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Old 25 Apr 15, 05:39 PM  
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sha9
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Getting the best out of Disney dining plans

Hi all, I was thinking with the free dining being released and a whole load of newbies to QSDP/DDP it would be useful to have a thread sharing our top tips about how to get the most out of having the dining plans.
There's a link to the DIBB guidebook page on dining plans here.

This is a link to the WDTC page on dining plans. It includes links to all the dining plan leaflets. I tried links to each individual PDF but they didn't seem to work however they can all be accessed there.

A link to 2017 dining plan locations.

Explaining dining plans

From 2017 the dining plans no longer include a dessert with QS meals. Instead there is an extra snack credit. Dessert will still be offered with TS meals.
So QSDP - one resort refillable mug, 2 QS credits and 2 snacks.
DDP - one resort refillable mug, 1 QS credit, 1 TS credit and 2 snacks.
DxDDP - one resort refillable mug, 3 TS/QS credits (full flexible) and 2 snacks.

The dining plans are very flexible. You have all your credits available to you at check in and the vast majority of menu items are allowed (although note the comment on the Disney dining plans page regarding the cost of entrees). There are some restrictions on sharing items but even then most allow you to use more than one credit so in practical terms there are no restrictions.
You can't use credits of one type towards a meal of a higher credit type. For example, you can't use QS credits to go towards a TS meal and can't combine snacks for a QS meal or TS meal. Disney now say a TS credit can be used for a QS meal but there is a suggestion this is at the CMs discretion. You can also use a QS or TS credit to pay for 2 or 3 snacks which seems to depend on location and CM. This has to be done in the same transaction and is not available at every location. Here's a link to a Disney Parks Moms Panel question on this subject.
You can also currently exchange your QS drink for anything that's considered a snack. There is some internet chat from people who have been unable to do this however the 2017 dining plan leaflets clearly state it's allowed. It should be noted however that it does not say that drink substitutions are allowed on the US version of the leaflets so it may be best not to configure this in your plans.
The final list of restaurants accepted on the dining plan doesn't tend to get finalised until the end of the year. Don't panic if your favourite restaurant doesn't show for next year! If it's there this year there's a good chance it'll be there next year.

Abbreviations

QSDP Quick Service Dining Plan
DDP Disney Dining Plan
DxDDP Deluxe Disney Dining Plan
TS Table Service
QS/CS Quick Service/Counter Service
ADRS Advance Dining Reservations
MDE My Disney Experience
OOP Out of Pocket


ADRs
You can make ADRs 180 days out and when staying onsite you can make the first 10 days ADRs 180 days from check in day. Then at 179 days you can do day 11, and so on. You need to link your resort reservation to your MDE account to do this online but you can phone Disney Dining on 0800 16 90 748 to make ADRs if you prefer. This can be done from 11am online but the phone lines don't open until 12pm. The online link is here.
When making an ADR Disney will ask for credit card details (a debit card will do). They won't charge you anything unless it's a meal that has to be paid in advance however if you don't show up and don't cancel they'll charge your card $10 per person. As long as you cancel the day before they won't charge you. It's useful to have a credit card linked to your MDE account before you start making ADRs to make this process easier. Since you also need a PIN while over there it helps to have set this up ahead of time too. This can also be done via MDE.
You only need ADRs for TS restaurants and Be Our Guest (CS at breakfast & lunch). If you want specific restaurants or specific times then it's best to book ADRs however if not you can use the website or app to check availability while there. I check regularly out of curiosity and find if I was there now (I wish!) Id always get something.
When making ADRs make your hard to get ones first and try and make them for later in the holiday. Be Our Guest for example is particularly difficult to get. Other restaurants it can be more the time you want thats hard to get. We like Tusker House & Crystal Palace breakfasts the first couple of days and like them as early as possible so I always put them near the top of the booking order.
Dont be disheartened if you dont get what you want first time round as people often change plans so keep checking.
If you're struggling choosing restaurants have a look at the dining reports. There are some excellent reports with great pictures. I've had loads of ideas from there and am now struggling to narrow it down!


