Disney Dining Plan Guide and Tips

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The question of whether or not to get a Disney Dining Plan is a very frequent one during Disney planning. The questions usually revolve around what exactly it is, will it save money, and is it worth it. The truth is, the answer to some of these questions varies widely depending on each family.

The goal of this Disney Dining Plan guide is to clarify what the Disney dining plan is and whether or not it will work for your family. ​

What is the Disney Dining Plan?

Put simply, the Disney Dining Plan is Disney’s option to prepay for all of your food for the duration of your trip. There are three different options for the dining plan with widely varying price points.

You pay for the whole dining package when you pay off your balance 30 days prior to your arrival at Disney World. At that point, you should only have to pay for tips out of pocket during the trip itself.

Disney Dining Plan Rules

You are eligible for the Disney Dining Plan if you stay at any Disney World Resort. This includes if you are staying via Disney Vacation Club points, whether you own those points or are renting them from someone else. If you are staying off-site then you are not eligible for the dining plan.

The Disney Dining credit allotment is based on the number of NIGHTS of your resort reservation, not the number of days. This is very important to take note of because most people assume the credits are based on the number of DAYS of your reservation.

In addition, you cannot have the dining plan for only part of your stay, it is an all or nothing deal based on the number of nights of your hotel reservation. There is a way around this limitation, and that is to have a split stay at two different resorts.

For example, if you have 3 nights booked at Port Orleans Riverside and 2 nights at the Grand Floridian you can choose to have the Disney Dining Plan for the 2 nights at the Grand Floridian but not Port Orleans Riverside.

The dining plan will automatically be applied to all the people on the reservation for that room. You do not have the option of applying it to just select people on the reservation.​

So to recap, here are the main Disney dining plan rules:

  • You must have a Disney resort reservation to qualify
  • The dining plan is calculated per night of your reservation
  • You must get the plan for your entire Disney resort reservation
  • Everyone staying in the same room must be on the Disney dining plan

What Comes with Disney Dining Credits?

Before we get into the credit allotment and cost of each plan, let’s do a brief review of what constitutes each Disney dining credit. First, it depends on whether the credit is a quick service credit, a table service credit, or a snack credit.

  • One Quick Service (QS) credit will get you a meal at any of Disney’s quick service, or counter service restaurants, including one beverage. Those of you over 21 can opt to have this beverage be alcoholic. Score!
  • One Table Service (TS) credit will get you an entree, dessert, and beverage (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic) at any of the sit-down restaurants at Disney World.
    • OR a full buffet plus beverage
    • The exception to this rule is if you use the Table Service credit at breakfast. You do not get dessert at breakfast
    • People on the Deluxe Dining Plan also get an appetizer with their meal
  • A snack credit will get you any menu item at a quick service restaurant, kiosk, cart, or other location with the little purple Disney Dining Plan symbol next to it.​

Types of Disney Dining Plan

There are four different types of Disney Dining Plans you can choose from. They vary significantly in price, and therefore what you get from them.

However, these three types of Disney Dining Plans do allow some flexibility to make the Disney Dining Plan somewhat more affordable for more people.

  1. Disney Quick Service Dining Plan: 1 refillable mug; 2 snack credits, 2 Quick Service credits per night of stay
  2. Disney Standard Dining Plan: 1 refillable mug; 2 snack credits, 1 Quick Service credit per night of stay, 1 Table Service credit per night of stay
  3. New! Disney Dining Plan Plus: 1 refillable mug; 2 snack credits, 2 meal credits either Quick Service or Table Service per night of stay
  4. Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: 1 refillable mug; 2 snack credits; 3 meal credits (any combination of Quick Service or Table Service meals that you choose)

Disney Dining Plan Prices 2020

Type of Dining Plan2019 Price2020 Price
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan$52.49/night ages 10 & up
$23.78/night ages 3-9
$55/night ages 10 & up
$26/night ages 3-9
Disney Standard Dining Plan$75.48/night ages 10 & up
$27.98/night ages 3-9
$78.01/night ages 10 & up
$30.51/night ages 3-9
Disney Dining Plan PlusN/A$95/night ages 10 & up
$34/night ages 3-9
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan$116.24/night ages 10 & up
$43.49/night ages 3-9
$119/night ages 10 & up
$47.50/night ages 3-9

​Clearly, there is a rather significant price difference in the various options for the dining plan, as well as a wide variety on what exactly you get for your money. There is a fair amount of strategy involved in making sure you get your money’s worth, as well as figuring out how to structure the use of your credits over the course of your trip.

