By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2018, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

g. How to Eat at Walt Disney World

By Dave Shute

How to Eat      Where to Eat   The Dining Plan   Guide to Disney Dining


When you make your Walt Disney World hotel and ticket reservations, also sign up for the package “Magic Your Way Plus Dining,”  and request a refrigerator for your room.*

Assuming you eat where this site’s itineraries suggest you do (see Where to Eat), this can save you a some money.

If you can’t, see What if You Can’t do the Dining Plan?


The “Magic Your Way Plus Dining” package, usually called the “Dining Plan” or “Dining Package” for simplicity, gives you 3 credits per person per night of your stay, to be used any day of your trip.

  • One credit can be used for a snack (think bottled water or an ice cream cone),
  • One credit for a meal at a “counter service” restaurant (think cafeteria), and
  • One credit for a meal at a “table service” restaurant (think waiters).

The plan costs during most of the year ~$51 per day per person 10 and older (including tax; add another $6/day for tips), and ~$13 per day including tax for people younger than ten (add $3 per day for tips).  Prices are slightly higher during the busy seasons–see this for more on Dining Plan price seasons.

Only hotel guests of Walt Disney World Resorts can buy the dining plan–so the Swan, Dolphin, Shades of Green, etc, are all excluded.

If you analyze the menus of the restaurants this site recommends, you will discover that taking this approach can save money. The budget (see What to Budget) assumes you sign up for this dining plan.


There are a couple of complexities to this, all reflected in the budget and the To-Do List.

  • One is that several of the table service meals on the basic and many other itineraries actually take two table service credits each, as they are high-demand, expensive,  signature events
  • Second, partly as a result, you won’t have enough table service credits to cover all your table service meals
  • Third, some of your meals are outside the Disney parks and resorts system and not eligible for credits

Your To-Do List, budget, and itineraries assume that you will use your credits for your most expensive eligible meals, that you will pay cash for the remainder, and instruct you on which meal is which.

Note that when you make your advance reservations (on your To-Do List), some special meals for which demand is high will require a credit card to make the reservation, even though you intend ultimately to use table service credits to pay.

This is simply Disney’s way of making sure that you attend the event you have reserved.  You will be able to use your table service credit on actual arrival–just make sure you tell your waiter!

For more on the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, see this.

*The refrigerator is free at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and until the spring of 2012, was $10/day at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Starting in the spring of 2102, the Pop refrigerator is no additional charge, and you don’t need to request it any more.

It permits you to keep milk, water, OJ, fruits, vodka, etc., in your room to use on the days when you will be eating breakfast in your room. Each resort has such items available for purchase in its gift shop and/or counter service restaurant.

You are eating breakfast in your room these days for two reasons: first, these are the days you need an early start (see  your itinerary), and eating in your room speeds things up–letting you sleep later!

Second, because the dining plan only gives you two full meals a day, you don’t have enough credits to cover all of your meals.  An in-room breakfast is the least expensive meal to pay cash for.



1 Katie { 12.13.11 at 8:49 am }

Dave, we just returned from our family’s first visit and we followed most of your advice regarding meals (but skipped all the princess themed dinners bc we have boys) and made some changes that may be useful to other parents:
1. I ordered groceries from Garden Grocer which were delivered to our resort before we arrived and stored for us (in fridge) by Bell Services until we were ready for them to be delivered to our room. I highly recommend this service because our resort gift shop did not carry any breakfast or healthy snack foods (milk, bagels, bag of apples, bottles of water, etc). We ate 7 out of 8 breakfasts in our room and that enabled us to start our day in the parks MUCH earlier than other families who were stuck in breakfast buffets.
2. Do bring bowls & utensils because again, our resort store didn’t carry much in that department.
3. If you have a child under age 10, they qualify as a “child” on the Disney Dining Plan and we found the meal choices on the Kids Menu to be universally the following: cheeseburger, hamburger, processed chicken nuggets & “other” – usually a limp turkey sandwich or something specific to that restaurant/park like Tacos in Epcot’s Mexico. Our son ate more bad chicken nuggets last week than he’s had in five years: every lunch and dinner. By Day 3, he was so upset with his food choices, he revolted and stopped eating. So I gave him my meal and ate his and I can report that the majority of Kids Meals are terrible. Sure, they include apple sauce and carrot sticks but the main entree is just really bad fast food. I’ve even written a letter to Disney complaining about this it was that bad. We ended up having to plan carefully so we would end up in a park/resort that had decent meals for our son. Not magical at all.
4. Counter Service: we found that most counter service meals in the parks, with the exception of the World Showcase in Epcot, were all bad fast food. The best counter service meals we ate: at Morocco and Coronado Springs Resort.
5. For families watching their waistlines: be aware that your meal plan include desert for every counter service and table service – of course you can decline these deserts (as we did most of the time) but it caused a major argument with our kids every meal – NOT magical. I’ve written Disney to ask why they don’t give eaters the choice of a desert or a side salad where available.
6. Refillable Mug: we did not buy this because our family doesn’t drink soda. We do drink coffee but not enough to want mugs of it daily. I am disappointed that Disney doesn’t offer bottled/filtered water at these dispensers. Yes there are water bubblers at the parks but our kids balked at the taste of Florida tap water so I was glad I had bought a case of bottled water for us.

Overall, we found the Disney Dining Plan to be a good value but it required us to be creative about using our counter service credits as it was hard to find good food at counters. Overall, Disney needs to work harder to offer healthier choices for it’s diners.

One last recommendation: Dave, you don’t include this but this was our family’s favorite meal after the Hoop: Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge – outstanding!

2 DisneyDiningAgent { 08.15.12 at 6:39 am }

The 2013 DDP plan can be found at

HOWEVER: guests need to be aware that the restaurants have until 1-1-13 to commit to the plan. You’ll find that many restaurants are missing from the brochure, so it essentially useless at this point. As the year goes on it will be finalized, but there will be two major changes that I know of right now: Be Our Guest will be 1 table service for dinner and 1 quick service for lunch and no characters; and Le Cellier will go to 2 table services for lunch.

3 Dave { 08.15.12 at 11:34 am }

Thanks! This issue has thrown people in the past…e.g for San Angel Inn, which always seems to sign on at the last minute!

