Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? How does it work? How much does it cost? How do you get the most out of it?

We are going to cover these key questions and more, so you can decide whether it’s the right choice for your family, and get the most bang for your buck.

Here’s a list of the topics in this article.

As always, we’ll also include our age-specific recommendations.  Let’s get started!

What is the Disney Dining Plan?

The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is a prepaid meal plan that can be redeemed at participating Disney World restaurants (see below), creating an all-inclusive experience.

There a 3 different plans, with different costs and details (see table below).

The plans can be purchased when:

  • booking at a Disney World resort package through Disney (aka Magic My Way package)
  • booking using DVC points
  • after booking at a Disney World resort by calling Disney (or your travel agent)

How much do Disney World Dining Plans cost?

Dining plan costs change each year. You pay for plans on a per night basis. There are different prices for guests aged 10 years and up and children aged 3 to 9  years.

Kids aged 3 to 9 years must order from the kids section of the menu in order to have their meal plan credits applied.

Children under 3 do not require a dining plan. They eat free at buffets and can share off your plate at other restaurants.

Note that plans do not include gratuity or alcoholic beverages.

There are 3 different plans. These are the 2017 prices and plan details:

 Quick Service
Dining Plan
Regular
Dining Plan
Deluxe
Dining Plan
Adult price per night
(10+ years old)
$46.34$67.33$103.57
Child price per night
(3-9 years old)
$20.18$24.22$37.62
Table Service credits013
may be used for
table service or
quick service
Quick Service credits21
Snack credits222
Refillable drink mugYesYesYes

As you can see there are 3 different types of credits:

  1. Table service credits
    • includes dessert and nonalcoholic beverage
    • children (3-9 yrs) must order from children’s menu
  2. Quick service credits
    • includes beverage, which can be substituted for sides/snacks
    • as one 2017 no longer includes dessert
    • can be substituted for 3 snack credits in single transaction
    • children and adults are not distinguished; children can order adult entrees
  3. Snack credits
    • includes most side dishes at quick service locations

To understand the value of each type of credit, keep reading.

disney dining plan guide and tips

How does the Disney Dining Plan work?

First, you’ll need to add the DDP to your vacation package when you book. You will need a MagicBand, which is included free in your package, since it includes a Disney World resort.

Your Disney Dining Plan will be linked to your MagicBand when you link your reservation to your My Disney Experience account.

Here are some booking details to keep in mind:

  • All members in the party must have a dining plan (or no dining plan). You cannot split it up.
  • Similarly, all members in the party must have the same dining plan.

On your vacation, use your plan credits at any participating restaurants as follows:

  • At table service restaurants, let your server know you are using a DDP when you are seated.
  • At quick service restaurants, let the Cast Member know you are using a DDP when you check out.
  • Make your food selections (see below for tips).
  • When you check out or receive your check, present your MagicBand to pay.
  • Keep track of remaining credits on your receipt.
  • There is no limit to how many credits you can or must use per day. You can use all your snack credits on day 1, for example.
  • Gratuity is not included. Take care of the Cast Members.

Where is the Disney Dining Plan accepted?

The plan is accepted at over 100 locations throughout Disney World, including almost all resort eateries and almost all park eateries.

Look for this logo to indicate that an eatery participates in the dining plan:

Disney Dining Plan tips guide

It’s easier to list the places it’s not accepted than the places it is. Here are the notable exceptions:

  1. Disney Springs restaurants that do not participate. Many Disney Springs Restaurants do participate.
    Here is a list of Disney Springs restaurants that do not accept the Dining Plan:

    • Dockside Margaritas
    • Ghirardelli Soda Fountain
    • Wetzel’s Pretzels
    • AMC Dine-In Theatre / MacGUFFINS
    • Fantasy Fare Food Truck
    • Namaste Cafe Food Truck
    • Superstar Catering Food Truck
    • World Showcase of Flavors Food Truck
    • Paddlefish
    • Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
    • The Edison
    • Morimoto Street Food (Morimoto Asia does accept)
    • Paradiso 37
    • Tea Trader’s Cafe by Joffrey’s
    • Vivoli Il Gelateria
    • Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
    • The Daily Poutine
    • Sprinkles
    • YeSake
  2. The Swan and Dolphin resort restaurants
    • Il Mulino New York Trattoria
    • Todd English’s bluezoo
    • Kimonos
    • Shula’s Steak House
    • Garden Grove
    • Picabu
    • The Fountain
    • Fresh Mediterranean Market
    • Java Bar
    • Splash Grill and Deli
    • Cabana Bar and Beach Club
    • Lobby Lounge
  3. Prepaid meal events that include alcohol
    • Highway in the Sky Dine Around
  4. Victoria and Albert’s (Grand Floridian Resort and Spa)
  5. Tier 1 Seating for most dinner shows (Tier 2 and 3 can be used).

