2015 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips


Disney World’s 2015 standard Disney Dining Plan costs $60.64/night. Disney’s cheapest meal plan (besides “Free Dining” which is available for these dates) is the Quick Service Plan, which includes 2 counter service meals per day and a snack for $41.99/night. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan costs $109.53/night for significantly more. We’ll get to what each version of the Disney Dining Plan includes and whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth the money below. First, some basics.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan offered at Walt Disney World so guests can budget their dining costs in advance and (potentially) save money. The various plans provide guests with a set number of credits that may be redeemed for snacks, counter service (Disney-speak for fast food) meals, table service meals, or signature dining (Disney-speak for fine dining) meals. These credits are stored on the guest’s MagicBand or Key to the World room key, with the receipt provided after redeeming the credits indicating how many credits remain.

Walt Disney World guests purchasing a vacation package with a room and tickets through Disney are eligible to buy the 2015 Disney Dining Plan. This means that if you want the Disney Dining Plan, you cannot save money by staying off-site or by purchasing discount Walt Disney World tickets through a Disney-authorized ticket seller. Disney Vacation Club members staying on points are also eligible to add-on the Disney Dining Plan, without the purchase of park tickets through Disney (as many of them either have Annual Passes or prefer purchasing discounted tickets through authorized third parties).

The credits don’t have a set dollar value–for example, a table service credit may be redeemed at an inexpensive restaurant for a water, sandwich, and ice cream dessert that would normally cost $23 total, or it can be redeemed at a nicer restaurant for a smoothie, swordfish steak, and Copetta Sotto Bosco that would normally cost $51 total. (These are actual examples from Walt Disney World restaurants, demonstrating the big difference in value a credit may have depending upon at which restaurant and for which menu items it’s redeemed). A lot of information exists about the Disney Dining Plan, with most focusing on how to best utilize these credits so you get better value out of the credits. In fact, our most popular articles concerning the Disney Dining Plan are our Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Table Service Credit Value, Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value, and Tips for Maximizing Snack Credit Value. Frequent users of the Disney Dining Plan become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the Dining Plan, but some advance planning, first-time visitors to Walt Disney World can also make the most of the Dining Plan.

From time to time, the Disney Dining Plan is offered for free to Walt Disney World guests who purchase a vacation package (this is not offered to Disney Vacation Club members staying on points). This is known as the “Free Dining” promotion, and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. Remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If “Free Dining” is available, you forfeit another discount that might be available (for example, a percentage off discount on the hotel room and the ability to purchase discount Disney tickets). Compare the “Free” Dining Plan to other discounts. With “Free Dining,” you pay rack rate for the hotel room and full price for a minimum number of tickets. Whether Free Dining is the best Walt Disney World discount available (read our 2015 Walt Disney World Discount Comparison post for more details) for you depends upon party size and resort tier (it’s less likely to be a good deal for smaller parties staying in Deluxe Resorts), so do the math and compare the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion to other available discounts–if there are other available discounts.

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The first step, before even booking the 2015 Disney Dining Plan, is determining where you want to eat and securing Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) for those restaurants, if necessary. It should be easy to see which Disney Dining Plan best suits your needs, or if the Dining Plan is even necessary. If you only anticipate eating inexpensive meals or want to stay on a tight budget, the Dining Plan probably won’t make a lot of sense. But we’ll get to that…

That’s probably enough background about the Disney Dining Plan for now. If you still have questions (and you probably do), they’ll hopefully be answered below. For a simple system, it’s surprisingly complex, so don’t feel bad if it takes some reading before you fully understand how the Disney Dining Plan works and whether it is a good fit for your party. Let’s dig into what each tier of the Dining Plan includes…


2015 Disney Dining Plan Overview:

For the purposes of the Disney Dining Plan, a “counter service meal” consists of a combo meal (entree plus side), dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. As of May 31, 2015, a dessert in this meal may be substituted for another side. Also as of this date, a counter service meal may also consist of 3 snack items (defined below) in a single transaction.

A “table service meal” consists of an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. As of May 31, 2015, the dessert in the table service meal may also be substituted for a side salad, cup of soup, or fruit plate.

A “snack” includes items sold at snack carts around the park or in quick service restaurants. Also as of May 31, 2015, the definition of a snack has been expanded to include any single serving side item, which means more items will now be considered snacks (snacks were previously determined on a case-by-case basis with the DDP symbol (the purple thing above) denoting what was a snack). A snack now includes every side item, hand-scooped ice cream, and many other items that previously (before May 31) did not qualify as snacks.

Tax is always included, but guests pay for tips out of pocket. Two table service meal credits may be used for one Signature Meal, Dinner Shows, Pizza Delivery or Room Service Meal. Children under 3 eat free from an adult’s plate.

The following prices and details of the 2015 Disney Dining Plan are valid for arrivals January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. The most recent changes (improvements, this time) were made to the Disney Dining Plan on May 31, 2015–those are discussed below.


2015 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 per night price of the Quick Service Plan is $41.99 per adult and $16.03 per child ages 3-9.


2015 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)

The per night price of the Standard 2015 Disney Dining Plan is $60.64 per adult and $19.23 per child, with slight peak season surcharges anticipated.

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2015 Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

Excepting the Premium Package ($194/night) or Platinum Dining ($254/night) that are not recommended for anyone, 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 per-night price of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $109.53 per adult and $29.86 per child during regular season, and more during peak season. In 2015, the Deluxe Dining Plan eclipses $100. This plan has had the most significant increases each of the last two years.

As of May 31, 2015, those on the Deluxe Plan may officially mix their adult and child credits, meaning that child credits may be used for adult entrees. This has long been an unofficial loophole (and remains one for the lower tiers of the plans), but it’s now officially allowed on the Deluxe Plan.

If you have further questions that aren’t answered by these pages, check out Disney’s Dining Plan website. There are comprehensive and unnecessarily complicated PDF documents describing the various plans and their rules. Most importantly, the site has a list of participating restaurants (nearly every restaurant participates).

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It? – Pros & Cons


We’ve used both the standard and Deluxe Disney Dining Plan on a number of occasions. We’ve also paid out of pocket for dining on a number of our trips. The Disney Dining Plan has an equal number of fans and critics. We fall somewhere in the middle, disagreeing with both extremes. We think the Dining Plan has its pros and its cons. Let’s take a look at some of them!


Savings – You can save on the Disney Dining Plan, but you have to be a certain type of eater and not waste any credits. If you are a big eater who likes steak and would like to order it at every meal, you can save money with the Disney Dining Plan. This requires that everyone in your party is a big eater, and that all of you use all of your counter service and snack credits wisely (don’t use them at the last minute to take rice krispie treat snacks back home!). If you’re teens are human garbage disposals and the adults in your party love steak, the Dining Plan can work great for savings. As soon as anyone in your party starts ordering chicken or pasta, those savings disappear to the point that you start losing money on the Disney Dining Plan. No matter what they order, a vegetarian almost certainly will lose money by using the Disney Dining Plan.

The Disney Dining Plan is also great for those who really enjoy Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival, when some of the best snacks can cost as much as $7 and can be purchased using snack credits for great value! 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! 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!. In other words, saving a good chunk of money on the Disney Dining Plan is possible, but it requires either a family of big-eating carnivores, or “normal” eaters who put serious effort (see below) into it.

With that said, prices have risen fairly dramatically for the Disney Dining Plan over the last 5 years or so, meaning that just because you used it on your last trip a couple of years ago and found it to be a good value, does not mean it’s still a good value. The appetizer and tip were cut a few years ago, and prices have increased almost every year. The good news is that there haven’t been any price increases for 2015 (yet), which usually would have happened by now, but don’t rule out a spring increase in price. (We will update our numbers here if the prices do change.)


Effort – If value is your main concern and you aren’t a steak-addict, it can take a lot of pre-planning to save money by using the Disney Dining Plan. Because the margin of savings can be so low, in many cases the Dining Plan causes guests to order the most expensive item on the menu to get “value” out of the plan. Same goes for choosing more expensive restaurants. There have times on the Dining Plan when a cheaper menu item sounded good, 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 blog alone has at least 10 articles about the Disney Dining Plan, and we could probably have another couple dozen and still have people asking us questions. Saving money on the Disney Dining Plan requires a good amount of pre-planning or knowledge of how to work the system if you’re just a normal eater. It’s good to pre-plan where you want to eat at Walt Disney World regardless of whether you’re on the plan (not all restaurants are equal and you’ll need ADRs for some), so that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but using the Dining Plan increases the amount of pre-planning that’s necessary–if you care about saving money. We’ve found that we normally save more with the Tables in Wonderland card than the Dining Plan, and the former requires no pre-planning maximization effort.


Amount of Food – One 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 burned 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. While you can get value out of the Disney Dining Plan, that savings requires sitting down for longer meals and eating a lot of food. If you don’t normally eat as much food as the Disney Dining Plan provides, you aren’t actually saving money–the savings are illusory. You’re over-consuming in the name of (false) savings.


Convenience – Many visitors argue that the Disney Dining Plan is about convenience. We contend that it is not convenient. In terms of convenience, look at it this way: you’re reading an in-depth article about using the Disney Dining Plan, and you’ll probably read other such articles. How many articles have you read titled “Paying for Meals with Cash Info & Tips”? Hopefully none. A convoluted credit system cannot possibly be more convenient than the universal standard of paying money for a billed amount. It just can’t.

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Budgeting – This is probably the most contentious point. In addition to supposedly being convenient, a lot of its fans advocate the Disney Dining Plan because it helps them stay on a budget and avoid thinking about money on vacation. Again, this doesn’t pass the smell test. In most cases, when people try to stay on a vacation budget, it’s because there is a need for that budget. Overspending might cause financial strain. Viewed in that light, the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t help with a budget, it helps with predictability. Meals cost the same amount every night, regardless of what’s consumed. The thing is, if you’re on a tight budget and you’d normally spend $35 per person per night on food, but you spend $59 per person per night on food, isn’t that predictability doing you more harm than good? Rather, the Disney Dining Plan allows you to fall back on this predictability and ‘turn off’ your brain with regard to how much dining costs on vacation. If you don’t want to worry about money, purchase a Disney Gift Card (or pre-paid Visa) before the trip. While we don’t advocate making that psychological disconnect between actual and “fake” money, if you really don’t want to think about money, go that route. If you are too lazy to make a dining budget before your trip, chances are you’re too lazy to figure out where to dine to maximize your value, so our assumption is that you’ll end up saving more money with the gift card method.


