By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor







The Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, Continued

By Dave Shute

(To go to the first page of this entry, click here.)

SOME COMPLEXITIES WITH THE DISNEY DINING PLAN

The first complexity is that not all restaurants participate in the Disney Dining Plan. Your resort will have the latest list when you check in. Almost all restaurants in the Walt Disney World theme parks and owned-and-operated hotels do so, but very few in Downtown Disney do. This brochure indicates which restaurants participate.

The second complexity is that some restaurants that participate require two table credits for a single sit-down meal. These are typically the most expensive or highest-demand meals. This list also changes from year to year. They are noted in this brochure.

You save money on this plan only if you would have bought a lot of sit-down meals to start with. However, Disney’s best loved meals book up very quickly. The best response is to have your itinerary set and be in a position to make restaurant reservations six months in advance. This is the third complexity.

THE OTHER DISNEY DINING PLANS

Quick comments on the other one million Disney Dining Plans:

The “Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.”

  • Subtracts the table credit, adds another counter credit and another snack credit. Less expensive.
  • You will not save much money on this plan, especially if you plan on any table service meals, since those will be all cash.

The “Disney Deluxe Dining Plan.”

  • This plan gives you three full meals per night of your stay, all of which can be table service meals if you wish. Appetizers are added to the table service coverage. Two snacks/night.
  • While if you actually ate all this stuff, you would save a bundle…I just can’t imagine any family committing the time and calorie intake that this plan implies. On the other hand, for those simply seeking to limit the complexity of their vacations, taking this plan means you don’t ever have to juggle one meal type versus another.

The Disney Premium Dining Plan and Platinum Dining Plan

These plans, from a food perspective, are identical to the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan.

They do, however, add on a lot of stuff not having anything to do with dining, for more money.

For links to more on these plans, see this page on the Disney Food Blog.

PAGES:  Previous |  1  |  2

COMPLETE LIST OF DISNEY WORLD DINING SITES IN THE BASIC ITINERARY

Crystal PalaceMagic Kingdom:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Character Meal)
  • Pecos Bill Café
  • Crystal Palace (Character Meal)
  • Dole Whip at Aloha Isle (Snack)

Hollywood Studios:

  • Backlot Express
  • Sci-Fi Diner (Snack)

Epcot:

  • Akershus Banquet (Character Meal)
  • Sunshine Season Food Fair
  • San Angel Inn
  • Boulangerie Patisserie (Snack)

Animal Kingdom:

  • Flame Tree Barbecue

Resorts:

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (Fort Wilderness, Dinner Show)
  • Chef Mickey'sChef Mickey’s (Contemporary, Character Meal)
  • Beaches and Cream (Beach Club, Snack)
  • Dole Whip at Captain Cook’s (Polynesian, Snack)
  • Plus your hotel’s counter service and your hotel room!

Downtown Disney:

  • House of Blues Gospel Brunch
  • Rainforest Café

 

MORE ON WALT DISNEY WORLD DINING



75 comments

1 Heather { 02.12.11 at 9:51 pm }

Hi,
I have a question. We are planning to get the Dining Plus plan. We have 2 adults, 2 teens and a (just turned) 4 year old. I know that the 4 yo will be eating off the children’s menu. However, the 4yo eat like a bird. Are we allowed to go to a quick serve with the 4yo and just share off of the other meals and save the the 4yr QS for a snack in the afternoon?
Or is that not possible?
Thanks

2 Dave { 02.12.11 at 11:08 pm }

Heather–can you re-ask? I’m not fully following what plan you are thinking about, and what you are considering for the 4 yo! Sorry, Dave

3 Heather { 02.12.11 at 11:11 pm }

No no, that’s ok. I read on another bored that someone had used their child’s Quick Serve meal as a snack for the family in the afternoon and let the small child eat off of their plates during meals.

So I guess my question would be: Does my 4 yo ness. have to get a meal and use her quick serve meal or can she eat off of our plates and instead we use her child QS as a snack we could all share later.

I guess we are just wondering cause the wee one does not really eat a lot. Is this possible? Or against the rules?

4 Dave { 02.13.11 at 11:25 am }

Yes, she can eat off your plates, and yes, you can eat what is ordered off of her quick serve. However, “her” quick serve has to come from the kid’s menu, if one is offered…so you might get stuck with chicken nuggets!

