FAQs About Disney: Disney Dining Plan

Here at Dole Whipped HQ, we get a lot of questions about Disney.  In this FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) series, we thought we’d answer some of the most common questions we get from people planning their Disney vacations.


Some the most asked questions we get are about the dining plan.  More specifically, we get folks who might want to save a little money on their Disney vacation by staying offsite, however, they would like to take advantage of the dining plan.

Question: Can I get the Disney Dining Plan if I stay offsite?

Answer:  No.  The Disney Dining Plan is reserved strictly for guests staying at a Disney owned resort property.  If you are staying outside of the Disney resort, of course you’re welcome to visit the parks and eat at all the restaurants, but you will not be able to purchase the dining plan.  This also applies to the Swan and Dolphin resorts as well as Shades of Green military resort.

Dining at Disney is fraught with confusion and frustration so to make it a little easier we’re going to answer this very common question.

Question:  How far in advance of my trip can I make my dining reservations?

Answer: You can make your dining reservations at 180 days before your check in date.  The dining reservation system opens up at 6 am on the phone lines and 7 am on the Disney website.  At that time, you are given what Disney calls 180+10.  Basically that means that on day 180 before your check in date,  you can make reservations for up to 10 days past that same check in date.  That allows you to make the dining reservations for every single day of your vacation at one time.  That saves you from having to come back on several different days to make dining reservations for the whole of your stay.

Many people wonder what entitlements come with the Disney Dining Plan.

Question:  How many meals do I get with my dining plan

Answer:  With the standard Disney Dining Plan, you will receive one table service credit, one quick service credit, and one snack credit per person (over age 3) per night of your stay.  Yes, you read that right, per night.  So, for example, if you have two adults who check in on a Monday and check out on a Friday, those two adults would have four credits of each type (table service, quick service, snack) to use during their stay.

We hope this helps clear up some confusion about the Disney Dining Plan!

Is It Worth it?

As a travel agent I get this question pretty frequently, and you may be surprised on what topics this question is asked.   These are my opinions on whether something is worth doing at Walt Disney World.  These are going to be my opinion but my opinion is also based on personal experience as well as data gathered from former clients.


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: At least once, especially if you have a kid who is crazy about princesses.  I would highly recommend if you are going to drop the cash you will want a reservation at Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom.  The packages can be pretty pricey so to save, bring your own costume and accessories instead of purchasing the full package.


Pirates League: This is very much worth it!  It is a great value and a fun experience for boys and girls.  In fact unlike Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, adults can also get a makeover here too!  They have pirate and mermaid choices and it is a really good value in comparison.


Getting Up Early: YES!  I cannot say yes enough.  The parks are least busy when they first open.  You also get to see some neat stuff like the Welcome Show at the Magic Kingdom.  How can you possibly be the family of the day if you are sleeping all morning?  Some restaurants even offer early breakfast reservations inside the parks which means you have beat the crowds inside the parks.  Go ahead and take that afternoon nap now, you deserve it.


To Try ______ Attraction: Well this is a no-brainer, yes!  You should absolutely try any attraction, ride or show at least once unless you have a medical condition in which it is advised against.  You may never know when you find your new favorite!


Park Hopper Tickets:  In most cases, yes.  This ticket makes your vacation so flexible.  It can be a little work bouncing from park to park but if you are like a lot of people and find Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom to be half day parks this ticket option gives you the chance to save the rest of your day by hopping over to another park.  If you are traveling with really young children it might not be worth the hassle.  But if you are traveling with teens or adults only it is so worth the splurge.  I have travelled with and without the Park Hopper and I will absolutely give up a character meal before I give up with Park Hopper!


Party Tickets: Yes, especially if you do not have park tickets for that day.  You can enter the Magic Kingdom at 4pm on the party days even when the party doesn’t start until 7pm.  You get special parades and firework shows, extra treats and character meet and greets.  The parks are less crowded as well so you can get on your favorites rides with a minimal wait time!