Upgrading Dining Plans

You can upgrade any free dining plans to the next level by paying the difference in cost. So for example, upgrading two adults from QSDP to DDP costs 364 for 14 nights. From DDP to DxDDP is 896. (These are rough prices based on 2016.)
Current prices per person per night are:
Free breakfast to QSDP - Adult 17 Child 7
Free breakfast to DDP - Adult 30 Child 9
Free breakfast to DxDDP - Adult 62 Child 16
QSDP to DDP - Adult 13 Child 2
QSDP to DxDDP - Adult 45 Child 9
DDP to DxDDP - Adult 32 Child 7

Remember tips are expected on TS meals of between 18-20% so factor that in when considering upgrading.
You can also upgrade a child to adult dining plan by changing their ticket to an adult ticket. The cost difference is only the difference in the two theme park tickets which varies depending on the deal at the time. Remember though, if you've upgraded from QSDP to DDP you need to take that cost difference into account too. This isn't possible if you've booked flights with the same operator as dates of birth need to then be correct.
Kids can then eat from the adults or childrens menu and you can either use credits or pay OOP and save the credits. The only places you wont be able to do this is at buffet, family style or dinner shows. Basically anything thats all you can eat.
If you are considering upgrading from one dining plan to the next one up here's a link to a great site that helps calculate whether it's worth it http://www.distripplanner.com.

Paying for dining plans

Although they are offered free during the offer you can buy them if you choose. You still need to be staying in a Disney hotel and buying park tickets at the same time.

Current prices are:
QSDP - 28.99 for adults and 11.99 child
DDP - 41.99 for adults and 13.99 child
DxDDP - 73.99 for adults and 20.99 child


Maximising dining plans

Many meals are big enough for sharing. An individual pizza at Wolfgang Pucks Express plus a side of fries will easily do 2 people and many resort food courts will do you a large pizza for 2 CS credits that would do a family of four plus you'll get 2 drinks. You can then substitute the drinks for 2 snacks (fries for example) and use your refillable mugs for drinks.
This is also true of CS breakfasts and many people will split a breakfast and then split a lunch leaving snacks free for other things.
The dining plan doesnt differentiate between adult and child credit for QS meals only (or if you are on the deluxe plan or above).
You can get desserts to go at TS places if you think you'll eat them later.
If you use your refillable mugs at the hotel food court (you can use them at any hotel by the way not just where youre staying) when getting a CS meal you can then get a bottled drink for later.
At TS places you can often substitute dessert with a soup, side salad or fruit salad. Substituting for appetisers is not allowed. This is not offered at every TS location and they server will usually tell you. We were offered a small salad or lobster bisque at both The Yachtsman and Narcoossee's.
You can get iced water from any CS place free of charge. There are also water fountains scattered around. Last year we took a couple of collapsible cups and an Oasis squirty juice thing. We also used the cups to share drinks if we shared a CS meal.
The Disney hotels all have fridges so you can store milk and have breakfast cereal in your room if you want. It's also a great places to store all those "to go" desserts!

Here's a link to Papamouses thread on QSDP. It's a helpful take on the practicalities of using the plan.

Snack Credits
Snacks are now any "single serve" item regardless of price. You can also now get any size drink as long as it doesn't come in a souvenir mug. Youll see the DDP symbol next to anything thats a snack.

Heres a link to the snack credit list. This will now be out of date due to the changes mentioned above but gives you an idea. An updated thread can be found here for people to post what they've managed to get for a snack credit.
Snack credits can be used for anything from drinks to side orders that would do you for lunch such as chilli cheese fries or baked potatoes. Yak & Yeti at AK do chicken fried rice too as a snack. If you're in WDW for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival it's even better as there's loads of stalls with amazing food - even fillet steak for a snack credit! I'm hoping this won't change!
Many people will say drinks are a waste of a snack credit however you may find you dont have room for any extra food! We found as the trip went on last year we started using them for drinks.
If you have any left there are loads of options for buying stuff that you can take home. Goofys Candy Co., Ghirardellis and any sweet shop in the parks will have a variety of things.