5 Heather { 02.13.11 at 3:46 pm }

Oh Gotcha. Thank you so much. And sorry about the ‘bored’ vs ‘board’!

6 Dave { 02.13.11 at 5:03 pm }

I didn’t take “bored” personally… 🙂

7 This is a very helpful site.Thank you..... { 07.29.11 at 4:07 pm }

My family consits of 3 adults my 13yr.old grandauther.This is our Christmas gift to my son and grandauhter.Dec.31sth check-in at Saratoga Springs Resort/also have my timeshare/check in12/29/01 Both resorts going home 01/08/12.Want to do Seaworld and Universal the 29th,30th,and 31st.Then Disneyworld parks on 4 or of the remaining days.Also want to to a day trip to Brandenton,Fl.Need suggestions about dining plan or no dining plan.What days to vistit parks,etc.Flexable on your suggestions.My son wants to go by the seat of our pants and do impromtu.What do you think?

8 This is a very helpful site.Thank you..... { 07.29.11 at 4:14 pm }

We’re a family of four 2 grandparents/adult son and our 13 yr.old grandauther.Our treat of the food portion of this trip.Staying at Saratoga Springs Resort/12/31/011 for 7 nts.We are also checking into the Marriott’s Grand Vista on 12/29/12.Want Seaworld,Universal,AND Disneyworld parks;plus one day trip to Brandenton beach. Any suggestions for flexability for a dining plan or are we better off to wing it and do each day impromtu ? Which parks to see first ,is a dining plan better left off to do impromtu vacation?

9 Dave { 07.30.11 at 3:46 pm }

WDW (and Universal) will be very crowded until the 2nd, and crowds will pick up again the next weekend for the Disney marathon.

So I’d hold your Disney days til the 2nd and later. For more on these dates, see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/07/05/disney-world-crowds-in-2012-christmasnew-years-2011-2012/

Based on extra magic hours and other factors, here’s my recommendation: Epcot the 2nd, as that’s the only night it has evening EMH, which makes it easier to see Illuminations. Hollywood studios the 3rd, as this is one of only two nights that Fantasmic is showing your period. Magic Kingdom the 4th, and the Animal Kingdom the fifth.

For more on which parks which days and why I picked these days see http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/07/26/which-days-at-which-park-at-walt-disney-world/

For a trip this short I’m not keen on the dining plan, as you would be investing too much time in sit down meals that should be spent on the rides instead!

10 Sharon { 11.30.11 at 5:15 pm }

Hi – we are going to Disney next week arriving on the 6th, we are staying at the Polynesian. I did not get the meal plan and am now second guessing it. However, I booked several meals, Hoop de revue, Luau, and Crystal Palace that had to be paid for up front with credit card. If I get meal plan now, can I still use credits for those meals I already paid for? Also is the candlelight dinner package plan worth it? I was thinking of booking it for our first night – our kids are 8 and 6 and probably will only be at Epcot that first day. Thanks.

11 Dave { 11.30.11 at 8:28 pm }

Hi Sharon–I’m not sure about the ones you’ve already used a credit card on–suggest you just call Disney dining and ask them…re the Dining Plan vs what you’ve booked, many are 2 credit meals and in gerneral cash is cheaper than the dining plan for those. To really know you need to add up your expected cash costs and compare them to buying the dining plan. Menus you can use to help with this are on many sites–e.g. allearsnet.com. I love the Candlelight processional, and recommend it for slightly older kids, but it is more “religious” than “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas” and your kids may not find it worth the cost of the CP dinner package…

12 Jeanette { 02.06.12 at 5:45 pm }

Hey there, I’m planning our Disney vacay arriving on May 24, 2012. You mentioned the Fantasmic show at Hollywood Studios. Do they only have the show on the weekends? If so, what time? Thanks!

13 Dave { 02.06.12 at 7:01 pm }

Hi Jeannette, Fantasmic is currently scheduled in late May every night at 9p. Additional shows may be added as well! See this for more: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/02/06/fantasmic-in-2012-at-walt-disney-world/

14 alli { 03.17.12 at 11:33 am }

hi, we are planning a Oct (we are very flexible on the exact dates) 5 night/6 day 1st time trip with our (will have just turned) 7yr old & 5 1/2 yrd old sons. should we hold off booking to see if a deal pops up? we are looking at the pop, aoa, cb,music, & cs resorts . we are also debating btwn the dining & deluxe meal plans, (my husband would like to sit down for breakfast & dinner) which would you advise? and do you need to make reservations for the character breakfast dining?

