A BREAK DOWN OF WDW DINING PLANS!

A BREAK DOWN OF WDW DINING PLANS!

When helping friends and families plan their magical vacations, I often get asked several questions about Disney World dining plans. The dining plans can be confusing to first-time guests or those who have never used one in the past. So today, I thought I would break down the disney dining plans based on the questions I’m often asked!

Before I dive into the dining plans themselves, it is important to get a basic understanding of the different types of dining options that you will come across on property. There are four main types:

Grab-and-Go: Grab-and-go locations are usually stands in the park that have a walk up window with readily prepared foods and beverages. Mostly, these offer snacks such as popcorn, Mickey pretzels, cotton candy, churros, ice cream, and more. They are normally just small, walk up stands located outdoors with little-to-no seating.

Quick Service: I refer to these locations as the “fast food” locations in WDW. Quick service locations are usually indoors. They will have a cashier/window waiting area for guests to walk up and order food, and an indoor or covered seating area that is first come, first serve. There are no servers at these locations.

Table Service: Table service locations are traditional “sit down” meals. At these indoor locations, you will check in at the hostess stand in the front and wait to be seated. You will have a server, and will need to leave gratuity. These locations may be buffets, a traditional “order-off-the-menu” style dinner, a family style dinner, or may have a prix fixe menu.

Signature Dining: Signature dining locations are also “sit down” meals, however they are typically higher quality, more expensive, popular character dining spots, or dinner shows.

Now that we have those four types of dining broken down, we can finally dive into the three dining plans WDW currently has available for guests. Keep in mind, these plans are what are currently offered at their current prices in 2019. Below, I will break down the three different plans into pricing per person as well as what is included in each:

  1. Quick Service Dining Plan ($52.20/day for adults, $23.78/day kids 3-9)
    • 2 quick service credits (per person, per night of stay)
    • 2 snack credits (per person, per night of stay)
    • Refillable mug (1 per person)
  2. Disney Dining Plan ($75.49/day for adults, $27.98/day kids 3-9)
    • 1 table service credit (per person, per night of stay)
    • 1 quick service credit (per person, per night of stay)
    • 2 snack credits (per person, per night of stay)
    • Refillable mug (1 per person)
  3. Deluxe Dining Plan ($116.25/day for adults, $43.49/day kids 3-9)
    • 3 meal credits – each credit can be used for any combination of table service or quick service meals (per person, per night of stay)
    • 2 snack credits (per person, per night of stay)
    • Refillable mug (1 per person)

Which plan is best for you?

When considering which plan is best for you and your family, there are several factors that come in to play. Here are some things for you to keep in mind before you make a decision regarding a dining plan:

  • You can only book a dining plan if you are staying at a Disney-owned resort. If you are only going for the day, or are staying at a hotel not owned by Disney World, you will not be able to add a dining plan.
  • Refillable mugs are only refillable at your resort. You can fill and refill this mug as often as you’d like, but only at the resort you are staying in. If you bring it into the parks, you’ll have to purchase a beverage to put inside, or fill it with water from a water fountain!
  • Each person in your party must be on the dining plan, and you must have a dining plan for each night of your stay. You cannot assign a dining plan to only a few in your party if you are all booked under the same reservation. Likewise, you cannot choose to limit your dining plan to certain days of your stay.
  • Although the credits are assigned “per night”, you don’t have a limit or a requirement on when you have to use your credits. Much like a college dining plan, you can use your credits at your leisure. Usually, we save up all of our snack credits until the end of our stay, then purchase candy and other edible souvenirs for our friends and family!
  • Signature dining requires 2 table service credits per meal, per person. No matter what plan you are on, whether it’s the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Dining Plan, you will need to cash in two table service credits to eat at signature restaurants. This factor is a major one in and of itself, which will make or break the difference between the Disney or Deluxe plans for your family!
  • Snack” credits can be redeemed for a pretty wide margin of options. There are really so many options for snacks – from ice cream, to Starbucks drinks, to certain food items offered at EPCOT festivals – there is so much to choose from. You will be able to tell if an item can be considered as a snack credit if it has the DDP purple icon next to it – or, just ask a cast member!
  • Children under 3 eat free. You will not need to purchase a dining plan (or ticket) for any children in your party under 3. They will be able to eat off of your plates!
  • All meals on the Quick Service Dining Plan and Disney Dining Plan include a meal and a dessert per person.
  • All meals on the Deluxe Dining Plan include an appetizer, meal, and dessert per person. This one can be a lot of food, so take that into consideration when deciding which is best for your family. You’re paying for it regardless, and it will be a waste for your family to have this level of the dining plan if you won’t eat it all – you will not get your money’s worth.
  • All meals on any dining plan include one drink – either alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Drinks may include beer and wine, soft drinks, and even milk shakes! There may be limitations, and you would only get refills on the soft drinks, but the option is definitely a nice addition.
  • Gratuity is NOT included. Some people think that if they get a dining plan, they won’t have to touch their wallets at all – which isn’t necessarily the case. You will need to pay gratuity to servers at table service meals, and may need to pay more if you order an extra beverage or two.
  • You can track your credits on the My Disney Experience app, or on your receipts. Your credits will show up as a sum of everyone’s in your party, so be mindful of how many credits each of you has left as a whole.

