacation Club points may take advantage of the plan. With the DDP, guests pre-pay for a specific allotment of meals which are monitored using their Key to the World card; after a dining experience, you are given a receipt which shows the amount of meal credits are left during your stay. Before we look into how to organize your meals though, let’s take a minute to see what’s available.
Meal Plan Options
All of the DDP options come as a part of the Magic Your Way (MYW) vacation package. This is your standard room and theme park admission bundle in which you can add a variety of “extras” like dining. To find out more about Magic Your Way packages, be sure to check out this page on the DIS. To hear an audio discussion of the different packages available, listen to this recent segment from the DIS Unplugged podcast.
Image: Walt Disney World has a variety of dining options available to its guests including the restaurant, 50s Prime Time Cafe, as seen above.
There are two types of meals at Walt Disney World: table service and quick service. The first is a sit-down restaurant experience complete with entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. Quick service is just that – a quick meal at a counter service style eatery; this includes your entree (or combination meal if that is offered), non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert if you are eating lunch or dinner. With the DDP, you can select a plan based on how you like to eat during your vacation:
- Magic Your Way Plus Quick Service Dining: MYW package plus two quick service meals and one snack per night of your stay. You also receive a refillable mug which may be used in the food court of your resort.
- Magic Your Way Plus Dining: MYW package plus one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack per night of your stay. Again, each guest will also receive a refillable mug.
- Magic Your Way Plus Deluxe Dining: MYW package plus three meals and two snacks per night of your stay along with the refillable mug. With this option, you can use your meal credits in any combination. For example, if you want to eat all table service meals one day, you can do so. Or, if you want to mix it up with both table service and quick service meals, you can do that too. All table service meals also include an appetizer selection per person. As a result, this dining package is the most flexible for guests to use.
While these are the three main dining packages available for purchase, Disney also offers two other options: MYW Disney Platinum Package and MYW Disney Premium Package. These are more elite bundles which include resort stay, theme park admission, dining, and other activities such as behind-the-scenes tours, recreation, spa treatments, and more.
After deciding which dining plan is right for you, it’s time to begin planning how you will structure your meals. The easiest way to do this is to make a chart listing each day of your stay, what parks you plan to visit, and where you’d like to dine. Here’s an example of a chart I have used in the past when opting for the DDP:
Using a word-processing program, create a table with a column for each day of your vacation. I like to include the days of the week and the dates up top to help keep me organized. If you are planning on utilizing Disney’s Extra Magic Hour (EMH) program, visit the schedule to help you decide which parks you will visit and on which days. Because I tend to vacation during peak season, I am a fan of the nighttime EMH and discussed its benefits in a recent article. If you choose to opt out of the EMH schedule, still choose your parks for each day and add them to your chart.
Now that you know what parks you’ll tour, it’s time to decide where to eat! Write on the bottom of your chart how many meal credits you have based on the plan you chose. For example, if you and your partner selected the MYW Plus Dining package, for a six-night stay, you will each have six table service, six quick service, and six snack credits for a combined total of 12 each. Remember, the DDP is based on how many nights you stay at Walt Disney World, not how many days. While I have always found this frustrating when using the plan, there are ways to ensure that you have a meal scheduled for your last day depending upon where you eat earlier in the trip.
Walt Disney World has over 100 eateries across the entire resort including 70 table service restaurants with 27 of them being inside the theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. There are also some fantastic restaurants in the resort hotels and at Downtown Disney so make sure you consider all of your options. Based on your selected package, you are free to dine at a location of your choice. Make a “Wish List” of your favorite restaurants or those you don’t want to miss. Add them to the chart according to what day you’ll be in the nearest park so you do not add unnecessary travel time into your schedule.
Again based on how many table service, quick service, and snack credits you have, check out the menus and fill in choices for the rest of your vacation except for the last day (remember you do not get meal credits on this day, but may use those you have left over from during the week). Signature restaurants like Narcoosee’s or California Grill require two table service credits; most restaurants, though, only require one. I like to put a little note of how many credits I’m using under each eatery on the chart to ensure I don’t spend more than I have or lose out by not spending a credit.
One tip to keep in mind is that your snack credits can be used for pastries that would serve as a light breakfast. For example, consider purchasing a muffin or croissant at Main Street Bakery or in France at Epcot. You can also find snack items that would satisfy you after having a big meal in the afternoon. Similarly, bringing along a box of granola bars or small boxes of cereal make for great breakfasts in your resort room. Using these tips, you can spread your meal credits out and still have some for your last day.
Image: A family dines and hits the pins at the new Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney West Side.
Disney takes dining reservations for the length of your stay 10 days in advance at 180 days from your arrival date. You may do so by either calling 407-WDW-DINE or using the online reservation system on Disney’s website. Keep in mind that certain restaurants may require a credit card hold; this makes sure that you keep the reservation or cancel it within the appropriate timeline. Be sure to note the rules when making your reservation.
Even though the Disney Dining Plan does require a bit of planning, it can be a nice way to pre-pay for your meals if you are looking for that type of vacation. The plan is not for everyone though depending on their eating habits and what they feel is a major part of their trips. Some may prefer paying out of pocket using the Tables in Wonderland card while others like to “Grab & Go” here and there instead of taking time out of their park touring. How you vacation is a personal preference, and I think that having the option of planning your meals ahead of time is something that could be worthwhile for some. Have you used the Disney Dining Plan before? What tips do you have for those interested in using it in the future? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.