Will The New Disney Dining Plan with Alcohol Save You Money?

on February 23, 2018

One way to enjoy the incredible food at Walt Disney World is to use a Disney Dining Plan. The plan changes slightly from year-to-year, but 2018 brought a big change – alcoholic drinks are included in all dining plans!

People frequently ask me if they should get the dining plan for their vacation and my short answer is – it depends! This decision has gotten even more complicated with the addition of alcohol to the plans.

I tried out the new Disney Dining Plan with alcohol a month after it debuted to see what alcoholic drinks are included and decide if it’s a good value. Here’s a breakdown of how the dining plan with alcohol worked and my verdict!

How Much Is The Dining Plan with Alcohol at Disney World?

Flame Tree Barbecue, Animal Kingdom

There are three different dining plans available  – the Disney Dining Plan, the Quick Service Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. Each plan offers a different combination of meal and snack credits that you can use throughout the course of your stay.

Here’s the cost and credits included with each plan per night of your stay in 2018:

Prices effective January 1st, 2018

Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

You’ll get an entree and beverage (even a specialty or alcoholic drink) with each credit on any plan.

Those are the rapid-fire basics. If you want in-depth coverage of the plans, I suggest my Disney Dining Plans eBook that’s currently only $0.99 on Amazon!

Next, let’s look at what you can get with the new Disney Dining Plan with alcohol.

What Can I Get With the Disney Dining Plan with Alcohol?

La Cantina de San Angel, Epcot

When the heard the news that the dining plan would include alcoholic beverages in 2018, my first thought was that only certain drinks would qualify for the plan. I assumed top-shelf mixed drinks (which can be VERY expensive at Walt Disney World) would be excluded from the plan.

But it turns out I was wrong! I tried out the Quick Service plan and found that any alcoholic drink from the menu was included, as long as it didn’t come in a souvenir cup (which has long been a policy with the plans). I was even able to get the $15.95 Patron Lime Margarita at La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot (pictured above)!

Here’s what I got with the Quick Service Dining Plan with alcohol for one day (with out of pocket costs):

Dinner at The Polite Pig (Disney Springs)

  • Baby Back Ribs – $23
  • Polite Punch (specialty cocktail) – $11

Dinner at La Cantina de San Angel (Epcot):

  • Fish Tacos – $12.50
  • Patron Lime Margarita – $15.95

Snacks at Epcot International Festival of the Arts:

  • Tacos de Puerco – $9.95
  • Tomato and eggplant Terrine – $9

Refillable Mug – $18.99

TOTAL VALUE: $106.92
DINING PLAN COST: $52.49

I clearly saved A BUNCH of money with the Quick Service Dining Plan ($54.43 to be exact)!

Now, keep in mind this savings is NOT to be expected per day because:

  • I only used my refillable mug for two days and normally this savings will be spread out over many more days
  • I visited during Festival of the Arts, which offers the BEST return on your snack credits at their booths (more on this below)
  • I got the highest cost items available at these restaurants
  • I spread one day’s credits out over two days to cover most of my food

So while it IS possible to save money using the dining plan with alcohol, it won’t save money for everyone. Read on to learn who should consider the plan and who benefits most from it!

Who Benefits Most From the Dining Plan

Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

Dole Whip at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

The dining plans tend to work out better for some folks than others, depending on their style of vacationing and where they prefer to eat.

You can add the dining plan to any reservation booked directly with Disney or with a travel agent (I highly recommend the expert Disney agents over at Destinations in Florida).  You can also add the dining plan if you rent DVC points to stay at a Deluxe resort for up to 70% off. You can learn all about renting DVC points in this post.

Here are the keys points to consider to help you decide if a Dining Plan is a good fit. (NOTE: Please take these suggestions with a grain of salt! They are just overall guidelines to help you get a picture of who benefits most from using a Dining Plan.)

You could consider using the Standard Dining Plan if you:

  • Want to enjoy an alcoholic drink with both lunch and dinner every day
  • Want to eat at several Character Meals or buffets (These tend to be the most expensive out-of-pocket and represent the best value on the plan)
  • Cna make Advance Dining Reservations at least 6 months in advance (though this definitely isn’t a make-or-break aspect)

You might want to avoid the Dining Plan if you:

  • Are a light eater (e.g. like to order an appetizer as your entrée)
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Aren’t a planner
  • Want to eat at several Signature Restaurants
  • Are vegetarian or vegan (Though if you want to experience several buffets/character meals or eat some fish the dining plan still makes a lot of sense)
Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

Character Dining is a great deal on the dining plan

Certain restaurants offer the best value on the plan because they are the most expensive out-of-pocket.

However, be forewarned: these are also the most popular restaurants which means many of them are completely booked up as soon as the six-month window opens up. 

If you want to get the full value from the plans, you really should make dining reservations as early as possible, ideally the morning six months before your check-in date. I use this date calculator to find the day my dining window opens, and mark it in bold in my planner!

As a general guideline, I estimate those table service restaurants that cost over $40 per person per meal and quick service restaurants that cost around $20 per person per meal give the best return on your investment with the dining plan.  Since most buffets and character meals cost over $40 for adults, they tend to be a good value on the plan.

It is pretty difficult to get good value from the dining plan at Signature restaurants since they require two table service credits. You can get close at California Grill and Narcoossee’s (especially if you are after that lobster!), so keep that in mind when planning meals.

The Best Use of Snack Credits on The Dining Plan

Pork Tacos at Epcot Festival of the Arts

I assign the value of $5 to a snack credit on the dining plan. So anything item over $5 that you can get with a snack credit represents a good value on the plan.

