Prices for the 2024 Disney Dining Plans are now known thanks to Walt Disney World’s release of vacation packages for next year. Like clockwork, there are price increases–totally unsurprising after 3 years and given food inflation. Shockingly, there are also price decreases! This covers how costs have changed for kids and adults on the Quick-Service and standard DDP, plus our commentary about potential explanations for new pricing.
As was the case pre-closure, Walt Disney World has not released official pricing for the 2024 Quick Service Disney Dining Plan (QSDDP) or the regular Disney Dining Plan (DDP), so we’ve reverse-engineered the pricing by selecting a January 2024 travel date for one night at All Star Sports, and done the math ourselves to remove the costs of the required park tickets.
Not publishing prices of the Disney Dining Plan upfront is a way of obfuscating costs and avoiding sticker shock on individual package components. Walt Disney World must’ve determined that a package total increasing by a couple thousand extra dollars was preferable to displaying a daily dining cost for whatever reason. This approach also allows Walt Disney World to, at least in theory, quietly raise the price of the Disney Dining Plan or institute seasonal surcharges during peak times of year, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Based upon our theoretical 2024 Walt Disney World travel dates, adult per night pricing for the plans is as follows:
Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: $57.01 per adult and $23.83 per child
Disney Dining Plan (standard): $94.28 per adult and $29.69 per child
These prices all include tax, but guests must pay for tips or gratuity out of pocket. Children 3-9 must order from the kids menus; under age 3 eat free from an adult’s plate.
If you want to cut to the chase, this is a hefty increase for the adult tier of the standard Disney Dining Plan and nominal increase for the adult tier of the QSDDP. For children, it’s a slight decrease on both tiers as compared to 2020 prices.
For the sake of comparison, 2020 Disney Dining Plan prices were as follows:
Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: $55 per adult and $26 per child
Disney Dining Plan (standard): $78.01 per adult and $30.51 per child
Disney Dining Plan Plus: $94.61 per adult and $35 per child
Deluxe Disney Dining Plan: $119 per adult and $47.50 per child.
Here were the 2019 Disney Dining Plan prices:
Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: $52.50 per adult and $23.78 per child
Disney Dining Plan (standard): $75.49 per adult and $27.98 per child
Deluxe Disney Dining Plan: $116.25 per adult and $43.49 per child.
Before we get carried away with commentary, we need to offer the caveat that this isn’t an apples to apples comparison. As a reminder, here’s what each tier of the 2024 Disney Dining Plan offers:
Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan Details:
2 Quick-Service Meals Per Night of Stay
1 Snack or Nonalcoholic Beverage Per Night of Stay
1 Resort-Refillable Mug Per Trip
Regular Disney Dining Plan Details:
1 Quick-Service Meal Per Night of Stay
1 Table-Service Meal Per Night of Stay
1 Snack or Nonalcoholic Beverage Per Night of Stay
1 Resort-Refillable Mug Per Trip
One big reason why this is not an apples to apples comparison is because Walt Disney World has reduced the number of snacks available on the Disney Dining Plans from 2 to 1 per night. When it comes to typical guest behavior, this was an easy thing to cut to achieve cost-savings, as many people either wasted snack credits previously or used them to stock up on stuff to take home from Goofy’s Candy Co. at the end of their trips.
Not only does this achieve cost-savings for the company, but it also decreases the utility and value of both tiers of the DDP. In past breakdowns, we’ve ascribed a $5 value for each snack credit. Given current menu prices, that’s probably $6 now. So if you added $5-6 back into the 2024 Disney Dining Plan prices for an accurate apples to apples comparison, there would be increases across the board.
The price reductions for kids on the 2024 Disney Dining Plans also makes sense. It’s been a while since Walt Disney World advertised the Dining Plans as saving money, but, intriguingly, that has returned:
“Save up to 20% on dining for kids ages 3 to 9 when you purchase a dining plan for your family as part of a Walt Disney Travel Company package. Savings compared to the nondiscounted price of menu items available to kids ages 3 to 9 at participating locations when purchased without a dining plan. Actual savings varies based on menu items ordered.”
As for the “why” of reducing prices for kids rather than adults, it’s likely that families are the demographic that Walt Disney World wants to target with the Disney Dining Plans. Perhaps combing through data from 2018-2020 revealed that fewer families and more couples were purchasing the DDPs, and Walt Disney World wants to reverse that trend. (Anecdotally, this would track with what we’ve observed and heard from readers.)
Speculating further, our assumption is that families with small children do not use the Disney Dining Plan nearly as efficiently as couples or those with older children. Young kids are less predictable, and credits may go to waste as a result or not ‘optimized’ nearly as often. On average, the Disney Dining Plan spillage is probably much higher with this demo. There’s also probably less food inflation on core components of kids meals–especially at counter service spots–than there is on adult meals at table service restaurants.
As always, you’ll want to do the math to determine whether the 2024 Disney Dining Plan is right for your party. Overall, we consider the ‘damage’ here to not be too bad from an objective perspective. Given food inflation, the increases could’ve been far worse for adults.
