When Will Disney World’s Dining Plan Return?
“When will the Disney Dining Plan return in 2023?” and “will Walt Disney World bring back Free Dining?” are common reader questions. We’ll try to answer based on what we know about the prepaid meal plan and this popular discount, plus an earnings call update, restaurant capacity, crowds, staffing shortages, and more. (Updated February 15, 2023.)
When the parks & resorts reopened, Walt Disney World temporarily suspended the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) and cancelled Free Dining, along with several other things. In the time since, Walt Disney World has restored or announced the return of most offerings…except the DDP. At this point, the Disney Dining Plan is one of the few things that’s still temporarily unavailable. Virtually everything else has been officially ended/cancelled or brought back as of early 2023.
For its part, Walt Disney World has not been totally silent about the Disney Dining Plan’s future–they released a statement saying that it would be back soon…but that was over a year ago. If you want to be notified when the Disney Dining Plan’s return is announced, you can subscribe to our free email newsletter for instant alerts. For now, here’s everything you need to know about when the Disney Dining Plan might return. If you’ve already read this post in the past, scroll down to the “February 2023 Update” section for the latest developments, which are really more like the absence of action.
We should start by addressing a common misconception: Disney eliminated the Dining Plan as a cost-cutting measure. This is patently false. The Dining Plan is actually incredibly lucrative and advantageous for Walt Disney World in normal times. The Disney Dining Plan is a primarily a revenue engine, but one that’s also perceived as a perk by guests. It was truly a win-win for company and consumer. As such, it’s a matter of when the Disney Dining Plan will return, not if it will.
The big caveat here is the “in normal times” part of that. Right now, Walt Disney World is seeing record-breaking per guest spending, which is up over 40% as compared to 2019. Consequently, it’s entirely possible that guests paying out of pocket are spending more on average for their food than they would with the Disney Dining Plan. That’s just a guess on our part, and even if true, that level of pent-up demand won’t last forever.
One of the biggest reasons Walt Disney World offers the DDP is because it keeps guests on-site. If guests are already locked-into all of their meals at Walt Disney World, they’re less likely to venture to Universal, SeaWorld, and so on. Even if they do, Disney already has their money for those meals.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch–Disney benefits from the Dining Plan by capturing guests’ vacation dollars and boxing visitors into making all of their purchases at Walt Disney World, where every price has an on-site premium. Moreover, guests using the Disney Dining Plan order more than those who pay out of pocket.
This is quantifiable. Historically, per guest food & beverage spending is lower among guests who do not use the Disney Dining Plan than those who do. Consider how many guests on the DDP end up stockpiling Mickey Mouse Rice Krispie Treats at the end of their trips because they have so many unused snack credits. Now think of how many guests do not do that, and instead just let snack–or even table service–credits go to waste.
In normal times, the portion of guests who save money on the Disney Dining Plan is relatively small. Sure, you can consult online tips and hacks to leverage it to your advantage, but most people don’t have the time or desire for that level of work.
The vast majority of the park-going public is not reading blogs like this one to meticulously research and plan their Walt Disney World vacation. They want the simplicity of an “all-inclusive” meal plan and costs known up front. They don’t care (or realize) they’re potentially wasting money or credits. Suffice to say, when it comes to the DDP, the House of Mouse (almost) always wins.
That’s not the only way that the House of Mouse almost always wins. In our Disney Dining Plan Info & Review post, we reverse-engineer a dollar value for each type of DDP credit, with $45 being the amount ascribed to a table service credit. Walt Disney World does the same and sets a reimbursement rate for the many third party restaurants operating in the parks and at Disney Springs.
If a third-party table restaurant accepts the Dining Plan, they’re repaid at a set rate–often below the cost of the meal. For example, the third party might be paid $25 by Walt Disney World for each credit that’s redeemed, even though the guest is ordering $40 worth of food. Without the Dining Plan, Disney is missing out on this cut of business at most restaurants in World Showcase and Disney Springs.
This is the traditional analysis of why the Dining Plan benefits Walt Disney World, but it fails to account for on-the-ground circumstances. To that point, it’s worth addressing inflation and the wave of price increases on hundreds of food items at Walt Disney World.
This occurred twice last year, and if precedent is any indication, another round of increases will occur in the first half of 2023. The latest wave of price increases were more comprehensive and sweeping, with everything from snacks (again) to character dining experiences going up in price. This latter one is particularly significant, because character meals are particularly popular with guests who typically purchase the Disney Dining Plan.
