Big Savings on Deluxe Disney Dining Plan?!

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is the most expensive of the Disney World dining plans, but if you use it efficiently, you can maximize your value and save a lot of money at Walt Disney World restaurants. I had heard this a few times from Disney Dining Plan veterans, and the idea is great in theory, but I was still a bit skeptical that the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan would actually save money in practice. I mean, it’s just so much food. So when the opportunity presented itself for us to test the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, we just had to do our own “research.” Oh, the sacrifices we make for our readers! 😉

Overview of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

For those who are unfamiliar with Walt Disney World’s Dining Plan structure, check out our overview series for a nice primer on the Disney Dining Plan. As you can see from that, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes: three counter service restaurants or table service meal credits per night; two snacks per night; and, one refillable mug per trip. The snacks and refillable mugs are pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t waste time fixating on those.

The three meals aspect of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is a bit more interesting, and is where most of the savings comes into play. As the description above indicates, you can choose any mix of meals, table service or counter service, for these credits. If you eat at a table service restaurant, not only do the meals include desserts and entrees (like they do on the regular Disney Dining Plan), but they also include appetizers! Obviously, table service meals offer much better value than counter service meals, so it’s in your best interest to do all table service meals if you book the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a competitive eater, three table service meals per day is probably too much. In fact, two table service meals per day might border on too much. Disney realizes this, which is why the standard Disney Dining Plan is $53.54 per adult per night, and the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is “only” $85.52 per adult per night. Considering what you (potentially) receive on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan over what you receive on the regular Disney Dining Plan, the ~$32 price difference isn’t bad. In fact, it’s a really good deal by Walt Disney World standards!

It’s one of those “eyes bigger than your stomach” scenarios, though. All that food sounds and looks great, but you’ll likely waste a lot of credits by the end of your trip, so the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan actually works out to be a poor value for a lot of people who purchase it.

Unless you have a plan…

The Plan

Realizing that three table service meals per day (the absolute best way to maximize your value on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan) plus two snacks was an unrealistic goal for us, we decided to hedge our bets with the plan by doing two table service meals per day instead of three. However, to keep the value high, we used two of these credits per day for signature restaurants, which meant that we were still using all three table service credits per day. I’ve written in the past that you get more value out of dining credits by doing two separate regular table service meals instead of one signature meal, but if your option is one signature meal or one regular table service meal and one counter service meal (or one table service meal and one wasted credit), you’re much better off doing the signature meal.

We thus planned on doing one early regular table service meal for lunch, and a signature table service meal for dinner. I’ve heard of others doing a breakfast character meal buffet and a signature dinner to spread the time between meals even more. However, we wanted to get a bit more bang for our buck, so we did lunch and dinner. It also helped us that we were only doing this experiment for two nights (and we could spread out our meal and credit usage over the course of three days). I don’t think we could have kept up the table service lunch and signature table service dinner pace up everyday for a 7-night trip. Two sit-down meals per day may not seem like much, but it really is!

The next step was determining which restaurants would offer the most value for our money. After researching this at length last year to create our Best-Value Table Service Disney Dining Plan Restaurants post, I had a pretty good idea which non-signature restaurants we should consider. After eliminating a couple restaurants because we had already eaten at them recently (or for various other reasons), we settled on Tutto Italia and Le Cellier. I consulted some Walt Disney World menus and determined that Narcoossee’s and Yachtsman Steakhouse were the way to go for our dinners.

We booked reservations for Tutto Italia (lunch) and Narcoossee’s (dinner) the first day of our trip, Yachtsman Steakhouse (dinner) the second day of our trip, and Le Cellier (lunch) the last day of our trip.

Along the way we had snacks as our appetites allowed. We originally planned on doing this during Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2012 to really maximize our value since snacks there can sometimes cost $6-7, but after giving it some thought, we realized that we wanted to focus our stomachs on the snacks and other Food & Wine Festival-exclusive offerings, so we decided to nix that plan, in favor of this plan.

The Results

Unsurprisingly, we saved a lot of money. We paid $342.08 to add-on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan (total for two people, two nights) to our Disney Vacation Club stay at the Beach Club Villas.

Here’s what each meal would have cost if we had paid out of pocket:

  • Tutto Italia – $115.02
  • Narcoossee’s (2 credits) – $201.20
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse (2 credits) – $201.47
  • Le Cellier – $113.30

In addition to that, we each received refillable mugs ($30.86 value) and we used 7 of our 8 snack credits ($30.24). We would have used all 8 credits, but the Disney’s Magical Express bus’ early arrival prevented us from using the last one! This amounts to a total value received of $692.09 for time we were on the trip, which far exceeded the amount we spent on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, and even exceeded Disney’s own advertised savings on the Disney Dining Plan since we saved over 50%!

The Verdict

I think the numbers pretty well speak for themselves. I was incredibly pleased with the Deluxe Dining Plan, and if you’ve read my review of the Disney Dining Plan, you know I’m not the biggest fan of the plan, in general. So this is high praise coming from me.