15 Dave { 03.17.12 at 11:48 am }

Hi Alli! You can re-book into a deal if one comes out and your dates and hotel are eligible. So you can wait, or not–up to you.

Breakfast at Disney World…I’m against it! 🙂

The best way to beat crowds is to be at the parks before they open. This makes a real table service breakfast very hard to do. And yes, you need to book character breakfasts, often far in advance (you can book 180 days ahead).

Note that many resorts you are considering don’t even have table service options (pop, aoa, and music).

Ps I prefer later to earlier October–see this for why: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/when-to-go/next-best-dates/weather-and-when-to-go/chance-of-cyclonic-storm-affecting-florida/ Also see this for recommended October weeks: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/10/20/2012-weeks-to-visit-walt-disney-world-ranked-in-order/

16 Joan { 07.15.12 at 1:08 pm }

Using your advice, our first trip last January with niece for one week was fantastic! So much so that we now want an adults-only trip this trip this December, going with your recommendation of week around December 8 or so. Budget-wise, we need to stay at moderate resort–$200 or under per night. Our big question now is stay at an official Disney moderate resort and get free dining plan starting December 10, or stay at the Dolphin/Swan and pay as we go for meals? We like the Dolphin for proximity to Epcot for dining, and can’t find any other moderate Disney property within walking distance…Your advice?

17 Dave { 07.15.12 at 1:58 pm }

Hi Joan and I’m so glad the first trip went so well!

A coupla points on the Swan?dolphin that you likely already know but just to make sure–they aren’t Disney resorts, and are equivalent to deluxes, not moderates–so I’m not sure you can do them for $200 a night…add in the ~$100/night loss form free dining, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be better off elsewhere.

And you are right, no Disney moderates are in walking distance of anything…for a couple, among the mods I recommend POFQ–seer this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/06/26/the-most-romantic-walt-disney-world-resorts/

The most cost effective deluxe is the Wilderness Lodge–see this http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/08/25/review-disneys-wilderness-lodge/ In early to mid-December 2012 it runs $305-330 a night…

18 Terry { 07.19.12 at 7:24 am }

Hello Dave,

As a family of 3 we would like to eat at Chef Mickey’s on the 28th July, preferably having a breakfast at the restaurant. I cannot find anywhere to check availability. We are based over in the and fly to the US next week. I have been reading that there are cancellations, but I need to keep checking the availability at the site, but I am unable to find this link.

Many thanks if you can assist, as I didn’t realise you needed to book in advance for this

Regards

Terry

19 Dave { 07.19.12 at 7:43 am }

Hi Terry you can check WDW restaurant availability here: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining/ Chef Mickey’s usually sells out 4-6 months in advance…

20 Peggy { 08.15.12 at 2:25 pm }

I finally bit the bullet and booked for Nov. 24 – Dec. 1. We plan on following your itinerary except for the candlelight procession, which I don’t think is a good fit for our family. What do you recommend in its place for the evening? Should we try to get a seat for Illuminations (maybe a late dinner at Rose & Crown)? Thank you for your assistance-your site has been vital to us!

21 Dave { 08.15.12 at 4:51 pm }

Hi Peggy, and glad the site has helped! My advice will vary a bit depending on the age of your kids, so let me know that!

22 Peggy { 08.15.12 at 10:38 pm }

Kids are 9 (boy) and 7 (girl), both over 48″ (probably doesn’t matter).

23 Dave { 08.16.12 at 6:53 am }

OK, Peggy, that mean sthey may be old enough to enjoy just touring around World Showcase and finding a good Illuminations spot. I’d still recommend San Angel Inn, but book it as a regular dinner, not as a Candlelight Processional Package dinner…

24 Peggy { 08.16.12 at 8:49 am }

Got it-thanks!

25 Matthew { 08.21.12 at 10:32 am }

Hi Dave,

I just booked our 5-night, 6-day vacation starting Feb. 24, 2013. Kids will be 4 and 2, both almost to their next birthdays. Couple of questions on the dining plan (I decided to go with it b/c of character meals):

– Kids under 3 can’t get it, so what do we do for meals for my 2 year-old??? Should I call Disney and say ‘she’ll be 3 the following month, can I get the dining plan’ or is it cheaper to do otherwise?