Refillable Mugs: Yes, but you have to do the math!  So as of 2016 the mugs are $17.  Say you are staying 5 days it would be $3.40 per day, plus you keep the mug.  For me this is very much worth it.  I drink coffee or iced tea in the morning so I would fill up each morning before going to the parks.  Then on an afternoon break I will fill up with Powerade, lemonade or more iced tea.  Then in the evening before bed I’m loading up on more water or Powerade.  Some quick math tells me that I am coming out ahead plus I have a cute souvenir cup to take home!


Cinderella’s Royal Table:  Not really a good value.  This restaurant located inside Cinderella Castle is a character meal that will run you about $60 a person or 2 Table Service credits.  While you cannot beat the location or atmosphere there are other really great choices for princess character dining (Akershus, 1900 Park Fare) that won’t cost as much and the food is really good.  If you were planning to do this as a special treat or celebration then it may be worth it to do once.


The Dining Plan: Yes, if used correctly!  The dining plan can absolutely save you money if you plan your meals correctly to get the best value.  If you split meals a lot or routinely order something that isn’t an entrée they no, it may not be worth it.  If you like to go on vacation knowing it is all paid for then this is very helpful, no Disney food sticker shock either.  So how do you figure out if it is worth getting?  You will have to do a bit of work checking menu prices and then figuring out if what you would order for each meal plus 2 snacks and if you would use the refillable mug (drinks start at about $3) and then look at the cost per day of the dining plan.


Preferred Rooms: Yes, a thousand times yes! Want to save yourself some walking at the beginning and end of the day?  How about saving yourself a long trip to the pool or food court?  Taking kids to Walt Disney World?  Then get a preferred room, it is worth the price difference from a standard, especially at the Value resorts.


Club Level: This is a it depends.  If you are already on the dining plan it may not be worth it, but if you are looking for a way to plus up a vacation with a great room that has snacks provided a couple times a day plus free drinks?  Then yeah you will want to look at it.  The big seller is that it includes some beers and wine as well as bottled water.  You could make breakfast out of the offerings.  There are also midday snacks offered and hot appetizers in the evenings and desserts in the late evenings!  This can be a fantastic value!  Check out Tara’s Club Level series here for specific resort information.


T-Shirts, Misting Fans, Glowing Trinkets: Nope, save yourself a lot of big bucks and pick up these things prior to going on vacation.  You can find misting fans and the cheap glowing, spinning toys at pretty much any dollar store, Walgreens, Walmart stores for about ¼ of the price.  The same could be said for the shirts you can purchase at Walt Disney World.  Your basic Tshirt will set you back about $25.  Go ahead and check out with Disney Store online, Target, Walmart, Forever 21, Torrid, Hot Topic, H & M, and Etsy just to name a few.


Unique Dining Outside of the Parks – Part I

Sometimes when planning dining reservations for a Walt Disney World vacation people focus on restaurants in the parks.   Fortunately, there are many, many choices outside of the parks and if you plan correctly going to a dining reservation outside of the parks doesn’t have to take a lot of time out of your day.  Of if you aren’t planning to visit a park you can still have plenty of fun and even meet some Disney friends!

 Magic Kingdom Resort Area:
Grand Floridian Resort has two very unique character meal options both at the same restaurant, 1900 Park Fare.  For breakfast you can meet Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.  For dinner you can meet up with Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella.

Also at the Grand Floridian there is Victoria & Albert’s a very upscale restaurant, having an AAA Five Diamond rating since 2000.  There is also the highly coveted Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s which features 13 courses and the chef personally conversing between courses.  This is definitely a bucket list item!


Photo via Disney.com

Citricos Dining with an Imagineer is a very unique option outside of the park.  Who wouldn’t love to pick the brain of a Disney Imagineer?  This is your chance to ask questions and learn about the behind the scenes of Walt Disney World. 