That said, before you go booking this because you’ll save 50%, there are a few things worth noting. First, we never would have eaten this much food if we weren’t on the Deluxe Dining Plan. Assuming that we dined at the same restaurants, we probably would have spent $85 at Tutto Italia, $175 at Narcoossee’s, $201.47 at Yachtsman Steakhouse, and $75 at Le Cellier. We would have spent another $20 or so on snacks, and we wouldn’t have purchased the refillable mugs. Total, we still would have spent around $556.47. We also use the Tables in Wonderland card, so our total out of pocket would have been $445.18, which is still well above what we paid for the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. Plus, as noted, we received more food than we would have if we paid out of pocket–while we wouldn’t have ordered it if paying out of pocket, I’m certainly not complaining about it and we definitely ate it all and enjoyed it, so it must be accounted-for in an accurate value calculation. In other words, no matter how you do the math, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan was still a great deal for us!

Doing only two nights of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan was perfect for us as it didn’t require us to keep up the pace of such lavish and large meals over an extended duration. Had we done it for 7-nights, I think my verdict would likely be, “great deal, but way too much food.” As mentioned above, this ‘too much’ food is exactly what Disney is counting on by pricing the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan so low (relatively speaking). The expectation that people won’t or can’t maximize their value on this plan is built into the price, and for those on longer vacations, I think that assumption is very accurate. If you’re contemplating doing the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan during a long trip, either mentally and physically prepare yourself for huge feasts, or mentally prepare yourself to waste some credits (if you do end up opting for some counter service meals, make sure to consult our list of the best-value counter service restaurants to get good bang for your buck!). Given the potential savings, you can use some credits “inefficiently” and still save a lot of money!

Overall, I highly recommend upgrading to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan if you think you can eat two table service restaurant meals per day for most of your trip (if you can do three, hats off to you–I’d like to hear from you folks in the comments!) and use most of the snack credits. The absolute best time to use the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, when you can get even more bang for your buck by using the snack credits on expensive food booth samples. However, any time of year is a good time to use the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, just make sure you pack your appetite and make Advance Dining Reservations to some of Walt Disney World’s more expensive restaurants!

Have you ever done the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan during a Walt Disney World trip? Would you like to do the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan? What do you think of our little experiment? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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79 Responses to “Big Savings on Deluxe Disney Dining Plan?!”

  1. Amanda says:

    My husband and I did the Deluxe plan for 8 days in September. We didn’t do the actual math, but our typical days looked like this: character or buffet breakfast, snacks for lunch, and a signature dinner (2 credits). We tried to have an early breakfast (before 9), lunch or snacks a little later (1:30 or 2), and a late dinner (8 or later). While I was full after each meal, for how much energy we used in the parks, we needed all the fuel we could get. My husband is much more into the food than the parks, so for us this worked out well. We are both fairly big eaters, but we did occasionally still have too much food. We had the biggest problem with the snack credits because we simply filled up at meals. We ended up stocking up on candy at the end. We’re already planning our next trip and will definitely use this again!

    • Lisa Zoppo says:

      I planned on Disney World. I got some quotes from travel agents. Then I stumbled on Travel Agloo. He mentioned me about the different dining plans and the only one mentioned to me about the deluxe, at first I thought this is expensive but when we went, I was glad we did this plan. For sure going again with this plan, plus by booking this I got a gift card, Highly recommend this agency.

  2. Melissa says:

    I can definitely see how the Deluxe plan offers savings, but we’ve always eschewed the Disney Dining Plans because we don’t eat the way that the plans are laid out. While we might, once or twice on a trip, eat at two or three table-service meals a day (light breakfasts and late dinners make it possible on occasion), we often dine in bars or lounges, split several appetizers instead of ordering entrées, and rarely order dessert. Also, several of our favorite restaurants do not participate with the Dining Plan. Most of the Downtown Disney restaurants and Bistro de Paris recently came on board, but we’d miss not going to any of the Swan and Dolphin restaurants.

  3. Danielle says:

    I saw that it said you both got the deluxe dining plan and stretched it out for three days? So if you were going for a week you could buy maybe a 4 or 5 day deluxe plan and then stretch it across the week? If so that would be perfect!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That wouldn’t work. I should have clarified in the post, but you must purchase the plan for every night of your trip. Credits expire at midnight of the day you checkout. Thus, for us, we had three days to use the two nights worth of credits. If you were on a 6 night/7 day trip, you’d have 7 days to use 6 nights worth of credits. Does that make sense?

  4. Ben says:

    Mike and I were on Deluxe when we were down there. I’m not sure exactly how much it added to our trip, but for us, all in, we paid $2500 for tickets, hotel and dining plan. We did the math – $2000 worth of food, exclusive of snacks. We feel like we’ve gotten our money’s worth!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Sounds like you definitely got your money’s worth. You said you stayed at Pop, right?

      • Ben says:

        Sports, but we ate everywhere else. Narcoosee’s, California Grill, Artist’s Point and Jiko (where we had the BEST meal of the entire trip).

  5. Jen Corley says:

    Wow, that is a lot of food. I would have never thought of using the Deluxe Dining Plan for signature restaurants. I think this would be a great idea for foodies and people *not* on a diet :-). The standard Disney Dining Plan is too much for me, but this definitely makes me think about trying the Deluxe plan on a short visit to WDW!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If the standard DDP is too much for you, the DxDDP will be WAY too much. However, if you plan well, you might be able to make it work on a short trip, like we did.

