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The Disney Dining Plan: what is it and should you add it to your Walt Disney World vacation? Is it worth the money? Will it benefit your family? Which plan should you get? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about the dining plan. Some people love it, while others hate it. This article will walk you through the factors to consider so you can decide for yourself whether you should add the Disney Dining Plan to your next trip. (Updated March 4, 2020)
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
The Disney Dining Plan is, in a nutshell, a prepaid meal plan at Disney World. It is something you can add onto your Disney World vacation. The plan allows you to pay for your food before you arrive at Disney World. It gives you a set amount of meals and snacks per person per night of your stay. You pay a set price per person per day, as opposed to paying the cost of the food you actually eat.
The Different Plans
Technically, there are four different Disney Dining Plans to choose from: the Quick-Service Plan, the Disney Dining Plan, the Disney Dining Plan Plus, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. Below are the details on each plan for 2020. Each plan includes a refillable resort mug for each person. For guests 21 and over, you can choose either an alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink with each meal. Quick service meals include an entree and a drink. Table service meals include an entree, a drink, and a dessert or a full buffet.
The Quick-Service Plan
The Quick-Service Dining Plan includes two quick-service meals and two snacks per person for each night of your stay. So, if you are staying for six nights and seven days, your plan will include a total of twelve quick-service meals and twelve snacks for each person on the reservation.
The Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan includes one table-service meal, one quick-service meal, and two snacks per person for each night of your stay.
The Dining Plan Plus
The Dining Plan Plus, which is brand new, includes two meals and two snacks per person per night of your stay. The meals can be any combination of quick service and table service meals. This plan essentially allows you to have 2 table service meals per day if you choose.
The Deluxe Dining Plan
The Deluxe Dining Plan includes three meals and two snacks per person for each night of your stay. The three meals can be used at either a quick-service location or a table-service restaurant.
How to Get the Disney Dining Plan
You can only get the Disney Dining Plan in one of two ways. You can add it to a Walt Disney World Vacation Package or to your reservation when renting Disney Vacation Club points. Note that everyone in the room, ages 3 and over, must be on the same dining plan. Because children under the age of 3 are not required to have a park admission ticket, they are also not required to have a dining plan. They are allowed to eat off of a parent’s plate free of charge.
Using Your Disney Dining Plan Credits
During your stay, you can use your dining credits in any order you would like. So, let’s say that your family will be staying for five nights and will have the standard Disney Dining Plan. You can use two table-service credits on one day and then two quick-service credits the next day or one quick-service credit and one table-service credit each day. You can use your snack credits as you go or you can save them all for the last day. It’s up to you. To get the most value out of the dining plan, read my tips for using it.
Your meal entitlements expire at midnight on the day of your check-out. You can use your credits for any meal of the day. At each restaurant, you are allowed to order any entree on the menu, regardless of price. Simply tell your server or cashier at each restaurant that you are on the dining plan and then scan your Magic Band. It’s that easy! Your receipt will include a note at the bottom that tells you how many credits you have remaining. You can pick up your refillable resort mugs at the food court in your resort at any point after check in.
The Cost Factor
For most families, the cost factor will be a big consideration when determining whether the dining plan is right for you. For 2020, the Quick-Service Dining Plan costs $55 per night for guests 10 and over and $26 per night for guests ages 3-9. The Disney Dining Plan’s price is $78 per night for guests 10 and over and $30.50 per night for children ages 3-9. Disney’s newest plan, the Dining Plan Plus carries a price tag of $94.60 per night for those 10 and over and $35 per night for kids age 3-9. The Deluxe Dining Plan is $119 per night for adults and children ages 10 and over and $47.50 per night for kids ages 3-9. Without the dining plan, the refillable resort mug will cost you $18.99 plus tax each.
The dining plan allows you to prepay for your meals prior to arriving for your trip. The only thing you will have to pay for your meals once on your trip is the tip. In order to get an idea of the price of meals when paying out of pocket so you can compare the costs, look at the menus at allears.net.
To determine whether this is a good value for your family, figure out whether your family can eat enough to justify the cost of the plan. Then factor in the value of the non-financial aspects of having the Disney Dining Plan, listed below.
Your Eating Habits
I know this may sound strange, but your family’s eating habits will play a big part in whether the Disney Dining Plan will be a good fit for your family. Consider how much food your family is likely to eat and how important food is to you while on vacation. If you view food as a necessary fuel to keep your body going and you plan to spend as little time as possible eating, then the dining plan may not be worth the price. If, however, food is an important part of your vacation and your family spends a lot of time bonding over food, then the dining plans may be perfect for you.
Likewise, think about how picky your family is. If you have people in your party that will only eat burgers and chicken nuggets, then the dining plans may not be worth the money. On the other hand, if your family is full of foodies, you will love having the dining plan.
The Vacation Factor
You also need to think about “the vacation factor”. Think about how your vacation habits differ from your normal day-to-day habits. For instance, our family enjoys having a nice sit-down meal each night while on vacation, even though this isn’t something we do at home. Dining is a big part of what we love about being at Disney World. For us, the dining plan is a must because it allows us to enjoy our vacation more.
If you plan to take part in several character meals while at Disney World, then you should definitely consider the dining plan. It may end up saving you some money on these character meals.
The Convenience Factor
The convenience factor goes hand-in-hand with the vacation factor. Do you love the idea of prepaying for your vacation food so you don’t have to worry about price when you sit down to eat? For us, this is a big factor. So, even if the price of the dining plan is slightly more than it would be for us to pay for meals out of pocket, I love the dining plan because it adds to our vacation fun while eliminating the need to worry about food costs while on our trip.
Whether the Disney Dining Plan is a good choice for your family will be an individual choice. Look at the plan details and consider your family’s habits and preferences for vacationing. If the plan makes your trip more enjoyable, then it is worth it even if it may not save you money. Read our dining plan frequently asked questions for more details on using the plans. For more help planning your trip, see my step-by-step guide, quick tips, and best resources. Happy travels!