Worst Uses of Dining Plan Snack Credits
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.
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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!
We were there in March. Weather was really hot a few days and well worth using a ton of snack credits on ice cream bars to keep my 10 year old hydrated and happy. Seriously she must have eaten about 10 bars one day. First time we’ve ever run out of snack credits. 🙂 I haven’t read the best use of snack credits post yet but I’m happy to use the credits for ice cream bars that we can usually buy quickly and go on our way.
I was afraid I was the only one who couldn’t choke down Joffery’s coffee!! It made me terribly sick that first time I tried it. Last time we went I tried several, b/c the darn advertisements look and sound awesome, but barf-o-rama. We ended up throwing them away.
We always end up with a million snacks left over, but we haven’t had the meal plan since it was a standard 1QS, 1TS, 1S setup for everyone. Mostly b/c we just don’t eat that much.
And the freaking cupcakes…we had one with eeeeeevery meal for eeeeevery person in our 11person group. We just couldn’t eat half of them. I couldn’t fathom buying one as a snack! LOL!
If you don’t use ’em you lose ’em. So while its not a great strategy from the get-go, there is nothing wrong with using them at the last minute on whatever you want. You can’t take them with you on the plane 🙂
A few years ago (my kids first trip) I thought we’d be out of snack credits before we left, turns out we had quite a few….yes bad planning….but rather than leaving them “unspent”, mickey eared shaped whatevers are nice presents for school friends.
Completely agree. Those snacks made great gifts for my preschoolers. To be honest, it’s hard to find use of any snack credits when you have the deluxe dining plan. You’re constantly full from your table service meals!
I still think the best was to pre-pay for food at Disney is buying bulk gift cards from wholesalers (best if you have a credit card that does additional cash back rewards). My Chase Freedom usually include wholesale clubs as one if their quarterly 5% cashback promos, plus BJ’s/Sam’s Club/Costco sells gift cards anywhere for 5-15% off the card value. (BJ’s apparently offers a $10 “online only” membership level).
Currently, they over 3x $50 gift card for about $138, which is about 7.5% off. Combine that with any 5% credit card cashback bonus and that’s 12.5% off. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but you can use the gift cards to pay for ANYTHING: rooms, tickets, souvenirs….even the dining plan itself. If you used the gift cards to purchase 7 days of the standard dining plan for two adults, you’d save $130 for this method.
Personally we liked using the gift cards instead, as we could eat whatever we wanted without having to do math. If you have money leftover, you can use it to buy gifts or just save it for your next vacation.
On my last trip with my sisters we purchased the deluxe plan for the first and last days of our 5 day trip. I had high hopes for my snack credits, but in the end, none of us could eat enough food to really get good “value” out of our snack credits. We were over fiul just from the two meals. We made a good effort on the first day (but we did have an extra person helping us eat the food). But that last day we were miserable failures at the mass food consumption required on that plan. I can’t imagine having the DDP for an entire trip. It’s soooo much food. So we all went home with a few bags of sour tape made by Goofy .
Schoolbread in Norway. Take a stale cream doughnut and an day-old poppyseed bagel, merge them and chill until stiff enough to use as a large hockey puck. Blech. Also objectively a bad credit usage since it’s cheap, which it should be. People love it, but those people are wrong. 🙂
I was all in, until you mentioned my beloved Mickey pretzel (and cheese cup, cannot forget that!). It is often one of our meals and I think is a great use of a snack credit since it is filling. I also appreciate that they are easy to find in the parks. My time is valuable and criss crossing the park in search some of the more expensive snacks often isn’t feasible.
I agree with most of this. I do like getting a bottle of water for everyone because of it’s not readily available in hand, we’ll forget to hydrate. Also, smart water here is pretty expenseive, so it’s not a total waste. My second, sort of, objection is goofy’s candy co. While I agree on the actual candy being a bit of a waste, the cookies there are a-mazing and you get 3-4 per credit. Otherwise, I agree.
Our family has gotten the free DDP or a package deal comparable to the same discount as free dining on the three times we’ve vacationed at WDW over the past 10 years. For 2 adults and 2 kids (both considered adults for dining on the last visit) it seems to be the best total savings we can leverage for our trips (we assume that we would spend more on out of pocket dining than any savings we could receive on room discounts, etc.). Plus, I think it takes less stress out when dining because if we were paying out of pocket I would be inclined to “settle” on items just due to expensive costs. And being on vacation I don’t necessarily want to do that; therefore, I am a proponent of the dining plan. With that said, we are pretty decent eaters, but still wind up with a bunch of snack credits at the end of our trips (7-10 days). I think most people do too unless they are “wasting” them throughout their trip on some of the items such as Tom mentioned. We try to use most of our snack credits during our stay for some of the “better value” items when possible, and then opt to use leftover credits for items at Goofy’s Candy Co. that can be transported home and given as little gifts to family… something that we didn’t have to spend extra money on. To me that is actually a good use of the snack credits. But, beware that TSA at Orlando airport basically makes you take everything out of your bags and (yelled) “including anything chocolate”. So out came our containers of chocolate covered pineapple slices and other goodies that were all neatly packed into a bag.
