Dad, should we be on a Disney Dining Plan?
I get asked that question all the time. Everyone wants to know the best way to pay for food at Walt Disney World. All those great restaurants, those fancy menus, will one of Disney’s plans save you money?
Dad’s answer is a highly qualified, wishy washy, squishy…
Yes, I know, that’s not very helpful, but it’s true. There are a lot of variables that go into choosing whether or not to have a dining plan, and which one to choose.
But that’s why you’re here, so on we go.
A few years ago, because of the popularity of all-inclusive resort vacations, Disney introduced the Disney Dining Plan. It was a way for guests to pre-pay for their meals at Disney World restaurants.
Instead of an unlimited number of meals, Disney’s plan includes a certain number of meals (the type depends on the plan you choose) and snacks per person per night of your stay.
Quick-Service Dining Plan
The Quick Service Plan is the least expensive of the plans. It includes 2 Quick Service meal credits and 2 Snack credits per person per night of your stay plus a refillable mug for each guest.
Quick Service restaurants are those restaurants where you order at a counter and serve yourself.
The 2019 Quick Service Plan costs:
- Adults $52.50
- Children (ages 3-9) $23.78
The mid-level plan needs a new name. Disney just calls it the Dining Plan, but that’s kind of confusing since the entire program is called the Disney Dining Plan… Whatever you call it, here are the details.
The Dining Plan includes 1 Table Service meal credit, 1 Quick Service meal credit, and 2 Snack credits per person per night of your stay. Also each guest gets a refillable mug.
The 2019 Disney Dining Plan costs:
- Adults – $75.49
- Children (3-9) $27.98
Table Service restaurants are those restaurants where there you have a waiter or waitress. Some table service restaurants require 2 credits (see Signature dining below).
Deluxe Dining Plan
The Deluxe Dining Plan is the most expensive of the basic Disney Dining Plans. It includes lots and lots of food.
This one is pretty close to being all-inclusive. It includes 3 Table Service credits (but you can use those at a Quick Service restaurant if you prefer) and 2 snack credits per person per night plus the refillable mug.
The 2019 Deluxe Dining Plan costs:
- Adult – $116.25
- Children (ages 3-9) $43.49
Three sit down meals per day is a lot of food and takes a lot of time. Even if you use 2 credits at a Signature restaurant and one at a plain old Table Service restaurant, you’re still looking at 2 long meals per day. That’s a lot of missed park time.
Important things you need to know!
Gratuities are not included in any plan, and you are expected to tip 18-20%at table service restaurants, based on what the price of the meal would have cost if you paid out of pocket.
Not every restaurant at WDW takes the DDP – most do, but it’s always best to make sure that you can eat where you want if you buy the Disney Dining Plan. See these links for the restaurants you can use Quick Service Credits at:
Breakfast includes one entree and one beverage – or 1 buffet at a participating restaurant (which includes a beverage).
Lunch or Dinner
Each meals includes a menu choice of 1 entree, 1 dessert, and 1 single serving beverage – or 1 buffet at a participating restaurant (which includes a beverage). Children also get the choice of an appetizer, but adults don’t. Some restaurants will allow you to substitute something healthier for dessert like a side salad, soup or fruit cup, but this varies by restaurant, isn’t always available, and very little information is provided about it.
Snacks are anything that is considered a single serving size. You can also use a Snack credit for many non alcoholic beverages. Disney makes it easy – on menus and price tags, a special symbol is shown if the item is an eligible snack. For example, some include:
- all single-serving non-alcoholic beverages (not in a souvenir container)
- ice cream novelties
- Quick Service items listed as sides
A Quick Service Credit can now be exchanged for 3 snack items (but you must use all 3 credits at the same location, at the same time).
All Disney Dining Plans now include a refillable mug that uses RapidFill technology. Every Resort has at least one location where you can fill your mugs. You can use your mug at any Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
This is a little tricky. The Disney Dining Plan is an option you can add on only if you are staying at a WDW Resort Hotel and have valid tickets or an Annual Pass. So if you’re not staying in a Disney hotel, or if you don’t have tickets for your stay, you’re not eligible.