Sticker Shock – Even if you’re not on a tight budget, menu prices at Walt Disney World can be a bit…shocking. The psychological disconnect we mentioned above isn’t always a bad thing, particularly if you want to splurge or have financial means, but can’t bring yourself to order certain items when directly paying menu prices. The Disney Dining Plan won’t scare you away from expensive menu items. If you love filet mignon, but would shy away from ordering it upon seeing the menu price, the Disney Dining Plan might be for you.



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!

With regard to the Disney Dining Plan and restaurants in general, this article is just a jumping off point. First-time Walt Disney World visitors often underestimate the importance of planning (especially for restaurants, many of which are booked solid months in advance) and have a bad time because they didn’t plan enough. To further plan your dining at Walt Disney World, check out our Disney Dining Plan Resources page and our Disney Restaurant Reviews page. Those both have additional information and links to helpful articles, food photos, and more.

If you are still unsure of whether the Disney Dining Plan might be right for you–or need personalized help with any aspect of your trip from hotels to the Disney Dining Plan and more–we  recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (basically, Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so none of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such recommended Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

Disney Dining Plan Info & Tips

Dining is just one element of planning a Walt Disney World trip that can be overwhelming. We have a full Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide that you should read, but we also recommend The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2015, 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!

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

Your Thoughts…

What is your experience with the Disney Dining Plan? Thinking about using it? 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! If you have any questions, ask them there, too.

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161 Responses to “2015 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips”

  1. Lori says:

    I think your review is spot on. There are so many variables in terms of whether the DPs are worth the cost. The one thing you don’t mention is how staying club level might be a factor. I’ve found that when we are staying club level, continental breakfast, mid-day water and snacks are included so we tend to eat one meal out. In that case, the plan isn’t worth it. When the kids were small, I could easily go to the quick service at the hotel and with a slice of pizza and the club offerings, feed them dinner. That certainly isn’t true as they have grown into teens and adults, but even as their appetites increase, the only value I see in the meal plan is that it’s prepaid–no bills when I come home. However, as you point out, prepayment doesn’t mean good value.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Great point about Club Level. It would be interesting to do a post on “Maximizing the Value of Club Level.” Hmmm….

      • steve allen says:

        Great article, we are DVC members and never take these plans, they are for people who set LOADS, so most floridians!! not Europeans.
        We love the resorts and disney, but take the point that it is getting VERY expensive.

    • Rick says:

      Dinsey Dining Plan is horrible now. We were there February 10 to 16 and had the dining plan. In 2014 you took the best table service restaurants and made them signature restaurants requiring 2 table services when in the past they were one. The dining plan use to save you money. Now it is a waste. I am a Disney Vacation Club member and it made me very sad to see you change the dining plan to make money. Disney used to mean a great value. Disney now is all about the money. The dining plans are now worthless. Didn’t anybody there do an analysis on the cost of the plan verse buying the food yourself? Disney is no longer as special and no longer family friendly.

      • joan king says:

        I also agree with you about Disney making it all about the money.I am also a DVC member since 1998 It is getting so exspensive my family can hardly afford to go anymore.Its so sad

      • Dennis Pozzi says:

        Our favorite places:

        Garden Grill
        Crystal Palace
        Be our Guest Restaurant
        Trails End
        Sci Fi dine in
        Whispering Canyon

        are all only 1 table service, which oddly is what makes the dining plan a bad deal for us. We don’t like the Signature restaurants or the vast majority of the counter service. If there was a $70 a day plan with two table service, or a way to upgrade a counter service to a table service it might work for us. Three tables a day is too much.

      • Rick says:

        This person is correct. The meal plan is not worth the money at all. I have been going for 8 years straight with my daughter and the meal plan use to save you money no matter wait. We are going in October and will not be getting the meal plan. Everything Disney has done in the last 2 years has been for profit only. They use to understand that people saved for years just to spend one vacation at Disney. I am afraid the customer friendly Disney is no more. I am a vacation club member as well. So very sad.

    • Disneymom72 says:

      There’s definite pros and cons with the dining plan. For years I was against it. The first time I used it it was during a free dining promotion. I’m sold. I think if you do a little bit of research you can maximize this plan. Sites like Debs unofficial Disney has all of the menus online. It makes planning where you want to eat easy. Go for restaurants with more expensive choices. Places you may not pick if you were paying out of pocket. Never use a sit down credit for breakfast or lunch if you want to maximize your savings. If you plan on eating three meals, use your counter service for lunch. Breakfast is generally the cheapest meal. If your not a big eater use a snack credit for breakfast. If you use the snack credit for a snack always look for the more expensive snacks. I think the biggest plus for me with this plan is that I feel more relaxed. It’s similar to the convenience of an all inclusive resort. It’s paid for before you go. Your not worrying about every dime while your on vacation. You don’t care how much each dish cost. You can relax and enjoy your vacation. If your on a stricter budget then it’s probably not a good idea. You can definitely eat cheaper if you want to. Bottom line is it’s not a huge money saver unless your big eaters. It’s more for convenience. I’m not a fan of the deluxe plan. I have three kids. There’s no way I could get them to sit for three meals at Disney. It takes up too much time. It’s also too much food in my opinion. The last time I used it the plan offered two snack credits each per day. By our last day we had a lot of credits remaining. We shopped for snacks to bring home on the plane. Now they changed it to one snack credit and a resort mug. I think this is probably better. My kids are older now and they will probably use the resort mug more now than the last time.

  2. Kevin says:

    Each time we have been to WDW since our daughter was born we have been during “free” dining. It was definitely the best discount for us, but there is no way I would consider paying for it if we went at a different time.

    As you say, it was nice to be able to order the most expensive thing on the menu and not have to worry about it (and it made the “free” dining an even better deal), but when we visited Disneyland, it was equally liberating not to have to worry about credits and just order what we wanted to eat.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Agreed all around.

      One thing we love about Disneyland is the more lax style of dining. No ADRs, no DDP, and (it seems like) lower prices at table service restaurants!

  3. Robin says:

    “comprehensive and unnecessarily complicated PDF documents”… Seriously! This made me laugh.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Laughed BECAUSE IT’S TRUE!

      • Erica Louviere says:

        Our last week-long family trip to WDW was in 2006 for our son’s fifth birthday. I saved an absolute fortune with the DP on that trip. Considering the changes to the DPs since then, and the price increase for my son (now 12) to eat on the plan as a non-child, there’s absolutely NO way we’ll break even on the plan. I’m glad I’m a researcher or I would have assumed it was still a no-brainer for us! Yikes!

      • Tom Bricker says:

        The Disney Dining Plan was absolutely awesome in 2006 and even up until 2008. We had a friend in the College Program back then and were able to book it for $20/day (plus a huge room discount). Those were the days!

  4. Brett Matthews says:

    Good to see this pop up again. We’re planning our trip for fall and trying to decide if it’s worth it to purchase the plan. We did it last time and did exactly what you mentioned….ordered the most exspensive items and ate too much. 6 day trip (4 full days) and at over $600, I think we’ll go out of pocket and eat out less and play more this time!

  5. Aaron in DC says:

    I seem to remember at the DLR that for World of Color center viewing passes you needed to order an entree and either an appetizer or dessert. Does the Disney Dining Plan at WDW offer flexibility on the dessert, particularly at table service locations? In spite of the homemade apple pie and vanilla ice cream I’ve been working on since Christmas, I’m not much of a dessert guy. I’m guessing they’re not flexible on this point but am curious nonetheless.

    • Kevin says:

      Sadly, no. They are not flexible. It’s entree + dessert. You and everyone else wish they were flexible so that you and your spouse could split an app/dessert. ((I think the best guess is that desserts are pre-made and cheaper than appetizers. Or that 1 less course turns tables faster.)

    • Dianeymom72 says:

      I found the last time that I was there that we were getting sick of so many desserts. A couple of times I asked the waitress if I could substitute an appetizer or soup/salad instead. They never said no. As long as the price was similar. If I remember correctly they still showed it as a dessert on the bill. It’s worth asking. The worse they can say is no.

  6. StephM says:

    Thanks for he up to date info. We did the dining plan about oh, 15 years ago when it was very different. Haven’t done it since as we like to pick and choose what we want to do and not feel obligated to use or maximize a plan. These costs though are insane! Seriously? I can’t see me spending almost $20 for just me at a QS meal! Dear Lord! We wouldn’t use the mug as it’s really inconvenient IMO and snacks don’t have to cost much IF you want one, so that’s what I rounded to $20 per QS meal. No way! We’ve also never done free dining because we’ve been DVC members since they started offering it. But this year, we spent out points on the cruise and decided to do a few days at WDW as well, so we deliberately booked during a time that they offered it tis year in hopes. Still….. How would I book now to be able t change it later IF free dining comes up again? I’m admittedly perplexed.

    • Amy Weber says:


      We did this one year too (booked in hopes of FD). Here’s what we did:

      We booked a resort (Pop) that we wanted to stay at (this was back before Values got QSDP, etc)… When FD was available, I called WDW and asked that they apply the discount to my reservation. Basically what they do is cancel your original reservation and move it to the new reservation. It was super-easy to do, and I was done in minutes (not counting hold times).

      Hope this helps!

