My Favorite Disney Dining Plan Hacks

Blueberry Dessert at Satu'li Canteen
One my favorite uses of a snack credit : Na'vi Cheesecake

The Disney Dining Plan (and how to get the most out of it) is one of the most popular questions on the Disney Planning Boards and Groups. Everyone uses their Dining Plan a little differently, but there are a few Disney Dining Plan hacks that I use to get the absolute most out of my dining plan. If we don’t do these things, then the dollars don’t add up for me usually.

Pricing

When I used to get the dining plan for free, I never bothered to figure out how much it would have cost. This meant I did some pretty silly stuff, like not using all my snack credits, and definitely did not get my money’s worth out of the plan.  The costs change each year, and for 2018 are:

2018 Disney Dining Plan Pricing Adult Price Per Day Child Price Per Day
10 years or Older 3-9 Years Old
Quick Service Dining Plan $52.50 $21.74
     2 Quick-Service meals
     2 snacks
     1 refillable mug
Disney Dining Plan $75.49 $25.75
     1 Table Service meal
     1 Quick-Service meal
     2 snacks
     1 refillable mug
Deluxe Disney Dining Plan $116.25 $39.99
     3 meals (any kind)
     2 snacks
     1 refillable mug

If you need more information on how the plan works, you can check out the The Ins and Outs of the Disney Dining Plan.

Kids vs Adult Meal Hacks

One of my favorite Disney Dining Plan hacks is actually not a trick. It’s just a less well-known feature that I see so many people missing out on.

Quick Service Meals are NOT separated by kids or adults!

The kids prices are significantly lower on the Disney Dining Plan than adults, 1/3 or 1/2 of the price depending on the plan. Presumably, this is because they eat less food. But guess what?? You can order an adult quick-service meal for a kid on any of the Dining Plans. So many people go into the dining plan thinking that kids are always relegated to the kids menu, and this is not true for Quick Service meals.

Regular Quick Service meals can sometimes have TWICE as much food as a kids Quick Service Meal.

  • For example, when you order cheesburger pods at Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom, the Adult Quick Service meal comes with 2 pods. The kids meals comes one 1.  Why would you spend 2 Quick Service credits to get two kids meals when you can spend one credit to get the same???
Cheesburger Pods at Satu'li Canteen

Adult Quick Service : 2 Cheesburger Pods at Satu’li Canteen

  • Disney tries to make it hard for you by giving you a little bag of carrots and a cookie with each kids meal and a small drink. Remember those snacks we talked about? This is when they come in handy. Order one Quick Service pizza to let the kids split it. It will come with one regular size drink (which you can split for the kids). Order 1 snack of veggies or fruit which will be a much bigger snack cup. You have the same amount of food for roughly half the price of the kids meals.
  • Using this strategy can help you stash up “extra” quick service meals. If you are on the Quick Service or Disney Dining Plan, you only get 2 real “meals” per day so you can use this tip to help store up an extra meal on another day. We typically use them when we want a good breakfast one day.

Deluxe Dining Plan does NOT separate kids and adults Table Service!

If you decide to upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan, even table service meals are not separated by kids and adults. This means you can order a full adult-size meal for the kids. The kids meals are sometimes less adventurous than the adult meals. We love for our kids to try new things, and the adult menu usually has better variety. We love to order 4 different meals and all share.

Take one of our favorites, 50’s Prime Time Cafe. You can get a stuffed pork chop or chicken nuggets for the same  credits!

Character Meals are a Must

For us, the Dining Plan just doesn’t make sense unless we are scheduling at least one Character Meal. Meeting characters is central to our trips, and using our meal plan to meet them means we spend less time in line. It also can mean we save a fast pass. You will also want to make sure you jump on the hardest to get Disney Dining Reservations quickly. Some book up almost immediately!

For example, Rapunzel is a house-hold favorite of ours. If we use the Disney Dining Plan for the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, we get to save time waiting in line at Princess Fairytale Hall to meet Rapunzel. Character Meals are also your most expensive single credit meal. Scheduling these gives you maximum value for a Table Service credit.