However, for us personally–as a party of 2 adults with no kids over age 3 next year–the 2024 prices make the regular Disney Dining Plan a non-starter. In the past, we usually got that or (ideally) the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. Next year, the DxDDP won’t be an option and the math doesn’t appear that it’ll work out on the regular DDP to justify it for us, especially given that we rarely order alcohol these days.
Of course, those are our unique circumstances and yours could differ. For example, if you’re a solo parent with triplets who are 9 years old and would buy the Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan, there’s a good chance these changes will be (very) favorable to you. At the other end of the spectrum, an older couple doing primarily Signature Restaurants shouldn’t even consider the DDP. We can tell you without breaking down the numbers that it won’t work out for you.
Nevertheless, the lower costs for kids–and relatively minor increase for everyone on the Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan–may seem especially surprising in light of inflation, which has been “elevated” over the last couple of years, to put it mildly. Inflation has hit the cost of food especially hard, with the prices of essentials like bacon and butter up big time. Probably no need to fixate on this, as at least 50% of you see it firsthand while grocery shopping, and the only half either hear about the high price of food or see it for yourselves on receipts. This is no big secret and no one has been immune.
Given this, it would stand to reason that prices of food would likewise be up significantly at Walt Disney World. After all, businesses attempt to pass higher costs on to consumers. But that isn’t really what we’ve seen, and the USDA’s tracking show a similar trend industry-wide, as restaurants have not increased in lockstep with grocery stores, despite higher ingredients costs and higher labor costs.
We’ve noticed this at Walt Disney World restaurants in the time since reopening. Don’t get us wrong–table service entrees are very pricey at Disney, but they have been for years. Walt Disney World has raised prices on plenty of things, but on the food front, price increases have disproportionately impacted snacks and other impulse purchases and not items that have seen the highest inflation.
It’s also not as if Walt Disney World is cutting consumers a break, realizing their budgets are already stretched too thin. Not only has Walt Disney World increased prices on a multitude of things from tickets to resorts to snacks to upcharge experiences, but they’ve also eliminated or monetized perks over the last few years. Things like FastPass+, MagicBands, Evening Extra Magic Hours, or Disney’s Magical Express–all of which used to be included in the base cost of a vacation package–now will cost you extra, directly or indirectly.
One potential industry-wide explanation is trepidation among restaurants about their ability to pass on higher prices to consumers without seeing a corresponding drop in demand. Overall food inflation is up by approximately 25% over the course of the last 3 years (!!!), and it might be exceedingly difficult for Walt Disney World to raise its already high menu or Disney Dining Plan prices by another 25% across the board without losing business. (Or maybe not–nothing would surprise me anymore!)
This would certainly seem to be the company’s perspective with 2024 Disney Dining Plan prices as nothing–not even the regular DDP for adults–increased by 25%. That $16 increase is an increase of around 21%, which is still a lot, but not 25%. And that’s the biggest jump–everything else is insignificant by comparison, or a downright decrease. (Well, before factoring in the value of the lost snack…in which case, the adult DDP is at or above 25%!)
Nevertheless, we know there’s trepidation about raising food prices too much because Walt Disney World has admitted as much to investors! During an earnings call last year, the company’s CFO discussed what was being done to avoid price increases and manage costs. She mentioned changing suppliers, substituting products and more. That was also the source of her now-infamous line: “We can cut portion sizes, which is probably good for some people’s waistlines.” (Sorry, I know I reference this a lot. I still can’t get over the absurdity of her thinking this was a thing she should say out loud.)
This is also hardly unique to Walt Disney World, as “shrinkflation” and “skimpflation” have entered our collective vernacular as companies have found clever new ways to maintain margins without raising prices. The Disney Institute could probably teach a master class on these topics, as portion sizes and quality cuts have become par for the course in the parks. Purely anecdotal, but this seems to be worst at Walt Disney World’s most popular restaurants.
Those same concerns almost certainly exist with the Disney Dining Plan. Even in the last few years pre-closure, the rate of its price increases had slowed significantly. Menu item increases had outpaced Disney Dining Plan price increases pre-closure, making the DDP a better value in early 2020 than it was in ~2017.
The theory for that was Walt Disney World had reached its price ceiling with the Disney Dining Plan or come very close to it, but individual component prices could go higher when sold a la carte. Now, food costs are even higher. Consumers might be more willing to pay this impulsively and in smaller increments, but balk if the regular Disney Dining Plan is priced at $100 per person per day.
The takeaway from all of this should not be “wow, Walt Disney World is really generous” with such insignificant price increases. I mean, I guess you’re welcome to that charitable conclusion. My suspicion, supported by plenty of past precedent, is that there’s a catch. I’d really love to be wrong, but I feel like another shoe is going to drop, and we’ll soon find out the clever new ways Walt Disney World is leveraging “shrinkflation” and “skimpflation” with the Disney Dining Plan beyond just cutting the snack. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, but it just seems too good to be true.
