Ultimate Disney Dining Plan Guide
Using the Disney Dining Plan for your Walt Disney World vacation or wondering, “is the meal plan worth the money?” We have a ton of resources for evaluating the pros & cons of the divisive Disney Dining Plan; if you do determine it’s right for you, there are tips & tricks here for getting the most out of it!
This collection of posts is our Ultimate Guide to the Disney Dining Plan. We’ve used the Dining Plan over a dozen times and have also opted not to use it a ton of other times (we pay out of pocket far more often than we use the DDP). We’re neither blind fans of the Disney Dining Plan nor are we opponents of it, and we bring this balanced perspective to our articles covering the Disney Dining Plan.
The Disney Dining Plan can be a good or poor value depending upon how you will use it, and these articles will give you an idea of the best and worst ways to use the Disney Dining Plan from a value perspective, so you’ll know whether it’s for you (if you’ve yet to pull the trigger), or how you should plan on using the Dining Plan if you’ve already booked your Walt Disney World vacation!
Click each link for comprehensive information you’ll want to know for each stage of planning your trip to Walt Disney World on the Disney Dining Plan!
Top Disney Dining Plan Posts
Disney Dining Plan Overview and Pros & Cons – Here’s all the information you need to know about the various versions of the Disney Dining Plan, including prices and what the various plans include. We also share our review of the Disney Dining Plan, and whether we think it’s worth the money. (It certainly isn’t for everyone–not even when it’s “free.”)
Disney Dining Plan Now Includes Alcohol! – If you’ve used the Disney Dining Plan before and just want a quick post highlighting the changes for this year, this post is it. Of course there’s the annual price increase, but the biggest change is the addition of booze to the Disney Dining Plan. Read about what value this adds (or doesn’t) to the value of this year’s DDP.
Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews – Not all Disney restaurants were created equal. While none are so bad that they have rodents in the kitchen (well…as long as you don’t count Chef Mickey’s!), some Disney restaurants are surprisingly bad…and some are surprisingly good! Read our thoughts and opinions on each restaurant, as we give you some ideas as to our favorite restaurants and least favorite restaurants, and why we like or dislike particular restaurants. Just don’t read these on an empty stomach, as there are lots of mouth-watering photos in the reviews!
Top 10 Table Service Credit Uses on the Disney Dining Plan – The alternate name for this article is “Best Value=Order STEAK!” And really, that title would be all you need. Actually, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. This article ranks the top 10 table service restaurants at Walt Disney World in terms of objective value on the Disney Dining Plan. In other words, we examined the menus of all Walt Disney World table service restaurants and listed the 10 that are the most expensive (and thereby offer the most “bang for your buck” on the Disney Dining Plan, objectively speaking).
Best Counter Service Credit Uses on the Disney Dining Plan – Thanks to some high priced combos (like the chicken and ribs combo at Cosmic Ray’s or Fairfax Fare) and restaurants that serve expensive desserts, there are a lot of ways to maximize your counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, too. Some of these more expensive meals are even big enough to split, meaning that you can do breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the Disney Dining Plan if you use credits effectively!
Best Uses of Snack Credit on the Disney Dining Plan – That bottle of water or that banana you might spontaneously want? Bad uses of snack credits if you care about bang for your buck. Find out what items are a good use of snack credits. (Most of them are not nearly as healthy as that water or the banana…but they sure do taste better!)
Worst Uses of Snack Credits on the Disney Dining Plan – Same idea as above, but with the tips for avoiding common pitfalls in terms of snack usage. (Seriously, it’s easy to “misuse” snack credits, scramble at the end of your vacation, and totally waste snack credits–when you could’ve been using them wisely all along!)
Best Character Meals on the Disney Dining Plan – Just like the “Maximizing” articles listed above, except for character meals. Although this list is objective, in our experience, these are some of the better quality character meals at Walt Disney World, too. It does stand to reason that restaurants costing more would serve better food, so this shouldn’t be too surprising.
Disney Dining Plan v. Paying Out of Pocket – Here we breakdown our dining costs from one trip where we paid out of pocket and compared that to what we would have paid on the Disney Dining Plan. This post also includes a comparison of paying out of pocket to Free Dining, and explains why Free Dining isn’t really “free.”
How We Saved 50% on the Deluxe Dining Plan – The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is a huge splurge, and way more food than most people will be able to eat. Disney counts on this, and offers the Deluxe Dining Plan at a relatively reasonable price point given what you can get on it, because Disney assumes you’ll skip some meals and not be able to “maximize” the Deluxe plan. We “beat the system” with the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, and ended up saving a lot of money. Here’s where we ate, how much we saved, and how you can do the same (YMMV).
All Things Free Dining…
“Free Dining” Dates – Not currently available for the general public to book this year, Free Dining will likely have a ‘second wave’ release in the late spring or early summer. This post tracks rumors about Free Dining’s release date and other info about this incredibly popular promotion that offers the Free Disney Dining Plan for Walt Disney World vacation packages for eligible guests.
