Disney Dining Plan Tips & Tricks (Updated for 2020)

Posted in Disney World
on August 25, 2019

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flame tree bbq rib plate

Here are my best Disney Dining Plan tips and tricks for making the most of the plans at Walt Disney World, current for your 2020 vacation planning!

If you want some basic info, check out my Disney Dining Plan 2020 post. I suggest reading that post first if you are new to the plans or the following information may just confuse you.

Tip #1: Take Advantage of the Dining Plan’s Flexibility

My first of my Disney Dining Plan tips is that the plans are much more flexible than they sound.

The credits you receive for each member of your party are actually pooled together and can be used in any combination on any day of your trip.

For example, you can eat only Quick Service meals on one day and the next day use two Table Service credits to enjoy dinner at one of Disney’s fantastic Signature restaurants.

Plus your credits are good from the time you check into your resort (which we often do as soon as we arrive, as early as 8 am) until midnight on the day you check out.

This means you can stretch your 5 nights of the dining plan into 6 days if you use your credits wisely.

Just understanding these basic Disney Dining Plan tips can help you have a much better experience with the meal plans!

gelato options

Tip #2: Share Credits & Use Them However You Want

The second of my Disney Dining Plan tips is you do not actually have to use a credit for every member of your party every time you dine.

For example, one Table Service credit includes:

  • One entree
  • One dessert
  • One beverage

However, if your spouse wants a beverage and entree and you want an appetizer and dessert, you two can essentially “share” one Table Service credit and just pay for your appetizer out-of-pocket.

This can really help you get the full value of the plan, save your credits for a Signature restaurant, and avoid wasting food (a common complaint about the plan).

To do this, just tell your server that you’d like to use one table service credit from your dining plan charge the appetizer to our room. You can then scan your Magic Band for both purposes and be on your way!

Tip #3: Choose Restaurants That Maximize Your Credits

Epcot Food Pavillion

The third of my Disney Dining Plan tips is to eat at the locations that give you the best value for your credits. 

There are definitely certain dining locations that give you the best value on the Disney Dining Plan. That said, I would suggest that you don’t let this fact drive your decisions about where to eat on vacation.

If you want to eat somewhere but it isn’t necessarily the best value on the plan because the entrees are less expensive than other places, then, by all means, eat there!

Overall, you will get your money’s worth out of the Disney Dining Plan almost anywhere you eat, so try to dine as if you weren’t bound by the plan.

You’ll get incredible value if you are able to get the dining plan for free with Disney’s popular “Free Dining” promotion, which you can read all about in this post. 

sushi at california grill

Sushi at California Grill

Locations in which the total cost of your Quick Service Meal is above $20 and Table Service is above $45 give you the best return on your investment on the Dining Plan.

Here are some of the best locations for getting the full value out of the plan (find all of their menus here):

Quick Service

  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kindgom)
  • Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
  • Tangierine Cafe (Epcot)
  • La Cantine de San Angel (Epcot)
  • Be Our Guest – Breakfast/Lunch (Magic Kingdom)
  • Columbia Harbor House (Magic Kingdom)
  • Peco’s Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe (Magic Kingdom)
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Magic Kindgom)
  • Landscape of Flavors – Lunch/Dinner (Art of Animation Resort)
  • Pepper Market – Lunch/Dinner (Coronado Springs Resort)
  • Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs)
  • The Polite Pig (Disney Springs)

Table Service 

  • Fantasmic Dining Package (Hollywood Studios)
  • Chefs de France – Dinner (Epcot)
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot)
  • Tutto Italia -Dinner (Epcot)
  • Crystal Palace – Dinner (Magic Kingdom)
  • Boma – Dinner (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Cape May Cafe – Dinner (Beach Club Resort)
  • Chef Mickey’s – Dinner (Contemporary Resort)
  • ‘Ohana – Dinner (Polynesian Resort)
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe – Dinner (Wilderness Lodge)

Signature Restaurants

  • California Grill (Contemporary Resort)
  • Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club Resort)
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Dinner (Magic Kingdom)
  • The Boathouse (Disney Springs)
Steak at Cinderella's Royal Table Breakfast

Steak at Cinderella’s Royal Table Breakfast

The best use of Quick Service and Table Service credits on the Disney Dining Plan tend to be for lunch and dinner.