  7. Daffystardust says:

    I used the dining plan for the first time this October as part of the “free dining” promotion. After sitting down and doing the math after the trip I found that I had indeed saved more money this way than if I had taken advantage of the resort discount being offered at the time.
    I did feel a bit freer to order what I wanted where I would tend to look for less expensive items if I was paying out of pocket.
    While I fully endorse as much planning as possible in all travel situations, it has to be mentioned that no matter what you plan sometimes the fates have something else in store for you. Bad weather can send you home early from the park where your ADR is, causing a domino effect on the rest of your vacation’s credit uses.
    In October I was sure I’d have no trouble using up all of my snack credits because we would be visiting EPCOT during the Food & Wine Festival. What we encountered, however, were food lines so long that we quickly decided to join queues for attractions that were very reasonable instead. Another evening, one of our group was suddenly dealing with distressing news from home and I didn’t even think to grab my typical Dole Whip until it was too late.
    This resulted in exactly the late snack use that you warn against. We hit Goofy’s Candy Company at Downtown Disney and went home with some extra treats that I personally enjoyed but would not have otherwise ordered.
    Based on this one experience, I liked the dining plan enough that I would use it again if I got it as part of the “free dining” promotion, but I would not simply pay for it otherwise. Those with several kids in tow might be better served.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yep. The “Free Dining” promotion alters the equation and requires less work to get value out of the plan, especially if you have (for example) a family of 4 in a Moderate Resort.

      In that case, you can afford to eat a little less and not get full ‘value’ out of the DDP. For those paying out of pocket or (for example) 2 people in a Deluxe, the same margin for error isn’t there.

  8. Don Livingston says:

    Tom I think the consideration about consumption is the single biggest factor when choosing the dining plan. If you have a family of big eaters and Disney dining is a priority on your vacation then the plan is a no brainer. You will save money or at least break even and there is a convenience factor as well. However, if your vacationing family is like mine and dining is a big part of the trip but none of us are big eaters then the dining plan makes little sense. I have a 13 year old and 11 year old twins and they eat like birds. No way they are eating 60.00 worth of food every day for several days. My wife and I have friends ask us about the dining plan all the time and we always tell them to think about the eating habits of the family more than any convenience factors.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Agree that consumption is the biggest factor. If your entire party is big eaters, then it’s probably a good decision. All it takes is 1 person in a party of 4 that isn’t a big eater and you have to start looking at the other factors.

  9. Steve Boutet says:

    With all the complexities of the Dining Plan, you did a great job breaking it down for the uninitiated! Years ago we purchased the dining plan for our 10 night stay. The price was $36.99 per day and included appetizer with the sit-down, 2 snacks per day, AND tip. It was an awesome deal and we made out like bandits, BUT, we also felt stuffed, all the time. The amount of food presented to us was far more than we would ever eat at home, so while we were technically saving $’s, if we’d paid out of pocket for what we’d normally eat, we probably would have ended up spending far less. We also didn’t like the fact that our days were planned around our ADR’s. There were many times we would have loved to have been in a different park from the one we were bound to due to the ADR. Attempts to switch the ADR to a restaurant in our preferred park location were futile. While we would never purchase the plan again (or even use the free plan), there are many that love it. As stated in the post, there are MANY things to consider. If you and your family relish spending lots of family time around the dinner table, then maybe it’s worth a look. If spontaneity is your game, and a turkey leg will do the job instead of a filet at Le Cellier, then paying our of pocket may be your best route. And one thing to budget for, just remember, when it comes to the DDP during Free Dining, nothing is ever free, because your gratuity is NOT included in the cost.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yes, back when it was that price, it was a no brainer. You could waste the snack credits (among other things) and it was still a great deal. Now it’s significantly more money, and includes about $30/night LESS in value. Think about THAT for a minute!

  10. Criswell3000 says:

    I will never consider it again unless it is “free “. There has been too much erosion of value over the years, and after our last trip, we’ve decided it might be better to focuse less on the dining aspect of our trip in favor of more park time.

  11. Chris says:

    We tried the DDP once for a 5 day trip and I gained like 5lbs. There was so much food compared to what I usually eat. They make you get the large soda and dessert with lunch, etc- which sounds wonderful, but many times it was too much.
    I typically prefer something smaller for lunch (sometimes even a child meal because you can pick fruit/veg for your sides) and we usually share a dessert for dinner, so cash works best for us.

  12. cheryl says:

    We are a family of 9. I have 2 grown children and 5 younger ones. We are planning a massive trip with everyone in 2015. Needless to say we will save a fortune if we can get free dining. Our first trip we made the mistake of upgrading from table service to deluxe. Even though we are all big eaters it was just too much. This last trip was just hubby and I and we did quick service. I missed the great sit down meals. Standard dining will be the way we go from now on. Our best trip was when we did standard dining. Still got our wonderful dinners and ease of counter service at lunch.

  13. Lisa says:

    I am trying to plan a trip for my family of four (kids 4 and 9) in October of 2014. I remember when I started investigating last summer that I saw an offer for free kids meal plans. Does that offer usually come about each fall? How long do I wait before I actually book the trip? Looking at a very short trip (4 nights) the first week of October.

    • Elizabeth says:

      For the past few years Disney has released a Free Dining promotion, offering a free dining plan with the purchase of a full-priced vacation package at a Disney resort. It may or may not be released again, but in the past it has usually happened in the fall. I would go ahead and book if you know when you want to visit – when a discount comes out, call Disney to tell them that you want it applied to your reservation (they don’t do it automatically). If you want to take some of the hassle out of it, consider booking with a Disney travel specialist – their services are free, and they monitor discounts and apply them automatically to your reservation for you.

  14. Beth says:

    My boyfriend and I just got home from a trip that included my first experience with the DDP (he’d done it years ago). I enjoyed not having to worry about prices, but on the other hand, it caused additional stress about making sure we used up all our credits (compounded by our having a split stay in two different resorts, so the day we checked into the second one, we had to make sure we used up everything from the first one by midnight). Because our Magical Express reservation was very early, we ended up using our last Quick Service for a continental breakfast at our resort (which was a total rip-off: one pastry, one piece of fruit, and a drink).

    There’s one tip I’d like to pass along, especially to the reader above who asked if there was any flexibility on desserts: I don’t know how many QS locations do this, but at The Roaring Fork at Wilderness Lodge, they let us choose soup for the dessert portion of our QS meal! The cashier said we could select anything that would qualify as a snack, which included the soup and chili! It made a really nice change to be able to have a “soup and sandwich” lunch that day.

  15. Jess says:

    Thank you soo much! This was the best article I have found on the subject of the DDP. Disney World first timer here, and I have to say I am more overwhelmed with panning this vaca than I was purchasing my first home. One question though about the character dinning; They use two meal credits? I am definitely swaying toward NOT getting the DDP, but the shows and character dinning are so pricey, I’m wondering if that would make it worth it to me? Thoughts? (by the way it is my 5yr old, 3yr old and my husband and me)

    • Elizabeth says:

      Most of the character dining is only 1 DDP credit – the exceptions are Cinderella’s Royal Table, and shows like the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, and the Spirit of Aloha show. The more expensive 1-credit character dining meals aren’t a bad value on the DDP, especially with children because the cost of most children’s character dining meals is often about one full ‘per night’ cost for the child’s dining plan.

      • jess says:

        this is were I am struggling as well. the character meals are expensive, but the DDP seems like way too much food.

    • Gimmee4 says:

      The character meals can be pricey but are such an experience!

      We’ve enjoyed breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary resort and a few meals in Cristal Palace in MK, they are “all you can eat”, and boy there is a lot! To maximise the benefit we would book a late breakfast slot the would only need one other meal during the day

      The excitement is in the planning, you can’t do too much of it by the way!

  16. Cara says:

    I am glad that you update this each year. My boyfriend and I aren’t planning a trip until 2015. However, I am researching very early. Maybe too early, as all the things to know just keep adding up. We plan to go hopefully during a time when they are offering either a discount on the room or “free’ dining. From all that I have read the discounted room is the way to go for us. I do have a question though that you may be able to answer. To maximize our savings I want to book everything separate. Do you have to order the park tickets with the room in order to get the discount? I wanted to order them off of Undercover tourist if possible to save some money.

  17. Kristin says:

    My aunt, cousins, and I are going to Walt Disney World in May and have purchased the Disney Dining Plan. We have also made all of our reservations. We love eating so purchasing the dining plan works for us. The last time I went to Disney I did not purchase the dining plan and am still regretting it to this day (it has been 4 years). My boyfriend and I love food and went to ‘Ohana to eat dinner one night and wished we would have purchased the meal plan so we could have done more meals like that. I will never again go without doing a meal plan only because saving for the food we love to eat at Disney is more stress than just purchasing the dining plan and having credits to use at places we want to return and try. The only thing that I have negative to say about the dining plan is sometimes even after eating at 8 in the morning I am too full to eat a snack or a quick service lunch, so I sometimes feel like it’s a waste, but then the days I don’t use 2 table service meals I realize that using a quick service on that day is worth not using it other days.

  18. Teri says:

    In the past, we have used the dining plan. Since we have 3 sons ranging from 14 – 21 years old, we get a good value from the dining plan. Our sons always fight over which one gets to finish my leftovers. My husband and I are going alone for the first time for our 25th anniversary, and have been debating on using the dining plan. We love many of the restaurants that are 2 TS credits, and weren’t sure about the value of the dining plan for these types of restaurants. This information will help with our decision. Thank you!

  19. Benjamin says:

    Going to Disney World for first time and for our honeymoon. We both actually eat a decent amount so I’m thinking that we will do the dining plan, but I’m still not sure. Thoughts?

    • Kristin says:

      DO IT! Going for the first time and for it being your honeymoon I say, go for it! You will be able to get at great restaurants and since you said you eat a decent amount of food you will totally get your money’s worth. You also won’t have to worry about budgeting (since you’ll just pay for it up front) all you will need to worry about is tips at table service meals.

  20. Stan says:

    If you were to pay CASH, what are the actual prices you might expect to pay for a lunch at a quick service and dinner (either at a QS or a TS)? I have two boys — a 5 year old & 3 year old — and me. I can see sitting down for breakfast in the AM at the hotel (Pop Century) before getting started, then a lunch on the go and then ether a QS or TS dinner, but how much might I actually spend using cash vs the dining plan? I know someone said $58/adult and $19/kid per night for the DDP.

    I would still have to pay for one meal/day for each of us….probably breakfast.

    Can we use the refillable mugs for water in the park? are there places to refill just water? we don’t do soda or juice.

