As much as I enjoy the occasional trip to Disney World, I’m always amazed at how expensive it can be.
Over the years, I’ve learned a handful of strategies to help reduce the cost of a Disney World Vacation. One of those strategies is adding a Disney Dining Plan.
This is a controversial choice within the Disney World fan base, so many of you might be asking: is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?
Let’s dig in to see if this Disney meal plan is something you should get on your next Disney World vacation.
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
The Disney Dining Plan, aka DDP, is a pre-paid meal plan at Disney World.
The DDP gives you credits to use on food and drink so that you don’t have to deal with cash or worry about having enough to pay for all the meals you want.
There are 3 plans available in the Disney Dining Plan:
- Disney Quick Service Dining Plan
- Disney Dining Plan
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
Now, let’s run through what each of these plans include.
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan
With the Disney Quick Service dining plan, you get 2 quick service credits and 2 snack credits for each night you’re staying at a Disney resort.
Snacks are quick eats or drinks, like a Mickey ice cream bar or an iced coffee.
Quick service restaurants are casual, counter service or food truck type places.
Most Disney resort dining halls are quick service, as well. They don’t always include seating (grab-n-go) or being served while you sit at a table.
A few examples of quick service restaurants at Disney World are:
- Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom
- La Cantina de San Angel at Epcot
- PizzeRizzo at Hollywood Studios
- Polite Pig at Disney Springs (pictured above)
One quick service credit will get you 1 entrée and 1 drink. Adults 21 and over can opt for an alcoholic beverage, if available at the location in which they are dining.
Disney Dining Plan
Once upon a time, this mid-level plan had a more distinguishable name. Why Disney decided to rename it after the service itself is beyond me.
Confusing name aside, this is the plan that my family and I get when we visit Disney World.
The Disney Dining Plan includes 1 quick service credit, 1 table service credit, and 2 snacks per night.
You can use as many or as little dining plan credits as you want in a day.
Table service restaurants are a step up from quick service. You can make reservations, are typically served while you sit at a table (versus counter service), and the food and atmosphere is overall more nice.
As with a quick service credit, 1 table service credit can be used for 1 entrée and 1 drink (including alcohol, if the restaurant serves it).
A few examples of table service restaurants at Disney World are:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot
- The Edison at Disney Springs
- Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios
Psst… not sure what quick service or snack credits include? Go back to the “Quick Service Dining Plan” section for a brief explanation.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
The Deluxe dining plan includes 3 meal credits and 2 snack credits per night.
During breakfast hours, 1 meal credit can be redeemed at a quick service or table service restaurant for 1 entrée and 1 drink.
During lunch and dinner hours, 1 meal credit includes the usual entrée and drink, plus 1 appetizer and 1 dessert.
As with breakfast, you can dine at quick service or table service restaurants. The real value with this plan is always going with a table service restaurant to get the most bang for your buck.
How much does the Disney Dining Plan cost?
The Disney Dining Plan is only available when booking a vacation package, so there isn’t a clear price listed for each plan.
So, in order to get an idea of how much the Disney Dining Plan costs, I had to do a bit of math.
I looked up the cost for a 7 night vacation package that includes 1 adult and 1 child. Then, I subtracted the cost of the hotel and park tickets from the cost of the complete vacation package with each dining plan.
All Disney Dining Plan costs below do not include tax. The prices were last updated in August 2019.
Quick Service Plan costs
- Adults: $54.99
- Children: $25.99
Regular Dining Plan costs
- Adults: $78
- Children: $30.50
Deluxe Dining Plan costs
- Adults: $118.99
- Children: $47.50
Does the Disney Dining Plan help save money?
Yes, the Disney Dining Plan can save you money, but there are exceptions.
It’s certainly not the cheapest way to stay fed while vacationing at Disney World. Bringing your own food will likely save you more money than the Disney Dining Plan.
However, you’ll miss out on some great dining experiences and tasty treats if you stick to bringing your food.
So, if you want to dine at Disney World’s restaurants, buffets, and snack stands, the DDP can be a money saver.
In a nutshell, the bigger the plan, the better the savings…assuming you need everything in that plan!
