The Walt Disney World Dining Plan isn’t new to the Disney World vacation planning tips that many people give. After all it has been around for a very long time. It can be a great way to save some extra money, but it won’t help everyone save on their vacation.
Walt Disney World Dining Plan: Is it Worth the Cost?
I love going to Walt Disney World, but even I cannot deny that a Disney vacation can get pricey. Dining costs can get especially high. Which is why many vacationers spend time considering adding a dining plan to their package.
The dining plan can be a great add-on, but it is not for everyone. The question is though, “is it worth the cost for you?”
A Look at the Walt Disney World Dining Plan Options
I suppose I should start with a quick overview for those of you that don’t know much about the Walt Disney World Dining Plan. The dining plan is a dining service that you can add to your vacation package. The dining plan will cover the cost of the majority of your meals for your Walt Disney World stay.
The number of days of the package is based on the number of room nights you booked. So, if you book a 5 night 6 day vacation then you’re dining plan will be for 5 days. You can use the amount any way you like and it can be used from the day of check-in through the day of check-out.
There are three different plans to choose from. The prices listed below are for 2018 packages.
Quick Service Dining Plan
This plan includes 2 quick service (aka counter service) meals per day. For these meals you get an entree, dessert and drink. The plan also includes one snack every day. Each person on the plan will also receive a refillable drink mug that can be used at any resort for unlimited drinks during your entire length of stay. The cost per adult per day is $52.49, and per child (ages 3-9) per day is $21.75.
Basic Dining Plan
This plan includes 1 quick service meal per day (same inclusions as above). It also includes 1 table service meal per day. The table service meal allows you to get an entree, drink, and dessert or it can be a buffet meal. Each day you will also get one snack credit as well. As with the Quick Service Plan each guest will also receive a refillable drink mug. The cost per adult per day is $75.49, and per child (ages 3-9) per day is $25.80.
Deluxe Dining Plan
This plan covers three full meals a day. You can choose to use your meals at any type of restaurant (quick service or table service). Quick service meals include the same foods as mentioned above, but table service meals include an appetizer as well as the entree, drink, and dessert. This plan includes two snacks per day, and each guest still receives a refillable mug. The cost per adult per day is $116.24, and per child (ages 3-9) per day is $39.90. The cost of this plan can vary some depending on the season.
Is the Walt Disney World Dining Plan Worth the Cost?
The big question though is if the Walt Disney World Dining Plan is worth the cost or not. The answer isn’t a black and white one though. The usefulness of the dining plan truly varies from one family to the other. Let’s break it down.
The Benefits of the Dinging Plan
- It makes budgeting for your trip a lot easier when you’ve paid for most, if not all, of your dining costs before you even leave the house.
- If you have big eaters in your party it could save you money on dining costs.
- You can order whatever you want and not worry about how much something costs.
- For the 2018 plans alcohol and specialty drinks are now included. This allows you to splurge on fun drinks without adding to the bill.
- It can also help save you money if you want to do a lot of character meals as the cost of those can be high.
The Disadvantages of the Dining Plan
- You may end up overeating… A LOT! Many people find that the amount of food included is way more than they normally eat, but no one wants to waste what’s covered, so people end up overeating day after day.
- If you don’t have big eaters in the family than you might find that the daily cost of the plan is more money than you would spend if didn’t use the plan.
- With the Basic Dining Plan some table service restaurants are considered premium ones and will require two of your table service credits to eat at them on your plan.
- Children 3-9 must order a kids meal. The only exception is kids can order from the adult menu if you have the Deluxe Dining Plan. This won’t be an issue for most kids, but I know there are some out there that wouldn’t be OK with that rule.
- If you get the Basic Dining Plan you’ll be paying for a table service meal every day. We prefer to only do a few table service meals per trip (usually ones with Disney characters) because those can become long and they take up a lot of your park time.
- Gratuity is not included for table service meals, so you will still need to have money on hand for that.
So is the cost worth it? That truly depends on your family and situation. The important thing is to do some research and see if the Dining Plan will actually save you money or cost you more. Although there is something to be said about paying for a convenience.
Tips For Using the Walt Disney World Dining Plans
Now if you do decide to go with the Dining Plan I have some tips to help you get the most out of them.
First, be sure to read up on how the dining plan that you chose works. Each plan works a little differently. Plus there are some substitutions and such that can be made, so make sure you know what you can and can’t do.
Second, take advantage of those snack credits! Unless you have some really big eaters you likely will find that you won’t be hungry enough to want to get a snack during the day. If you get the Quick Service or Basic Dining Plans a great way to use your credits is to buy a something for your breakfast. In the past we’ve used them on everything from pastries, to fruit, to yogurt.
As a side tip make sure to purchase your snack items separately from any other food you might be purchasing at that time. That way you can be sure that your credits get used for the most expensive items.
If you find yourself with a lot of snack credits at the end of your trip another choice would be to buy packaged food (such as a box of little cookies or cheesy Mickey head crackers) that you can take with you. These can be really useful as snacks for the trip back home, or they’re a fun way to bring some magic back to your day once you’ve returned home.
I hope this has helped you better understand the basics of the Walt Disney World dining plan options. I hope it also helped shed some light on whether a dining plan would be a good choice for your vacation or not!
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Resources
- Birnbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World
- Birbaum’s Guide to Walt Disney World for Kids by Kids
- Disney Dining Plans 2017: Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of the Dining Plans at Walt Disney World (Includes Updates for 2018)
- The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Kindle Edition)
More Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Tips
- 5 Tips for Preparing for Your Walt Disney World Vacation
- 10 Best Use of Snack Credits at Disney
- Disney Junior Play and Dine at Hollywood & Vine