    • Lynn says:

      Allears.net lists menus and prices. there are places to refill your water bottles or mugs with water and you can ask for a cup of water at any QS location.

    • Kim says:

      You can go anywhere they sell fountain drinks and ask for a cup of ice water. Some places give you a nice sized cup, some others give you a tiny cup. I have found the snack places give the biggest sized water cups. They have no problem doing it either. I will go up and just order water. (I am an AP holder and go at least 1 time a month) I would suggest too, bringing things like pop tarts or breakfast bars in your luggage instead of buying breakfast. It will save you $$ in the long run!!

    • Lucy says:

      We took our own refillable water bottles, and it was the best! We also brought single serving Crystal Light or water flavor packs, and added those to water we got from the fountains. We never had to waste money/time on soda from a snack station.

  21. Mi Mi says:

    After two consecutive years of (hectic) spring trips to Disneyland with grandchildren, we thought we would take a Disney break for a few years. Thanks to this post, we are off to Disney World (alone…yay!) The primary reason? To sample all these culinary spots you profiled that we’ve previously missed.
    End of February has us escaping Colorado snows, thanks to you. : )

  22. Valerie says:

    Thank you for all of your posts, I have found them very informative to my trip planning.
    With the dining plan, how does Disney differentiate between kids and adults quick service credits? I have read in the past they did not, but may be now. Do you have any info on this subject? Our trip is in May 2014.
    Thanks again!

  23. Jennifer Duckworth says:

    Our family (2adults, 3 kids under 9) went to DisneyWorld for the first time last year– able to get the dining plan for free– so worth it for us. We were able to do 3 character meals by using the table service credits which would have been impossible had we paid for the meals out of pocket because they are so expensive. We also had no trouble using our snack credits- one per day per person– it wasn’t hard. We had some snacks in our room to take into the parks and also some cereal on those days when we were hungry in the am. I don’t feel like I ate tons of food- We ate what I wanted and didn’t feel pressured when I chose not to order something like dessert. Granted on that trip we got the plan for free, but I’d be hard pressed to go without it.

  24. Dave A. says:

    “(besides “Free Dining” which is available for these dates)”…which dates? :)

    Did I miss it, or was there supposed to be a link to dates? Or did I just misunderstand that?

  25. Disney Mom says:

    We used the “standard” DP for the first time this past summer. I’m crunching numbers, debating the DP, for this summer’s trip. Children are listed as $18.88 per night on the DP, for one table meal, one counter meal, and a snack. The cheapest kids lunch I found (ABC Commissary) was $5.49:

    “Mickey Check Meal – Power Pack LunchDannon® Danimals® Yogurt, Apple Wedges, Carrot Sticks, Goldfish Crackers, Apple-Cinnamon Snack Bar, and a choice of small lowfat Milk or small Dasani® Water. Meets Disney Nutrition Guidelines for Complete Meals without substitutions 5.49″

    You still need to purchase breakfast and dinner. Figure $5.49 for 2 more meals and we’re already at $16.47 “no frills” for the day vs. $18.88 . . . It’s a no brainer! No need to do any further math for the adults. Going with the “standard” DP.

    • Lynn says:

      You’re correct. The more children you have qualifying for the kids plan, the more apt you are to come out ahead on the DDP.

  26. Gina says:

    We have used the ddp twice while I am not a huge eater we definitely came out ahead. We used our table service credits for meals that were quite expensive to get our bang for our buck. The kiddos were small 4/6 last time we would sometimes share meals with them at quick service restaurants to give us more meals. We also used our snack credits for sweet breakfast (cinnamon rolls) items to minimize out of pocket cost. It was “free” for us but I’m planning on it next time too. I would never do the deluxe especially now that our kiddos are full price.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If this was a few years ago, the value probably was good. Prices have gone up and what the package includes has gone ‘down’ since.

  27. joanna says:

    Im planning my first trip out to Disney World for this April. Im a annul member and get a discount on the room and dinning plan. After making my reservations for the whole 7 nights and 8 days. I feel like i am looking at saving money in the dinning area. I tried to book as many character meals as possible. But i will keep you posted on how it all goes.

  28. Cheri says:

    We are planning a trip to WDW in October with our 2 grandchildren. We think we will do the DDP. How do you look for the free dinning once we have booked our package.

    • shaina says:

      If you have a Chase Disney Rewards Visa card then you get early notification of all deals offered…usually like 3 days before the public. We booked the room discounted deal with free memory maker and since we have the Disney Chase, she said that if a free dining comes out we can re-book the trip with the new deal if it ends up working out in our favor. Since we are 2 adults and a 3 year old the room discount at WL will most likely save us more in the end. If you are a family with 3 or more people over 12 years old staying at a moderate resort then the dining would work out better for you. Think about the Disney chase though for early notification on deals. The regular card has no annual fee and there are other perks.

      • shaina says:

        *Just to be clear, you can re-book even without the Disney visa if you come across a better deal, but if you have the card you get early notice of the deals so you can get them before they are sold out.

    • Tammy says:

      Keep an eye on http://www.mousesavers.com. They do a really good job of posting all promotions as they come out.

  29. Holly Harakaly says:

    Thanks for one of the best articles I’ve read about the Pros and Cons of Disney Dining Plans! We were big fans of the plan in its first incarnations, but as the value fell we changed our minds quickly. It just didn’t fit the way we eat very well, plus, as the planner, I found it to be somewhat stressful trying to get the best value for our credits. One thing you don’t mention in your article is “What if someone gets sick/doesn’t feel well?” This happened to me on one trip and we ended up cancelling several adrs. I certainly didn’t eat like I would have normally. Since we didn’t have a dining plan, we took no hit financially. Had we had a dining plan, we certainly would have come out way behind.

  30. Andrea says:

    Just came back from a WDW 8 day vacation. We had gotten the dining plan in a special promotion, ($687.28 for 8 nights, 2 adults, 1 teen, and 1 child) and at that discount it was a great value. Personally, I don’t feel that it’s a good value at all at regular price unless you’re going to order the most expensive item on the menu.

    • Michael says:

      Andrea was that ddp through a travel agent or right through disney ? When did you go? That’s really cheap. We just booked a five day land and 3 night cruise. Hopefully getting the ddp for free.

  31. Mark says:

    Hi Tom,

    I just found your site a few days ago and am really enjoying it. I follow several sites, and I enjoy comparing and contrasting the various opinions.

    As with anything, one has to run the numbers. I am planning our 5th trip to WDW. We have a pretty good idea of where we want to eat. I just did a cost comparison of the Plus Dining with out-of-pocket. In our case, the Plus Dining will save us about $100.00 over the course of the trip. A few minutes running the numbers can be essential in making that decision.

    I agree with your comment about table service dining taking a lot of time away from other activities. We have learned to schedule table service meals for about the time when we are tired of walking and want to get out of the heat (for us, usually about mid-afternoon). It can give a much needed rest and lead to a more pleasant late afternoon in the parks.

  32. Trudy H says:

    Unless the quick serve dining plan was free, I don’t see how it could be a good deal. It offers 2 meals per day and one snack. Judging from the meals we typically eat, we only spend $30 maximum per person on that amount of food. So how is $39 a deal? We would never splurge on the table meals as it’s such a waste of time and we found the service to be quite snotty at full service places. Coral Reef Cafe had to be the worst dining experience with terrible, overpriced food ($120 for two adults and a nine year old with no alcohol???) and a waiter who had better things to do than take care of us.

    We leave in 17 days for a month long stay at Disney and I’ll pay out of pocket for food :)

    • FredK says:

      If you spent $120 for food at Coral Reef, the dining plan might make sense. For 2 adults and 1 child (3 to 9), the standard dining plan is $136. You get 1 table service, 1 quick service, 1 snack, and a resort unlimited refill mug. Remember, each lunch or dinner meal includes beverage and dessert. Breakfast only include beverage.

      If you pay cash as I do on occasion, I will mostly not buy the beverage and dessert, thus saving at least $8 each person. The dining plan inflates the value of the meal, but we are already talking about Disney that is pretty expensive. The alternative is bringing your own food and purchasing at least one quick service while in the park.

      I haven’t selected Coral Reef for my table service meals for my trip in May. I picked character meals that are quick expensive. While it is debateable on whether I save money, I will at least get the full service experience and I think this is pretty wonderful. The overall cost is expensive, but I am sure my food costs will be more expensive if I had to pay a la carte for all my table service reservations. If I were to cancel my standard dining plan, I will cancel half my dining reservations. Perhaps to go 3 character meals, bring my lunch, and eat at some quick service meals for dinner.

  33. Tiffany says:

    ok I have a question I am taking my son to Disney world in july 2014 well I guess what I am asking will the WDW work for two people I have never done this before and I just want to make sure that it would be better for me if it will work for two people and let me tell you my son is 10 and he can eat.. lol thanks for your time and pls let me know thanks :)

  34. Kim peacock says:

    Hi Tom love your blog. I usually use the dining plan but when you pay that much money for the pasta dishes and no choice. It is too wasteful. Do you know of any other dining discount other than tables in wonderland , you need an annual pass for that. Any ideas??

  35. Kim peacock says:

    Hi Tom love your blog. I usually use the dining plan but when you pay that much money for the pasta dishes and no choice. It is too wasteful. Do you know of any other dining discount other than tables in wonderland , you need an annual pass for that. Any ideas??

  36. shaina says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but if you have the Delux plan and eat one (1 credit) table service and one (2 credit) table service per day, then you’re not really maximizing the monetary benefit but rather just saving yourself from over eating. For instance, Le Cellier steakhouse average meal cost is $51 but they are taking two credits so the value of each of those credits would actually only be $26. If that is the case you would be better off going to a place like chef mickey or crystal palace for dinner where they only take 1 credit and average meal is $41-43 to get the top value per credit.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You’re absolutely correct. Prevailing wisdom is that few people will be able to do 3 table service meals per day on the Deluxe Dining Plan, so this is the best way to do it in reality. On paper, doing the 3 meals is definitely the better way to go, but I think most guests would be hard pressed to do this without wasting a lot of food at each meal…in which case you’re not really getting the stated “value” anyway.

