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Is the Disney Dining Plan Right for Me?

Is the Disney Dining Plan Right for you?

Cinderella's Royal Table - signature dining

In this post, I’ll answer all of the questions you may have about the Disney World Dining plans and how they work so you can decide if it’s right for you.    The number one question I am asked about the dining plan is “Is it worth it?”  The answer is not so cut and dry but if you play your cards right you can at the very least break even on the dining plan and if thought out can save some money.  Let’s take a look.

What is the Dining Plan at Disney World?

To keep it simple think of the dining plans at Disney World as a way to prepay for meals and have their stay feel more like an all-inclusive vacation.

While it’s not truly all-inclusive when you purchase one of Disney’s three dining plans it does give you, the guest:

  • The opportunity to prepay for most of your food and drinks
  • The freedom to enjoy eating at Disney World and not having to keep up with a budget.

I call it the “yes” plan.

Who Can Purchase the Dining Plan?

  • Guests staying on property at a Disney World owned and operated resorts are eligible to purchase one of the three dining plans.
  • Good Neighbor Hotels are NOT eligible to purchase a dining plan.
  • Guests staying at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin can NOT purchase one of the three dining plans.

Why should I purchase a Dining Plan?

Most everyone loves an all-inclusive vacation.  There is something to be said for arriving on vacation and not having to worry about budget or spending just $20 more for the filet instead of the pork chop.  With the Disney dining plan, you can have this freedom.

Guests often purchase the dining plan for a few reasons:

  • To prepay for food/drinks before vacation
  • To feel more like an all-inclusive
  • Easier budgeting upfront
  • To potentially save money
  • Free Dining Promotion

Free Dining Promotions

A few times a year Disney offers a “Free Dining” promotion.  And it gets a lot of hype!  But I don’t often find that the hype is all it’s cracked up to be.

This popular promotion is typically good for periods of time when Disney World has low attendance.  You won’t find a Free Dining promotion during holidays or when the kids are out of school.

The Free Dining promotion has a limited number of rooms and resort options available and can be frustrating for some.  For example, the Little Mermaid Room at Art of Animation is never offered as an option during a free dining promotion.  This could change at any time but this has been my experience in the past.

In my experience, the Free Dining promotion isn’t always a better value than a room promotion and the two can’t be combined.  If you’re a number cruncher, you’ll want to compare the two options to see what is the most cost-effective.

Which Dining Plan is right for me? 

Disney World offers 3 dining plans to choose from and theoretically, there is one that fits all guest’s wants and needs.

  • Quick Service Dining Plan
  • Disney Dining Plan
  • Deluxe Dining Plan

Before we go any further, you’ll need to know and understand these few terms.

  • Quick-Service – These are counter service restaurants at Disney World where you walk up to a counter or register and order your food.  Then you’ll find a table nearby to eat.  Think fast food.
  • Table-Service – Restaurants at Disney World that have a wait staff.  Reservations are highly recommended and can be made 180 days prior to arrival.  It is very rare that you can be seated at a Table Service restaurant without a reservation.
  • Snack – These are as they sound but more.  Snacks at Disney World include items you’d consider to be snacks like popcorn, ice cream bars, and cupcakes but they also include non-alcoholic beverages – Starbucks coffee, milkshakes, breakfast sandwiches and so much more.
  • Credit – This is the term used to talk about how many of something you have.  A credit is equal to one meal voucher or coupon for each type of service.  Example: 1 snack credit = a voucher to use for one ice cream sandwich (or the one snack you choose)

Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan Details

The Quick-Service dining plan provides guests with the following for each person on the reservation, per NIGHT of stay:

  • 2 Quick-Service dining credits
  • 2 Snack credits
  • 1 refillable mug to be used at your resort only.

For Example:  If you have a 3 night/4 day stay, each person on the Quick Service Dining Plan would receive a total of 6 Quick Service credits and 6 Snack credits to be used over the duration of their Disney World vacation.

  • All credits expire at midnight on the night of checkout.
  • Any unused dining credits will be forfeited and no refunds will be given.

Disney’s Dining Plan

Disney’s Dining Plan is the middle of the 3 dining plans, and most popular among guests.  It has a mix of both Quick Service and Table Service credit options.

Guests who purchase the Disney Dining Plan will receive the following for each person on the reservation, per NIGHT of stay:

  • 1 Table Service credit
  • 1 Quick Service credit
  • 2 Snack credits
  • 1 refillable mug to be used at your resort only.

For Example:  If you have a 3 night/4 day stay, each person on the Disney Dining Plan would receive a total of 3 Table Service credits, 3 Quick Service credits and 6 Snack credits to be used over the duration of their Disney World vacation.

  • All credits expire at midnight on the night of checkout.
  • Any unused dining credits will be forfeited and no refunds will be given.

Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides guests with Dining Credits that are not split between Quick Service and Table Service credits.  The Dining Credits can be used at both Quick Service and Table Service locations interchangeably.

Guests who purchase the Disney Dining Plan will receive the following for each person on the reservation, per NIGHT of stay:

  • 3 meal credits – interchangeable between both Quick Service and Table Service restaurants
  • 2 snack credits
  • 1 refillable mug to be used at your resort only.

Guests on the deluxe dining plan also have the option to order in-room dining (aka room service) for 2 dining credits per person, gratuity included.  I don’t think this is a great use of credits in terms of value, but it is a convenient option when you’re tired and just want to eat in your room.

For Example:  If you have a 3 night/4 day stay, each person on the Deluxe Dining Plan would receive a total of 9 Meal credits and 6 Snack credits to be used over the duration of their Disney World vacation.

  • All credits expire at midnight on the night of checkout.
  • Any unused dining credits will be forfeited and no refunds will be given.

How to add on the Dining Plan to Your Disney World Vacation Package

When you book your Disney World Vacation Package (room plus tickets) you can add the desired dining plan to your package.  The full cost of the dining plan is due on the final payment date.

  • You can add the dining plan at the time of booking.
  • You can add the dining plan anytime up until 3 days prior to arrival.

Guests are also able to add one a dining plan to a room only reservation.  These are called ticketless packages and are for guests who have annual passes or do not need tickets for one reason or another.

To book a ticketless package you must call Disney or have your travel agent create the ticketless package.

How does the Dining Plan Work?

When Can I Use My Dining Credits at Disney World

Upon arrival at Disney World:

  • All of your dining credits will be added into one account, accessed via your My Disney Experience, for all of the guests on the room reservation.
  • Dining Credits are available on your arrival day.  You must be checked in, either via your My Disney Experience account or at the resort lobby to have your dining plan activated.
  • Credits are good until midnight on the day you check out and can be used at any time during your stay.
  • Credits are not specific to one person, rather are good for the entire group.
  • As of January 1, 2020 dining credits are specific to adults and children.  (ie. kids dining credits can only be used to purchase kids meals)

How to pay with your Dining Credits

When you are ready to pay for your desired meal/snack choice you will be asked to “tap your Magic Band” on the band readers to pay.

The number of dining credits, and type of credit needed, is deducted from the allotment of credits available.

It’s always best to check your receipt each time you pay to ensure you were charged correctly.  Mistakes do happen and can be fixed either by letting the Cast Member who helped you know or by visiting Guest Services.

How to Check Your Dining Credit Balance

Guests are able to see their remaining credit balance on the bottom of their most recent receipt or on their My Disney Experience app.

To view the balance on your My Disney Experience app click:

  • Resort Hotel Reservation (from the main screen) or via the “My Plans” screen
  • Check Dining Plan

You will be able to view how many dining credits were issued, how many were used, the remaining balance and transaction history.

Where Can I Use My Dining Credits

Dining credits can be used at *most* locations in Walt Disney World including Disney owned and operated resorts.  It’s easier to tell you where you CAN NOT use your dining credits rather than list the endless dining options here.

2020 Disney World Restaurants that are NOT included on the Disney World Dining Plans:

  • Capa – 4 Seasons Resort
  • Il Mulino, Swan Hotel
  • Shula’s Steak House, Dolphin Hotel
  • STK – Disney Springs
  • Todd English bluezoo, Dolphin Hotel
  • Victoria and Albert’s, Grand Floridian Resort
  • Wanyama Safari, Animal Kingdom

*Subject to change.  Please check your My Disney Experience account prior to arriving to make sure your reservation is included in the dining plan.

How Many Dining Credits does a Snack or Meal Cost?

Most meals at Disney World cost one credit.  Snacks are one snack credit each, quick service meals are one quick service credit each and most table service restaurants are one table service credit each, with the exception of a few restaurants that cost two table service credits each.  Disney denotes these restaurants by calling them “Signature Dining” or “Dinner Shows”.

Dinner Shows – 2 Table Service Dining Credits per person

  • Hoop de Doo Musical Review, category 2 or 3 seating, Disney’s Ft. Wilderness, gratuity included (dinner show)
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, category 2 or 3 seating, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, gratuity included (dinner show)

Signature Dining Locations

Signature dining locations have a more expensive menu and therefore would cost more out of pocket to eat here than Disney’s other Table Service locations.  To cover the cost, 2 Table Service credits per person are charged to eat at these locations.

Also to note, Signature Dining does not mean they aren’t kid-friendly.  Kids are welcome at the majority of Disney World restaurants with a few exceptions.  One of Walt’s greatest desires was to build a place that families could enjoy together and this is reflected in all areas of Disney World.

