A suitcase full of Goofy’s Candy Co. Gummies. An Ewok-sized stack of Mickey Mouse Rice Krispies. Seven bottles of water per person on your last day at Walt Disney World because why not, you’ve got more Dining Plan snack credits to burn than you can possibly use. You’ve either personally been there or heard stories about it.
In this post, we’re going to break down the worst uses of Disney Dining Plan snack credits, and why all of the above are truly terrible ideas. If you think there’s something magical about racing around your resort hotel’s gift shop, Supermarket Spree style, trying to clear the shelves before Disney’s Magical Express arrives, you might want to stop reading now. Or don’t–you need to hear this more than anyone.
We start with the unassailable premise that the Disney Dining Plan is never free. We’ve been over this so many times, but it bears repeating: even if you aren’t paying directly for the Disney Dining Plan, there’s the opportunity cost of forgoing another discount. Whether that’s room-only discounts, booking WDW resorts via Priceline Express, or renting Disney Vacation Club points. You’re paying more to get that “free” Disney Dining Plan, which of course means that it was discounted and not actually free.
By extension, this means that those snack credits are also not actually free. While there’s a natural inclination to create a mental disconnect between money and Dining Plan credits, that’s an illusion. The reality is that there is a per-credit value that can and should be ascribed to snack credits, and that ranges from about $2.50 to a little over $5, depending upon whether you’re leveraging Free Dining to its full potential or paying out of pocket for the Disney Dining Plan.
For what it’s worth, this is not anti-Disney Dining Plan or Free Dining propaganda. Even as the tides of fan opinion have started to turn, we still maintain that both Free Dining and the paid Disney Dining Plan can be good values if you know how to take advantage of them. In fact, we purchase the Disney Dining Plan a few times per year (we’ve chronicled our money-saving success with the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan here) in attempts to leverage as much value as possible out of it.
To that end, we’ve long had a series of articles about effective use of the DDP, and our Best Value Snack Credit Uses on the Disney Dining Plan is a good companion piece to this one. The point is that our tone here shouldn’t be misconstrued–pretty much everyone who has used the Disney Dining Plan has been there when it comes to these mistakes, us included.
Rather than digging in and becoming entrenched in defending past mistakes, we hope those of you who have made them will learn and be better prepared for maximizing your value in the future. With that said, here are things for which you should never use Disney Dining Plan snack credits, in my highly subjective opinion…
Anything from Goofy’s Candy Co. – The second premise for this post is that packaging or shape doesn’t make food special. At a rational level, I think most people would agree with this. However, there’s the understandable power of nostalgia and emotion that come into play.
This is why we crave Mickey waffles, sour Goofy gummies, or willingly spend $8 for a box of ordinary ice cream bars shaped like Mickey’s head at our local grocery stores. It’s an attempt to relive a special moment or get a hit of the feel-good emotion from the parks. I get it–that “mentally take me back” desire is a big part of why I listen to Walt Disney World background music at home.
Nevertheless, snacks from Goofy’s Candy Co. are poor uses of Disney Dining Plan snack credits because they are, quite simply, normal candy that has a Disney label slapped on it. You can buy the same candy at home for less than half the price, which is why no one would spend actual money on 15 bags of this stuff from Walt Disney World.
Joffrey’s Coffee – In Joffrey’s defense, it’s better than Nescafe. (Anyone else remember the coffee ‘dark ages’ at Walt Disney World?!) Moreover, they have some premium blends at the resorts that are actually good. However, Joffrey’s at kiosks and counter service restaurants in the parks seems to be a proprietary mixture of real coffee and burnt garbage sourced from Electric Umbrella, brewed using (too much of) the finest, unfiltered Central Florida swamp water.
Even if you’re the biggest Starbucks hater in the world, I think you have to concede that their coffee is better than this. Failing that, a cup of Joffrey’s coffee is pretty cheap (for good reason!) making it an objectively poor use of a snack credit.
Fresh Fruit – I mean, it’s one banana, Michael. What could it cost, ten dollars?
Buying fruit in the Disney Parks is a controversial topic in our household. To protect the innocent, I’m not going to name names, but one of us believes that fruit is an acceptable thing to purchase on vacation. The other believes it just gets in the way of real snacking, plus there’s probably more than enough fruit in Dole Whips and Citrus Swirls.
One thing we can agree on is that a minuscule portion of apple slices, watermelon, or grapes is not worth the Disney Dining Plan snack credits. If you’re concerned about getting enough fruit and vegetables on a Walt Disney World vacation (and you should be, notwithstanding my Dole Whip joke) make a point of eating at buffets or, better yet, doing grocery delivery and ordering a few inexpensive bags of apples, carrots, etc.
Bottled Water – I’ll be the first to admit that Walt Disney World drinking fountain water is disgusting. That doesn’t mean the solution is paying for water.
Instead, either pack a Brita Water Bottle with Filter (as recommended in our Packing Guide for Walt Disney World) or request a free cup of ice water from any counter service restaurant. As Walt Disney World begins to install bottle refilling stations, the former option is definitely looking more and more attractive.
Churro – This is sure to be controversial, and defended by responses that Disney churros are iconic, delicious, etc. The best defense is that it’s objectively a good use of a Disney Dining Plan snack credit by virtue of its price, which is above the $5 threshold.
However, that reasonable argument unreasonably assumes a churro is worth over $5 in the first place. Perhaps this already controversial article is a poor time to reveal my anti-churro bias. I’ve never understood the hype, and no one is going to convince me that a churro is worth over $3, much less the current $6+ price tag for one with dipping sauce.
Oh, and you’ll need that dipping sauce to mask the brutal reality that Walt Disney World churros are frequently stale or overcooked. Would you really pay that much money out of pocket for something Costco does better for $1? (Yes, I know. “Shots fired.”)
Random Cupcakes – Since this is already controversial, I might as well pile on: Walt Disney World cupcakes peaked over 5 years ago, and it’s been downhill since. As other desserts around Walt Disney World have become more ambitious, inventive, and delicious, cupcakes have gone the other direction. They’ve gotten smaller, dryer, and instead of doing interesting things with flavors, they’ve aimed for outlandish looks that are photogenic but not tasty.
This is painting with a broad brush, and it’s far from a complete picture of the Walt Disney World cupcake scene. Even though the trend is mostly played out, there are still some truly exceptional cupcakes at WDW that rank among the best snacks. That’s why this is “random cupcakes” rather than “all cupcakes.”
Unless it’s a cupcake you’ve heard praised, we’d caution against rolling the dice on random ones, no matter how Instagram-worthy it might look. Of course, there are far worse ways to burn that surplus of DDP snack credits, too.
Anything from Generic Outdoor Vending Carts – In reviewing a few of the above choices and what else I had planned for this list, I probably could’ve condensed much of this list into the “outdoor vending cart catch-all.” (The inconspicuous Adventureland Egg Roll Wagon is the biggest exception to this general rule, but there are other generic ODVs serving up tasty treats.)
Basically, if it’s available at a nameless (or generically-named) outdoor vending cart, it’s not a good use of Disney Dining Plan snack credits. This includes other bottled beverages, cookies, muffins, donuts, ice cream, and more. We’d argue that in terms of taste, even the pricey Mickey Pretzels aren’t worth it.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you agree or disagree with our picks for this ‘worst use’ of Disney Dining Plan snack credits list? Disagree with our thoughts on churros, cupcakes, or grocery store Mickey ice cream bars? Anything else belong on this list, subjectively or objectively speaking? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!