    • Di says:

      My son and I took a three night weekend at Disney during the Food and Wine Festival. Because we typically get in early in the day we check in and leave late on our last day, the deluxe plan took care of our meals for the four days we were there and helped with items from the booth to snack on :)

  37. Kim Sianis says:

    Do you know if they are offering Free Dining the month of October 2014 if staying at Moderate/Value resorts? Do you know when they will come out with the Winter offers?

  38. Alexis says:

    We get the deluxe for several reasons and never regret it.

    1: My family still loves character meals! We have a teen and a 6 year old and they love character breakfasts. That saves us from waiting in line anywhere in the parks.

    2: I have severe food allergies. Disney is one place where I can eat safely and enjoy myself. I have been on so many vacations where I cannot eat anything. For this trip, I eat!

    3: Since we do so many table service meals, we save money by doing the deluxe plan. Is it a huge savings? No. We save some money. And that is without everyone getting appetizers, etc.

    We also like doing a few signature meals during our trip. Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue, Le Cellier, and Cinderella’s Castle were all requested as repeats for this trip. This is the 4th or 5th time we have done deluxe.

  39. Nicole says:

    Hi, I just started my own Disney blog http://happilyeverdisney.blogspot.com/ last month, but I love reading yours!
    I agree that you need to look at your personal family’s eating habits. We have 5 kids (4 of whom are boys) and they eat non-stop!!!! We purposely travel when we think they will offer free dining (Fall or after Thanksgiving). One thing you discussed was not using all your credits. I’m surprised you didn’t mention how to use them up. We almost never have snacks leftover (even if we pay cash for drinks), but on our last day we go to one of the bakery’s, such as the one on Main St. in MK or the one in Hollywood Studios and get a bunch of treats from there to bring home.
    Now my next tip will only help those driving and not flying. On the morning that we are driving home, we stop at Downtown Disney and go to The Earl of Sandwhich. I hand them my key to the room card (or magic band) and tell them I want to see how many credits i have to use up. They will let you use counter AND table service. They’ll say you have enough for 5 meals, etc. Then I get 5 (or however many) sandwiches, 5 “desserts” they will let you choose fruit cups, muffins, or any side they have on the counter for under $5.00 and 5 drinks. The best tip the lady taking my order gave me last trip was to get one soda fountain drink if we wanted one then and get the remaining drinks as bottled water to take in the car. We get everything to go and have our lunch/snacks for the drive home that helps us not stop as often and get a little bit of Disney in before we arrive home.

  40. Alexis says:

    If you are using a deluxe plan or really any sort of plan with table service, I highly recommend making your reservations in advance and keeping a simple spreadsheet or table with you showing your reservations and confirmation numbers. Leaving dining credits at the end is not good and Disney charges your credit card a cancellation fee for no shows.

  41. Scott B. says:

    Thanks for the article Tom.
    Last year was the first time we had tried the dining plan. We used the Disney Dining Plan or as you put it, the “Standard Dining Plan” My Kids were 10 and 12 at the time but we traveled with a group of 15 people total. 8 adults and four 12 year old’s, two 10 year old’s and a 7 year old. (4 different families with the same dining plan)
    New to the plan folks should consider this prior to purchasing a dining plan… 12 year old’s and above are considered an adult for dining plan purposes. Does your super picky, only eats chicken fingers and pizza 12 year old eat an adult meal worth of food? If not, you may not get the savings you are looking for. For every table meal they would give him an “adult” portion anything off of the children’s menu (chicken, pizza, pasta, etc.) On the other hand, my 10 year old will eat anything. So we ordered her an adult meal and my son used a child credit. I will say he definitely received a larger portion but we never exceeded our plated meal credits doing this.
    After dinner, we found that the entire group would order a bunch of deserts and share them to try different options. No one over indulged this way, but it gave us a chance to try other options.
    There was only 1 time that I found myself ordering the more expensive option rather than the one that caught my eye first on the menu. I shied away from it twice and went to a lessor option because the price on the menu scared me. I had to remind myself that it didn’t matter what the price was, it was included so I go the more expensive option. (Dinner, desert and a soft drink would have cost me 65.00 just for my meal without the plan!)
    The nice thing about booking a Disney Vacation with the dining plan through Disney or AAA is that you pay a $200.00 deposit up front and then split the balance over the length of time remaining up to 45 days prior to the trip.
    For those who would be on a budget, think of this as a lay away plan allowing you to book what you want but not put down a lot of money all at once. The good news, you won’t need to hold 30-50 dollars per person per dinner and 18-25 per person per lunch per day in your bank account. That will certainly help with sticker shock at the end of the week when you get your check out statement! For a quick bit of math, you can look at it this way. Plan on spending 20.00 per person for lunch, 30.00 per person for dinner multiplied by a family of 4 for 6 nights = 1200.00 for food. Do you want to worry about budgeting 1200.00 in food while you are there? Why not save the money for souvenirs/tours/photos, etc and buy the plan up front?
    Overall I feel the dining plan was certainly expensive but worth the investment. It encouraged us to have more plated meals and try new restaurants rather than eat at the fast food locations all the time. It also allowed us to relax and rest our feet after a long day in the park and enjoy each other’s company (Of course you can do this with out having a dining plan, but we would have been less likely to do it if we knew we would be spending as much out of pocket on 2 meals a day). We have traveled to Disney 8 times and this last trip was by far our best experience for eating and dining and we figured we saved about 300.00 in food vs the year prior. We are headed back at the end of July and ordered the same meal plan. Can’t wait!

  42. FredK says:

    Left off are these things that convinced me to get the standard dining plan. Characters and Popularity. Some restaurants are hard to get reservations. If you select enough in this category, it will make sense to get the dining plan.

    Ambience and quality. If you’re going to “Be My Guest”, “1900”, “Royal Table”, its adding up in cost and the quality has increased equally. There is no equivalent in quick service. This is not the case where you’re a big eater as I don’t eat like that anymore. Besides, the seafood and most expensive items are served in smaller portions. You intentionally avoid steak, pasta, and starchy foods.

    Food variety. It is no secret that there are so many gourmet restaurants. Limiting yourself to quick service and a few undistinguished table service restaurants is unnecessary.

    I probably won’t do this all the time, but sometimes the dining plan is useful if you know exactly where and what you want to eat. I’m mostly focused on character meals for my 5 year old princess and my wife who was impressed by photos posted in Facebook from her cousin who went there a few months ago. She had to go to the Hollywood and Vine and 1900 at the Grand Floridian.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      In fairness, neither characters nor popular restaurants are exclusive to the Disney Dining Plan. Anyone can do character meals or popular restaurants and pay out of pocket at them. If you’re paying out of pocket, you certainly don’t need to limit yourself to “quick service and a few undistinguished table service restaurants.”

      In fact, if you’re eating at the most expensive restaurant (Signatures), you WILL save money by not using the Disney Dining Plan.

      • FredK says:

        Signatures restaurants are not worth the 2 dining credits for the standard dining plan. On the other hand, most character meals are one credit and the exception is the Royal Table with 2 credits where you can decide to pay out of pocket or decide to exchange later with dining credits.

        You quoted my remark and used it incorrectly. Paying out of pockets is always an option, but if you’re picking popular restaurants for every single day of your trip while also getting quick service meals as the second expense, there’s the dining plan that’s offered and will seem to give you precisely what you need. This is a precise requirement that you know what works.

      • Tom Bricker says:

        Sorry, it wasn’t my intent to misquote you. I don’t think I completely understand what you were saying. Now I do, and I agree completely! :)

  43. Andrew says:

    We cancelled our Disney vacation this year, and I’m really glad I did. I don’t know who is making these terrible decisions – but you need to be fired!

  44. Rosa says:

    How do you feel about the quick service plan? My boyfriend and I are planning our trip and trying to decide if it is worth it… We have never been and table service just seems like too much to handle with the reservations and such, we would probably be eating quick service meals the whole time anyways. Should we go for the meal plan or just pay out of pocket?

  45. Jessica says:

    We are planning a trip for my husband and I and 3 kids under 6. My husband is the only one who is a big eater. Is it possible to get the dining plan for just one person instead of the whole family? If we could do this I think it would be worth it just for him.

    • Chels says:

      I wondered this too because I have had weight loss surgery, so i can only eat 5-6 bites..but my husband could probably eat a house if he was really hungry. My kids arent huge eaters, but sometimes I swear they have hollow legs! From my TA if 1 person wants the DDP, everyone has to get it. And I asked if I could be charged the childs price due to my weight loss surgery, and she said no. Its so unfortunate!

    • Camille says:

      Unless things have changed in the last several months, and I don’t think they have, everyone in your party has to have the same thing. You can’t place only one person on the dining plan. It is everyone or no one. Same thing even with tickets. I wanted last October to purchase 3-day tickets for myself and my daughter and only a two-day ticket for my mom. I was told that was not possible with a package. Everyone in the party has to have the same thing–same resort, same park tickets, and same dining plan.

      With tickets, you can purchase the minimum number of days for everyone in your party, then add more days when you arrive at the park to the guests who want the extra days. I do not believe that you can modify the dining plan, though. I still think it is all or none.

  46. Erin says:

    Thanks for your input. My family will be using the DDP for our first trip with our son (under 3 – eats a full kids meal at restaurants locally). Based on my math and knowing my vacation tendencies, it’s the best “value” for us. We are BIG steak eaters, so we win at most restaurants by choosing that. It also means we don’t have to order a separate child’s meal for my son. Splitting the appetizer (not something we normally would order) and some of our meal will feed him instead. Without the appetizer and dessert, it probably wouldn’t be enough food to split with him. I’m also a frugal restaurant diner. This sticker shock paragraph fits us to a T. While I would prefer the steak, I would never spend Disney prices on one. I would order something much less expensive and wish I was eating the steak. This allows us to order what we truly want and come out spending much less money. When we have to pay for my son to be on the plan, I will have to recalculate. I can’t imagine the DDP will be our best value at that point.

  47. Kevin P says:

    My family heads out to Orlando for a Disney World vacation tomorrow. We have been frequent visitors to your site in the past couple weeks and the tips you provide are awesome! Thanks for being such a great resource!