Let’s break down some costs based on typical meals and snacks that my family and I go for when at Disney World so you can get a better idea of the potential savings.
All prices discussed in this post are subject to change and do not include tax or tip. Prices last updated in August 2019.
My go-to snacks are a venti iced Caramel Macchiato and a Pineapple Dole Whip Float. The combined cost for these snacks is about $11.28.
My 9-year-old niece would probably get an ice cream cone and a Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzel, for around $10.98 total.
Quick Service meal costs
Be Our Guest is a very in-demand restaurant at Magic Kingdom. For breakfast and lunch, the meals are served quick service style.
A typical breakfast and juice will set you back $31.99 for an adult and $18.99 for a child.
A typical lunch and soft drink will set you back $20.68 for an adult and $13.44 for a child.
This averages out to $26.34 for an adult meal or $16.22 for a kid’s meal.
These costs are more than what most quick service restaurants would charge for breakfast or lunch.
But Be Our Guest breakfast and lunch is a great example of how you can maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan redemptions.
Table service meal costs
One of my family’s go-to character meals at Disney World is Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot.
The food is delicious and filling (salad bar + entrée + drink is included in 1 table service credit!).
It includes a meet-and-greet with Princess Belle. Plus, a few other princesses will also come up to your table for photos and autographs.
A child’s meal costs $35, while an adult meal is $59.99.
Deluxe table service meal costs
At Epcot’s La Hacienda de San Angel Mexican restaurant, an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and margarita will set you back about $68 for an adult, depending on what you order.
An appetizer, entrée, dessert, and soft drink will set you back around $17 for a child.
How much can you save with the DDP?
How much you ultimately save will depend on where you eat and what you pick on the menu.
For an idea of how much you could save, I used the examples above of where my family might eat on a typical day to estimate how much each dining plan might save you.
If you get the quick service dining plan, a typical day might cost around $84.63 for an adult, resulting in roughly $29.64 in savings per day.
For a child, a typical day’s meals would cost around $56.85, resulting in around $30.86 in savings per day.
For a typical 1 week vacation, the Quick Service Dining Plan would save you around $207.48 per adult and $216.02 per child.
If you get the regular dining plan, a typical day might cost around $97.61 for an adult, resulting in about $19.61 in savings. For a child, it would cost $59.42 per day, or $25.73 in savings.
For a typical 1 week vacation, the Disney Dining Plan would save you around $137.27 per adult and $180.11 per child.
If you get the deluxe dining plan, a typical day might cost around $207.27 for an adult, resulting in $88.28 in savings. For a child, it would cost $79.98, or $32.48 in savings per day.
For a typical 1 week vacation, the Deluxe Dining Plan would save you around $617.96 per adult and 227.36 per child.
Can you get the Disney Dining Plan for free?
Yes, you can get the Disney Dining Plan for free during certain parts of the year.
Once or twice a year, Disney World runs a promotion that gives customers a free dining plan when they book a vacation package at a Disney World resort.
As with many promotions, there are stipulations.
For example, certain dates are not eligible, certain Disney resorts are not eligible, you have to book a park hopper, and so on.
The free plan you get usually correlates with the level of resort that you get, as well. Value resorts usually get the quick service plan. Moderate resorts usually get the Disney dining plan. Deluxe resorts usually get the Deluxe dining plan.
The stipulations change from time to time for this promotion, but you get the idea!
If you have your heart set on a certain resort or are locked in on dates, you might not be able to take advantage of the free dining plan promotion.
On the flip side, if you have some flexibility, the free dining plan promotion can really help you save money.
Um…you know the free Disney dining plan isn’t really free, right?
Yes, the free Disney Dining Plan promotion really does give you a dining plan for free! Disney World does not charge you for the dining plan with this promotion.
Keep in mind that you can’t add a hotel promotion on top of the free dining deal. This is why some people claim the free dining plan promotion is not really free.
Depending on your party size, where you’d like to dine, and your appetite, free dining may not be the better deal in terms of money saved when compared to a hotel discount.
In addition, you might also be obligated to stay a minimum number of days or purchase a park hopper pass.
On the flip side, if you were already planning on those things, then they really aren’t a hidden charge as you were already planning to pay for them.