Our strong suspicion has always been that higher menu prices made the Disney Dining Plan more attractive and pushed guests towards it. People comparing menu prices to package prices would see that, even though the DDP is pricey, so too are individual entrees, snacks, desserts, drinks, etc.
At least, this has always been our theory, and the past precedent of both increasing around the same time made it plausible. It’s thus always notable when Walt Disney World increases menu prices, as that could be a sign that they’re preparing for the return of the DDP.
Then there’s inflation, which has dominated the real world news and has been a major problem for Americans everywhere. It’s no secret that inflation has hit the cost of food especially hard. The USDA tracks a breakdown in its Food Price Outlook page, which shows that the cost of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs in particular has all skyrocketed.
It should go without saying, but businesses attempt to pass higher costs on to consumers. This is clearly what’s happening at grocery stores, but the USDA’s “food away from home” index shows that restaurants have not increased in lockstep with grocery stores on the CPI. This is 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. That’s nothing new. Walt Disney World’s aforementioned price increases disproportionately impact snacks and other impulse purchases and not items that have seen the highest inflation.
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. Those same concerns likely 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 (or close to it) with the Disney Dining Plan, but not with individual component prices. Now, food costs are even higher. Consumers might be more willing to pay this impulsively and in smaller increments, but balk at a ~$90 regular Disney Dining Plan. The company thus might modify (a positive spin on “reduce”) what each tier of the DDP includes to keep margins high.
It’s also possible that food inflation is one reason why the company has been hesitant to bring back the Disney Dining Plan. If guests are able to pre-pay for their food 6 months to a year in advance, they are able to lock-in current prices to some degree. With so much volatility in food and other input costs, Disney may view this as problematic. Of course, this is all totally speculative–but predictability and pricing psychology are important to Disney.
Also important to Walt Disney World is having sufficient restaurant capacity for the demand induced by the Disney Dining Plan. This was a significant problem for much of the last 2 years and a big reason why the Disney Dining Plan was temporarily suspended in the first place.
This is still a consideration, but not nearly to the degree that it once was. Most restaurants have reopened, to the point that the number of locations that are unavailable is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of Walt Disney World’s dining capacity (See Open & Closed Restaurants at Walt Disney World). Additionally, restaurants that have been open for months have continued to scale up operations, bringing back breakfast, buffets, or other missing meal services.
This won’t materially change capacity, but it’s yet another significant step in restoring normalcy to Walt Disney World’s dining scene. It’s also indicative of Walt Disney World’s intentions to bring more back to normal with regard to missing meal services at its table service restaurants.
Character dining experiences continue returning and more restaurants are reopening. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall recently reopened for dinner, becoming the first face character meal to return in full form. (Well, ‘full’ form minus breakfast and lunch.) This is good news, but it’s happening slowly and with a tremendous amount of lead-time. On February 28, princesses will return to Cinderella’s Royal Table. Following that, Chef Mickey’s returns to a buffet on March 1, 2023.
Other previously missing meals have been coming back in the last few months. This includes all meals at Crystal Palace: A Buffet with Character featuring Winnie the Pooh and Friends, Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Café, and ‘Ohana Best Friends Breakfast featuring Lilo and Stitch. The buffet at Tusker House also just returned. This leaves only Bon Voyage and 1900 Park Fare as without characters or still closed, respectively.
As intimated above, staffing remains an issue at many Walt Disney World restaurants, but this is nowhere near as bad in 2023 as it was in the last two years. The company has had tremendous difficulty filling certain key roles, and turnover is incredibly high–even as Disney hires aggressively, it has been losing employees almost as quickly as it can onboard them.
The result is some locations unable to operate at full capacity, and leave tables unfilled as a result. Breakfast isn’t being offered at restaurants because Disney can’t fill enough Cast Member shifts–adding breakfast to the slate would require cutting hours at dinner. This reinforces the reality that just because most restaurants are reopened doesn’t mean they’re firing on all cylinders. Dining capacity has improved, but still is not at 100%.
In an attempt to remedy that, Walt Disney World continues holding job fairs on a regular basis. However, the frequency of these has decreased. Last year and even last month, there were hiring events at the Casting Center every Wednesday with highlighted roles including Culinary & Quick Service Foods with start bonuses for most roles. Now, there’s one virtual culinary jobs fair on February 21 and one in-person culinary jobs fair scheduled for February 22, and bonuses for only a few, harder-to-fill roles.
