Top Five Tips for Making the Most of your Dining Plan

Whether the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is worth the cost is an issue of much debate among Walt Disney World goers.

Some say that the plans don’t provide enough variety to really cover all of your food during your vacation, and others say it’s just too expensive unless you plan to eat a lot of food.

Whichever camp you’re in, you can probably agree that the DDP can be a pricey addition to your vacation.

One really nice thing the Disney Dining Plan does, though, is that it allows you to spend less money during your vacation because you can allocate these funds before your vacation. However, if you’re not using the DDP intelligently, you won’t get the most out of it regardless of how much or how little food you eat.

Here are five tips for making the most out of your Disney Dining Plan.

1. Use your refillable mug

When you sign up for the DDP, you automatically receive a refillable mug upon check-in at your resort. This refillable mug has an RFID chip in the bottom, and it’s really smart, but that’s a story for another article.

Your refillable mug is good at any Walt Disney World Resort including your home resort, but it is not eligible for refills in the park. Once you’ve purchased the Dining Plan, all of your refills at any resort are free, so drink up! You paid for it!

But it’s not just about how much you can drink to get your money’s worth. There are some smart ways to use your mug to save some of your dining credits, too.

Use your mug in a smart way.
Use your mug in a smart way.

Breakfast: it’s the most important meal of the day. Since you’re at your resort, you can use your refillable mug! Say you want a cup of coffee or some juice and a bakery item or a breakfast side. Use your refillable mug so you don’t have to pay any extra or use any dining credits for your drink then use a snack credit for your pastry or side. This will save you valuable quick-service credits to use later in the day.

Before you head to the bus stop or the monorail pick up, refill your mug so you have a drink for your early morning time in the park. Then, when that drink is gone, refill your mug in the water fountains. If you return to your resort for a mid-day break, refill your mug again. When you return for the evening, refill again before bed. Drinks cost you snack credits. If you’re using your mug wisely, you’ll avoid wasting your snack credits on drinks!

2. Choose more expensive food options

All meals, whether at quick-service restaurants or table-service restaurants, are priced differently. Pasta will be less than chicken and chicken will be less than steak. However, all of these meals are eligible for the DDP, but they’re not all created equal! If you choose a more expensive entrée, you’ll get more for your money without feeling the cost of the more expensive meal.

More expensive entrees will help you get more value from the Disney Dining Plan.
More expensive entrees will help you get more value from the Disney Dining Plan.

You should be aware, though, if you’re eating at a restaurant that advertises meals to share, these aren’t usually the best option for guests on the DDP since it will cost you two table-service dining credits. As a general rule, avoid these and let everyone get his or her own meal at a table-service restaurant.

You should also know that drinks served in souvenir cups aren’t covered under the DDP. If you want a drink and you’re willing to spend a snack credit to get it, consider getting a specialty drink like a milkshake or a smoothie.

3. Substitute this for that

As I mentioned above, all quick-service meals come with an entrée and a drink. Since you’re using your refillable mug and drinking water from the fountain, you don’t need a drink, so substitute your drink for another side or dessert. You can use your snack credit to get a snack that you can stash in your Disney day bag and eat later.

4. Don’t waste credits on water

With the option of the refillable mug and free water at any counter-service location, you really shouldn’t have to spend any additional money on drinks.

You can get free water at any Disney restaurant.
You can get free water at any Disney restaurant.

5. Use snack credits on high-value items

Instead of wasting snack credits on cheap drinks like water and soda or even on a piece of fruit, use them for high-value items. Snacks range in price from $1.50 to $5+, so choosing the $5+ snack items will automatically give you more value for your DDP.

Here are some items I suggest:

  • Specialty coffee at Starbucks
  • Gourmet cupcakes at Magic Kingdom
  • French pastries at Epcot‘s World Showcase France Pavilion
  • Ice Cream Sundaes at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor
  • Chicken Fried Rice at Yak & Yeti Café in Animal Kingdom
  • Mickey Ice Cream bars at any ice cream cart
  • Dole Whip Floats at Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Soups and sides (light lunch, anyone?)
  • Some items at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival and International Flower and Garden Festival food stops are also eligible for snack credits.

Are you a fan of the Disney Dining Plan?  Tips?