  6. Aaron says:

    We (my wife and I) did the Deluxe Dining Plan this past November during the Food & Wine Festival and it worked out great. We also tended to mostly do an early lunch and later signature dinner (5 of 6 nights). Using the snack credits during the Food & Wine Festival was an extra special perk! We also used some snack credits for breakfast (Muffin or Cinnamon Roll from a Bakery) a couple times and that worked really well. While it is a lot of food, if you enjoy good food and take advantage of the Signature restaurants and top shelf table restaurants, I think it is worth it to indulge for a week. I saved my receipts and for 6 nights, and had we paid out of pocket for all of our meals and snacks we would have spent between $400-$500 more than we paid for the dining plan. So, it was definitely worth it for us. Thanks for the great post!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I am really starting to think we should do the DxDDP during Food & Wine Festival. Even if we end up using some credits less than “perfectly” efficient, we still should save a lot!

    • Aaron says:

      Frankly, I’m not sure we could have used all the snack credits had it not been for the Food & Wine Festival. The day we didn’t go to a Signature restaurant, we had breakfast at Cat Cora’s place, skipped lunch at a sit-down and ate our way around the world showcase instead. We had a late dinner at Cosmic Ray’s during MVMCP. It was great because we felt we could try anything we wanted at the Food & Wine Fest.

      • Eddie says:

        My wife and I are going to attend the 213 Wine and Food Festival, I understand there are some special events you can sign up for. We went 2 years ago and missed out on them because I couldn’t figure out how to sign up for them. Do you have any advice or knowledge on how and when to sign up for them?
        Thank you,

      • Tom Bricker says:

        You can’t sign up for them yet, but there will be an official announcement on the Disney Parks Blog.

  7. Amber says:

    Let me just say that I’m not one of those people whi like to throw away money, but I’m all up for doing the deluxe plan because it makes my vacation pretty much “all-inclusive”. I like the security of knowing I can do everything and eat anywhere without much worry of how much money I need to save for it. Deluxe plan is definietly too much food, but I always do a little doggie bag to have some snacks for the parks. I am constantly on the move at WDW, so I need the fuel for energy, as someone else said.
    And I will say, I just found out recently all the things that can be eaten with snack credits! Wow!! I’m going to be rolling away from my next WDW vacation!! LOL No diets on vacation!

  8. Amber says:

    Sorry my typing stinks…
    BTW, one of my favorite memories is taking the other half of my Tonga Toast to go, then renting a boat and eating the rest of my breakfast on Seven Seas Lagoon right outside MK with a view of Cinderella’s Castle!!! <3

  9. Michelle Schaefer says:

    We purchased the Deluxe Dining Plan when we were there for 2wks in January 2011. We were staying at Coronado Springs and the regular Dining Plan was free so we just had to pay the upgrade to the Deluxe…great deal! We always rent a car when we go to WDW so we drive to AKL every morning to have the buffet breakfast at Boma (and sit in Albert’s section if he’s working…he rocks!) We’re usually done by 815am and then off to a park. We usually just have a snack during the day and then go to a Signature restaurant for dinner. For those of you who have not done this, keep in mind you have to factor in the tip based on the pricey cost of the Signature meals, but its still well worth it:) We had some amazing dinners! And our son at the time was 15 so he was okay to having some late dinners at a nice restaurant and being well behaved…lol! I say that only because our dinner at The Yachtsman was accompanied by a family sitting not too far away with 2 small children that most obviously just wanted to go to bed…they screamed & cried for almost 2hrs. The children’s menus at the Signature restaurants also do not offer as much variety for the little ones that the regular restaurants offer, so that is something to keep in mind as well. Overall, the Deluxe dining plan absolutely added to the magic of our Disney vacation and we’ll most definitely do it again!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Boma everyday for breakfast? You must be big Boma fans! We’ve only ever done the dinner buffet there, but we really liked it!

  10. Amber says:

    My husband and I just got back from our 5 night/6 day Disney vaca with the deluxe dining plan. We usually go with my sister and a friend and opt for the regular dining plan. They couldn’t make it this year, so we splurged on dining.
    We did similar to what you did and ate at 2-credit places: Narcoosee’s (the most expensive of the whole trip), Brown Derby, and Bistro de Paris. On those nights we had lunch and the other nights were regular lunch/dinner. Had I really realized just how much food we’d be getting, I would have scheduled lunches earlier to allow more time between meals!
    We also used only 3 of our snacks (hello dole float!) and literally took home 17 snacks from the France bakery. Yummm! We live locally so it was easy to take them home. :) Oh, and we banked 2 meals for breakfast on the day we checked out!
    The deluxe dining plan can be a good deal if you use it…”right”. We like to call it maximizing, lol. I keep records of how much every meal would have cost and do the math at the end of the trip….and it is crazy how much you could potentially spend on that much food!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Being local is a real plus if you have to take snacks home. As much as we would like to, we could never take home 17 snacks from France!

  11. Stephanie says:

    I have been checking into the deluxe dining plan, we have always done the regular plan where you only get 1 counter and 1 sit down meal. Wanting to go back to Disney in December, didn’t they offer free dining last year free during the first part of December?

