Disney Dining and Characters
Deciding whether to go with a dining plan is a big decision. And it is not a plan for everyone. For my husband and I, we like the dining plans because it allows us to pay for almost everything ahead of time. Also, we enjoy the table service experiences.
If you go with a dining plan, you have 3 options.
The first is Counter Service - which allows you 2 counter service meals per person, per day, along with snacks. This is a good dining plan to choose if you are on the go around the parks, and don't want to be held to reservations - which are needed if you go with the table service options.
The second, and I would say the most popular dining plan, is the counter service/table service meal plan. You get 1 counter service meal, 1 table service meal, and 1 snack per person/per day. This is the plan that my husband and I usually pick. We usually pay out of pocket or use a snack credit for breakfast, grab a counter service meal for lunch, and use our table service credit for dinner. But you can use your credits for which ever meal you would like.
The third option and the most indulgent is the dining plan plus plan. You get 3 table service meals along with snacks, per person, per day! My husband and I did this once and it was amazing experience. We like this plan option when we want to try some of the signature dining experience (those are table service restaurants that require 2 table service credits per person).
It is my personal feeling that there is a savings when you go with a dining plan. If you intend to purchase the meals in the parks or at the resort, then you should plan on choosing a dining plan for your family because it will save you money in the longer run. If you do not plan on eating in the parks or at the resorts during your vacation, then a dining plan may not be an option for you. Later this month, I will share some tips on ways to save while eating at the parks and tips on how to bring your own meals and snacks.
One of the benefits with the Disney Dining Plan or the Deluxe Dining Plan is that you can use your table service credits for Character Dining Experiences!! Not only are the meals fantastic, but you also get one on one time with the characters. With the exception of dining at Cinderella's Round Table, all the character dining experiences are 1 table service credit. This is important to remember because if you choose a dining plan, you will not be able to use your credits for character meals if you chose the Counter Service Plan. And also an important note, Cinderella's Round Table is a signature dining experience and will take up 2 table service credits per person.
The Character Dining Experiences are a must in my opinion. It is a great way to see the characters, and get the autographs, without having to wait in what can be massive lines inside the parks. For example, you can see Mickey and the gang at Chef Mickey! Or you can see The Princesses at Akerhaus at the Norway Pavillion in Epcot. Your little prince or princess or pirate will be able to meet their favorite character, and you will get a great meal too! There are 12 character dining experiences to choose from - either in the parks or at the resorts. Just remember, if you plan on dining inside the parks, you will need park admission for that day.