Since the return of CEO Bob Iger, Cast Member morale has improved significantly. Whether this translates into less turnover remains to be seen, but that’s our expectation. If that does happen, all of the lingering staffing shortages should be quickly resolved. (A recession or economic downturn would also eliminate that issue.)
Of course, all of this is not directly relevant to the imminent return of the Disney Dining Plan. Nevertheless, hopefully it offered helpful context explaining how and why the Dining Plan is a profit center for Walt Disney World and not just a guest perk, and also, how that analysis might differ in the current inflationary environment. Even if you’re a fan of the DDP who is personally able to leverage it to your advantage, it should be obvious that it’s also beneficial to Disney. It’s not like free FastPass+ or other perks that the company cut and will never bring back.
To all of the above points, Walt Disney World confirmed in an announcement about theme park early entry and extended evening hours on-site guest perks that the Disney Dining Plan will return, but that the company is “not quite ready to share an update on timing.” Disney indicated that the guest-favorite option would be back soon, with more updates on restaurants to come.
The operative question here is thus, when is it possible to bring back the Disney Dining Plan?
February 2023 Update
We’re back with an update, despite no major news or announcements about the return of the Disney Dining Plan. Readers continue to ask about it on a regular basis and there has been more incremental progress, so we have a look at that. However, we’ll warn you up front that you won’t find any official announcements or ‘seismic shifts’ here. If anything, it’s the lack of changes that’s conspicuous here.
It has now been over 18 months (!!!) since Walt Disney World confirmed that the Disney Dining Plan would be back soon, but that they were “not quite ready” to make an announcement. Apparently Disney has a different definition of “soon” than do we.
Officially, nothing has changed with specific regard to the DDP since then. There have been appearances of the Disney Dining Plan in marketing materials and is still present on Walt Disney World’s official site. There continue to be a few “fakeouts” in Disneyworld.com booking process where it appears you can add the Disney Dining Plan, but nothing real.
Every new menu that goes up for the EPCOT Festivals also still features the DDP symbol next to eligible snacks, as if food & beverage teams are preparing for it to possibly return at any time. That has been the case over and over, and is meaningless. However, the company has not since stated that the Disney Dining Plan is returning imminently.
The bigger non-developments are two-fold. First, the company released the ‘Free’ Disney Dining Card Discount at Walt Disney World for Summer through Fall 2023. Although fundamentally different in nature, this is very clearly a “replacement” for Free Dining.
That’s true in terms of the promotion name, what it offers, and the travel dates it encompasses. This discount begins June 25 and runs through September 14, 2023. That ends earlier than past Free Dining promos, but it otherwise fits the parameters. We aren’t the least bit surprised that a different discount was offered in lieu of Free Dining–we’ve always expected the paid Disney Dining Plan to return first.
There’s almost no chance that Walt Disney World would simultaneously restore both Free Dining and the paid Disney Dining Plan. That would be slamming on the gas, going from 0 to 60 on the Disney Dining Plan when restaurant capacity still might not allow for that. However, it is definitely disappointing that this package doesn’t even include the option to add-on the Disney Dining Plan out of pocket.
Second, during the Walt Disney Company’s most recent earnings call in February 2023, recently-returned CEO Bob Iger and his team revealed that the Parks & Resorts segment saw a 21% increase in revenue to $8.7 billion. More notably, over $6 billion of that came from the domestic parks, and the bulk of that was attributable to Walt Disney World.
This was once again due to higher per guest spending numbers, which has become a common refrain. While no comparison was drawn to pre-pandemic, it was certainly high. Disney leadership has been touting these record numbers for the past year, so growth of over 20% is really, really strong. The company pointed to higher ticket prices as well as Genie+ and Lightning Lanes as the primary drivers, so it’s possible spending on food & beverage has slowed, but we’re skeptical.
So, when could the Disney Dining Plan theoretically return in 2023? To borrow a line from Ernest Hemingway, change happens “gradually, then suddenly.” His famous quote about personal finances also applies to corporate ones, as well as supply and demand, economic outlooks, and even the return of the Disney Dining Plan. Thus far, progress to lay the groundwork for its return has epitomized a gradual change.
However, that could change suddenly. In particular, the resolution of staffing shortages resulting in across-the-board increases to restaurant capacity could collide with a slowdown in consumer spending and pent-up demand running its course. When (not if) that happens, the Disney Dining Plan’s expeditious return (at least to the extent Disney does anything “expeditiously”) won’t be too far behind.