    • Cristabel says:

      Yes, Stephanie they are currently offering the dining plan for select hotels on select dates from sept. 30 – Dec. 13th when you book through Disney. Hopefully it comes again in 2013 because I want to try the DxDP

  12. Melanie says:

    A lot of the time when my family goes to DW (we’re DVC members and my sister is a cast member) we’ll pay to stay at one of the value resorts on the weekend and then use our points the rest of the week for the weekdays. That way we can make more/longer trips without using all of our points up at once. So by doing this we end up with 2 stays… a 2 night and a 5 night. This way we can get the dining plan for the first ‘short’ stay and eat waaaay too much food, then have the rest of the time to eat more normal. Staying at 2 different resorts is a good way to not have to get the dining plan for your entire vacation.

  13. quin says:

    Maybe this is a silly question or was already answered but I am staying at AKL in Sept for 7 nights (just two adults) and got free Disney Dining (yippee!!)
    I was debating about upgrading to deluxe because my fiancee and I are big table service snobs and like the signature restaurants. With no kids, we like to get out of the heat and relax during the day and at night. But even with that, I still think that this will be too much. We won’t be doing any character dining (hubby isn’t a fan.. oh well!) and I don’t think we can eat a signature dinner plus a table service meal everyday.

    Ex on somedays: Boma for breakfast, snack for lunch, dinner at California Grill or Jiko.

    Question: Can I upgrade to deluxe for 2-3 days of our trip, and stay on the standard plan for the rest? Or is this too easy.

  14. Jess says:

    We go to WDW every year but have always done a room-only reservation (and have been lucky with discounts, although it’s always a little nerve-racking because we must reserve at full-price and hope that a discount comes out later.) The primary reason we have skipped a dining plan is that we are all vegetarians. Even though we tend to do two table-Service restaurants per day (often including at least one character meal) the vegetarian items are often the cheapest on the menu, so we’ve

  15. Jess says:

    Assumed we were better off with a room discount and paying for meals out of pocket. any thoughts?

  16. Sheilla says:


    I’ll do you one better than the Deluxe Plan. We went in 2002 and 2005 and did the Platinum Plan. We enjoyed Victoria and Albert’s on both of those trips in addition to Wolfgang Puck’s before a performance of La Nouba.

    Decadence for darn sure. But totally wonderful experiences. Our mantra for both trips was that you’ll never go hungry on the dining plan!

    I think we ended up with unused snack credits both trips. In 2010 we did deluxe and at the end we used the unused snacks to bring home treats for friends and family.

    We are definitely foodies and the signature dining is part of what draws us to WDW so Deluxe works for us.

  17. Dharma says:

    We’ve been to WDW a few times & we’ve always taken advantage of the deluxe dining plan… The ideal way to go about it is to have a nice breakfast (Kona or Boma are favorites) and then a signature dinner every other day.
    We never wound up using all our snacks but we found out that you can buy various candies/treats (I think the value has to be under $3.99) and just bring them back home with us for treats for our nephews & nieces. Haha, usually my carry-on is stuffed with cookies, rice crispy treats, candies… Must look funny going thru the scanner.

    Don’t miss out on going to Ohana’s!

  18. Tina says:

    We have used the Deluxe Dining Plan before but it is a lot of food. I am planning a trip for my husband and I and he is not much of a food lover so I have done a lot a research (even going as far as picking all the restaurants that I want to go to and picking the average meal price for DDP and OOP) if you want to eat it is definitely worth it. However even if you don’t want to eat a lot you will still break even and have more credit than you probably will use. I prefer the DDP simply because it is paid for in advance so I don’t have to worry about carrying money with me all trip or worry about staying on budget. I also make sure I am very aware about planing on how to use snack credits. Be sure lots of my gifts will be bags of Disney candy or popcorn or other transportable snacks.

  19. Julie says:

    We used the deluxe with two kids for seven days. It was great. We had character breakfasts everyday, then we didn’t have to wait to see them in the park. We went to the Luau and Cinderella’s Royal Table. We would use one snack every day for frozen drinks. We would use DDP again.

  20. mchamp1776 says:

    My daughter and I got the deluxe plan when we went back in November and it was perfect. We were there for 9 days and she got the do all the charactor breakfasts, Cinderella’s table, Chrystal Palace Akershus and all the others. We had a couple of signiture dinners and stuffed our suitcases with enough snacks to take home that it took my daughter 5 weeks to eat through them. It was great! We’re going again this November and I’m using the same Deluxe Plan again. It’s well worth the money!

  21. Brooke says:

    Those pictures look delicious! Can you tell me which restaurants they are from?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      In order: Narcoossee’s, Le Cellier, Narcoossee’s, Yachtsman, Tutto, Tutto, Beach Club pool, and Main Street Bakery.

  22. Liz Wright says:

    I went back and forth trying to decide whether or not to upgrade to the DDP from the regular plan, which we are getting free on our upcoming trip in September. We decided against it for the following reasons:

    1) We enjoy WDW buffets (we have Boma, Cape May and Biergarten scheduled) and we can’t imagine having a big buffet lunch AND a full signature dinner with appetizers, entree, bread and dessert on the same day (and we prefer lunch over breakfast so the amount of time between meals wouldn’t be as great).

    2) Hubby isn’t really a ‘signature’ kind of guy, so while I would appreciate the finer cuisine of a signature, he would be saying ‘I’d rather have a cheeseburger’. UGH. 😉

    3) The additional tips would really add up at the signatures.