It is very hard to get good value out of your credits for breakfast. I would suggest eating a light breakfast in your room (check out how to get groceries delivered to resort for free in this post) or paying for breakfast out of pocket at your resort.

Sometimes my husband and I share a huge breakfast platter at our resort for around $10 (paid for out of pocket) and we are full until lunch.

Tip #4: Use Snack Credits Wisely

Snack credits may seem like a throwaway addition, but if used wisely, they really can increase the value of your Dining Plan.

Each member of your party will get two snack credits per day as part of every Disney Dining Plan!

I estimate the value of a snack credit to be around $5. If I want a snack and it is less than $5, I usually pay out of pocket for it, even if I’m on the Dining Plan.

Mickey Cupcake

If you happen to be visiting Disney World during one of the Epcot festivals, you can get incredible value out of your snack credits.

Most non-alcoholic drinks and food items available at the Marketplace Booths are “snack credit eligible”.

Some of these items are in the $7-$10 range which can double the value of your snack credit.

Last visit we had eight snack credits that we used to make a meal of eating our way around Food & Wine festival. It was so much fun and we got incredible value of out of the snack credits (get all of my Food and Wine Festival tips in this post). 

Beef Tenderloin at Food and Wine Fest

Beef Tenderloin at Food & Wine Fest

If you want someone to help you pick the best restaurants AND make all of your dining reservations for you (at no cost to you), then I strongly suggest that you get a free quote from my expert Disney travel agent Siera at Destinations in Florida! 

Disney Dining Plan Tips #5: Get Alcohol, Appetizers, and More

adult beverage

Even though Table Service credits include only an entree, dessert, and a beverage, there are instances where you can get much more using the Disney Dining Plan.

And you can now get a specialty drink OR single-serving alcoholic beverage with every meal on the Disney Dining Plans!

I’m happy to report that pretty much ANY alcoholic drink is included in the Dining Plan.

tacos and margarita

For example, you can get a top-shelf Patron Lime Margarita from La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot that would cost $16 out-of-pocket as your drink with a Quick Service credit!

If you are going to get an adult beverage with lunch and dinner anyway, the Dining Plan makes it very affordable to do so.

Here are other ways to get more with the Dining Plan:

Get an Appetizer with the Prix Fixe Dinner Menu at Chefs de France

Another great use of one Table Service credit is the Prix Fixe menu at Chefs de France in Epcot’s France Pavillion.

You get to choose an appetizer, entree, and dessert from a set menu and all are included with your one table service credit.

Though this restaurant sometimes gets spotty reviews, I think the food is excellent (though not very adventurous), the atmosphere lively, and the servers helpful and eager to talk about their country and cuisine.

Get a Cheese Plate as An Appetizer at Several Signature Restaurants

Signature Restaurants are the high-end dining establishments at Disney and all require two Table Service credits.

However, several restaurants include their Cheese Plate as one of their options for dessert, which means you can order it as part of the dining plan.

The cheese plate is usually fantastic and pricey (some upwards of $20) and you can have it served before your meal as an appetizer.

One member of your party will have to give up their dessert entitlement, but most folks share desserts anyway so that likely won’t cramp your style too much.

Get Preferred Seating with the Fantasmic Dining Package

One of the best uses of one Table Service credit is the Fantasmic Dining Package at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios.

Not only do you get preferred seating to the Fantasmic show for the evening (the not-to-be-missed nighttime show at the Studios), but you’ll also get your choice of an entree, dessert, and beverage.

The trade-off is that you’ll eat at an off-peak time (lunch or an early dinner). You can also get a Fantasmic Package at Hollywood & Vine (for 1 credit) and The Hollywood Brown Derby (for 2 credits).

Tip #6: Kids Under Three Eat for Free at Certain Restaurants

meeting cinderella at akershus royal banquet hall

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

You may have noticed that the children’s dining plan is for kids ages 3 to 9. What about one and two-year-olds who seem to eat their weight in food each day, you say?

