Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Disney Q & A: Disney Dining Plans

There was a question asked about the Free Dining that Disney sometimes offers. 

First I'll explain the options that are available and comprise different Disney Dining Plans.  You need to know that Dining plans are available to those staying on Disney property.  Unfortunately if your accommodations are not at Disney resort then dining plans are not an option you can choose.

Here are the 3 main components that may make up a Dining Plan:

Snacks can be everything from a bottle of water to an apple, popcorn, an  ice-cream float and more.  There are hundreds of options to use your snack credits on at your resort, in the parks and also Downtown Disney.

Counter Service Dining
Counter Service dining is pretty much what I would consider fast-food although sometimes it's 'fancy' fast-food when you eat at a place like Wolfgang Puck's Cafe!  Once again there are many, many options of where to use these credits and can include everything from a hamburger and fries to a salad, a cheese and fruit plate, a waffle with Nutella, bananas and strawberries (mmm...we recommend this one) to pretty much anything your tummy desires!  Counter service meals do not require reservations and also include a beverage and dessert.

Table Service Dining
Table Service dining is a treat at Disney although I must say that advanced planning is a huge help if you choose one of the dining plans that includes Table Service dining.  Table service dining is restaurant dining which should be reserved in advance if at all possible.  These restaurants may or may not accept walk-ups the day of so planning early makes life easier.  These restaurants may be a buffet, family style or ordering from a menu depending on where you choose and also include a beverage and dessert. 

Table service dining also includes Character meals.  For example, if you choose to go to Chef Mickey's for a meal, as you eat Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto will visit your table, sign autographs and pose for pictures.  As you can tell from the link above and many previous posts, we love the character dining!  That being said, we also enjoy many wonderful meals that do not include characters and the food is delicious!  I enjoy these quiet meals with Hannah that are time for us to sit together and talk about our day and vacation.  2 of our favourites that we will be repeating when we go again in August are Coral Reef (beside a huge aquarium) and Kona Cafe (wonderful food!)

This list shows all 239 counter service and table service options that are available for your dining pleasure!  It's easy to see that you won't go hungry at Disney and the bigger challenge will be deciding how to narrow down your choices.

I must also put in a plug here for how Disney aids those who may have restricted diets.  Every restaurant, counter service cafe and even every food cart has a binder that lists all of the ingredients in each item.  Should your choice be vegan, you'll find options for what you want.  If your child has a gluten or peanut allergy for example, a chef will come to your table and either tell you what options are available or, offer to make your child what they want.  The last time we traveled with friends their children had nut allergies.  Not only were special desserts made for them, the chef also made one for Hannah so that she didn't feel left out.  Please don't let food restrictions hold you back.  Disney is only too happy to cater to you and do all they can to meet your dietary requirements!

Now, let's talk Dining Plans!
I’ll start first by explaining the 2 most popular dining plans and how they work.  There are others too and you can find more details about those here

2013 Basic Dining Plan
The first plan is the one that Hannah and I get most often when we visit. It’s called the Basic Dining Plan(BDP). The BDP includes 1 snack, 1 counter service meal and 1 table service meal per person, per night of your stay in a Disney resort. It also includes 1 Refillable Mug per person that can be refilled at your resort (but not within the parks.)   

Currently the cost of the Basic Dining Plan per person per night of your stay is $55.59* for adults and $17.16* for children.  (Disney considers children aged 10+ as adults for dining.  )  *These prices may increase slightly during peak times.

If your family of 4 is staying 7 nights in a Disney Resort and purchase the Basic Dining Plan, upon check-in your Key to the World cards (soon to be MyMagic+ bands) will be credited with 28 snacks, 28 Counter Service credits and 28 Table Service credits.   The credits for the family are on all the cards which makes it easy at checkout.  Grab the card closest to you and your purchases are deducted from the group's totals.  

Snacks and counter service meals can be shared but table service credits require 1 per person.  An example of this is Hannah and I often share a breakfast before leaving our resort but then when we go to a table service restaurant for supper we must each use 1 table service credit.