Bottom line: If cost is the most important factor in deciding whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth it, do a cost comparison to see whether the DDP makes sense for your budget.
On my past 2 trips, the free dining plan offer saved my family more money than a small percentage off of our hotel would have, so booking during a week that included a free Disney dining plan was a no brainer for us!
Can I upgrade my Disney Dining Plan?
Yes, you can upgrade your Disney dining plan after you book. You can also add the DDP to an existing reservation.
Upgrading your DDP is also possible during free dining promotion.
For example, if you want to stay at a value resort but get the regular Disney dining plan, all you have to pay is the difference in cost. This is often what my family and I end up doing!
How will I know if I can use my credits at my favorite restaurant?
Aside from each restaurant, café, or food cart’s webpage on the Disney World site, Disney World displays a magenta icon with the initials “DDP” next to items that can be purchased using dining plan credits.
You’ll see this magenta icon on menus, signage, park maps, and so on.
If you’re still not sure, ask a cast member and I’m sure they’ll be happy to help.
TIP: Some items at the special food kiosks at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Epcot Flower & Garden Festival only cost 1 snack credit! Look for this icon to find out whether you’ll need to “pay” 1 snack credit or 1 meal credit.
Other than saving money, why should I get a Disney Dining Plan?
With the Disney Dining Plan, you don’t need to stress about how much money you have left in your budget for food or dread looking at your credit card statement after your trip.
This is initially why my family started using the DDP. Running out of money or nearly dying of shock after your trip (ok, a tad dramatic…but you know the feeling!) is not anything anyone wants to experience because of a vacation.
The DDP is simply one more thing Disney World does to make it the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Can you use the Disney Dining Plan for Signature dining or dinner shows?
As with the character meals, you’ll need the regular or Deluxe dining plan if you want to use dining plan credits toward a Signature dining meal or dinner show.
Since the Quick Service dining plan doesn’t include table service credits, it cannot be used for Signature dining or dinner shows.
Signature dining and dinner shows require 2 table service credits, so you can only use dining plan credits if you have the regular or Deluxe dining plan.
My family and I usually end up booking a dinner show, such as the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. We’ve never felt hungry or had to pay out of pocket for an extra meal, due to having to pay 2 credits for special meals like this.
Can you use the Disney Dining Plan for character meals?
Yes, you can use the Disney Dining Plan for character meals, but only on certain plans.
All of the character meals are considered table service meals.The Quick Service dining plan doesn’t include credits for table service meals, but the regular and Deluxe dining plans do.
Some character meals might require 2 table service credits instead of 1, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table. But, most character meals only require 1 credit.
That’s something to keep in mind when figuring out the cost and whether you’ll need extra money on hand for meals.
The fact that you can use table service credits on character meals is a big reason my family goes for the regular dining plan.
It’s a great way for my niece to meet characters without us having to wait in a long, dreadful line for a few quick photos. It’s a win, win setup in my opinion!
Can you use the Disney Dining Plan at Disney Springs (fka Downtown Disney)?
Yes, you can use Disney Dining Plan at most Disney Springs restaurants.
A super easy way to figure out which restaurants take the plan you want or have already purchased is to go to the Dining page for Disney Springs and select your dining plan option under the filter called “Dining Plans Accepted.”
Can I save dining plan credits for another trip later this year?
No, you cannot save dining plan credits for future trips. Disney Dining Plan credits cannot be cashed in and they don’t rollover for future stays, either.
So if you don’t want your credits to go to waste, use ’em up before you leave.
One of my family’s favorite things to do is to hit up Goofy’s Candy Company in Disney Springs on the day we leave to load up on snacks, such as Mickey krispy treats, in order to use up any extra snack credits.
Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth it?
Yes, the Disney Dining Plan is absolutely worth it for many Disney World guests. That said, at the end of the day, whether you should get the Disney Dining Plan is up to you.
Consider which factors discussed above matter most to you to help you decide if the DDP is right for you.
Once you’ve decided whether to get the DDP or not, it’s time to plan your Fastpass picks. Be sure to check out my post on Fastpass tips for adults to find out which passes are best!
This post was originally published on May 26, 2018. It was last updated on August 30, 2019.