Well, you will either have to purchase food for them out of pocket or dine at restaurants where they can eat for free.

Disney’s policy is that kids under three can eat off of their parents’ plates at any buffet.

This includes all of the character meals and any other buffet such as Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and Biergarten (Epcot). And they don’t physically have to eat off of your plate, you can get them their own plate of food at no charge.

dessert plate at akershus royal banquet hall

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Even better, at any all-you-care-to-enjoy table service meal (such as the Garden Grill, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Topplino’s Terrace, and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall), kids under three can get a kids’ meal off of the menu totally for free.

I was really surprised when I learned about this about a year ago and it influenced where we decided to eat with our daughter when she was still in the under-three crowd.

Tip #7 – How to Get the Disney Dining Plan Without Buying Park Tickets

pecos bill nachos

Pecos Bill’s Beef Nachos

The official line from Disney is that the Dining Plan must be purchased as part of a package that includes a minimum of two-day park tickets. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

The one we have used most frequently is that anyone staying in a room booked with Disney Vacation Club points can add a Disney Dining Plan to their reservation without also adding park tickets.

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s super flexible version of a timeshare and there are nine different deluxe resorts with DVC rooms at Walt Disney World.

Anyone can stay in a DVC room by “renting” points from a DVC owner (check out my post all about how to rent DVC points to save money on deluxe accommodations here). 

Another exception to the package requirement is for Annual Pass Holders, who can add the Dining Plan to a room-only reservation without having to buy an additional ticket.

Members of the military can also add a dining plan to their resort stay without having to buy park tickets (which can be bought at a steep discount at a military base or Shades of Green – thanks for this info, Peg!).

columbia harbor house salmon

Columbia Harbor House

I have also been able to call Disney and have them add a Dining Plan to a room-only reservation without tickets, as long as the reservation was made directly with Disney.

If you booked a room-only reservation with a travel agent (get a free quote from my travel agent Siera here), you can have them add the Dining Plan without having to purchase park tickets. 

Just keep in mind this will turn your room-only reservation into a package, which has more strict cancellation policies. Here is a great resource from Mousesavers on the different cancellation policies. 

Tip #8: One Time I Recommend The Deluxe Dining Plan

The last of my Disney Dining Plan tips is about the Deluxe Dining Plan.

I generally do NOT recommend the Deluxe Plan – it is a ridiculous amount of food and few humans could get their money’s worth out of the plan.

The one instance for which I recommend the Deluxe plan is for a split stay – this is when you break your vacation up between two different resorts on two separate reservations.

Any Disney Dining Plan has to be purchased for every night of your stay and for everyone in your room. But this only means you must have it for the entire reservation – you can have it for the first part of a split stay and not the second.

If you don’t mind switching resorts once during your stay, you can rent points for just one or two nights and add the dining plan for that part of your stay.

This is the one instance I have found when you may be able to get your money’s worth out of the Deluxe Dining Plan.

My husband and I stayed one night in a DVC room and added the Deluxe Dining Plan for just that night.

We got our refillable mugs (which we could then use for the rest of our stay), two Snack credits each and three Table Service credits each to use over the course of those two days.

We used the Deluxe Plan credits for all of our meals for both days so it worked out to be far less than we would have paid out-of-pocket for our food!

Note:  You can add the dining Plan to a one-night reservation booked with DVC points, but you can no longer add a dining plan to a one-night reservation booked through Disney (unless it is booked with a Passholder discount). The minimum for adding the dining plan when you book with Disney is a two night reservation. 

My Experiences with the Disney Dining Plan

In my opinion, the dining plans are not for everyone on every trip.

They make the most sense for guests who plan on eating several Character Meals or buffets, have big eaters in their party (think teenage boys), and those who don’t mind being nailed down to a schedule.

On the other hand, it doesn’t work as well for light eaters, those who prefer Signature restaurants, or those who like to be spontaneous and not be held to hard-and-fast plans for their dining.

