Disney Dining Plan 2013 Costs and Review


The 2013 Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World is now available for booking, and not much has changed from the 2012 Disney Dining Plan, besides the price. As has been the case each year since the popular meal plan was first offered, there are more price increases for 2013. Luckily, the 2013 Disney Dining Plan does not feature any cuts to what’s included in the meal plans, which has happened in many years prior.

2013 “Free Dining” is now available for Walt Disney World guests with arrival dates most nights between September 29, 2013 and December 22,  2013 (meaning you have to arrive between these dates to be eligible–so if you arrive December 21, 2013 and stay until December 29, 2013, free dining is available for your entire stay!), and we anticipate even more Free Dining dates will be offered in 2014. If and when this happens, it’s important to compare the “Free” Dining Plan to other discounts. If the Disney Dining Plan is “free,” that means you’re paying rack rate for your room and full price for a minimum number of tickets, whereas other packages may discount your room or tickets. For most people, Free Dining is the best discount that Disney offers, but you should still check. Whether Free Dining is best depends upon party size and resort tier, so do the math and compare the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion to other available discounts–if there are other available discounts.

The first step, before you even book your Disney Dining Plan, is determining where you want to eat and securing Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for those restaurants, if necessary. Once you plan where you want to eat, it should be easy to see which Disney Dining Plan best suits your needs.

Planning Your Dining:

When planning your Walt Disney World trip, it is most important to read restaurant reviews. We have dined at nearly every Walt Disney World restaurant, and you can find our reviews of many of these restaurants on our Disney Restaurant Reviews page. Reading these reviews and reviews on other sites (getting a variety of opinions is good since you may not agree with us!) is a great place to start when planning.

You will also want to consult our lists of best-value Disney Table Service restaurants for and Disney Counter Service restaurants that offer the best bang for your buck on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan. On the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll want to eat at the best restaurants that also have the most expensive menu prices to get the most value out of the Disney Dining Plan. The above lists are your best resources for planning where to eat at Walt Disney World when on the Disney Dining Plan in 2013. Other resources for maximizing your savings on the Disney Dining Plan can be found at the end of this post. You’ll want to get reservations for these restaurants as early as possible (ADRs can be made 180 days from the start of your trip), as savvy guests usually make their reservations months in advance. If you wait until the last minute or don’t make ADRs at all, you likely won’t be able to dine at the best Walt Disney World restaurants. We usually book our dining before we even book our trip!



As a general matter, although dining is one of the most important elements of your Walt Disney World trip that you should plan, it is not the only element you need to plan for your Disney trip. You also need to plan what time of year to visit to avoid crowds and see certain seasonal events, what type of Disney tickets to purchase, whether you should rent a car or rely on Disney transportation on your trip, at which hotel to stay, and what to pack, among other things! The amount of fun you have on your Walt Disney World vacation can vary widely depending on how much planning you do, and with a little planning, you can have a lot more fun. A trip to Walt Disney World costs a lot of money, so spend a little time in advance, too, to make sure your trip goes as smoothly as possible.

That said, to determine whether the Free Disney Dining Plan offer is for you, or if you’re considering purchasing the Dining Plan, here is our summary and review of the Disney Dining Plan.

2013 Disney Dining Plan Overview:

The Disney Dining Plan can be confusing. This is both because there are multiple tiers of the Plan, and what’s offered on the Disney Dining Plan changes yearly (usually for the worse). For the purposes of the Disney Dining Plan, a “counter service meal” means an combo meal (typically an entree plus a side), a dessert, a non-alcoholic beverage, and tax. A “table service meal” means an entree, a dessert, a non-alcoholic beverage, and tax, but not tip. A “snack” includes items sold at snack carts around the park or in quick service restaurants. These items vary widely, but a good rule of thumb is that if it’s under $4.50, it’s probably a snack. An even easier rule of thumb is that if it has the “DDP” symbol next to it on the menu, it’s a snack. Two table service meal credits may be used for one Signature Meal or Room Service Meal. I have done the math, and these options are rarely good deals.

The following prices and details of the Disney Dining Plan took affect for arrivals beginning January 1, 2013 and are valid until December 31, 2013.

2013 Quick Service Disney Dining Plan

This is the lowest tier of the Disney Dining Plan. This is the tier of the Disney Dining Plan that is typically included with Free Dining at the Value Resorts.

For each person on the room reservation, the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • two counter-service meals (per night)
  • one snack (per night)
  • a refillable drink mug (per stay)

The daily price of the Quick Service Plan is $37.58 per adult and $14.32 per child ages 3-9.

2013 Standard Disney Dining Plan

This is the standard tier of the Disney Dining Plan (Disney refers to it as simply the “Disney Dining Plan.” To avoid confusion, we’ll call it the “Standard Disney Dining Plan”), and what’s typically included with “Free” Dining at the Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts. For the price difference between the plans, you can upgrade from the Free Quick Service Dining Plan to this plan at the Value Resorts.