  48. It seems that in the USA you don’t get as good deals as we do back in the UK. This could possibly be because our flights cost more, but we tend to get free dining all through our summer time through to about October as long as we book certain moderate to deluxe resorts and tickets. I have never been to Disney World in the 6 years I’ve been going with free dining and I have been in October, May, June, July and August. Interesting to see how it differs.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think the reason for this is because UK guests are often “whales.” I don’t mean that in the bad way, but rather that you come here for long stays (as compared to US guests) and tend to spend a lot of money while you’re here on souvenirs. I wish Disneyland Paris would offer US folks these same types of deals! :)

  49. George K. says:

    I’m planning on either an August or September 2014 visit to WDW and I need to know when in those two months Disney will be offering the free standard dining plan with a moderate hotel and park admission? I’ve done this on three other trips and those months were offered. Who do I contact or how do I get an answer since no one seems to know?

    • April says:

      My travel agent (Disney specialist) said that they’re being rather greedy and doesn’t think there will be as many deals for free dining this year as they have in years past because the parks are doing too good. :o/ We’re going in October. I hope they do offer it. But she said not to hold my breath.

  50. Nichole says:

    I go back and forth on whether or not the cost of the DDP is worth it. I am going Star Wars Weekend June 6-8 and they have opened up some interesting options for either cash or 2 table service meals. I’m going to crunch the numbers using your tips for maximizing the table service meals to see if we can come out ahead!

  51. Charles Weaver says:

    When we went like 4 year ago we were able to use a quick service for breakfast. The food was enough for two people so my wife and I would use one for breakfast and then one for lunch. Maybe buy a blueberry muffin as a snack for breakfast if needed. The we would use one quick service for Lunch and share once again. Does the amount of food served still allow for this?

  52. newbiestodisney says:

    we are planning our very first disney trip in september 2014. I’m thinking the deluxe plan will be our best bet as we plan to enjoy taking it slow so the time spent at the sit down places won’t be a big hassle to us, and we don’t have kids. this is slightly off-topic here, but this is my question- Can we get the disney dining plan added on a hotel reservation without having to purchase tickets directly from disney? the tickets at undercover are easily half the price of what disney “offers” and I could care less about the “benefits” of having a magic your way package. thanks!

    • Camille says:

      According to the Disney reservations specialist to whom I just spoke a few days ago, you can get the dining plan without purchasing tickets. You just have to stay on-site. We are going in September, also, but we are not doing the regular park tickets. We just plan to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. She offered us the dining plan (for purchase, of course), but it doesn’t make financial sense for our family.

      In September, Disney often offers free dining with a resort and ticket package. Keep an eye out for that. Offers usually come out around the first or second week of May. Free dining usually requires a 5 or 6 night resort stay and a minimum of a 2-day park ticket for each guest. You won’t get free deluxe dining, but you can pay to upgrade the free dining package.

  53. Rachel says:

    You know the second to last picture with the steak and the egg? What restaurant is that? It looks delicious! 😍

  54. Yajaira says:

    I cant wait to bring my children to disney world on July its our first time any suggestions about where to go when we get there. Thanx

  55. Mike says:

    We’ve been loyal disney enthusiasts for 25 years. I suppose it depends on the composition of your party (number of kids, ages, etc), the type of food you like, and how much time you spend in the parks.

    We are primarily a young adult party, that loves seafood.
    We find the deluxe plan is quite cost effective. If you eat a signature dinner every night for 2 credits (as we tend to…fultons, flying fish, etc)… The cost of the deluxe plan tends to be the same price or less than just the dinner alone, so you get the other meal credit and 2 snacks for “free”
    Also if you do it this way…you eat two meals a day with a snack….so its not an overwhelming amount of food.

  56. E bogdanoff says:

    We found on orevious trip that small kids did better at the fast food stops than the seated dining options. Also you had to plan ahead for seated dining and be at that place at that time. So we opted for the 2 meal per day fast food plan this time, figuring we could do breakfast in room with cereal boxes and bars from home. Also since we arrived late at night we had extra meals to use for breakfasts. Kids meals were fine. Adult meals were very different from 2 years ago. Both in hotel and in Parks, adult meals were rarely good. Chicken in salads was terrible, flatbread Italian sandwich was inedible, meatballs over rice so so, hamburgers were dried out, taco salad was do it yourself so not bad. And since the adults got fancy desserts while the kids got packaged cookies, guess who got the desserts? Breakfast was not much better, eggs were Ok but potatoes were odd tasting, bacon and sausage had little taste at all. Did not try waffles. And by the way, use your free refillable cup for tea ( brought tea bags)so I did not have to pay for it. Hopefully by next visit kids will be older and able to sit for fancier meals.

  57. Polly says:

    We are lucky enough to be visiting from England.
    Me, my two elder daughters and grandson, we took advantage of an offer for free dining, I have no idea what to expect from this but I can imagine the food offered is far superior to most of the eateries we have to offer.
    also theme parks in this country are terrible value for money, but what I find particularly funny is the first thing I was concerned about was the food being taken care of, cant you tell I love my food :)

  58. Camille says:

    I completely agree with your assessment, Tom. We were lucky enough to take advantage of the free dining offer last fall. When the cashier at our resort rang up our first quick service meal, my mouth literally dropped open. $96.34 for two adult entrees, two drinks, and two desserts. I actually said, “I think you combined our ticket with the gentleman in front of us.” Turns out, she had not made a mistake. With three resort mugs and two quick service meals, two drinks, and two desserts, the total really was $96.34 (we did not even get a meal for our child since we knew it would be far too much food). I was so glad we didn’t actually have to pay that out of pocket. If you actually order everything you are allowed on the dining plan, you would spend a fortune on food out of pocket. However, there is no way our family would normally order that much food. We ate like kings and stayed full for our five night stay, but we would never have eaten that much food unless we were on the plan. We did not need a dessert at every meal. We did not need a separate drink at every meal since we had the resort mug (we ate at our resort several times and each time got separate drinks in addition to our resort mugs). It was super-wonderful not to have to worry about money when eating, though. We are the type family who would order the cheaper item on the menu, even if we really wanted the more expensive. The freedom to get more than what we actually wanted made us feel like we were really on vacation. It was a great value since it was free, but I can’t imagine our family ever paying for the dining plan. It just doesn’t make financial sense.

  59. Michael says:

    Great point about “convenience”. My wife swears by the plan saying how easy it is…I let her take the time to do the accounting for what credits we have left and what we can use them for since I’d rather spend the time going on rides. I’m much better at “see a bill..pay a bill”.

  60. Bianca says:

    I’m planning my trip for the first wk of July with a family of 5…2 adults and 3 kids 16, 5, 2. I’m back and forth over whether we should get the dining plan. I’ve already booked all our dining reservations. Breakfast at CRT, the Crystal Palace, and Hollywood and Vine. Lunch at Tusker House and Akershus. Dinner at Sci fi Diner, Mickey’s BBQ, Cape May Cafe, Raglan Road and Teppan Edo. Would we be better off paying out of pocket or using the dining plan?

    • Manuel Rodriguez says:

      Just came from WDW. Go out of pocket. You can control spending better, and eat what you like rather than buying the most expensive meal just to stay ahead. Since you have kids, you will see that some portions are just too big, and can be shared. For example, Rotisserie chicken is sold by 1/2 chicken portions.

  61. Terrence says:

    I just notice that chef mickey is removed from the list.

    I made the reservation at April , any chance I can still use my plan ?

  62. Deanna says:

    Even on the value dining plan you used to get 2 snacks now it is down to one….boooo!

  63. Becki says:

    Just a question. We have the free Quick Service Plan for fall. It says you can take Breakfast which is an entree and beverage, and lunch/dinner with an entree, dessert and beverage. Does it matter if every day is lunch and dinner? Or are they really saying you can have lunch and dinner each day, but one of those meals does not include a dessert? Thanks for your help!!

  64. Diana says:

    We have been regulars at Disney World for decades but tried the dining plan (when it was free) for the first time 2 years ago when my husband and I went by ourselves. My original reasons for resisting it still hold true! I don’t like to be so oriented to timing on vacation. My husband usually doesn’t even bring his watch. But with ADR’s all over the place, you’re constantly watching the clock and estimating travel time. Also, with parks admission prices as they are now, one almost doesn’t want to “lose” 1 1/2 – 2 hrs. for a sit-down meal. Since tips are not included, we found that for the more expensive meals, the tip exceeded what we would have paid in cash for a counter meal! We have to remember also, that if you are giving up the room discount to have the dining plan, it’s unlikely you would save money. We figured out that the fewer people that are in the room, and the more expensive the room is, the less you save, if at all. We often don’t go to parks every day of our trip, so that limits the number of dining choices a lot or incurs inconvenience getting to other resorts on time. Also remember that the dining plan is based on the number of nights you are there. If you arrive early on your first day or stay late on your last day, there will be several meals that you still have to buy outright. We likely won’t do it again, because it takes away the carefree spontaneity of the holiday.

  65. Melissa says:

    Is there a way to get the dining plan if you want to buy tickets from Undercover Tourist? Or do you have to buy your tickets and dining plan together?
    We are going when the Free Dining is not offered this year (darn) and already have our hotel reservation at the Animal Kingdom Kidani Villas. Our friends that we are staying with have APs, but we do not. We are hoping to save a little money by using Undercover Tourist for our Park Tickets.

  66. Wendy says:

    Hi there, I am headed to Disney World in June for a week of conferences. I know that there are snacks available during lunch time at the conference. I will be on my own for Breakfast and Dinner. Is the QS dining plan something I should be looking at? Or won’t I get my money’s worth?
    Thanks for any input!