Pretty much every other restaurant and dining experience in Disney World accepts the dining plan (let us know in the comments if we missed one).

However, table service restaurants require table service credits. So if you have the quick service dining plan with no table service credits, you will not be able to use your plan at those restaurants.

Any of the Signature Disney restaurants, in room pizza delivery, and the Disney dinner shows will all require 2 table service credits per guest per meal.

The Dis has put together a list of the restaurants that do accept the dining plan credits here. Of course, when in doubt it’s always best to check the Disney website directly.

disney dining plan tips

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

In a word: maybe.

This is a tricky questions and it depends on the family/guest.  There are 4 main reasons to get a Disney Dining Plan:

  1. To add an “all-inclusive” feel to your vacation.
    For our family, this is the best reason to use a dining plan. Having prepaid for your meals allows you to become more fully immersed in Disney magic and enjoy the dining experience. The less we think about money on a vacation, the more we are able to relax. If you aren’t worried about prices on the menu, you’ll be able to appreciate the theming and food more.
  2. Because it can be free.
    As we discuss below, you can get a plan for free certain weeks each year, which is a pretty darn good reason to get one. Who doesn’t love free food, right?
  3. To save money.
    We will take you through some calculations, and if you are careful and use our tips, you can save money with a dining plan, as we demonstrate in the examples below. However, it’s very easy to break even instead of saving.
  4. Convenience.
    This is our last reason. With the ability to add credit cards to your MagicBand, dining plans are only marginally more convenient. One benefit is the ability for children, who you don’t want to access your credit card, to buy snacks and beverages.

For many families, including ours, the real value of the dining plan is not in saving money, but in increasing the fun and relaxation.

Having said that, let’s look at the numbers.

Understanding the Costs and Value

A little bit of algebra with some fudge factor can be used to figure out how much each type of credit costs.

Skip ahead if algebra makes you feel nauseated. We only included it to show how we derive the values for each credit. What really matters is what those values are.

First, let’s setup some equations:

$46.34  = 2Q + 2S    (quick service plan)
$67.33  = Q + T + 2S (regular plan)
$103.57 = 3T + 2S    (deluxe plan)**
      Q = 3S         (1 QS credit can be subbed for 3 snack credits)

Where T is a table service credit, Q is a quick service credit, S is a snack credit.

This actually produces a nonsensical result, so we fudge the last equation to assume that 2 of the 3 table service credits are used at table service restaurants and 1 is used at a quick service restaurant.  It looks like this:

$103.57 = 2T + Q + 2S (deluxe plan)

Now we can use the 3 equations to solve for T, Q, and S. It doesn’t work out perfectly, but these are roughly the values for each type of credit:

Table service ~ $38
Quick service ~ $16
Snack credit ~ $5.50

For kids aged 3 – 9 years old, the numbers are significantly lower:

Table service = $10
Quick service = $6
Snack = $4

Now you know how much you need to spend on each type of credit to come out ahead.

Right away we can see that if you use the deluxe plan table service credits only at table service restaurants, you may come out ahead. However, this gain is neutralized if you eat mostly at signature restaurants that require 2 table service credits.

Sample calculations

Let’s run through a few examples for each plan, to see whether actual purchases would cost more than or less than the cost of the plan.

Example 1

Plan: Quick service, 10+ years old

Resort: Pop Century

Breakfast: Everything Pop Food Court
Coffee in refillable mug ($2.29)
Omelette (QS credit, $8.99)
Muffin (substituted as side, $3.59)

Lunch: Cosmic Rays
Angus Bacon Cheeseburger (QS credit, $12.99)
Soda (included as QS side #1, $3.29)

Snack: Aloha Isle
Dole Whip (Snack credit, $4.19)

Dinner: Everything Pop Food Court
Both QS credits have been used for the day, so we will only consider the cost of a snack
Dinner out of pocket
Soda in refillable cup ($2.99)
Cup of tomato basil soup (Snack credit, $3.69)

Total value of food purchased with DDP: $42.02
Daily cost of Quick Service Dining Plan: $46.34