For each person on the room reservation, the Standard Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • one counter-service meal (per night)
  • one sit-down meal (per night)
  • one snack (per night)
  • a refillable drink mug (per stay)

As of January 1, 2013, the daily price of the Standard Disney Dining Plan is $55.59 per adult and $17.16 per child, per night for most times of the year and $56.94 per adult and $18.16 per child during peak season. Children under 3 eat free from an adult’s plate. Gratuity not included for the table service meals. Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery.

2013 Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

Of the three normal plans (so not including the Premium Package or Platinum Dining) this is the upper echelon of Disney Dining Plans. By default, no resort tier receives this package for Free Dining, but you can pay the difference to upgrade to it.

For each person on the room reservation, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • three meals at your choice of counter service restaurants or table service restaurants (per night)
  • two snacks (per night)
  • one refillable drink mug (per stay)

The daily price of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $99.97 per adult and $26.84 per child during regular season, and $102.27 per adult and 28.91 per child during peak season. Children under 3 eat free from an adult’s plate. Gratuity not included for the table service meals. Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery. The price hikes to the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan are the most significant out of all of the plans.

If you have further questions that aren’t answered by these pages, I refer you to Disney’s Dining Plan website, which includes comprehensive and unnecessarily complicated PDF documents describing the various plans and their rules.

 

2013 Disney Dining Plan Review:

We have used the Disney Dining Plan many times, including the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan in May 2012 and the Standard Disney Dining Plan on our Honeymoon in June 2010. Overall, we think the Disney Dining Plan can be good, but isn’t something that we’d use every trip. It all depends upon your circumstances (even when Free Dining is offered, the Disney Dining Plan isn’t really “free.”). In this review, we’ll try to weigh the pros and cons and present a balanced take.

We’ll start with the cons. First, if you’re paying out of pocket for the Disney Dining Plan, as we always have, there’s the temptation to order the most expensive item on the menu to maximize your “value” of the plan. There have been a number of times when a cheaper menu item looked more appealing to me, but there was that lingering thought in the back of my mind that if I didn’t order something more expensive, the Dining Plan would actually cost us more than paying out of pocket.

This is a common concern about the Disney Dining Plan, and the response I’ve heard from people is that they don’t care about saving money, they just get the Disney Dining Plan for convenience and to avoid thinking about money on vacation. This doesn’t seem logical. If you don’t want to worry about money, purchase a Disney Gift Card before the trip. While I don’t advocate making that psychological disconnect between actual and “fake” money, if you really need to make it, go that route.

Morever, you won’t necessarily get a stress-free vacation by using the Disney Dining Plan. The Dining Plan has a myriad of little rules and exceptions. Sarah and I are both reasonably intelligent, and there were occasions when the rules of the Dining Plan have seemed unnecessarily complicated to us. By contrast, it’s incredibly simple to go into a restaurant, order the items you like on the menu, and pay with cash or a credit card. Nothing complicated about that, and it’s exactly what we do at any restaurant we visit at home.

Another common complaint is that the Disney Dining Plan often “forces” guests to eat more than they want. While Sarah and I are both big eaters, at times, the Dining Plan is just too much food. There have been occasions when we otherwise would have eaten small counter service meals, but because we had the credits to use, we have eaten at Table Service restaurants. Not only did this result in over-consumption, but it also ate into valuable vacation time. If you have a short trip and want to experience as many attractions as possible, this is something to keep in mind.

Finally, while you can get value out of the Disney Dining Plan, that savings requires a certain kind of consumption. If you don’t normally eat as much food as the Disney Dining Plan provides, you aren’t really saving money. You’re over-consuming in the name of savings.

If the Disney Dining Plan is too much food for you, you might be able to save money with the Tables in Wonderland card, which offers a 20% discount at table service restaurants and some counter service restaurants to eligible guests. In analyzing our receipts, I’ve found that we often save more by using Tables in Wonderland than by using the Disney Dining Plan. This may or may not be true for you depending upon how much your party eats.

Here are the pros of using the Disney Dining Plan. The first is that it forces you to slow down and enjoy all of the various wonderful foods at Walt Disney World. And there is a lot of wonderful food there! In the hustle and bustle of wanting to visit as many attractions as possible, the Dining Plan is a good “reminder” to that there’s more than rides at Walt Disney World. This is something we definitely should be self-disciplined-enough to do on our own, but I’ve found we are definitely better about it when using the Dining Plan.

Another benefit to the Disney Dining Plan is that it won’t scare you away from expensive menu items. If you love filet mignon, but would shy away from ordering it when you see the menu price, the Disney Dining Plan might work well for you. If you like steak and would order it regardless, you’re probably not going to have the problem of forcing yourself to order the most expensive item because of the Dining Plan (like I discussed above in my “cons”), and you will most likely save a lot of money on the Disney Dining Plan.