Free Dining Bounceback Offer – Bounceback offers are only available for current hotel guests at Walt Disney World, and not the general public. For those who are eligible, the bounce-back offer is far and away the easiest and best way to book Free Dining, and we highly recommend taking advantage if you can.
Free Dining for UK Residents – Also not available to the general public, but despite the name, this is available to all residents of the European Union. We’re guessing most people reading this aren’t residents of the EU, so that doesn’t do you much good.
“Is Free Dining Worth It?” – When it comes to Free Dining, doing the math is incredibly important–and we break things down here. Other discounts (such as a room-only discount) might be better for your family. Remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch; you have forfeit an alternate discount to qualify for Free Dining.
Best Walt Disney World Hotels for Free Dining – Our hotel recommendations for each resort tier that participates in Free Dining. This is based upon our preferred resorts at Walt Disney World, plus the options that will save you the most money.
Top 10 Restaurants for Free Dining – A combination of the best and most popular Walt Disney World restaurants that you’ll want to book as early as possible during Free Dining “season.”
If you need personalized help with planning any aspect of your vacation including the Disney Dining Plan, or want someone to watch for the Free Dining promotion for you and book it once it’s available—we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Is the Disney Dining Plan a good value for your family? If you use the Disney Dining Plan, how do you maximize your savings and enjoyment of eating at Disney while on the Dining Plan? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!
I liked how you mentioned that some of the meals are so big that they can be split, thus saving some of your dining tickets for later. My family is thinking about going to Disneyland next year, and we want to have all the meals planned before we get there. This would be a good article to refer to while we are planning our dining options.
I called Disney today to find out about Chef de France accepting the dining plan. She told me they do accept it but it takes 2 credits. Has anyone done this recently? Trying to figure out if we need to change reservations next week. Thanks!
Any updates for quick service for 2020. We leave in a few weeks and the only 2…that’s right 2 restaurants have quick service. You had mentioned something before about contracts not complete yet. Is this still true?
The 2 things that catch me off guard with the dining plan are that it is per night so inevitably we are short one meal. The other is the tip. The tip amounts can be huge at certain places so one must budget for this and the whole idea at least to me is that with the dining plan you’re not supposed to have to worry or stress at all. On another note, 2 snacks is sometimes too much. I wish one of those snacks per day could be cashed into a meal somehow say 4 snacks convert to one meal for example.
Epcot almost always has some kind of Festival with food booths open. We use a bundle of snack credits to replace a meal on our Epcot day.
This year there’s 4 of us. We have 8 snack credits for that day, plus whatever we accumulate from other days. We’ll have more than enough credits to share around the World Showcase and it works out awesome 😀 We get to save a meal credit and really explore all of the festival options without wallet panic. It’s become one of the highlights in our trips. It’s also one of the best values because many Food Booth items are $7-$9.
This is a very useful post, i just have a doubt, I hope you can elo mne.
I’m not sure if i can use my TS for the vip experiences,(like HS for the fantasmic showthe vip experience that includes diner in one of 3 restaurants and then a VIP pass for the show.)
I read in the oficial page that two of the participant restaurants require 1 TS , and the other 2TS (in case of the fantasmic experience) but i’m not sure if i can reserve the experience to have the vip pass using my dining plan credits.
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We love the free dining plan promo Will be sad if they stop offering this. We have never had a room discount option available to us for when we go (usually November). We always stay at value resorts. If there was a discount offer and it was 20% off a room rate of $150/night in a value resort room that would only save us $30/night. We definately would spend a lot more than $30 per night on quick service meals and snacks and drinks each day for 2 of us. I think we could easily spend double that (plus buy the occasional table service meal) so the free QS Dining always saves us a lot of money. Maybe it depends on your vacation spending budget, where you stay, how you spend your time and how many table service or character meals you plan on doing. If you’re on a tight budget and staying at a value resort I dont think it can be anything but a money saving bonus if you can score the free dining. We are usually busy enjoying our time in the parks and quick meals that dont need reservations work better for us. We do some occasional table service meals but not usually any character meals as no little kids in our group anymore. Free QS Dining plan is convenient and a better $ deal for us than a room discount.
I’ve seen this idea posted elsewhere but would love to hear from someone with real world experience. I’m traveling with my family (7 adults, 2 children) later this year. We have 3 rooms. I was planning to get the DDP for my room (2 adults, 2 children) and just use all of those table service credits (12 per day) to pay for our breakfast and dinners each day (all reserved tables service meals) and then handle lunch out of pocket.
Does this make sense? Am I correct that we will be able to share all of the table service credits amongst the entire group? I’ve read that all of the credits just get lumped together in one pot and I can just pay for all of the meals from my credits.