4 Amanda from Destinations in Florida { 08.19.12 at 10:05 am }

Guests visiting during the Holiday Season should also be aware that ‘Be Our Guest’, Magic Kingdom’s newest restaurant will be opening on November 19th and reservations can be made for dinner (table service for dinner, counter service for lunch) starting August 20th at 7am. Very excited to be trying out this new restaurant!

5 Dave { 08.19.12 at 11:51 am }

Me too, Amanda–and thanks for the heads up!

6 JJ { 08.22.12 at 6:38 pm }

Dave- Arriving on 2/23 (2 adults, 2 kids (7 and 4)). Flying in around noon. Staying at Bay Lake Tower. Considering trying to do Chef Mickey’s for an early (maybe 5:00) dinner and then trying to make it to the Magic Kingdom for Electrical Parade and Wishes. Thought this would be a great start to the trip…
What do you think?

7 JJ { 08.22.12 at 6:41 pm }

I guess my question is whether there is time enough for this dinner to make it to the park for those events…

8 Dave { 08.23.12 at 7:38 am }

Hi JJ! You’ll be fine for Wishes, and most likely fine for the parade. The parade is at 7 (Wishes at 8) that day and it’s a ten minute walk to MK from Chef Mickey’s, so a 5ish dinner should work. You’ll want to leave about 6.15 to give you half an hour in the park to find and camp on a good parade and fireworks viewing spot…

9 JJ { 08.24.12 at 5:54 pm }


Is breakfast at Akershus at 8:00 on a day that Epcot opens at 9:00 a good idea? At first, I thought– great, we will get in the park early. But, I am worried that by the time we get out of breakfast, the lines will already be long. But maybe not? I don’t know how long these breakfasts take? What do you think? Is another time more ideal (in relation to lines, etc.)?

10 JJ { 08.24.12 at 10:19 pm }

I guess I have the same question for CRT and MK…

11 Dave { 08.25.12 at 3:11 pm }

JJ–I can’t recommend it, especially since Akershus is a ten or fifteen minute walk from Soarin. A skt-down breakfast, unless pushed until 10.30 or later, is almost always a mistake except on off days when you don’t plan to get on any rides!

12 Daniel { 09.09.12 at 11:18 pm }

Dave – We are newbies and looking to travel to WDW next summer. There will be 4 Adults (Grandparents) and 3 Kids (9, 6, 2). We are debating Meal Plans… Plus Dining vs Plus Deluxe Dining. The plus dining is much less expensive but doesnt seem to keep you in Restaurants the entire time, however the Deluxe gives you Special Meal options.

Looking at staying at the Bay Lake in a 2Br Villa.

Any advice on this? Should we plan on Breakfast in the room to make up the difference on the Plus Dining?

13 Dave { 09.10.12 at 7:44 am }

Hi Daniel! You don’t want, on average, much more than one sit-down meal a day, as it leads to too many fixed points in your schedule (since you have to reserve them months in advance) which will drive you mad. Because of that, the regular dining plan is fine, and just supplement it with cash for what it doesn’t cover…

14 soapbubbble { 10.03.12 at 10:54 am }

Hi Dave,

I just booked my disney world trip for oct 14-20 2012 yesturday. I bought the disney dining plus plan but am clueless on how to use it. I plan to be at the magic kingdom on monday so my question is: do i have the option to go to any restaurant or do I stay within the same park. Also with such a last minute booking I am having a hard time finding any reservation for dining. Please help!!!!

15 Dave { 10.03.12 at 12:32 pm }

Hey, for how the dining plan works see this: The fun restaurants often book out months in advance…it may be really hard…

I just checked the availability of dining reservations for your AK date. In “location” I clicked Disney Animal Kingdom Park from the drop-down, and in “Time” I clicked “dinner”. I set party size as 4, not knowing how big your family is. It gave me a couple of options…so its not completely unavailable! The site is here:

16 Jane { 10.05.12 at 3:16 pm }

We are going to Disney World from 12/26 thru 1/3 and staying at Coronado Springs. We have been to Disney every two years but usually in October. I know it’s going to be crazy busy, are we crazy for choosing this time of year? Any hints on staying calm, cool and smiling with 2 adults and 2 (12, 14) girls? We are not getting the dining plan as the cost was prohibitive. I’m guessing we’ll be doing mostly counter service. Thanks

17 Dave { 10.05.12 at 4:30 pm }

Umm, Jane…yes you are! You can still have a blast though, but only because you’ve already been a couple of times, know your way aorund and don’t have to do everything in a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Just have your expectations set that you won’t see as many rides as during your prior visits. See this for some more advice (about 2011 year but still generally true)

18 erica { 10.09.12 at 12:06 am }

I’m not certain of my dining plans yet and I’m a tad stressed…we have family that work at the park, so while there may be a chance of getting a reduced rate for the DDP, we won’t know until December. I need to know how much to realistically budget for my trip for a family of 4…2A/2C (3 & 5) . I would love to treat the girls to Cinderella’s RT, but if not I’ll be equally happy with Akerhursh. Do they charge your card fully to maket the reservation or do they just hold the info for confirmation?
If we aren’t able to get the DDP, what do I do? Where should I eat? How much should I budget for us daily? Also, as for meal portions, I’ve read that some are big. WOuld it be reasonable to just order to adult meal and share with the girls? I’m not big on junk food, so pre-processed nuggets and fried chicken don’t appeal to me.
We’ll be there Feb 6-12 .

19 Dave { 10.09.12 at 6:55 am }

Hey Erica, for a few meals they charge your CC at the reservation–on your list, Cindy would apply. The simplest way to set a food budget is to peg it at the cost of the dining plan, which you can figure out by going thru the reservation process on the WDW website, but not completing it…

Note also that deals for early 2013 are expected to come out tomorrow!! See this:

20 Thanksgiving day meal { 12.25.12 at 2:39 am }

First off, thanks for all of the helpful info! Your site is awesome! Secondly, I have a question. We are planning a trip for the family (3 family-groups ages 5- 65) to Disney World for Thanksgiving in 2013. Where would you recommend we eat our Thanksgiving Day meal? I know Disneyland like the back of my hand, but this will be our first trip to Disney World in 18 years and the first with our kids. Any suggestions would be grand. Maybe a suggestion with characters and one without? Thanks in advance,


21 Dave { 12.25.12 at 8:53 am }

Hi Wendy, and thanks!