– We are leaving at night on Day 6, do we get the Dining credits for that day?

– Would you recommend using credits for 2-credit meals like Cinderella, or just paying cash for them?

As always, thanks so much for your help!!!

26 Dave { 08.21.12 at 11:37 am }

Hi Matthew!

It’s generally expected that you’ll feed your <3 year olds from cash-bought snacks and from your plate--servings are huge most of the time. You can, if you wish and think the 2 year old will eat enough to be worth it, promote the age of the 2 year old and pay for the plan for him/her...

You get one set of credits for each night of your stay, and any unused credits don't expire until midnight the day you check out. So you don't get 6 days of credits, but rather 5 nights--but you can use them on day 6, if you have any left over that day.

Re the 2 credit meals, there's no easy answer. It's kinda a question of the next best use of the credits, and what that next best use would cost you if you paid cash instead...if it looks like you'll otherwise have credits left over, then use them for Cindy; if not, and this will require you to pay cash for two meals instead, then you need to look at the menus of the restaurants you are thinking about to see which approach is cheaper...

27 Matthew { 08.21.12 at 12:43 pm }

Thanks Dave! Knowing that the portions are huge, we’ll just feed her from our plates. It appears that she was not charged for park tickets either, so that would be another cost if we changed her age to 3. Thanks again!

28 Dave { 08.21.12 at 12:56 pm }

Oh, I should have thought about the tickets point! That’s a big deal…

29 Lora { 11.11.12 at 12:21 pm }

Just wanted to say thanks! I’m using all your info to plan our trip in February, 2013. I’ve been able to book all the restaurants you recommended.

30 Dave { 11.11.12 at 1:10 pm }

You’re welcome, Lora! Have a great trip, and come back here when you return to let me know how it went!

31 Cynthia { 12.08.12 at 10:50 pm }

Hi, my Daughter (19) and I are going for our first visit to WDW December 30 – January 6th. I am thinking of the Quick Service since we are not much on sit down dinners and don’t want to take the time. Do you recommend this plan or should we just pay out of pocket?

Thanks for this website, a lot of good information.

Thank you,

32 Dave { 12.09.12 at 7:25 am }

Hi Cynthia, the plan won’t save you much–think of it as more a budgeting tool (you’ll know roughly how much you have to spend). SO it doesn’t much matter whether you buy it or not… I strongly agree with you not getting the regular dining plan, as that’s a very crowded week and the best sit-down spots have likely been sold out for months…

33 Troy { 12.23.12 at 1:57 am }

Dave–

One thing that we found out (near the end of our trip, unfortunately) is that the quick service credits are the same for kids and adults. There are Table Service (Adult) credits, and there are Table Service (Child) credits, but the quick service credits are just that: Quick Service credits. So essentially you can have a child order anything they want off the menu. This was explained to me pretty extensively by a concierge at the resort when I received a print out of our credits so far, and I noticed the wording (lack of “child” and “adult” next to Quick Service credits).

HOWEVER, I would also say that not everyone in the WDW dining staff realizes this, or they choose to ignore it. After having it explained very succinctly by the concierge, I about got into it with one of the quick service cashiers when I ordered an “adult” item for our “child.” She said I couldn’t do that, and it went back and forth, until I eventually gave in (our child wasn’t passionate about the meal – it’s just that Dad wanted to get his money’s worth). We had no problems the other two times we tried it. I just wished we would have known earlier – we would have taken advantage of it the whole time.

So you might want to look into that and give the results on this page as a way to get more value out of the quick service. You would think the cashier would be knowledgeable about it than the concierge, but the concierge made it abundantly clear. She in fact said that there have been talks recently about breaking it out in the future as child/adult, but for now, it’s all the same. I would think that type of in-depth conversation, together with the fact that we were able to do it a couple of meals, confirms that you can do it.

Sorry for the novel, but that’s how I roll. 🙂

34 Troy { 12.23.12 at 2:00 am }

And in keeping with my reputation, if you explained this somewhere already and I missed it, all apologies.