Within the Wilderness Lodge you will find the Whispering Canyon Café, a buffet with some shenanigans.  If you love great food, a neat atmosphere and sassy and fun cast members you will want to make the trip to Wilderness Lodge for this family style bottomless platters!  Just be careful when you ask for ketchup or straws!

 In the Polynesian Village Resort there is a unique character meal featuring Lilo and Stitch as well at Mickey and Pluto in Hawaiian gear.  Lilo is not featured anywhere else so if you have a person who loves Lilo and Stitch this is THE place to go!

 Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is located at the Campsites at Fort Wilderness and boasts an amazing dinner show with great food, fun, vaudeville comedy, singing and dancing.  And of course Strawberry Shortcake!  There are multiple shows each day in different price categories based on your seat.  You can read Tara’s review here.

Epcot Resort Area:
Another great character meal option is at the Beach Club, Cape May Café!  This is a character meal for breakfast only and features Minnie and friends in their beach attire!  So if you are in Epcot or Hollywood Studios or staying at an Epcot are resort this is a fantastic option that isn’t as well-known as other character meals.  You can read a review right here! 


Photo via Disney.com

Beaches and Cream in the Beach Club boasts more than just ice cream.  This old-fashioned soda fountain has a full menu of burgers, salads, sandwiches, and soup.  But most people are coming for The Kitchen Sink.  This creation has scoops of 5 different types of ice creams, every topping imaginable plus a whole can of whipped cream.  You will need the whole family to finish this monster!  But beware when you order it you will cause some heads to turn since the whole restaurant will light up as this treat makes its way to your table.

 Todd English’s bluezoo located in the Dolphin Hotel is a sleeper choice.  It is a pricey dinner, so maybe for a special occasion this is a great choice.  It has won numerous awards and does awesome seafood as well as plenty of beef, chicken and pork dishes to keep everyone happy.  They even feature a pretty great kid’s menu if you are bringing the whole family.  The restaurant itself is beautiful and you will want to get dressed up for this dinner.


Photo via Disney.com

Check back soon for more  dining suggestions on the Animal Kingdom Resort area and Disney Springs!


Alternatives to Popular Dining at Disney

Is your favorite restaurant booked up at Walt Disney World? We have all been there! But here I will give you some alternatives to some of the more popular restaurants at Walt Disney World.

Cinderella’s Royal Table instead try Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. You aren’t eating above the Magic Kingdom, but it is still a castle with a chance to meet some princesses!


Cinderella’s Royal Table instead try 1900 Park Fare for dinner. Here you will have a great dinner plus meet Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the stepmother and stepsisters. The character interaction is fantastic and fun, plus you are still a short monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom. Here is our review.

Be Our Guest instead try Chefs de France. This is a grown up version of Be Our Guest with fantastic French food and you will be able to get right in. There is no Beast here but the atmosphere is lovely.


Le Cellier Steakhouse instead try Yachtsman Steakhouse. Located in the Yacht Club you will find a similar menu without entering a park. Check out Jamie’s review.

Chef Mickey’s instead try Garden Grill. Garden Grill has Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale in this slowly rotating restaurant in The Land Pavilion in Epcot. The food is served family style in a much more laid back atmosphere. Read a review here.

Chef Mickey’s instead try Tusker House. Another great character meal with Mickey and friends located in Animal Kingdom. This menu is more adventurous with a neat atmosphere. With it being inside a park it can get your early entrance to be closer to the attractions.

If you have a favorite alternative dining experience share it with us!




Is the Quick Service Dining Plan “Worth it”?

