Welcome to the OI guide to Universal Orlando Resort’s Dining Plans, which includes a detailed overview of the three types of dining plans, along with our best tips and tricks for making yours work for you.
What are the options when buying a Universal Dining Plan?
Accepted at over 100 locations throughout Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and CityWalk, the Universal Dining Plans allow guests to pre-purchase dining credits for use during their visit.
The first option is simply called the Universal Dining Plan (or UDP for short), which includes one full-service meal (entree, dessert, and one non-alcoholic beverage), one quick-service meal (entree and non-alcoholic beverage), one snack, and one additional non-alcoholic beverage. This plan can only be purchased by those who have booked a Universal vacation package and is not available to day guests or those staying in off-site hotels.
The second possibility is the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service (UDP-QS), which is available to all guests visiting the theme parks (not just those staying at a Universal hotel), and includes one quick-service meal (entree and one non-alcoholic beverage), a snack, and one additional non-alcoholic beverage.
Finally, Universal offers a Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service + Coca-cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup upgrade, which contains all the offerings of the UDP-QS, plus unlimited refills of your souvenir Freestyle cup for each day you have purchased the plan. If you happen to have an American Express card, you can get 10% off your purchase of the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service + Coca-cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup when you pay with your Amex.
How do I purchase a dining plan?
The Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service is available to pre-purchase online at the Universal website, or, once you’re in Orlando, at a couple of further places: dining reservation carts located in all three parks and CityWalk, at any participating quick-service location in the parks, or at the Ticket Center Desk at any Universal hotel.
The full-service Universal Dining Plan can only be purchased in advance, either when you book a vacation package online or through your travel agent.
How much do the plans cost?
The Universal Dining Plan (full service) can no longer be purchased separately; as noted just a second ago, it’s only available as part of a vacation package. (Please note that children must order their meals from the kids’ menu at participating locations.)
The Quick Service Dining Plan is $25.99 (plus tax) per adult, per day, and $17.99 (plus tax), per child, per day for those aged three through nine. As with the full-service variety, children must order their meals from the kids’ menu at participating locations.
Adding a Coca-Cola Freestyle souvenir cup to your quick-service plan will bump the price by $9.00, to $29.99 (plus tax) per adult, per day and $21.99 for kids. (For the full download on Freestyle cups, visit our insider’s guide.)
(While we do our best to keep our information up-to-date and accurate, please be aware that these prices can change at any time, and it’s always good to consult Universal’s dining plan page to get the latest pricing.)
Where can I use the Dining Plan?
The UDP-QS can be used at virtually every quick-service restaurant and food and beverage kiosk inside Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. In addition, select locations at CityWalk also accept UDP-QS credits, including Bread Box and Hot Dog Hall of Fame for meals, while Auntie Anne’s, Cold Stone Creamery, Hub Cart, and Cinnabon offer snacks.
All full-service restaurants in the parks accept the UDP, with some restaurants in CityWalk also participating. The most up-to-date list can be found here.
How do I redeem my dining credits?
If you purchase your plan online, you will have to take your confirmation email to a ticket location to get your dining plan ticket. Next, you will present your ticket to the dining reservation carts located in all three parks and CityWalk, at any participating quick-service location in the parks, or at Universal Guest Services. Each guest on the dining plan is then provided with a plastic dining card, similar to a credit card, which you must present to a cashier upon check-out.
How do I know if a menu item is eligible for the dining plan?
To determine which selections can be ordered at any location, simply look for the “UD” symbol. Here, you see that the pizza combo and slices can be ordered as a quick-service credit:
However, some in-park locations don’t show the dining plan on the menus at all, such as Leaky Cauldron at Universal Studios and Three Broomsticks over at Islands of Adventure. Despite the signs, they do have dining plan items, so it’s always a good idea to ask when you’re ordering.
Is there anywhere that I can’t use the Dining Plan?
The UDP-QS cannot be used for any items at Universal’s full-service restaurants, nor can it be upgraded to include full-service meals. In addition, none of the dining plans are accepted at any of the Universal Orlando hotels’ various venues, and you can’t use the dining plans with mobile ordering.
For the current list, be sure to refer to Universal’s dining plan website.
Can I bring my own food into the parks?
This is a good time to quickly discuss a question that many guests have: “Can I just bring my own food to Universal Orlando to save money?”
Universal says that you cannot bring “picnic food” into the parks, implying that only the lightest of snacks are allowed through security. If you stick to the rules, you’re unlikely to face much scrutiny with basic food items – we’ve seen a lot of sandwiches and bags of chips come out of backpacks. Universal’s list of acceptable foods includes bottled water, small snacks, any food required for medical purposes or special dietary needs, and baby food and formula.