    That being said, I’m still jealous of the DDP folks! I’m with you in spirit!

  23. Rebecca says:

    My husband and I used the DDP on our last trip to WDW (2 years ago) and have purchased it for this year’s trip in December. We’re both ‘big’ eaters and it’s just the two of us so we can take the time for leisurely meals. We look forward to the table-service meals as a major part of our experience. We actually did 3 meals per day several times on our last 8 day trip and were only in pain one of those days. Yes, literally in pain. Breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe, lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater (milkshakes AND sundaes, OY!), and dinner at Hollywood Brown Derby. We’re convinced it was the double-dairy whammy at Sci-Fi that did us in! Through trial and error we’ve come to the following conclusions. 1 – Definitely do Signature dining as much as possible. 2 – Just because a buffet is ‘all you can eat’ doesn’t mean you need to stuff yourself, you can still have a light meal. 3 – Ignore your mother’s voice in your head telling you to ‘clean your plate’ you can be a little bit wasteful, you’re on vacation after all. 4 – Don’t forget that you can cash in 2 credits for Room Service at a Deluxe Resort or Pizza Delivery at a Moderate or Value Resort. How nice is it to not have to race to a reservation and have your breakfast delivered to you after a late night in the parks? Or, take those tired, cranky, picky-eater kids home at the end of a long, hot day in the parks and have a pizza party!
    Our goal for the upcoming trip is no counter-service at all. ADRs have been booked for nothing but table-service, we’ll see how it goes! 😉

  24. Michelle says:

    Does the DxDDP require tips to be paid OOP? It would seem those Signature Meals would add a bit of additional cash if so.

  25. Sarah says:

    Hi there, we did the dxddp for 2 weeks in Nov 2010. For us, as a family of 6 we were able to eat at all the places we wouldn’t have if been on the regular plan. We did have 18 credits left over at the end, but that didn’t matter too much to us. This October we are there for 3 weeks and again have upgraded to the deluxe, as we feel to be able to maximise on the signature restaurants. For most parts we will eat a sit down breakfast and a signature evening meal, with a few lunches thrown in here and there. Great value for us!!

  26. Artie says:

    can you use any credits for Victoria & Alberts?

  27. Hilly C says:

    My husband and I upgraded to the Deluxe Dining Plan during the fall free dining incentive–we found that either eating a table service breakfast early in the day–Boma, Kona Cafe, Cora’s Kitchen were great or having sort of a brunch by having a lunch at the earliest seating at Chefs de France or Tusker House (where foods are kinda brunchy) then having late seatings at signature restaurants, like Narcoosees, Artist Point, Jiko, Flying Fish and snack throughout the day, we generally used all 3 table service meals per day. Arriving super early and leaving late on the travel days helps use up meals, so if you have a couple days where you have only two table service meals (or even have a counter service meal or two and use a table service credit), you can use them all, not eat tooo much, and try a lot of different cuisines, and save a lot of money rather than paying for those same meals cash (I did the math and we saved about $45-50 per day). BUT I would recommend this kind of dining experience/strategy for adults–honestly, we enjoyed the romance of the signature dining, and the amount of time we spent eating in the table service restaurants was enjoyable for us. If we had kids with us, this would have been too much time eating, and it would have cut in to our ride and active time–we also did the math and we easily spent 4 hours eating those two meals each day on average. Fun for my husband and I celebrating our anniversary and WDW, torture for kids.

    • Hilly C says:

      ALSO–you MUST make reservations for table service restaurants, especially the signature restaurants, so again, this was easy enough for my husband and I to stay on schedule and eat when we planned to eat (monhs in advance when I made the reservations), but that would have been hard with younger kids, when you need to play it by ear sometimes.

  28. Stephanie says:

    We purchased the Deluxe dining plan for our trip last may. It may not seem like a great plan for traveling with kids (ours were 3 and 5 at the time)but for us it was perfect. We did character breakfasts before the parks opened, had a nice relaxing lunch midday and a late dinner. It was still a lot of food and we ended up using most of our snacks on bottled water but we still saved around 20%. Even if we didn’t save a dime, the conveinence was totally worth it.

  29. DanM says:

    I’m curious to understand if you factored tips into your savings? It seems like this would work fine for a couple, but not realistic for a family. Assuming two sit down meals per day – and maybe one of them a signature meal – your tips per day are probably at least $40 per day. That adds $20 per person (assuming a couple) to the daily cost. Given that, is it still a bargain? Thanks.

    • lmcburney says:

      We had a party of 6 people at WDW 11/6-11/13/12 using DDP. We spent $354.84 in automatically added gratuity by the end of the week from table service meals. It was great food but I wish the gratuity was included. If we had not done the Deluxe Dining Plan, we would have used more quick service meals and saved on tipping. I think it worked out okay for us but tipping does add up for parties of 6 or more.

    • Hilly C says:

      I did include the amount we spent tipping when I calculated the value (or cost) of the meals to compare that to what we paid out of pocket and then what we paid for the dining plan. Because some of the dining plan cost was free as a fall incentive (the regular dining was free and we upgraded to deluxe and paid that difference–about $80/night for two of us), we still came out ahead even with big tips. But you really have to eat appetizer, entree, desert at the majority of your meals to “profit”.
      ALSO, the room wasn’t discounted, and there are times of the year when you can get room discounts……and so if eating sit down meals at the restaurants doesn’t appeal to you as an activity or Disney experience, you can likely save more by selecting room discounts and paying for your food as you go and just eating normal meals.

