There are several different Dining Plans at Disney World to choose from, but we will focus on the popular original Disney Dining Plan.
2010 Disney Dining Plan Prices:
Disney Dining Plan - Adult: $41.99/night; Child (ages 3-9): $11.99/night
Disney World Dining Plan Basics:
Here are just a couple of basics about the Disney Dining Plan:
- One Table Service Meal per night of your resort stay. Includes: Entree, Dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. Gratuity not included.
- One Quick Service Meal per night of your resort stay. Includes: Entree (or combo meal), Dessert, and non-alcoholic drink.
- One Snack per night of your resort stay.
Getting The Most For Your Money:
Getting the most for your money will mean different things to different people. Depending upon the needs of your family, your objectives will be different. Here are strategies for three of the most common categories. Use this information to get the best results for your particular family.
Families with Children (Ages 3-9):
Dining at Disney World is more than just food, it is an entertainment experience. With young children, we would highly suggest that you use your table service credits to visit the Character Dining Experiences that are available for 1 Table Service Credit. Suggestions include: Chef Mickey's, 1900 Park Fare, Crystal Palace, & Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus in Norway - Epcot.
The character Dining locations mentioned here are all buffet meals, so you can be fed quickly(important for impatient children after a long day in the parks), find something that suits even the picky eaters, and have portions appropriate to the eating habits of your child. Plus you get to meet Disney Characters, obtain autographs, and get your pictures taken with them at no extra charge.
There are many Quick Service Meals that have large portions. Consider sharing them so that you will have extra Quick Service credits to eat breakfast. You can and should also use some of your snack credits on breakfast items.
Families with no children or older children (10+):
This is your opportunity to try some of the great food that Disney World has to offer. There are many great restaurants that combine atmosphere with fine cuisine. With the Disney Dining Plan you can order whatever you want on the menu. If you want steak each night, you can have steak. Suggested restaurants include: Le Cellier, Coral Reef, & Les Chefs de France. This is your chance to try something you have always wanted to try, but changed you mind due to the menu price.
Visit quick service locations like: Sunshine Seasons & Tangieriene Cafe in Epcot, Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom, Cosmic Ray's in Magic Kingdom, Fairfax Fare in Hollywood Studios, and Wollfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. Each of these restaurants serves large portions and great food that is much better than your typcial burger and fries.
Families with Big Appetites:
If you want to enjoy the food that Disney World has to offer, but are concerned about the smaller portions that some of the upscale restaurants offer here are some choices to consider: Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Biergarten at Epcot, Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom, and 'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort. Each of these are buffets or all you can eat family style locations that give you the opportunity to taste great food and eat all that you want.
These dining locations show that you do not have to sacrifice on taste in order to get larger portions. These are all family friendly locations.
Again you will want to visit the quick service locations listed above to get large portions, great food, and great value for your Disney Dining Plan credits.
Maximizing Dining Plan Dollars - Summary
Getting the most for your money is more than just obtaining the highest dollar value food. It includes making the dining portion of your trip stressfree and enjoyable. Picking the right restaurants for your group is key to achieving that objective. The stressfree part comes from knowing that you can let each member of the family order whatever they want off of the menu or choose what they want from the buffet.
Since it is prepaid - opt for the restaurants with the higher menu prices when you have similar choices that the family will enjoy. For example if you are thinking Italian food: try Tutto Italia instead of Mama Melrose or Tony's Town Square. Get your steak dinner at Le Cellier instead of the restaurant in your resort. Also use this opportunity to try something that you have never had before, but always wanted to try.
Make the most of your quick service meals. Skip the burgers and take advantage of the great options that are available at some of the quick service locations mentioned earlier.
Lastly, make use of your snack credits throughout your vacation. Do not hoard them until the end. Avoid paying cash when you can use a snack credit instead. Using snack credits for breakfast items: Muffins, Danishes, Fruit Cups is a great way to maximize the value of your Dining Plan. Avoiding having to pay additional money for food during your vacation should be a goal.
For a financial breakdown of the "value" of the Disney Dining Plan read: Is The Disney Dining Plan A Good Deal?