Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Disney Tips & Tricks // Dining Plans

(this is my favorite series of photos the Disney parks blog has done! They merged photos from the past and present that were taken in the same spot. LOVE) via

Ah, Disney dining plans. What tricky business.

When I started planning, I fully immersed myself in everything I could possibly know about Disney World. And one of the biggest things is their dining plan. So, naturally, I asked my mom about the dining plan she used when we went to Disney World in 2001.
She promptly informed me that Disney did not have dining plans 12 years ago, and everything was paid for out of pocket. Yikes. I mean, the savings from a dining plan aren't that much, but it sure does soften the blow knowing that your meals are already paid for when you go to eat.
My mom gave me her planning book as soon as we picked our honeymoon destination, and I started comparing prices of different restaurants that we wanted to go to.
One of the most shocking price hikes was Cinderella's Royal Table (which is located inside Cinderella Castle). For a breakfast at the castle, it cost a little under $25 for an adult. That's pretty steep for a breakfast, right? Well, now? It's a $50 breakfast. Worth it? Probably not! But that's what we knew we wanted to do on our trip, so it was worth it to us.

So. Dining plans. The need to knows:
Basically, a dining plan, based on the package you choose, guarantees you 2 meals (one quick-service and one table-service) and 1 snack per day of your stay. A meal in dining plan terms is an entree, drink, and dessert. Not a bad deal having dessert at every meal! Each meal equals one credit. So, in our case, since we will be at the resort 6 days, we have 6 quick service credits and 6 table service credits.
A "quick service" meal is Disney World fast food. Most of these quick service places have fairly limited seating (or no seating at all), and menus consist of mostly burgers/hotdogs/salads, etc. A table service restaurant is one of the more "fancy," sit down sort of meals. Most of the table service meals only require one of your table service credits. In the case of more expensive meals, like any of the meals at the castle, or at some of the more upscale restaurants, it will require two credits (which is a big time bummer!).

If you choose to go the route of a dining plan, you then get to choose which restaurants you want to go to. While the quick service spots don't require advance reservations, the table service restaurants do and they encourage you to book your meal 180 days in advance. It seems kind of crazy to book these 6 months in advance (I mean, what if you don't want Chinese on a certain day, but that's what you have booked?!), but trust me - once that 180 day mark hits, those reservations are gone.

I quickly learned that before I could even think about choosing restaurants for certain days, we had to know which parks we would be at, and not only that, but we had to know what our activities were.
So I had to check into crowd forecasts for each of the parks, check out opening and closing times, what times parades/fireworks would be that day, etc. It's a lot to do before you can think about food, really!
So once we had a basic idea of where we would be on certain days, we started making food plans.
For instance, we knew we would be at Disney Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, but we also knew that they had an early closing time that day (6 pm!), so we didn't bother making dinner reservations that day, and made plans to go elsewhere after closing time.
There's a lot of factors involved in all of the dining planning that you honestly don't think of!

Once I had my dining schedule mapped out, I waited for my 180 day mark to come. Oh my gosh - I was SO stressed out over this. I had never dealt with anything like this before, and I was nervous to make reservations! I had been told that I needed to be on the phone with Disney reservations at 6 am that day, but considering 6 am in Orlando is 5 am here, I was freaking out a little. I decided I was going to try booking reservations online first, before I called Disney.
I got up at 4:30, made some coffee and prepared everything so that I would be nice and organized when 5 am came.
I got on Disney's website, logged in, and started making reservations. I made my first reservation for lunch on Monday at Epcot. Success.
I then moved on to make our breakfast reservation at Cinderella's castle.... not a success. I started to freak out a little. My heart was pounding when I realized the website wouldn't let me make a reservation past Monday. Uh, NO. Not cool. I was pretty positive that if I was staying on property, I could make reservations for up to 10 days of my stay. I started googling the crap out of everything and somehow, I found a weird loophole.
I can't tell you if this has been fixed yet, but on their new website, which implements the "My Disney Experience" platform, there was a little glitch where it wouldn't allow you to make reservations past the first day of your vacation. I can't remember how I found it (I'm so sorry about that!), but there is a crazy loophole where you can access the old website! I found it through a weird web forum I found while googling why the site wouldn't let me access reservations. Anyway - if you go through the old site, it'll let you make reservations. At first, I was little apprehensive of it. I'm such a worrier. I kept thinking, "what if it doesn't link to my account, what if it doesn't actually work at all" what if, what if, what if. I ended up checking my reservations all day long just to make sure they were still there.
Spoiler alert: they were! It worked like a charm!

Booking the reservations was probably the most stressful thing I've experienced in our planning. But now that I've done it once, I feel confident enough to do it all over again. It's really not as bad as people make it out to be!
I was nervous to do it on my own, but we ended up getting all of our first choice restaurants at our first choice times (yes, I totally had back up reservation times and back up restaurants). There was ONE restaurant that we didn't get, but in all honesty, I didn't try that hard to get it. Be Our Guest is a new restaurant in Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. It is Beauty and the Beast themed, and pretty much my dream come true. Problem is - it's practically booked solid for the entire length of our stay. I tried a couple of times, and have even kept trying for reservations recently, but no luck. However! Their lunch hour is considered quick service, so you don't need reservations for that. Blake and I are going to try our luck at that - I'll definitely let you know how that goes!

Little reminders:
*You MUST have your resort room booked in order to make dining reservations for up to 10 days. You'll need to put in your confirmation code in order to do this!
*As I mentioned last time - seriously, double check your dates and times! Be sure not to book your dinner reservation in the middle of the fireworks show. What a bummer it would be to miss out on that!
*As soon as you get confirmation numbers for your restaurant reservations, write. them. down. I keep them in my binder, in a Word document that I'll print out before we leave for myself AND my parents to have, and also in my calendar app on my phone. I share more about this soon too, when I compile all of my planning resources. :)

This wasn't so much advice, as it was telling you about my experience doing all of this completely on my own - but I hope it helps, all the same!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!
xo Haley


  1. my family went to Disney this past summer, and opted to eat at Be Our Guest for the quick service as well, so we didn't use up fine dining credits.

    It was still AMAZING at lunch! Seriously, the food was just as good as some of the fancy restaurants that we went to. You also get an awesome atmosphere with actual tables. Cause like you said, tables at a quick service in Disney are so super hard to come by.

    My only advice (and I'm sure you've probably already read this) is so be in line around 45 minutes prior to opening. Once the restaurant opens, the line moves super duper fast, and you are guaranteed a table in the room of your choice!

    1. Hey! Thanks for the advice! ;) I had heard that before, but knowing you also agree with the advice helps! We want to eat there pretty bad, but weren't sure if was "worth it." (I mean, yeah, it's totally worth it - especially being the Beauty & the Beast fan that I am, but still! It's a long wait for quick service!) I am sure we will end up going, though. If anything, I'll stand in line while Blake roams around. ;)
      I hope you had tons of fun on your trip!

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