Disney Dining Plan – Parental Guidance Suggested

It’s time to pack the bags and head out the door because you’re going to Disney World! If going on vacation to Disney World were only that easy (insert sigh). There is so much planning that goes into any trip to Disney World, more so if you’re traveling with children. Depending on the age of your children you are likely going to have additional planning to consider.

For Disney resort guests you will find a few different dining options are offered, a Quick Service Dining Plan, A Basic Dining Plan, and a Deluxe Dining Plan. Choosing the right plan for you may not be as easy as you think. Among some of the things you will need to consider are the ages of your children, as well as, what and how much they eat.

A quick explanation for those not familiar with Disney’s classification of eating establishments – a Quick Service restaurant is somewhat like eating in a fast food place, a Table-Service restaurant is a family or fine dining eatery with waiter service and each has their own unique theme and menu. Also, the Disney Dining plan considers any child over 9 years old an adult.

On our 2006 Disney World Vacation my wife and I were faced with a dilemma when the only option was the Basic Dining Plan or no plan at all. At the time my daughter was 10 and my son 13. My son was already eating like an adult while my daughter was and still is a very picky eater and the only food group she seems to enjoy is sugar.

My wife and I like eating out and when our kids were younger Saturday night was family night out for dinner. We would take our kids to Chinese restaurants, buffets, Italian restaurants, Applebees, Famous Dave’s Barbecue, etc. At a young age we started to show our children there was more to dining than peanut butter sandwiches and chicken nuggets. Even though my daughter was a very picky eater she had been exposed to different kinds of food so we decided to roll the dice and add the Basic Dining plan to our vacation package. Before we left for Disney we sat my daughter down and told her for the table-service meals we would help her find things on the adult menu that she might enjoy. We also told our kids about each table-service restaurant so they would have something to look forward to and not be surprised by the menu.

I have to admit my wife and I were terrified that my daughter wouldn’t eat a thing. So as we entered each table-service establishment we kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn’t have a grumpy young lady on our hands. With a little help from mommy and daddy my daughter made adult dining selections that she not only liked but, devoured. I think the trick to getting picky eaters to eat is to take them for a sit-down meal on Disney property after spending a full day walking miles and miles in a hot humid park.

We all exhaust a large amount of energy touring the parks and just like cars that need fuel to keep functioning so do we. Some of the finest food to fuel our bodies with can be found on Disney property. The Basic Disney Dining plan has become a vital part of our vacation planning and choosing our dining experiences is something my entire family enjoys participating in.

If Disney offered the Quick Service Plan back then we would not have chosen it as my family enjoys our meals and our trips to Disney World are not complete without making part of each day a dining experience. Although the Quick Service Plan would never be a viable option for my family it could be right for yours. The Deluxe Dining Plan is another option you may want to consider as it offers 3 meals (choice of table-service or quick service) per day, per person.

Something I didn’t mention above is that the dining plans are pre-paid and credits are given to you to use for each meal. You will receive 1 credit for each meal per night per person. While most table-service meals are 1 credit there are some that are 2 credits and reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance of your arrival date for table-service meals. So, if you are not absolutely sure how many credits the table-service restaurant is make sure to ask when placing your dining reservations.

What if you have a family of five (2 adults and 3 children) and for dining plan purposes everyone in your family is considered an adult but you know one or two of your children won’t eat enough from the adult menu to make purchasing the dining plan for them worth while. Depending on how important food and the Disney dining experience is to your family you may want to add the Quick Service Dining Plan.

If you decide to purchase the dining plan then you must add it to everyone on your reservation over the age of 3. Unfortunately, you cannot pick and chose which members of your party to purchase the dining plan for. What you can do if you purchase the Basic Dining Plan is save the credits and pay out of pocket for any children that order off the children’s menu. Then you can use the saved credits to eat at Disney’s 2 credit signature table-service restaurants such as Cinderella’s Royal Table.

There are so many variables that can effect your decision in choosing the right dining plan. My suggestion is to study and learn what each dining plan has to offer, carefully consider the eating habits and dietary needs of each family member, and determine if the cost makes it worth it.

2011 Disney Dining Plan

  • Quick Service Dining Plan – 2 Quick Service Meals (1 entrée or combo meal, dessert and 1 non-alcoholic beverage per meal), and 2 Snacks per nights stay per person. Each person on the dining plan will also receive a refillable drink mug at their resort. Cost: $34.99 per adult and $11.99 per child ages 3-9.
  • Basic Dining plan – 1 Quick Service Meal, 1 Table – Service Meal (includes 1 entrée, 1 dessert, & 1 non-alcoholic beverage) and 1 Snack per nights stay per person. Cost: Regular Season – $45.99 per adult and $11.99 per child ages 3-9. Peak Season – $47.99 per adult and $12.99 per child ages 3-9.
  • Deluxe Dining Plan – Choice of 3 Table-Service –or Quick Service Meals and 2 Snacks per nights stay per person. Each person on the dining plan will also receive a refillable drink mug at their resort. The Deluxe Dining Plan for lunch and dinner includes 1 appetizer per person in addition to the entrée and dessert. Cost: $78.99 per adult and $21.99 per child ages 3-9.

Disney Peak Seasons:

February 17 – February 26, 2011

March 11 – April 30, 2011

June 3 – August 13, 2011

December 23 – December 31, 2011

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Stuart Sternberg

Stuart Sternberg is the founder of WDW Fan Zone. Born and raised in New York City but New Jersey has been home for several years. A devoted husband and proud father of two amazing children. A huge fan of Walt Disney World and Bruce Springsteen. A die hard Yankee, Jet, Knick, and New York Ranger fan. His motto is "all Disney all the time." Always willing to lend a helping hand to friends and family whenever needed. Stuart’s writing career began with his own blog, disneygeekdad.blogspot.com. Stuart is also the host of the weekly WDW Fan Zone Show. You can find and follow Stuart on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/wdwfanzonestu. Stuart is also on Facebook and Google +.

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