  30. Shannon says:

    We used the deluxe dining plan on our last trip to WDW and it worked out great! We started planning online really early and booked awesome table times for our whole vacation months in advance (and changed them around online about a dozen times lol) We were able to eat at all of the character meals we wanted plus the Aloha and the Fantasmic package works with the plan too. It was 7 days of awesome food and unbelieveble memories. We are headed back in May with the dining plan again and already have a bunch of reservations ready to go (narcoosees, Cinderellas table, Be Our Guest, Aloha, Fantasmic with Hollywood and Vine, Chef Mickeys….yay!!!) It’s a definite addition for all of our WDW vacations :)

  31. Erin says:

    My husband and I did the dining plan in 2007 for our 8-day honeymoon on the Disney property. I’d been to Disney several times throughout my childhood and my family usually did counter-service for meals, but we decided to splurge for this trip. We had a hard time using all our meals and snacks, even though we did a character breakfast and dinner at Narcooses which used up four sit-down meals alone. No matter what meal we ate, we always ended up carting around extra food and storing it in our hotel fridge, and then tossed it away at the end of the trip. It was fun to try some restaurants we wouldn’t have gone to otherwise, but it used up A LOT of time and we both had incidents where we felt “sick” because we over-ate or had too much rich food. I’m sure it’s a deal for what you get, but we would rather buy only what we need and spend our time exploring the parks. We are going on another trip soon and will not be doing the dining plan this time.

  32. Kristin says:

    I want to ask your opinion on which option might be best for our situation… planning to go Fall 2014 (during Food & Wine). It will be my husband and I, our 5 1/2 yr old son and daughter who will be about 20 days shy of turning 3 (so she will be “free” during this trip). Probably most days we will have at least one table service meal (either breakfast or dinner, character dining more often than not), lunch will probably be counter service at the parks. With kids this young I doubt we’ll be doing any signature dining (unfortunate because I’m a foodie!). Is the deluxe plan worth it for us? Especially since we’ll need to use some of our credits, or share meals with our youngest? Thanks in advance!

  33. Tamara says:

    While your food is “prepaid” when using the dining plan, one major pitfall of using the plan (especially the Deluxe) is the gratuities you may forget you are responsible for. And they add up quickly.

    If you order every part of your meal (app, entree, beverage & dessert) it comes out to a very hefty “bill” which would also require a very large gratuity. Not that gratuities are bad…good service deserves generous gratuities.

    Two times my family of 5 was on the DDP. For a 7 night trip we ended up with $500-600 dollars in gratuities! (We usually do a breakfast or very early lunch at table service restaurants and a Signature Dining for dinner).

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You raise a good point that people considering the DxDDP should be mindful of in general, but the context of this article is how much you’re saving versus paying for the same meals out of pocket. If it’s the same meals, it would be the same tips in both circumstances.

      Now, if you wouldn’t normally eat as much food as the DxDDP provides or your bill would be significantly more on the DxDDP, then the tips do make a difference. But if you don’t want to eat as much food as the DxDDP provides, why have it in the first place?

  34. Jennifer says:

    Loved this article! We are thinking about the DxDP for our disneymoon in October (on which you have ill advised me once before). If we do decide the DxDP is the way to go, could you please advise on other resturants that would get the most bang for our buck. I know the big 3 Narcoossee’s, California Grill, and Critico’s, but what else gets you a huge bang for your buck.
    PS(I have heard that Yachtsman Steakhouse is a better steak than the popular Le Cellier)

  35. Jennifer says:

    Loved this article! We are thinking about the DxDP for our disneymoon in October (on which you have ill advised me once before). If we do decide the DxDP is the way to go, could you please advise on other resturants that would get the most bang for our buck. I know the big 3 Narcoossee’s, California Grill, and Critico’s, but what else gets you a huge bang for your buck.
    PS(I have heard that Yachtsman Steakhouse is a better steak than the popular Le Cellier)

  36. Amy says:

    We are going to disney world in may and with our package i upgraded to deluxe plan. I am going with 4 kids and my husband and I. I was wondering if the basic plan would be better for us or if we should stick with the deluxe package. Sometimes my kids dont eat that much but my husband does.