Well, first Merry Christmas, and second, I recommend eating your Thanksgiving meal at home since that’s such a wildly busy week at Walt Disney World!

Failing that, in the parks Liberty Tree Tavern at MK is a great spot–as it’s themed around Colonial America. On the other hand that means you are in MK, which is the worst place to be on Thanksgiving.

Outside the parks a couple of places come to mind–Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge (because of the Lodge’s frontier theming and spectacular Xmas decorations) or, for something a little more off beat, The Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness (See )

None of these is a character meal–tho Hoop is a dinner show. No character meal lends itself particularly specially to Thanksgiving, so if a character meal is the goal, I’d just pick base don the merits–see this:

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22 dining plan { 12.25.12 at 1:49 pm }

A quick question – can you get a character meal with the dining plan? Thanks!

23 Dave { 12.26.12 at 8:22 am }

Hi, you can use your dining plan table service credits to pay for any eligible meal you have reserved, including almost all the character meals. Some of them cost more than one credit…

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24 Tom { 12.26.12 at 11:13 am }

To the previous user, I exchanged my credits for meals with Winnie the Pooh, Mickey and other characters. You just got to keep in mind that reservation, especially at Chef Mickey’s, is a MUST HAVE. Cheers!

25 Jenny { 01.01.13 at 1:18 pm }

My mom is planning on all four of us kids and our kids to go to WDW in Feb. 2014. She is taking care of flights and lodging so not sure where that will be just yet. My questions are as follows: 1) How can we plan for meals this way? 2) My daughter will be 7 when we go. She is disabled and has troubles walking any sort of long distance and tires very quickly, so, at the very least, would probably have to use a stroller. Is there any recommendations or provision for this? This probably will be the one and only time we will go but still want to make this a so called “magical” experience and I know we won’t be able to fit in as much as most others would.

26 Dave { 01.02.13 at 6:07 am }

Hi Jenny!

I don’t quite understand your first question about planning meals–Can you re-ask it?

For help in thinking through how to make things work for your daughter–and what help Disney can provide–I’d advise buying and reviewing the relevant chapters of this book: PassPorter’s Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line: Easy Access Vacations for Travelers with Extra Challenges

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27 Wendy { 01.03.13 at 1:21 am }

Hope your 2013 is going well so far! Another question…my in-laws own a home in Florida. I think that means they can buy Tables in Wonderland for 125.00. Would that be a better deal than the dining plan? There are 6 adults and 4 kids traveling over Thanksgiving break. It seems that they can get 20% off for up to 10 people…do you know much about this program?

Thanks again,


28 Dave { 01.03.13 at 7:24 am }

Wendy I don’t pay a ton of attention to it as it applies to so few of my users. The dining plan itself doesn’t save much anymore, so on the face of it it looks like a great idea!

29 Wendy { 01.05.13 at 3:06 am }

If we do it, I will report back!



30 Dave { 01.05.13 at 7:44 am }

Thanks, Wendy!

31 Sarah { 01.05.13 at 8:26 pm }

I found One day Disney tickets from about 12 years ago. Does Disney still honor them? And why won’t Disney match Expedia room prices? I called reservations twice to no avail.

32 Dave { 01.06.13 at 10:16 am }

Hi Sarah, not much help here. On the first point, they may honor them, but I can’t say they will for for sure, and on the second, I don’t know…

33 Lee { 01.24.13 at 6:12 am }

We have booked our first trip to florida for 15 days from 29th march 2013. my wife works at a school so we thought this was a better bet than the summer. Now it looks like we are going to hit the end of springbreak,the planner looks like very busy first week les so the second what would you recommend to do . we were thinking of MK in the mornings of the first week but what would be less busy in the afternoons. We will be in a villa with a car by the way.

34 Dave { 01.24.13 at 10:49 am }

Hi Lee, the afternoons are the busiest time, so targeting mornings and taking afternoons off the first week is likely the best play…

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35 Albert { 02.07.13 at 7:55 am }

Hi Dave. We are planning to stay at a Family Suite at the Art of Animation in April. It will be 2 Adults and 2 Children(9 and 2). We were thinking about getting the Dining Plan. Do you think it will be worth it for us? Thanks for your help!

36 Dave { 02.07.13 at 8:27 am }

Hi Albert! The best table service venues book up 5-6 months in advance, so the dining plan may well not be worth it for you…See this:

37 Jennifer M { 02.08.13 at 11:11 am }

For the San Angel Inn, I was looking at the menus, and it has a spot that says Disney dining Plan special. Is this the only food you can choose to eat? Or can you pick any entre if you have the Dining Plan?

38 Dave { 02.09.13 at 1:43 pm }

Hi Jennifer, you can pick anything!

39 jen { 02.11.13 at 10:06 am }

which meal plan do you recommend with kids? we would like to do character dining.
How do the free meal plans (if/when offered) differ when staying in value hotels vs moderate or deluxe? I heard the Value offer quick service and the others offer the Disney dining plan. Is there a way to upgrade the free dining plan to a better one by paying the difference?

40 Dave { 02.11.13 at 2:46 pm }

Jen, see this:

Over the past few years, when free dining has been offered, it’s been quick service at the values and the regular plan at the other resort classes, and yes, by paying the difference, you can “buy up” to the regular dining plan.

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41 Carol-Ann { 02.12.13 at 5:23 pm }

Hi, and thanks for a fantastic site! My son will be 10 when we visit (actually he’ll turn 11 whilst we’re there). He’s not a big eater and prefers chicken nuggets and chips to adult food. Can I buy the child (up to 9yrs) dining plan for him even though he’s “too old”? Thank-you.

