Orlando Stories and Tips

Disney Dining Plan: You'll Never Go Hungry Again

In order to avoid carrying cash around and having to calculate tips, my party of three got the Disney Dining Plan. Basically, you pay one price and enjoy meals at more than one hundred properties at Disney resorts and parks.

You can get more complete details from C. Kowalczyk's journal here http://www.igougo.com/travelcontent/journal.aspx?JournalID=63541. So I won't repeat his thorough details, but will offer you our experiences.

The plan offers a counter-service meal (entree, dessert and beverage) and a table service meal (appetizer, entree, dessert and beverage) plus a snack PER DAY. All taxes and an 18% gratuity are included.

I recommend this plan, but it is rather confusing. Disney hands out a two-sided glossy sheet listing what restaurants will accept the plan and what options, but all of the various symbols and columns can be tricky to read. Be sure to ask for this sheet--we didn't get ours until the last day because it wasn't in our packet and no one offered it to us. Some high-end restaurants require TWO your table service coupons while other restaurants (like Wolfgang Puck) have different sections for the different plans. If you use two of your table service coupons one night, that leaves you scrambling for dinner on another night.

Here are some tips: while each person in a room HAS to get the dining plan, many of the restaurants had no problem if we used ONE of our precious table service coupons and split the meal. For example, the beautiful Coral Reef Restaurant at EPCOT had no openings on ANY night we were there, but when we wandered over to take a look at it (one wall is an aquarium), we found out we could have an early lunch there. One of us had the appetizer, the other two split the entree and we all shared the dessert.

You alo can use snack coupons for various meal-style items, like bananas for breakfast or even a big turkey leg that is sold on carts throughout the parks.

One challenge with the plan is that you get a LOT of food when you use your table service option.b Be careful when you plan your meals so that you can rest a bit afterwards by seeing a show. Don't plan on having a big meal and then hitting Space Mountain!

We had a difficult time making meal reservations, even a month ahead. In addition, the reservation people were rather abrupt and rude when restaurant after restaurant turned out to be booked. But we found out that people often make reservations in advance and end up as no-shows because they miscalculated how long it takes to get betweek the parks or they changed their plans that day. In many restaurants, we saw empty tables. So don't get discouraged and do call that day. I'd also suggest using your Table Service option at lunch and sharing meals. You can always have a food binge at the end of your trip if you need to use up your coupons!

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