It is correct that they are lumped together and you can use as many as you would like at a time. The amount of food you receive is insane. With sitdown meals you receive your entrée, drink and dessert. We found that we planned early lunches and later dinners and had the snack credits in-between. We never felt hungry and at the end of the trip still had snack credits left. Many of the snack credits can be used for hearty items like large soft pretzels, chicken fried rice, and many food items in epcot. Your theory does make sense, maybe just test it on the first day and see if you really need to have lunch. We also had an amazon pantry box delivered to our resort with muffins, poptarts, bottled waters and juice that we used for “breakfast” to tide us over. Hope this helps!
We spent 5 days and 4 nights at Disney for 2 adults and 2 children using the free Disney Dining plan staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort. We used all the snack credits for us 4 and each table service and quick service meals. The unfortunate situation we did not know, the Disney Dining plan did not cover meals for the last day of our trip. We received a $225 Disney gift card for staying at the resort because of construction. That paid for our meal at a signature restaurant in Canada pavilion and some extra snacks the last day. We paid for 1 meal out of pocket during our last stay there and did not cost us a fortune.
The snack credits were more then enough. We had 4 snack credits on the last day and used them up. You can convert the unused table service and quick service meals to snack credits and extend the dining plan to the last day if you need to. I would always try to book a trip in advance and modify my vacation to add the free Disney Dining plan. It will always save me $1,500 or more for food costs.
My boyfriend and I will ONLY do the Deluxe Dining plan. We are foodies so we love to go out to the restaurants where you have to use 2 sit down meals for each person. We find it worth it every time! If we don’t use the 2 snacks each day, at the end of our trip we will pick up souvenirs for friends and family (mickey shaped Rice Krispies) or pick up snacks to eat at the airport (Chips etc.). On the contrary we love to eat so we MAKE SURE we use all of our Meal & Snack credits. From the Disney Dining Plan to the Deluxe was only 40$ more a person per day (we calculated it out). It makes our trip so much less stressful realizing we can eat wherever we want. (Just for the record, we are both healthy people, we just LOVE the food options at Disney World!
Where are the Mickey shaped rice krispie treats?
I used the Disney Dining Plan back in August for the first time.
Family of 4: Mom & Dad, 4 yo and a 2 yo.
We could not of been happier with the standard dining plan. With all the hustling around we did, we never really worried about breakfast other than buying yogurts/bagels/bananas. However almost every meal we had was a character meal. We made a shorter trip this time with only 5 nights, 6 days.
We hit up:
Be Our Guest Dinner
Hollywood & Vine
Each of these places would normally have charged $50-65 per adult $30-40 per child. The one quick service we had that is a must if you can book it is Be Our Guest Lunch which is a steal!
In any case, outside a big lunch we spent money on the day we arrived, the only cash we spent in the parks on food was tips and the occasional beer at Disney Springs and Be Our Guest. I can’t tell you how great it worked out.
The DDP we always get the Deluxe plan and love it, of course we are foodies 🙂 We also save a lot as we are also big steak eaters. All in all we usually save a little over 1,000.00 this way and we have what we want.
Hi Tom, My family and I (5 adults & 2 children -now aged 11) have been going to Disney every year – 18 months and have always used the Deluxe dining plan. I have carefully saved all our receipts and did the cost comparison at the end of the trip. The very least I saved using this plan was $500+. The first year we made the mistake of trying to eat 3 table service meals a day. In addition to being way too much food, it took away from our time and it seemed like we were always rushing from one meal to another. Switch tactics – we now do a character breakfast early each morning. This lets us start the day full, the kids get to meet a variety of characters in a relaxed setting allowing us to skip many of the character lines in the park. Dinner is usually around 5:30 – we are totally ready to sit down and relax a little, Our splurge for the missed lunches are several of our favorite signature dining reservations: Le Cellier, Contemporary Grill, and this year we are trying Tiffins. I know that most sites discourage this as it does not give you the best bang for your buck, but our group – including the kids, typically choose the higher priced options and so it makes it worth it or at the least we break even. If we get hungry there are still lunches we can split and snacks. It keeps us full and on the move. Guests should be aware if you are a party of 6 or more that Disney adds and automatic 18% gratuity to the bill. I did not realize this at first until one of the waiters pointed it out.
Not to sound stupid but, do you know if the “discount room rates” applies to military too? I mean it is a discount but just double checking.
Did you mean for the Free Dining Plan? I believe it does, basically Disney wants you to pay full rate for getting the free dining. However, I have found that we can often get great military rates on resort stays and then add on the dining package of your choice. It is usually about the same price and sometimes even cheaper. For example, we got the Boardwalk Inn and Resort with club level and quick service dining plan with the military discount for far cheaper than opting to use the regular Disney rate.
Stay at Shades of Green, your room rate is based on your military rank.