The Disney Dining Plan

By Darren Wittko

Can you save money with the disney dining plan?

With dining costs on the rise at Walt Disney World, adding the Disney Dining Plan just might save you money! Many table-service entrees are over $20 now and a good portion of them are near $30. With a little advance planning, you can save money by purchasing the Disney Dining Plan. 

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To get the most out of the Disney Dining Plan, you should create an optimized dining strategy by planning where you wish to dine in advance. You should explore the menus available at the official Walt Disney World website or the unofficial menus at TouringPlans.com which are often more accurate.  

What the Research Says 

Having sampled a variety of menus and reviewed hundreds of restaurant receipts Save at WDW discovered that the approximate break-even figure on the Disney Dining Plan is about $25 for a table service meal and about $13 for a quick service meal. If you meet or exceed these amounts at each meal, you will likely save money. 

Plan on a few Disney Character Meals or buffets and you'll be way ahead! Here's a closer look:

 

This table shows how one reader saved $25.85 in just one day at Walt Disney World with the Disney Dining Plan. She ordered the equivalent of $95.20 worth of food and beverages, but only paid $69.35 for the Disney Dining Plan. The savings can really add up over the course of the entire vacation. 

Best Ways to Use Your Entitlements

Save at WDW selected some of the most expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World that participate on the Disney Dining Plan. Each cost only 1-Table Service entitlement.  

Restaurant Location Menu Item Cost
Chef Mickeys Contemporary Resort Character Buffet $52.00
Garden Grill Epcot Character Buffet $45.00
Akershush Epcot Character Buffet $55.00
1900 Park Fare Grand Floridian Character Buffet $46.00
Crystal Palace Magic Kingdom Character Buffet $44.00
Cape May Cafe Beach Club Resort Character Buffet $60.00
Biergarten Epcot Dinner Buffet $38.00
Trattoria al Forno Boadwalk Resort Pork Chop Milanese $24.00
Boma Animal Kingdom Lodge Dinner Buffet $42.00
Coral Reef Epcot Seafood Scampi $32.00
Ohana Polynesian Resort family style feast $45.00
Teppan Edo Epcot Steak and Shrimp $35.00
Tutto Italia Epcot Risotto ai Sapori $30.00
Tokyo Dining Epcot Steak with Tempura Shrimp $31.00
Tusker House Animal Kingdom Park Character Buffet $42.00


The 2017 adult Disney Dining Plan price is $69.35 (ages 10+).  Kids, ages 3-9, pay $24.95. The regular Dining Plan, known as the "Basic Disney Dining Plan" or simply the "Disney Dining Plan" entitles each guest to

  • 1 table service meal
  • 1 quick service meal (similar to fast-food dining)
  • 2 snacks
  • 1 refillable resort mug

The cost of the Disney Dining Plan is per person, per package night. For example, If you stay seven nights, each person will have seven of each entitlement. Gratuity is not included but you won't have to pay the 6.75% sales tax. Almost every Walt Disney World restaurant accepts the Disney Dining Plan and most of the menu items are in included. Excluded items are alcoholic beverages, most platters, and room service.

The Table Service entitlement

Table Service dining is defined as sit-down, family-friendly restaurants. The best Table Service restaurants are located at the Deluxe hotels but Epcot has many great options as well. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance. 

Each Table Service meal entitlement includes:

Download the Disney Dining Plan Brochure 2017

Download the Disney Dining Plan Brochure 2017

  • Entree
  • Dessert
  • Non-Alcoholic beverage

QUick Service Entitlement

Quick Service dining is comparable to "fast-food" where your meal is served to you at the counter and you find a place to sit. Typical Quick Service menu items are burgers, chicken and fresh salads. Most Quick Service meals are combos, meaning they include a side, typically french fries and a soft-drink.