Are the dining plans worth it?

I often get asked if the dining plans are worth it, and there isn’t a baseline answer – It really depends on your family and your preference. Here are a few things that I tell friends and family when posed with that question..

  1. It is really easy to waste money on dining plans. If your family isn’t going to use every credit or consume all that is offered in the meals, then you’re basically throwing money away. It may not seem like it on paper, but you really do get a ton of food.
  2. Be sure to weigh the factors of how much time you want to spend eating vs. how much time you want to be in the parks. If it’s your first, or once-in-a-lifetime visit to WDW, I would stick with either the Quick Service or Disney Dining plans. Eating at a table service restaurant may take up to two hours out of your day, which is a long time when you want to experience everything there is to do in the parks.
  3. It is convenient. One of the main reasons my fiance and I love the dining plan so much is it’s convenience. Although we still factor gratuities into our budget, it is nice to not have to worry about how much to put aside for meals.

Dining plan tips.

  1. Do not waste snack credits on bottles of water. It’s easy and convenient, and I’ll admit I have fallen victim to doing this, but it really isn’t worth it. Instead, ask for a cup of ice water – which is free – and fill up your refillable mugs.
  2. Plan your days ahead. Have a game plan of what parks you are going to be in per day and MAKE ADVANCED DINING RESERVATIONS! Also, have a game plan in mind on how you will take advantage of the quick service and snack credits – will you get snacks for breakfast, and use a quick service credit for lunch? Will you buy breakfast, use a credit for lunch, and save your snack credits for an EPCOT festival? You don’t need to have it planned down to where you’ll eat and when, but keep a general plan in the back of your mind.
  3. Order the more expensive things on the menu. Get your money’s worth!

Personal thoughts…

Personally, my fiance and I love the dining plans. When we would come for vacations, we added on a dining plan every time. We would usually do the Disney Dining plan, but we’ve tried the Deluxe and found it to be worth it. Once we did the dining plan once, we never went back to not adding it on. The convenience factor was what really got us, and we never wasted food.

We would frequent the parks so much (3 times a year) that we didn’t mind spending half of our day sitting down and eating because we’d done everything in the parks. That may be different for other people, and it’s really all based on your individual priorities.

I hope that this breakdown helped you better understand the different dining plans offered at WDW! I get asked more questions about these plans, and just dining in general, than I do about anything else when helping others plan their vacations. It may seem very confusing now, but [in my opinion] in the end a dining package makes your vacation a bit more magical.

Another question I get asked very often are which restaurants specifically are one credit vs. two. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see a blog where I list all of the restaurants, sorted by quick service locations and locations that are one table service credit vs two table service credits!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe to our blog so you’re notified of any new posts. Have a great week, we’ll see ya real soon šŸ™‚

IS WDW STRUGGLING TO FILL ROOMS THIS SUMMER?!

IS WDW STRUGGLING TO FILL ROOMS THIS SUMMER?!

