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Cookes of Dublin in Disney Springs

We love to eat at Walt Disney World. The gastronomy here is top-notch with a variety of restaurants to fit every palate. Want proof? Check out our Table of Contents for Walt Disney World Restaurants. For this reason, the Disney Dining Plan is non-negotiable for us. We’ve compiled a list of reasons why and created a guide to the Disney Dining Plan.

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Biergarten in Epcot (courtesy of Disney)

In fact: This is the Last Guide you will ever need regarding the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World, at least until they change everything next year.

The Last Guide You Will Ever Need For The Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World

Why Purchase the Dining Plan?

You have to eat, right? It’s a no brainer. Unless you are like some people I know, who pre cook all their meals and then freeze them prior to vacation and pack a suitcase full of ice packs and tupperware, you want to eat out. Of course, there is also utilizing what time you could be spending at Walt Disney World riding rides and experiencing the magic that you paid upwards of $100 a day per person for, to instead get a taxi and spend your time at the grocery store and then cooking food in your hotel. When I’m on vacation, I actually want to be on vacation.

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La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot (courtesy of Disney)

The Disney Dining Plan provides a discount for the same meals you have to buy to eat, and food at Walt Disney World ain’t cheap.

What Can You Order?

Anything and everything! Appetizers aren’t included, but drinks, dessert, and any entree on the menu is fair game.

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Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian (courtesy of Disney

What Does it Cover?

There are three Disney Dining Plans to choose from. Each plan offers a daily allotment of credits per person, per night of your stay.

  • Quick Service Dining Plan
    • 2 quick service credits, 2 snack credits
  • The Standard Disney Dining Plan (referred to in this post)
    • 1 quick service credit, 1 table service credit, 2 snack credits
  • Deluxe Dining Plan
    • 3 meal credits at either quick or table service, 2 snack credits
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Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in Epcot (courtesy of Disney)

The Standard Disney Dining Plan offers each person in your family one quick service meal (think fast food), one table service meal (think sit down restaurant) and two snacks per day. With any meal plan, you also get a refillable resort mug (think big-gulp, but smaller; the cup is insulated and comes with a hard lid and can be refilled at any resort). Each quick service meal comes with a drink, and entree options vary per restaurant; each table service meal comes with a drink, entree options vary, and a dessert for each member of your family.

Maybe you are the rare family that can get away with never buying cotton candy, popcorn, or a mickey ice cream bar, and you only drink water. Just so you know, milkshakes and lemonade are included with meals as well, as well as a variety of other beverage options including alcohol coming in 2018.

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California Grill Lounge at the Contemporary Resort (courtesy of Disney)

What is it Good For?

Hundreds of restaurants at Walt Disney World from resort cafeterias to character dining to signature dining. This offers you a chance to eat at some restaurants you might not have ever considered! For a full list of restaurants included check the Walt Disney World website.

What’s in it For Me?

Choosing the Disney Dining Plan means you’ve just created an all inclusive package for your Walt Disney World trip! Rather than budgeting a set allowance per meal, you can choose from the best restaurants across the Kingdom, without restrictions on which menu items you can choose from, and without forgoing desserts or snacks throughout the park. You can eat and eat and eat and eat some more. As mentioned above, it also gives you an excuse to be adventurous with your palette. We may never have opted for Restaurant Marrakesh, or Akershus in Norway had we not had the convenience of the Dining Plan. Consequently, these are both restaurants we loved.

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Saana at Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village (courtesy of Disney)

How Do I Maximize Value?

There are a number of ways to do this.