  37. Lisa says:

    We are going in September of this year. We are military, so we are lucky enough to be able to take advantage of discounted park tickets, discounted room prices and pay full price for the Delux Dining plan. We go for 9 days, 8 nights. We always plan for the checkin and checkout day to be resort only days. This gives us a chance to relax instead of pushing it at the parks.
    For us, we always use one meal credit for a nice breakfast at the resort and then usually either a Character lunch/dinner or a signature dinner. We have a 5 year old and it is just the three of us, so the DxDP isn’t too pricey. While, sure we could eat much cheaper oop, we wouldn’t be as likely to eat in some of the character places or signature if we had the sticker shock at the actual meal itself (psychological aspect).
    I used an excel speadsheet and the menus at to determine where we would most like to eat and what we would most like to order if price were no object. The DxDP allowed us to do all of that for less money than if we were to do everything we wanted OOP. So, if we were OOP we’d be spending less than the price of the DxDP, but we would miss out on some meals we’d like to do. With the DxDP, we can eat where we would most like, what we would most like, and we still had snack credits to take into consideration.
    We push our credits for all 9 days and do a handful of 2 credit meals to keep us from gorging. The days where we will actually use all three credits for three meals are uaually days where we plan to be in the park until 10:00pm or later. Other days, we eat an early breakfast, snack on lunch and do a nicer dinner. We usually use a few snack credits to bring home treats for friends and my 5 year old for later. We also get lunch and dinner on check in days and breakfast and “lunch to go” on check out days.
    If you are open minded about how you use your credits, and especially if you have little ones that absolutely MUST eat at the Castle and every darn character meal known to man, the DxDP can be great. Not to mention that you get to sit in the AC for two hours and eat while your kids get autographs you otherwise would have stood in a a 30+ min line for each character to get.
    For our family, it’s a great deal!

  38. Joy F. says:

    This article really helped me understand why some people would upgrade to the deluxe plan. I think it sounds like an amazing thing to do if you’re a foody, and if it’s not your first trip to the parks…as you will be navigating quite a bit to get to signature restaurants if you’re maximizing your plan. I will say, that as the mother of young twins, I don’t think the deluxe plan with small children is the way to go. Aside from the fact that kids often don’t eat their share on the dining plan to begin with, using the deluxe plan to the max means eating at some places that children might not find as enjoyable as a more relaxed restaurant. I will definitely consider it when my kids get older, and if I’m traveling with just my husband.

  39. Kristen says:

    I just read the new blog post you made today and then I saw the link in there to this one so I read this one again. We are a family of 3 and we always take our annual Walt Disney World vacation in September (normally near the end of the month). The past few years my sister has also traveled with us. The first time I booked the deluxe dining I went over all the math to see if it would work for us. Being 3 adults and one child, I compared the free dining discount versus the 30-40% off room rate discount for The Beach Club (where we always stay). I always booked the free dining discount and then upgraded to the deluxe dining. Once I booked the 40% because it worked out to be a few dollars more of a savings for us. We have never had 3 meals a day on the deluxe plan. That is way too much food for us and I know from experience! When I was a child my grandparents would take us to Disney every year and back then my grandmother belonged to the Magic Kingdom Club and the Gold Key Club and we used to eat 3 meals a day with the Gold Key Club and it was way too much food! So I knew that we did not want to do that. Instead what we tried was a sit down character breakfast every morning and then a signature dinner and it worked out great for us! We are early risers so we would always eat breakfast at Cape May Cafe in the mornings (my aunt also works here so it was a good way to see her in the mornings and was convenient since we stay at The Beach Club) and then we would pick different signature restaurants to eat at for dinner. We have found that this plan works out perfectly for us. It is a good way to eat breakfast at 7:30am every morning and then be at the parks when they opened and be able to be in the parks all day and then have a nice break for dinner time and be back in time for the nighttime entertainment. I’m sure you know how hot it can be in September so it always worked out great for us. We always attend MNSSHP every trip as well so that would be our only night we wouldn’t eat signature and instead we would eat at Beaches and Cream for a late lunch before the party. This year will be the 4th year with the same type of plan (minus my sister this year) and we always enjoy it. And every year when I get home, I use my excel spreadsheets and go over all the numbers and we typically save around 40%. Now if we weren’t using a dining plan, we wouldn’t eat like this. We take a few other trips during the year and stay at my aunts house so when we pay out of pocket we have entirely different eating habits. It is nice to splurge a little and get dressed up for a nice quiet meal. For us, it is another way to stop and smell the roses and really enjoy your environment. Things can be hectic at the parks so it is nice to slow down little during the day.

  40. Erin says:

    My husband and I upgraded fro the “free” dining plan to deluxe for our honeymoon. It was a great decision. We are foodies, and we made all of our dinner reservations (signature, of course) in advance. We would start the day with a table service breakfast, usually at Boatwrights (we stayed at Port Orleans), have a snack midday and a late fancy dinner. The dinners were magical – when I reserved everything,mod course I mentioned we were honeymooners, and the staff at each restaurant seemed on a mission to outdo the last with an amazing table, personalized touches and often visits from the chefs. Our Narcoosee’s experience, with dessert served during the fireworks, was the week’s capstone.

  41. gina b says:

    We used Deluxe Dining Plan two years ago and when booking I took everything into consideration. Everyday we were there which was 7 days we ate at “signature” restaurant that took “2” meal entitlements, or dining shows that also took “2”. The other was used for either breakfast or lunch. With this plan we did things such as Fantasmic, Luau, Ohana, LeCellier, Cinderella’s dinner, Hoop de Doo and others. We would have never done these if not for the plan. If you use the Deluxe dining correctly it pays for itself with the dinner shows. We are going this December and will be using the Deluxe dining again…..

  42. Rodney says:

    My wife and I spend Christmas at WDW most years for the past five and are going in fifty days for Christmas 2013. We upgrade to the DDP when we can get the quick service for free like this year since we stay at value resorts. Last year we did not have a dining plan and spent a little over $2,000 on food. We stay for 11 days. Couldn’t agree more with you– we eat a table service lunch and then a signature dinner. Le Cellier,, Narcoossee’s, Citricos, Brown Derby, Candlelight Processional Dining Package, Wolfgang Puck’s Dining Room, Monsieur Paul’s all contribute to our savings with the DDP. Wish we had found this website years ago!