My husband and I have taken advantage of a Disney Dining Plan on many occasions and I think it is really fun.

I like the freedom to choose any entree on the menu without worrying about how expensive it is (otherwise I can’t shake the inner cheapskate, even on vacation).

pork belly at food & wine fest

Epcot Food & Wine Fest

How To Decide If The Dining Plan Is For You

The way I decide if the Dining Plan is best for our trip is I first try to make a rough plan of how we plan to eat on the trip. Sometimes we like to eat at several Signature restaurants and eat snacks or share a quick service meal for lunch.

Other times we have planned on several buffets or all-you-care-to-eat experiences. Then I decide if we can get the same experience with the same type of food for less using the dining plan. Sometimes we can, but sometimes we can’t.

In my experience, servers actually like it when guests are on the dining plan. It guarantees that they will spend a minimum amount on food and (hopefully) tip accordingly.

Guests on the dining plan are also more willing to take suggestions for more expensive entrees and desserts since they are already included with their plan.

Here is a link to my in-depth post that compares eating with the Disney Dining Plan vs no dining plan to help you decide if the plan is right for you. 

Disney Dining Plan Tips & Tricks Summary

To summarize, the Disney Dining Plan is just one way to experience the amazing dining options at Walt Disney World.

And if you’re able to get it for free (read my post about the popular free dining offer), it is an especially inexpensive way to try out different restaurants.

If want help planning a vacation with or without the dining plan, I suggest getting a from my expert Disney travel agent, Siera with Destinations in Florida.

She can help you find the right resort, book your dining reservations, FastPasses, and more, all at no additional cost to you!

I hope you found my Disney Dining Plan tips helpful! If you have any questions, leave a comment below or join the discussion in my free private Facebook group for my Disney-only site, The Budget Mouse.


Tips and tricks for getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan #disneyworld #disneyplanning
Tips and tricks for getting the most out of the dining plan at Walt Disney World! #disneyworld #familytravelTips & tricks for getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World!

Disney Dining Plan Tips & Tricks (Updated for 2020)

78 Comments

  • Jessica McQuillen

    I have heard that some places cost more than one TS per person? Is this correct? And if so how do I know how many it costs at each place. Any advice helps. TIA

    February 25, 2020 at 6:52 am Reply
    • Leah

      Yes! Look back up in this post for a full list of restaurants that take 2 table service credits on the plan.

      February 25, 2020 at 7:25 am Reply
  • Kristi

    Can you split a signature dining (2 ts credits) by using 1 ts credit and then paying for the rest of meal with cash?

    January 3, 2020 at 9:21 am Reply
    • Leah

      No, unfortunately you can’t. You would have to pay out of pocket for that Signature meal and use your 1 TS credit at a location that only requires 1 credit.

      January 4, 2020 at 9:58 am Reply
  • tony

    Chefs de France is no longer available after 2019 on dining plan.

    December 28, 2019 at 3:32 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Tony! While it may not be listed as as accepting the Dining Plan for 2020, it will be added at the start of the new year. There is often a delay with getting all of the restaurants listed as accepting the dining plan for the upcoming year.

      December 28, 2019 at 11:16 am Reply
  • Victoria Munoz

    Hello, I have seen on a few posts above that people were not sure about sharing TS dining credits with family members that join them on their trip and are not in their room. Has there been any official guidance on this issue from Disney or any update as of recently (within the last month or two)? I have not been able to find anything more.

    December 11, 2019 at 12:50 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Victoria! Unfortunately there haven’t been any updates from Disney on this. I have heard the same but I have also been able to share my table service credits myself with those not on the plan. Disney Dining Plan pamphlets used to share sharing credits was ok but they no longer say that. They don’t say you can’t share either, so I guess you have to be prepared that your mileage may vary.

      December 12, 2019 at 6:24 am Reply
  • Melina

    I have a question. Me and my sisters are going to be visiting Disney next year. We’re going to be staying on the Disney property for a week but we only have tickets for 5 days. Will it so charged us for the additional days we stay for the dining plan?