Whatever you do, definitely don’t bring in hard-sided coolers, soft-sided coolers that are much larger than a lunchbox size, glass containers, alcohol, or any food that needs to be heated.
How can I save money with the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service?
Because this plan is available to all guests, let’s first review the UDP-QS. This is the crucial info you’ll need to decide if a dining plan is right for you.
In a basic sense, the dining plan is only worth buying if the cost of the items you would order a la carte are equal to, or more than, the cost you pay up front for the plan. Remember, with the quick-service plan, guests receive one of each of the following items from participating locations:
- One quick-service meal (entree and non-alcoholic beverage)
- One snack
- One additional non-alcoholic beverage
Is the UDP-QS worth it at Universal Studios Florida?
Let’s look at three examples of how you might use the UDP-QS (which, again, comes in at a price of $23.99 per adult, per day) during a day at Universal Studios Florida.
(Please note that all the prices on this page exclude tax and are subject to change. Furthermore, tips are not included, and no substitutions are allowed. Finally, although the below pricing is from a previous year, the examples it provides still stand.)
- Meal: Perilous Pair Combo at Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe – $19.79
- Drink with meal: Lavender Elixir at Monsters Cafe – $5.29
- Snack: Hand-Scooped Ice Cream Cone from Schwab’s Pharmacy – $6.99
- Additional drink: Powerade – $5.00
Total: $37.07, so we saved $13.08.
- Meal: Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken Combo from Louie’s Italian Restaurant – $10.99
- Drink with meal: coffee or hot chocolate – $3.29
- Snack: soft pretzel – $4.49
- Additional drink: regular soda – $3.29
Total: $22.06, so we lost $1.93.
- Meal: Traditional Salad at Today Cafe – $9.49
- Drink with meal: hot tea – $3.29
- Snack: chips (Lay’s Classic or Sun Chip) – $2.99
- Additional drink: Nestle bottled water – $2.99
Total: $18.76, so we lost $5.23.
Here’s what we can deduce from these examples: to save a decent amount of money using the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service, you’ll need to find entrees over $15.00 and snacks over $4.00. Most quick-service meal locations have at least one item over $14.00, with more coming in at the $10.00 to $12.99 range – meaning that, without careful planning, you could lose money with this option. Vegetarians may notice a dispiriting pattern, insomuch as the more meat you eat, the more you will “save” with the dining plan; on the other hand, if you are an omnivore with expensive tastes, this could be a great choice for you.
If you decide to take on the dining plan challenge, you’ll find the most expensive entrees at Universal Studios’ Classic Monsters Cafe:
- Perilous Pair Combo – $19.79
- Invisible Man Combo – $19.29
And at Simpsons Fast Food Blvd:
- Clogger Burger Combo – $18.99
- Sideshow Bob Foot-long Combo – $16.49
- The Ribwich Combo – $16.49
- Ribwich Platter – $12.99
Is the UDP-QS worth it at Islands of Adventure?
Again, let’s look at three examples of the UDP-QS during a day at the park:
- Meal: Fish and Chips from Three Broomsticks – $15.99
- Drink with meal: Pumpkin Juice – $4.99
- Snack: regular popcorn – $4.79
- Additional drink: Powerade – $5.00
Total: $30.77, so we saved $6.78.
- Meal: Famous Dagwood Sandwich Combo from Blondie’s – $13.49
- Drink with meal: fountain soda – $3.99
- Snack: Frozen Butterbeer (yes, it’s a snack) – $7.99
- Additional drink: Minute Maid Orange Juice – $2.39
Total: $27.86, so we saved $3.87.
- Meal: Vegan Salad from Captain America Diner – $11.49
- Drink with meal: H20+ Premium Water – $5.00
- Snack: Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookie – $2.99
- Additional drink: Bottled Water at Auntie Anne’s – $3.50
Total: $22.98, so we lost $1.01.
As we see in these examples, getting the greatest value out of the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service is the same story at Islands of Adventure as it is at Universal Studios Florida – to really save money, you need to find the most expensive entrees.
At Islands of Adventure, you’ll find the most expensive options at Thunder Falls Terrace:
- Chargrilled Ribs Combo – $20.49
- Chicken & Ribs Combo – $19.49
- Smoked Turkey Leg Combo – $18.49
And at The Burger Digs:
- BBQ Burger Combo – $18.99
- Bacon Cheeseburger Combo – $16.49
- BBQ Burger Platter – $15.49
Is the UDP-QS worth it at Volcano Bay?
