Friday, June 3, 2011

The Disney Dining Plan and Other Fighting Words (Part 3)

So we've discussed the Quick Service Plan, and the Base Plan, which brings us to my absolute favorite of all plans-Deluxe Dining. Now, I'm going to be upfront and say that this plan is NOT for everyone. And I don't always recommend this plan for first time visitors with young children. There are only certain people who I would even bring this plan up with and pretty basically they would be complete foodies like myself and/or repeat visitors. Like I said before-we're a family of food nerds. Even our daughter is a food nerd-she will sit with us through a 4 course meal & critique the menu, individual dishes, decor, service and strangely enough-the bathroom decor. She's a weird kid-takes after her mom. In any case, let's get right into the unique bird that is Disneys' Deluxe Dining Plan.

The Deluxe plan includes the following per person, per night:

(3) Table Service or Quick Service meals or a mix & match of the two

Quick Service Meal:

1 entree or combo meal
1 dessert
1 non-alcoholic drink (coffee, soda, iced tea, etc.)

Table Service Meal:

1 appetizer
1 entree of full buffet meal
1 non-alcoholic drink (coffee, soda, iced tea, etc.)
1 dessert


2 Snack per day
1 refillable resort mug per person

The cost for his plan is based on travel dates:

$99.97 per adult (ages 10+)
$26.84 per child (ages 3-9)

During the following dates in 2013:                      
1/1/13  - 2/13/13
2/24/13 - 3/7/13
4/7/13  - 5/30/13
8/4/13  - 12/12/13                

$102.27 per adult (ages 10+)
$28.91   per child (ages 3-9)

During the following dates in 2013: (Peak Season)
2/14/13  - 2/23/13
3/8/13   -  4/6/13
5/31/13  - 8/3/12

12/13/13- 12/31/13                     

Let me quickly touch on what I mean about mixing & matching table service and quick service.What this means is you have 3 credits per person per day and you can work out where & when you eat in any way that makes you happy. I know you're thinking-but wait what if I want to eat at Cinderellas' Royal Table (2 credit meal) for breakfast, Coral Reef (1 credit dining) for lunch and top the day off with California Grill (2 credit Signature dining) for dinner? You can. You would be stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey and probably in need of being rolled to your room like Violet Beauregarde after the Wonka factory incident, but you could totally do it. How-you ask? Well here's the trick-When you check in, Disney deposits all your dining credits in to your account. They are yours to spend as you please. So you can dole them out daily and only use 3 per day( in any configuration you like) or burn them all in a few days. Same goes for snacks.

Ok the pros & cons of the Deluxe Dining Plan:

The Pros to this plan are:

* The ultimate in dining flexibility & restaurant choices
* A chance to try all of the best restaurants on property
* The plan includes dessert & appetizers-which to some of us is big
* More food (I am also going to list this under cons-because for different people this could be good or bad)
* Ability to experience a Character meal every day
* Snacks can be used at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival kiosks (Which I will review later on it's own-the Festival that is.)

The Cons of this plan are:

* It is A LOT of food (although there is a trick to getting around this)
* It requires a lot time. In getting to the restaurant & the time it takes to eat a 3 course meal.
* Tips are not included and if you are dining in the Signature restaurants this can get expensive
* This plan requires planning-and LOTS of it.

Like I said before, this plan isn't for amateurs. And it's not for people who wouldn't eat like this anyway. If after reading what this plan entails your first thought is "WHO would do this?!"-this isn't the plan for you. But is you're like us and your first thought is "I can't wait to download menus & make my advance dining reservations (ADRs)."-then we are kindred spirits and you will be very happy with your choice.

First you need to make your advance dining reservations (ADRs) and pretty much at the 180 day mark to get the best selection of restaurants, especially Character dining and decent times at Signature restaurants. Once I get where I'm dining planned out & my ADRs made (using any special events/fireworks/parades to help decide when), I will download the most recent menus available and guesstimate what the tip will be for any table-service meals. I know this sounds difficult, but I basically know what my family will order and you probably know what your family is most likely to order as well lol. I then put money that aside in an envelope marked 'Tips'. Next I do something important-I figure out my travel times. This is big-there's nothing worse than being stressed out because you're trying to make an ADR and watching the 3 full buses roll on by (or if you rented a car-getting lost or stuck in traffic), except actually missing an ADR. It takes a lot of time to organize & plan your dining reservations-the last thing you want to do is miss them because of transportation.

Now, no matter how I spin it-this IS a lot of food. But I mentioned a trick we use to get around this. As much as we love to eat-we can't put away 3 full meals daily plus snacks. So what we usually do it this: I book a late breakfast (usually a character meal) around 10am-10:30am. This also works for us because when on vacation-we usually don't like to get up early. Then I book a later dinner, usually between 6pm-7:30pm, at a 2 credit Signature restaurant or dinner show.

Here are my reasons:
1) That's only 2 large meals spread out during the day.
2) It allows us to eat a great breakfast & dinner.
3) It gives us time after breakfast in the parks & time after dinner to see fireworks, many times.
* You can modify our plan to accommodate being early risers & early dinner diners. The point is to give yourself enough time to work off breakfast before it's time to eat dinner.

Now we do not always eat at a 2 credit restaurant every night, some nights we will enjoy a meal Downtown or one of the many great 1 credit dining locations in the parks, this means that we have extra credits available to us if we get peckish in between meals and we also have plenty of snack credits that can be used for side salads, soups, fruit and other items to tie us over.

While I am on snack credits, I'd like to mention that if you are going during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, those snack credits can be used for many of the food items & non-alcoholic beverages, in the many kiosks throughout the park. The usual "rule" is anything under $4.00-but I can tell you I have gotten the Lobster roll & crab cakes which were priced around $7.00 using snack credits. So if you are considering going for the Festival, consider the Deluxe plan and using your snack credits during it.

So there you have it, the 3 Dining plans. I tried to be as objective as possible to help you make a decision on whether or not the plan is for you, as well as which of the plans would best fit your family and touring style. I would of course, like to mention, that if the dining plan seems like something you would like to experience, but are intimidated by the planning required for the Base & Deluxe plans-consider utilizing the services of a good travel agent. One who is familiar with all 3 plans and can give you suggestions on on the many restaurant choices available throughout the WDW property. But also one who will not put you into a plan that doesn't work for you. I would love the opportunity to help plan out your next Disney vacation including a Dining Plan. I can sit down with you in person, if local, or on the phone and discuss with you which plan is best for your family & your budget, suggest different dining experiences as well as make your ADRs and create a complete itinerary to ensure enough time for transportation, fireworks viewing and more. If you're interested please contact me at or (845)283-5099 to start planning your next Disney vacation experience. I hope this has helped you decide if a Disney Dining plan is something you would like to experience on your Disney vacation.

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