If you’ve ever planned a Disney vacation for your family, I’m sure this question has come up.  In fact, our own Jamie brought this question up with the standard Disney Dining Plan standard Disney Dining Plan last month.  When I was planning my family’s Disney vacation last year I decided to do a little research and see if the Quick Service plan was a good deal or not.  Here’s what I found out:


Location: Landscape of Flavors (Art of Animation resort food court)

Apple Danish  – (one snack credit or $3.59)


Coffee ($2.49 out of pocket) in resort refillable mug


Location: Be Our Guest (Quick Service, Magic Kingdom)

Braised Pork entrée with sides of potatoes and green beans (one Quick Service credit or $14.99), fountain soda (included with dining credit or $2.99) , The Master’s Cupcake (included with dining credit or $4.59)


Location: Pinocchio Village Haus (Quick Service, Magic Kingdom)

Caprese Flatbread (one Quick Service cred it or $9.99), fountain soda (included with dining credit or $2.99), no sugar added mango gelato (included with dining credit or $3.99)

Total cash price: $45.62

Price of the adult Quick Service Dining Plan (per night): $41.99

As you can see, the Quick Service Dining Plan did save a little money for us, but mostly allowed us to break even on food costs.  We ended up with more food on the dining plan than we would probably normally eat, but that’s ok.  We felt it was a good value and we enjoyed the convenience of not having to pull out a credit card when we were ready to pay.  Overall, it worked out well for us!

Via Napoli- Review

Situated in the Italy pavilion of Epcot, Via Napoli serves wood fired pizza as well as a full menu of Italian favorites. They are probably most well-known for the Neapolitan pizza and their awesome stoves named after Italy’s three active volcanoes. This is a very popular restaurant so be sure to make your reservations early. This is a great restaurant for large parties since they have plenty of seating. Plus most people love a great pizza and this is the place to get it!


Since we had a picky eater amongst us we chose to go with the Quattro Formaggi in the Mezzo Metro. This serves 3-5 people and is the largest size of pizza. It is pretty big, but the crust is thin so if you have a part of 4 with more than 2 adults this might be a good choice!

Children are given a neat activity sheet and crayons which helps to keep them entertained while the food is being made!

The pizza is covered in mozzarella, parmesan, fontina, and provolone. It got a big thumbs up from everyone in our party!


The restaurant itself is very elegant looking and the centerpiece of the ovens are so neat to look at. It is pretty loud in the restaurant so just be aware of that if you are looking for a quite dinner. Our service was perfect and we had no problem getting anything we needed.

Bottom line: we would go again! The pizza was amazing and the atmosphere was fun! This is perfect for families and large groups!

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop is the Best Ice Cream in the World…and More

Thanks to Disneyworld.disney.go.com for the photo!

Thanks to Disneyworld.disney.go.com for the photo!

One of the priorities of every family at Disney is good eating (or it should) and one of the best treats (or meals – hey it is Disney) is ice cream. There are many places for you to grab a Mickey Bar or other frozen treat (Dole Whips are also a must of course) but the best ice cream at Walt Disney World and maybe the world is at Beaches and Cream.

Side bar: I am on a mission to find the best ice cream in the world and based on this, I feel I am an expert on ice cream. With all this experience, I am well qualified to recommend a visit to Beaches and Cream on every single Walt Disney World vacation. “Wow (you must be thinking) how lucky you are to come across this blog article because how rare it is to find an ice cream expert – this Beaches and Cream place must be something special”. You are right! You are lucky (haha) and it is special! Though not only do I heart the ice cream, I truly like the non ice cream food at Beaches and Cream as well. So you are in good hands with this dining recommendation.