  67. Manuel Rodriguez says:

    Disney Dinning Plan is not worth it! I just came from a 7-day family faction on WDW (All-Star Music). In my family, we spent about $12/person for breakfast ($36 total), $14/person for lunch ($42 total), and $30/person for dinner ($90 total). That gives you $56/person for 3 meals. Breakfast and lunch were done at quick restaurants. They consisted of things like omelets, pancakes, burgers, fried chicken, etc Dinner was done at table service restaurants (steak,ribs, chicken). The dinning plan for 3 meals is priced at $110! We saved $44! Well, actually we did not save it. It was used for buying tons of water, juice, ice cream, pop corn, etc. But the point is that paying out of pocket is a better deal. Plus, we ate what felt right not what we had to in order to not loose money on the meal.

  68. Brittany says:

    If using the DDP, are you limited on credits per day? Say we have the 3 table meals voucher and use 1 credit one day, but then 5 credits another. Is that possible?

    Sorry if this has already been asked. I haven’t seen it yet (perhaps I missed it). We’re planning our Disneymoon, first trip for both of us and being able to do it this way is the only way it’ll make more sense for us to get the DDP than to not. Thank you!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Yes, that is possible. At the beginning of your trip, ALL of your credits are put into your account. You can use as many or as few per day as you want.

  69. pslavny says:


    Do I need to stay at a Disney Resort to be able to purchase the Dinning plan?

  70. Lori says:

    We are going to WDW in November and will be taking advantage of Free Dining for the third time. In fact, with three teenagers to feed, we no longer book trips unless we can take advantage of free dining. I figure it saves us about $2,500 as we would still likely eat one quick service meal and one sit down meal each day. The gift of not having my husband counting pennies while we are there is priceless.
    Even with a booking at a deluxe resort (BWI for the first time. We usually stay at GF) this will be the least expensive WDW trip (our 6th in 8 years) we’ve taken as a family of five.
    Yes, there is too much food available, and no we’ve never used all our snack credits. We have definitely not used every dessert opportunity, and I would love to see the option of appetizer or dessert. The change to fewer snacks and the addition of a refillable mug for each family member was a good one. Always nice to have coffee at home in the mug and dream of our next trip :)

  71. 1stDisneyexperience says:

    Planning my first trip to Disney this fall and trying to determine whether to use Standard dining plan. Few questions:
    I understand each plan comes with 1 quick service and 1 table service per person. If planning a character breakfast with my husband and child will that use two table service credits?

    Also is it best to make reservations for the table service meals before you depart on your trip.

    While this meal plan only offers two meals do most people pay for breakfast out of pocket or lunch?

    I saw a post earlier that said some restaruants charge 2 credits for meals, Where is this posted to know before making reservations.

  72. Emily says:

    Just did some number crunching from our honeymoon that we just got back from. We had thought about the dining plan based on the honeymoon article you have on this blog but ended up not doing it. So glad we skipped the dining plan. Taking out the two meals we would not have been allowed to use credits on (Victoria & Alberts and the Chef’s Wine Tasting Dinner at Flying Fish) we spent about $50 a day, per person on food and drinks including gratuities on table service dinners. And we are not pop drinkers and brought our own water bottles to refill – that includes alcohol purchases not on the dining plan. We spent one day eating and drinking around (most of) Epcot so very little of that would have been on the dining plan except for perhaps some snack credits. We had some sort of alcoholic drink with every dinner we had which is included in that $50 a day.

    My husband and I love food and booked table service dinners every day except for eating around Epcot. For breakfast we almost always just ate a granola bar from home (except for Crystal Palace the morning we left and the day we bought a cupcake from Boardwalk Bakery for breakfast) and for lunch we often either just dug into our bag of snacks from home if we had a big dinner that night or split a counter service meal. We would never have used the counter service credits without changing our eating habits and then probably would have been too full to eat our table service dinners.

    Restaurants we dined at included Tokyo Dining, Sanaa, Be Our Guest, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, and The Crystal Palace.

  73. Becky says:

    We just returned from a wonderful and quick trip (4 days) to Disney World. We did indeed use the dinning plan even with the increased cost. It was well worth the price having the time spent with family around the table, something we can’t always do at home because of everyone’s schedule. Quick service or counter service is cheaper, the food is good but there is a mall food court mentality. So my advise would be if you want to catch up with family or friends, rest a bit and have wonderful meal served by the best wait staff in the world buy the meal plan. Don’t try to make it pay out, make reservations early and just enjoy the person sitting next to you.

  74. Teresa says:

    We are a family of 4 traveling to WDW Dec 21-27. My kids are older teens so will probably be taking off on their own about 60% of the time. We are currently signed up for the quick service dining plan because I assumed it would be easier for them: not have to worry about carrying too much cash. Any thoughts on that?

  75. David says:

    Our daughter just turned 10 which in Disney terms means she eats like an adult. If we buy the dining plan can we pay for her meals, and let her eat off the kids menu which would make her very happy and use her meal credits for signature restaurants for us?

  76. Dee says:

    We are using DDP with adults and one child. Our 9 year old is a few days away from turning 10 and eats like an adult. We pick mainly buffet meals for dinner – it may not be as cost effective for the adults, but it is an overall huge saver for the 9 year old who can eat a full meal. On balance, we pay for a kids DDP and he gets and adult one.

  77. Paige says:

    In your opinion, is the dining plan (with table service) worth it for Character meals? I’m trying to save as much as possible, but am torn between the dining plan because I know that we’ll be taking our kids (both under 3)to character meals. Thoughts?

  78. pam says:

    just came back from a 21 day holiday and had quick service plan there was me,husband and 2 daughters 10 12. we have always had this dinning plan but disney has really changed as all the places you can eat serve the same meals(burgers,hotdogs,pizza etc) yes i know they are quick meals but really. the other thing they list places for breakfast/dinner/ and these only serve drinks and ice cream.
    we ate out and paid out of our pocket for nice restaurants for something different to eat.next time i dont think shall use quick serve again.

  79. Elisa says:

    Hi! This is Elisa from Italy. Your blog is amazing! I’m planning a 12 days tour of Florida with my husband and my daughter (she’s 7).
    We’d like to spend from the 18th to 22nd of December in the Disney’s Art of Animation hotel. We’d like to buy the standard dining plan and book the restaurants in advance, but the italian tour operator doesn’t offer this type of service.
    Can you please help me? How can I buy the “standard dining plan” for me, my husband and my daughter? Thank you so much for your help!

  80. Jenn says:

    I was wondering if anyone has done the dining plan solo and if they thought it was worth the money. I would use it during the Food and Wine festival and I enjoy Disneys higher end restaurants. Any thoughts?

  81. mel says:

    LOL I am a steak addict:)

  82. Cyn says:

    Can you please explain to me how the DDP is a bad idea? I must be terrible at math. We are a family of 4 going in Feb. for 5 nights with the offered discount the DDP comes to $675. That is $43 a day per person. How can you eat at DW for less than $43 a day? Not to mention it includes the refill cup which is great for the kids while not in the park. They seem to always be thirsty.
    Sorry, but I am confused?

  83. Sara says:

    With the DDP, it says the credits expire at midnight on your departure date, does that mean they actually expire before you checkout or at midnight following your departure? I’m just trying to figure out if I can plan to use some credits the morning of our checkout day.

  84. Taryn says:

    I absolutely LOVE the dining plan and argue to no end that it is much more convenient. I would rather know the food is paid for and just think about number of credits than dealing with cash and change and all of that, especially since we travel with 5 people and sometimes go in different directions and eat at different times. We also found that the breakfast platters at Art of Animation are plenty to feed 2 adults and a small child when you add a side of meat, so we were able to get incredible value out of our credits. We did the math and saved a tremendous amount of money without having to worry about ordering the most expensive item or being majorly strategic about where we ate or when. By far the best thing we did was eat at Be Our Guest. We got a FastPass+ for it and were able to order in advance. It was truly fantastic — and the unbelievably delicious and filling French onion soup was a snack credit. I think people are going way to far to vilify Disney. Making money as a company is essential and of course things are going to get more expensive as years progress. Everything does. For my family, the dining plan is exceptional and we will use it every time we go, which is at least once a year.

  85. Carol says:

    I am hoping to visitWDW in 2016. My hubby and 2 kids are tiny eaters and I am in a strict gluten fee diet. My question is, would the Dining Plan actually save me any money? Imagine a McDonalds size Happy Meal and that is the absolute limit my kids would eat. Any advice will be appreciated. My brain is ready to explode with the options 😛

  86. Cindy says:

    Tom, can you tell me what the dessert photo is just above “Sticker Shock”?

  87. Amanda says:

    HellO! I have been reading your blog a bunch. My friends and I are going to the food and wine festival this fall. We were going to do the quick service dining plan like you recommended and use all our snacks that one day at the festival then use the quick service meal the other day. But I noticed the 2015 meal plan says the day allotment expires at midnight. So then it wouldn’t be worth it right?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      All of the credits should expire at midnight on the day you check-out. There’s not a daily expiration–at least there hasn’t been in the past.

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  90. Jon says:

    We recently returned from trip to Disney. We had purchased the quick service DP. What a mistake. The food was just plain terrible. We had better food in school or hospital cafeteria. Thought I would nver say this about Disney World, but they should be ashamed of themselves for the quality of food they were serving. We stayed at Art of Animation and figured since we would mostly be eating breakfast and at hotel the Quick Service would be the best. Because of the poor quality of the food at the food court we ended up going to dinner every night in one of the parks sit down restrants. (that food was good). As you can see I am quite disappointed and feel I was ripped off by Disney. I will never buy the DP again.

  91. Jennifer M says:

    Does anyone have any word yet on when they might release the dates for free dining for 2015? We have a DW trip planned for Sep 2015 during the dates when free dining is typically offered :) We have been frequent visitors of DW and have yet to use the dining plan and thought this would be a good chance to try it out without risk!


  92. StacyMU says:

    Can anyone tell me generally how much cash would be needed to dine per day if we choose not to purchase the DDP? I’m planning on staying at a condo, therefore, I won’t be booking a hotel room and the DDP’s, to my understanding, aren’t offered unless you’re staying at a resort? Thank you for your help!

  93. Neejoe says:

    Hi Tom, im travelling with two kids, 3 & 5. Is the dining worth it?
    We like character meals and buffets and the kids are able to split an adult counter service meal.
    We took advantage of the free dining promo last last fall when my youngest was under three, and not yet a big eater. This time we are going in early June for Star Wars weekend and using only the 20% room discount.