Let’s check out some typical scenarios for meals and snacks at Volcano Bay. Food and drink locations at the water theme park only offer quick-service, so don’t plan to use any full-service credits here. As with the other two parks, there are savings to be had if you study the menus and use your dining credits for any item above a certain price point.
- Meal: Waturi Mahi Sandwich Combo at Bambu – $19.49
- Drink with meal: fountain soda – $3.69
- Snack: Waturi Beach Blend Ice Cream in a waffle cone at Koka Poroka – $6.49
- Additional drink: Smartwater – $4.75
Total: $34.42, so we saved $10.43.
- Meal: Poke Poke Bowl at The Feasting Frog – $12.99
- Drink with meal: bottled beverage – $2.39
- Snack: churro with chocolate sauce – $5.99
- Additional drink: Icee – $4.50
Total: $25.87, so we saved $1.88.
- Meal: Tropical Baby Greens Salad at Kohola Reef – $9.49
- Drink with meal: coffee or hot tea – $3.29
- Snack: Tapioca Guava Pudding at Kohola Reef – $4.49
- Additional drink: fountain soda – $3.29
Total: $20.56, so we lost $3.43.
At Volcano Bay, you’ll find the best bang for your buck at Bambu:
- Waturi Mahi Sandwich Combo – $19.49
- Belly Burger Combo – $18.99
- Quinoa Edamame Burger Combo – $17.49
Is the UDP-QS worth it at CityWalk?
Some dining locations at CityWalk accept the quick-service dining plan (but, as a reminder, the Universal hotel food locations do not). Currently, only Hot Dog Hall of Fame and Bread Box offer eligible quick-service meals, but there are several snack locations. Here are some scenarios specifically in CityWalk:
- Meal: Hot Turkey Platter at Bread Box – $11.99
- Drink with meal: bottled water – $5.00
- Snack: “Like It”-sized sundae at Cold Stone Creamery – $5.89
- Additional drink: Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade (Venti-sized) at Starbucks – $4.49
Total: $27.37, so we saved $3.38.
- Meal: Chicago Platter at Hot Dog Hall of Fame – $9.99
- Drink with meal: fountain beverage – $3.99
- Snack: Cinnabon Classic at Cinnabon – $4.29
- Additional drink: Cinnabon Flavored Iced Coffee (16 ounces) – $2.99
Total: $21.26, so we lost $2.73.
- Meal: Veggie Dog Platter at Hot Dog Hall of Fame – $8.99
- Drink with meal: Minute Maid Apple Juice – $2.39
- Snack: Classic MiniBon at Cinnabon – $3.29
- Additional drink: Full Leaf Brewed Tea (tall-sized) at Starbucks – $2.49
Total: $17.16, so we lost $6.83.
Does Orlando Informer recommend the UDP-QS?
You’ve seen the numbers, so you know that money can either be saved or lost using the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service. But, ultimately, do we recommend that you purchase the program?
Our answer is yes if you think the most expensive options we’ve listed above sound delicious and you make sure you select one of them as your meal. If you also ensure your snacks are close to or over $5.00, and your beverages are $3.00 or more, you’ll likely save money. If you find yourself at a quick-service counter ordering one of the priciest combos on the menu, consider telling the team member that you want to buy and use the dining plan – then you’ll know for sure that you’re on your way to some savings. Finally, your credits won’t expire that day, so you can save your card to use over the next few days, when you are purchasing a more expensive snack or drink.
Our answer is also yes if you are interested in pre-purchasing dining credits so you don’t have to worry about that part of your budget while at the parks. You may end up losing a little money if you don’t make your menu selections carefully, but, for some folks, that is a fair trade for not having to keep a running tally of what everyone is buying. This also works well if you have teens who want some time to explore on their own, but you don’t want to hand over cash for meals and snacks.
However, our answer is no if you think the most expensive options listed above are not appealing or you have vegan or vegetarian dietary requirements. Healthier items like sandwiches and salads tend to cost less, so if you’re interested in eating healthy, it will be tougher to get your money’s worth with the UDP-QS.
Finally, our answer is no if you just don’t want to plan your snacking and dining ahead of time; for some guests, the hot and humid weather in Florida can make heavy meals unappealing, and other guests may prefer to snack as they go along. If you prefer the idea of buying what you want to buy when you want to buy it, without worrying whether you’re saving or losing money, then this plan is not for you. Chances are, if you don’t seek out the most expensive options as we’ve described, you’ll lose money with the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service.