Verdict: The Dining Plan costs you an extra $4.32. And, if you hadn’t used your refillable mug, it would have cost even more. However, if we’d used snack credits on breakfast (instead of one of the QS credits), and the QS credits on dinner, and lunch, we would have come closer to even. Check that out in example 2:

Example 2

Plan: Quick service, 10+ years old

Resort: Pop Century 

Breakfast: Everything Pop Food Court
Coffee in refillable mug ($2.29)
Fruit cup (snack credit, $3.99)
Muffin (snack credit, $3.59)

Lunch: Cosmic Rays
Angus Bacon Cheeseburger (QS credit, $12.99)
Soda (included as QS side #1, $3.29)

Dinner: Everything Pop Food Court
Salmon burger (QS credit, $12.29)
Chips (included side #1, $2.99)
Soda in refillable cup ($2.99)

Total value of food purchased with DDP: $44.42
Daily cost of Quick Service Dining Plan: $46.34

Verdict: The Dining Plan costs you an extra $1.92. Still not coming out ahead, but closer to breaking even.

Example 3

Plan: Regular, 10+ years old (Parent)

Resort: Contemporary

Breakfast: Contempo Café
Yogurt Parfait (snack credit, $5.79)
Muffin (snack credit, $2.99)
Coffee (refillable mug, $2.29)

Lunch: Cosmic Rays
Angus Bacon Cheeseburger (QS credit, $12.99)
Soda (included as QS side #1, $3.29)

Dinner: Chef Mickey's
Buffet (TS credit, ~$50 for adults, varies by season)

Total value of food purchased with DDP: $77.35
Daily cost of Regular Dining Plan: $67.33

Verdict: the Disney Dining Plan saves you $10.02. As you can see, it’s easier to come out ahead with the regular plan than the quick service plan.

Example 4

Plan: Regular, 3 years old (Preschooler)

Resort: Contemporary

Breakfast: Contempo Café
Yogurt Parfait (snack credit, $5.79)
Watermelon cup (snack credit, $3.79)
Juice (not factored, out of snack credits)

Lunch: Cosmic Rays
Chicken nuggets (QS credit, $6.99)
Milk (included with QS credit, $1.99)

Dinner: Chef Mickey's
Buffet (TS credit, ~$26 for kids, varies by season)

Total value of food purchased with DDP: $44.56
Daily cost of Regular Dining Plan: $24.22

Verdict: the Disney Dining Plan saves you $20.34.

Example 5

Plan: Regular, 9 years old (School age kid)

Resort: Contemporary

Breakfast: Contempo Café
Yogurt Parfait (snack credit, $5.79)
Muffin (snack credit, $2.99)
Juice (not factored, out of snack credits)

Lunch: Cosmic Rays
Angus Bacon Cheeseburger (QS credit, $12.99)
Soda (included as QS side #1, $3.29)

Dinner: Chef Mickey's
Buffet (TS credit, ~$26 varies by season)

Total value of food purchased with DDP: $51.06
Daily cost of Regular Dining Plan: $24.22

Verdict: the Disney Dining Plan saves you $26.84!

Bottom Line

It is possible to save money using a Disney Dining Plan, but it’s very easy to end up breaking even, especially if you don’t choose the most expensive menu item at each outing.

As you can see in the examples above, we think it’s much easier for adults to get savings on the regular plan than the quick service plan. Kids can come out ahead on either.

In spite of the potentially meager savings, we recommend the dining plan without reservation.

The real value of the plan lies not in the money saved, but in the stress saved.  Turning Disney World into an all inclusive resort ups the fun and relaxation factor considerably.

Buy the dining plan, keep the values of each credit in the back of your mind, and don’t worry about money.

disney dining plan guide tips

Dining Plans by Age

We are always interested in the age specific considerations, and there clearly are some when it comes to Disney Dining Plans. We’ll take each age group one by one.

Babies

Babies are a nonfactor when it comes to dining plans.

Toddlers

Toddlers under three are not permitted to participate in the DDP. They can however, eat free at buffets and from your plate. Add in some of their favorite portable foods, such as fruit packs and crackers, and you are set, with minimal cost.

Preschoolers

Preschoolers are the youngest age group that can participate in a Disney Dining Plan. Realistically, most preschoolers are picky eaters. They may not eat their share on the dining plan, and you may save money buying their food individually.

Moreover, preschoolers are not likely to pick the most expensive items on the menu, which is what we recommend to maximize plan value.

