All About Credits and Cuisine – Tips to Maximize the Value of your Dining Plan!

Walt Disney World is a great holiday destination for foodies of all kinds as there are so many scrumptious dishes and snacks to be found!  Disney has sought to maximize ease and convenience of the multitude of dining options by offering dining plans to their guests.

Rainbow Trout at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge

First things first, there are three dining plans that Disney Vacation Club guests can choose to purchase:  The Quick Service Dining Plan, The Disney Dining Plan, and The Deluxe Dining Plan.  Each plan offers a mix of credits which are traded for meals and snacks on a debit-style system.  It’s as easy as tapping your Magic Band and voila! – a full tummy and cravings satisfied!

Freshly baked pizza at a Disney restaurant

The three dining plans are:

Quick Service Plan – 2 Quick Service credits, and 2 Snack credits per night, per guest

Disney Dining Plan – 1 Table Service credit, 1 Quick Service credit, and 2 Snack credits per night, per guest

Deluxe Dining Plan – 3 Table Service credits, and 2 Snack credits per night, per guest

*Each dining plan also comes with 1 refillable mug per guest.

Soft Drink Dispenser for Refillable Disney Cups

When deciding whether or not to purchase a dining plan for your trip, there are many things to consider.  The dining plan can add up to a lot of food over the course of your trip -is your family a group of big eaters, or do you tend to eat smaller meals or snacks through the day?  Are you traveling with any picky eaters?  Do you tend to order pricier menu options (such as steak or lobster), or do you prefer more simple menu items (such as a burger and fries) when dining out on vacation?  The answers to questions such as these may help you decide whether or not purchasing a dining plan is right for you, and if so, which plan to choose!

Disney Breakfast Skillet of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and Mickey waffles

Steak Dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge

The most popular of the dining plans available through the Disney Vacation Club is the Disney Dining Plan, as it offers a great balance of the different styles of credits and meal types offered across the Walt Disney World resort.  The Quick Service plan may be a great choice for your family if you prefer faster, more flexible dining experiences and don’t want to plan your days around the advance dining reservations you made months ahead.  If you are a foodie at heart and want to experience many of the fantastic Walt Disney World restaurants or have a travel party of guests who may choose some of the more expensive restaurants and menu items, the Deluxe Plan might be the one for you.  The pricing of each dining plan will vary depending on your guest list and length of stay. For an exact cost, pricing can be found on our Dining Plan Calculator.

The dining plan credits are allotted in a pool for use based on the number of guests (age 3 and over) on your reservation, and the number of nights you’re staying.  When you choose to redeem those credits is up to you!  The credits are activated upon check-in at your resort and are valid until 11:59pm on the day you check out.  They can be used at any time (not just as they’re allotted per night) within that time frame, so if you decide you want to use all of your snack credits in one afternoon, that’s your prerogative!

Here are some of my favorite tips to help maximize the cost and use of dining plan credits:

  • Be sure to keep track of the use of your credits and try to plan their usage in advance as much as you can!  You can find many menus online as well as listings of which restaurants on property accept the dining plans, and I highly suggest taking a look at these before you travel.  Also, be sure to make your Advance Dining Reservations ahead of time (as a Walt Disney World Resort Guest you can make your Advance Dining Reservations up to 180 days in advance!)  If you forgo any credits, you’ll be taking a loss on the cost of the dining plan.
  • Dinner (and sometimes even lunch) is typically the most costly meal in the day.  Try to use your credits on the most expensive meals and pay out of pocket for less costly times if needed.  Breakfast usually also doesn’t include a chance to choose a dessert or an adult beverage so you’re getting less value for the credit(s) used.
  • Character meals and buffets tend to be on the higher side of the price scale and are an excellent way to maximize value of your dining plan credits.  Of course, having fun with your favorite characters is an excellent bonus!

Winnie the Pooh Meet and Greet

Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet

  • When available, meals now allow you to choose a specialty drink or adult beverage (for those age 21 and over) so choosing a smoothie, milkshake, a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail will get you the most bang for your buck!