Everyone always assumes that the Disney dining plan is priced per day, but remember, the credits are PER NIGHT of your trip, not per day. This leads to a lot of confusion, but also strategic use of your credits. It usually works out well considering most people aren’t around for full days on their days of arrival and departure, but it still requires some forethought when planning out your meals and booking your Advanced Dining Reservations.​

What is the Disney Dining Plan Refillable Mug?

As I mentioned above, a Disney refillable mug comes with any Disney Dining Plan. But what on earth is it? The Disney dining plan “refillable mug” is a 16 ounce insulated coffee mug with a Disney themed design on it.

This mug entitles you to unlimited refills of fountain drinks, coffee, and tea at self service beverage stations at Disney World Resorts for your entire stay.

These are some high tech mugs. There’s an RFID bar code that deactivates the mug once the duration of purchase has expired.

The Disney refillable mug is worth $18.99 out of pocket.

It is important to note that these mugs are not refillable in any of the Disney Parks, unless you are getting water. However, you can use it at any of the Disney resorts, not just your own.

To be honest, the mugs are a little clunky to use at Disney World. If you have a room that’s far away from the Quick Service location at your resort, it’s a bit of a pain to trek back and forth. And who wants to just carry mugs with them all the time just in case?

But, they do make fun souvenirs for “free” if you have the Disney Dining Plan.

Disney Dining Plan Restaurants

The next Disney Dining Plan question I want to look at is, what are the Disney Dining Plan restaurants? The good news is, almost every single restaurant at Disney World is eligible for the Disney Dining Plan. Of course, the type of restaurant it is will determine which Disney dining plan credit will be used.

Quick Service Restaurants

Any Disney restaurant which acts closer to a fast food restaurant is considered a quick service restaurant. Quick Service restaurants use up one of your quick service dining plan credits. If you have the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan, these are only types of restaurants you can eat at.

Quick service restaurants are also referred to as counter service restaurants. But the bottom line is:

  • You don’t need a reservation
  • There are cashiers who take your order before you sit down
  • The prices are lower than at Table Service restaurants

You can find Quick Service restaurants in all of the parks, at the Disney resorts, and at Disney Springs.

Table Service Restaurants

The Table Service restaurants are the traditional sit down meals. These are the restaurants that allow you to make a reservation ahead of time. Any of the Table Service restaurants use up one of your Table Service credits.

  • Reservations are recommended (though not always necessary if it’s a less popular restaurant)
  • There are hosts/hostesses and waiters
  • Some table service restaurants are all you can eat buffets
  • Prices are higher

Signature Restaurants and Dinner Shows

Signature Restaurants is the category of Disney restaurants which are the most expensive at the resort. I wouldn’t go so far to necessarily call them “fine dining” but that’s the direction you’re heading in. The dinner shows are exactly what they sound like. These options provide you with a meal and entertainment all at the same time.

All Signature restaurants and dinner shows require 2 Table Service dining credits. Dining packages at the Epcot Festivals also fall under this category.

Disney Restaurants that Require 2 Table Service Credits

  • Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom, dinner only)
  • California Grill (Contemporary Resort)
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)
  • Citricos (Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Flying Fish (Boardwalk)
  • Jaleo (Disney Springs)
  • Jiko – The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Le Cellier (Epcot)
  • Monsieur Paul (Epcot)
  • Morimoto Asia (Disney Springs, 2 credits at dinner only)
  • Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian Resort)
  • Paddlefish (Disney Springs)
  • STK (Disney Springs)
  • The BOATHOUSE (Disney Springs)
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)
  • Tiffins (Animal Kingdom)
  • Topolino’s Terrace (Riviera Resort, 2 credits at dinner only)
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club Resort)

Dinner Shows Which Require 2 Credits

  • Hoop Dee Doo Revue (Fort Wilderness Resort)
  • Spirit of Aloha (Polynesian Resort)

Restaurants That DO NOT Take the Disney Dining Plan

Really, these are few and far between, but they do exist. Any of the Disney restaurants owned by a third party vendor have the option of whether or not they want to accept the Disney dining plan. There is little known about the specific process, but presumably each year the restaurants sign a contract whether they’ll take it or not.