Fantasmic Dining Package


The Fantasmic Dining Package gets you priority seating at Fantasmic if you eat at the following restaurants:

Hollywood & Vine (1 TS)
Mama Melrose (1 TS)
Brown Derby (2 TS)

You must book the Fantasmic Dining Package though and not just a normal reservation.

Planning ADRs

It's often asked how you go about planning your ADRs so I posted later in the thread about how we do it. I've copied it here for anyone who doesn't read the whole thread. This is just how we do it and won't suit everyone.

I always do a rough itinerary so I know which parks we'll do each day and which days will be rest days. From there I can pick which TS place we want to do on what day and for what meal. Character breakfast are usually planned for the first couple of mornings when the time difference means we're up early anyway. I don't tend to book an ADR on a Universal day so we don't need to rush back but might book a resort restaurant on a pool or shopping day. We don't often do full park days so where we eat in the evening is less relevant.
I choose times that we would eat at home. Breakfasts are usually as early as we can and preferably an hour before park opening. Lunch around 1pm and dinner 6-6.30pm but I tend to book earlier times at the start of the holiday until our body clocks adjust.
Choosing where is based on previous meals we've enjoyed as we've been before however we ate at a few new places I'd seen in dining reports last year and that's where I'd recommend starting if you're new to DDP. The link to that part of the forum is here.
It's quite easy to change ADRs while over there if your plans change so if something doesn't suit just give WDW dining a ring from your room phone.

Best Value
A lot of you ask which TS meals they should pay out of pocket for when they have too many, or even just want an idea of which restaurants are best value on DDP (especially when paying for DDP).
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Last edited by sha9; 11 Mar 17 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 25 Apr 15, 05:42 PM  
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This is a post I wrote on another thread, but think it might help on this thread too

To qualify for free dining you have to book both your Disney accommodation and park tickets at the same time, either direct with Disney or through an agent (the majority offer it and prices can vary, so it's god to get quotes).
The offer is:
Free breakfast at Value resorts (all of the All Star resorts, Pop Century and Art of Animation, but only in suites at AOA, not rooms)
Free quick service dining plan (QSDP) at moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter and Fort Wildreness Cabins)
Disney Dining plan (DDP at the deluxe resorts (any that I haven't already mentioned!)
In the past there has also been a gift card, but we haven't been told yet if there is one for this years offer.

There are some exclusion dates. The offer is valid for arrival dates between 01 Jan 2016 - 15 Mar 2016 and 03 April 2016 - 30 Nov 2016.

If you want to stay at a value or moderate but have the qsdp or ddp, then you can pay to upgrade the plans if you want to.

The Quick Service Dining Plan gives you 2 QS meals and 1 snack credit per person per night of your stay. The Disney Dining plan gives you 1 QS, 1TS and 1 snack credit per person per night that you stay. So for a 14 night holiday you would get 14 credits per person for each element. You also get a resort fillable mug to use.

The credits are loaded to your account altogether, so, for a group of 4 for 2 weeks, when you check in you'll have 112 QS credits and 56 snack credits on the QSDP or 56 QS, 56 TS and 56 snack credits on the DDP. All of the credits can be accessed from the magic bands, meaning that you only need 1 band to scan and 'pay' for a meal for all 4 of you - you don't have to scan each individual band. You set pin numbers for the bands which you have to enter each time you want to redeem a credit or charge a payment to your room. For the children we used their birth year as their pin number so if they wanted to go and get a snack, they could do so by scanning the band and entering their pin number - which they just loved! The children's bands don't have charging privileges so don't worry about them shopping with them!

Anyway, back to the dining plans! The credits can be used in any way that you please, in any order, in any quantity that you please any time between checking in and midnight on the day that you check out. The credits are completely flexible and if you don't use all of the daily allowance of credits you don't loose them, they just stay on your account until they expire at midnight on check out day. You could use them all on the very first day if you really wanted to and it wouldn't be a problem!

