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! As a travel agent, I'm asked all the time about whether the Disney Dining Plan saves money. In short, if you plan on dining at a few Character Meals while at Walt Disney World, then the Dining Plan begins to look pretty good. Also, adult beverages with Quick Service and Table Service meals (for those age 21+) will also help save you money.
To get the most out of the Disney Dining Plan, I recommend creating an optimized dining strategy by planning where you'd like to dine in advance. Begin by exploring the menus available at the official Walt Disney World website or the unofficial menus at TouringPlans.com which are often more accurate. Select restaurants that have high menu prices - start with the list below.
Best Ways to Use Your Dining Plan Entitlements
With the Disney Dining Plan you can dine at the best restaurants without stressing about cost. Here are some ideal restaurants with higher than average menu prices that will help you get the most value out of the DDP. Each of the listed restaurants below cost 1-Table Service entitlement.
Akershush Royal Banquet Hall - Princess Storybook Dining
Chefs de France
La Hacienda de San Angel
Special Event Dining Packages
Tutto Italia Ristorante
Via Napoli Ristorante
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
1900 Park Fare - Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Boma - Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Cape May Cafe - Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Chef Mickey’s - Disney’s Contemporary Resort
‘Ohana - Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Sanaa - Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village
Trattoria al Forno - Disney’s Boardwalk Inn
The Turf Club Bar and Grill - Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
Whispering Canyon Cafe - Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort
a Look at the Disney Dining plan
Everyone in your travel party, ages 3 and over, will receive the following:
- 1 Quick-Service Meal
- 1 Table-Service Meal
- 2 Snacks
- Resort refillable mug (unlimited refills at hotel only)
Entitlements are per person, per package night. For example, If you stay seven nights, each person will have seven of each meal entitlement and fourteen snacks. You may redeem your meals in any order and at any time - just be sure to use them all by midnight of the day you check out.
Gratuity is not included at table service meals 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 menu items are in included.
Beer, wine and cocktails are included (for those age 21 and older) with Quick Service and Table Service meals where available. Note that Magic Kingdom Park does not offer alcoholic-beverages except for wine Be Our Guest Restaurant.
The Table Service entitlement
Table Service dining is defined as a sit-down restaurant with a server. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance.
Each Table Service meal entitlement includes:
- Beverage (soft drink, water, specialty beverage or alcoholic beverage)
QUick Service Entitlement
Quick Service dining is comparable to "fast-food" where your meal is served to you at the counter and then 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 when on the dining plan.
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. Your snack entitlements 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.
Available at many Quick Service and Table Service restaurants for Guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.
Each person will receive a Rapid Fill Resort Refillable Mug that can be used unlimited times through midnight of your checkout day on soft drinks, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. 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. Alcoholic beverages are excluded.
Disney Dining Plan Tips:
- Research menus online, I recommend TouringPlans.com or the Walt Disney World website
- 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.
- Walt Disney World character meals and buffets are offer the best return on investment.
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 than actual snacks. 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 Advance Dining Reservations. The chances of getting a table without an ADR are slim during most times of the year. Reservations can be made online within your My Disney Experience account beginning at approximately 5:45AM (EST), 180-days prior to your arrival date.
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. Also check out the Free Dining FAQ page where you can view common questions, any current offers, and view previous ones.
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. It may be cheaper to pay out-of-pocket for a Signature dining experience is better than combining two Table Service meals. Be sure to check those menus!