  1. Look for $$$ verses $$ when it comes to the how much a restaurant costs to dine at.
  2. Order the most expensive menu item, and utilize credits at restaurants which offer greater value for redemption.
  3. Redeem your drink credit for a milkshake, or signature drink, which is a higher value than a soda.
  4. Don’t use a snack credit for a $2 item, when you can get a $5.50 one instead.
  5. Use Quick Service credits for lunches.
  6. Use Table Service credits for dinners.
  7. It’s best to skip using any credits for breakfast, but if you do, choose a character breakfast.
  8. Use snack credits for fruit cups, or muffins that you can take back to the hotel and eat for breakfast the next morning. Instead of eating 8 Mickey Bars in one day, eat 4, and get 4 fruit cups for breakfast the following morning.
  9. Opt for apple juice instead of soda for your drink allowance because it can sit in the heat without going bad and be used for a midnight or morning snack.
  10. Get longevity out of your credits by using children’s dining credits for adult meals at quick service restaurants.
  11. Have the kids share one large meal, and save an extra quick service credit to use for breakfast, or extra snacks.
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Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot (courtesy of Disney)

Will I Save Money?

The standard Disney Dining Plan is going to run you $69.35 for Adults, and $24.95 for children 3-9, per day. For our family of 5 (which includes a baby who is free on the dining plan) that comes out to $188.66 per day for two adults and two children. At first look, that sounds like way more than you would ever spend on food per day, right?

In order for the Disney Dining Plan to be a good value, you have to spend more than $188.66 out of pocket for your entire family.

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Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club Resort (courtesy of Disney)

Let’s break it down.

Snack Credits Value

Drinks: Refillable Mug | $17.99
Every person staying at a Walt Disney Resort on the Disney Dining Plan is issued one refillable drink mug that you can top out as often as you want for the duration of your stay.

Drinks: Fountain Drinks | $40 per day
With a quick service credit you get either a drink or a dessert, and depending on the restaurant you may only be allowed a drink option. With each table service credit you also get a drink. Drinks and desserts average around $5.  

Dessert: Cakes and Pie | $28 per day
Each table service meal comes with a dessert, and is offered at an average of of $7 per dessert.

Snacks: Mickey Bars, Cotton Candy, Cinnamon Rolls, Sushi | $44
Two snacks a day with a minimum price of $5.50 each is a great value on the plan.

Add in all this and you’ve just added an out of pocket value of: $129.99 per day.

The biggest question that remains is how low can you keep your food budget at Walt Disney World? Eating strictly at quick service restaurants is the way to do it, and ordering the cheapest menu item without any fanfare. Let’s compare a few different restaurants at Walt Disney World from both perspectives, and settle this once and for all.  

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50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios (courtesy of Disney)

Comparison Quick Service Credits

We’ll compare two quick service restaurants in different parks to round out the options, using lunch menu items. For the On the Cheap items, we’ve selected a few meals in the middle ground to offer a good example of an average meal, but keep in mind there are more and less expensive menu items to pick from. Additionally, the top menu item will be an adult entree, and the bottom one will be from the child’s menu. For the Disney Dining Plan we’ll select the most expensive item to illustrate how you can maximize your dining credits and value.

Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom

On the Cheap:
Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich: Sandwich topped with coleslaw and served with house-made baked beans – $8.99 (2)
Smucker’s Uncrustables Sandwich – Kids: All meals include two selections: grapes, applesauce, or steamed broccoli and a choice of milk, or small water – $5.99 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $29.96

Dining Plan Version:
Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork Sampler: Smoked ribs, chicken and pulled pork served with house-made baked beans, coleslaw and jalapeno cornbread – $19.99 (4)
Mandarin Orange Lemonade: $3.99 (4)
Family of 4 Total: $95.92
This is an excellent value restaurant (check out the section How Do I Maximize Value?), for several reasons.