I have to agree with everything except the soft pretzels. My daughter craves and dreams about those. So for us, it’s worth it!
Excellent Arrested Development reference!
Yes!!!!! Glad you saw it, too! “There’s always money in the banana stand…”
I kept waiting for someone else to comment and get the reference too! It’s perfect here and deserves a slow hand clap!
I think this is a great, objective overview of how to use snack credits wisely, or at least not poorly. Thank you for giving voice to my opinion about those over-the-top, garish cupcakes that aren’t worth the price. Last, I’m with you on the fruit. Tell your wife sorry, but Dole Whip beats a banana any day!
I actually really enjoyed this article and agree on many of the points listed – especially the one about the cupcakes. I do, however, love the churros. 🙂 Thanks for writing it!!!
I think the Mickey ice cream bars and pretzels are a good snack credit choice….and bottled water is one we choose as well. I guess it is a personal choice.
I have searched high and low to find candy similar to the Character Gummies by Goofy’s Candy Co and THEY DO NOT EXIST. I don’t know what it is about the flavour, they’re just…. better. I love candy and I have tried so many times to find a replication of these but I just can’t. I GLEEFULLY use my snack credits on these, and even pay for more out of pocket.
LONG LIVE GOOFY’S CANDY CO CHARACTER GUMMIES!
We no longer buy snacks or souvenirs. And we seldom eat at the parks. We do a grocery run or bring stuff from home. But years ago, my favorite snack was the caramel corn from Sleepy Hollow. You’d get a large bucket of it for about $4. Then bring back the bucket and get a refill for about $3. We’d bring the bucket back from previous trips and refill it a time or two while we were there and then on our last morning so we’d have caramel corn to eat in the car on the long drive home. But now all you get is that prepacked stuff or expensive stuff at Epcot. I’ll just get a box of microwave caramel corn and make some at home.
The cupcakes, brownies and Mickey ice cream bars are all overpriced. The bars have shrunk, while price has increased, and the cupcakes and brownies are dry and tasteless. However, on every Disney trip (heading down in two weeks), my optimism gets the best of me, hoping this time the brownie or cupcake will be moist and the ice cream bar, larger. I am always disappointed. You’d think I’d learn.
I’ve always enjoyed the DDP (free or otherwise) and felt it was a good bargain; much better than asking for separate checks or splitting the bill when traveling with a large group. Now that we’re older though, many of us can’t eat as much or are on limited diets, and find sharing works out better. But I always like using my left over snack credits to bring goodies home for my family. Never felt it was a waste of a credit, even though it probably was. The only bad thing I can say about the DDP (aside from the cost) is, if you’re not a big eater or you’re concerned about getting your dollar’s worth, the DDP is probably not for you. Between meals and snacks, it is a lot of food.
Thank you! Do you have an article on the best Disney Snack credits?!?
I would love an article too!
There is one! https://www.disneytouristblog.com/maximizing-snack-credit-value-on-the-dining-plan/
I agree with every last one of your choices. Spot on blog!
We took home lots of candy/ mickey shapped rice krispies and chip/dale nuts. I understand not the best use but allowed us to keep the magic going for a few weeks after. Plus the candy is good for year. It’s been 8 months and my son just opened his last bag of candy and he is still excited about it.
We feel the worse use of a snack is a side of cheese (for fries or pretzels). Pay the $1 out of pocket instead! 🙂
For one snack credit you get a pretzel with the cheese. Or at least that is how it was in November (my last trip).
At our last visit we had the inevitable 50 snack credits on our last day, but we turned it into one of my favorite memories. We had a ten hour drive home the next day with three kids. So we spent a couple hours wandering in and out of the food shops in World Showcase grabbing pastries from France, whatever looked good from each country, and most importantly, loads of fresh Werther’s caramel corn from Germany. I don’t even care if anyone thinks the caramel corn is a good use of snack credits. It’s delicious, and we happily snacked on memories all the way home.
That sounds like an amazing way to spend the last day as well as the drive home. I’ll bet you had some good snacking most of the way back, depending on how many kids you have and how old, haha 🙂
It was a great way to spend the last day and the kids loved having the snacks on the way home (lets be honest, we parents did too) and at 10, 7 and baby, the snacks went a long way. We divided most four ways so we could all try them and it made leaving the Bubble and going home less depressing.