Within the past two weeks (keep in mind – itsĀ January), Disney has surprised fans and travel planners by releasing discounts, free dining, andĀ Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party tickets. Yes – Halloween tickets. Released. In January. The release of these things may not come as a shock to you, but the timing of these releases says a lot. Is Disney struggling to fill guest rooms this summer?

Let’s backtrack for a second and talk about some background information…

Free dining. Disney releases free dining deals every year. Usually, these free dining deals are released around mid-April, when Disney sees where it’s “weak spots” are in reservations. In the past, guests would receive a free Quick-Service Dining Plan or Disney Dining Plan to guests staying in certain resorts. They were also set, in the past, for times during Disney’s slower periods – usually the beginning of the school year, the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving, and early December. To get the free dining package, guests would be required to book a room at rack rate with a ticket package.

Room-only discounts.Ā Also during slower times, Disney would release room-only discounts for Florida residents, Annual Passholders, and other guests planning to visit the resorts. Guests would be able to add on tickets and dining to these discounts, but at full price. These discounts would be for select resorts as well, and would range in percentages based on the resort.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.Ā Even though the Halloween party starts ridiculously early (mid-August), Disney would hold off on releasing the dates and tickets for this event until at least March or April. The dates of the party would range from August to October, and vary in price depending on the date as well as the day of the week the party fell on.

Now that we covered some background information, let’s take a closer look at 2019. Last week, I released a blog post aboutĀ 19 Things Coming to WDW in 2019. The biggest item on that list, and what most people are looking forward to, is the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. For those of you living under a rock, this is a Star Wars themed land set to open in Hollywood Studios in “late Fall 2019”.Aside from this much anticipated land opening, Fall 2019 and later in the year will bring many other attractions and openings, which you can read all about here:Ā 19 THINGS COMING TO WDW IN 2019!

Now, you might be asking “How is any of this connected?” or “Why are all of these early releases a big deal?” and I have one theory – Disney is hurting for guests during [what is usually] their busiest time of year.

Now, here are the issues with these early releases.

Free dining 2019.Ā The free dining deal that was releasedĀ much earlier than it has been in recent years is for stays during summer 2019. As mentioned above, Disney releases free dining deals during their slower periods to try and reign in more guests.

Room-only discounts. Now don’t get me wrong, Disney has released room-only discounts in the summer in previous years. However, the discounts available for resorts during summer 2019 are reachingĀ extremely low prices.Ā So low, in fact, that for a stay at the Grand Floridian mid-June, I found a price for $410/night – that’s over $200 less than rack rateĀ for Disney’s flagship resort.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween PartyĀ tickets. I mean, Halloween party tickets released inĀ January.

So, finally, this brings me to my point. DisneyĀ has to be hurting to fill rooms in the summer. The summer used to be one of theĀ worstĀ times to visit the parks due to the extreme heat and the overwhelming crowds. However, it was the best time for families to visit due to summer vacations, so people would go regardless. They would never release crazy room discounts orĀ free dining plans, simply because they didn’t need to. People would come regardless of the deals that were available to them.

In my opinion, it is pretty evident that the future opening ofĀ Galaxy’s Edge has a large part in these low crowds. This land has been highly anticipate for years, which makes it no surprise that people seem to be holding out their vacations for “late fall”, which is when the land is expected to open. Pair that opening with the fact that fall is a wonderful time to visit the parks due to the weather, the Food and Wine festival in EPCOT running, andĀ the various holidays and parties that come with them – why not hold out until the fall?

Another factor to these discounts being released, and what I theorize as the possible low bookings in WDW, isĀ Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. Disneyland and WDW are opening identical lands, but Disneyland’s opens inĀ summer 2019. It could be possible that people are heading out west for their summer vacations to experience this land instead of waiting until the fall. Regardless, it still means less bookings here in Florida.

What do you think – Is WDW hurting for bookings in the summer? Free dining deals, extreme room-only discounts, andĀ Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party are huge draws for many regulars to the parks, so it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that Disney is pulling out the “big guns” to try and fill rooms. I’ll be interested to see the crowd levels this summer compared to recent years as well as this fall!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to subscribe to our blog to get notified of any future posts. See ya real soon šŸ˜‰