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One approach to dining at Walt Disney World is to use a Disney Dining Plan. These plans have been around since 2005 and are basically a way to “pre-pay” for dining before your vacation starts.
In this post, I will share basic information about the plans, their 2018 cost, and recent updates that allow for much more flexibility.
Keep in mind that the plans are certainly not for everyone on every trip, and while they seem complicated at first, are actually pretty easy to use once you get the hang of it!
If you know the basics but are looking for some tips & tricks, check out this post!
Who Can Use The Disney Dining Plan?
Disney Dining Plans can be used by guests staying at any Walt Disney World resort hotel. They can be purchased as part of a package that includes your room, park ticket, and dining, or included as part of a Free Dining Plan Package (more on this later).
They currently can’t be purchased by visitors staying at any hotels that are not owned by Disney (“off-property” hotels) or locals visiting for the day. The plan also must be purchased for every night of your stay and for everyone staying in your room.
Disney Dining Plan 2018 Prices
There are three different dining plans currently available; the standard Disney Dining Plan 2018, the Quick Service Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan.
The credits shown are per night of your stay and each plan includes a Resort Refillable Mug. The children’s prices are for kids ages 3 to 9. Here’s what you get with each plan and their cost (tax is included) per night of your stay this year:
How Does The Disney Dining Plan Work?
Each of the dining plans includes credits that you can use all over Walt Disney World for almost any food or drink, even alcohol and specialty drinks starting in 2018!
These credits are loaded on the Magic Bands (read all about them here) of everyone in your party. You can use the credits at any point during your stay, from the time you check-in until midnight on the day you check-out. The types of credits are:
- Snack Credits (most items that aren’t a meal unto themselves fall into this category)
- Quick Service Meals (i.e. meals at locations where you order at a counter as opposed to having a server)
- Table Service Meals (“Sit-down” meals – Signature restaurants and dinner shows require 2 Table Service credits per person)
In 2017 each Quick Service Meal credit includes an entree and non-alcoholic beverage. In years prior Quick service credits included a dessert. To make the plan more flexible, that dessert has been converted into a snack credit.
I personally am THRILLED about this change! It allows you to use the credit for a snack any time of day, or at Food & Wine Festival, which is one of the best uses of the Dining Plan.
Each Table Service Meal credit includes an entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert. This credit was made more flexible in 2017 by allowing guests to choose a salad or soup (if available at the restaurant) in place of a dessert.
All Disney Dining Plan 2018 meals will include alcoholic drinks as well!
With any quick service or table service meal, guests over 21 can select a single-serving mixed drink, wine, or beer as their beverage with the plan. You could choose a specialty drink (such as a smoothie or milkshake) as your beverage as well.
And I am happy to report that you are not limited to certain alcoholic drinks with the Dining Plan… anything is fair game as long as it doesn’t come in a souvenir cup or serve more than one person. You can even get a $16 Patron Lime Margarita at Epcot’s La Cantina de San Angel with your quick service credit on the dining plan!
You are of course always allowed to order anything else from the menu that is not included in the dining plan and pay for the items out-of-pocket.
In addition to snack and meal credits, each dining plan includes a Resort Refillable Mug with unlimited free refills for the length of your stay. The mugs can be used at any Disney resort hotel for soda, coffee, tea, lemonade and hot chocolate, but aren’t good for refills in the theme parks.
How Do I Get a Dining Plan for Free?
You likely have heard of Disney’s wildly popular “Free Dining” promotion. For this offer, guests pay the regular, non-discounted rate for their hotel stay and park tickets, but get one of the dining plans at no additional cost.
A free dining package usually requires booking a minimum three-night stay and purchasing a minimum of 2-day “Park Hopper” tickets for everyone in your travel party. Dates for Free Dining are usually released in April for travel dates in the fall and winter.
You can read everything you need to know about free dining in this post. If you are interested in booking a free dining package, I strongly suggest getting a quote from Destinations in Florida, my recommended Disney travel agency. You won’t pay anything extra and they can help you with every aspect of planning your Disney vacation!
Disney Dining Plan 2018 Restaurants
The answer to “What restaurants take the Disney Dining Plan?” is almost every restaurant at Disney World.
Each year when the Dining Plan is released, restaurants are slowly added to the of those that accept the plan. Almost all dining establishments at Disney World now take the Dining Plan. For a complete list, check out this PDF from Disney of Disney Dining Plan 2018 Restaurants.
Is It Worth Getting the Dining Plan at Disney World?
If you are like most folks visiting Walt Disney World, you have a budget that you need to stick to for your vacation. Having a pre-paid dining plan included in a package in one way to help you stay within your budget at Disney World.
Here is a comparison of what it would cost out-of-pocket vs. on the dining plan for a sample day at Epcot:
|Dining Plan||Out-of-Pocket Cost|
|Breakfast – Resort Food Court||1 Snack + refillable mug||Pastry – $4.79
Coffee – $2.79
|Lunch – Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons||1 Quick Service Credit + 1 Snack||Pressed Cubano Sandwich – $13.49
Fat Tire Amber Ale – $8.75
Fruit & Cheese Plate – $6.69
|Dinner – Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall||1 Table Service Credit||Adult All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Meal – $55.37 (including tax)
Viking Coffee – $9.00
With this sample day, you would save $25.39 in one day for one person on the dining plan.
Keep in mind that Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is one of the priciest one table service credit restaurants at Disney World, so I wouldn’t expect to save this much every day. But if this is the type and quantity of food you would likely eat on vacation, then the dining plan might be a good fit for you!
|Dining Plan||Out-of-Pocket Cost|
|Breakfast – Resort + Fountain View (Starbucks)||2 Snacks + refillable mug||Coffee Cake – $3.19
Smoothie – $4.99
Coffee – $2.79
|Lunch – Katsura Grill||1 Quick Service Credit||Teriyaki Chicken – $10
Soft Drink – $3.05
|Dinner – Rose & Crown||1 Table Service Credit||Shepard’s Pie – $20
Fountain Drink – $3
Warm Fruit Crumble – $7
Today you’d lose $21.47 with the dining plan. The main reason is eating at some of the most affordable restaurants out-of-pocket and choosing soft drinks as opposed to pricey alcoholic drinks.
So overall, if the first sample day represents how you generally like to eat on vacation, the Disney Dining Plan could work out very well for you! If you aren’t a buffet fan, are a lighter eater, or don’t drink alcohol with your meals, it would likely make more sense to pay out-of-pocket for your food.
For an in-depth post that compares the Disney Dining Plan 2018 to what you can expect to pay out-of-pocket, check out this post.
Have you ever tried the Dining Plans? Please share your experience in a comment below!
Any questions about the plans? Leave a comment or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page!