42 Dave { 02.12.13 at 5:42 pm }

Hi Carol-Ann and thanks for the kind words! The short answer is no…With price increases over the past two years, the dining plan hardly saves much money any more, and particularly probably won’t in your case. So you may wish to just skip it and pay cash…

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43 Lisa { 02.16.13 at 9:43 am }

Hi Dave – just came back from a great trip and really appreciated your comprehensive site. A few places I didn’t initially agree, when I got there I saw you were right!, (e.g. best age to go). Couple things I wanted to mention that might help others. We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and their gift shop had a very good selection of food items for breakfast lunch and dinner, even paper plates, cutlery and beer. No need to go to Hess or order from Garden Grocer (like I did) for breakfast items.

And now I totally agree with you – at 5 years old, it was a lot of walking for my son and he was quite scared of many of the rides/attractions. He also didn’t understand the context of most of the themes, like “Frontierland”. If it was up to him, he would have spent half a day on Tom Sawyer Island. If you only go once – wait til 8 or 9!

While I understand why you would recommend Epcot first, we actually had a great time there. The rides are gentler but still exciting (e.g. Test Track) and he loved the Agent P hunt. But he got so worn out from a long day, he was too tired to do another park the next day, putting a big kink in our plans. Yes, definitely schedule breaks, or even restrain yourself to half days for the youngest kids.

Thanks again for all the advance planning help – it really made the trip much more enjoyable!!


44 Dave { 02.16.13 at 9:58 am }

Lisa, thanks so much for letting me know how it went!

And good point on the food available at AKL. In general, places with DVC resorts (like AKL) have pretty good food and eating supply selections–because of the full kitchens in the Villas.

Epcot for younger folk is a mixed bag. Some love it, and others find it dull…The other parks don’t yield such a bifurcated set of responses…

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45 Terri { 02.17.13 at 10:50 am }

Hi Dave– your site is invaluable! We are traveling the 1st of June with our kids 16, 13 & 10. We have been to Disney a couple of times and in the past have chosen the DDP but with the price increases and now 5 adults I just don’t see how we will come out ahead. I have decided not to do the DDP but second guessing myself after reading your article. Does it ever make sense financially to just pay out of pocket? Thank you!

46 Dave { 02.17.13 at 11:15 am }

Hi Terri, and thanks!!

The short version is that with all the DDP price increases in the past few years, it’s barely a deal anymore and particularly tough to justify in circumstances like yours–when you’ve got a ten year old who won’t be eating at the level you have to pay. So I think cash is a reasonable way to go…you just have to be more careful than you are used to in your food budgeting and ordering…

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47 Mike { 02.27.13 at 6:08 am }

Hello Dave, if you book a vacation package with room,tickets, and pay for the ddp then its offered free later, can the ddp be changed in your package with no penalty to you plus get your money back that you paid for the ddp? If and when do you get this money back? Thank You

48 Dave { 02.27.13 at 8:38 am }

Mike, I don’t know exactly “when you get the money back” but in general the answer is yes with one caveat. If any prices–like tickets–have increased between the two transaction dates, when you re-book into the deal, you’ll have to pay the new price.

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49 Jaynee { 03.12.13 at 7:54 pm }

Do you know if Art of Animation will let you rent a fridge during the stay? Or is it just Poly Resort and Pop Century?

50 Dave { 03.13.13 at 6:36 am }

Jaynee, as of mid-2012, all WDW resort hotel rooms inlcude a mini-fridge (or better!) in the room at no extra cost. So you are set!

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51 Mike { 03.30.13 at 4:08 pm }

With a 18 month old going g with us, what kind of snacks for her can we bring I to the park? What kind of snacks are not allowed in the park? Thanks Dave

52 Dave { 03.31.13 at 9:42 am }

Mike, there’s no formal list of what you can or can’t bring in. Anything typical that fits in a backpack or in the stroller will be fine!

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53 Sharon { 04.03.13 at 5:12 pm }

Do Disney dining reservations open up a week at a time? Or a day at a time? If I’m booking for October 5-12, will I have to call in at 6 a.m. EST every day of the week of April 8?

54 Dave { 04.03.13 at 5:49 pm }

Sharon, if you are not staying at a WDW resort hotel, yes, you need to call every day. If you are staying at a WDW resort, then when 180 days hits for your check-in day, you can book it and the next ten days at once…

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55 Mike Szlosek { 04.06.13 at 11:08 am }

I have to disagree with you about the dining plan. It used to be fantastic deal, then a great deal, then just a good deal. Now, not so much. They have taken too much away and increased the price too much.
Disney says you can save 20%. Perhaps, but you have to eat on property at the most expensive restaurants to do so, you have to order the most expensive entrees, and you have to order dessert, whether you want it or not.
Get tables in wonderland instead. Yes it costs $100, but you can buy as much or little as you want at WDW and still save your 20%. You can also eat off property one day, say if you go to Seaworld, and not waste credits that you have paid for. TIW also gives a discount on adult beverages.

56 Dave { 04.06.13 at 5:40 pm }

Mike you are right! I’ve changed a lot of other pages to reflect that it’s not so great a deal anymore, but not this one! Thanks for the reminder, I’ve cleaned it up a bit to make it more accurate.

See also this where I do in fact violently agree with the broader point!

TIW is a fascinating alternative for DVC members, AP holders and Florida residents. Since this site is meant for first time visitors who may never return, I’m gonna need to do the math to see if the incremental cost of an AP and the $100 will yield good savings for the itineraries outlined here…the two together will cost about $400 more than the typically-recommended 7 or 8 day non-hopper tickets for the itineraries, so that to break even, you’d need something around a $2k food spend…that’s very close to the 1875 budgeted on the site for a family of four doing one of the itineraries…

Thanks for the idea!

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57 KEITH { 04.18.13 at 11:12 pm }

Great, practical, useful site!
Is the Royal Table covered by basic dining plan? Does it use 1 or 2 credits?
Also which meal is best there?

58 Dave { 04.19.13 at 7:49 am }

Hi Keith and thanks!!

Yes, the Royal Table is a two-credit meal on the dining plan. The program is the same at all meals, but the best value is dinner, breakfast is the least good value, and if you do do breakfast, schedule it for as late as you can–e.g. 10.30a or later. For why, see this:

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59 KEITH { 04.20.13 at 1:03 am }

ok thanks.
Just trying to figure if it’s worth the $$$ for the basic dining plan for 2 adults, 3 kids, staying 6 days/5 nights. We do want to hit a few character meals.

