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 PocketHere 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 PlanThe 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!

Your Thoughts

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!

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