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Old 01-11-2009, 06:17 PM   #1
*NikkiBell*
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My Suggestions for Dining Plan Use - Re: Email Show - 1/8/09

I just wanted to add my two cents about strategies for using the Dining Plan. We have had several of these plans over the years. This includes the Silver Plan (now deceased), Premium Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan, and so on.

Personally, I feel that the snack credits should be used for breakfast. If you are on the regular plan, you can use that for a light breakfast at the Main Street Bakery, for example. This could be a croissant, danish, roll, pastry, etc. Most counter service places all over property have small items like this that would more than suffice for breakfast.

Snack credits can also be used for a bottle water or soda, cookies, popcorn, ice cream, Dole Whips, etc. There's a great thread over at the Dining Plan part of the boards that has a list of things you can use a snack credit for. You might want to pop over there before your trip.

For lunch, use your counter service credit. You get your meal plus a dessert. This is more than enough for a lunch. An example would be a meal at Casey's which would include a hot dog, fries, drink, and dessert. Another example would be something from Epcot like a sandwich and sides or meal platter from one of the countries.

In this fashion, dinners would then be your table service credit. Select a restaurant that appeals to you and your family. With the regular dining plan, you are allotted an entree and dessert. You could purchase an appetizer out of pocket if you'd like to. The Deluxe Plan includes an appetizer per person, entree, and dessert.

For all of the plans, keep in mind where you are going to be on property that day before making your reservations. For example, if you are going to be at Epcot, pick a restaurant like Le Chefs, Le Cellier, Coral Reef, etc. for dinner. If you are going to be lounging at your resort, try a restaurant there or at a neighboring resort. If you are staying at a resort near Downtown Disney, consider eating there. This strategy eliminates extra traveling during your vacation.

I know a few of the podcasters mentioned how much "work" the dining plans can be. I am sure that some of this has to do with the fact that many of youl take shorter vacations and more day trips due to being so close to Disney. The planning is somewhat eliminated as a result. For many of us not near Disney, planning is the usual. In my opinion, I feel that the only dining plan that can be work is the regular one. Because this plan only gives you one table service credit per night, it can be tricky to get into signature restaurants which require two credits for a meal. Sure, it can be done, but then you need to either pay out of pocket for a meal somewhere else in your vacation week or skip a meal.

To combat this, we prefer using the Deluxe Plan. It eliminates the need to fret over all of the counting of credits that needs to be done. Instead, there are more options open for signature dining which do still count as two table service credits, but there is much more food provided with the plan itself. You get two snacks per day and three table service credits. We don't use all three per day because we may skip breakfast or use snack credits for it. With this being said, the Deluxe Plan is a ton of food and I go into it not forcing myself to eat absolutely everything. I eat what I can and don't worry if I didn't get that dessert, etc. My boyfriend tends to eat more and loves every minute of the Deluxe Plan experience.

We have used the Premium Plan twice before. It is a more inclusive type plan with recreation and dining included. I liked the fact that this plan included backstage tours and special recreation options. It is not something we'd use on every vacation, but for a unique occassion it is nice to have.

Before I end, I wanted to mention that I wholeheartedly agree with what Tracey or Kathy (sorry, can't remember) said about altering plans here and there. Take a day or two and change how you use the credits. Use your table service for a big breakfast, snack for lunch, and counter service for dinner. We typically do this once during the vacation, if not twice, and found that it is a nice touch. You might also consider using credits for a dinner show like Hoop Dee Do Musical Revue.

Whatever you decide, use the plan that works best for you and your family. We do not visit the World without a dining plan and the few times we have, we definitely missed it. Do not focus on making the most out of it or saving the most money. Go into the plan with the notion of pre-paying for your meals, and eat where you want and what you want. Remember that you are on vacation and enjoy it.
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Last edited by *NikkiBell*; 01-11-2009 at 06:36 PM.
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Old 01-11-2009, 06:25 PM   #2
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Great information, NikkiBell.
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Old 01-11-2009, 06:26 PM   #3
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we usually get the kids to have milk and cereal for breakfast (except the day, or days, that we do Chef Mickey), and then use Counter service for lunch and table service for Dinner. We do vary it up sometimes, especially with Epcot. If we can't get a table service for dinner, we will do table service for lunch, and then catch a counter service for dinner.

