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!
We are a family of 4 – 2 adults and 2 children, ages 4 (grazer and picky eater) and 9 (refined palate). I’ve done a very comprehensive spreadsheet and spent a lot of time picking out menu items I think we’d order at the restaurants I’ve made ADR’s at for our fall trip this year. I’ve compared the money we’d spend out-of-pocket (adding in the tax, too) to the regular DDP price for our family, plus out-of-pocket expenses not included in the plan (appetizers, etc.). Both come out to be so close in price, I cannot decide whether to go with the plan or not. We could easily decide we want something different for dinner a couple nights and the price for paying out of pocket goes down a little, but not enough to really make a difference (maybe $20).
We have numerous buffet character meal ADR’s (Chef Mickey’s, ‘Ohana, Akershus, 1900 Park Fare), as well as 2 signature dining meals (Jiko and Hollywood Brown Derby). We like to splurge and eat nice meals (i.e. expensive) while on vacation, but not big on eating 2 desserts a day – sharing one after dinner maybe). We also plan to eat and drink our way around World Showcase for the Food & Wine Festival (snack credits!!). I really cannot decide whether to go with the DDP or pay for it all ourselves when the totals for the week come out to be so close.
I need help! What would you do???
Since the costs are so close I would just pay as you go. I’ve read horror stories of families buying the dining plan and then getting stomach flu on part of their trip and wasting tons of $ on unused dining credits. If the dining plan is free or will save you a fortune then it’s worth the risk.
On our last trip we paid out of pocket and ordered everything we wanted and ended up spending less then the dining plan. Our friends had the dining plan and liked it but they were frustrated by some of the limited choices in drinks or lack of appetizers included.
Hi! We just booked our trip for 10/29-11/5 2015 do you think they’ll offer the free dining plan? And when do you think they’ll announce it and also where would I find the info on so I can call WDW ASAP? We are staying at port Orleans riverside. Thanks your site is awesome!!
See the post on Free Dining linked to above.
Does anyone know which restaurant I can find that great looking chocolate dessert?
My family and I recently booked a trip through Disney and added the QS Dining Plan. I did not order any theme park tickets at the time. I have been reading that you HAVE to buy tickets through Disney in order to get the dining plan. Do you think I can add on tickets from a third party such as Undercover Tourist and not be hassled? Thanks!
I’m so confused. I have a family of 5. Two adults a 19 year old 12 year old and 7 year old. My family eats 3 meals a day(are we the only ones who still do that?). This is our first trip to Disney and I keep reading blogs about the meal plans but still can’t decide. It looks like I would have to pay out of pocket anyhow since both the standard and quick service plans only cover 2 meals. I don’t think I’d consider the deluxe plan because although we will be eating 3 meals they wouldn’t all be sit downs. I don’t like the idea of being tied to a reservation everyday but we normally do sit down meals at dinner and I definitely would do at least 1 character meal. Should I consider the standard dining plan knowing I’ll have to pay something out of pocket anyhow or should I just forget about the dining plans altogether? Please help.
You could use this calculator to see if the dining plan would benefit your family: http://www.distripplanner.com
Thank you so much Cat. That was very helpful. No dining plan for me:-)
I’ve seen the dining plan change over the years. My first experience with it was fabulous! Appetizer AND dessert (I think) tips included for table service. But now… really not worth it unless it happens to be offered during a time you are planning on going – for free. My next trip includes free dining (bounce back offer) but I opted for a value resort (hardly ever in the room!) and counter service meals.
Oh yeah. When we first got it back in 2007, the Disney Dining Plan was AWESOME. We saved a ton of money. Now…I also wouldn’t get it unless it were during Free Dining, and even then I’d check to see if a room-only discount might be better.
My family was in a Disney Resort a year and half ago and had the dining plan. At that time you could change two quick service meals for a table service meal. Does anyone know when that changed.
can anybody help me please? My family and I are travelling to Disney over Christmas this year and would really like to do something special on Christmas day and new years eve. can anybody recommend anything for us please? I am travelling with 3 kids aged 13, 11 and 5.