  • Artist’s point, Wilderness Lodge (dinner)
  • Boat House, Disney Springs (lunch,dinner)
  • California Grill, one of my favs! Disney’s Contemporary Resort (dinner)
  • Cinderellas Royal Table, Magic Kingdom, gratuity included in the cost (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • Citricos, Grand Floridian (dinner)  – Note:  Citrico’s Chefs Domain experience does not accept dining credits.
  • Flying Fish, Boardwalk (dinner)
  • Hollywood Brown Derby, Hollywood Studios (lunch, dinner)
  • Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge (dinner)
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse, Canada/Epcot (lunch, dinner)
  • Monsieur Paul, France/Epcot (dinner)
  • Morimoto Asia, Disney Springs (dinner)
  • Narcoossee’s, Grand Floridian (dinner)
  • Paddlefish, Disney Springs (lunch, dinner)
  • Tiffin’s, Animal Kingdom (lunch, dinner)
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (dinner)

Is the Dining Plan a Good Value

Before I can answer this question, let’s discuss the value of a credit according to the plan you purchased.

The short answer is yes, the dining plan can be a good value IF you use it correctly.

  • Table Service Credit Value – $42 approximately
  • Quick Service Credit Value – $19 approximately
  • Snack Credit Value – $5 approximately

To make the dining plans a good value, you want to order items that are equal to or more than the estimated value above.

Dining Credits Include:

  • Table Service Credits include an entree, drink (soda, tea, or specialty beverage/alcoholic beverage for 21 and up) and a dessert, except at breakfast.
  • Quick Service Credits include an entree and (drink soda, tea, or specialty beverage/alcoholic beverage for 21 and up).

Best Use of Dining Credits:

  • Character Dining
  • Steak and Seafood options on the menu, ie. higher-priced items.
  • Starbucks and other specialty coffees – order with snack credits
  • Festival Food Kitchen items at Epcot

If you are ordering keeping the above costs in mind the dining plans are a good value.  To break even, your meals should average out to these prices, to come out ahead they should cost more.

Where I see most guests loose money with the dining plan is in the snack credits.  They either don’t realize they can be used for more than ice cream, popcorn and churros or they hoard them at the beginning of the vacation thinking they’ll run out.  My advice to you, USE your snack credits!  Especially on days, you don’t have breakfast reservations.  Snack credits are great for a muffin or Starbucks/Joffery’s coffee inside the parks.

If on the final day of your vacation you’re walking into a gift shop and using all of your dining credits on snacks that are below $5 you probably have not come out ahead.  For some, this doesn’t matter.  The convenience of the dining plan and being able to prepay for your meals in advance of vacation is worth the cost.

What does the 2020 Dining Plan cost per night?

These are approximate costs as Disney does not release the information or break down the cost of their vacation packages.  Also to note, prices can change at any time and generally do once a year without warning.

Adults ages 10 and up (per night) Children age 3-9 (per night)
Quick Service Dining Plan $55.00 26.00
Disney Dining Plan 78.01 $30.51
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan 119.00 $47.50

Additional Dining Tips

  • Pack sandwich baggies in your park bag. You can use those to take the leftovers with you.
  • If you don’t have enough dining credits for all of your reservations, payout of pocket for the lowest price meal or consider upgrading to the Deluxe Dining Plan if you’re several credits short.
  • For dining reservations inside a park, a valid park ticket is required for entrance.

My Favorite Dining Locations at Disney World

There are so many places to eat at Walt Disney World.  I haven’t covered them all, but pretty darn close!  I’ve listed a few of my favorites for you to read up on if you’re interested or in need of some suggestions but this list certainly doesn’t cover all of my favorites.

If you’re still not sure where to eat, consider booking your next Disney World vacation with one of our vacation planners.  Each one of us is able to walk you through the options and help you choose what’s right for your family.  For more information please email me at Jamie@LOTMV.com

Storybook Dining at Wilderness Lodge

Five Hidden Gem Restaurants at Disney World

Jamie Rumph
Jamie Rumphhttps://www.loveofthemagic.com
Hi, I'm Jamie, traveling mama, entrepreneur, and travel advisor. I'm addicted to Disney, traveling and exploring the world with my family, and have a passion for helping families experience the magic of travel. My home is filled with love and chaos, 2 crazy girls, 2 large dogs, and the most spectacular architect and Disney Cast Member I call my husband. We live in Florida and spend our weekends playing at Orlando's many theme parks and visiting the beach. In 2015, after helping numerous families plan their vacations to various Disney Destinations, I started a blog to answer all of the many travel questions I received daily. In 2016, the blog grew into a travel agency, and Love of the Magic Vacations was born. With a team of nearly 20, we spend our days creating family vacations around the world. What started as a blog is now a full service, worldwide vacation destination planning service. I create custom itineraries for each of my clients that not only meets but exceeds expectations. There is no greater gift than making memories while sharing the world and its cultures with your kids.
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