First, I would like to say that our family has enjoyed the Disney Dining Plan for nearly a decade and in no way do what to give the impression that it is not worthwhile or a positive experience. However, as our family changed, so did how we wanted to experience Walt Disney World.
Below are just a few points that swayed our decision to move to the Quick Service Dining Plan from the more Table Service Dining Plan experience. We hope that this helps you too!
- Time: When our children were younger, we certainly welcomed the scheduled breaks, beauty, luxury, and coolness of the Disney “sit down” (table) dining experience. However, now that our two Disney kiddos are older, the thrills of the various park rides, shows, and more are simply much higher on their list. Having to stop, and at times travel to a reservation, simply cut into our time and momentum at the parks. As a family, we began enjoying the conveniences of our lunch time “Quick Services” just as well as any “Table Service” experience. Now, if you have never experienced some of Disney’s most popular dining locations, I certainly encourage you to do so as some dining experiences can be just as valuable as any thrill ride or show. However, after a number of years of dining at these locations and many others, we have come to enjoy Quick Service locations such as the Flame Tree BBQ, Columbia Harbour House, and the Polite Pig as well as any other dining experiences in of all Disney. So it all came back to me to determine what were we truly “missing”? If you are concerned about “missing out”, there is not doubt Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest, and many others are truly special experiences. However, there are plenty of top notch dining experiences around every corner that will consume much less time and money, not to mention that food is just as good and in some cases… better. Disney Quick Service dining options have come a long way in terms of quality and experience but we’ll speak more to that in a moment.
- Planning: To obtain reservations for Disney’s most popular dining experiences, such as Chef Mickey’s, Sanaa, or Crystal Palace, you need to lock-in your reservation the moment they become available on your My Disney Experience 60 days before your check-in date. It is fairly difficult to judge just how your Disney day is going to turn out 60 days in advanceI know there were several occasions in recent years our family simply didn’t want to stop and miss out on prime park time and experiences to go eat. Fortunately, the My Disney Experience makes it very simple to modify your reservations but the more popular dining options are near impossible to find alternate times and dates on a whim.
- Tips: Being a family of 6 automatically charges gratuity of 18% on your bill and while that is completely reasonable for the service and experiences you receive most of the time at a Walt Disney World dining experience, it certainly adds up. Buffets, character dining, and other dining locations come at quite a cost. Being on the Disney Dining Plan, it’s easy to forget just how expensive some dining experiences can be, especially when you’re simply scanning a Magic Band and your mind quickly moves from dollars and cents to dining credits. Then when it is time to sign the receipt, you are still responsible for a decently sized line item that can quickly catch you off guard. Again, it is certainly reasonable most of the time as there are very few instances where I can remember where I had a problem with our service or felt one waiter should have received more or less than another but if you’re a family that operates on a budget like we do, you may want to plan for $50-$60 per meal in tips (more if you look at Signature Dining or other upscale experiences). When you consider a week long Disney vacation, you are now looking at $300 – $400 added to your vacation budget and that is an amount that can be used for a number of other expenses for you Disney vacation.
- Quality & Convenience: I’m not sure if it’s just knowing where to go or if Disney Quick Service locations are picking up their game but, when we first began using the Disney Dining Plan back in 2010, there was quite a difference in terms of quality in Quick Service and Table Service dining experiences. However, over the last several years, we have experienced many lunches and snacks that were just as good as any dinner. There is no doubt Disney touts a number of high quality dining options that simply cannot be matched in terms of quality of food or dining experiences that we feel every Disney family should experience at least once but honestly, dining options such as Flame Tree BBQ, Columbia Harbour House, and many others will simply make you question how this could be considered food of a different level. Not to mention that many Quick Service locations offer Mobile Ordering which adds to the experience that much more. Another item of note is the generous serving sizes. As a family of 6, we were able to take 3 Quick Service meal credits for breakfast, another 3 for lunch, a snack for each person and we were all more than full each day splitting out the credits.
Overall, the Disney Dining Plan is an incredible, worthwhile experience that every Disney family should consider. However, the Quick Service Dining Plan will keep you in the park, on the move, and save a significant amount of money. As you plan your next Disney Vacation, check out our fiends at the Disney Food Blog for great lists of both Table Service and Quick Service Dining locations. You can also sign up for their newsletter and insightful pdfs at their website at https://www.disneyfoodblog.com/.
We hope this hope this helps in planning your next Disney Vacation and we’ll see you real soon!