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! As a travel agent, one of the most frequent questions I get is whether or not 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 push you over the break even figure sooner. 

disney_dining_plan_worth_it

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.


how to actually save money

Plan on a few Disney Character Meals or buffets and you'll be way ahead! Character Meals can run in $45-$60 price range for guests ages 10+ and that's pretty close to the per-night cost of the Dining Plan. So in that one meal, you've nearly covered the cost of the dining plan but you also have a Quick Service meal and snacks. 

The Dining Plan also makes sense if you enjoy beer, wine and cocktails with your meal, offered at most restaurants at Walt Disney World, except at Magic Kingdom Park. 


What The Disney Dining Plan Costs

The cost for the Disney Dining Plan is $75.49 (ags 10+) and $21.75 (ages 3-9). The cost is per person, per package night.

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their package stay:

  • 1 Quick-Service Meal
  • 1 Table-Service Meal
  • 2 Snacks

Rates are per person, per package night. For example, If you stay seven nights, each person will have seven of each entitlement (and 14 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.


Best Ways to Use Your dining plan Entitlements

With the Disney Dining Plan you can dine at the best restaurants without being worried about cost. Here I selected some of the most expensive restaurants, 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 regular Dining Plan, known as the "Basic Disney Dining Plan" or simply the "Disney Dining Plan" entitles each guest to:

  • 1 Quick-Service Meal
  • 1 Table-Service Meal
  • 2 Snacks

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:

  • 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.

Alcoholic Beverages

You have several beverage options available at most Quick Service and Table Service locations including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for Guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.

Unlimited Refills

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.
  • 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 the best values 


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 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 6AM (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!

    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.