Disney Dining Plan 2018 Changes
The Disney Dining Plan is one of the favorite topics of Mickey Travelers. Some vacationers view it as a needless expense that also leads to overeating. Others see it as an invaluable part of a Disney trip, a way to eat like royalty for a reasonable price. I fall into the latter category, but I understand the harsh evaluation that some critics have. No matter where anybody stands on the topic, however, something has changed this year. Disney’s changed the longstanding rules of this meal service. Here’s everything you need to know about the Disney Dining Plan’s 2018 changes.
The Basics of the Disney Dining Plan
By now, you probably know what the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is. It’s a program that The Walt Disney Company offers to entice guests to visit more often. The idea for the DDP is that travelers want cost control during a trip. When you purchase the DDP, you’ll receive a set number of meal entitlements each day. There’s a formula I’ll explain in a moment. The important point is that you basically eat for free once you’re at Walt Disney World.
The catch is that you pay in advance. The DDP isn’t something you can purchase once you’re on the Disney campus. You have to buy it at least two days prior to your trip (technically 48 hours before check-in, so it’s functionally a cutoff at two and a half days). Sometimes, you’ll book it much sooner. You add the DDP early at times because Disney offers a free dining program on occasion. These rooms book fast, but the combination of food and a Disney hotel room for one price is a deal that customers love.
When you do pay for the DDP, the calculation is simple. According to the rules, you must buy the DDP for every person staying in your hotel room for every night of your stay. In other words, a family of four staying for six nights would have a set fee for the DDP. This family would have to purchase four DDP plans for six nights. Any children aged 3-9 would receive a heavily discounted rate, though. And parents don’t have to buy the plan for kids under the age of three.
How the Disney Dining Plan Works
In exchange for DDP purchase, each individual receives daily entitlements. For the standard DDP, you’ll get one Quick Service meal and one Table Service meal per day. You also receive two daily snack credits and a refillable mug good for the duration of your stay (technically a maximum of 14 days). Snacks are items like Dole Whip and Mickey Ice Cream Bars, foods and drinks that you’d get in the park. Each member of your party can get two each day free of charge thanks to the DDP.
An important note here is that you don’t have to eat your entitlements as allotted each day. For example, you could have two Quick Service meals on your first day and then two Table Service meals on the second day. You can use your meal entitlements in any order you want until you run out. If that happens, you’ll simply pay for your dining as you normally would without the DDP.
The plan has enough flexibility that it’s convenient for most travelers. You’ll scan your Magic Band when you’re ready to order. Your server will tell you what your version of the DDP entitles you to eat. All this means is that the cheapest version of the DDP includes less food than the most expensive version. You’re getting a good meal no matter what. And when the check comes, your server will show you what the bill would have been. Then, they’ll inform you of how many entitlements that you have left on your DDP.
At Table Service restaurants, you will be responsible for the tip, something you should keep in mind. My wife and I usually order the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan (DDDP) and leave 20+ percent tips most of the time. Even then, we’re only paying a modest weekly total for tips. We’ve found ways to maximize the value of the DDDP so that it’s the most financially reasonable to us. It helps that we travel in a group of five and have several friends we invite to meals while we’re in Orlando.
That’s where the flexibility comes into play. We can “buy” meals for loved ones using our DDDP entitlements. Once you pick a favorite version of the plan, you’ll do the same. Everyone who uses the DDP regularly develops a strategy for maximizing value.
Of course, the most important advantage of the DDP is cost control. When you pay for the DDP a month or more in advance, you don’t have to worry about the cost of food while you’re at Walt Disney World. You covered that before you arrived. Instead, you can simply savor the delicious meals without stressing about money. It adds an unexpected element of relaxation to your trip.
The 2018 Disney Dining Plan Changes
For several years, the basics of the DDP have remained the same. In 2018, Disney has shaken things up. They’ve increased the price of all the plans, but they did this for a reason. They’re including more in the program. As of this month, the DDP now includes a second beverage option.
Historically, the DDP has featured an entrée, a dessert, and a regular beverage. Some plans also include an appetizer, but let’s stick with the basic version for now. The catch with it is that guests who prefer adult beverages have had to pay their own way. Disney wouldn’t substitute a beer for a Coke, as it were. Guests who wanted beer or a glass of wine with their meal had to pay out of pocket, which also negated the value of the included regular beverage. Who drinks wine with a Coke or lemonade, right?
The 2018 iteration of the DDP now gives guests additional options. Rather than ordering a regular beverage, you have the option of selecting a beer, wine, or cocktail instead. Your first adult beverage is free with the DDP. Now, you can’t order a dozen beers or a bottle of wine or anything. There’s a one-drink limit for this, which is wise. Disney doesn’t want to encourage over-indulging at the parks. So, this new program rule about adult beverages is mainly for guests who love a glass of wine or a single beer with their dinner, although cocktail fans will also have use for it at times, too.
Disney has also clarified some of its previously ambiguous rules about other beverages. Milkshakes and hot chocolate are both available under the 2018 version of the DDP. You no longer have to ask your server what the house rules are about these drinks. Smoothies and milkshakes have always been a gray area on the DDP, and so the specificity in the language is a vast improvement.
The price of the DDP has gone up a few dollars to compensate for the more expensive drinks. Also – and this is important – Disney has removed the dessert option from the most basic version of the program, the Quick-Service DDP. That was already the stripped version of the DDP, and now you can’t even get a brownie included in the meal. As such, the value has shifted toward the regular DDP, especially for Mickey Travelers like me who have a sweet tooth.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll post a few tips for maximizing the value of the DDP. In the interim, you should talk to a MickeyTravels agent about the Disney Dining Plan. They’ll know the current price and any upcoming Disney offers that make the program an even better deal.
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