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Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom (courtesy of Disney)
  1. You can select any menu item. For the above example you’ve earned 100% of the daily value on the kids plan.
  2. For the entire family, the value comes out to 50% of your daily value, and this was only a quick service restaurant. Your dining plan also includes a table dining credit as well.
  3. You probably don’t need this much food. You can order 2, or even 3 of these platters and save one of your quick service credits for later use.
La Cantina de San Angel

On the Cheap:
Nachos: Tortilla chips topped with ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, beans and sour cream – $10.95 (2)
Empanadas con Queso- Kids: Tortilla chips with nacho cheese, and a choice of milk, chocolate milk, soda, or water – $7.99 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $37.88

Disney Dining Plan:
Tacos de Barbacoa: Seasoned Beef, homemade corn tortillas, mexican rice, refried black beans and red salsa – $12.75 (4)
Drinks: $3.50 (4)
Family of 4 Total: $65

  1. Clearly, this isn’t quite as good of a value as the previous example, however at $65 you’d only have to spend $80 on dinner to get full value of your credits once you include snacks.
  2. For the entire family, the value comes out to 34% of your daily value, and this was only a quick service restaurant. Your dining plan also includes a table dining credit as well.

So far, yes, buying a meal priced somewhere in the middle, you can keep quick service restaurants around $35 a meal ordering the bare minimum. But, on the same note, quick service meal plans offer a value of at least 40% of the dining plan value. It’s clear the Disney Dining Plan offers a great value at quick service restaurants.

Comparison Table Service Credits

We’ll compare two standard table service restaurants, plus a buffet, and a character dining experience using dinner menu options. For table service restaurants, children’s meals must be picked from the children’s menu. Same as before, the top menu item will be an adult entree, and the bottom one will be from the child’s menu. Also, at table service restaurants, kids meals comes with the dessert included. For the On the Cheap items, we’ve selected a few meals in the middle ground to offer a good example of an average meal, but keep in mind there are more and less expensive menu items to pick from. For the Disney Dining Plan we’ll select the most expensive item to illustrate how you can maximize your dining credits and value.

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Teppan Edo in Epcot

Above, we compared the equivalent of a fast food restaurant. Now, we’ll be comparing the equivalent of a sit down table restaurant.

Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom

On the Cheap:
Pan-seared Chicken Breast: Served with confit fingerling potatoes and arugula salad with braised heirloom tomatoes and a roasted garlic aioli – $27.00 (2)
Mickey Meatloaf – Kids: Turkey meatloaf with broccoli and zucchini served with dipping sauce and fruit cup, plus a choice of milk or water – $11.00 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $76

Disney Dining Plan:
Grilled Strip Steak: Served with garlic-herb butter and pommes frites – $35 (2)
Grilled Steak – Kids: Served with seasonal vegetables and fruit cup plus milk or water – $13 (2)
Cupcake: $5 (2)
Drinks: $5 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $116

  1. This is a typical restaurant when it comes to value. This is the standard amount you’ll spend at any table service restaurant out of pocket, or on the Disney Dining Plan.  
  2. This example covers 62% of your daily dining credits.  
  3. If you dined at La Cantina de San Angel and Be Our Guest, you’d utilize 96% of your meal plan and still have 8 snacks to redeem.
Be Our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland, Walt Disney World
Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom (courtesy of Disney)
Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot

On the Cheap:
Oven-roasted Chicken Breast: Corn tamale, sweet baby peppers, black beans, sauce ranchero, cotija cheese – $26 (2)
Coral Reef Mac & Cheese: – $10 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $72

Disney Dining Plan:
Seafood Scampi: Seared skewer of sea scallops and shrimp, mussels, tomatoes and pasta with scampi butter – $32 (2)
Crispy Fish and Chips – Kids: French fries, broccoli, and tartar sauce – $12 (2) (for a dollar more you can get a steak)
Dessert: – $9 (2)
Drinks: – $4.50 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $115

  1. Another typical restaurant when it comes to Walt Disney World.
  2. This example again covers 62% of your daily dining credits.
Coral Reef Restaurant
Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot (courtesy of Disney)
1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian (Princess Dining Buffet)

On the Cheap & Disney Dining Plan:
Full Buffet: – $47 (2)
Full Buffet: – $29 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $152

  1. This is an excellent value.   
  2. This example covers 80% of your daily dining credits.
Disney Dining Plan, the last guide you'll need for the disney dining plan, restaurants, orlando, florida, wdw, dining out, eating at walt disney world, diapersonaplane, Diapers On A Plane, traveling with kids, family travel, creating family memories
1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian (courtesy of Disney)
Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House (Buffet)