However, there is one category of restaurant which never takes the dining plan: the lounges. Many of the Signature Restaurants named above have corresponding lounges. The lounges share a kitchen, and sometimes menu items, with the Signature restaurant.

The lounges are a great economical way to experience some Signature Restaurant quality of dining at a fraction of the price. My favorite is Nomad Lounge, the lounge attached to Tiffins at Animal Kingdom. The lounges don’t take any reservations, nor do the participate in the Disney Dining Plan.

The other restaurant which does not take the Disney Dining Plan is Victoria & Albert’s. This is by far the most expensive restaurant in all of Disney World. If you could use the dining plan, that alone would probably make the whole thing worth it. But alas, it’s not an option.

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

This is probably the most frequent Disney Dining Plan question out there: Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Every family is a little bit different and has different needs.

Are you a family of big eaters? Is the food a big part of your Disney experience? Do you consider saving money your top priority? Is convenience and maintaining the Disney bubble a priority for your family?

The answers to these questions are what will ultimately help you decide whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth it for you.​

Who is the Disney Dining Plan BEST For?

The Disney Dining Plan is definitely not the right choice for everyone. But there are certain types of people and situations that will make it worthwhile.

Anyone Who Wants an “All-Inclusive” Feel to Their Disney Vacation

The easiest answer to this question is based on whether having an all inclusive feel to your trip is what you want. If you take price out of the equation, the ease of the Disney Dining Plan simply can’t be beat. You show up, pick whatever you want on the menu, use your credit. Easy-peasy.

In this situation, convenience is king. The only thing you need to worry about is adding on the tip if your meal is at a Table Service restaurant.

I love the Disney Dining Plan for this reason alone. There’s something to be said for knowing that all you have to pay for during your trip is tips and souvenirs.

A Family Who Wants to Pre-Pay for Their Meals to Avoid Extra Expenses

I can tell you from personal experience, it is VERY easy to spend more on food at Disney World than you meant to. All the budgeting in the world can get tossed out the window once faced with long days at the park and tempting food everywhere.

With the Dining Plan, you paid for all of your food 30 days in advance. You know you have paid an amount you are comfortable with, and as long as you don’t go over your credits, there will be no surprises.

If Your Group are “Foodies” or Big Eaters

In general, the amount of food you get on the Disney Dining Plans is huge. This is especially true if you get the Deluxe Dining Plan, at which point, the amount of food is obscene.

This is perfect if you have members of your group with big appetites. When you are on the Disney Dining Plan, there really is no reason to go hungry at any point in the day.

The Disney Dining Plan also provides an awesome opportunity to try new foods, or be able to pick the most expensive items on the menu guilt free.

This is a big reason why I loved having the Disney Dining Plan. I habitually will not order the more expensive entrees when eating at a restaurant. I simply can’t bring myself to do it. But the Disney Dining Plan not only gave me permission to do that, it gave me the most value for my money.

If You Get the FREE Disney Dining Plan Promotion

Every year, Disney World has at least one promotion where they offer free Disney Dining Plans to resort guests during certain times of the year. They do this in order to try to spread guests out into lower occupancy times of the year.

In the past, the free dining promotion took place in the fall, but in 2019 things changed around to the summer. If you have flexibility to wait until Disney released this promotion to book your trip, this could be an excellent way to potentially save money.

The type of dining plan depends on the type of room you book, and there are some other details that need to be considered. Make sure you learn all about the Disney free dining promotion before you decide if it’s right for you.

Who is the Disney Dining Plan NOT For?

Just as there are certain situations that make the Disney Dining Plan a great option, there are others where the reverse is true.

Families with Ten Year Olds (Or Young Kids Who Must Pay Adult Prices)

One thing I consider vastly unfair is that adult prices begin for 10 year olds and up. My 10 year old is now considered to be worthy of adult prices at Disney World.

If you notice above, the price difference between the Standard Disney Dining Plan for children and adults is huge. To the tune of around $48 per night! Maybe there are some kids who can eat an additional $48 worth of food a day, but mine sure can’t.

As much as I love the convenience of the Disney Dining Plan, it is for this reason alone that we won’t get it anytime soon. When I have teenagers who eat their weight in food, I might be willing to reconsider.