60 Dave { 04.20.13 at 7:15 am }

Keith, it’s often close enough that it’s hard to tell. The more your kids are under 10 at the time of your arrival, the better the odds that the dining plan will save you money, as dining plan prices are much lower for kids under 10…

61 Sara M { 04.21.13 at 2:22 pm }

Your info on this page is the best I’ve seen so far! I have a few questions regarding our trip. First off, this will be our first trip and it will be with a 6 year old and almost three year old. We were considering doing Magic Kingdom only for three nights and four days. I know that the Contemporary is the closet but the Value resort is more price friendly. Basically, we want to go with the best that we can but being full aware we won’t be able to do everything. I was wondering your thoughts on this plan? I feel like if we keep waiting until we have just the right amount of money, we will never go. I want to go, to go and pray that next time will be even better (hence they will be a bit older, our pockets will be a fit fuller). I was hoping to stay somewhat close to the Magic Kingdom so that we don’t miss anything with such a short time frame. I see that AOA is almost a $600 increase (with the dining plan) versus the POP. Can you give me an estimate of time travel differences from the POP to MK? From AOA to MK? Are we talking hours? Minutes? Even an example say, we leave our hotel room at 9 a.m and go to the bus stop, how much time until we get off at the magic kingdom?

Thank YOU!!! I admire and appreciate your honesty so don’t hold back 😉

62 Dave { 04.22.13 at 8:13 am }

Hi Sara, and thanks!!!

First based on the price difference you are quoting, you are comparing AofA family suites with Pop standard rooms. AofA also has standard rooms, which are only a little more expensive than those at Pop. See this:

Second, these two resorts are right next to each other, so there’s no travel time difference between them. It’s about 15 minutes rolling time was the bus is moving.

Third you need to be at the MK turnstiles by 30 minutes before the park opens. This will profoundly improve your day, as lines are lowest in the first hour the park is open! That implies being at the bus stop a little more than an hour before opening (in case you just miss a bus)–around 7.50a on days the aprks opens at 9, a sit most commonly does.

You’ll be fine at a value–don;t worry about that!!

63 Sara M { 04.22.13 at 9:08 am }

What are turnstiles? Where are they located?

64 Sara M { 04.22.13 at 9:13 am }

Also, do you think 3 nights is enough? Or should we shoot for 4?
Thanks again!

65 Dave { 04.22.13 at 9:55 am }

Sara the turnstiles are just outside the park, and they are where you, with your ticket, are allowed entry.

66 Dave { 04.22.13 at 9:56 am }

With kids that age, Sara, you want three mornings, an afternoon, and an evening, so three nights is fine!

67 Sara M { 04.22.13 at 1:51 pm }

Thank You so much!

68 Sherrie Oliver { 05.01.13 at 5:22 pm }


My question is my family of 6 are going to Disney in Orlanda the week of May 20th 2013 and our hotel All Star Movies Resort has been paid for and our park hopper tickets were paid for but I just found out that we don’t a dining package. Is there a way to purchase one now or how would we eat for 5 days without going broke. Any suggestions you have would be welcomed. I have read lots of the info here and you seem to be very knowledgeable and helpful to everyone. Thank you for any help or advice you can offer.

69 Dave { 05.02.13 at 6:57 am }

Sherrie, the dining plan saves only a little money. Moreover, the best places to eat book up months in advance (see ), so you’d be unlikely to be able to get the bets use out of your table service credits. You can still add it, I think, if you call them right away, but I don’t particularly encourage it…

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70 Linda Anderson { 05.11.13 at 9:08 am }

What a wonderful site!! I am taking my family total of 13 ( 9A 4C) to WDW for Thanksgiving. We are staying at the Dolphin. Do we qualify for the 10 extra days before for booking?? Is it even possible to get a group this large to sit together at the hoop, aloha, and bbq??

71 Dave { 05.13.13 at 7:08 am }

Hi Linda, and thanks! I’m not certain, but I don’t think you can do the 10 days ahead–see this, where it’s not listed: But still try–and see what happens, then come back and let me know for sure!

I know Hoop et al can seat 12…so I’d think they can seat 13!

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72 Lina Anderson { 05.27.13 at 4:12 pm }

NO! You cannot book earlier than 180 day of 13.s and I had no trouble with a party

73 Dave { 05.27.13 at 5:53 pm }

Thanks Lina!

74 Diann { 06.06.13 at 8:38 pm }

Hi! Thanks so much for all of your tips! We are taking our first trip family of 4, 2 girls age 6,8. We arrive on October 22-October 27th. So far we have ADR for Cindy’s Wednesday @1:20, Friday Crystal Palace @ 6:10. Saturday we have Tusker house @ noon & Akershus for dinner. What should we do Thursday in Epcot?? And, should we just pick one for Saturday? We can’t quite swing The Polynesean unless they have free dining or room discounts. We are staying at Port Orleans. Where is the best spots for Wishes & Illuminations??

75 Dave { 06.07.13 at 7:47 am }

Hi Diann!

On your last question, see the links to Wishes and Illuminations here:

On your Saturday question…on such a short trip I would definitely not do two table service meals in a day…and I’m assuming you know that to do two parks in a day–as your Saturday ADRs imply–you’ll need a park hopper add on, which will cost an extra $60/person. See

On Thursday, I wouldn’t go to Epcot at all. Disney’s Hollywood Studios tends to have much more appeal to kids the ages of yours than Epcot…

Hope this helps!

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76 Diann { 06.07.13 at 2:28 pm }

Dave! Thank you so much for your help!!! I will cancel one of our ADR’s on Saturday. I will also consider your advice on skipping Epcot. I will look into not park hopping…that would save us some money! Thanks!

77 Dave { 06.09.13 at 7:26 am }

Great Diann…and let me know how it goes!

78 Lisa { 08.06.13 at 3:49 am }

Hi Dave,
Dumb question…Are the dining plan credits per night or per day…do
6 nights/7 days = 7 table service credits or 6?

79 Dave { 08.06.13 at 8:47 am }

Hi Lisa, it’s a great question, especially since many–including me–use sloppy language about this.