  43. Rodney says:

    My wife and I spend Christmas at WDW most years for the past five and are going in fifty days for Christmas 2013. We upgrade to the DDP when we can get the quick service for free like this year since we stay at value resorts. Last year we did not have a dining plan and spent a little over $2,000 on food. We stay for 11 days. Couldn’t agree more with you– we eat a table service lunch and then a signature dinner. Le Cellier,, Narcoossee’s, Citricos, Brown Derby, Candlelight Processional Dining Package, Wolfgang Puck’s Dining Room, Monsieur Paul’s all contribute to our savings with the DDP. Wish we had found this website years ago! We also eat steaks a lot.

  44. Connie says:

    Hello! In March we will be staying at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge with a 4 year old and 1 year old for 3 nights. I am excited and nervous about taking such young children and still questioning myself about whether the deluxe dining plan was a prudent choice. My question is should we use 2 points to eat at Artist Point for dinner the first night or should we use 1 point to eat at Whispering Canyon the first night and 1 point to eat at a character breakfast the same day we will have lunch at Mama Melroses and dinner at the Brown Derby. It’s been over ten years since I have visited Disney, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  45. BA says:

    This post is almost 2 years old :( Unfortunately the prices for the deluxe have really gone up since then as far as I can tell. We are going with the standard plan this Sept. Almost double per person for the deluxe. ( Darn it)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      While this post is a couple years old, the prices for menu items and the other Disney Dining Plans have all increased during that time, too. In other words, the exact math here is no longer accurate, but the idea and amount of savings you can expect is remains pretty much accurate since prices have increased across the board…unfortunately. :(

  46. Roberta says:

    We ALWAYS buy the deluxe plan. There are two adults and a teen boy. We do nice sit down lunches and dinners. We love seafood, and do the Clam Bake at Cape May on night. Our lunch bills are always over $100. And dinner bills $150. At least. You get a ton of food, but with this plan you can order anything on the menu, not just from certain sections as with other plans. We use all of the snacks. Last trip was in 2011, when you still got 3 snacks each.

    It is just very convent not to have to worry about carrying money and the cost on the menu, since the trip is a splurge we plan the deluxe into the cost. I would love to be able to have them do free dining in Feb. 2015(that’s when we go the week of Presidents’ Day while still value) so that way we would be able to upgrade to deluxe for the cost difference.

    for our family it is worth it.

  47. Natalie says:

    I would love to know your input on this scenario…Visiting WDW in September during Food & Wine Festival for our HONEYMOON!! Reserved our hotel (Beach Club) with a military discount through Dreams Unlimited Travel. We have the option of getting military discount park hopper tickets for our stay. We were just informed that Free Dining option will be available during our stay, however we would probably go with Deluxe Dining because we have reserved 4/6 nights at Signature restaurants. So I would love to know if you think doing the free dining and upgrading to Deluxe dining would save more money than the military discount on the room/tickets and pay out of pocket for meals/snacks?


    • MrsM says:

      This will all depend on what and how much you like to eat. I’d run the numbers both ways. Many of the menu prices are on Disney’s website and they are also on That should be able to give you an idea of what you’d spend out of pocket.

  48. Rob says:

    To clarify – where free dining is offered, the price of an upgrade to the deluxe plan will only be the difference between the rack rates of the regular and deluxe plans?

  49. My husband and I got the Deluxe plan during a free dining trip in 2011. We saved over $800 on food for our 6 night trip.
    We ate like Kings and Queens …. And I lost 3lbs.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Lost 3 pounds? Wow, that’s impressive for a Walt Disney World vacation. Guess it’s all that walking! :)

  50. William Piekiel says:

    Nice Commentary. If we are planning to do dinner shows ie. the Hoop-de-doo Revue and the Spirit of Aloha Revue (Two sit down credits each), do you think the dining plan is worth it. We generally like to eat as we go and not plan anything but my wife and I have been to these shows and are taking our 12 year old for the first time.

  51. William Piekiel says:

    PS. We are going the week after Thanksgiving.

  52. Robin says:

    I am interested in buy tickets from undercover tourist but can you buy a meal plan also?

  53. Kevin says:

    This strategy is my exact plan for our first trip to WDW. Table service lunch as early as possible, followed by a Signature dinner. Even with just two meals a day, I am concerned about this being too much food. It’s a 4 night/5 day trip, and that much time dedicated to sitting down for a meal seems like a luxury for a longer 6/7 night trip. We do like to eat though, and counter service just doesn’t excite me. Our main reason for even doing the DDP at all is having it paid for in advance. It seems nice to not have to worry about prices on the menu. So conflicted on what to do!

  54. Keri says:

    OKAY–here’s my question:
    My family and I have never been to Disney World.
    We are trying to decide between the Deluxe Plan and the standard Disney Dining Plan. We ALL like to eat, and I don’t want the kids to be hungry…we will be there five days and four night, so how to I take advantage BEST of the meals plans and not have to pay for anything out of pocket on ALL FIVE days!?!? I am in desperate need of help!! 😕

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