The Disney Dining Plan is also great for those who really enjoy Disney snacks. Snack credits are best used during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, when some of the best snacks can cost as much as $7, so using credits on these snacks gives the Disney Dining Plan even more value! Check out our list of the top Epcot Food & Wine Festival snacks if you’re heading to Walt Disney World in the fall and are considering the Disney Dining Plan.

There are also great uses for the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan and the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. The Quick Service Plan is best during Food & Wine Festival, when, as mentioned above, snack credits can be used for more expensive items at the various kiosks. This is a great use of these credits, and given that you’ll probably be sampling Food & Wine Festival food anyway, it’s good during these trips to not have as many Table Service meals. Wandering around Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival is a lot of fun, and there have been full days in Epcot when we haven’t even eaten a meal because we’ve so enjoyed sampling the snacks. Our tip is to use on Quick Service credit in the morning for breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, then use a stockpile of snack credits throughout the day at the kiosks. On another day when you visit one of the other parks, have three Quick Service meals since you’ll have used up your other snack credits, but will have an extra Quick Service credit. It’s just too bad you can’t use Disney Dining Plan credits for the popular Drinking Around the World activity in Epcot’s World Showcase!

The Deluxe Dining Plan can be utilized well if you follow the strategy of eating breakfast (or an early lunch) at a Table Service restaurant and dinner at a Signature Table Service Restaurant, plus snacks whenever. This really maximizes the value of this plan! You could eat three table service meals to get a lot of value, but for mortals, it’s simply too difficult to eat three Table Service meals per day! In May 2012, we tried doing an early table service lunch and a late signature restaurant dinner and we saved over 50% by using the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan!

Overall, whether the Disney Dining Plan is right for you is a highly personal decision based on a lot of variables. I can’t say whether the Disney Dining Plan is right for your particular circumstances, but hopefully the considerations above can help with your decision. If you use the Disney Dining Plan for your vacation, make sure you do your homework and PLAN!

In addition to the links provided here, I highly recommend The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2014, which is a comprehensive resource for eating at Disney and trip planning in general. Blog posts like this are helpful, but I find that when you’re actually on vacation, it’s nice to have information organized and indexed all in one place. Given the incredible expense of dining at Walt Disney World, this book is definitely a great resource to have with you on your Disney vacation! Also make sure to check out our Dining Reviews to help determine where you should eat. Just don’t check them out before lunch–there are lots of mouth-watering food photos from Walt Disney World and Disneyland restaurants in the reviews!

Additional Disney Dining Plan Resources

For more details on each of the plans, visit the following pages:

If you plan on getting the Disney Dining Plan check out these other Walt Disney World dining posts to maximize your Disney Dining Plan value:

For updates, news, and Disney tips, sign up for our monthly newsletter!

Your Thoughts…

Are you planning on using the Disney Dining Plan? I would love to hear what your thoughts are about the Disney Dining Plan, and how it works–or doesn’t work–for you, in the comments!

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62 Responses to “Disney Dining Plan 2013 Costs and Review”

  1. Cory says:

    Thanks Tom for this fair and unbiased review. Some DDP patrons can be pretty aggressive about their opinions on how great the DDP is, regardless of the price increases and other changes. I appreciate your review, and since we like character breakfasts, rarely is the DDP a good deal for us. The last time we did it, we found ourselves splitting 2 counter service meals amongst us 3 because it was plenty of food. But that led to extra counter services credits that we never could use. I think we ended up buying bananas with counter service credits from the resort store on the way out.

    Do you know if they still allow DVC members to split their stays, and apply the Dining Plan to only one part of their stay? Doing a 3-part stay, where you have an arrival day confirmation #, a long stay in the middle with a separate #, and a departure day with a 3rd confirmation #, where you only have the DDP on the middle section would be an interesting option. We’d have less credits, meaning we wouldn’t have to eat as much.

    Customizing the DDP credits makes too much sense, but likely would cost Disney money, so I doubt non-DVC members/renters will ever be given that option.

  2. yeh really awesome pic to see want it,,,,,,,, muh…

  3. Kris says:

    Thanks for the honest opinion about the DDP. We’ve never used it since we often bring our own snacks and drinks into the parks. And we don’t eat a lot. We do use the Tables in Wonderland card however. THAT card has saved us quite a bit of money over the years, even after the cost for purchasing hte card. (We never purchase the second “spouse” card; it’s ridiculous that Disney makes us pay for a second card in one family. We just use the name of who is likely going to visit that parks more often, usually me on my “alone time” trips.)

