Disney Dining Plan – A True Value!

We just returned from Walt Disney World in Orlando, taking our 2 1/2 year old daughter for her first visit and stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for 6-nights.  We’ll talk more about the Animal Kingdom Lodge in a later post because we want to talk about the Disney Dining Plan and what a great value it is.

On previous visits I’ll admit that we didn’t purchase the plan because we thought it was just a way to make more money and the benefits were more for Disney than it was for us.  This time they had such a great sale that we put in the Dining Plan and so glad that we did!  Our plan including one (1) sit down meal; one (1) quick service meal and one (1) snack.  Our 2 1/2 year old was under their 3-year-old limit so no dining plan for her nor charge for the park tickets.

The Disney Dining Plan is extremely simple once you figure out what each type of meal is charged and many times we simply asked the cashier to advise us when it came to snacks and quick service dining.  Surprisingly we had a few freebies because what we wanted and what was allowed were two different things.

Snacks – this included popcorn in the parks or oatmeal in the hotel cafeteria.  Basically it’s a small item to get you to the next meal and we used them here and there throughout our stay, mainly for our daughter or for breakfast oatmeal when we were not truly hungry but needed something in our stomachs.

Quick Service Dining – this is any type of walk-up service and includes chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers all over the parks, nachos in Epcot’s Mexico and more but what I didn’t know it included was a drink and a dessert!  I thought it was just burger and fries so the drink was a savings and the dessert put it over the top because we always had to get something sweet rather than healthy.  When you’re looking at $8 – 9.00 for a burger and fries, $3.00 for a drink, you realize it quickly adds up and the dining plan actually saves money.

Sit Down Meal – this is where the real value comes in, sitting down to enjoy a meal at one of the many fantastic restaurants throughout Disney’s Theme Parks.  We ate everywhere from a character breakfast in Epcot’s Norway to the Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios and Under the Sea Restaurant in Epcot so we had some really nice food throughout our stay.  We had two use two meals for the Brown Derby (because it was high-end) and we were able to choose an appetizer, entree, dessert and of course drink — and the bill would have been $120 + tip if we paid for it out of pocket.   With most restaurants and using one meal, we received an entree, drink (non-alcoholic) and dessert so it was still a value.

Tipping – we didn’t think about it but a sit-down meal typically includes a tip for service and Disney’s service top-notch regardless of the restaurant you choose.  Keep in mind a tip is calculated on the total value of the meal which is why the receipt will detail the cost of the entire meal and an 18% and 20% tip calculated so you can write in the gratuity to be added to your hotel bill, charged at the end.

Tracking Your Dining Plan – When you check in to your hotel you’re given a print out of your Dining Plan balance.  For two of us, 6 nights, it listed 12 snacks, 12 quick service and 12 sit down meals.  Each time we used a snack or meal, our receipt would list the balance of that particular meal type — so when we ordered oatmeal for breakfast it would be charged as a snack and our receipt showed 9 snacks remaining.  We also had the option of going to the front desk for a list of our remaining meal plan, though we never went to the front desk at all.

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