by: guide4wdw – Collin

We’ve all been there or may even be facing the question as we speak, “Do I get the dining plan or do I go a different route?” To be quite honest, there is no right answer to that question, but there are a few things you’ll want to avoid if you have or are considering the dining plan. Of course, this is simply my opinion, because there are many, many tips about how to utilize the Dining plan incredibly effectively in a variety of different circumstances. However, these are things I recommend to anyone traveling to Walt Disney World and utilizing the service. 
1. Is “Free Dining” Really Free? 
As you’ve likely seen or even participated in before, Disney will offer a “free dining” promotion a few times a years to increase bookings and provided something a little extra for guests. To be quite honest, as Disney becomes more and more popular and has less and less trouble filling rooms, free dining has become less and less “free.” In the early days of the promotion, rates didn’t seem to change too drastically when the dining promotions debuted. Now, in select cases the free dining offer is actually not the best savings available. May guests tend to rebook their stays using a travel agency or simply calling Disney when these promotions present themselves, but in the end you may be paying more for your resort accommodations to get the free dining that you would if you simply added a dining package to your previous resort rate for accommodations. This isn’t always the case, but with Annual Passholder discounted accommodations you are often better off purchasing the Tables in Wonderland card for discounted meals rather that rebooking on the free dining promotion. I completely understand the convenience factor of the dining plan, but be sure to check out all of the current discounts and offers that may be available to you before jumping on board. 

2. Don’t “Save” Your Snack Credits

Personally I’ve fallen into this same mindset time after time. You get to the parks and think, “Wow, I’ve got a snack credit to use, but I may want something at (insert your favorite snack location here) tomorrow.” My highest recommendation is that if you see something that sounds good to you at the moment, grab the snack and enjoy it. At the end of the week I can nearly guarantee that you’ll have an extra counter service meal or an abundance of leftover snack credits. It happens to every guest, so why not use them in the park and enjoy it rather that scrambling to use them on the last day. 

3. Don’t Forget To Use Your Credits!
This one really tends to blow my mind. I’ve seen guests time after time say they have 10+ credits to use and instead of utilizing them they wait too late and think they have no way to spend them. If you get to that very last day of your vacation and have an abundance of credits, counter service or snacks, head to a resort gift shop if all else fails. Nearly every shop has something that is shelf stable, travels well, and will be great to take home with you. We even did an article about many of the different last minute offerings available so that you don’t completely abandon your prepaid food. (See: 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Use Left Over Dining Plan Snack Credits)

4. Pick Quality Snacks
When you’re in the parks and not trying to use your credits last minute, try and make the most of the money you spent on the dining plan. When you’re looking for snacks be sure to check out the bakeries scattered across property for a freshly made treat rather that purchasing packaged off the shelf options. The example I tend to use more that anything in explaining this point is the ice cream cookie sandwich. Did you know that the packaged ice cream sandwiches from carts across property are purchased with the exact same snack credit as the hand made cookie sandwich prepared at the Parlor on Main Street U.S.A.? Th two options are incomparable in quality, but essentially cost the same when utilizing the dining plan. Of course, certain packaged treats are quite good including the Minnie’s Bake Shop cookies and many others, but its truly amazing some of the things that count as a snack credit. Even the iconic Beignets at Floatworks at the Port Orleans French Quarter resort are on the dining plan. Personally, I’d much rather have this (see picture) that a packaged cookie or something of the sort. 

5. Pick Quality Counter Service Offerings  
While many of us have eaten at Starlight Cafe or grabbed a quick bite at the Electric Umbrella, there are much higher quality counter service offerings you can enjoy by simply planning your selections a bit more that the average guest. Head over to Captain Cooks at the Polynesian for an Aloha Pork Sandwich or a Big Kahuna! If Polynesian isn’t your thing head over to Floatworks (mentioned above) and grab a shrimp or catfish Po’ Boy sandwich! We tend to prefer the resort counter service offerings and as an added bonus you get the chance to quickly run back to the room or lobby area to relax for a few minutes before heading back out to an afternoon or evening in the parks. More that anything, I simply recommend that you don’t just stop at the closest counter service restaurant when you get hungry. We always try to find something unique and different that the run of the mill cheeseburger and fries and it really keeps you from getting burnt out on fast food by the end of your vacation. 

As always, this is imply what I do and have had success with in the past. There are many different ways to do dining at Walt Disney World, but these are simply a few recommendations and things to avoid when utilizing the dining plan option. 

Thanks for reading and if we missed a mistake (or simply a tip you’ve found) you’ve made and want to share from experience with other guests, be sure to leave it in the comments below! Be sure to SHARE this article with friends and leave a like over on our Facebook page using the box below!