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Are you confused by the Disney dining plans? You aren't alone. That is probably the #1 question from clients--they need clarification on the dining plan options and mechanics. Here is a little insight into each plan.
Quick Serve Plan - This plan provides guests with credits for 2 counter service meals and 1 snack per person, per night of their stay. These meals include an entree, side, non alcoholic beverage, and dessert. Most of the restaurants put this together for you in a "combo style" option. These meal credits are for the quick serve or counter service restaurants- where you order at a kiosk or a counter rather than having wait staff come to your table. The quick serve plan comes with a refillable drink mug for each person. This mug enables guests to have free refills at their resort for the length of their stay. A few of my favorite quick serve meals include Columbia Harbor House at Magic Kingdom, Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, and Be Our Guest in the new Fantastyland at Magic Kingdom. Be Our Guest is a counter service option for lunch and then magically transforms to a table service option for dinner. I prefer it for lunch, there can be a bit of a wait, but you get basically the same sit down experience as dinner but for lunch prices. If your family wants to have dining taken care of, but do not want to take a lot of time out for sit down meals, then this would be the best plan for you. I often suggest this meal plan for shorter WDW trips and suggest that if you want a character meal experience that your choose one and budget separately for it.
Plus Dining Plan- Gives guests 1 table service meal, 1 counter service meal, and 1 snack per person- per night of their stay. Guests are responsible for the gratuities on their table service meals. This plan also comes with a refillable resort drink mug for each person. This plan offers a great deal of versatility as guests can enjoy the best of both worlds with the table service and counter service options at a reasonable price. The table service meals can even be character meals like Chef Mickey's or 1900 Park Fare (the princess experience that's fun for the whole family) as well as all you care to eat meals from favorites like Ohana's and Liberty Tree Tavern or simply a menu offering like Teppan Edo, Sci Fi Dine In Theater, or the yummy Via Napoli. If you plan to have at least one sit down meal per day or if you want to have 2 or more signature or character meals during your vacation, then this is the meal plan you should choose.
Deluxe Dining Plan- The deluxe plan gives each person 3 meal credits and 2 snack credits per night of stay. The meals can be table service or counter service. This plan also includes an appetizer for the table service meals (per person!) as well as the same beverage and dessert like on the plus plan. Is it a lot of food? Yes (in my opinion). But this plan becomes very valuable when families are wanting to experience signature dining like at Citricos, LeCellier, or Cinderella's Royal Table as these restaurants require 2 table service credits per person. If a family is also considering some of the dinner shows like Hoop Dee Doo Revue, then the deluxe plan becomes a feasible option. Guests also receive the refillable resort mug with this plan too.
Figuring out which plan is best for you requires a little bit of math and a lot of knowing what you plan to do during your vacation. Generally, the plus plan seems to be the "go to" plan for people as it gives them the best of both worlds as far as great dining experiences and the ease of impromptu counter service meals. But Disney is all about choice and I love that the two other options are there for the families they appeal to.
One last thing to note, these credits are placed on your key to the world card at check in. You have access to ALL your credits from that very first day. This allows maximum flexibility. If you'd like to eat 2 counter service meals today and 2 table service meals tomorrow on the Plus plan, that's fine. If you'd like to eat all your snacks in one day- that's fine. This flexibility allows you to truly make the most of each plan! The credits are active until they are all used or until midnight on the day you check out- whichever comes first.
The Disney dining plans truly make it easier and much less stressful to dine during your vacation.
I always suggest that you consider how many sit down ("big ticket") meals you plan to have and weigh that with how much time you would rather spend in the parks or at your resort having fun, over getting to restaurants and actually spending time dining. Consider if you would have at least 1 sit down meal per day (if so the dining plan is a great value), if you think you would only have 1 or 2 sit down meals over the vacation, then choosing the Quick Serve Plan and budgeting out for those sit down meals may be a better savings.
If you have any questions please call or email me!
Robin Fretwell - Magical Memories Travel
Authorized Disney Vacation Planner