With all of that in mind, our prediction for the Disney Dining Plan’s earliest likely return is April 17, 2023. This is not when we expect the DDP to come back, simply the earliest realistic return date.
This actually isn’t much of a change as compared to our prior prediction, which indicated that Walt Disney World would wait until after what’s going to be a very busy Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras, as well as the Spring Break and Easter rush. April 17 is roughly the start of another relatively quiet stretch until attendance starts increasing for summer, which is expected to occur in mid-June 2023. This window between mid-April and May 2023 offers the absolute earliest realistic timeframe for the Disney Dining Plan to return.
The big difference between now and our last update is that we previously expected the Disney Dining Plan to return during that pre-summer timeframe, and now we do not. It’s plausible, but seems far less likely.
The sustained high level of per guest spending is certainly a factor, but that’s the less significant factor. The growth during the past quarter was the popular holiday season, and spending was expected to be strong then as a ‘last hurrah’ of sorts for elevated consumer spending. Walt Disney World has dramatically increased discounts for 2023, which alone suggests pent-up demand is starting to fizzle out.
The bigger factor is the aforementioned Disney Dining Card promotion. We do not expect this to replace the Disney Dining Plan in the long-term, but it does seem implausible that Walt Disney World would restore the Dining Plan and start offering these cards in the span of a few weeks.
Introducing two complicated programs each with their own rules and policies would be overwhelming and confusing to Cast Members, most of whom probably were not employed by Disney during the DDP days. More importantly, it would be stressing to the system to go from guests paying out of pocket only to having both programs. That would mean inducing a lot of new demand all at once, which seems unlikely given Disney’s ongoing struggle with restaurant capacity.
For this reason, it now appears more likely that Walt Disney World will wait until (at least) the tail end of the dining card promotion before restoring the DDP. That does not necessarily mean the Disney Dining Plan will return on September 15, 2023–nor does it preclude the DDP from coming back slightly before then.
More likely, it means that the company will wait for both a material slowdown in per guest spending that needs to be boosted (and in fact, the dining card promo accomplishes exactly this, as it requires booking a non-discounted hotel room) and to see whether the the dining card places an added burden on Cast Members or stresses the system and reduces overall capacity. All of that could be accomplished by late in the summer, paving the way for the Disney Dining Plan to return once school goes back into session in late August through mid-September 2023.
Honestly, even that is pretty far from certain. The Disney Dining Plan returning in early Fall 2023 is more plausible than pre-summer, but both are questionable at best to unlikely at worst. If the DDP’s return misses that August/September window, the next most likely date is early January 2024.
That’s obviously far away and a lot could change in the next several months, but if I were forced to bet on a specific return date for the Disney Dining Plan right now, I’d choose January 1, 2024. (It’s not that other dates are impossible, it just feels like Walt Disney World is kicking the can down the road with the dining card.) If it does take until January 2024 for the Disney Dining Plan to return, it will have been gone for so many years that the DDP may look materially different when it does return. Those of you hoping for the Disney Dining Plan to come back may not want what you see.
Ultimately, we hate to be so pessimistic, but that’s increasingly how we feel about the eventual return of the Disney Dining Plan. Optimism has gotten us nowhere, and it’s not worth continuing to hold out hope as Walt Disney World tests other ways to sustain high per guest spending while inducing less crushing demand on restaurants that are already mostly filling up.
There is a scenario where guests have already started to spend less on dining as of early 2023, and that’s being felt by Walt Disney World even amidst higher overall spending driven by Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. In such a situation, it’s possible work is already occurring behind the scenes to bring the paid Disney Dining Plan back in mid-April 2023, allowing sufficient time between the relaunch of that and debut of the Disney Dining Card special offer in late June. But we really, really doubt that this is what’s going to happen. It would truly take the stars aligning.
It’s more likely that it takes until the end of Summer 2023 or even beyond for pent-up demand to fizzle out, more missing meals to be restored, staffing shortages to be fully resolved, and less of a supply v. demand imbalance. The totality of those circumstances could pave the way for the Disney Dining Plan’s return and, right now, it seems like it’s still several months from all of those pieces falling into place.
That’s a huge range of predictions, but as is pretty clear by now, we do not have a crystal ball, and circumstances continue to change. Given how lucrative the Dining Plan is for Walt Disney World in “normal times,” I never would’ve predicted it would be gone for this long. But clearly these are not normal times. In any case, you can sign up to our free email newsletter and we’ll keep you posted as soon as Walt Disney World makes an announcement or there’s more news regarding the DDP’s return in 2023…or 2024.
