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Can I use my Disney Dining Plan before checking in at the resort

by Julianne
(North Carolina )

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“Hey Dad. We have an upcoming trip planned for the week after Thanksgiving this year. November 26th through December 1st. We’re thinking of going down to Florida on Saturday the 25th and getting an off site hotel, and getting up early Sunday morning and hitting a park. My question is: Can we go to the park and have our dining plan work before checking in at our Disney Resort that evening? Or is it a must that we go to the Resort first, check in and then go to the park? Also, would online check in allow us to avoid going to the Resort first before going to the park?”

Sunshine Seasons is a great place to grab an early morning bite before checking in to your hotel

You might want to grab an early breakfast at Sunshine Seasons – Photo by Cliff

Julianne that’s a really good question. I’m sure this has come up with a lot of people, because when you’re there early in the morning, I love the idea of staying in an offsite hotel when you get in, in the evenings. Don’t pay these exorbitant prices that Disney charges for their hotels. Stay off site, stay cheap, we’ve actually stayed in a Motel 6 off site, and then come in the next morning.

Dad’s Disney Hotels page

As for the Disney Dining Plan, and tickets, well here’s how it works. You cannot use your Disney Dining Plan until you have checked into your hotel room. The same is kinda true for tickets if they are part of your package. There is a way that you can go to Guest Services at the parks and get them to activate your tickets before you check in, and even two or three days before you check in if you want to. But, as for the Dining Plan, no you can’t do it till you check into the hotel.

Yes, online check in counts. So, go ahead and do the online check in. Everybody ought to do the online check in. Even if you want to go to the front desk and check in you should do the online check in. This is one of the reasons why. It activates that morning, like 4:00 in the morning it activates your Disney Dining Plan and your tickets.

So, do the online check in if you want to go to the parks before you go to the hotel. That works. If you don’t do the online check in you can actually pay for a meal, take the receipt and go to the front desk at your hotel, can’t do this at the restaurant, you have to go to the concierge service in the hotel and they can refund you the money and apply your dining plan credits. But, just do the online check in that way, boop, box is checked and you can do it. All good.

Destinations to Travel

Dad’s Bottom Line

Bottom line is, you must be checked into your Walt Disney World hotel for the Disney Dining Plan to become active but if you do online check in that counts.


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Comments for

Aug 05, 2019 Pride Endorser
by: Anonymous

We also do the first night in a different hotel trick, w/ local options around $100 that include breakfast, to get an early start to the parks.

We’ve never encountered problems using the tickets, food plan and PINs with our package that first morning before we check-in to our WDW resort, but we do always use the online check-in days (sometimes weeks) before arriving in Florida.

I hope our luck never runs out 😛

Oct 06, 2017 Dining Plan Not activated !
by: PracticalDisMom

Need to let readers know that we just came back from a stay at Art of Animation and found that even with our Online Check-in , they did not have our room ready upon arrival. We arrived a few hours early of official check in and had requested one of the family suites. They told us we could go to the Food Court and begin our Dining Plan but then once we got there with Refill cups ready to activate , the cashier said we were not in the system yet !

Since we were physically standing there , all it took to correct was a manager to override the system but if you are looking to walk into any of the parks straight from an off site hotel you may encounter the same hassle. Also after 12 hours of our “over ride” status still in the computer we got to Magic Kingdom the next day and suddenly our Magic Bands pin number would not work again. Was able to clear this up back at our resort but was a huge embarressment while standing in line looking forward to our fist Dole Whip with others waiting behind us !

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