One way that Walt Disney World could quietly cut costs with the Dining Plans is by reducing their maximum value. There are a few of ways to accomplish this, one of which has already happened with the removal of the snack. Others are more sneaky. The one that we’ve already seen play out in the past is reducing the number of high-dollar menu items. This happened during the phased reopening, and particularly apparent at counter service restaurants with many of the pricier combo meals no longer being offered.
Along these lines, another possibility would be excluding certain menu items from the Disney Dining Plan. Maybe the Sampler at Flame Tree BBQ or the Cedar Plank Salmon at Polite Pig won’t be offered to those on the Disney Dining Plan. It’s possible that what qualifies as a snack will change, and fewer prepared items will make the cut.
Another possibility is an expansion of what’s 2-credits on the Disney Dining Plan. Signature Restaurant status might be bestowed upon more restaurants. Or, it might become a thing for higher caliber fast casual establishments like Polite Pig. (Honestly, I’m slightly surprised to see Polite Pig on the Full List of Restaurants on 2024 Disney Dining Plans. That and other popular third party restaurants of that nature probably could’ve opted out and not suffered much loss of business.)
Optimistically, perhaps none of this will happen. Even then, smaller portion sizes, cheaper ingredients, and reduced quality are all already happening by Disney’s own admission. So this will impact the Disney Dining Plan by extension, as equivalent menu items ordered today or in 2024 (to the extent that they exist) won’t be on par with their ~2019 counterparts.
Another possibility is that Walt Disney World has lowered Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan prices because they want to incentivize guests to purchase that tier of the DDP. Counter service restaurants have the most bandwidth and highest hourly capacity, so it’s plausible that the company wants to increase utilization of these restaurants and maximize their revenue.
Personally, I’m skeptical of this. Not the part about counter service restaurants having the most bandwidth and hourly throughput capabilities–that’s definitely true. Rather, I doubt that Walt Disney World will want to nudge guests towards these restaurants. That’s possibly true right now as the DDPs are being rolled out–and that’s probably the biggest reason why the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan (DxDDP) and Disney Dining Plan Plus (DDP+) remain unavailable. (We discuss all potential reasons for not restoring the DxDDP and DDP+ yet here.)
However, if that is the internal thought-process within Walt Disney World, I think it’s a shortsighted perspective that takes the dynamic today, freezes it in time, and assumes it’ll be the same in 2024. Already, we’ve observed a massive drop-off in ADR difficulty, including at some of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. It’s probably at least somewhat safe to assume that’s a trend, and those restaurants will continue getting easier to book.
(With that in mind, I’ll go out on a limb and make a very early pricing prediction for the 2025 Disney Dining Plan: the regular tier decreases in price for adults. I’d also expect to see at least one of the two higher tiers restored–possibly prior to 2025.)
If Walt Disney World’s goal is increasing per guest spending–and it is–steering people towards the least expensive tier of the Disney Dining Plan is likely counterproductive. The only way it isn’t is if demand remains high for table service restaurants via cash-paying guests (questionable),and if there’s no fear of the Quick-Service Disney Dining Plan cannibalizing business or reducing demand for sit-down restaurants.
Basically, if there’s reason for Walt Disney World to believe that a cheaper Quick-Service DDP won’t cause downgrades, but rather, will cause those who were previously doing counter service restaurants as economically as possible to upgrade. Now that is a possibility. And one that would also explain the more attractive pricing for the QSDDP.
Maybe Walt Disney World has already seen a pronounced drop-off in food & beverage sales at that level or anticipates it occurring based on past data. With a pullback in consumer spending, decreases in sentiment and confidence, and economic downturn or recession on the horizon, I would hope that Walt Disney World is being proactive with pricing for 2024 in an attempt to avoid issues. It’s even possible that this was starting to occur pre-closure, which is why counter service quality and portion sizes have been reduced, but price increases have been minimal.
Finally, there’s the possibility that this is another move to increase guest satisfaction. The announcement early this year about the return of free self-parking at resorts, relaxed reservation rules, and on-ride photos coming to Genie+ also suggested that more improvements to address feedback were on the way. The 5 Major Improvements for 2024 at Walt Disney World revealed alongside the vacation package announcement also reinforces this.
Independently, we’ve heard that Walt Disney World wants to address common complaints and improve satisfaction scores, which have been lagging for the last year-plus. Bringing back the Disney Dining Plan is one way to accomplish exactly that, especially without astronomical across-the-board price increases overshadowing the substantive news. Of course, there are still going to be complaints, especially as the adult price of the regular Disney Dining Plan is going up by quite a bit and that’s the tier that many fans favor.
However, even the damage there isn’t as bad as it could be given food inflation over the course of the last few years and the upward trajectory of Disney Dining Plan pricing in any 3 normal years prior to 2020. Given the circumstances, we’d consider the pricing of the 2024 Disney Dining Plans something of a small victory…so long as our fears about skimpflation or shrinkflation turn out to be inaccurate.
What’s your take on the 2024 Disney Dining Plan pricing increases and decreases? Do you use the DDP for eating at Walt Disney World? What advantage or disadvantages do you think it offers? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of the Disney Dining Plan? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!