Double Table Service Credits are a Waste

If you are trying to make the most out of your Dining Plan, you should never use it for Signature Dining Experience, those that take 2 table service credits. The money will never work out in your favor. Let’s compare Cinderella’s Royal Table, a must-have for a lot of people and Signature Dining at two credits to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at one credit.

  1.  One lunch credit is worth $45-50 at Akershus based on the current price of their meals.
  2. The most expensive meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table will run you $75 per person but requires two dining credits.
  3. I can use the 2 dining credits at places similar to Akershus and get $90-100 of value instead of max $75.
  4. I can literally spend twice as much time with princesses at two separate meals for the same price.

If you want a full comparison of these two experiences, you can check out Battle of the Princesses : Cinderella’s Royal Table versus Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

All this said, have I every used the Dining Plan for a 2 credit meal? Yes, I have. If you find yourself with an extra credit, by all means, using it for a Signature Dining experience is better than letting one fall away. We actually found ourselves with an extra one and had an amazing dinner at Tiffins. I have also paid out of pocket for a Signature Dining experience, which is what I recommend even if you are on the Dining Plan.

Snacks are powerful. Do not let them go to waste!

Breakfast with Snacks

Breakfast is the cheapest meal in the park. Unless I’m doing it with a character, I try to save my meals for lunch and dinner. There are so many great snacks that can serve as a full breakfast. My favorites are:

  1. Cinnamon Rolls at Gaston’s Tavern
  2. Waffles at Sleepy Hollow (the nutella one will come up Quick Service, but others are regular snacks)
  3. Cereal cups
  4. Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Souvenirs

You will see tons of posts about converting those snacks into rice crispy treats. One Mickey rice crispy treat is a snack, and these make amazing souvenirs for friends and family when you return home. Did you know that you can also use them for cookies, brownies, cake pops, candy apples, and tons of other Disney-inspired souvenirs?

  • On our next to last day, we always head over to the Candy Cauldron in Disney Springs (or Main Street Bakery in Magic Kingdom) and convert those left over snacks to treats to take back home.

Epcot Festivals

During the the festivals like Food and Wine or the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, there are tons of kiosks with fun dishes from around the world. Almost all of these are snack credits so you can sample 2-3 (or 4 or 5!) in place of a meal credit.

Tequila Chipotle Shrimp at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Tequila Chipotle Shrimp: Served on a Black Bean Huarache garnished with Red and Green Cabbage, Queso Fresco and Crema Mexicana

Fun Treats in the Park

One of my favorite uses for the snacks in the park are for special treats. Since we still have a little one who falls below the height requirements for some rides, we spend a decent amount of time waiting for big brother on rider swaps. During our last wait outside Avatar Flight of Passage, we hopped over to Satu’li Canteen to enjoy the delicious blueberry dessert!  Similarly, the ice cream shop outside of Rockin’ Roller Coaster is a fun waiting area.

If you have some extra snack credits, fun treats in Pandora at the best!

Summary

I have a few favorite Disney Dining Plan hacks that help me get the most out of my plan. While everyone “does Disney” in their own way, I think these things help you make the most of your dining options.

  1. Do not get stuck on the kids menu. Quick Service meals are interchangeable and kids can order adult meals.
  2. Character Meals are the top dollar spend for a Table Service credit. Use them to avoid using a FastPass or waiting in line and also have a delicious meal!
  3. Pay out of pocket for Signature Dining requiring 2 Table Service credits. You get more value out of the single credit options.
  4. Don’t let your snacks go to waste. Use them for breakfast, souvenirs for family and friends, replace a meal with special snacks at Epcot festivals, or for fun treats in the park.

While I can definitely eat for less in the parks than the Disney Dining Plan costs, I do not have as good of a foodie experience. I have gone to the parks without the dining plan and find myself eating more Quick Service and less character interaction. For us, it makes sense if our trips are more than 4 days to enjoy the freedom the dining plan gives you and the experiences that come along with it!

If you want a really detailed, by-the-numbers comparison, The Magic for Less did a great 5 night stay comparison on and off the Disney Dining Plan.

Linking up with veravise.com and #MouseFanMondays


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