Sassagoula Factory and Floatworks - 1 quick service Disney dining plan credit

A Family of Light Eaters

There are some families who just don’t eat a lot of food throughout the course of the day. As a big eater myself, I can’t even begin to understand this, but it is true.

If most of your group tends to prefer salads or lighter meals in general, you will find yourself faced with a lot of uneaten food at each meal. You might be better off paying out of pocket and splitting meals amongst yourselves. The savings would probably be significant compared to the Disney Dining Plan.

If Saving Money is Truly the Top Priority

We’ll get into this in more detail below, but in general, the Disney Dining Plan won’t save you a tremendous amount of money. If your family is on a very strict budget for your Disney trip, do not consider the Disney Dining Plan. The math just won’t work out.

Even the Quick Service Dining Plan can ultimately cost more than if you approach your meals in a well thought out way. I highlight how you can accomplish this in my post all about eating on a budget at Disney World.

Did you know that you can bring a cooler into the Disney parks? Providing your own snacks, and potentially even meals, can save you more than a dining plan ever will.

Does the Disney Dining Plan Save Money?

Many people get the Disney Dining Plan to save money. But does the Disney dining plan ACTUALLY save money? The easy answer is that it probably will not, though there are of course various circumstances that need to be considered. If you are a family of big eaters or foodies then, in the end, you will likely at least break even with maybe a little bit of savings.

A lot of that depends on the types of restaurants you choose to go to. For example, all character meals automatically cost more than standard Table Service restaurants, so if you plan on doing a lot of those it is possible there could be some savings.​

Skipper Canteen - 1 table service credit on the Disney dining plan

Some Ways to Maximize the Disney Dining Plan

If you are set on getting the Disney Dining Plan and want to ensure that you do in fact save money, or at least get your money’s worth, here are some ideas to help you towards that goal. The name of the game is to maximize the Disney Dining Plan.

Do’s and Don’ts to Maximize the Disney Dining Plan

  • Don’t use your meal credits on breakfast (unless it is quick service breakfast Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom, which is a great value on the dining plan). Breakfast simply costs less
  • Do use your Table Service credits at Character meals and dining packages, they almost always cost more across the board
  • Do order the most expensive options on the menu. Here is your chance to eat all the steak and lobster you want
  • Don’t use your snack credits on bottled water, bottled sodas or anything that costs in the $3-$4 range
  • Do make sure you always order a specialty beverage, whether it’s alcoholic or non-alcoholic
  • Don’t use your Table Service credits at Signature Restaurants – they require 2 Table Service Credits but the meals don’t cost twice as much

Disney Dining Plan vs. Tables in Wonderland

With 2018-2019 being the year of the annual pass for us, we actually decided not to get the Disney Dining Plan to see if we could manage any savings with our same eating habits and the Tables in Wonderland card. We are eligible for Table in Wonderland due to being Disney Vacation Club members.

The Tables in Wonderland dining discount card has an up front cost of $150. However it’s good for a year and gets you 20% off of most of the Table Service restaurants and a few Quick Service restaurants. The discount also includes 20% off of alcohol. Can you sense my excitement at the prospect of 20% off of alcoholic beverages?

My accountant husband did the math and you need to spend $750 on dining to cover the cost of the Table In Wonderland card itself, everything beyond that is gravy. In a week long Disney trip, this is pretty easily done.

The short version of my experiment led to us saving some money going with Table In Wonderland instead of the Disney Dining Plan, but not a tremendous amount. Part of this was due to some of the big choices we made that didn’t take the Tables in Wonderland discount (i.e. Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Candlelight Processional Dining Package).

If we stuck with no packages or shows, our savings with Tables in Wonderland over the Disney Dining Plan actually would have been extensive.

Disney Dining Plan FAQ

Aside from the scads of questions looked at above, there are a handful of other frequently asked questions about the Disney dining plan.

What do I do with leftover Disney dining credits?

The immediate answer is you never want to have leftover Disney dining credits. Any leftover Disney dining credit is essentially money down the drain.

It is especially important to not have either quick service or table service credits leftover. The most frequent leftover Disney dining credits are the snack credits. Even as a big eater myself, I’ve run into the trap of having leftover snack credits on the last day of my trip.

If you have leftover snack credits, the last ditch strategy is to go to the gift shop at your resort and use all those credits on snacks for the plane. This is still not a good value use of your snack credit, but it’s better than leaving that snack credit on the table.