    You have convinced me that if I do a quickie trip for the Food and Wine Fest this autumn that I might add the DDP with lots of snack credits. That might save me a good bit of money If I go, I will keep a log of prices vs my DDP cost. I wonder if the TIW card can be used at the kiosks for the adult beverages…

  4. Kyle says:

    Tom, where was that delightful sushi photo taken? I have to try that platter! Thanks! :)

  5. We are planning on a trip to Disneyland in the Fall and were looking into the Disney Dining plan. I’m so glad I found this post as it makes my research a lot easier. Thank you for sharing!

    • Cory says:

      This blog entry was about the Walt Disney World Dining Plan, not about the Disneyland Dining Plan. The Disneyland Dining Plan is universally agreed to be a bad deal, with no chance to save money.

    • Jen says:

      We just returned from Disneyland and they do not offer a dining plan.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Disneyland does offer a dining plan, but it’s radically different from this one.

  6. Jan says:

    Thanks for the article. I expected the price to go up again this year but I’m happy to see that nothing was removed from the plan.

    My family is one of the groups that enjoy the Dining Plan because of the convenience. We have never had any stress when pre-planning our meals at all and don’t feel the need to order the most expensive item. In fact I don’t bother looking at prices at all…I just order whatever I want.

    I honestly never realized that people actually look at prices on the menu and feel pressured to order something expensive. It seems silly to me to eat something you don’t want because you think you are saving money. It’s paid for already so isn’t it a better value to eat what you want to rather than what costs more? I think people confuse “value” with “price”. Also we consider convenience as part of the value so the cost of the meal itself is just a portion of what we already paid for.

    We generally know which restaurants we would like to eat in but we love a lot of them and our dining times are flexible so there is little to no stress for us doing ADR’s. If a restaurant isn’t available at a certain time we either choose another time or another restaurant…no big deal.

    I think the dining plan works for us because we enjoy having all of our money meant for souvenirs, we like ordering whatever we want not what’s “in the budget” and we don’t have a strict dining schedule. Also, we usually visit the parks in the same order anyway so it doesn’t make our plans any less flexible.

    I think people trying the dining plan for the first time may find it a bit confusing and restrictive in planning their days and making ADR’s but if you are familiar with the plan and don’t have really strict dining times or certain restaurants that you MUST do than it can be a great asset to your trip.

    As with anything else it will work for some people and not for others. For us it saves money (yes, I’ve done the math), saves time on deciding where to eat each day and saves stress on trying to budget for meals plus souvenirs.

  7. debbi says:

    My first time using quick service dining plan. First 2 days, little confusing, after that a breeze. Loved it especially for free. They told me my discount when we first booked the room would be taken off, but for $70 more with 6 days of eating for 2 adults-well worth it! We def ate more than $70 of food between us! Will do again if we stay at resorts! Only bummer was delayed flight due to hurricane Sandy, and plan ends—delayed 2 days, with 4 meals and 5 snacks-we bought before expiration, and refridge them in room.

  8. Julie-Anne says:

    We have the Dining Plan next year for the first time as I booked the package earlier in the year, accommodation, tickets and QSDP. I upgraded to full dining for £280 for my son and I. Simply because….in the past most of my spending money has gone on food. This will make such a difference. It’s a fantastic chance for us to try restaurants we couldn’t afford to in the past. Really looking forward to sampling the worlds food!

  9. Jody says:

    Thank you for always giving such great info. I am looking at taking another trip to Disneyworld around Christmas 2013. A few questions, when should I book, would I get a better deal through a disney travel agent, and if the disney dining plan ends up being a promotion for free, can I still get that discount if I have all my arrangements already made?

  10. Jennifer says:

    We go to WDW about every three years. Each of the last three trips we have taken advantage of free dining. It has been a great deal for us. This last trip, November 15 through Thanksgiving day was especially sweet as we checked in on the last day of the promotion and got the dining for the entire trip. The original trip we had planned checked us in two days later with a day shorter trip. The free dining promotion let us extend our trip 2 days and take advantage of a few days early in the week before Thanksgiving crowds showed up.

    One great thing I think some people don’t know is that my 8 year old was able to order adult counter service meals. This was huge for us because kid’s counter service meals were just not enought for him. Now he still had to order from the kids menu at table service restaurants but honestly those meals were always bigger and many times they were served family style at the places we had reservations at.

    To be honest, I really like the plan because it is really hard to walk past the snacks and ice cream bars every time your kid wants on, or even when you may want one! This type of trip is our chance to let our kids have those things and we don’t have to limit.

  11. Anita says:

    You mention in your article that the 2013 Free Dining Dates have been released … can you please tell me what those dates are? Thank you!