Our final tip for those who are curious about the dining plan is to try it out for a day. The price per day is the same, no matter how many days you purchase, so it’s pretty simple to purchase a day of dining online or at your hotel, and then add on more if you find it works well for your family. Dining plans are non-refundable, so it’s much better to try a day before going all-in.
Can I use my dining plan at Halloween Horror Nights?
Beginning in 2015, Universal extended the two quick-service options to Halloween Horror Nights. You can find more info in our complete guide to HHN tickets, Express Passes, and RIP Tours.
Should I upgrade to the Freestyle quick-service dining plan?
As previously outlined, the Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service + Coca-cola Freestyle Souvenir Cup will cost you $29.99, up $6.00 from the regular, old-fashioned Universal Dining Plan – Quick Service. At first glance, this is a good deal, especially if you are already interested in the Freestyle program, as the cup alone (with unlimited refills) will cost you $15.99 (plus tax) up front for the first day, and then $8.99 (plus tax) each day you reactivate your cup – essentially, you are getting the cup for free and paying $6.00 for each day of unlimited refills.
However, you must add in the cost of the additional beverage originally included with the dining plan (around $3.00), and, if you are only ordering soda at meals, you might add on that value, too. That’s money that you’ll need to make up by ordering pricier meals and snacks, or getting extra refills. Is your head spinning yet? Ours is, too!
To simplify: you will get a good value out of this plan if you order the priciest foods, get a water or Powerade with your meals, and refill your Freestyle cup four or more times each day. (See? That wasn’t so bad!)
What about the Universal Dining Plan (full-service)?
Just to review the basics – the Universal Dining Plan (UDP) is available as an add-on to any vacation package booked through Universal or an authorized third-party seller, like a Universal travel agent. The cost of the Universal Dining Plan is $63.89 (including tax) per adult, per day, and $24.48 (including tax) per child (ages three to nine), per day. Gratuities are not included, and kids (ages thee to nine) must order off the kids’ menu.
For the latest info on dining locations, always check Universal’s website.
Can I use my full-service credits for character dining?
Full service credits may not be used for character dining experiences such as:
- Despicable Me Character Breakfast
- Marvel Character Dinner
- Scareactor Dining at Halloween Horror Nights
- The Grinch & Friends Character Breakfast
Is the Universal Dining Plan (full-service) worth it?
The very first thing to consider when answering this question is whether or not you would like to eat full-service meals during your visit – and, if so, do the full-service restaurants you’re interested in accept the program? (Again, none of the food service venues at Universal’s hotels participate.)
If the UDP still sounds like a possibility, then it’s time to consider the benefits. First, as we explained with the UDP-QS, this plan provides you with a way to prepay for your dining, so that will be one less budget item to worry about while you’re traveling. Then it comes down to a matter of pricing.
If you follow the advice from our UPD-QS section above, you’ll be able to use about $20.00 to $30.00 of your dining plan’s value on a quick-service meal, a snack, and one additional beverage. That leaves around $30.00 to $40.00 for your full-service credit, which covers an entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and a dessert. $35.00 is a good “average” price for purchasing these three items a la carte at Universal’s full-service restaurants – this means, if you choose wisely, you can definitely save some money with the UPD. On the other hand, if you’re not paying attention, you’re just as likely to lose money.
Here are some of the best values for entrees currently to be had with the full-service meals:
Universal Studios Florida
Islands of Adventure
Can I use two full-service credits on the same day?
Should you decide to purchase the UDP, you do not need to use all your credits on a daily basis – you can actually spread them out over the course of your stay. You’ll find this useful if, for example, you’d like to have lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (which requires a full-service credit) and, on the same day, have dinner at Mythos in Islands of Adventure (which also requires a full-service credit). Then, the next day, you could use two quick-service credits for meals at Universal’s quick-service locations.
Do I need to make reservations for the full-service restaurants?
To avoid either a wait or being turned away, we always recommend that you make reservations in advance for the full-service restaurants. Universal typically opens reservations a month in advance, and you can reserve a table by calling the company or booking online.
What if I can get free dining as part of a Universal vacation package?
Like Disney’s free dining, this is a promotion that Universal periodically offers. If you’re considering it, just keep in mind that, like Disney, Universal may just be hiding the price of the dining plan in the hotel room rate (or another portion of the vacation package). So it’s always best to get a price quote for the exact same package, with and without the “free” dining – then you’ll see what you’re really paying for.
How could we possibly talk about all the different restaurants and dining options at Universal’s theme parks without showing you some photos of the food? We can’t, so please enjoy these images (that are in no particular order):
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