35 Dave { 12.24.12 at 8:00 am }

Troy there’s two issues here: the interchangeability of the credits (you are right) and the requirement of children 3-9 to order from the children’s menu if available. The fact that the credits are interchangeable doesn’t change the second point. See any WDW paper on the dining plan–e.g. the second dot point on the second page of this: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/media/wdw_nextgen/CoreCatalog/WaltDisneyWorld/en_us/PDF/2013Dining.pdf

36 Troy { 12.24.12 at 8:25 am }

Ah-ha! I knew it seemed to good to be true. So in essence, both cast members were right. Thanks for the info.

37 Dave { 12.24.12 at 3:51 pm }

Sometimes Troy I look at things like the conversation we just had and am struck again by how mind-boggingly complicated Walt Disney World is! Oh well, that’s what gave me the excuse to write about it!

38 Kristie { 01.05.13 at 11:47 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are planning a trip for the week of Thanksgiving with our 4 old almost 5. We are limited and that is the only time of year we can go to avoid the heat due to schedules etc. Any advice? We were thinking of staying at the new animation resort and considering the reg meal plan or plus? We do like to eat and enjoy good food. Im just not sure that we would spend 220 dollars a day on 3 ,meals and snacks. We plan on doing as many character meals as possible and hopefully cinderella for Thanksgiving. Any advice or tips are appreciated. Also how crowded can we expect it to be that time of year. I have heard sometimes if it is too crowded they close down admission. If that happens and I have prepurchased tickets will I get a refund or will we be admitted since we are staying at the resort?
Thanks Kristie

39 Dave { 01.06.13 at 10:20 am }

Kristie, Thanksgiving week is wildly crowded, but not usually so crowded that they close parks. (For the specifics on park closures, see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/11/30/park-closings-at-walt-disney-world/ –it is unlikely to happen, and if it does, unlikely to affect you)

The premier dining plan won’t save you any money, as most people find it hard to use all their table service credits, especially at a crowded time of the year when reservations are hard to get, and time is more valuably spent on the rides, or relaxing, than at so many sit-down meals…

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40 Kristie { 01.06.13 at 4:41 pm }

Thanks so much Dave! A few more questions if you dont mind. We are debating sat through fri. Or sun through sat that week. Any difference between the two meaning is there anything happening the day after Thanksgiving for the holidays we would miss? I had heard thats when they start Christmas celebrations. Also any suggestions for navigating certain parks on certain days? Are there any special reservations we would need besides for meals character shows etc? For example do we need special reservations for tours in animal kingdom etc? Sorry this is our first time since we were children and we want to make the most of it for our daughter, she is princess obsessed!

41 Dave { 01.07.13 at 6:48 am }

Kristie, all the holiday stuff is out before Thanksgiving except for Epcot’s Candlelight Processional and Holidays Around the World, which traditionally begin the day after Thanksgiving. So that suggests an itinerary that includes the full Friday at Epcot. Right now there’s nothing to think about booking besides meals, but this may change as Disney implements sometime this year its NextGen project. I will have suggestions for an itinerary to use that week, but not until Disney’s November calendar is out, which will be 6 months before…

42 Allison { 01.28.13 at 12:10 am }

We are going for Mardi Gras this year (2/9-2/15/13). I can’t find any Mardi Gras events posted. Does WDW have a special Mardi Gras parade, or other events? Is so, where and when? Thanks.

43 Dave { 01.28.13 at 5:52 am }

Hi Allison, no, there’s no special Mardi Gras celebration at WDW–unless they do something as part of their special promotion this year of “Limited Time Magic” (which I don’t track closely).

Disneyland is doing one, so Disney World may do one as well– see http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/let-the-memories-begin/limited-time-magic/

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44 Bryan { 02.04.13 at 12:24 pm }

We were able to snag the Free Dining Plan during our Sept 2011 trip. We stayed at Pop Century that year. We would love to stay at the Art of Animation in Sept 2013 and get the Free Dining Plan again. What would be the best way to accomplish that assuming that they offer Free Dining during Sept again? I’m not sure what was offered in 2012. Did they offer Free Dining with Value resorts, or was it just Free Quick-Service Dining?

45 Dave { 02.05.13 at 8:15 am }

Hi Bryan, in 2012, AofA was excluded, and for a while now free dining at the values has meant “free quick service dining.”

