One way to enjoy the incredible food at Walt Disney World is to use a Disney Dining Plan. The plans (which have been around since 2005) are an attempt by Disney to provide a more all-inclusive vacation experience, and it is clear from the popularity of the plans that guests are interested! With a Disney Dining Plan, you essentially pre-pay for a set number of meal “credits”, then choose when and where to redeem those credits throughout your vacation.
Disney Dining Plan Basics
Dining Plan Table Service Meal at Disney’s California Grill
First, Disney Dining Plans can only be used by guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort hotel, i.e. hotels owned and operated by Disney World. The Disney Dining Plans currently cannot be purchased by visitors staying at any hotels that are not owned by Disney (“off-property” hotels) or locals visiting for the day.
There are a few ways to add a dining plan to your stay. You can add a dining plan to any existing Disney resort reservation, but this usually also requires purchasing theme park tickets as part of a package.
Disney Vacation Club owners and guests have the flexibility to add a dining plan to their stay without having to purchase park tickets. Just call Member Services to add a dining plan to any upcoming stay, but do so at least 48 hours prior to check-in. Payment in full is due at the time of adding the dining plan to your reservation.
Annual Pass holders who are staying at a Disney resort may also add a dining plan to their stay without having to buy additional park tickets. You can also get a dining plan as part of a “Free Dining” package, the popular promotion that Disney often releases for select fall travel dates.
Did you know? You can use your snack credits at Epcot Food & Wine Festival
There are three different dining plans available – the Disney Dining Plan, the Quick Service Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. Each plan offers a different combination of meal and snack credits that you can use throughout the course of your stay. Here’s the cost and credits included with each plan per night of your stay:
|Credits (per night)
|Disney Dining Plan
|1 Table Service Meal + 1 Quick Service Meal + 2 Snacks
|Quick Service Dining Plan
|2 Quick Service Meals + 2 Snacks
|Deluxe Dining Plan
|3 Table Service OR Quick Service Meals + 2 Snacks
Prices effective February 22nd, 2017
Almost every restaurant, food kiosk, snack cart, etc. all over Walt Disney World accepts these Dining Plan credits. You’ll also receive a refillable mug with each plan that can be used for unlimited refills of coffee, soda, and more for the length of your stay (which is set to 14 days by default).
You’ll get an entree and non-alcoholic beverage with each Quick Service credit on any plan. On the standard Disney Dining Plan you’ll get an entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage (or a full buffet) with each Table Service meal credit. Note that Signature restaurants require two table service credits per person. Table service credits on the Deluxe Plan also include an appetizer. Updated for 2018: alcohol and specialty beverages are included.
Your credits are pooled together for your party and can be used by anyone in your party with their Magic Bands. You can use the credits starting the morning you check in until midnight of the day you check out. Everyone on the reservation must get the plan and you also must get the plan for the entire length of your reservation – you can’t just add it for certain people or for just part of your stay.
Now that I’ve covered the basics of the plans, let’s look at why some guests choose to add a dining plan to their stay.
Why Get A Dining Plan?
Bread Service at Sanaa – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
The dining plans certainly add some complexity to your vacation. You might be wondering: “Why would I go through the hassle of using these plans? Wouldn’t it be easier and more relaxing to just pay for my food the old-fashioned way?”
Here are a few reasons why guests choose to use the Disney Dining Plans:
- For the “all-inclusive’ feeling: Some guests like not having to look at the prices of menu items because they know they can order anything on the menu. I personally understand the appeal of this aspect of the plans. I am a self-professed cheapskate and I can’t shake it, even on vacation. I will choose an item that is $2 cheaper over the one that I really want, just to save a few bucks. Crazy, right? The dining plan helps me enjoy myself more and order what I actually want, without having to worry about the cost.
- To control their food budget and pre-pay for their meals: Some guests like knowing exactly how much they will spend on food on their vacation ahead of time to help budget for their trip. As long as you don’t order anything extra, which is totally possible considering how much food you’ll get with the dining plans, you’ll be able to budget to within a few dollars well before your trip. You will need to factor in tips at table service restaurants, but that is fairly easy to predict.
- To have new experiences: Disney World is full of unique dining experiences, many of which are very pricey. The dining plan can help cut down on costs of some of these special experiences, such as dining with the princesses in Epcot’s Norway pavilion or trying the African-inspired buffet Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. But keep in mind that these locations tend to book up quickly, so be ready to make your reservations 180 days before your trip!
Mickey Waffles at The Captain’s Grill
Tips for Choosing a Dining Plan
The most popular plan by far is the standard “Disney Dining Plan.” I hardly ever recommend the Quick Service Dining Plan. At almost $50 per night, I think it is overpriced and find it virtually impossible to get decent value from the plan.
For the most part I’ve found that the Deluxe Dining Plan is just way too much food! If you are splitting your stay between two different resorts, and your first reservation is for one or two nights, it may make sense to get the Deluxe Plan for just the start of your trip. You’ll get your resort refillable mug good for 14 days (and they are starting to push $20 out-of-pocket) and you’ll get plenty of credits to spread out of those few days.
Once we stayed one night at Bay Lake Tower before moving to Animal Kingdom Lodge and got the Deluxe Plan for just that one night. We got our mugs and were able to stretch the credits for two full days’ worth of food, so it worked out great for us. Most people won’t get the full value out of the Deluxe Dining Plan. For these reasons, I almost always suggest sticking with the standard Disney Dining Plan.
UPDATED PRICES: 2018 Disney Dining Plan Prices + Alcohol and Speciality Drinks