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Disney Deluxe Dining Plan Strategies and Tips

Trying to figure out how best to use the Deluxe Dining Plan can be a little bit overwhelming. Once you have decided to go with the Deluxe Dining Plan you then have to decide which restaurants to book, but how do you decide? Some of the restaurants we will book when using the DlxDP are: Tutto Italia, Via Napoli, Teppan Edo, Chefs de France, Yak and Yeti, San Angel Inn, Coral Reef. I choose these based on the cost of the menu items, each of these places have higher cost entrees, appetizers, and desserts. I have chosen Teppan Edo specifically when on the Dining Plan because they do not accept Tables in Wonderland discounts. So, it’s more cost effective for us to dine there when on the dining plan.

The easy breakdown, just a simple way to think about the value of one credit. The current cost of the DlxDP right now is roughly $110, divided by 3 Table Service meals per day puts the value of those credits at $36 each. There are certainly other factors, like the snack credits and the refillable mug, but for the sake of simplicity just consider it to be roughly $36. So, if you are not getting at least $36 worth of food (non-alcoholic beverage, appetizer, entrée, and dessert), you are losing money.

Strategies:
Cost Effective
One of the most important factors to me is to make sure that we get our money’s worth. It wouldn’t be beneficial in my opinion to purchase the Deluxe Dining Plan and then lose money. It would be difficult to eat 3 large meals each day on the DlxDP so we tend to only use it for one night stays, in order to split it between two days. We also have the Tables in Wonderland card, which is an additional option for those who are FL residents, Annual Passholders, or DVC members, this is a 20% off dining discount card. Many times we will plan around using the Tables in Wonderland card instead of the Dining Plan. I like to check menus online first to see what is available and then decide what I think I would be inclined to order. I have made up spreadsheets and calculated out hypothetical scenarios and found out how much will be saved on the plan vs. out of pocket using our TiW card.
The dining plan does not include gratuity, so that is something I also factor in.

Free-style
I’m just going to refer to this as the Free-style method, this is how many people feel about dining plans when they do not care to look at dollars and cents. They like that the DlxDP gives them freedom to eat however they like without having to worry about the sticker shock at most Disney restaurants. For many people, the pre-paid dining plan provides them with peace of mind that there will be little or no added costs for food purchases as their allotted meals, snacks, and refillable mugs (resort fillable, not theme park fillable) are covered.

My Top 10 Deluxe Dining Plan Tips:
1) The Dlx DP includes an appetizer for lunch and dinner meals at restaurants that have a la carte menus, whereas the regular dining plan does not. Keep in mind that breakfasts do not include your appetizer entitlement. Buffets or family-style restaurants also do not include your appetizer entitlement. So, eating at these places immediately costs you the value of the appetizer course. Some appetizers are meant to be split between 2 people, those are usually marked on the menu.
2) Breakfast and lunch are the cheapest meals of the day.
3) Your non-alcoholic beverage can be a milk-shake or smoothie (if available, see menus, and check if item is free-refills or not).
4) Using two Table Service credits at most signature restaurants is not a cost effective strategy.
5) Using your Table Service credit at a Quick Service restaurant is not a cost effective strategy.
6) Always remember to check your receipts that the correct amount of dining credits have been used and that no mistakes have been made, you should keep track of your entitlements.
7) Always use up all of your snack credits and meal credits. By not using them, you are leaving money on the table! Those credits will expire at midnight of the day you checkout.
8) Check menus online to see what the offerings are and how much they are, go ahead and get steak or seafood! You can find out ahead of time which restaurants and snacks cost effective. Snacks closer to the $5 mark are a better value, however, you have to use those credits anyways.
9) The meal plan is more cost effective for meat eaters, it’s just a fact that vegetarian dishes cost less.
10) Try not to use your snack credits on bottled water, you can get ice water at any quick service location free of charge, no purchase necessary.

No matter how you ultimately decide to use your dining plan, keep in mind these factors and plan accordingly to what is best for you and your group. You may end up using a hybrid approach, I can definitely see why this would be practical for those who are using the plan for their vacation, since eating 3 large meals a day is almost impossible for even the most stout-hearted foodies, so using 2 dining credits at signature restaurants and the dinner shows can indeed be a way to use up those credits.

I hope that you have picked up a few tips for your next Disney vacation.
Please leave any questions, comments, or to add your own tips.

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