    December 1, 2019 at 9:47 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Melina! The dining plan is connected to your resort stay. So if you have a seven night stay you will have the dining plan for seven nights, regardless of how many days you are visiting the parks. If you only wanted it for five days you might be able to change your reservation to five nights with the plan then make a separate “room-only” reservation for the last two nights without the plan. This would affect your dining booking window so that’s something to consider. If you want help from a travel agent (no cost to you) my agent for the site would be glad to help. You can contact her here: https://thebudgetmouse.com/get-a-free-disney-world-vacation-quote/

      December 6, 2019 at 6:48 am Reply
  • Pamela

    Hello. For the character buffet dinners, is an alcoholic beverage included in the table service credit?

    November 19, 2019 at 12:49 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Pamela! Yes it is and alcoholic beverages are now available at all character meals.

      November 20, 2019 at 7:12 am Reply
  • j gold

    On deluxe dining plan, could you basically skip breakfast table service (use a snack credit for breakfast) and have 2 table service credits to use each night per person for signature restaurants? Each person is getting 2 snack, 1 QSR and 2 table a night right?

    October 20, 2019 at 8:22 am Reply
    • Leah

      Yes, you are right. Or you could even eat at a 1 credit table service for lunch if you wanted to.

      October 21, 2019 at 6:32 am Reply
  • Lori

    There are some restaurants that do not allow you to use one tableservice credit to be split between two people . Tutti Italia and Via Napoli. Though I know Via Napoli will allow you to split an entrée even a pizza if you’re paying cash they won’t allow you to do that when on the dining plan. Tutto Italia was very strict on splitting regardless whether you were on the dining plan or paying cash .

    September 26, 2019 at 7:06 am Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Lori! This is the first I have heard of this. I’m not sure I understand how it would work? Do they require that everyone who is eating is charged 1 TS credit regardless of what they order? If so that would cause quite a stir, essentially changing these into restaurants similar to a buffet when everyone is charged just for entering.

      September 27, 2019 at 7:07 am Reply
  • Crystal

    Leah a few questions if you don’t mind….

    When trading in a drink credit at a QS meal for a snack, or a QS meal for three snack credits does the snack credit need to be used then and there or can you bank it?

    If you can bank it how does this work with the mobile ordering using a DP?

    If you aren’t banking it how does the mobile ordering recognize it? For instance, my youngest barely eats, if I use his QS to purchase a side of Maac and cheese for him and a drink for me and pretzel how does that appear at checkout on the app?

    September 19, 2019 at 7:18 am Reply
    • Leah

      HI Crystal! These are good questions. First, you can’t “bank” any part of a credit (QS or otherwise) – everything has to be used during the meal. So if you want to get a snack instead of a drink (most places are fine with you doing this but there may be some where it is difficult) you have to do it when you redeem your QS credit. Next, I don’t believe you can do this in Mobile Order. I think you will have to try to swap out the drink for a snack in person during checkout (though I could be wrong – you can try it once you are there). I also have no idea if Mobile Order will let you use a QS credit for 3 snacks. Sorry I can’t be of more help with this – I can try it out when I have the Dining Plan next month.

      September 19, 2019 at 9:58 am Reply
  • Megan

    I have two questions…

    On the Disney dining plan at a TS restaurant can you swap the dessert for an appetizer?

    If you’re dining at a signature restaurant and using 2 TS credits do you then revive an appetizer and dessert or is it still one or the other?

    September 1, 2019 at 10:29 am Reply
    • Leah

      These are good questions, Megan! First: you can swap your dessert for a soup or salad if the restaurant offers them. But no, you can’t swap the dessert out for any appetizer. An exception would be a restaurant that has a cheese board listed as a dessert as well as an appetizer. Then you can have the cheese plate as your “dessert” but have it brought out first in the meal. If you are use the standard Disney Dining Plan and using 2 TS credits at a Signature then yes, it is still a dessert credit that you can swap for a soup or salad, but not both an appetizer and dessert. If you have the Deluxe Dining Plan then yes, you always get appetizer and dessert with any TS credit. I know it is super confusing but hope that made sense!

      September 2, 2019 at 6:26 am Reply
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