What’s In The Disney Dining Plan

Disney restaurants are a destination in themselves for many fans. The love of Disney Food is celebrated every day with the enormously popular Disney Food Blog, where they declare that "food IS a theme park." How then do you make sure that you're getting the best value out of your Disney food dollars? Many people look to the Disney Dining Plan.

Artist Point at Wilderness LodgeArtist Point at Wilderness Lodge
Disney offers several Dining Plans designed to fit any budget and dining style. You can add the plan to your 'Magic Your Way' vacation package, or pre-pay and add it onto your DVC room if you are a member. Dining plans must be reserved for every person over the age of three registered in your room, and for each night of your stay in that room.

The specific number of counter-service, table-service restaurant meals, and snacks you're allowed to have per day is multiplied by the number of nights that you are staying and they are all loaded onto the Key To The World Cards for your party. When you eat at a restaurant from the Dining Plan list you simply eat and have then have the waitress scan your card. The correct number of points will be deducted from your total, and your server will bring you a receipt to sign acknowledging that they were deducted. (Note: Gratuity is not included on table-service meals.)

Chicken Pot Pie from The WaveChicken Pot Pie from The Wave
Here is what you get with a Disney Dining Plan:

  • Quick Service Dining Plan ($37.58 per night ages 10 and up in 2013 peak season)
    Includes two quick service meal credits and one snack credit per person, per night of your package. In addition, each member of the party will receive one refillable mug good for use at your resort only during the length of your chosen package.

  • Disney Dining Plan ($56.94 per night ages 10 and up in 2013 peak season)
    Includes one quick service meal credit, one table service meal credit, and one snack credit per person, per night of your package. In addition, each member of the party will receive one refillable mug good for use at your resort only during the length of your chosen package.

  • Deluxe Disney Dining Plan ($102.27 per night ages 10 and up in 2013 peak season)
    Includes three meal credits and two snack credits per person, per night of your package. The meal credits on this plan can be used at either table service or quick service restaurants. In addition, each member of the party will receive one refillable mug good for use at your resort only during the length of your chosen package.

  • In addition to these three Dining Plans, Disney Also Offers a Premium and Platinum Dining Plans which add on recreational activities and tours and spa treatments, as well as negating the need to budget one or two credits for your meal, all meals are equal on these plans.

Experience Coral ReefExperience Coral Reef
Some families swear that it saves them money, others are happy to break even, while a third set feels that they pay more with the Dining Plan. Ultimately the choice is up to you. Do your research, and make a plan before you decide. You can look up the menu prices for Disney restaurants at AllEars.net then compare that to what your meal would cost you paying with cash vs. if you had used one of the Disney Dining Plans.

Grapefruit Cake from The Brown DerbyGrapefruit Cake from The Brown Derby
For a more in depth look at details of how the Disney Dining Plans work, please visit our friends at the Disney Food Blog. What's your opinion of Disney's Dining Plans? Do you swear by them? Do you only book when it's free? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Sheila Hokanson wrote on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 14:39:

Sheila Hokanson's picture

My husband and I love the dining plans and when we do go to Disney - we always attache one to our trip - so much fun.

Phil wrote on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 16:24:

Phil's picture

We used to book the dining plan, but haven't in a while (when it's just us). If you're going with people who will be likely to balk at menu prices it can just be easier to get a dining plan and be done with it.

We ended up realizing that we felt compelled to get "good value" from the dining plan credits- we'd book more expensive restaurants in order to make the most of a given credit. The dining plans also end up giving you huge meals- you don't always want a dessert with a counter or table service meal (or if you do, one to share may be enough). So we decided to start forgoing the plans and just paying for the meals (usually using room charge). This was reinforced by the 2012 prices; they raised the DDP prices and included the mug at all levels; that mug just isn't all that useful (since it can only be filled at the resort, if you aren't close to the quick service location at the resort it will be a real chore to use it at all) to us.

While the dining plans can be of great use, I'd recommend sitting down and doing some math (where you'd want to eat, how much that is likely to run) and see if it makes sense for your group.

RichGBC wrote on Wed, 10/17/2012 - 17:00:

RichGBC's picture

I booked under free dining 3 years in a row, but we kept tabs on what was 'spent', both total bill and out of pocket.

If you went to at least one signature, and decent sit-downs, we got a cash value higher then the value of the dining plan (using ~52 per person per day at the time)

I felt that too much food was pushed on us. With a mug, we would get extra drinks or fruit to carry into the park. Each year we had to pass on a dessert or two for being too full.

Then we joined DVC, got AP's and Tables in Wonderland. My wife freaked out over losing free dining, so I watched the bills again. We did spend $75 with Garden grocer to have some cereal, english muffins, bread, and eggs in the room. I made breakfast twice, but we usually got up and grazed like our normal home routine at different times. We did eat in the room once ($25 pre-made frozen meal). So that was our savings. We had a table meal everyday, and a QS.

Eating difference...We did not watch $$ signs (although my wife thought about it a few times when asked about desert she admitted). I told her not too worry and she ended the wek with a few more treats. I'm not a desert eater, and only had 2 all week, we hardly ordered fountain type drinks, and just a couple adult drinks.
The week did consist of Le Cellier, Citricos, Marakesh, 50's prime time, and the Plaza.
Grand total for a family of 3, we spent $200 LESS then the cost of adding the regular dining plan. While I think it was the lack of a breakfast meal most days (Had to go get mickey waffles and cinnamon rolls), adding an average of $25 a day for breakfast had us about breaking even when eating at a normal table service. A signature would push us about the ~$57x3 figure. But, you can't always eat signatures on that plan.

I don't see the value in getting the meal plan anymore, and the TIW card beats it hands down. Plus, we ate more to our normal style, which for me left me with better energy throughout the day and a far better mood the entire trip. I had swings when eating so much more food and added sugar in the deserts when dealing with the plan.

M.A.S. wrote on Thu, 10/18/2012 - 00:00:

M.A.S.'s picture

I'm a little disappointed in this year's Quick Service Plan... we used it the last 2 years (coincidentally has bee free in Oct/Nov when we've gone). Meal and snack credits worked out absolutely perfectly for our family of 4, with only 2 snack credits left last year to bring home some treats. But for 2010 and 2011 it was 2 snacks per person per day, and now for our trip in Nov 2012 it's cut back to 1 snack per day. Not that I should complain, since it is free, but that just means more $$ out of my pocket for extra snacks to get us through our days

Kristen K. wrote on Thu, 10/18/2012 - 11:40:

Kristen K.'s picture

I'm a fan of the deluxe dining, probably largely because as Phil said some people balk at prices. I'm one of those people. When I'm not pre-paid for a meal I tend to spend the entire time adding up the check in my head, cutting desserts, and not focusing on the food or my companions. There is no way that I would have ever eaten at a signature restaurant if I was handing over cash, I would have an anxiety attack!

The Dining Plan frees me from all of that stress. For that reason I've never really thought much about the monetary value, because it's allowing me to have less stress, and that's priceless.

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