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

We love to eat at Walt Disney World. The gastronomy here is top-notch with a variety of restaurants to fit every palate. And for this reason alone, hells to the yeah, the Disney Dining plan is worth it!

More than worth it! In fact, we’d go so far as to say the Disney Dining Plan is non-negotiable. 

In addition to hundreds of restaurants to choose from, snacks to pluck ripe off the carts scattered throughout the kingdoms, and free drink refills, when you choose the Disney Dining Plan you are effectively creating an All Inclusive Walt Disney World Vacation.

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It?

Herein you’ll find a complete list of reasons why you should add the dining plan to your vacation, we’ve also broken down the cost benefit ratio, and we even recommend a few restaurants that are worth every penny!  

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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!

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 actually want to eat out.

I mean, you did pay upwards of $100 a day per person to come to Walt Disney World, to ride rides and experience the magic didn’t you? Would you rather that time and money go to spending time at the parks, or 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 Elephant in the Room 

Yes, Disney isn’t cheap. No one is going to argue with you there. 

If you are asking yourself: Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Look at it this way – The Disney Dining Plan provides a discount for the same meals you already have to buy. 

The plan allows you to maximize your time at the parks and maximize the way that you spend your money during your vacation. Keep reading.

What Can You Order?

Anything and everything! Drinks, desserts, and any entrée on the menu is fair game.

The only thing not included are appetizers.

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Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian (courtesy of Disney)

What Does it Include?

There are three Disney Dining Plans to choose from. Each plan offers a set number of credits per person, per night of your stay. They are bundled up and added together for you to use them at your leisure, however you desire. 

  • 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 your choice of entrée. Each table service meal comes with a drink, your choice of entrée, and a dessert for each member of your party.

Snacks include cotton candy, popcorn, mickey ice cream bar, and more!

And drinks? Those include milkshakes, lemonade and a variety of other beverage options including alcohol.

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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, character dining, signature dining, buffets, meet and greets, dinner and a show, surf and turf, snack carts, the food and wine festival…

The list goes on and on and on, and is nearly limitless. When considering is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Ask yourself if there are some places that you’d have a hard time justifying going to if you were paying out of pocket.

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. 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 and are now on our list of favorite places to eat!

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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.

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  1. Look for $$$ verses $$ when it comes to the how much a restaurant costs to dine at. The more dollar signs the better! 
  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. 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.

Let’s break it down.

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

Snack Credits Value

The snack credit value alone will offer a family of 4, $44 of spending money per day.

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.

Plus, a refillable mug for the entire duration of your vacation and a keepsake to take home.

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.

How Low Can You Keep Your Food Budget?

So, the question that remains is how low can you keep your food budget at Walt Disney World?

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Well, that depends. Can a family of four eat for less than $144 a day? Planning for 3 meals a day, you would have to keep your budget to $48 or less per meal.

Let’s compare a few different restaurants at Walt Disney World 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 (Animal Kingdom)

On the Cheap:
Adult Meal: Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich: Sandwich topped with coleslaw and served with house-made baked beans – $8.99 (2)
Child’s Meal: 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)
Drinks: None
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)
Drinks: 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 (Epcot)

On the Cheap:
Adult Meal: Nachos: Tortilla chips topped with ground beef, cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, beans and sour cream – $10.95 (2)
Children’s Meal: Empanadas con Queso- Kids: Tortilla chips with nacho cheese, and a choice of milk, chocolate milk, soda, or water – $7.99 (2)
Drinks: None
Family of 4 Total
: $37.88

Disney Dining Plan:
Adult Meal: 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 cheapest meal, only kids menu items, and no drinks or desserts.

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

Now let’s 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 entrée, 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 (Magic Kingdom)

On the Cheap:
Adult Meal: Pan-seared Chicken Breast: Served with confit fingerling potatoes and arugula salad with braised heirloom tomatoes and a roasted garlic aioli – $27.00 (2)
Children’s Meal: 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)
Drinks: None
Family of 4 Total
: $76

Disney Dining Plan:
Adult Meal: Grilled Strip Steak: Served with garlic-herb butter and pommes frites – $35 (2)
Children’s Meal: Grilled Steak – Kids: Served with seasonal vegetables and fruit cup plus milk or water – $13 (2)
Drinks: $5 (2)
Dessert
: $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 entire 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 (Epcot)

On the Cheap:
Adult Meal: Oven-roasted Chicken Breast: Corn tamale, sweet baby peppers, black beans, sauce ranchero, cotija cheese – $26 (2)
Children’s Meal: Coral Reef Mac & Cheese: – $10 (2)
Drinks: None
Family of 4 Total
: $72

Disney Dining Plan:
Adult Meal: Seafood Scampi: Seared skewer of sea scallops and shrimp, mussels, tomatoes and pasta with scampi butter – $32 (2)
Children’s Meal: Crispy Fish and Chips – Kids: French fries, broccoli, and tartar sauce – $12 (2) (for a dollar more you can get a steak)
Drinks: – $4.50 (2)
Dessert
: – $9 (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 in one meal alone!
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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 in one meal alone!
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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

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Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort (courtesy of Disney)

Final Thoughts: Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

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.

But only if you strictly eat fast food for your entire trip and avoid drinks, desserts and snacks. You also have to skip breakfast.

With the Disney Dining Plan you can work around breakfast by ordering fruit cups, muffins and bottled juices with your quick service meals and snacks. Or, if your kids can share meals, you can utilize extra quick service credits for hotel breakfasts.

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth it? Well, it depends on how much you like breakfast and fast food. 

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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 a 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
  • Quick Service credits do not include dessert, but does include drinks
  • 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! That’s the easiest answer to is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

Disney is famous for offering Free Dining during the fall months, or slower periods to drive traffic to the park. 

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. 

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Sci-Fi Theater and Dine-In Restaurant at Hollywood Studios (courtesy of Disney)

COVID-19 Update

The Disney Dining Plan is not currently being offered, but rumor is it’s coming back in 2021.

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

Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Top 11 Best Restaurants at Animal Kingdom, our favorite restaurants at Epcot, and the Most Magical Restaurants at Magic Kingdom (coming soon). 

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