Pink Himalayan at Animal Kingdom's Yak and Yeti

  • Dining packages (such as those that offer guaranteed seating for Fantasmic or special seasonal shows such as Epcot’s Candlelight Processional) are often a good use of a Table Service credits as you have the added bonus of knowing you won’t have to line up quite as early for the evening’s show.
  • Signature dining locations that require 2 Table Service credits may not add-up enough cost-wise to cover the use of 2 credits (2 Table Service Credits would be worth an average of $75-90) per person.  Try to check out the current menu and pricing before your reservation to see how much value it will be for you based on what you intend to order.
  • If you don’t have a big appetite or aren’t super hungry when a meal time rolls around, you can opt to share Quick Service meals between members of your travel party.  This can help you spread out their use over the course of your vacation.
  • Snack credits can be used on a very wide variety of menu items (all indicated by the purple dining plan symbol on the menus), it’s not all popcorn and ice cream (though don’t get me wrong, those are fabulous snacks!)  If you’re like me and prefer smaller meals and snacks through the day, using snack credits for items like sandwiches, soup, or even mac and cheese will keep me full throughout the day.  This is especially true if temperatures are skyrocketing during my visit and I don’t feel like eating a full, heavy meal.

Price tag for Cookies and Cream Fudge at Disney World

  • Of course, you want to try and use your credits on higher-priced menu options and this is especially true for snack credits.  Though it might seem very tempting when you’ve been standing out in the hot Florida sun for a few hours, a bottle of water is not going to get you the best bang for your buck!  In fact, most Quick Service locations will give you a cup of water for free.  Save snack credits for items which are closer to the $5 mark or higher.

Ice Cream in a cup at Disney World

Mickey Mouse shaped Gingerbread men

Chocolate covered pineapple and strawberries at Disney World

  • If there is a festival happening during your visit (such as Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival or Flower and Garden Festival), this can be an extraordinary time to use your snack credits!  Many of the different booths will often offer select dishes as snacks on their menus.

Snack from Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

  • If you’re like me and you end up with credits remaining at the end of your stay, there are still some great ways to spend them!  There are plenty of portable and travel-friendly, packable snacks to choose from such as boxed cookies or chocolates, chips, pretzels, candy, etc. that can eat up those credits.  If you have Quick Service Credits leftover, some locations will allow them to be used for 3 snacks per credit instead (though please note that this must all be done in one single transaction.)  If you drove to Florida for your visit this can also be a great chance to stock up on goodies for your road trip home or can be used as little gifts to give to friends.  I find that it also helps to bring some of the magic back with you!

Mickey Mouse shaped Rice Krispie bar

Curious as to what some of the best locations are to use some of your dining plan credits?

Table Service credits: Character meal locations such as Akershus (at the Norway Pavilion at Epcot) where you’ll usually visit with some classic princesses, or buffets such as Chef Mickey’s (at the Contemporary Resort) or Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare (at the Grand Floridian.)   Dinners at non-character locations such as Boma (at Animal Kingdom Lodge), ‘Ohana (at the Polynesian), Tutto Italia (at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot), and the Cape May Cafe (at the Beach Club) can also offer great value for your credits.

Quick Service credits:  Flame Tree Barbeque (at Animal Kingdom), Wolfgang Puck Express, and The Polite Pig (both at Disney Springs), Columbia Harbor House (at the Magic Kingdom), and Sunshine Seasons (at Epcot) all offer hearty and delicious entrees, as well as excellent value!

Snack credits:  Sleepy Hollow (at the Magic Kingdom), Starbucks (various locations across the Walt Disney World resort), Eight Spoon Café (at Animal Kingdom), Hollywood Scoops (at Hollywood Studios), the various kiosks and bakeries across World Showcase at Epcot, and the Ample Hills Creamery (at the Boardwalk resort) all offer delicious treats that are a fantastic use of a snack credit!

There are so many mouthwatering menus to choose from during your visit it can be a little overwhelming!  Purchasing one of the dining plans can also be a great way to narrow down all of the options available and give you a place to start in the planning process.  It can also be a great way to try some new dishes you wouldn’t typically order and discover new favorite dining locations you may not have otherwise tried.  This is especially true if you are traveling with a picky eater (such as myself) and want to introduce them to something new (this is how I personally developed what is now a happy, long-term relationship with Chefs de France!)  With such a wide range of options available, there is truly something for everyone!

Overall, using a dining plan is a very convenient way of eating your way around the world, and can add up to some savings.  I hope these tips help you savor every bit of yumminess those credits can offer!

Chocolate covered Mickey Mouse snack


~Stacy