Beaches and CreamBeaches and Cream is a fun, diner style restaurant that will remind you of an old-fashioned Eastern seaboard ice cream shop. The restaurant is small and only houses a few tables and some vinyl booths; plus some extra seating at the counter where you get a front row view to the grill and all the going ons with the food! Beaches and Cream is a one credit Table Service restaurant (on the Disney Dining Plan). A tip for you though is it is also a good place to pay out of pocket if you are in need of an extra table service credit. If you want to use two table service credits for one of the amazing signature dining options or just want an extra sit down meal during your trip then this is where you should take advantage. It’s pricing is not overly expensive (on Disney’s scale) and the food and options are top notch. Last year they did start taking reservations, for lunch and dinner, which was a great thing because the wait to sit down and eat could easily be over an hour during busy times. Beaches and Cream is located at the Beach Club Resort and to get there just head out the back side and over to Storm Along Bay. You have two options to get served there by either having a reservation (or waiting for a table or sit at the bar) to order from the full menu or they also have a separate to go line to order ice cream or beverages from if you want to enjoy these items outside by the pool or at one of the outdoor tables they have set up. Yes, you may be already thinking it is too far or difficult to get to if you are not staying at one of the Boardwalk area resorts. Well, to you I say first why are you not staying at one of those amazing resorts and yes it is worth it! Just walk out the International Gateway (back side) of Epcot and either walk or take a Friendship boat over to the Beach Club. Even if you have to take a bus or taxi, it is still worth it, and honestly if you have to walk from anywhere I would still tell you to go.

First let’s talk about the menu that does not include ice cream. I know, I know, but saving Beaches and Cream burgerthe best for last and all that. But, do not discount the menu or think all that is good is the ice cream because besides having the best ice cream in Disney they also have the best burgers on property as well. I always announce I am only going to eat ice cream instead of a meal first so I can have lots and lots of ice cream…but I get there and start smelling the burgers and I can’t resist. So, order the burgers and fries…it is really a great burger. The other items on the menu are great as well. We have tried the chicken sandwich and the Beaches hot dog and both were great. For vegetarians out there or just someone who wants something a little different they offer a vegetarian falafel and though I have not tried it, I have first hand knowledge from a picky vegetarian that it is wonderful. Oh, and the grilled cheese and tomato bisque soup – now that is my favorite combination of foods at home and I am sure they do it top notch there but honestly at Disney I am usually not ordering soup…but that is just me! The lunch and dinner menus are the same and pricing is the same too for both and ranges from $10-$17 and it is a great value for the excellent food.

Now on to the piece de resistance and that is the dessert menu, in which everything includes ice cream and usually a twist…it is not just apple pie or even apple pie a la mode but it is apple-cranberry pie a la mode. The options are endless and start with a good old fashioned sundae with two scoops of ice creams “drenched with your choice of one of the following toppings: Marshmallow, Strawberry, Pineapple, Peanut Butter, Hot Fudge, Caramel, or Chocolate Syrup topped with Whipped Cream, Toasted Almonds, and a Cherry”. If you want something different and my favorite try the No Way Jose which

No Way Jose

No Way Jose

is a “Peanut Butter and Hot Fudge delight featuring Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Morsels, Whipped Cream, and a Cherry” and is one of a kind. If you are the most daring you will order the flagship item of the “kitchen sink”. This is “scoops of Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Coffee, and Mint Chocolate Chip smothered in every topping available” and serves four (so they say but I would not order two if you have more people!) For all of you interested but think oh how much could it really have in it for toppings a cherry or two and some whipped cream? Well here is the list:

  • ½ cup fudge topping, warmed
  • ½ cup butterscotch topping, warmed
  • ½ cup peanut butter topping, warmed
  • 1 medium banana, sliced in 1/2 –inch slices
  • 1 cinnamon spice cupcake (2 ½ x 1 ¼-inch), quartered
  • 1 angel food cupcake (3 x 1 ½-inch), quartered
  • 2 4-oz. scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 2 4-oz. scoops chocolate ice cream
  • 2 4-oz. scoops strawberry ice cream
  • 1 4-oz. scoop mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 4-oz. scoop coffee ice cream
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • ¼ cup marshmallow crème
  • ¼ cup strawberry topping
  • ¼ cup pineapple topping
  • 1 14-oz can dairy whipped topping

    Full Kitchen Sink! Thanks Disney Parks blog for the picture.

    Full Kitchen Sink! Thanks Disney Parks blog for the picture.