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When do you expect the Disney Dining Plan to return? Do you agree or disagree that it could still be a while with ADRs filling up and per guest spending skyrocketing? Think Walt Disney World will bring back the DDP in April/May or August/September 2023? Or, do you think Disney will be more slow and conservative, waiting until pent-up demand fully fizzles out and spending starts decelerating? Would the Disney Dining Plan’s reinstatement make you more likely to book a trip? 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!
In researching the new Star Wars hotel I see that your stay includes one quick service meal credit on the day of your visit to Hollywood Studios – meaning that by March 1, 2023 at least some dining locations will be set up to cash in a credit similar to the old DDP – so holding out hope that it’s by that date at the latest!
I will never understand the number of fans who complain about the lack of the dining plan. In most cases you are at best breaking even, if not overpaying, and as far as “knowing how much you’ll spend up front” angle that’s just called budgeting. Get a prepaid gift card, carry a wad of cash in an envelope marked meals, there are all sorts of ways to make sure you don’t go over whatever you budgeted for food (which again, often works out to more on the dining plan than if you were eating naturally).
With that said, I find it HILARIOUS how long it is taking Disney to bring it back after promising an update “soon.” Just admit you were overzealous with that announcement, Disney. Saying you made a mistake isn’t going to lead to any more egg on your face than the current situation.
I agree with your post. I had received the free dining plan on many visits to Disney. When we had booked a trip in 2019, we had not received it free, so I was like, Well, I will purchase one. I felt this time that I was forced (by me) to order items I did not want, to grab snacks in order to use credits, and i also had forgotten, that many of the restaurants we choose take up 2 dining credits per meal, so One or two nights, we had to pay anyway. IF the dining plan returns, and IF i do not receive it within a package, I will be using past information from my stays, and the current costs, vs how much it will cost me to pay early. I like you and most likely everyone, do not like getting less for my dollar. But, there is alway a but. It is DIsney, so I do not ever go into trip planning thinking i am saving money or getting a value out of this vaca. I just like to go. LOL
If you only use it at certain restaurants, yes there is a possibility that you come out even at best. If you taken the time to use the DDP to choose unique dining experiences
( character dining meals), use only a couple of the quick serve meals at breakfast and split the items you can save a few of the quick serve credits and have enough to cover for extra meals throughout your stay.
It takes time and planning (numerous overlooking and canceling of sit down reservations, buf usually something close to what you intend opens up within a week or so of your trip). You DO save a substantial amount of money. Have saved the receipts and added them all up and compared to what the DDP cost and yes there is a savings, that’s usually not counting all the snacks.
That baseline assumes that you would have an all-you-care-to-eat meal and a full counter service meal and a snack if you were paying in cash.
It’s hard to eat that much food without not having all you care to eat even though you paid for it, or just plain eating more than you want. With “cash on a Disney Gift Card” you can put all the money on it but you don’t have to eat two big meals every day if you don’t want to, thus saving money. That being said, if you eat a lot more than the average WDW visitor you can certainly come ahead IF you would buy that food regardless, it’s just not easy to Beat the House of Mouse on the DVC over a decent sized vacation.
Disagree. You have to strategically plan where you are going to eat your sit down meal ( we did the option with a sit down and a quick service per day). 78 bucks per adult per day is not difficult to spend. You just have to research the sitdown places and know how expensive they are or are not.
On our recent trip to Disney we spent an absolute fortune on food and were persistently hungry – my partner has an insane metabolism and generally found table service mains small (especially by American standards). We spent more or less what we would have with a DDP but came away hungry and often traded down to cheaper meals or skipped snacks as we felt we couldn’t justify it – it left a bit of a sour taste because our ‘perception’ of overall value was very poor.
Do you feel like a grocery ore order would help with that? I have been contemplating ordering an Amazon fresh order to be delivered the day we arrive with small bags of snacks and bottles of water? We could bring those in the parks to help with all around costs? Also, having the snacks I. The room at night and breakfast bars perhaps in the morning? I want to try it next time we visit as I have heard so many stories like yours of food costs being higher than years past. I thought costs were crazy high in 2019!!