It’s per night, so in your example, 6 credits. They become available as soon as you check in, and can be used up unitl midnight on your check-out day.

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80 Tina { 08.13.13 at 4:52 pm }

Do you need a theme ticket to enter MK for the Princess lunch? We have reservations there on our last day but didn’t know if we need to save one of our base tickets for this day? I hope not. Thanks!!

81 Dave { 08.14.13 at 6:49 am }

Tina, yes you do.

82 Mike H { 11.05.13 at 12:35 pm }

Hi Dave. If we are going directly to the resort from the airport, where is the best place to pick up breakfast and store it in the fridge for the week? We can bring cereal in our suitcase, but where would we find milk on the resort? Is there a place to buy bread and other groceries? Seems like Disney would want to prevent this cheaper eating…

83 Dave { 11.06.13 at 6:53 am }

Mike you can get milk in the resorts’s shop, food court, or both…Other groceries vary. Some resorts are nicely stocked, others basically have just candy chips and donuts…lemme know which you are staying in!

84 Mike H { 11.07.13 at 12:15 am }

Hi Dave, we are staying at POFQ for the honeymoon. We eat homemade cereal and will be looking for milk in that area!

85 Dave { 11.07.13 at 8:06 am }

OK Mike. Sadly I don’t remember how well POFQ is stocked! If you have a car, you are very close to Old Key West, whose shop is really well stocked.

86 Wendy { 11.13.13 at 9:49 pm }

10 days! How do you keep track of the chits with the dining plan? Is it all on the MagicBand?

Thanks and sounds like you are having fun!


87 Dave { 11.14.13 at 10:39 am }

Oh Wendy this trip has really worn me out! But you have fun on yours! I return 12/3–I think you’ll be gone by then?

Your MagicBand contains no data other than a coded identifier. That identifier is what is read by the various doohickeys, and then matched up “off-wrist” to Disney’s databases.

You actually view and manage your reservations via the MyDinseyExperience website or app. I use the app on my phone. I also print out everything from MDE before I leave…Disney will also send you reminder emails about the ressies…

88 Wendy { 11.15.13 at 1:42 am }

Thanks! We are leaving on the 29th – too bad, we would like to meet you! We are excited, but I am sure we will need a vacation after the vacation!
Good to know about the app…did not know that the dining plan would show on there. It does not show now…but maybe once it has started?

6 more days of school and then we are off…11 months have passed so quickly. Crazy!


89 Dave { 11.15.13 at 7:44 am }

Wendy, the dining plan isn’t on the app, but your dining reservations should be–and if not, you can link them by reservation number!

90 Wendy { 11.15.13 at 7:10 pm }


91 Wendy { 11.21.13 at 1:32 am }

A question about the dining plan – can we use our credits for other people? We are going with the whole group (we are the only 4 with a dining plan) – can we “pay” for others with ours? My son will not be using his – he is 11 and they call him an adult, but he will order out of pocket from the kids menu if he can. That means, we will have many of his credits left.

Thanks, Dave…


92 Dave { 11.21.13 at 7:28 am }

My bud Carl reports here that 1. you both you can’t and shouldn’t , but that 2. it happens…

93 Wendy { 11.21.13 at 9:10 pm }

He has an interesting take. It is funny, I do not see it as cheating or stealing (I am sure he has a reason to feel the way he does)…but I am a rule-follower. I will ask and see what they say at each place…



94 jenn { 01.07.14 at 10:39 am }

Another question Dave…if we purchase a 4 day MYW ticket for each of us in advance, can we then add park hopper if we change our minds? Not sure if park hopping is of any benefit with kids 4 & 7. Also can we add water park days individually upon arrival as we only want two waterpark passes each…what is the cost if we can do that? We are thinking about staying in a hotel off disney property…and if we need an extra day in the parks in the end what does it cost to add another park day…

95 Dave { 01.08.14 at 9:52 am }

Jenn, you can add the hopper up until the last day of ticket use. Ditto on the water parks option.

If you are sure you will be doing two water parks–most would add a theme park day rather than a second water park day–then the “water parks and more” option will be cheaper.

For the cost of extra ticket days, see this:

96 Michelle { 01.16.14 at 12:02 pm }

I hate to use 2 dining credits for CRT – for my daughter (Age 5) eats VERY little, and my son (18 months) even less! If i paid cash at Cindy’s – Could i Just order my husband and I plates and share with my daughter? My son is free anyway… Not sure if this will help me in the credits department since i can’t use my child’s dining credit for us anywhere else? I will have to pay Cash for atleast 1 sit down meal, maybe even two….. whats the best way to do it with kids who eat so little?

97 Dave { 01.16.14 at 6:38 pm }

Michelle, you can’t share with the 5 year old… in general, it’s better to pay cash for two credit meals (especially for adults–matters less at prices for little kids), if you would otherwise be paying cash for two other one credit table service meals…

98 Simon { 01.29.14 at 5:03 pm }

Hi, Some very interesting points on here. We are stopping at Old Key West with the DDP, I have booked all the restaurants for our table services but I was wondering what we should do for breakfast, should we get a Quick Service, (where’s my best option) or a snack, or can we bring in our own groceries?

99 Dave { 01.30.14 at 9:10 am }

Simon, there’s huge value to being at the parks before they open. This complicates breakfast. The easiest solution is to have some fruit, milk, juice and cereal in your room, which most resorts sell in either their gift shop or food court. Next best is a late breakfast in the parks–e.g. 10.30 or later. Counter service at OKW works, if you start early so that you can be at the bus stop ~60 minutes before park open…

100 Simon { 01.30.14 at 9:51 am }

Thanks, can we bring in items from walmart etc

101 Michelle { 01.30.14 at 12:40 pm }

What are you recommended/favorite counter service places at each park? (outside the regular itinerary) I know this info may be somewhere but i can’t find it… i do have sunshine seasons written down….

thanks dave.