Having said that, as you can see in our example calculation above, the DDP for preschoolers can actually produce significant savings. This is due mostly to the low daily cross for the 3-9 year old age group.

School age kids

This age group is the sweet spot for children on the DDP. You will pay the children’s rate, but they will likely order and eat enough food to make it worthwhile.

One potential issue is that older children in this age group (8 or 9 years) may wish to order from the adult menu at table service restaurants and be restricted by the dining plan.

On the other hand, if they order adult entrees at quick service restaurants (which is permitted in the plan), you can rack up significant savings. Checkout the school age kid sample numbers above.

One way to up the savings even more, is to use a QS credit on a meal that can be shared between an adult and school age kid, such as a flat bread. This allows you to feed 2 people while expending only 1 credit.

Tweens

This age group falls into the adult price category (10+ years old). That makes it a little harder to save money (compared with the children’s plan prices, see examples above).

Teens

This age group also falls into the adult price category. Teens can be voracious eaters, and will likely make good use of all of their credits. Teens are more likely to get savings on the regular plan than the quick service plan, as we demonstrate in the examples above.

How to get a free Dining Plan

Free? Yes, Disney gives away free dining plans as an incentive to book a Magic Your Way package. It is offered as a promotion during select weeks each year, with little advance notice.

If you add a free dining plan to your package, you will not be able to use any other specials or incentives.

When booking at a value resort, you will get the Quick Service Dining Plan. If booking at a moderate or deluxe resort, you will get the Regular Dining Plan.

Take a look at the per guest per night value of the dining plans in the table above, to determine whether the savings is actually greater than other discounts available.

For example, a percentage discount on room rates often ends up a better deal than a dining plan in absolute dollars saved.

Free dining is historically a fall promotion, to offer an incentive during the slow season and hurricane season. Here’s when free dining plans have been offered in the last 5 years:

  • September has been included 4 out of the last 5 years
  • November has been included 4 out of the last 5 years
  • Early December has been included 4 out of the last 5 years
  • October has been included 3 out of the last 5 years

The booking period is usually the preceding spring (sometimes it’s much closer to the actual dates).  The booking period has included May and June the last 4 out of 5 years.

So, your best bet for getting a free dining plan is planning a trip in September or November, and booking it in May or June.

disney dining plan guide tips

How do you get the most out of it?

15 Disney Dining Plan tips, tricks and hacks

Here is a list of the best ways to get the most value out of a plan.

  1. Character dining, dinner buffets, and dining show packages are generally the best value for TS credits.
  2. Signature dining is not the best value for TS credits. It costs 2 TS credits, but the monetary price is not twice as much. Pay out of pocket at these restaurants instead.
  3. Keep in mind the value of each credit: $38 for TS, $16 for QS and $5.50 for snack. Choose menu items of equal or great value. At TS restaurants this usually the steak. For snacks, its usually bakery items.
  4. Breakfast is generally not the best value for TS credits, as the meal price is lower than lunch or dinner.
  5. Use your Rapid Fill refillable resort mug every chance you get. Bring it to every QS meal at the resorts and use it by the pool. This allows you to use your drink credit (part of each QS credit) for a side/snack instead of a drink.
  6. Expanding on the point above, substitute! Substitute an unneeded included drink for a snack/side that expands your meal or can be saved for later.
  7. If the restaurant serves them, milk shakes and smoothies can usually be used for your included drink with your meal credit, and offer the most value.
  8. Don’t waste snack credits on bottles of water. You can get a free cup of ice water at any eatery in the park. And if you bring an insulated tumbler, you’ll always have something cold to drink.
  9. Use snack credits wisely. They can buy you a French pastry at Epcot, a sundae in Magic Kingdom, a Starbucks coffee, a Dole Whip, a large gourmet muffin, among other things.  Don’t waste them on a banana or similar inexpensive items.
  10. If you purchase a Deluxe Dining Plan, use your credits on table service instead of quick service as much as possible.
  11. Ask if you can substitute your table service included dessert for another side, if you don’t want dessert.  Most restaurants allow this.
  12. Use QS credits at the best QS restaurants, like: Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom), Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom), Sunshine Seasons (Epcot), Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kingdom), and D-Luxe Burger (Disney Springs).
  13. Don’t use snack credits on drinks.
  14. Use QS credits on sharable meals that can feed 2 people (especially and adult and a child), such as flat breads.
  15. Use any unused snack or QS credits on prepackaged treats from the shops, that you can bring home.

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