On the Cheap & Disney Dining Plan:
Full Buffet: – $43 (2)
Full Buffet: – $24 (2)
Family of 4 Total: $134

  1. This is another excellent value.   
  2. This example covers 72% of your daily dining credits.
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Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge (courtesy of Disney)

Final Value Summary

Taking the average from these examples, you can determine the daily average value to be the following:

Disney Dining Plan:
Quick Service Restaurant = $98
Table Service Restaurant = $125.29
Snacks = $40
Total Daily Value of the Dining Plan per day =  $267.25
Total Spent for the Dining Plan Daily = $188.66
Daily Average Savings: $78.59

Paying out of pocket:
Quick Service Restaurant = $33.92
Table Service Restaurant = $108.50
Snacks = $40
Total Daily Value of the Dining Plan per day =  $182.42
Total Spent for the Dining Plan Daily = $188.66
Daily Average Savings: $6.24

Disney Dining Plan, the last guide you'll need for the disney dining plan, restaurants, orlando, florida, wdw, dining out, eating at walt disney world, diapersonaplane, Diapers On A Plane, traveling with kids, family travel, creating family memories
Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort (courtesy of Disney)

The Rundown

It’s definitely possible to spend less at Walt Disney World on a day by day basis than what you would spend for the Disney Dining Plan. If you strictly eat fast food for your entire trip and avoid drinks, desserts and snacks. Keep in mind also, neither of these examples include breakfast. WIth the Disney Dining Plan you can work around that by ordering fruit cups, muffins and bottled juices with your quick service meals and snacks. Without the Dining Plan you’re on your own.

Disney Dining Plan, the last guide you'll need for the disney dining plan, restaurants, orlando, florida, wdw, dining out, eating at walt disney world, diapersonaplane, Diapers On A Plane, traveling with kids, family travel, creating family memories
Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club Resort (courtesy of Disney)

Important things to note:

  • The Disney dining plan does not include tips – so factor that in as you will
  • The Disney dining plan is only available for guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort Hotel
  • You must be staying a minimum of 3 nights, including 2 day park hopper park tickets to qualify for the Disney Dining Plan
  • Breakfast does not include dessert, but it does include a drink
  • You can redeem two table service credits for a signature dining restaurant
  • Just as you can use 1 quick service credit for 3 snacks, you can exchange 3 snack credits for 1 quick service meal
  • Credits can be saved and used on any day, in any combination that fits your needs
  • Credits can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner

What is the Ultimate Way to Save on the Disney Dining Plan?

The ultimate way to save on the Disney Dining Plan is to get it for free! Disney is famous for offering Free Dining during the fall months. The dates change every year, both for availability and release dates, and cannot be combined with any other hotel or discount. Sometimes it’s even offered in the spring! Only a certain number of rooms per hotel can reserve free dining, and it comes on a first come, first serve basis. Depending on the type of resort you booked, depends on the type of free dining plan you get – but you can always pay the difference for the plan you want. This is our first year scoring Free Dining – we paid $300 to upgrade to the Standard plan. $300 divided by 7 days = $10 a day per person!

Disney Dining Plan, the last guide you'll need for the disney dining plan, restaurants, orlando, florida, wdw, dining out, eating at walt disney world, diapersonaplane, Diapers On A Plane, traveling with kids, family travel, creating family memories
Sci-Fi Theater and Dine-In Restaurant at Hollywood Studios (courtesy of Disney)

What do you think? Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?   

Check out our Full Table of Contents of Walt Disney World Restaurants we’ve dined at, and our Glossary of Terms for the Disney Dining Plan.

Disney Dining Plan, the last guide you'll need for the disney dining plan, restaurants, orlando, florida, wdw, dining out, eating at walt disney world, diapersonaplane, Diapers On A Plane, traveling with kids, family travel, creating family memories
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