Disney World

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth the Money?

Disney dining plan

With lots of families planning Disney getaways into 2019, It’s not surprising that we’re getting asked a lot about the pricing and value of Disney’s Dining Plans.  We’ve compiled a bit of a rundown of Disney’s dining plan options to help you determine if you think this is an option that will work for your group! Here’s everything you need to know!

Each of the 3 Disney dining plans are available to those staying onsite at a Walt Disney World resort and are designed for families who plan on purchasing most of their meals and snacks at the numerous restaurants, kiosks and food carts on Disney World property.  If you’re the sort of family that plans on bringing pack lunches, snacks or have special dietary needs that mean you prefer to prepare and bring along most of what you eat,  then the dining plan may not be the best option for you.  But, even for those families that have determined that most of their meals will be with Disney, it’s still worth calculating whether your family will actually save by going with a dining plan.  Here’s a breakdown of the 3 plans currently on offer:

  • Disney Quick Service Dining Plan – Under this plan each guest is entitled to 2 Quick Service meals and 2 snacks per night of your stay.  Each guest will also receive a refillable resort mug that they can use to get unlimited beverages while at their Disney resort. Quick Service meals are essentially fast food or Counter Service (no buffets, character dining or meals where you are seated and waited on by staff).  For breakfast, lunch and dinner your Quick Service meal includes 1 entrée and 1 non-alcoholic beverage or an alcoholic drink for those 21 and older  The current cost of the Quick Service Dining Plan is $52.50 per adult and $23.78 per child (ages 3-9). In 2019 the rates are $52.50 per adult and $23.78 per child.  Those below 3 don’t need a Dining Plan.
  • Disney Dining Plan –  This tends to be Disney’s most popular dining plan for its combination of both quick service and table service options. Under this plan each guest is entitled to 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal, and 2 Snacks per night of stay.  Refillable resort mugs are also included.  Table Service Meals can be any number of Disney’s sit-down dining options and includes character dining and buffet dining (Signature Dining and dinner shows are also considered table service but these take up 2 nights worth of dining credits for one meal).  Each Table Service credit includes an entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage (except for breakfast where dessert isn’t included). Some alcoholic beverages are included for guests 21 and older.  The cost of the Disney Dining Plan in 2018 is $75.49 per night for adult and $25.75 per child ages 3-9. In 2019 the price stays the same for adults but goes up to $27.98 for kids 3-9. 
  • Disney Deluxe Dining Plan – This plan is created with Disney foodies in mind. Where the other two dining plans only cover you for 2 meals per day, the Deluxe plan includes 3 dining credits per night that can be used for either Quick Service or Table Service meals as well as 2 snacks per day and your refillable resort mug.  The plan for 2018 is $116.25 per adult and $39.99 per child. In 2019 the price stays the same for adults but goes up to $43.49 for children. 

$74.49 for the Disney Dining Plan sounds like alot.  Is it really worth it?  In order to determine whether or not the Disney Dining Plans will work for your family, let’s figure out the cost of eating meals without the plan.  Let’s say we have a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children over the age of three) spending a day dining out at the Magic Kingdom.  Here’s some sample costs if you were paying out-of-pocket for the same meals that would be covered by the Disney Dining Plan:

  • Quick Service Meal – Columbia Harbour House – Let’s say the adults get a Shrimp and Fish Platter ($12.49) and a Chicken Pot Pie ($10.99) for lunch.  The kids get two kids meals. Let’s say one chicken nugget and fish meal ($7.49) and one mac and cheese meal ($6.79).  The kids meals include beverages but the adults still need drinks so that’s $5.99 for a Lemon Slushy and $3.29 for a regular Coke.  This takes the total for lunch to: $47.04 and that is without anyone ordering dessert!
  • Table Service Meal – Crystal Palace – So for dinner its character dining with Winnie the Pooh and friends.  This is a buffet meal and the prices can fluctuate depending on the season but it is typically around $47.00 per adult and $28 per child.  So for a family with 2 adults and 2 children the cost to dine at Crystal Palace without the dining plan would be: $150.00 before gratuities.
  • Snacks – Every time I go to Disney, and I’m not on the Dining Plan, I’m always shocked by how quickly the cost of snacks adds up.   Let’s say one adult gets a Dole Whip Float ($5.49), another adult gets a Venti Caramel Frappuccino at Starbucks ($5.79).  One child gets an ice cream cookie sandwich ($5.99) and the other a Mickey Pretzel ($5.69).  This takes the total spent on snacks to : $22.96

This brings the total that family would spend out-of-pocket over the course of one day to: $220.02.  Let’s compare this to the per night cost of the Disney Dining Plan which comes out at $202.48.  So on one day that family would have saved over $17.54 by going with the dining plan.  If the family eats like this throughout the course of a five night stay, that is $87 you’d be saving by purchasing the dining plan for your family. So though many families cringe a bit at the upfront costs of the getting the dining plan it could save you money in the long run.  Yes, there will be dining experiences more affordable than those listed above but there are also experiences that will be more alot more expensive, I deliberately picked options including character dining that fall in the middle.

Are there circumstances where the dining plan isn’t the best option?  Because the dining plan is linked to the total nights that you are staying on property and not the days that you are at the theme parks, families that are staying 7 nights but only visiting Disney parks for 3 of those and then are doing Sea World, Universal etc. for the rest of their stay, may not use the dining plan to their full potential as they would be pre-paying for meals even on the days that they’re not doing Disney  Families only wanting to have one special character dining meal and then wanting to eat as cheaply as possible during the rest of their stay (including bringing food into the parks) may also want to give the dining plans a miss.  Finally those in Villas, Fort Wilderness Cabins or campgrounds that will be cooking a lot of meals themselves may also find that the Dining Plan does not represent a good value for money.

What about Free Dining? Disney’s free dining promotion is the most hotly anticipated discount that Disney releases each year.  The offer usually runs September thru December.   Families with room and ticket packages (that include the park hopper upgrade) will get a free meal plan added to their package. Value and Moderate Resorts guests are offered the Quick Service Plan and those staying at Deluxe Resorts the regular Disney Dining Plan.  Guests within each resort category have the option of upgrading to a higher dining plan by paying the difference.  There can be real savings in the promotion for families already thinking about a dining plan.  However, it still pays to do the math.  First,  families need to pay to upgrade their tickets to Park Hopper (that can be $200+ for a family of four) and also for any upgrades they want.  Also, bear in mind that Disney historically runs the Free Dining promotion in conjunction with a room discount offer so for those that don’t think they’ll be eating a lot at the parks, the better savings may be to get the room discount and skip the dining.

It’s impossible to universally say: “Yes the dining plan is the best option for all families visiting Disney”.  However, I hope our breakdown will help you determine whether it’s an option that might work for your family.  If you have any questions about the dining plan drop me an email at mroden@mickeytravels.com, I would be delighted to work with you to come up with the best option for your family.

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Find articles like this helpful? Then why not consider booking with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner? As an agent with MickeyTravels, I’ll be on hand to help you with everything from finding your perfect package to nabbing those hard-to-get dining and Fastpass reservations.  Best of all, my services are absolutely FREE. Get in touch at 1.800.801.4025, via email at mroden@mickeytravels.com or follow along on Facebook



Melissa Roden
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Melissa Roden

Agent Specializing in Disney Holidays at MickeyTravels
Melissa is a Disney-loving mom who can often be found at the parks with her six year old daughter.  When not euphorically eating a Dole Whip at Walt Disney World, Melissa enjoys helping others plan their magical vacations with MickeyTravels and sharing her Disney knowledge at Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts. Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.
Melissa Roden
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