There are so many ways to do it. We just make sure that we schedule a Table service once a day, even if we do a TS/Character meal that will ding us for 2 table service meals. We just pay for a meal.

The most convenient thing about the meal plan (aside from a discount), is that it's pre-paid, and you aren't using your KTTW card to charge meals - just the important Disney souvenirs! Why is this important? If you stay at a Value resort, your limit is $500, and you can charge up $500 in Dinsey food in NO time.
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Old 01-11-2009, 08:22 PM   #4
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I think where people go wrong with the dining plan is trying too hard to maximize the savings. This is what creates the extra work. Really you are just pre-paying for meals. It should be enough to break even. Instead people want to be able to report how much extra they saved.

We tried the dining plan once following a plan very similar to what *NikkiBell* suggests. It was good but we just don't eat that much food on a regular basis. I doubt that we would do it again.
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Old 01-12-2009, 06:41 AM   #5
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Another suggestion - you can share some of your counter service meals. Places like Flame Tree BBQ we get two adult meals and one childs meal and the four of us share. If we do this a couple of times during our trip it frees up some childs CS meals which allows them to get their Mickey Waffles a couple of times.

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Old 01-12-2009, 07:24 AM   #6
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I gotta agree. Trying to maxamize the worth to save the most money makes it a lot of work. You just have to eat what you want. We weren't careful with how we used our credits and still came out ahead.

But, if you do a signature dinning, I would look at trying to get a little more value from those credits. We did Brown Derby on the DP and paid OOP for the hoop dee doo. We should have done the opposite, while BD was great, it wasn't much more than the single credit meals. While HDD was more money for the 2 of us. But at Narcooses it was easily worth the 2 credits, as opposed to paying OOP.
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Old 01-12-2009, 09:02 AM   #7
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Thank you, NikkiBell, for outlining the plan so nicely.

I'm past the point where I want to plan every trip to the extent that so many do, so the Dining Plan doesn't work for me. It does require planning...knowing where you are going to be every single day and at all times is just way beyond what I'm willing to do. I only come to WDW once a year, too, but I don't feel the need to get everything in on every trip. That includes meals.

Oh, don't get me wrong...I USED to do it this way, and it was a lot of fun planning exactly where I should be, and what I should eat. It made the time between vacations pass really well. And if you DO work the system for maximum value, you can get really good deals on food. BUT, for the way most people eat and use the plan, it's not such a good value, and does take a lot of work.
I feel the DDP also encourages Disney to "dumb down" the menu, substituting cheap items for previously-offered higher-end items, and standardizing menus between restaurants. I'm not a fan anymore.
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Old 01-12-2009, 10:35 AM   #8
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I agree with you 100%. We do the regular plan and just use what we have for dinners weather it is one credit or two. The CS meals are big and we usually share and end up with extra ones left over but Oh well no harm done. It is nice to have on longer trips for sure. Great job outlining and I agree most of us have to plan out our longer trips so it isnt so much like work because it has to be done anyways.
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Old 01-12-2009, 06:22 PM   #9
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Whenever we get the plan, we do a bunch of signature restaurants. We're not really fans of the regular plan because doing so makes it more complicated. I like the ideas posted here, too.

Like I mentioned, I think of the plan as pre-paying my meals. We have always made out way ahead if we bought out of pocket, but I don't focus on that during my vacation. We always plan ahead according to EMH and regular park hours so making ADRs is a normal part of the process for us. I hope I offered a few tips to help those who want to use one of the plans like it as we do.
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Old 01-12-2009, 06:46 PM   #10
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This was our first trip with real planning and ADRs. Personally I enjoyed the whole process. I really liked having a schedule and know where we were going. Usually we wing it but with 6 people there's always a disagreement the morning about what bus we are getting on and when to eat. Plus, when left to our own devices we always wind up trying to fit in one more rode before dinner. Then we don't eat until way way too late.

Our upcomming trip in may, we are doing the DP and are definately doing a schedule. But with 2 kids in tow, they can only tolerate so much table service. When our 1 year old finishes eating of always looks like we just had a food fight at the table.
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