There’s a slight reason to believe that 2013 fall free dining may end in mid-September–if its offered at all. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2012/09/02/bounce-back-offer-hints-2013-free-dining-dates/

If you book a package deal now, you can later convert it if your hotel and arrival dates are eligible…

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46 Lorna { 02.08.13 at 2:06 am }

Hi Dave,

I have purchased the dining plan with 1 snack, 1 quick meal and 1 table service meal for myself and 2 kids (6 and 15). My brother (adult) is missing 2 days of a 7 day trip and we will be left with 2 quick meals and 2 table meals. Can we combine 2 quick meals for 1 table meal? We are going in a month and I feel it wasteful to not use these meals. I booked each day a table service already. Any ideas? Can we go to a table service dining restaurant and pay the difference for the 3rd or 4th meal?

47 Dave { 02.08.13 at 7:19 am }

Hi Lorna! No, you can’t combine two quicks into a table. What I’d do in your spot is get a babysitter, or leave the 15 year old in charge, and treat yourself to a nice 2-credit dinner! See this for the best 2 credit options for adults: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/where-to-eat/dining-alternatives/the-comprehensive-guide-to-walt-disney-world-dining/ The options showing an underline are the two credit meals…

48 Jenn { 02.26.13 at 2:52 pm }

Thanks for this site, it’s fantastic! My question is, we are headed to WDW from Oct28-Nov4 2013… We will be camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. What do you think our chances of getting our dining plan free?

49 Dave { 02.26.13 at 3:16 pm }

Hi Jenn and thanks!

Two things:

1. I’m dubious that we’ll see a lot of free dining in 2013–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2013/02/07/2013-free-dining-mymagic-implications-disneys-q1-2013-earnings-call/

2. Free dining offers traditionally exclude the campsites at Fort Wilderness, so if there is an offer, you likely won’t be eligible for it. (I assume they are excluded partly because prices at FW are so low to start with, partly because there’s very limited dining at FW, and partly because so many people bring or tow their kitchen with them.)

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50 Cyd { 03.15.13 at 3:17 pm }

Hi Dave,

Have been reading your blog and as much as the advice is great and really useful I wanted to ask you to help me so that me and my family don’t go into this really blind. We have done our own research but are confused over some of the plans so i was wondering if you could help?

Me and my family 4 adults 1 child are staying in the Port Orleans French Quarter
We arrive in July 31st and we are staying for 14 nights.
1. We have the quick service dining plan and we want to make the most of it. Can you explain what we are will get on it credits wise. What we can get and how to maximise it so that we can make the most of it.
2. Are we allowed to use the riverside pool and dining hall there?
3. Pizza room service- do we have to pay cash for this?
4. Best times to beat the crowds as much as possible?
5. is the dining plan better than the quick service?

I know this is alot to ask but i really want my first family holiday to go as well as it can I want us to never forget because it was magical rather than because it was a failure.

thanks x

51 Dave { 03.16.13 at 7:17 am }

Hi Cyd! Here’s the answers:

1: See this http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/disney-dining-plan-faq/
2: Yes
3: Yes
4: See my itineraries–e.g. http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/12/06/summer-itinerary-for-walt-disney-world-v2/
5: Only if you would have eaten that many table service meals anyway…

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52 Dave mallett { 03.28.13 at 6:42 pm }

Hello Dave

My family and I are looking to stay at Saratoga Springs in mid September 2014

There will be 5 adults and 3 children ( age 10, 9, 9) and we wish to get the Disney dining plan ( we got the plan for free when we stayed at Saratoga in September 2012)

We live in the Uk, can you tell me when is the best time to book and with which tour operator in order to get the best deal?

Thanks and we love your blog!!

53 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:15 am }

Hi Dave and thanks!

I can’t help on the “best tour operator” question, but there are UK based Dinsey discussion boards–e.g. thedibb.com–wehre you could post a question.

You can book up to 500 days out–see this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2011/02/21/how-far-in-advance-can-you-book-a-walt-disney-world-vacation/ but there’s no real rush, so ;long as you are set 180 days ahead. Saratoga Springs is one of the two least popular DVC resorts, so getting a room there is rarely a problem…

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54 amy { 08.05.13 at 12:51 am }

Found this thru pinterest and love it! My question is can the dining plan be purchased by itself? We, my husband, 10yr old girl, 5yr old son and myself, are planning on coming next may for star wars weekends and are able to get discounted rooms and tickets on property via relatives. We always spend what seems like a small fortune on food and was hoping to be able to buy the dining plan and save some money. Thanks for the help!