Hello, We always used the dining plan in the past . Sometimes when you try to get maximum value for a meal , it will also drive up your tip amounts. Then eating snacks that you might not normally eat I know club level is more expensive , however, we just stayed at coronado springs with club level. It was the best thing we ever did. Some of us have bigger appetites in the family then others. So it worked out great. We still did several table service dinners or lunches , however, we were able to order what we wanted instead of always trying to order the most expensive things. I found the club level service at CS to be incredible. You can make the evening selections into a meal a few nights during your stay , or use the appetizers and spirits prior to going out to dinner. Then go back after dinner for desserts and cordials. You will save money at the restaurants. You will never have to go out to breakfast as this was incredibly fulfilling . If you are a morning till night park person it also may not be the best choice. But I have to say just bringing beverages and snacks to the parks from club level will save you a fortune. We can’t wait to go back. We will never use the dining plan again. Just look for room only discounts. We found this resort with club level to be better then our usual deluxe resorts.
Thanks Ann, Sheri! We got Instacart snacks for the room which I would definitely do again – avoided needing to buy breakfast at least.
Sheri – interesting what you say re Gran Destino. we did a split stay before, had the final two nights in Yacht Club where we upgraded to Club Level complimentary. I have to say that if I was paying for Yacht Club Club level I would have NOT been impressed – some of the food was really half hearted (dry carrot sticks, mac and cheese, boiled eggs at ‘dinner’) although it was lovely to have a glass of wine and sit on the Club Room balcony of an evening. It somewhat put me off a Club level splurge… Perhaps Destino is the better option.
I don’t think we would go back to meal plan- last 3 visits if anything we spent maybe a bit less and didn’t feel obligated to do snacks or desserts.
I have mixed feelings about DDP. From my perspective, the old DDP deluxe allowed for a gastronomically fun vacation with the artificial notion of not having to worrying about the prices. During that trip, we felt glorious during the meals and overstuffed as we went to bed, and still had to carry a boatload of “snacks” home at the end. Honestly, we never eat that much – and would not have – if the incentives of taking advantage of the DDP Deluxe plan didn’t drive our decisions. On a following trip, we did not indulge in DDP and found ourselves spending less on our signature meals – on eligible items – than DDP would have cost. I am all in on the DDP option, but it is not necessary for me. This is simply how I see it. I hear others and respect their differing perspectives and feelings.
I guess I don’t understand why someone would overpay for meals just to pay up front. Why not just put the money on a debit card ahead of time instead of giving it all to Disney? You can then use that card at Disney. Problem solved. You won’t be forced to eat all 3 meals and snacks every day. You’re guaranteed to come out ahead and have money left on the card when you get home. I’m pretty sure my wife and I spent only $100-$130/day for the two of us in our trip last week. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside 4 days and Wilderness Lodge 3 days. My lunch at Geyser Point cost less than $10, as I had the kid’s burger, fries, and a diet Coke. I don’t think I ate anything in the park, though I meant to stop at the ice cream parlor on Main Street. Didn’t get a chance. I did visit Gideon’s twice and purchased 6 cookies all together.
Not everyone eats that cheaply on a Disney vacation. My bf and I went in September for 10 days and spent well over $100 per sit down meal…most closer to $200. We’d never get the 3 sit down meal plan. One sit down is good for us. Maybe the average couple doesn’t save or break evrn with the meal plan, but When there were 7 of us, the meal plan made total sense.
That’s how we do it. $$ on a gift card for the same amount as the DDP, eat whatever we want and ALWAYS have money left over at the end.
@Dee – The DDP cost is per person, so no, you aren’t saving a thing by bringing more people with you. “I’m saving so much money!” is a lie that people tell themselves as opposed to just doing a little basic math.
Was super easy to scroll and find the update! Thanks SO much!
Your insight is always so fascinating. You do so much research and pull from your own experiences to make predictions. I always use posts like these to manage my expectations with Disney
Tom, I read every month your updates on the DDP. All that you mention makes sense. But I’m still disappointed Disney has not given an update for over a year now…
While I don’t think it would be idea for Disney to say like Tom has that “WDW isn’t bringing back the Disney Dining Plan because labor rates are too high and price increases aren’t enough,” I’m almost surprised that Chapek hasn’t stumbled into saying that, especially in front of a Wall Street audience.
Off subject, WDWMagic just announced 4 days ago that Fantasmic will be returning early November 2022.
I have been reading Tom and Sarah’s blog for over 10 years and I can assure anyone who does not like it, that there are many other blogs to read out there, I can name 10 to 12. Toms is the best by a mile. It is well written, very informative and often hilarious. I look forward to reading it everyday, and it has made a great difference to my life, with the practical advice and wonderful Trip reports. I would gladly pay a subscription to continue to read the best Disney blog on the internet.