102 Dave { 01.31.14 at 6:54 am }
103 Dave { 01.31.14 at 7:15 am }

Michelle, I don’t think I have a complete list anywhere. Here’s my personal faves:

HS: none
MK: Pecos Bills. Columbia Harbor House has lotsa fans too. Menu there is less appealing to me…
Epcot–besides Sunshine Season, the quick service in Morocco
AK: Flame Tree Barbecue, and Anandapur Local Food Cafes (also known as Yak and Yeti Counter Service)

104 Simon { 02.01.14 at 9:13 am }

Hi, this is not about food but with your knowledge was hoping you could help. Are there any petrol go karts in Disney and do you have to pay extra for the NASCAR experience

105 Dave { 02.01.14 at 10:19 am }

Simon, no to the first, unless you count the horribly boring Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom, suitable only for those younger than 7. And yes the Richard Petty Experience is very expensive and needs to be scheduled. See

106 Simon { 02.10.14 at 8:23 pm }

Hi Dave, could you give me a little info on Golf in Disney, booking, prices, club hire etc?

107 Dave { 02.11.14 at 7:56 am }

Hey Simon, I don’t track it so don’t have a lot to say…see this though:

108 CHRIS { 02.11.14 at 3:47 pm }

We are traveling with two toddlers (first trip) can we rent strollers at the Port Orleans Riverside? I know they are available in the parks, thought it would be easier to have one available all week without interruption. Also, are puddle jumpers available to rent?

109 Dave { 02.12.14 at 8:12 am }

Chris, you can’t rent strollers at the hotels. There are non-Disney companies you can rent from who will deliver a stroller for your use of your vacation to your hotel, but you have to arrange that yourself–not through the hotel.

110 Melody { 03.26.14 at 2:56 pm }

Do you know if there are any promotions yet for free dining plan for October 2014? Or when it might be announced?

111 Dave { 03.27.14 at 9:19 am }

Hi Melody! If anything such comes out–and I doubt it will, but hope I am wrong–I’d expect to see the announcement om the summer.

112 Elanie { 04.03.14 at 9:35 am }

Hallo Dave.
My husband and myself will be travelling from South Africa to Orlando in September. We will be staying at Holiday Inn Lake Beuna Vista. We only have 2 full days in Orlando. When buying tickets do you think we should ad park hopper to maybe see all the parks in 2 days? Thank you in advance.

113 Dave { 04.04.14 at 1:58 pm }

Hi Elanie, no I wouldn’t. There’s 6 days worth of things to see and do across the four parks, and hoppers just absorb travel time…I’d just pick two parks–probably MK and Epcot–and spend a full day in each!

114 simon { 04.23.14 at 9:02 am }

Hi Dave, can we watch baseball or football etc at espn

115 Disney World Free Dining for Military Families | { 05.03.14 at 7:02 am }

[…] Dining Plan (For more info on the DDP See and the Disney Food […]

116 Dee { 05.09.14 at 11:03 am }

Hi Dave, We recently (two adults, two teenagers) decided to go to WDW this July and are contemplating staying at the Yatch Club. Have usually stayed off property, about a mile from the resort, to save money on meals (great rate on car rental), and have plenty of room to stretch out. Wanted to experience the convenience of staying on property, but am afraid of what food may cost. Any advice is greatly appreciated! Thank You!

117 Dave { 05.10.14 at 7:41 am }

Dee, the problem with the Epcot resorts is lousy availability of counter service food–which tends to drive your costs up. Honestly, if you are worried about food costs, I’d suggest Wilderness Lodge. First it’s less expensive than the Yacht Club to start with, and second it has great counter service. You can also take a boat form it to Fort WIlderness, where the Trail’s End buffet is one of the least expensive table service options on property…

118 Melissa { 05.12.14 at 4:09 pm }

Hi Dave.
I have a question for you. Again, thanks for your help.
If we are going to disney with several people, but different rooms, and 1/2 of us decide on the food plan, and the other 1/2 doesnt, are we still able to sit at the same table at restaurants or would we have to be seated separately?

119 Dave { 05.13.14 at 12:12 pm }

Melissa, yes, you can have a mix of payment!

120 Simon { 06.02.14 at 4:08 pm }

Hi Dave, Can I bill the dining tips (gratuities) to my room or do they need to be paid before leaving the restaurants.
Also would you advise on booking fast passes for the preferred seating for fireworks or is there anywhere else to get a better view.
By the way your insight into all things Disney is immense. But how about outside Disney? Can you advise on anything to do that would entertain 3 young boys in the Orlando area or even out to the coast, would be willing to drive about an hour?

121 Dave { 06.03.14 at 6:47 am }

Hi Simon and thanks!

On your last question, I can barely keep up with DIsney…but depending on how young your young-uns are, Legoland has been a real hit with the preschooler crowd.

Yes you can bill tips to your room…

FP+ for fireworks. The short answer is it depends on the ages of the guys and how many days you are spending in each park, but in general no.

At Hollywood Studios, with one day you want to use your Tier One FP+ for Toy Story Mania. With two days at HS, if they are old enough you’d use it for Rock n Roller Coaster, otherwise Fantasmic would be an OK use.

Epcot is similar–a maybe on a two day visit if test Track is not in the cards because of age, a no on a one day.

At MK, on a three day visit MSEP is a better FP+, as it positions you well for that parade, for the Celebrate the Magic show that immediately follows, and also (after you back away from the Castle a bit) for the fireworks that follow that…

122 Tink from SA { 06.22.14 at 3:28 pm }

Hi Dave, Thanks for a super awesome site! I am on it almost every day and very soon you can accredit me with a degree! LOL!
We are from SA,(kids11yrs & 3yrs) going to be travelling during 2nd week in Dec. We r on the DDP and we were lucky enough to get most of the charactor meals booked! My question is, is the base ticket sufficient for attending Chef Mickeys, 1900 PF, Ohanas etc (resort restaurants) Thank you….

123 Dave { 06.23.14 at 8:45 am }

Hi Tink and thanks! Dining at the resort hotels does not require any ticket so you don’t need any add-ons to do so…

124 Simon { 07.17.14 at 7:45 am }

Hi Dave, all of your help has been invaluable. We are leaving for Disney on Tuesday and I would like to ask a couple more questions. Firstly is there WiFi available at OKW and secondly how much is it to swim with the Dolphins at Disney and is it worth it.
Thank you

125 Dave { 07.17.14 at 7:49 am }

Simon, have a great trip!! On WIFI, yes. The dolphins is a Sea World thing, and I stick to Disney because that’s all I have time to keep up with…sorry to be no help on it…

126 Jess { 07.17.14 at 11:55 am }

Actually, Epcot does have a dolphins tour:

Looks like the Disney website says it’s $199. No clue on if it’s worth it.

