Last week, we covered the basics of Universal Orlando’s Quick Service Dining Plan. As a quick recap, for $25.99, the Quick Service Dining plan provides one entrée plus qualifying beverage, a snack credit, and another qualifying beverage. This can be a great deal, but the key question everyone asks is “Will I save money?”
I know this sounds obvious but the Quick Service Dining plan is only useful if you would normally be buying the items in question. If you normally do not eat big meals with dessert at theme parks, then the Quick Service Dining plan may not be for you. Personally, I try to always have at least one Quick Service Dining card with me at Universal. Anytime I find myself wanting a snack or entrée that is in the higher price range then I use my Quick Service Dining credit for that. Remember, these credits do not expire, and so you do not have to use them all in a single day.
To maximize the value of a Quick Service Dining plan, you will need a tentative idea of what you plan to eat. For example, if you are planning to enjoy pizza tots at Green Eggs & Ham for $9.99 as an entrée then the Quick Service Dining plan is a poor value. Now if you plan to enjoy more expensive entrées like chicken or ribs at Thunder Falls Terrace or The Clogger Burger at Krusty Burger, then the Quick Service Dining plan may help your budget.
If you are the type of person that enjoys getting dessert with your meal, then the Quick Service Dining plan will help. Universal loves to upcharge guests with “combos.” With dining plan, the combo is no extra expense for you. If you can find a way to split that one meal of an entrée, a side, and the dessert that comes with the combo between two people, then you are coming out ahead instead of paying cash for two meals.
Once you have purchased an entrée with qualifying beverage portion from your Quick Service Dining plan card, you still have 2 credits remaining. Officially, you are entitled to a snack credit and a qualifying beverage credit. As discussed in our previous blog post, your receipt will tell you what credits you actually have remaining. If it says 2 snack/bev credits remaining, then you can get two snacks if desired, which is a great value because snacks cost more than qualifying beverages.
Even with snacks, some uses of snack credits are better than others. There are low-value snacks, like popcorn, and there are high-value snacks, like pizza-stuffed pretzels. If you choose wisely with a snack, you could basically have another meal for your money. Best suggestions for use of snack credit are the Big Pink donut, ice cream, specialty churros, and empanadas or papa rellenas from Natural Selections. These snacks will run you at least $6 each if you paid cash but are one snack credit on the plan.
In general, working out the numbers can give you an idea of how well you are doing. If you got the Ribs combo at Thunder Falls Terrace with qualifying beverage that would be $25 paid out of pocket. As you can see, you have almost paid for the plan with one meal. If you get another soft drink later ($4) and an empanada ($6) then your total is $35, well more than the $25.99 you spent for the plan.
Now Harry Potter fans, pay attention! You should have noticed that I keep saying “qualifying” beverage. The drinks in the Wizarding World do not count as qualifying beverages when purchased separately. You can get a small size Wizarding World beverage with an entrée purchase at Leaky Cauldron or Three Broomsticks with your Quick Service Dining plan, but it cannot be Butterbeer. The way to get a Butterbeer as beverage with your Quick Service Dining plan is breakfast, which is poor value for your plan.
There is more positive Harry Potter news though. Butterbeer is a snack credit and one of the best value by far at $8. Many Universal guests who are major Butterbeer fans insist the Quick Service Dining plan is great for this reason alone.
You will need to work out the numbers for yourself since mileage will vary. Other factors to consider when thinking of value include whether you drink a lot of soda–if so, a Coke Freestyle upgrade cup may be worth it. Are you planning to buy expensive entrees? Are you a fan of Butterbeer? Will you be visiting Universal Orlando again and can save some credits for another trip? Do you like having everything prepaid for your vacation so you don’t have to worry about money at that moment? (A better option may be to buy gift cards, however.) Do you like mobile ordering? (Remember, you can’t use the Quick Service Dining plan with mobile order!) Crunch the numbers and see if it will save you money at each quick service location you plan to visit.
In the end, you are your own best judge of this plan’s value. Have fun and remember sometimes half the fun is the food!
Are you a fan of Universal’s Quick Service Dining plan? Let us know in the comments what your tips are for getting the best value out of it.
Jon Self is an avid theme park fan who has the high privilege to serve as a pastor at an American Baptist Church (fbcmacomb.com) while also trying to find the proper life path with his loving spouse, a bigger theme park fan than Jon. You can follow him at @pastorjonself on Twitter and read more of his writings at faithelement.net.