Using the Disney Dining Plan
So here we are starting another new year, and what does that mean? It means, my friend, that the stress of the holidays are over and it’s time to focus on this years vacation planning! With January being a super common time to plan the years vacations, I figured it would be the perfect time to talk about the perks of the Disney dining plan!
I have read manyyyyy many blog posts about the different Disney dining plans and whether they are worth it or not. Some will say it’s not worth having unless you receive the free dining plan offer and others say it is absolutely worth it. I am on the side that the dining plan is EXTREMELY worth it with consideration of price and convenience; the dining plan is even one of my major reasons to staying on Disney property. But we have to remember that we all have different methods and schedules of eating at Disney so that should be taken into consideration too.
Jesse and I are heading to Walt Disney World again in March. This will be our 1st official trip as DVC members and I am so excited to stay at Copper Creek Villas (our home resort) for the first time! As DVC members, we have the convenience of booking our trip without having to put any money down (instead we pay monthly); however, we still have to purchase tickets and our dining plan if we choose to use it. We are annual pass holders, so our tickets are covered for the year which leaves the dining plan as our main cost for the trip. While we are on the topic of the cost, lets dive right into the price and how it works.
There are 4 different dining plan options at Walt Disney World. You can choose from the Disney’s Quick Service Dining plan, the Disney’s Dining Plan, the Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan, and the new Disney Dining Plan Plus. The prices vary for each option as well as what comes with the plan. The price of your plan also depends on the length of your stay, by the number of nights you have booked. If you book a 7 night, 8 day stay (Saturday to Saturday) you will have 7 days worth of the dining plan per person on the reservation that is 3 and older. You are not required to use your meals on specific days, just throughout the length of your stay is fine.
Let’s start with the quick service dining plan. Jesse and I have used this one once and it works out great when you are in a hurry and really do not have the time for table service restaurants. What’s included in this plan is: 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks per person, per day. Plus 1 refillable mug per person that may be used at the drink stations at the Disney World resort hotels (not the theme parks). Currently, this plan is roughly $52.50 per adult, per day (it will be slightly less for children). Just to give an idea of how much it would cost for a one week trip (7 nights) for Jesse and I, we would spend $734.92.
The first time we used the dining plan, I kept track of the price of all our meals so that I could compare and see if we actually saved money with the dining plan. We were spending roughly $50 each time we ate at a quick service restaurant (with everything that was included), so that is about $25 per quick service meal, per person. When each person eats 2 quick service meals per day, that is roughly $50 already spent that day and your dining plan price for the day is almost already met. When you add on your 2 snacks per day that are typically $5 or more, you have already ended up saving money using the dining plan instead of paying per meal.
Now I know we may only eat as much as we do because we have the dining plan, so of course you may save money in the long run because you only eat 1 dole whip or Mickey shaped ice cream on your trip, but with the convenience of the dining plan, you are able to not have to worry about how much you just spent on each meal and you are free to try a variety of things.
So next, we have the Disney Dining plan. This one is the middle option, and my favorite to use. This plan gives you flexibility in where you eat and is only a little more than $20 more per day. Included with this plan is: 1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, and 2 snacks per person, per day, plus the refillable mug for use at the resorts. This plan gives you the option to make dining reservations for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any of the parks, resorts, or Disney Springs. We are always sure to make at least 1 character dining reservation on our trips as well (Crystal Palace is one of our favorites!). This plan is currently about $75.50 per adult, per day, and again for a week long trip Jesse and I would spend $1,056.84 on this plan.
Another example to show you the value of this plan is the price of character meals. Jesse and I ate dinner at Hollywood and Vine on our last trip in August. I wasn’t concerned about the price because we were on the dining plan; however, I noticed that the price listed for an adult dinner was $50 per person. Now remember that a quick service meal cost us roughly $25 per meal, so when we add that up we are once again almost breaking even for the day without even including our 2 daily snacks!
And finally we have the Deluxe dining plan. I have not yet used this plan but I plan to on one trip when we want to try a variety of the signature dining restaurants (better known as the 2 dining credit restaurants). This plan includes: 3 daily meals (either quick service or table service) and 2 snacks per day, plus the refillable mug per person. This plan gives you the most flexibility as you are free to choose quick service or table service for each meal. Some people may like this plan because it gives them the ability to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner without having to use a snack as one of those meals. Others may enjoy this plan in order to use the extra meal points at restaurants such as Cinderella’s Royal Table or Jiko, where two table service meal credits are required for each meal.
For me personally, I can’t imagine eating 3 full meals a day while at Disney World; however, I think using the deluxe dining plan for signature dining experiences would be the way to go for Jesse and I! Currently this plan is about $116.24 per adult per day and would cost Jesse and I $1,627.42 for a week long vacation. So if you are a person who wants to do a character breakfast, a quick service lunch and another character dinner, I would recommend this plan to help save you some money!
Updated as of February 2020 – There is now a new dining plan called the Disney Dining Plan Plus that lands in between the Disney Dining Plan and Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. This “plus” version includes 2 meals per day that can be used as either quick service or table service meals. This is a nice option if you want to try some extra table service restaurants but don’t quite need 3 meals per day! With this plan you will also still have 2 snacks per day and the refillable mug! This option comes in at $94.61 per adult per day or $1,324.54 for a week for Jesse and I. I look forward to trying this plan in the future!
The only other expense to remember when dining on the dining plan is tip when you are dining at a table service restaurant. The tip is not included on the dining plan and you will also be expected to pay for any extra food that you order such as appetizers. You can either pay the check while at the restaurant for tip and any extra food, or you can scan your magic band and have the total charged to the card on your account.
Another newer addition to the dining plan was the addition of specialty or alcoholic beverages as an option with each meal. Right there is another money saver as alcohol or specialty drinks can certainly add up!
So I leave the decision to you with a little advice from me. I absolutely love the dining plan and I truly recommend giving it a try if you are unsure. It takes time to learn and do not be afraid to ask cast members what’s included on your plan! Fortunately Disney typically includes a DDP marker next to menu items that snack credits can be used on.
One of our favorite places to use our snack credits is Starbucks. Starbucks can certainly get pricey so at home I always stick to what I like, but while I’m at Disney World, I take the opportunity to venture out and try new drinks and I haven’t been disappointed yet!
So let me know what you think! Are you for or against the dining plan? Which one is your favorite?