Can you get the Disney Dining Plan with an Annual Pass?

Yes you can! The Disney dining plan is attached to your Disney resort stay, not necessarily the park ticket. Annual Passholders with a Disney resort reservation are able to book the Disney dining plan.

Do I still qualify for the Disney dining plan if I buy my tickets from Undercover Tourist?

I’m going to be a bit of a broken record here, but I want to make sure I covered all the bases. As long as you have a Disney resort reservation and park tickets linked to My Disney Experience, you are eligible for the Disney dining plan.

The cast member might have to “alter” your reservation to designate it as a Magic Your Way package, but you should be good to go. I have done this personally so know it can be done.

Can you purchase a Disney Dining Plan by itself?

The answer to this question is unfortunately no. It is not possible to purchase a Disney dining plan by itself. It has to be tied in with a Disney resort reservation. This means that anyone staying at an off-site hotel or condo (or an Annual Passholder with no hotel reservation) is not eligible.

How do I use my dining plan credits?

Honestly, this is the easiest part of the whole process. And, this is why people love the Disney dining plan so much. At the time of purchase of the meal or snack, you simply scan your MagicBand. Presto! You’re done! The convenience factor of the Disney dining plan really can’t be beat.

Tip: If you want to pay for an item with cash (i.e. buy a bottle of water) but don’t want to waste a snack credit on it, make sure you specifically tell the cashier this. They can easily switch to charging your card on file instead of taking a credit. Just check the receipt to confirm that a credit was not used.

How do I keep track of how many Disney dining credits I have left?

Disney now makes it pretty easy to keep track of how many credits you have left. The easiest way is to check your My Disney Experience app on your phone. This information can be found under the “My Plans” section of the app.

Alternately, every time you get a receipt from a restaurant or kiosk, the bottom of the receipt will list how many credits you have left.

Disney Dining Plan Tips

There really is so much to understand about the Disney Dining Plan. Here are some more Disney Dining Plan tips and tricks to help you out.

  • Quick Service credits can be used on either adult entrees or kids meals, giving kids more options
  • Some Quick Service restaurants have meals large enough for two adults to share, allowing you to have an extra credit for later
  • Using snack credits at any of the Epcot Festivals is one of the biggest bangs for your buck
  • To get the most out of your money, NEVER leave unused credits at the end of your trip
  • You can use leftover snack credits on prepackaged snacks to take home with you to enjoy even after the trip is over
  • A Quick Service credit can be broken into 3 snack credits if done in one transaction
  • To truly maximize the Disney Dining Plan, you need to order the most expensive item on the menu at the restaurants with the highest value
  • The dining credits for all people in a room go into one “pool” to draw from
    • This can allow for sharing and creative snack credit use to make the most out of those dining plan credits
  • You can check how many credits your family has left on the My Disney Experience app
  • Pay for your Disney Dining Plan (or any other dining for that matter) with discounted Disney gift cards to save some extra money
  • You can now use your Disney Dining Plan credits when Mobile Ordering at Quick Service restaurants

Final Thoughts on the Disney Dining Plan

As you can probably tell, I am generally a fan of the dining plan. For my family, it’s mainly about the convenience factor of it all, and the ability to eat large amounts of food throughout the trip. However, some further factors to consider when thinking about the dining plan are the ages of the members of your party.

I sure don’t think I would pay that much money for a 3-year-old who would barely eat enough food to make it worthwhile. Same goes for a 10-year-old who doesn’t eat enough to justify the adult price tag, convenience or no.

If you are a family on a very tight budget that needs to eat as cheaply as possible, definitely don’t do the dining plan. No matter how you slice it, there are various hacks you can do that would allow you to eat at the parks for much cheaper than you would pay on the dining plan.  

I have successfully taken a 3-night trip while spending a total of just over $100 on all of the food I ate. As a comparison, that same trip on the Quick Service Dining Plan would have cost me $157. I would have gotten a lot more food on the Quick Service Dining Plan, but saving money was my main priority on that particular trip.

This example pretty clearly illustrates the core choice when it comes to the dining plan. Ask yourself whether you want to truly save money or have the convenience and extra food? The answer to that question should lead you in the right direction.

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Your Thoughts

What are you thoughts about the dining plan? Love it? Hate it? Do you have any other tips you think need to be added to my list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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