55 Dave { 08.05.13 at 7:14 am }

Hi Amy and welcome!

I don’t quite understand where you are staying, but here’s the scoop–including on a question you did not ask:

You can only get the dining plan if you are staying in a Disney owned and operated hotel on a regular reservation made through Disney

If this means you can’t get it–don’t worry, the dining plan hardly saves any money these days, and I am seriously considering taking it off my recommendations

I don’t really cover Star Wars weekends, but be aware that they are a zoo, and are wildly crowded…

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56 amy { 08.05.13 at 9:21 am }

Thanks for your help 🙂 We will be staying on Disney property, probably the pop century, but our room will be made by a family member that is retired from Disney. That being said and with what you have told me we aren’t eligible for the DDP. We sorta planned on crowds for star wars weekends but we will endure it since its my husband’s and son’s favorite thing 🙂 Thanks again for the help and for a great info site!!

57 Dave { 08.06.13 at 7:54 am }

Thanks, Amy, and have fun!!

58 JenT { 11.04.13 at 6:10 pm }

Hello Dave, first off, whenever I book our family’s Disney trip, your site is my go to resource for all things Disney. I never have any issues finding the info I need so, GREAT JOB!! My question however, is a matter of opinion. We have our family trip for 4 all set (me, hubby and kids 18, 15/ 5n 6d) and received the free QS DDP for our reservation. I was told you could upgrade to other plans just by paying the difference. We have reservations at Crystal Palace, 1900 Park Fare (Cinderella and Sisters) and the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater, all dinner res. In your opinion, is it worth our wallet to just upgrade to the DDP instead of just the free QS and book a few more table service meals, or just use the QS plan included and pay OOP for the table meals?

59 Dave { 11.05.13 at 7:48 am }

Jen I’m so glad the site has helped! My guess is that given your table service plans you’ll be better off paying the upgrade, but honestly there’s no way to be sure without figuring out what you’d have to pay one way and then the other…

60 LS { 02.04.14 at 3:01 pm }

To me the exception on the deluxe dining plan is when you get the free dining plan and just upgrade to deluxe. I have done the math and we end up doing really well on this, but we are foodies and like to book at least 4 of the signature dining events during our stay. This reduces the quantity of food but ups the quality. Since it is vacation this is our treat. We also stay in the park 7 days and 6 nights – so we spread the food out over the 7 days. It is a great time to be able to tell your kids order / try anything that you want. Our son is 12 and he is as excited about trying the new things to eat as the rides. For a skinny kid he puts away more food than me 🙂 If your kids are picky or wont sit through longer table service dinners – this would be a waste I’m sure, but for us it is a great time and adds to the Disney experience.

61 Dave { 02.05.14 at 2:35 pm }

Great points, LS!!!

62 Jennifer { 03.04.14 at 10:42 am }

Hi! My family of four just booked Disney for November 5-9, 2014. We are staying at The Art of Animation hotel. It will be our second visit to Disney. In May (180 days before out trip) I will be booking (hopefully!) The Crystal Palace for breakfast for November 9. My question is this: I am overwhelmed by the Disney Dining Plans! Ideally, here’s how we’ll be eating: Breakfast – simple, grab and go, bagels, cereal, juice, coffee, etc. Lunch: burgers, sandwiches, etc. Dinner: sit down either at the park or downtown Disney. Any suggestions on which plan (if any) to choose? Thank you!!

63 Dave { 03.05.14 at 7:34 am }

Jennifer, the “regular” dining plan has the biggest impact if 1. your kids will be younger than 10 at the time of your visit, and 2. you are doing character meals. Otherwise it tends to cost more than paying cash…

64 Jennifer M. { 05.03.14 at 6:25 pm }

Hey Dave! regarding the free dining promotions for the fall going on right now. I was originally going to book Nov. 29-Dec 6th at either POR or WL. Then it was announced that neither those dates or POR were included in the special. So I thought of changing my dates to Nov. 15-22nd, to be included in the free dining special. My family has never been before, and although I know free dining isn’t always the most cost effective, I thought it would be really great bonus for my kiddos to get to do several more character meals than we could afford otherwise. My question is should I go ahead and book at WL now and then on the 7th add the FD? or should I just wait until the 7th to book everything at once. Also..is there any chance that that first week of Dec would be added to the dining promotion? ( I hear sometimes the do another announcement in August)

