When planning a trip to Walt Disney World, many families love the idea of paying up front for as many components of their Disney trip as possible. If this sounds like you, then you might consider purchasing the Disney Dining Plan.
The Disney Dining Plan can be purchased before your trip as part of a Magic Your Way package that also includes your hotel and theme park tickets. There are three plan levels at different price points, each delivering a certain number of meal credits per day with a combination of table-service restaurants, quick-service eateries, and snacks.
The Disney Dining Plan is convenient for many families, but whether it's a good deal depends on a number of factors. Here's how to decide if it makes sense for your family, and if so, which plan is best.
Pros and Cons of the Disney Dining Plan
- Budget. You pay for your meals and know your dining costs in advance, so there's no need to worry about ballooning expenses when you're on vacation.
- Flexibility. There are three different Disney Dining Plans at different price points and over 100 participating dining locations. The plan that is right for you will depend upon the kind of dining experiences you desire. The more research you do, the better choices you will make.
- Potential for waste. You don’t get a refund if you don’t use all of your credits. Even if you're not hungry in the moment, grab a piece of fruit or other portable item to eat later back in your hotel room.
- Restrictions. Not every restaurant at Disney World is on the plan. There are always options but, by necessity, the plan defines which menu items qualify at each restaurant. If you don't like the qualifying dessert choices and want to make a substitution, you’re out of luck.
How the Disney Dining Plan Works
You can purchase a Disney Dining Plan as a component of a Magic Your Way package, along with your hotel stay and theme park tickets. Every member of your party is allotted a certain number of meal credits per day to be used at the locations that will accept them. Here's a brief breakdown of how you can spend your credits:
- A quick-service meal credit can be used at quick-service eateries with counter service and includes one entrée and one non-alcoholic drink.
- A table service meal credit can be used at any table service restaurant. For breakfast, it includes one entrée and one non-alcoholic drink OR one full buffet. For lunch or dinner, you get one entrée, one dessert, and one non-alcoholic drink OR one full buffet.
- Certain premium dining experiences—Character Dining, Signature Dining, Dinner Shows, and In-Room Dining—require two table-service meal credits.
- A snack credit can be used at locations such as food carts, food courts, and bakeries for a wide array of items such as an ice cream treat, popcorn, chips, Cracker Jacks, an egg roll, a piece of fruit, or a soft drink.
Disney Dining Plan Options
There are three levels of dining plans, which vary in price and components.
- The Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan includes two quick-service meals and two snacks per person, per day. Each guest age 3 and over also receives a refillable mug, which can be used for refills at self-service beverage islands at quick-service locations at any Disney Resort hotel.
- The Disney Dining Plan includes one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and two snacks per person, per day. Each guest age 3 and over also receives a refillable mug.
- The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes three meals and two snacks per person, per day. Each guest age 3 and over also receives a refillable mug.
Other Things to Know
- To be eligible for a Disney dining plan, you have to book a Magic Your Way package that includes theme park tickets and a stay at a Disney World Resort. See other perks of staying at a Disney World Resort.
- Every guest staying in the same room must be either be on the same dining plan or not on any plan. It's everybody or nobody.
- For each night of your hotel stay, you receive a day's allotment of meal credits. All the credits for your party are pooled, and you can use them however and whenever you want beginning on your hotel arrival day and ending at midnight on the day you check out. For example, if you are a family of four on a 5-day/4-night Magic Your Way package and opt for the Disney Dining Plan, your party will receive 16 quick-service credits, 16 table-service credits, and 32 snack credits.
- Children ages 3 to 9 must choose from the children’s menu, if options are available.
- There is no Disney Dining Plan option for kids age 2 and under. If you're dining at a table-service buffet or family-style restaurant, your toddler can have her own plate and dine for free, including her choice of drink and dessert. At quick-service or table-service restaurants where you order off a menu, your child can either share off your plate or you can purchase a kid's meal and pay out-of-pocket.
- Guests on the Disney Dining Plan or Deluxe Disney Dining Plan can make reservations at table-service restaurants 180 days in advance of their stay. Note that some table-service restaurants may have limited or no availability a few days or weeks in advance. An accepted major credit card guarantee is required for reservations at certain locations. Reservations must be canceled at least one day prior to the date of your reservation or a per-person cancellation charge may be incurred. (Charge varies by location.)
- Gratuities are not included except at Dinner Shows, Private In-Room Dining, and Cinderella’s Royal Table.
- At table-service restaurants, an 18-percent gratuity will automatically be added to your bill for parties of 6 or more. An automatic gratuity charge may also be added to your bill if you order items that are not included on your dining plan.
Which Disney Dining Plan is Best For You
The only way to know for sure that you will get value from a Disney Dining Plan is to do the math in advance. Spend some time researching Disney World dining experiences and forecast a few days of your family's dining during your trip. You can visit the Disney World website or use the My Disney Experience app to view the menus and prices for every Disney restaurant. Add up the projected dining costs for your family, and don’t forget gratuities, which is not included in the dining plans. Now compare your projected dining costs with the cost of the various Disney Dining Plans.
This should give you an idea of which plan, if any, makes the most sense.
Is your family all about theme park rides and attractions? If dining is not going to be a top priority, then opt for the least expensive Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan, which will keep your family fueled up for breakfast and lunch every day with on-the-go quick-service meals and give you the flexibility to do as you like for dinner.
For many families, the Disney Dining Plan offers a good mix of value and flexibility. You can use the quick-service credits during the day and the table-service credit for dinner, ensuring you are treated to a nice mix of dining experiences but also plenty of flexibility.
For most families, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan will offer the least value and the least flexibility. You will feel compelled to dine exclusively at table-service restaurants for every meal just to get your money's worth.
Tips: How to Get the Most from Your Disney Dining Plan
- Make the most of your table-service credits by saving them for dinner. Since dinner costs more at almost every restaurant, you’ll get better value. Take some time in choosing restaurants, and make your reservations well in advance.
- Get in the habit of refilling your refillable mug at the beverage island in your resort's quick-service restaurant several times a day. The mug is your ticket to free beverages for the duration of your stay.
- Guests under 21 years of age can choose one non-alcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages, such as smoothies and milkshakes, where offered). Guests 21 and older can can choose either one non-alcoholic beverage or one single serving mixed cocktail, beer, or wine (where offered) within their meal entitlement. Take advantage of these more expensive options.
- If you are going to use two table-service credits for premium dining experience, let it be for Signature Dining at one of the top restaurants at Disney World. This will deliver the very best value.
- Do the math before using two table-service credits for Character Dining or Dinner Shows, as it can work out to be less expensive to simply pay out of pocket or charge the experience to your room.
- Never use two table-service credits for room service or pizza delivery.
- Don't forget to steadily use up your snack credits, which can pile up.
- Keep track of your remaining credits by checking your dining receipts, which include a printout of your remaining entitlements.