Walt Disney World Basics – Restaurant Basics – The Disney Dining Plan

There may be no better place to start when talking about Walt Disney World Basics than the Disney Dining Plan. This might just be one one of the most misunderstood items that can be purchased at Walt Disney World.

The Disney Dining Plan brochure and card

Here's what you get when you check in - Photo by sburke2478

First it’s important to know just what the Disney Dining Plan is. (All together now …) So, Dad what is the Disney Dining Plan? Glad you asked …

Basically, the Disney Dining Plan is a way to prepay for your meals while you are at Walt Disney World. There is a whole lot of fine print that you need to know about before you add the plan to your reservation.

I’m not going to go into the gory details here, but just the basics. If you want more details you can go to Dad’s Disney Dining Plan page.

One of the basics of the Disney Dining Plan that spills over into almost all discussions about Disney World Restaurants is different classifications of restaurants on the plan. There are 2 kinds of restaurants at WDW. They are Table Service Restaurants and Quick Service Restaurants.

Table Service Restaurants are restaurants where servers come to your table. (No, this isn’t Rocket Science.) This does include the buffets, even though you mostly serve yourself. Someone comes to your table and serves you drinks at the buffet. Basically, if you get a bill from a server it’s a Table Service Restaurant.

Quick Service Restaurants are the fast food restaurants. They are the places where you stand in line and place an order, pick up your food, pay for it and take it to a table. Where you serve yourself. (Told you this was going to be basic.)

Next, there are several different levels to the plan. The different levels depend on what type of meals are in the plan. The three basic levels are …

  • Quick Service – where your credits are good at the Quick Service Restaurants.
  • Plus Plan – the plus plan (it’s called plus because it’s a room/ticket package “PLUS” dining) is a mixture of Quick Service and Table Service credits.
  • Deluxe Plan – is all Table Service credits.
  • There are some other plans that include entertainment options.

All plans come with snack credits and a cool refillable mug.

Hey Dad, what’s this credit thing?
That’s a good question. Instead of a certain number of meals, every guest gets a set amount of credits (depending on the plan) for each night of your reservation. For example, if you have the Quick Service Plan (2 meal credits and 1 snack credits) for a 4 night stay, each guest will get 8 meal credits and 4 snack credits. These credits can be used at any time, but when they are gone, they are gone and if you don’t use them, they are gone. You can use 3 meal credits one day and none the next.

I see the term Signature Restaurants, what are those?
Signature Restaurants are restaurants that “cost” 2 Table Service credits instead of one. These are mostly higher priced restaurants and special dining experiences.

Will a Table Service Credit work at a Quick Service Restaurant?
Yes, but not vice versa, although there is some evidence that sometime (like at pizza restaurants) you can combine 2 Quick Service Credits for an upgraded meal.

How do we spend our credits?
That’s pretty simple, when you get a bill (at the checkout stand or at your table) present your room key (they put your dining credits on your room key) and your credit(s) will be deducted. (You don’t have to have all of the cards. They are all tied together so if you produce one the credits for the whole group will be deducted.)

What else do we need to know?
Gratuities (tips) are not included. Guests ages 3-9 are considered children and have to order from the child’s menu. You must be staying at a Disney Hotel to be eligible and all guests in the party must purchase the plan.

Dad’s Bottom Line

Lots of people rave about how much the Dining Plan saves them. Dad’s skeptical. I think the Dining Plan is a plot by Disney to take money out of your pocket. But that’s just my opinion.

Comments 5

  1. Hello! We just returned from a week at WDW with a Free Plus Plan. You wrote: “How do we spend our credits?
    That’s pretty simple, when you get a bill (at the checkout stand or at your table) present your room key (they put your dining credits on your room key) and your credit(s) will be deducted. This means if you are with a party of 4, each guest will have to produce their room key. Yes, even the kids.” That’s not true.

    We did not have to ALL produce our room keys when we ordered. Only one of us produced their card, even when ordering for all three of us at one time. All the room keys are linked to one account with all the credits in it. It didn’t matter which one of us swiped our card, the appropriate credits were deducted from the account. It’s kind of like having a joint checking account with several ATM cards. Every time someone makes a withdrawal, the account is updated. The next time someone else on the account uses their ATM card to access it, the new balance shows up.

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  3. I personally use the dining plan every trip. As a matter of fact, we save a considerable amount of money versus paying in cash. (No dining plan) The thing is, you have to use every credit because it’s already paid for. Even if it’s a single snack credit, use it! We don’t go to the signature restaurants because they require 2 table service credits, but those are the best places to eat.

    And I confirm what Ellen stated above me, just one card needs to be shown when using dining credits, everyone is taken care of.

    Wish Dad felt better about the plan, I think it’s pretty darn good. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Disney Restaurant Basics Week | Dad Guide to WDW - The Blog

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