One of the most commonly asked questions I see leading up to a Disney trip is “Should I get the Disney Dining Plan?” and a whole variation of questions to that effect.
The truth is, every travel party’s needs and eating habits are different. In our experience, we’ve always come out ahead and really enjoyed using the Disney Dining Plan. That’s not the case for everyone and probably won’t be the case for every trip we take, but it’s the case so far.
Here is some information to hopefully make your decision easier!
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
There are tons of perks to staying on Disney property, including access to the Disney Dining Plan. The Dining Plan gives guests a set amount of credits to be used on food and drinks across Disney property, and is calculated by your total nights’ stay based on a flat daily rate.
Who’s eligible for the Disney Dining Plan?
All Disney resort guests, 3 and older, are eligible for the Disney Dining Plan. Guests under 3 years old can share your meal, at no additional cost, including at buffets and family-style meals. You can also purchase food for them separately, of course!
The Disney Dining Plan is kind of “all or nothing”, meaning that everyone on your reservation must be on the same Dining Plan for the duration of your stay.
What’s included in the Disney Dining Plan?
There are three tiers of dining plans outlined below. Each guest receives a refillable resort mug, which can be used for refills at the self-service beverage islands at the resorts (not in the parks) for the duration of your stay. This is great for morning coffee and beverages throughout the day or evening! Gratuities are not included in the cost of the Dining Plan, so plan to pay those as you go!
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan:
This plan is the most inexpensive option and great for families on the go, who aren’t interested in sit-down or character meals.
With this plan, each guest receives two quick service credits and two snack credits for each night of their stay. Each quick service credit includes one quick-service entree and one beverage (NEW for 2018, this beverage can be a specialty beverage like milkshakes, smoothies, and hot chocolate for minors or cocktail, beer, and wine for adults!). Each snack credit can be used for a huge variety of single-serving snacks throughout Disney property!
Cost (including tax): $52.50 for adults (ages 10+), $21.74 for children (ages 3-9)
Disney Dining Plan:
This “middle ground” option is our personal favorite, giving us a variety of ways to dine each day.
With this plan, each guest receives one table service credit, one quick service credit, and two snack credits for each night of their stay. (For those comparing, this Plan offers a table service credit in lieu of quick service credit each day from the above plan.) Each table service credit includes one entree (this includes buffets and family-style meals) at a table service restaurant and a beverage, as outlined above.
Cost (including tax): $75.49 for adults (ages 10+), $25.75 for children (ages 3-9)
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan:
This is the option for true foodies, who want to enjoy sit-down meals throughout the day or dine at Disney’s signature dining restaurants.
With this plan, each guest receives three meal credits and two snack credits for each night of their stay. (For those comparing, this Plan offers flexibility in that all three meals can be table service meals throughout the day.) When using a meal credit for a quick service meal at any time of day or for breakfast at a table service restaurant, each credit includes one entree and a beverage, as outlined above. When using a meal credit for lunch or dinner at a table service restaurant, each credit includes an appetizer, entree, dessert, and beverage.
Cost (including tax): $116.25 for adults (ages 10+), $39.99 for children (ages 3-9)
Where can I use my Disney Dining Plan credits?
The short answer: almost anywhere. There are hundreds of restaurants on Disney property to redeem your credits, including at Disney Springs and resorts. There are over 100 quick service restaurants and snack spots alone!
When we first looked into the Dining Plan, we were concerned about it limiting our options or menus, but we quickly discovered that wasn’t the case. Most restaurants accept the Dining Plan and your menu options aren’t limited whatsoever.
Note that “signature dining” restaurants cost two table service credits per meal, regardless of your plan (deluxe too!), so make sure you take that into consideration when making your dining reservations!
How are credits issued?
On arrival day, your entire stay’s credits will be ready to use. So, if you’re traveling with your family of four and staying for three nights with the regular Disney Dining Plan, you’ll have 12 table service, 12 quick service, and 24 snacks available at the onset of your trip.
They don’t have to be used in any specific order, so you have freedom to use your credits in the way that works best for you. For instance, you could opt to do two quick service meals one day and two table service meals another day.
It’s also important to understand that your entire travel party’s credits are pooled together per reservation and can be used by any guest on your reservation. If you’re traveling with more than one household on the same reservation, you all want to keep track of your credit usage. As an example, we stayed in a Villa with extended family. One of my family members didn’t realize how quickly her family was using quick service credits and spent our entire party’s remaining credits over the course of a single day. So, make sure everyone understands the way credits are issued and what they personally have to use!
How do I use and track the Disney Dining Plan?
Your Disney Dining Plan is linked to your room reservation, and therefore, your MagicBand. It’s as simple as tapping your MagicBand and entering your pin.
You can keep track of your Dining credits two ways: on your dining receipts or on the My Disney Experience app, by clicking on your resort reservation details. You can also stop by the concierge at your resort for a printout too!
What happens to credits I don’t use?
If you approach the end of your trip with extra credits, you can always use them to purchase nonperishable snacks. Table service and quick service credits can be “traded in” for three snack credits, as well. Note that this trade has to be done in the same transaction, so you’ll need to use all three snack credits at the same time. We like to use any remaining snack credits on the prepackaged rice cereal treats and candy to bring home for friends and family. We also stock up on baked goods at the Confectionary or Sweet Spells to eat on our drive home!
How do I know if it’s worth it for my travel party?
I see this question all the time, which is completely understandable. When you see all your meals added up in one big figure, it can look intimidating. I found myself asking this question a lot leading up to our first trip with the Disney Dining Plan.
The easiest way to know is simply by doing the math. In our case, it was easy to see its value, because we frequent character meals for our girls. With many character meals costing $59.99 per adult and an alcoholic beverage averaging $10, we pay for almost an entire day’s meal plan in a single meal! If you’re unsure about the value for you, check out a Disney Dining Plan calculator. You can google it or visit one here (external link).
I also often see people concerned about the value for their children who are light (or picky) eaters. This is where character meals can come into play again. If you’re eating at a buffet or family-style restaurant (which most character meals are), you have to pay for every seated guest, whether they eat a banana or half the buffet. These meals range $20-27 per child, while the middle Disney Dining Plan is $25.75 for the day. So, if you’re doing character meals, they’ll essentially eat “free” for every other meal that day.
Personally, my family also finds a lot of value in the Dining Plan for a reason outside of savings. It allows us to prepay for all of our meals, which means we have a very clear idea of what our trip will cost before we even make our official reservation. It also removes the stress of meal costs while we’re vacationing. If we want the steak, we get the steak, without worrying about what our bill total will be.