  12. Kay says:

    Thank you so much for the review. We have used the dining plan 2 times, first the standard dining plan and 2nd the quick dining plan. We enjoyed having both and ate very well. We found many choices and the food to be good on both plans. Just have to do your research if you are not familiar with the restaurants. We used both plans when they were offered to us free and I believe they saved us money. We upgraded to the standard from the quick dining plan one year. It saved us to do so because we had so many reservations for character meals. So I think anyone has to do the math. I didn’t find it complicated to use once I understood what exactly I could have as snacks, counter service, etc., and second time using the quick service plan was even easier. I found that when we ate at our hotel we could get a muffin or pastry for desert instead of chocolate or carrot cake and use it for breakfast. So I didn’t have to use my one snack. Both times the deserts (I didn’t want) did start to pile up in our room. LOL! I even gave some away. If we were going to a park one day then thats were we had reservations to eat. I didn’t spend my time very much leaving one park to go to another. We ate at Crystal Palace for dinner when we went to Magic Kingdom, another day we ate at Donalds Safari Breakfast on the way into Animal Kingdom. We ate at Coral Reef when we went to Epcot. For the most part I tried to just make one reservation a day. I was surprised on the Quick dining plan how much I ate that wasn’t a hamburger. In fact I believe some of the food (chicken, potatoes, roast) we ate was the same quality if not the same food we had ordered in some of the sit down restaurants. But… my husband didn’t find a steak! LOL! As much as we enjoyed using the dining plan I would probably not buy one unless I was going to do alot of character meals and it did save me money. I think unless its included in a package for free I could eat cheaper. I also enjoy venturing outside Disney and eating at other restaurants in Orlando area and we did let the dining plan restrict us from doing that. We felt like we needed to use the meals we had. If I had to save ahead of vacation for meals I personally would rather have a disney gift card especially since they have cut the snacks down. But even though Disney cut the snacks down I do like the addition of the cup. We did use ours quite a bit at the hotel and felt like it saved us a little. We learned to get our bottled drink that comes with our meal, save it, and get our drink in our Disney cup at the fountain. I just wish they allowed us to use the cup inside Disneys theme parks like other parks do. They could charge a little more for the cup and then charge a dollar a drink, like other amusement parks do. Also , I wish they would offer us more snacks (to use on what we wanted)instead of desert( chocolate cake or carrot cake) with your counter service meals. I would have gladly traded one of those deserts for an extra bottle of water! LOL! Or maybe even trade a couple of deserts for a breakfast. We weren’t the only ones with unwanted cake on our trays and insome cases being thrown away. So that seems a little bit of a waste that Disney could change into something else for us to use.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Definitely agree about being able to use the refillable mugs in the parks. I really wish they allowed that.

      As for additional snacks…it sounds like you didn’t need more of a stockpile! ;) I also agree that it would be nice to “customize” the plans a bit more in that regard, but I think it might become too confusing for the casual guest. While you didn’t find it complicated or confusing, we hear from A LOT of people who are confused by the Disney Dining Plans.

  13. Megan says:

    You mention in the article that the 2013 dates have been released but it is a dead link when you click on it. What are the dates for 2013? Thanks!

  14. Eddie says:

    I am interested to know if my wife and I can order 1 meal at a Table Service restaurant and share it? We are considering eating at Le Cellier and Flying Fish, for example, but don’t want to eat too much. Sharing would save room for drinks and use less of our Table Service credits. Any knowledge from anyone if this is acceptable to do at these types of restaurants?
    Thank you,
    Eddie

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That shouldn’t be a problem, although *technically* under Disney Dining Plan rules each person on the DDP must use their credits at the same meals. I’ve never heard of that being enforced, though.

  15. papamouse1 says:

    I really enjoyed your insightful and balanced presentation of the DDP. I would love to provide a link on my website to this article for my clients, if that would be acceptable. If not, I understand… Great Blog!

  16. Amy says:

    You mention that “2013 ”Free Dining” dates have been announced (but are not available for booking by the general public), and we anticipate more Free Dining dates will be offered in 2013.” Is there any other information about specific dates you can share? We are going the first week of September and I am hoping for free dining then…historically (for the last 6 or so years anyway), they have had a free dining plan for that time-frame. When we left last year, we could have booked a bounce-back free dining offer then (you know, they say hindsight is 20/20…ugh, kicking myself now) so I am wondering when/if they will announce that offer for Fall 2013 to the general public? Even more curious now that it did not come out on the 5th of March as it did last year; not concerned with “when” as much as “if” if you know what I mean!!!

    Thanks!
    Amy

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Dates were more or less the same as Fall 2012’s dates. I previously heard that the public dates would be announced around mid-summer. I have no reason to believe that free dining won’t be offered this fall.