QS credits can be used at pretty much every QS place in the parks, water parks and resorts. You don't have to book - it's just turn up, order, take your food on a tray and find a table. Except for Wolfgang Puck Express at Marketplace where they bring your food to you and you get proper cutlery and crockery rather than plastic cutlery and paper plates. We had the QSDP on our first holiday and thought it was great. If you do a bit of research there are some great places to eat which offer a whole variety of food, so it's not just burgers and fries for 2 weeks. We would happily do it again. The other thing to know about QS meal credits is that the system doesn't differentiate between children's (age 9 and under) and adult credits, so you can order an adult meal for a child too. TBH, the children's menus at the QS places aren't great, so its really helpful to be able to do this. The only place that we couldn't was at Wolfgang Puck Express where they checked to see if there were any children in our party.

With the DDP plan you use your QS credits in exactly the same way and your TS credits at table service places which include character meals and shows. You really do need to prebook these, especially the popular ones, and can do so 180 days in advance. You get the added benefit of being able to book the first 10 days worth of meals at 180 days so don't have to call daily.. We've just had the DDP and it was lovely trying some of the places that we read about on here. With the TS places you do need to budget for tips which is 18-20% of what the bill would be if you were paying cash. What we found is that our server would ask if we were on the DDP, we would say yes and she would scan one of our bands. At the end of the meal they would bring us the bill showing what we ordered, the cost, the total and they 'helpfully' work out the 18 and 20% tip for you. We decided to charge this to our room, so would write in the gap how much we wanted to leave, tell them we wanted to charge it to our room and then they would take the bill away and process it, bring back paperwork to sign - one copy for them and 1 for us. Every few days we would go to the front desk to get a printout of our charges, check it and then pay it off, either in cash or using our $200 gift card.

Most TS meals are 1 credit, but there are some 2 credit meals - signature restaurants, Cinderella's Royal Table and the 2 shows; Hoop De Do and the Aloha one. We did both CRT and the Hoop De Doo and really enjoyed them both. One of the good things about these 2 is that the tip is included in the package, so no need to leave one - good job as CRT dinner would have cost us $250 if we were paying, so that's a hefty $50 tip!

For each meal you get an entre (main), dessert and drink. At breakfast you don't get the dessert and there's nothing to replace it. Buffets are eat what you want, so no need to worry about them.

It's a LOT of food! Even though it only looks like 2 meals and 1 snack per day, it is a lot of food as the portions are so big. We soon found that we didn't need to get a meal each, so we would share at breakfast and lunch, grab a snack if we were getting peckish and then have a main meal each in the evening. At the QS places the desserts on offer most often seem to be chocolate cake and carrot cake. Believe me, there is only so much of these that you can eat! They will let you substitute for a fruit bag or water though, so we did that most of the time. My advice is don't plan to spend any money on food as if you do, you'll probably find that you've wasted the money as you have credits left over at the end. On the QSDP we had something like 12 QS credits left at the end of the holiday and we didn't go hungry. I think it's easier to use them all on the DDP as half the credits are TS and you use them up very easily as there are so many great places to try, character meals etc. This time we decided that we didn't necessarily want to eat breakfast at the food court every morning, so we packed some of those small variety box cereals in the case, bought some milk from the SSR shop and had breakfast in our room on days that we wanted to be at the parks early.