  94. Mrs from England says:

    We’re looking at booking a special three week holiday to Disney World next summer (2016) and will probably have a DP since the majority of our party are rabid steak-eaters who consider dessert to be a holy rite. We like food (but we work out ;-)). We will be taking our 9 year old nephew with us. Our kids don’t eat plastic cheese with pasta and the very idea of peanut butter and jam (jelly to you) makes most Europeans feel a bit sick. I like the buffet idea for feeding children adult food and I’m glad that we could still technically order adult food for my nephew at the QS counter. However since we would really like to have some proper sit down meals in some of the restaurants we’re considering ordering an adult DDP for him instead. We’ve been planning this for years so we’re not particularly worried about the extra cost, we just want to give him more choice. I had read somewhere though that it can be difficult to buy the adult plan for a 9 year old. We’re willing to pay the difference in tickets if necessary. Has anyone heard anything about this?

  95. Jose says:

    For DVC members, everything Disney is about making money. Walt must be turning in his grave. Btw-their vacation club is the biggest ripoff done to mankind. Especially when your points are valued by them and not an independent company. What a manipulation. Good luck selling it, wait, you cant sell it, they (disney) wont let you!!!

  96. eve cortez says:

    Can you upgrade to a deluxe plan for part of your trip?

  97. Princess Lea says:

    I do want to point out a couple observations about the the Free DP offer. Whenever I read statements like “the Free Dining Plan is the ONLY savings or the best savings”. It really isn’t. Especially this year. And those with large families really need to take a few things into consideration.

    1. You MUST have park hopper or water park options on your tickets this year. This is going to easily add $256 to your bill right off the top for a family of 2 adults 2 children 3-9 for 5 days of tickets.

    2. WHENEVER the Free dining plan is offered you are paying FULL PRICE for the room and FULL PRICE or rack rate price for the room and tickets.

    3. If you booked say, last January, you booked when room rates were lower and there have been 2 ticket price increases this year. Your ticket prices are lower. When you change to the Free Dining plan, you will automatically be charged the new ticket price and the new room prices.

    4. Standard rooms are rarely included in the free dining plan for any resort.

    5. This year, in anticipation of the Free Dining plan, Most regular rooms (standard, garden, preferred, water, pool view, etc. have already been booked in all the value and moderate resorts. If you call to add the Free plan or modify to the free plan, it is available, but you will only find it available for upgraded rooms like Club level, suites, Villas, Deluxe rooms, Family suites, Pirate and Royal rooms.

    I wish people who book in anticipation of the Free dining plan would understand that it is illegal to put a sale on something that isn’t available. Disney is pressured to offer free dining, but there are no rooms available TO offer because everyone has booked them!…except the upgraded rooms. They have no choice but to offer these upgraded rooms on with the Free Dining plan or other offers this fall. One blog calls these individuals reservation hoarders. The are the same ones who will book 5 reservations of Be Our Guest at different times and days because they cannot decide what they want, and wait until the day before to cancel. So others cannot plan their trips.

    That being said, in just the past 2 days, most people who have called to add the Free dining plan have been disappointed to find out that their rooms didn’t qualify. The call to find out there are no rooms available with the DP. How is that possible, the offer has only been out for less the 49 hours? The resorts had only a limited number of rooms to offer. Those happened to NOT be the rooms you currently have because you have it reserved. So, you can upgrade and then your so called Free Dining now cost the same as the NON-Free dining. OR in some cases you might ended up with less days of travel or rooms of lesser value.

    The Free Dining plan is NOT always the best value. Especially for those traveling with 2 adults and staying at deluxe resorts! Always check the room discount! 9 times out of 10 it is a much better savings.

    Whatever you do, do NOT change your tickets and pkg until you are 100% sure you have the best savings. Sometimes, booking early will be your best savings! Especially this year because of the price increases. You have already saved money just by booking early. Once you have changed your package, you will not ever be able to get that savings back. So be sure if you make a change, you are all in!

    • Jessica says:

      Booking your vacation in advance based on data is smart, not some shockingly unethical move. Disney generally offers free dining in the fall. If you know you want to travel to Disney in the fall and would like the dining plan, I don’t see anything wrong with booking a trip ahead of time in anticipation of free dining being offered. It’s smart.

      That being said, we didn’t book our September trip until late May and we were able to get a standard room with no issue. So, I think the claim that standard rooms are impossible to get is perhaps a bit exaggerated. Also, the claim that standard rooms are rarely offered at any resort for free dining is flat out false. We have done free dining multiple times over the years and have stayed in standard rooms at many different resorts.

      Also, I frankly don’t see anything wrong with “hoarding” dinner reservations until your plans are finalized. We currently have two ‘Ohanas, two BOG, and three Chef Mickeys that we are holding on to until we finalize our plans, including our flight and fast passes. I didn’t make any of these at 180 days out (given that we didn’t book our trip until something like 120 days out), but was able to score reservations by checking frequently. I just found a dinner reservation for ‘Ohana today, actually. The way I see it, I earned these reservations; they are mine now and I will “hoard” them until I am sure I don’t need them. Then I will gladly release them so that others can have them.

      I agree that free dining might not always be the best deal for everyone, but we have found it is the best deal for us. We are a party of two with no kids. We generally stay at cheaper resorts, so the room only discounts aren’t a great deal for us. Also, we go during the fall, so the rooms are cheaper anyway. We like to eat and dining is a big part of our vacation, but we definitely would not splurge on the more expensive options if we were paying out of pocket. For us, free dining is the way to go. It may not be right for everyone, but I think the free dining bashing that goes on here sometimes gets a bit out of hand.

      End rant.

  98. Candy P says:

    I never understand why people don’t think the dining plan is a deal. We go yearly, sometimes twice a year for 6 years now. We use deluxe. We save all receipts. We always eat TWICE what we pay for the plan, no matter how you slice it. We like the signature restaurants so we save credits for them.
    I don’t understand how people don’t see incredible value in this.

  99. Karen B. says:

    Thank you for this article! My teen son and I are visiting DW soon and I have been going back and forth about buying a meal plan. Since neither of us are big eaters, eat many desserts or drink soda, I don’t think it would be a good deal for us. Since we are renting a car for the first day we’ll just do some shopping and get a case of water bottles, coffee, creamer, and some snacks for the room. We have reservations for one sit down meal per day and we should do ok with picking up a quick bite here and there.

  100. Clarissa says:

    What would be an example of a quick service meal? On the website it says “one entree or meal combo”

    Can you actually get a meal out of this? I don’t know what the portions are in disney world, but can someone give me an example of a quick service meal for lunch or dinner?

    • Jess says:

      You can absolutely get a full meal out of a quick service credit. Some examples off the top of my head include:

      *burger and fries
      *chicken nuggets and fries
      *personal pizza and side salad
      *honey chicken with vegetables and rice
      *bbq chicken with baked beans and coleslaw

      Most of the time, you are going to get a combo: an entree item (example – burger) and a side item (example – fries) but if the entree item is large/substantial enough, you may not get an additional side (example – taco salad). You sometimes get a choice of sides (fries, chips, apple slices, etc.). You also get a dessert and a drink.

      Hope that helps!

  101. John Nadolny says:

    I think your review hits the mark. We have been travelling to WDW for 12 years running. We have stayed outside the park, in the park, have gotten the (Deluxe) dining plan numerous times, and have also dined without the plan. We independently arrived at the same conclusions you did – the way to maximize use of the Deluxe plan is 2 table service meals per day – preferably lunch and a Signature dinner, still using 3 meal points per person per day. And don’t leave credits behind! We have gotten into the situation during past trips of having to scramble and use 10+ snack points over the last couple of days. But good point also – on the plan, you really do feel compelled to maybe eat way too much food. We have recently decided to revert to the “no dining plan” plan.

  102. Daniel says:

    So I just noticed that you change this blog slightly every year to account for changes when I scrolled down to see how many replies there were! This will mark the first year that my wife and I do NOT plan on buying the dining plan due to the cost. Last year we spent close to $800 for the dining plan, but when did the number crunching at the end of the trip, found that we only “spent” $600 through it at the end of the trip, and that mean drinking sodas we don’t normally order when we prefer water, and eating desserts that to be honest weren’t that great and are also something we don’t typically eat. Granted, we were sick one day and had to cancel a reservation at Akershus, which also kinda sucked because it meant eating the cancellation fee for the reservation on top of it all.

    We’re thinking of doing Tables in Wonderland this year, and going again in the summer so that we can maximize the value out of it. If our budget for the next 2 trips is in the ballpark of $1000 for dining, would this be the better option? Thanks!

  103. Michelle says:

    Hi, hopefully I can word this question correctly. We will be in DW this coming up August! We have always gotten the deluxe dining plan, but this year we are opting for the standard plan. I have a 12 year old and a 9 year old. Are the “child” table service meals separated on my magic band? Meaning if I pay out of pocket for the 9 year old at one of our sit-down meals, will we have 1 extra credit to use at another restaurant in general or would it show up as a child credit. I hope this makes sense to you. Love all your posts!!

  104. Kind Mom says:

    Hi,what I understand from the fine print of the DP, it will shows as credit for kids meal i hope this help.

  105. Mikila says:

    My family just took our first trip to Disney World this June, and the Dining Plan was a huge savings for us. We have 2 small children with big appetites, and we wanted to fit in as many character meals as we could. It also doesn’t hurt that my fiance is “meat and potatoes” guy.

    I can completely understand how other families might not save money or get the best value by having the Dining Plan, but for us it worked out great!

  106. Rhoda Stevens says:

    We are getting the free quick service dining plan at the end of Oct. 2015. Booked into All Star sports. Out plane arrives around 10:00 pm, it’ll be 11:30 when we check in. What happens to our dining credits for that day, do we lose them, do they roll over? Or do they start the nexr day?
    P.S. Wonderful blog…very helpful.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You’ll still have them. You receive all of your credits for the duration of your trip as soon as you check-in, and they all disappear (if you haven’t used them) at midnight of the day you check-out.

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