  17. Jenn says:

    Its says the 2013 free dining plan has been offered but not available for booking for the general public? This offer, if its real, should be available to everyone! LOL

  18. Candice says:

    My family goes back and forth on whether to take the dining plan each time. I agree that with the dining plan you get too much food! I remember feeling so stuffed after a counter service meal and even needing a snack! We used our snacks mostly for drinks, which we did find that we could get smoothies with the snack ticket. I definitely feel that two adults could easily share one lunch meal and my two little ones could easily share one lunch meal as well. It is too much food! Many times we don’t finish our table service dinner entree, so that we can have dessert that comes with it! If they would let you skip dessert to have an extra snack, that would be wonderful, to use it towards cereal and milk for breakfast! The refillable cups, do not include milk for the kids. This is a big bummer for us. My kids drink only milk, water and minimal juice. So each morning we had to pay for milk for them even though we had the refillable cups! My kids absolutely do not drink soda.

    Take the dining plan or not?? Who knows!

  19. Lindsey says:

    Here is my question: I have been told to make dining reservations the 180 days in advance, especially because this is our first time taking our children and want to do a couple of the popular character meals. Do you have to have room booked/tickets bought to make these reservations? We are going at a time that has traditionally been free dining, but I would prefer not to wait until the summer to book our vacation. However, I am assuming, that once we’ve booked, we wouldn’t be able to take advantage of free dining even if it was later offered for the dates we are planning to go. Any advice?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Book your dining now. You don’t need anything else to book dining.

    • Connie says:

      If free dining or room discounts are offered after you book, you can call and see if they will change yours. There is usually a limited number of offers but if there is still openings in your resort, they will change yours.

    • kelly says:

      We are going 4th of July week (which I have read is the second most crowded week of the year) and had no problem booking 3 character meals 3 months out. We are flexable on meal times though.

  20. Cheryl says:

    As a veteran Disney traveler as well as a user of the DDP, we look forward to our next trip in Dec. that being said…..are appetizers no longer a part of the Deluxe dining plan?

  21. Dee says:

    My husband & I went to WDW in 2011, & plan to go again in the near future, we used the DDP, & found it to indeed be a value. However we ate at some signature restaurants, & it seemed as the table dinners we ate at did have some above average prices. There were times when we at & ordinarily the bill would have been $150 for the both of us & paying a little over $50/person we did save. However if you think you are going to save a HUGE amount of money I don’t really see it. We came out ahead in the end though & enjoyed it, & probably will use it again. We did have to use up some snack credits however towards the end of the trip, if you want to go to lots of signature restaurants be advised that lots of them take 2 table service credits so that can help you to not over eat if you are worried about the amount of food being too much.

  22. Mia says:

    Very nice and unbiased review. DDP has changed quite a lot from its early years.

    Two things we noticed about DDP. (We have been going 1-3 times per year for the last 15, and we are huge table service fans, so we eat there quite a lot.)

    First, there was a huge negative impact to the table service restaurants when the DDP included one table service per day, even for value resorts, specifically during the fall bounce back. We used our son’s September break to go for a week each year, which was both bounce back and usually a “free dining plan” window. You could not beg, borrow or steal a reservation if you didn’t make it at 180 days! This problem has been resolved for us, we believe due to a combination of removing the table service from the Value Resort Free Dining promotion, and the changes Disney has made to their system to cut down on double booking and abandoned reservations.

    Table Service food took quite a quality hit during those years. Multiple chefs we spoke with lamented the food they were having to ship out of their kitchens, and the tremendously pared down menus they were forced to adopt to push so many patrons through daily. We have noticed that the food quality has “bounced back” in the last couple of years, which we are quite happy about. Some things will probably never return, sadly (King Crab at Captain Jack’s, we still remember you fondly!).

    We no longer do DDP for a specific reason though – we aren’t dessert eaters. We would prefer to share an appetizer and have an entree each, and very occasionally we get a single dessert and share it three ways. When they removed the appetizer option and forced you to do entree/dessert, that was the clincher for us; it’s no longer worth having DDP. We do Tables in Wonderland instead. Not sure it saves us money over DDP, I haven’t worried with the math, but it relieves the pressure to “order what we’re supposed to”. If they returned the option of having an appetizer instead of the dessert, we’d probably try DDP again.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think you’re totally right on all points, especially the first one. It now seems much easier to score reservations, even a day or two before. Even a couple years ago, that was unheard of.

      As for food quality, I think that’s a bit of a mixed bag. Some restaurants have definitely improved, whereas others seem about the same or worse. That could as much be attributed to changes in the Disney Dining Plan as it could be changes in guest expectations or other factors.

      One thing that I think is DEFINITELY attributable to the Dining Plan is price increases. Many restaurants have seen SIGNIFICANT price increases in the past few years, and I think that’s a direct result of creating the impression of more value on the Dining Plan. A prime example of this is Le Cellier. It became a two credit restaurant, in my opinion, because of the substantial demand for it created by the Dining Plan. In order to justify two-credit status, prices were increased (and have been increased yet again). At the same time, food quality there (again, in my opinion) has actually gone down.