This PDF form Disney explains a bit more and also shows you all the places you can eat using the plans:
QSDP:
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/me...ickService.pdf
DDP:
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/me...2015Dining.pdf
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Old 25 Apr 15, 05:45 PM  
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I totally agree with the OP comments regarding snack credits. We visited during F&W Festival in Nov 2012 & used our snack credits to try some of the dishes.

in addition, I would recommend never wasting snack credits on drinks. Buy the drinks & save the credits for actual snacks

I would highly recommend a surf on www.disneyfoodblog.com for great tips/pics & menu pricing etc.
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Old 25 Apr 15, 06:38 PM  
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Originally Posted by loves2plan View Post
This is a post I wrote on another thread, but think it might help on this thread too

To qualify for free dining you have to book both your Disney accommodation and park tickets at the same time, either direct with Disney or through an agent (the majority offer it and prices can vary, so it's god to get quotes).
The offer is:
Free breakfast at Value resorts (all of the All Star resorts, Pop Century and Art of Animation, but only in suites at AOA, not rooms)
Free quick service dining plan (QSDP) at moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter and Fort Wildreness Cabins)
Disney Dining plan (DDP at the deluxe resorts (any that I haven't already mentioned!)
In the past there has also been a gift card, but we haven't been told yet if there is one for this years offer.

There are some exclusion dates. The offer is valid for arrival dates between 01 Jan 2016 - 15 Mar 2016 and 03 April 2016 - 30 Nov 2016.

If you want to stay at a value or moderate but have the qsdp or ddp, then you can pay to upgrade the plans if you want to.

The Quick Service Dining Plan gives you 2 QS meals and 1 snack credit per person per night of your stay. The Disney Dining plan gives you 1 QS, 1TS and 1 snack credit per person per night that you stay. So for a 14 night holiday you would get 14 credits per person for each element. You also get a resort fillable mug to use.

The credits are loaded to your account altogether, so, for a group of 4 for 2 weeks, when you check in you'll have 112 QS credits and 56 snack credits on the QSDP or 56 QS, 56 TS and 56 snack credits on the DDP. All of the credits can be accessed from the magic bands, meaning that you only need 1 band to scan and 'pay' for a meal for all 4 of you - you don't have to scan each individual band. You set pin numbers for the bands which you have to enter each time you want to redeem a credit or charge a payment to your room. For the children we used their birth year as their pin number so if they wanted to go and get a snack, they could do so by scanning the band and entering their pin number - which they just loved! The children's bands don't have charging privileges so don't worry about them shopping with them!

Anyway, back to the dining plans! The credits can be used in any way that you please, in any order, in any quantity that you please any time between checking in and midnight on the day that you check out. The credits are completely flexible and if you don't use all of the daily allowance of credits you don't loose them, they just stay on your account until they expire at midnight on check out day. You could use them all on the very first day if you really wanted to and it wouldn't be a problem!

QS credits can be used at pretty much every QS place in the parks, water parks and resorts. You don't have to book - it's just turn up, order, take your food on a tray and find a table. Except for Wolfgang Puck Express at Marketplace where they bring your food to you and you get proper cutlery and crockery rather than plastic cutlery and paper plates. We had the QSDP on our first holiday and thought it was great. If you do a bit of research there are some great places to eat which offer a whole variety of food, so it's not just burgers and fries for 2 weeks. We would happily do it again. The other thing to know about QS meal credits is that the system doesn't differentiate between children's (age 9 and under) and adult credits, so you can order an adult meal for a child too. TBH, the children's menus at the QS places aren't great, so its really helpful to be able to do this. The only place that we couldn't was at Wolfgang Puck Express where they checked to see if there were any children in our party.

With the DDP plan you use your QS credits in exactly the same way and your TS credits at table service places which include character meals and shows. You really do need to prebook these, especially the popular ones, and can do so 180 days in advance. You get the added benefit of being able to book the first 10 days worth of meals at 180 days so don't have to call daily.. We've just had the DDP and it was lovely trying some of the places that we read about on here. With the TS places you do need to budget for tips which is 18-20% of what the bill would be if you were paying cash. What we found is that our server would ask if we were on the DDP, we would say yes and she would scan one of our bands. At the end of the meal they would bring us the bill showing what we ordered, the cost, the total and they 'helpfully' work out the 18 and 20% tip for you. We decided to charge this to our room, so would write in the gap how much we wanted to leave, tell them we wanted to charge it to our room and then they would take the bill away and process it, bring back paperwork to sign - one copy for them and 1 for us. Every few days we would go to the front desk to get a printout of our charges, check it and then pay it off, either in cash or using our $200 gift card.

