December 19, 2016
This Week’s Ask Ashley Question
One of the questions this week came from David from Danville, Pennsylvania. David asked:
I’ve taken my family to Disneyland in the past and usually pay for food out-of-pocket, because I’ve never seen their Dining Plan Voucher system to be worth it. However, as our trip next year will be our first to Disneyworld, I wanted to see what options there are for meals. In doing a little research (even via DPB), I’ve noticed there are a few plan options; but, I don’t know which will work best for me and my family. What advice can you provide?
Ashley’s Answers: Dining Plan Offerings at Walt Disney World and the Insider Tips to Help Pick the One for You
Thank you so much for your question David! One thing Walt Disney World (WDW) isn’t short on is options; they’re everywhere! Therefore, there is something for everyone! But, that also means once the decisions are made, guests have a fully personalized vacation. So, what types of decisions will you have to make? A few of the the introductory questions are below:
- What type of resort do you want to stay at (i.e. Value, Moderate, Deluxe, Deluxe Villa, and Campground)?
- What resort (based upon your first answer) do you want to stay at?
- Will you be purchasing park tickets? If so, will you want a One Park Per Day or a Park Hopper ticket? Are you interested in the water parks or Special Event tickets?
- Will you be wanting the Dining Plan? If so, are you interested in the Quick Service Dining Plan, the Disney Dining Plan (aka the Regular Dining Plan), or the Deluxe Dining Plan?
- What are you looking for in your vacation (i.e. excursions, tours, spa treatments, recreation, etc.)?
The answers to many of these questions are dependent on the size of the party traveling and their habits and interests as well as the vacation budget. It is also questions like these that an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (like Magical Vacations and Beyond (MVB)) will ask in order to get to know your family when planning your Disney vacation to whichever Disney destination you may choose!
Because Item #4 above is what your question is based on David, let me continue with some tips and tricks with relation to the dining plans that WDW offers.
In my Ashley’s Answers post on October 17, 2016, about the Snack Options at WDW, I outlined the dining plan options for 2017:
Quick Service Dining (Free Dining Option for Value Resorts)
- 2 Quick-Service Meals
- 2 Snacks
- 1 Refillable Mug
Regular Dining (Free Dining Option for Moderate and Deluxe Resorts)
- 1 Table-Service Meal
- 1 Quick-Service Meal
- 2 Snack
- 1 Refillable Mug
- 3 Meals (any combination of Table-Service and Quick-Service)
- 2 Snacks
- 1 Refillable Mug
Tip #1: Disney Dining Plan Assessment
For the purposes of assessing whether any of the dining plans are right for your party, ignore the possibility that Free Dining Plan may be an available promotion during your trip. The important thing here is to compare your party’s eating habits with the dining plan options.
Quick Service Dining Plan
Are your appetites typically on the smaller side? If you didn’t have a dining plan option, would you lean towards a more inexpensive restaurant or menu item? If you answered yes to both of these 2 questions, then having the Quick Service Dining Plan or no dining plan at all may be the better option for you.
Deluxe Dining Plan
Do you typically tend to eat 2 full meals per each day of your vacation no matter what your destination is? Do you tend to lean towards more expensive menu options or restaurants? If you answered yes to both of these 2 questions, then the Deluxe Dining Plan may be the perfect option for you!
Disney Dining Plan (aka the Regular Dining Plan)
Did one of the questions in each each of the above plans fit your party, but both options together didn’t? If that is the case, then the Disney Dining Plan may be the your best option!
Tip #2: Don’t Forget About the Cost
I’m not sure I even need to remind potential visitors of WDW that considering the cost of food is important. Think of it this way: Even if you pay for your meals out-of-pocket, you will want to set a budget for food. Many guests look at the dining plan options as a way of setting this budget; that is, no surprises!
Keep in mind that if you choose to take advantage of Tip #4, that the Fine/Signature Dining and Dinner Shows will use 2 Table Service entitlements. Therefore, if you plan on having a meal at a Fine/Signature Dining Restaurant as well as a Dinner Show, it may be wise to get the Deluxe Dining Plan.