  23. Matt says:

    Hey Tom,
    Love your website great work. Confused with you last post. We are going to Disneyworld in Jan 14 from Australia and are waiting for the pricing for that period. I think this is the old pricing??
    Is this pricing for that period or for the current period? The new pricing is out soon?
    Thanks keep up the good work!!

  24. Leila says:

    We are going to Disney World for our very first time in November and have decided on the Deluxe Dining Plan, mainly for the character meals for my daughter. I heard that the deluxe is a lot of food, but we are not so much worried about the food as much as the fact I want my daughter to have the character experiences with the meals. I want this trip to be very magical for her. We are also going for four nights and will be spending the whole five days there. We will be arriving Tuesday morning and immediately head to Hollywood Studios, Wednesday Epcot, Thursday no parks because we are going to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and want to use that day to spend time at the resort (AOA), Friday Magic Kingdom, and Saturday Animal Kingdom before we head out. We booked our departure for 7 pm, so we can enjoy AK before leaving. I read that the dining plans are only for the “nights” that you stay there, and we are going to be there for five whole days, so that is another reason why I chose the deluxe plan. I want to make sure we have enough credits to last us five days instead of four. We have planned to do the Fanstasmic Dinner Package at Melrose Tuesday when we arrive and do Sci-Fi dinner at 8:15 after the park closes, so we don’t miss the Osbourne lights. The other days we will do all character breakfasts at the parks before they open to get a better meet and greet and to get into the parks before they open. We are going to do Coral Reef when we go to Epcot for the early lunch to get a table next to the tank and when we go to MK we are going to Cinderella’s Royal Table which is a 2 credit dinner. I was told to go to Tony’s on the day of the MVMCP, so I reserved that meal for that day and will do Chef Mickeys for their late lunch before going to the party. Anyways, this is why we chose the deluxe dining plan, because if we chose the standard dining plan, we would of ended up paying for meals out of our pockets because we would of ran out of credits. Our next trip won’t be so much of a focus on character meals, so utilizing the standard meal plan would be best on the next trip we do in the future. As for this trip, the deluxe dining makes more sense. :)

  25. denisse says:

    I have one question, if I get quick service dining plan for one person, can I redeemed for my husband also some of the snacks? How are they going to know whom eat it?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You have to get the Disney Dining Plan for everyone on the hotel reservation. So unless your husband isn’t on it, this won’t work. (If he isn’t on the reservation, this would work.)

  26. 1stdisneytrip says:

    How do I buy this plan??

  27. Cristabel Talavera says:

    Thank you for the review, it is helpful to see other perspectives on this hot topic.

    I crunched the numbers to find out which savings would better benefit us on our upcoming trip to the World: Armed Forces Salute room discount or the Free Dining promo.

    While taking into account that the cost of our room at Port Orleans French Quarter will be shared (sister & brother-in-law/ myself), the required 1 day MYW base ticket and gratuities, we came out ahead taking advantage of the Free Dining promo.

    While as an individual I saved about $30 (which will be more fun money for myself), my sister and brother-in-law saved about $233.

    I haven’t calculated the cost of breakfast if we were to eat at the food court each morning but I don’t think it’s likely since we aren’t big breakfast people so most likely we’ll bring our own for the room.

    We find the DDP totally worth it because we are big foodies and love to eat!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If you’re not big breakfast people, DEFINITELY bring your own. Food court breakfast at Walt Disney World is notoriously bad. There are some bright spots, but by and large, it isn’t good.

      Thanks for sharing your experience! :)

  28. Lisa says:

    We are going to WDW for the first time using the Dining Plan in December 2013. We have the standard plan as we are staying at POR. Can we use to table service meals in one day? Like Crystal Palace for breakfast and O’hana for dinner?

  29. Liz says:

    any word on free dining offer for theend of october to beginning of november 2013?

  30. Tanya says:

    Hi Tom! An earlier post mentioned that you can’t refill the “refillable” drink mugs within each of the theme parks. I’m confused as to how Disnet can market a refillable mug that isn’t actually refillable. Help!?!

  31. Jonathan says:

    2 of us got the Free Standard Dining Plan, and we were prepared to shell out money if we didn’t have enough to eat. Thankfully, that was moot since the portions are HUGE! We’re light eaters, so each Counter Service meal we mostly got bottles of water and whole fruit for ‘dessert’, which we actually saved. The Snack Credits went to pastries, buns and single servings of eggs and bacon which we used for breakfast, splitting gigantic cinnamon buns and scoops of scrambled eggs between us with the saved fruit from lunch, along with some coffee and tea with the refillable mugs. A perfectly filling and (semi) nutritious breakfast.

    Since we were leaving on the 8th day in the morning, we had an extra Counter Credit we used for dinner earlier, and combined the extra 2 Table Service Credits remaining to go to a Signature restaurant. We also split a Counter Service meal twice (the huge burger loaded with toppings at Cosmic Ray’s is a beast), using the resulting spare Counter Service Credits to eat dinner, and then combined the leftover Table Service Credits into ANOTHER Signature restaurant experience.