Most TS meals are 1 credit, but there are some 2 credit meals - signature restaurants, Cinderella's Royal Table and the 2 shows; Hoop De Do and the Aloha one. We did both CRT and the Hoop De Doo and really enjoyed them both. One of the good things about these 2 is that the tip is included in the package, so no need to leave one - good job as CRT dinner would have cost us $250 if we were paying, so that's a hefty $50 tip!

For each meal you get an entre (main), dessert and drink. At breakfast you don't get the dessert and there's nothing to replace it. Buffets are eat what you want, so no need to worry about them.

It's a LOT of food! Even though it only looks like 2 meals and 1 snack per day, it is a lot of food as the portions are so big. We soon found that we didn't need to get a meal each, so we would share at breakfast and lunch, grab a snack if we were getting peckish and then have a main meal each in the evening. At the QS places the desserts on offer most often seem to be chocolate cake and carrot cake. Believe me, there is only so much of these that you can eat! They will let you substitute for a fruit bag or water though, so we did that most of the time. My advice is don't plan to spend any money on food as if you do, you'll probably find that you've wasted the money as you have credits left over at the end. On the QSDP we had something like 12 QS credits left at the end of the holiday and we didn't go hungry. I think it's easier to use them all on the DDP as half the credits are TS and you use them up very easily as there are so many great places to try, character meals etc. This time we decided that we didn't necessarily want to eat breakfast at the food court every morning, so we packed some of those small variety box cereals in the case, bought some milk from the SSR shop and had breakfast in our room on days that we wanted to be at the parks early.

This PDF form Disney explains a bit more and also shows you all the places you can eat using the plans:
https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/me...2015Dining.pdf
Thanks Vickie. I was counting on you to post this . If not I was going to have to try and find it and post a link!
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Old 25 Apr 15, 06:48 PM  
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Have a look at the dining reviews section on the dibb - great to see how real families have used DDP or Qsdp and pics of all the lovely food. Links in my signature to mine.
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Originally Posted by dixonsontour View Post
Have a look at the dining reviews section on the dibb - great to see how real families have used DDP or Qsdp and pics of all the lovely food. Links in my signature to mine.
Can highly recommend your trip reports - I've read them all
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Old 25 Apr 15, 07:12 PM  
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Originally Posted by hazel.searle View Post
Can highly recommend your trip reports - I've read them all
They are great. I often go back and reread them!
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Old 25 Apr 15, 07:33 PM  
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thanks so much for the tips

Is it possible to add practical advise about upgrading kid to adult DDP?
Can you pay OOP for few kids meals and keep some of the credits?
Can the child order from kids meal and pay with adult credit?

apart from shows, character meals, buffets - are there any other exclusions where everybody have to use dinning credit?

mine is really fussy, sometimes he would eat adult steak and supper happy to do so, other times refusing to eat anything at all.
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Top tip whether you are on dining plan or not, you don't need to buy water. counter service places, and stands with fizzy drink facilities will give you iced water for free (they are legally obliged to) if you ask. Even if you are not buying anything.

I hate seeing people using snack credits on bottles of water... there are so many much better uses!
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Old 25 Apr 15, 07:37 PM  
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Originally Posted by Mia_ View Post
thanks so much for the tips

Is it possible to add practical advise about upgrading kid to adult DDP?
Can you pay OOP for few kids meals and keep some of the credits?
Can the child order from kids meal and pay with adult credit?

apart from shows, character meals, buffets - are there any other exclusions where everybody have to use dinning credit?

mine is really fussy, sometimes he would eat adult steak and supper happy to do so, other times refusing to eat anything at all.
Basically unless it's a dinner show or an "all you can eat" like a buffet or family style you can pay OOP for menu items to save credits. Not sure about ordering from the kids menu with adult credits - I assume you can but someone will be along to confirm.
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