65 Dave { 05.04.14 at 11:34 am }

Jennifer, if you wait, then you can make your reservation online the 7th. Booking now and then re-booking means you have to use the phone, which the 7th will take hours. And no, I do not expect any changes to the offer…

66 Kent { 06.11.14 at 10:05 am }

Dave, very informative site. Overwhelming may be a better description! Who knew there was so much to planning a vacation. Quick question on dining. We have 2 adults and 2 children under 10 and are looking at staying at AoA for 4 days in early Sept. We are debating the dining plan. Many friends recommend it. From your site, looks like you recommend the Dining plan if we are following your 8 day itinerary. But in other places, you seem to recommend against it. For a shorter stay, does the dining plan make sense? Since we are only 3 months out, I assume it might be tough to get reservations at some of the better places? Also, do you know if there is a AAA discount on rooms at Disney resorts or park tickets? Thanks a ton!!

67 Dave { 06.13.14 at 7:02 am }

Kent, you can sometimes find AAA discounts–see this: http://www.mousesavers.com/walt-disney-world-vacation-discounts-and-deals/disney-world-resort-hotel-discounts-codes/#AAA and also this: http://www.mousesavers.com/sources-for-discounts-on-walt-disney-world-tickets/#AAA

I have mixed feelings about the dining plan. If you intend to do a lot of one credit character meals, and have kids under ten–as you do–it can be a slight overall savings. There’s more in the second half of this page (after all the free dining stuff) http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/04/16/the-best-ever-free-dining-faq-in-the-history-of-the-world/

68 shelley moore { 04.08.15 at 8:24 am }

Hi, we are going to Disney in Florida for the first time…2adults…and a 9 yr. Old….staying at all-sports…8 nights..9days…booked through military base so saved alot….would you recommend our dinning rsvp early or late?? Most of rsvp booked so averaged 730-900 pm…..also checking in 11 June 2015….check out 19 June….any other helpful hints???? We did go w/dinning plan….

69 Dave { 04.08.15 at 9:00 am }

Shelley, the trick is to plan your evenings and book dining around those plans. For example, each of MK, HS and Epcot has an evening show.

70 Jordan { 04.28.15 at 11:57 am }

Hi – I will be traveling with 2 adults and 2 kids, ages 6 and 2. Obviously, we won’t have to pay for my 2 year old. We are staying for 7 nights at the Polynesian in May. Right now, we have booked 2 character meals for lunch (Hollywood and Vine and Akershus) and 1 for dinner (Chef Mickey). For the most part, we will be having breakfast in the hotel (breakfast bars, cereal, etc.) as the kids are not big breakfast eaters. Considering we already have 3 character meals booked, it is worth getting the “Regular” dining plan (1 sit down, 1 counter) or just pay cash? Thanks.

71 Dave { 04.28.15 at 6:51 pm }

Jordan, you’d have to have a table service meal every day, with most of them character buffets, for the dining plan to make any economic sense…

72 Erick { 10.21.15 at 10:05 pm }

Hello Dave, I am planning a visit to Disney World between Jan 9-16, 2 adults no children, and was wondering if it would make sense to get the DDP if I plan on trying just 3 restaurants that are considered table service restaurants, but I have not seen them on the 2016 DDP brochure or should I just get the QS plan and pay out of pocket for the 3 restaurants?

73 Dave { 10.23.15 at 8:06 am }

Erick, adults typically don’t save money on the dining plan, so frankly I’d skip it and pay out of pocket.

BTW, it’s common for the restaurants not owned by Disney to not sign their dining plan deals til late in the calendar year as they negotiate the cash value of the dining credits…

74 Amanda { 07.11.16 at 10:01 am }

Hi Dave, do you happen to know about what time of the year the restaurants for the 2017 dining plan will finish signing their deals? Our 180 day date is October 24 and I am hoping that the list will be near, if not all, completed. Thanks!

75 Dave { 07.13.16 at 7:55 am }

Amanda, some of the non-Disney-owned restaurants (so most of Disney Springs, many Epcot, and Coronado Springs) often don’t show up on the list until December…You can book them either regardless, then later cancel if they don’t sign up…

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