Not all guests that stay at Disney hotels have access to the dining plans. For example, if you book your vacation through Expedia.com, there is no way to add the dining plan to your reservation. (This is one of the reasons Dad suggests using a travel agent like Destinations to Travel.)
To ensure you’re reservations are eligible for dining, when you look at ticket options, make sure they say something like, “plus dining.”
Check out and see if you can get a discount on dining – or even Free Dining – at:
Again, Dad says maybe. Disney says it will save you 20% – 40% depending on the plan. That may be true if you eat every meal at the most expensive restaurants and order the most expensive thing on the menu. Dad’s big rant about the Disney dining plan.
The only way to KNOW if the DDP will save you money is to do the math. But luckily, Dad has an easy peasy tool to help you with that:
How does it work?
Tell your server you’re on the Disney Dining Plan prior to ordering (they will usually ask), and then order as usual. When the bill comes it will include any items you ordered not covered on your plan (if you order an extra appetizer on the “regular” plan for instance) and a suggested tip amount based on the actual price of the meal.
You can use your Magic Band to “pay” for the meal if it’s linked to a credit card. Or you can use cash, Disney Gift Cards, debit, or credit cards to pay.
Remember – Tips are not included.
Hey, Dad, what do you mean by credits?
Credits are Disney’s way of counting your meals. Some meals cost 2 credits (see Signature dining below). You can use your credits any time. If you want to use three quick service credits in one day and none the next, that’s OK. Your credits are based on the number of nights of your stay.
New Changes to the Disney Dining Plan
Recently Disney made some major changes to the Disney Dining Plan. It’s now much more flexible. These changes allow you to more tailor your meals to your liking.
Changing dessert – you can now exchange your dessert for a side salad, cup of soup, or fruit plate. This is part of Disney’s healthier eating program, but there’s not a lot of clear information available on this and it seems to be on a by-request-only basis at select restaurants.
Invite a friend – previously you could not share credits with anyone outside of your party. Now you can. There are no limits to how many credits you can use at a meal (previously it was limited to how many were in your party). Invite a friend. Use up those credits.
Kids can eat from the adult menu with a catch – at quick service locations kids can choose from the childrens or the adult menu. On the Deluxe plan, kids can choose adult meals even at table service locations.
More flexibility – starting in 2017, quick service meals no longer include dessert, but now all packages come with 2 snack credits which could be used for dessert if you want it.
Speciality Beverages – starting in 2018, guests will be able to choose from a wider range of beverages. Before, only milk, juice, soda, coffee, tea, etc. were included in the plan (although some restaurants would let you order a slushy or milkshake). Now, you can order specialty drinks like milkshakes, smoothies, hot chocolate, cappucinos, and even a limited menu of alcoholic drinks at Table Service locations.
Some of the Disney World restaurants are called Signature Restaruants for the Disney Dining Plan. These restaurants require 2 table service credits instead of 1. The Signature Restaurants are –
In the Hotels
- Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Flying Fish (Boardwalk Inn & Villas)
- Californa Grill (Contemporary Resort)
- Citricos (Grand Floridian)
- Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian)
- Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (Polynesian)
- Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge)
- Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht and Beach Club)
In the Parks
- Hollywood Brown Derby (Disney Hollywood Stuidos)
- Le Cellier – (EPCOT)
- Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
- Monsier Paul (EPCOT)
- Tiffins (Animal Kingdom)
- The BOATHOUSE
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe
- Morimoto Asia
- It’s all or nothing – everyone in your party must be on the plan for the duration of your stay.
- You can make Advanced Dining Reservations (necessary at most sit-down restaurants) 180 day prior to your arrival. You can make them on the Disney World dining reservation page.
- Make sure you plan for tips. They are not included.
- Some restaurants count as 2 meals.
Disney didn’t create the Disney Dining Plan to save you money. Yep, I know, it’s disappointing but it’s true. Disney wants you to buy a dining plan and not use it to the fullest. In Dad’s opinion it’s real hard to save money with the dining plans.
Make sure you do your homework before buying one.