Of course, if you happen to catch the Free Dining Plan promotion, that may make your decision much easier. Just remember that just because it is free doesn’t mean it is the cheapest option. So be sure to compare prices or ask your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner (like MVB) if a discounted room promotion may be more monetarily beneficial than the Free Dining Plan. A trick? In recent years, WDW has been offering the Free Dining Plan promotion in the Fall to help increase their traffic in the parks during a slower time of year. Already booked your trip? You can change your reservation to include the promotion of your choice. Lastly, the caveat is which dining plan you’re eligible for given which resort you have chosen to stay at. See above (in the 2017 Dining Plan Options) for which plan you would be eligible for. If you do decide on the Free Dining Plan promotion, you can upgrade to the next dining plan option by paying the difference.
Tip #3: Make Dining Reservations and/or Have a Plan for Dining
Did you ever think you could arrive at any of the parks prior to rope drop and be able to leisurely stroll to your dining destination for breakfast? Do you want the coveted picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle, the Tree of Life, or Spaceship Earth with no one else in it but you and your family? Well, you can do both! The early morning hours are the least crowded when it comes to many things at the parks, dining reservations especially. Are you interested in a coveted reservation at some of the top restaurants on property? At 180 days prior to the first day of arrival, you can book dining reservations for your entire trip!
When you work with your travel agent, like Magical Vacations and Beyond, prior to 180-day mark we can book them for you! Additionally, if you are getting the regular Disney Dining Plan, breakfast at Be Our Guest is considered a Quick Service meal credit, not a Table Service like at dinner; keep that in consideration when budgeting your meal entitlements. That also means that you can still choose the Quick Service Dining Plan and enjoy breakfast or lunch at Be Our Guest!
Another suggestion is to eat at off-peak times as the Quick Service locations can get considerably busy during lunchtime, adding more lines to your day as well as the potential difficulty in finding somewhere to actually eat your meal. Do you normally eat an early lunch? Do the same thing here. Normally have a typically timed lunch? Plan on eating a bit earlier and maybe getting a snack in the afternoon to curb your appetite until dinnertime (even bring pre-portioned snacks with you). Of course, you can always do the opposite and eat a bit later than normal and bring a snack for between breakfast and lunchtime too.
Tip #4: Explore the Dining Experiences
If you like really good food or even dinner and a show, the options in WDW are top-of-the-line.
The upscale restaurants are considered Fine/Signature Dining and they are absolutely phenomenal! My Top 3 Favorite Fine/Signature Dining Restaurants are:
I have a soft spot for Citricos. In September 2013, my boyfriend at the time and I had a great meal here. The dessert was my favorite; the best tiramisu on property in my opinion. Shortly after dinner, and on the beach at the Grand Floridian Resort my boyfriend became my fiance and that night became a night to remember!
Located on the same level as the observation deck in the Contemporary Resort is where the California Grill can be found. If you are looking for a view of the fireworks above Cinderella’s Castle, this is the place for you! The food is fantastic and the service is incredible. I remember back in 2008 when I dined here for the first time that in addition to my dessert, my server also brought me Girl Scout cookies! It was truly a memorable experience with an equally memorable backdrop.
Victoria & Albert’s
Also located at the Grand Floridian, you’ll find Victoria and Albert’s, a AAA 5-Diamond Restaurant. Prepare for an extraordinary culinary experience as you enjoy your meal in the Dining Room, the Chef’s Table in the kitchen or the more private Queen Victoria Room. Victoria & Albert’s features modern American cuisine with exquisite ingredients sourced from around the world, including truffles from Italy, Russian Osetra caviar, beef from Japan, poulet rouge from North Carolina and shrimp from local Florida waters. Victoria and Albert’s offers a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. Trick? If you love chocolate, ask about the chocolate challenge!
The Top 2 Dinner Shows at WDW are the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue and the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. Each Dinner Show offers all you can eat meals and an amazing show!
The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is located at the campsites at Fort Wilderness Resort and features some of the best barbecue food on property.
The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show is located at the Polynesian Resort and feature platters of authentic Aloha pulled pork, Polynesian beef ribs, roasted chicken and a vegetable medley; dessert is a pineapple-coconut guava cake with chocolate crunch!
Have you ever experienced WDW with a dining plan? Without a dining plan? Which worked better for you? Which would you recommend?