The Snack Option

Most participating snack items can be found at carts and kiosks inside the parks. Often this will be a box of popcorn, fruit, or an ice cream bar. New this year, you will have 2 snacks per per package night. Your snack entitlement can also be redeemed for select beverages (coffee, tea, soda or water) though beverages typically cost less than a snack. To boost the value of your snack options head to one of the Starbucks Coffee locations in the Theme Parks or the bakery items at the resort hotels. These items are typically valued at $5 and above whereas a bottle of water in the Theme Parks is only $2.75.

Unlimited Refills

Each person will receive a Rapid Fill Resort Refillable Mug that can be used unlimited times through midnight of your checkout day. The refill locations can be found at the quick service restaurants at each Walt Disney World Resort hotel. The mugs cannot be refilled inside the Theme Parks. 

The Free Disney Dining Plan Offer

View the History of the Free Dining Offer at Walt Disney World to see how often Disney has run this promotion. You can use our historical data to make a prediction as to when it might be offered again. In the years 2014 and 2015 the Free Dining offer has been riddled with limitations, blockout dates and exclusions making it very difficult for most people to take advantage of the offer. With attendance on the rise, it's rumored that Disney is beginning to phase out the free dining offer. 


Avoid these Disney Dining Plan Mistakes 

  • Using table service entitlements for breakfast is a poor value (except for character breakfasts). Menu prices are typically higher at dinner. Plus, there is no dessert option as with lunch and dinner. 
  • Avoid using your snack entitlement for water or soft drinks, as they typically cost less than the component cost of the snack credit -- about $5. The food courts at the resort hotels might have eligible snack items that slightly exceed $5, so stock up on snacks at your hotel rather than at the theme parks.
  • Don't wing it! Make an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation up to 6 months out). The chances of getting a table without an ADR are slim. 

Combining 2 Table Service Meals for a Signature Restaurant

Signature restaurants at Walt Disney World offer fine dining experiences and  specialized wine lists. And if you have the Disney Dining Plan, you can redeem two Table Service meals for one Signature Dining meal (entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage) But, watch your prices carefully! Most Signatures are ala carte. Your apps and side dishes will be at additional cost. We determined earlier that the component value of the Table Service entitlement is about $28, two Table Service meals have a value of about $56. Even at the most expensive Signature Restaurant, there are not many, if any, individual menu items that cost that much and you're still paying out-of-pocket for your apps and sides. For most, paying out-of-pocket for a Signature dining experience is better than combining two Table Service meals. 

Disney Dining Plan Tips:

  • Research menus online, we recommend TouringPlans.com. If you wish to subscribe to TouringPlans.com, use our offer code
  • Dining reservations tend to drive your itinerary. If you prefer a more flexible or spontaneous option, consider the Quick Service Dining Plan
  • Book your dining reservations exactly 180 days prior to your arrival date.  
  • You need to spend the equivalent of at least $63.74 on food everyday, or you lose money.
  • Walt Disney World character meals and buffets are the best values. 

How Dining is Defined at Walt Disney World:

Counter Service: 

Just like a fast-food restaurant, you order at the counter, pick up your tray, and find a table. Simple, and quick. Advance dining reservations are not accepted. 


Table Service: 

Most of the better restaurants are located inside the Walt Disney World resort hotels but you'll find a few exceptions in Epcot. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance. 


Character Dining: 

A face-to-face meet and greet with a famous Disney character or princess. As characters visit each table, they love to give hugs, sign autographs, and pose for photos. Some of the most popular are Cinderella's Royal Table inside Cinderella's Castle, Chef Mickey's inside Disney's Contemporary Resort, and The Crystal Palace inside Magic Kingdom Park. The experience focuses on the characters rather than the food, which is usually a buffet.  


Signature Dining: 

Disney is so much more than burgers and fries and with fine dining, or Signature Dining, you'll see why Walt Disney World can compete with other dining destinations such as Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco. Signature restaurants are an elite group fine dining experiences throughout Walt Disney World.