  32. Jenny W-K says:

    My husband is looking forward to trying out the different food while we’re at Disney World. We have the dining plan (deluxe) and he was wondering if there is a way for one person to order two meals at one sitting? Like if we go to a counter service place and he decides he wants a pork sandwich and another type of sandwich, would be be able to order both for himself? Would he possibly be able to get in line order one of the sandwiches he wants and my meal, then have me get back in line to get him the other sandwich he wants? I know this sounds crazy, but he’s not too fond of following the rules. And since we have a child who will still be under 3-years-old at the time of travel, we’re not concerned about ordering too much food because she will be sharing with us.

  33. teresa says:

    We just got back from Disney, stayed at moderate resort so bad free table service dining. Have used option since beginning. Those were the days prior to splitting quick & table. Still like flexibility & convenience. One thought to the too much food option, some where in between offering more quick service with table on certain nites. We found every night too
    much.

  34. Jay says:

    I am going to Disney a few weeks prior to Christmas with my daughter who is 10. She likes to eat a variety of foods, but honestly never eats a lot. Being that we both had to sign up and that she would be considered an adult and pay same price as me…..I felt it would be best to just pay as we go. She will just order off the kids menu at any place we go to and we can order whatever we want- appetizer, no dessert, etc….If I had a lot of kids who were younger than it would be well worth it I feel.

  35. Sarah says:

    We are going to Disney World for the first time at Thanksgiving this year with extended family. Because we are a family of 6 (2 adults, 4 kids), two of our kids will be staying with their Grandma and aunt. We have purchased the dining plan for both groups. My question is, if my two kids who are staying with their Grandma are with us and not her when it is time to eat, can they still redeem their own meals? I guess I’m not sure if everyone gets a card or band or something that connects to the meal plan. As I said we will be with lots of family, so Grandma won’t be spending all of her time with us. Any help would be appreciated! Thanks for the great website, it has been so helpful in my planning!

  36. Tami says:

    My question is if I go to April 3-8 using the dining plan, how many days do we get meals? Are the day you arrive and leave included? I would think we should get 6 days of meals and snacks. Thank you for you time.

  37. Sal says:

    If your staying at a value resort which is the best if any meal plan to have? 2 adults and 2 kids 3 and 5.

  38. Hey There. I found your blog the usage of msn. That is a really neatly written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra of your helpful information. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  39. Are the prices set to go up in 2014?

  40. Ray in Nashville says:

    My family recently returned from a Disney World vacation where we used the standard dining plan (one quick, one table service, one snack per person per day.) Whether or not the plan was a good value or not, we found it far, far, too limiting and will NOT use a dining plan again.

    Being forced to get an entree, drink, and dessert for every meal is very limiting. What if you don’t want a dessert after lunch? What if you would rather have a salad but skip dessert? What if you don’t want a soft drink but just want a water? You can get whatever you want, but you paid for a soft drink and dessert just the same.

    So we ended up getting a lot of food that we did not want and buying more food a la carte than we expected to. A big part of the reason for this is that our kids quite often did not want what was on the kids’ menu.

    The children’s menus are especially limiting. For example my daughter wanted fish and fries at Columbia Harbor House but that is not an option on the children’s menu. She had to get fish with chicken nuggets, grapes and yogurt (the last three items she did not want) and we had to pay for fries separately. The pre-packaged grapes that come with almost every kids meal are horrible and our kids, who like grapes, never ate them.

    And the portions at many places are surprisingly large, especially the desserts. My wife and I could easily have split an entree and dessert at most meals. Or shared our entree with our kids.

    And I personally found it too stressful to try to keep up with what allotments we had used and what we had left. And when I asked a Disney cast member, I often got inconsistent information. The snacks are especially hard to keep track of. At one point I was told that each person in my family had one snack allotment left on the plan, but we each used it three more times. At Be Our Guests, they deducted TWELVE sit down meals for my family of four instead of four. It got corrected, but only because I happened to check my plan balance at my hotel the next day.

    But the WORSE thing about the dining plan is that you are committed to it no matter what. My daughter got sick one morning. We had reservations for a sit down lunch AND a sit down dinner that day. It was our last day and we each had two table service meals left to use. Luckily she recovered and we were able to eat at both restaurants, but I asked our hotel concierge what would have happened if the whole family had had to skip those meals (which amounted to half of our table service allotments on the plan). We would have been out of luck. There are absolutely no refunds or changes for any reason.

    So if you have kids, if you like to share food with your spouse, if you don’t want a soft drink and dessert at every single meal, or if you want the freedom to suddenly alter you plans (because someone gets sick or you just change you mind about where to eat), I would NOT recommend any Disney dining plan.

  41. Howdy! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?

    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having
    trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

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