127 Dave { 07.18.14 at 7:12 am }

Jess, of course you are right! I had that mentally bookmarked as a tour, in contrast to the SeaWorld thingy. But you do get “30 minutes with the dolphins” as your link notes so I am so wrong!! The value of these tours are highly personal, so it’s really hard for another person to say it’s worth it.

128 Simon { 07.19.14 at 5:27 pm }

Thats great thank you

129 Jane { 08.04.14 at 10:16 pm }

Hi Dave, we are a military family and have currently booked a “room only,” as we are planning to purchase the military salute 4 day park hopper tickets when they become available in late August. We have not decided whether to do the dining plan. We are told it saves 30%, but your website says you don’t save $. We will have 3 adults and 3 very small kids. What do you recommend? We will be doing some of the expensive table service restaurants.

130 Dave { 08.05.14 at 9:14 am }

Jane, first I think that to do the dining plan you need to buy tickets at the straight Disney price. I’ll check with Steve, the military moderator here, to be sure.

Second, while the DP did save some money years ago, now it’s either a wash or a money loser except for families with kids between 3 and 9 who are doing many one credit character buffets. The details are in the second half of this post (after the Q&A, begins “What’s the Disney Dining Plan, anyway?):

131 Steve From - Military Moderator { 08.05.14 at 1:01 pm }

Hi Jane and Dave,

You do not need to add any (full price) WDW tickets to your Disney Armed Forces Salute room reservation in order to add any paid meal plan. They allow this as they still want you to be able to realize the Salute ticket savings.

I’ve never used one myself, I’m either there for the Epcot Food and Wine fest, when it wouldn’t make sense, or on my own and moving fast from task to task.

We did have an officer in our squadron who was a DVC member and swore by the meal plan. He said he always came out ahead.

What I recommend is to take a look at the menus with prices on allears and price out those table service meals, then add in what you think your family would eat for other meals and snacks then compare to the various meal plans.

132 Roxanne { 10.01.14 at 11:32 am }

Hi Dave,

We are considering the 2015 dining plan and we want to order room service for breakfast some mornings. Do we have to use our dining credits or can we pay seperately (ie not use the dining plan) for those meals?

133 Dave { 10.03.14 at 6:47 am }

Roxanne, it is always completely up to you whether for any meal you use cash or the dining plan.

134 Amanda { 11.05.14 at 3:30 pm }

Hi Dave!

I am trying to decide what days to book our reservations on since our 180 day window is approaching (we are visiting May 17, 2014-May 24). How soon will Disney post the schedule for Wishes, Illuminations and Fantasmic so we can make dinner plans around them? Thanks!

135 Dave { 11.06.14 at 10:43 am }

Amanda, the preliminary schedule for May has been out for several weeks. See, for example, this:

136 Robin Bliss { 01.26.15 at 3:45 pm }

Hi, My family and I have booked a room reservation + QS Dining for October 2015. We didn’t add any tickets at the time of reservation for 2 reasons. One being we weren’t sure about flight times and two being I wanted to buy them cheaper from some place like Undercover Tourist. I have been reading conflicting information, mostly I think WDW websites are out of date, but do you think I can still buy them from a third party and then add them to my reservation later with no issues? I tried to mention it to the WDW rep over the phone, citing a possible AAA discount, but the guy wasn’t entertaining the idea.
Thanks for any information!

137 Dave { 01.27.15 at 7:34 am }

Robin, you can link any ticket into your reservation.

138 Tammy { 04.21.15 at 10:26 pm }

Hi Dave! I’ve been looking thru the q and a’s for the answer to my question but haven’t found it yet. Can you tell me if WDW allows food and drinks to be brought into the park?

139 Dave { 04.23.15 at 8:12 am }

Tammy, yes it does. You can’t take a cooler, but what can fit in a normal school-sized back pack is fine

140 Free Dining VS the Disney Armed Forces Salute – 2015 | { 04.28.15 at 9:23 am }

[…] Dining Plan (For more info on the DDP See and the Disney Food […]

141 Jane { 08.25.15 at 5:12 pm }

Hi Dave, after seeing the announcement of the new Jungle Cruise themed restaurant to open at MK sometime this year I’ve been looking around to see if there’s any info on the Disney site. I get the impression that they just started building it and there really isn’t a firm date when it would be open. We are going over Thanksgiving and I’m wondering if it is worth it to keep checking the Disney site. When Disney opens a new big restaurant do they let just anybody book it, or only VIPs etc? I know it might not even be open Tgiving week, but they did say late 2015. Any info would be appreciated, thanks! 🙂

142 Dave { 08.26.15 at 12:16 pm }

Jane, I’ve seen speculation it may open as soon as Liberty Tree Tavern opens (11/22) since they share the same kitchen. There’s value to Disney in having it open before the second half of December, since it will create capacity for the mobs. When Be Our Guest opened, so far as I remember their was a firm date set so people could book it, then before then some soft openings and pass holder-only previews. So keep checking, including in person when you are there!

143 Marisa { 03.21.16 at 8:57 am }

Hi! We’re traveling this coming October and were debating on purchasing the dining plan for our family of 5. Then we realized our daughter, having just turned 10 a month before we travel, would be charged as an adult. This child is not a big eater and definitely does NOT eat like an adult. So, we had decided against it, thinking we could do better on our own. However, now I’m wondering, will she be required to choose regular menu items even if we’re paying cash? I know the kids meals will be plenty of food for her, I hate the idea of paying for food that’s just going to go to waste. (Our kids, at time of travel, will be 14, 10, and 8, so we’d be paying for 4 adults and one child on the dining plan…seems crazy!)

144 Disney World Free Dining 2017 Versus the Disney Armed Forces Salute Discounts | { 04.24.17 at 7:42 am }

[…] Dining Plan (For more info on the DDP See and the Disney Food […]

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