Thankyou in advance.Aimee
Be prepared for LARGE crowds. When I say LARGE I mean shoulder to shoulder on Main St
If you can remember to take your mug with you when you are walking around the resort, it’s great. Having to go back to the room and get it is great exercise, however…
My husband and I just got back from Disney World and we worried that we would not get enough food on the dining plan. I’m glad we didn’t upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan. We ended up splitting meals so that we could eat all the food. Since an typical table service meal was around $40-$50 and a combo around $15-$20, we more than got our money’s worth. Also, knowing that we could just walk in and order what we wanted made this trip much less stressful. By the last day, we were getting snacks and storing them for the trip home!
I booked my trip today and paid for the Disney Dining Plan that includes ONE TABLE SERVICE MEAL. I can not figure out how to reserve my selections? It is probably easy, but this is my first time to Disney and I am clueless, please help. Thank you.
WE WILL BE AT DISNEY ALL STAR MOVIES RESORT OCT 2 – OCT 7.WHAT COST EFFECTED MEAL DEAL WILL BE INEFECT THEN
I’ve just gotten off the line with a cast member about this. Note that All-Star Movies IS NOT eligible for the free dining.
Note also that the dates for 2014 are as follows:
August 31, 2014 — October 3, 2014
October 26, 2014 — November 1, 2014
November 9, 2014 — November 20, 2014
December 12, 2014 — December 23, 2014
As I understand it, for free dining purposes, it goes off the day of arrival. You will want to check all of this directly with Disney for yourself, of course!
I wish there was a lighter option for, say, families of four who only eat enough for two meals. There’s no point in paying for food that’s just going to go to waste. Do we have to purchase a plan for everyone in the party, or can we just buy two plans and share amongst ourselves?
Does anyone know if Disney usually offers discounts on its dining plans during slower times of the year?
I’m going in September and was thinking about upgrading to the deluxe plan.
Are there any rumors of the free meal plan coming out? We plan to go to WDW around the middle of November 2014. If there are, should I expect the same dates as last year’s FDP this year?
Last year the wdw free dining dates for November were Nov 11-23. Any rumor the same dates may be available this year for 2014?
We’ve had the Disney Dining (middle level) the last two years and have saved a bundle of money! We book most of our restaurants in advance as soon as we are able, on our last trip we are at Be Our Guest, Planet Hollywood, T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe, grand Floridian, to name but a few. And we got wise and used some for breakfast and ate at the Wave in the Contemporary where it’s a help yourself buffet!
We found we were using our snacks allowance on the bottles of water and soda because we were always pleasantly full so definitely didn’t need anymore food lol. I must admit the first year we did it I was worried we’d be hungry, but it was quite the opposite!
We worked out within our first week the meals we’d had equalled our Disney dining cost for the two weeks! And the best thing was on our last night we were still able to have a lovely (expensive) meal because we didn’t have to count the pennies!
I give Disney Dining a HUGE thumbs up!
The dinig plan is pricey, but when we go I spurge and get the deluxe plan. This plan lets you choose anything you want on the menu. My 14 yr old son, husband, and myself feel we get our monies worth. With the deluxe you can do table service for all your meals. We hat lunch at Mama Rosa’s and the bill was well over $100.00 dollars. My family loves seafood and that adds up. It is a ton of food, but three sit down meals a day can run well over $125.00 except breakfast which still is pricey and by the time you get your snacks(went in 2011) and you still got 3 snack a piece our food bill ran an easy $325.00 a day.
When they have the free dining, you can upgrade to deluxe for just the cost difference, so that helps if you can get it. I also like the connivence of not carrying money or worrying about the cost; just pick out what ever you want on the menu.
It’s a splurge that we only do every 3-4 years. Hoping to go back in February 2015.
We are going to Disney in late October 2014 and HOPING for either a room discount or free dining. What is your opinion on the likelihood of either of those? Also would getting a Disney Visa increase our chances of getting a discount?
We are planning a trip to a Disney Early May 2014. Do you know if there is free dining or any other discounts during this time?
Thanks in advance