Of all the questions I get about Disney, I probably get the most about the Dining plan. I decided to do a Dining Plan example to help you understand better. This is a short example but I think it will help.
This example is for a family with 2 adults and 2 children ages 5 and 7. They are on the Disney dining plan and staying for 4 nights 5 days. This means they will have 16 tables, 16 counters, and 16 snacks. Here is how it plays out.
Check into resort and go straight to hotel counter service. They order 3 meals: Burger combo for Dad, Salad for mom, and chicken finger platter for the kids to share. They ask to come get their ice cream desserts after they are done eating lunch. They choose 3 bottled waters for their drinks (but save them to bring to the parks later) and use their free refillable mugs (2012 dining plan) for fountain drinks with their meal. They use 3 credits so their receipt says 16 table, 13 counter, 16 snacks. After lunch and some time in the pool they go back inside and get their 3 desserts (ice cream bars, cookie, bakery item etc.)
They have dinner reservations at a 1 credit restaurant and have a filling dinner together. They get a bill (but only have to pay the tip) and use 4 table credits.
End of day 1: 12 table service, 13 counters, 16 snacks remain
Mom goes and gets breakfast to bring back to the room. She brings the refillable mugs with her. She gets 2 breakfast platters with OJ, 2 bagels with cream cheese, and fills her mugs with coffee. She uses 2 counters and 2 snacks.
At the park they stop for lunch and get 3 entrees again. Mom and Dad each get one and the kids share an adult meal. They get 3 bottles of water for their drinks and ask for cups of ice water as well. They drink the water from the cup and take the bottled water with them. Later in the afternoon they each get an ice cream. Thankfully they have the bottled water from the day before and lunch so they don’t need to use snacks for water. They use 3 counters and 4 snacks.
They have reservations for dinner and enjoy a table service meal at the park. They use 4 table service
End of day 2: 8 table service, 8 counters, 10 snacks remain
They go light on breakfast and get 4 bagels and use their refillable mugs for coffee and drinks.
At lunch they get 3 counter meals, get bottled water for the drinks and ask for ice water as well. They get their desserts that come with the meal and eat them later.
Dinner is at another fun table service restaurant and the kids get the ice cream included with their meal for dessert.
End of Day 3: 4 table service, 5 counters, 6 snacks remain
Today they get 2 breakfast platters with bottled water and 1 bagel for breakfast. Don’t forget to fill the refillable mugs with coffee and juice and bring the bottle water to the park for later.
Lunch is 3 meals again, water bottles to go and ice water to stay. Later they each get an ice cream for 4 snacks.
Their final night is memorable as they use their last 4 table credits.
End of day 4: 0 table service, 0 counter, 1 snack
They are heading home today so they purchase their breakfast. Mom buys each of the kids a Mickey rice krispie treat (uses her last snack and buys the other one) She saves them and surprises the kids by putting them in their lunch their first day back at school.
This is just an example that uses the meal plan in various ways. You might keep it simple and use the counters for lunch, tables for dinner, and buy breakfast. You may use the counters for breakfast, use the snacks for lunch and buy a little, and use the tables for dinner. I hope this sample illustrates the flexibility of the meal plan.