I would gladly pay a small price to subscribe to the small amount of useful information you provide. But I’m sick of wasting more time – more than your suggestions save me at WDW – reading such lengthy, needless babble just so I have to pass by your advertisers. Kudos to you for making a living (I guess) at such profuse production of BS.
This comment is so rude and absolutely unnecessary. If you don’t like the blog then find another. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything and move along.
Thank you Kandice, I was always taught that as well. If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.
I agree with kandice as well. I truly will never understand the ignorance of some people. I come on this blog for my happy space. Rudeness isn’t welcome.
In case you have not noticed it’s a blog. Try to be a little receptive to the info instead of complaining. No one wants to hear your opinion
Just an observation here. I believe Tom does a fabulous job on this blog. Obviously, if I didn’t think so, I would no longer follow. We have the choice not to follow if we don’t find the info valuable. For the folks who get joy out of being nasty, go figure Disney out by yourself and stop being a killjoy. I think a lot of people are irritated at Disney, not getting the answers they wish for, having a bad day, unhappy with life??? Don’t take it out on Tom. He’s not Tinkerbell. He can’t sprinkle pixie dust on your Disney plans and bring back the DDP. Such is life.
Agree with your comment. And imagining Tom as Tinkerbell made me laugh.
No one is twisting your arm to read these blogs. You don’t like leave and watch your language!!!
I have a family friend that works for Disney and she said the DDP will be back some time in 2023 so any one that is going to Disney don’t worry it will return.
@leslie robins… as I recall this blog is something we voluntarily follow. I get so much helpful information from Tom that I wouldn’t even have a quarter of the knowledge he provides. It’s very simple for you to unsubscribe . Some things just don’t need to be said . I hope you have the rest of the day you deserve
Really? You have time to read someone’s newsletter then do nothing but moan & groan about it? What’s your newsletter called? Since you seem to know so much more then Tom & Sarah about Disney, I’d like to read your newsletter.
WOW, Leslie. You must be fun at parties.
My current prediction: summer 2023. For the last decade, pre-Covid, they used dining promotions to boost summer attendance. So even without a free dining promotion, promoting some sort of dining plan can be a summer boost.
It’s too late for fall at this point (no rumors of 3rd party restaurants being lined up). And from mid Feb to mid April, you really don’t need any further promotions.
So… I think it comes back in May/June.
My take is that DDP will eventually return because during our last trip new snack options throughout the parks were accompanied by the DDP logo denoting these new snacks as “Snack Credit” acceptable snacks. There would be no reason to include the DDP logo on these new snacks unless Disney plans on bringing back the DDP. Right now the number pushers are probably reporting to management they are currently making more money on dining than when they offered the DDP. So until that number flips to a negative they will not offer DDP, however with the addition of the DDP logo on these new snacks Disney is prepared to reintroduce the DDP as soon as the money says!! That being said after 12 continuous years visiting Disney we have officially canceled our next visit when after running the numbers found a current 4-day trip was now the same cost as our old regular 7-day trip. It was fun while it lasted, but we can take 2-3 trips a year to other places for the cost of 1 Disney trip!!
Same with us only we had been coming regularly for 20 years!! It is just not a justifiable vacation any more. No dining plan, no magical express, charges for parking at resorts, the ruination of Caribbean Beach’s charm, paying for fast passes etc. In short what was a magical 2 weeks became increasingly stressful. Disney needs new people at the top with the same vision as Walt. As many have said, Walt would not be happy if he knew how things are now. Maybe we’ll go back but things will have to change significantly.
Its definitely not the magic experience we have always had.
We always do the dining plan and it has been a great inconvenience
So when is it coming back ?????
And fast pass was so much better.
Definitely need NEW CEO AT tye top
Walt is rolling over in his grave
I just wish the Polynesian would once again have room service! Come on Twilight Feast!
i Heard they r gonna announce Something on the 3rd day of D23. That Is when ALL the Park Announcements will Happen!!!
We pushed our Trip back AGAIN to March 2023. We r hoping for Dining plan to Return. We love the Dining plan for Eating around the World at Festivals and for the Expensive restaurants. lots of Romantic time for me and my hubby.
Return of Dining plan is SOON
what’s d23 ?