  • 1 brownie (6-inch x 6-inch), quartered
  • 1 regular-sized (2 ounce) candy bar, quartered
  • 4 chocolate cookies with cream filling
  • 1 tablespoon sliced toasted almonds
  • 1 tablespoon dark and white chocolate shavings
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate cookies with cream filling, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped jellied orange slices (approximately 2 large slices)
  • 1 tablespoon milk chocolate chip morsels
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter chip morsels
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate sprinkles
  • 1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles
  • ½ cup drained maraschino cherries

Hungry yet? The price of all but the kitchen sink desserts range from $6-$9 and the kitchen sink is a bargain at $28.99 because of all the sugary goodness in one “kitchen sink”. If you want to save a few dollars and have a lot less fun (okay maybe not a lot less but some less fun you can go for the mini kitchen sink or the “Mickey’s pants bowl” which

Mini Kitchen Sink

Mini Kitchen Sink

you do get to take home with you as a souvenir so this helps make up for less sweet goodness. Plus if you want to experience some magic not only do you get the kitchen sink the whole restaurant will know because the lights start flashing and alarms go off and bells are rung as the cast member delivers the treat to your table. It is a good time for all but warning this dessert is not for the faint of heart (or anyone on a diet)! Oh wait, I forgot there are no calories at Disney but if there were I would not know or tell you because who wants to ruin the magic?

Are you sold yet on Beaches and Cream? If not, you must be crazy because there is not a better combination than Disney and Beaches and Cream that I know of but you tell me…what is your favorite Disney ice cream?

Podcast Episode 44: Breakfast Dining

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so join us this week as we talk about all things breakfast at Disney!  Find out what we like and where we like to get it, as well as the news about the Be Our Guest breakfast offerings!

Happy listening!

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Podcast Episode 37: Disney Dining 101

This week our show is all about the basics of the Disney Dining plans and how to make them work for you.  We talk about what they are, how they’re used, and even mention free dining.  If you’ve never used the dining plan or even if you’re a dining plan vet, you don’t want to miss this show filled with lots of great information!

Happy listening!

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Disney Dining Plan

Often a cause of confusion, the Disney Dining plan is (to me!) one of the best benefits to saying on property. I thought it might be helpful to put a recap of the three most popular plans here!

Quick-Service Dining Plan

2 Quick Service meals and 1 snack per person per night of your stay. Each meal includes an entree, non-alcoholic drink, and dessert (except for breakfast). For 2013 the price is $41.99 per night ages 10 and up $16.03 per night age 3 to 9. A quick service restaurant at Disney is one where you walk up to the counter and order your food, then take it to a table of your own choosing. This plan is great for people or families who like the idea of being able to eat when/where they choose and when they feel like it as opposed to planning meals in advance.


Disney Dining Plan (sometimes referred to as Standard Dining Plan)

1 Quick Service meal, 1 Table Service meal (in a restaurant) and one snack per person per night of your stay. For 2014 the price is $60.64 per night ages 10 and up and $19.23 per night age 3 to 9 during value and regular season. This is Disney’s most popular dining plan, and for good reason. I like the idea of one sit down restaurant meal each day as a way to escape the heat and have a nice relaxing meal. Also, character meals are at sit down restaurants only, and I consider those a MUST do, at least once! Keep in mind, dining reservations for sit down meals must be made in advance. Some of Disney’s most popular restaurants book up very quickly, but there are great meals to be had even if you are planning a last minute trip.


Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

3 meals, 2 snacks per day. The three meals can be any combination of counter service and sit down meals as you please. In 2014 the price is $109.53 per night ages 10 and up and $29.86 per night ages 3 to 9. The Deluxe dining plan is good for people and families that are big eaters or foodies. A lot of the value of the Deluxe dining plan comes when you plan on dining at some of Disney’s 2 credit “Signature restaurants”, since meal allocations would be used up quickly for those on the regular dining plan.

All meal plans include one refillable mug per person good for non-alcoholic beverages at your resort only. For more information on Disney’s Dining plan, see here!