2013 Quick Service Dining Plan
Another popular option for dining plans is the Quick Service Dining Plan (QSDP).  The QSDP includes 1 snack and 2 counter service meals per person, per night of your stay in a Disney resort. It also includes 1 Refillable Mug per person that can be refilled at your resort (but not within the parks.)

Currently the cost of the Quick Service Dining Plan per person per night of your stay is $37.58 for adults and $14.32 for children.  (Disney considers children aged 10+ as adults for dining.  )

If your family of 4 is staying 7 nights in a Disney Resort and purchase the Quick Service Dining Plan, upon check-in your Key to the World cards (soon to be MyMagic+ bands) will be credited with 28 snacks and 56 Counter Service credits.

Now, finally to the question about Free Dining:  How many "Free Dining's" can a family have?

I'm hoping that the information above helped to explain about the dining plan and how many credits are issued to a family during their stay.

In the past (as rumor has it the winds of change may be a blowing....) when Free Dining (FD) was offered, Value Resorts included the QSDP while Moderate and Deluxe Resorts included the BDP.  (Rumor has it that if/when the next FD offer comes out it might be that value resorts do not qualify and Moderate and Deluxe resorts will receive QSDPs.  Time will tell.)

Hannah and I have always stayed in value resorts so our FD was the QSDP.  That being said, paying the difference in price between QSDP and BDP allowed us to upgrade to the BDP for just under $20/day.  For us it's well worth it as we love the character dining and also the table service dining.

All this to say that we really like the dining plan (and love the dining plan when it's free!) but it's not necessary to have a dining plan to enjoy wonderful time at Disney.  Personally I like the freedom of not checking prices every single time we're hungry.  I like the fact that my food is paid for before I leave home so that I'm not constantly adding up the cost in my head.  But, that's me.  Each person is different and each family does what is best for them.

So, that's a lot of info I've tossed at you.  Please feel free to leave a comment asking for clarification if anything is unclear.  It's a great system that works well but is not easy to condense into one blog post.

Happy Dining!  I'm off to begin planning our dining for this coming August's trip.  Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance of your arrival date so for us that date is quickly approaching!  Time to organize what I want to eat.....6 months from now!  :)


  1. Which ever dining plan you choose at Disney the money is worth it! you would be surprised how much food can add up to in the parks! We go every year during the food and wine festival and use our snacks for the festival food. Its a blast. Love the blog by the way.

  2. You keep posting all this Disney stuff and you are making want to go back! LOL! I took a couple of years off from Disney, but I'm definitely getting the itch again. :)

  3. We are in the process of planning a trip to Disney! Thanks for these great pointers.

  4. I happened upon your blog and I love the info you're providing. You can never too detailed about Disney because there's infinite possibilities!
    Also, I saw you post about going on the Disney Cruise. I just want to say that it is the most magical experience I have had. My parents took me more about 13 years ago (I'm 22) and it is still something we talk about to this day!

  5. Wow! Thanks for clarifying the dining plans! I always wondered how it worked exactly!. Good to know for planning our trip in a few years!

  6. Thank you so much for a very detailed answer. Saves me a lot of time.

  7. Great advice, I think preplanning meals was the best advice anyone gave me as it saves a lot of time and heartache if you have your mind set on a restaurant and then they don't take walk ups.
    If you haven't already tried, I know you mentioned you enjoyed the Kona cafe, you should try O'hana, it is one of our favourites and they have great activities for kids while you eat, hula dancing, coconut broom races. We also enjoy Tusker house for those of you who want an early entrance to Animal Kingdom, great character meal and you are next to the Kilimanjaro safaris, as soon as you exit breakfast.

    1. Thanks for the reminder about O'hana. My niece and I ate there a number of years ago and the food was good but unfortunately our table was really out of the way so we weren't included in the activities. Have heard great things about it so we should try it again sometime.

      Hannah and I enjoyed breakfast at Tusker House last year and like you say it was great to be close to Kilimanjaro Safaris when we were finished.

      Thanks for your tips!


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