Having just returned from WDW last week, here is my take on the dining situation. EVERY counter service restaurant we went to in the parks had only one check out person. One long line, one check out person with both sides open. Ridiculous! If they can’t properly staff the check out people, how do they get servers? Also, a friend of mine was in the college program and has recently applied for a waitress position at Disney. They offered her a job working at the Wilderness Lodge pool. If they are in desperate need of wait staff, why wasn’t she given a real waitress job? They said that was all they have available right now. Having been told the DDP isn’t back because they can’t staff the restaurants doesn’t ring true to me.
The lack of cashiers isn’t a staffing shortage–it’s on purpose to push people towards Mobile Order, which is a way for Disney to reduce staffing.
I don’t know about the situation with servers, but I haven’t seen that on the jobs fair list in months, so I’m guessing that’s no longer much of an issue. However, they still are offering $1,500 hiring bonuses to a number of back-of-house culinary positions: https://parksjobs.disneycareers.com/search-jobs?k=job%20fair&kt=1&ascf=%5b%7b%22key%22:%22industry%22,%22value%22:%22Walt%20Disney%20World%20Resort%22%7d%5d
Why does it take you so long to actually answer the questions you pose in your headlines? And most of the time you never actually answer them. I appreciate the insider tips and info, but your articles run on way too long that I generally ready about 15%, skip to the end or bail.
I appreciate Tom’s meticulousness. It is a big part of why he is my favorite blogger. I want to know more than just the answer but the why behind it. This is especially the case when I am planning an expensive vacation like Walt Disney World.
@Joe – I’ve tried a variety of approaches, and this is the one that “works” best for me and that readers seem to appreciate.
With shorter posts, I find that people still have a ton of questions, and I end up writing just as much–except repeatedly, in the comments. There’s no perfect solution.
(Thanks for the kind words, Ashley!)
Chiming in as a full-time travel blogger myself. Tom is also running a business here. Not only does he provide detailed and accurate information about Disney while always keeping it entertaining and engaging to read, this is presumably his full-time job. Google likes longer articles and ranks them higher, and we can earn more from ads on a longer article. So those are also important factors the average reader may not consider.
“most of the time you never actually answer them”
As for this point, there’s a lot of important questions that get asked all of the time by people that can’t be definitely answered until Disney makes an announcement. Tom does a good job of explaining both the logical reasoning and assumptions behind his predictions. He reports actual announcements with headlines that are statements, if you’re only interested in news like “D23 Expo: Epcot 40 more thrown together at last minute than Epcot 25” or “Disney Dollars Return!” than speculation about “When will the Walt Disney World Railroad return?” or “Will WDW have weekend discounts for Disney+ users?”
I assume Disney is just waiting for their costs (staffing, food itself, etc.) to really stabilize before they start offering the DDP again. If I could buy a DDP now for a vacation that’s still 6+ months away, I’ve basically locked in the current price, so any additional inflation that happens between now and then comes out of their profit margin.
That’s another great point.
With the dining plan, you don’t have to budget on the meals. They are already paid for. Less money you have to take with you. Less you have to add to your credit card.
What I did I looked at the 2018 dining plan prices and added 5% divided by the number of nights and divided that answer by the number in the party and came up with a budget. Currently the Deluxe Dining, this 3 meals a day plus 2 snacks plan is $119 per person per night of stay and the Dining plan is 2 meals a day plus 2 snacks is $79 per person per night of stay. As a chef I can see where Disney is coming from with the cost of food has nearly gone up 40-45% and labor going up 33% since the pandemic and not being able to get ingredients for my most popular menu items and having to rehire a new staff for both the front and back of house, since some people are in the stay at home mood of working I’ve gone from a 25% profit in 2018 to a 12% profit in 2022. Even using DoorDash and Grubhub I’m still loosing revenue.
We visited Disney World two times a year for the last 17 years; 2022 is the first year we are not going. Too much to deal with and too expensive for what you get. In January we went to Disneyland, on the last night of our stay, we were offered an annual pass for a good price, we decided to do it and have really enjoyed visiting there instead. We plan on four shorter visits (two or three days) this year. I do miss Disney World but can’t justify the cost right now; we are hoping to catch the tail end of the 50th plus the Arts Festival in February next year. In all our many visits we never purchased the dining plan, we felt it was too much food and not enough value for us. We usually do one or two special dinners but mostly do quick service and always have breakfast in our room (we bring cereal and snacks in a checked bag). Maybe not for everybody, but it works for us.