There are instances where you can get items worth up to $10 with a snack credit, however! If you are visiting during one of Epcot’s festivals (there are four now), you can use snack credits to purchase most food items at the festival booths. 

Some items are upwards of $10 and can be purchased with just a snack credit (such as the $9.95 pork tacos pictured above). You can get the full menus and food photos from all of the Epcot festivals over at The Disney Food Blog!

We like to save our snack credits and use them the eat our way around the festivals at substantial savings.

Now let’s look at a sample day on the dining plan to compare the cost of the dining plan vs. paying out-of-pocket.

Dining Plan vs. Out-of-Pocket Price Comparisons

Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

Sunshine Seasons, Epcot

Let’s compare what you would pay for the Disney Dining Plan versus out-of-pocket during a day at Epcot.

For breakfast, you use a snack credit to buy a pastry at your resort along with coffee from your refillable mug. You have lunch at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion and enjoy a pressed Cuban sandwich, a fruit and cheese plate, and a beer. For dinner, you head to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall for an incredible three-course Norwegian meal with the princesses.

Here is a comparison of what it would cost out-of-pocket vs. on the dining plan:

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
Total Cost $75.49 $100.88

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!

Here’s an example of another day at Epcot that wouldn’t be such a good deal on the Disney Dining Plan:

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
Total Cost $75.49 $54.02

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. 

Is It Worth Getting the Dining Plan at Disney World?

Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

Here’s a quick summary of my main points in this post:

  • Guests choose the dining plan for an “all-inclusive” vacation experience, to control their food budget, or to try out new dining experiences.
  • You’ll need to plan your dining six months in advance to get the most out of the Dining Plan.
  • You’ll get the most of the plans if you are dining at several buffets or character meals.
  • With the addition of alcoholic drinks to the plan, you’ll save the most if you already planned to enjoy a drink with both lunch and dinner.

I hope this post helped you better understand the dining plans and who stands to benefit most from using them.

If you want help deciding whether or not to get the dining plan, I strongly suggest getting a free quote from the expert Disney agents at Destinations in Florida! They can help you decide where to eat, where to stay, and make reservations for you, all at no additional cost to you!


Compare the cost of the 2018 Disney Dining Plan (now with alcohol) to paying out of pocket for your food at #disneyworld Tips and tricks for deciding on the dining plan versus (vs) dining out-of-pocket

13 Comments

  • Dining Review: The Polite Pig in Disney Springs! – The Budget Mouse

    […] For my drink, I went for the “Polite Punch” ($11) which consisted of light rum, whiskey, passion fruit juice, lime, and bitters. You can now get an alcoholic drink with any meal on the dining plan (check out my post all about the new Dining Plan with alcohol here). […]

    April 7, 2018 at 5:08 pm Reply
  • Linda Bertelson

    Hi Leah, Here is where you say you should use a touring plan in your post.
    “You should consider using the Dining Plan if you:

    Don’t mind making a touring plan (complete with dining reservations) and sticking to it”

    I left out the other suggestions but this is the one I was specifically referring too. If you don’t agree with touring plans you may want to rephrase that section or leave it out. I still don’t think that a touring plan has anything to do with whether or not the dining plan will work for you. It has more to do with your eating style and preferred ADR’s.

    March 3, 2018 at 11:28 am Reply
    • Leah

      You are right, Linda, I needed to reword that part of the post (and just did).

      As you know, places that provide the most “bang for your buck” tend to book up the earliest, ESPECIALLY during free dining. It would be really hard to not make any ADRs and get your money’s worth out of the plan because the places at which you can score last-minute reservations (e.g. Kona Cafe, Marrakesh, The Wave) typically aren’t a good value on the Dining Plan.

      Some folks don’t like to make ADRs and like to wing it and it is hard to get your money’s worth out of the plan that way. So I wouldn’t suggest the plan unless you are willing to make ADRs in advance and stick with them. This only applies to the Standard plan and not the Quick Service plan, of course.

      Thanks for the feedback and helping me sort out my advice! It really helps. 🙂

      March 3, 2018 at 3:25 pm Reply
      • Linda Bertelson

        You’re welcome for the feedback. I totally agree with that statement about ADR’s. That is very important if on the dining plan with TS. Like I said originally I think you have given the best advise on the dining plan and would recommend it to anyone.

        March 3, 2018 at 8:15 pm Reply
  • Linda

    I agree with most of your comments Leah. The dining plan is definitely not for everyone. One of the things I disagree with is the signature restaurants. If you are on the deluxe plan where you get a app, meal and dessert plus alcohol you can easily get to $80/person. My family did the dining plan last year without alcohol and ate at the Boathouse in DS. It was 2 credits and we definitely were able to get our moneys worth for that meal. I also don’t think you need a touring plan. You just need to plan your ADR’s at places with the best value for the plan you choose. We didn’t have a touring plan. We had FP’s and ADR’s the rest of the time we went with the flow. Thanks for the very informative article. I think you break down the dining plan the best for anyone wondering if it will work for them or not.

    March 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Linda, you are totally right about the Boathouse being a good value on the dining plan. I can’t wait to check it out sometime soon. I just updated my Dining Plan Tips & Tricks post to include it in my recommended Signature restaurants on the plan: https://www.thefrugalsouth.com/disney-dining-plan-101-my-tips-tricks/

      I personally don’t use a touring plan and don’t think I’ve recommended one here… I do suggest folks pick the least crowded park that day and use FastPasses strategically. We just arrive early, ride whatever we want while lines are short and use our FastPasses later on when it is more crowded. I think it is so much fun that way!

      March 3, 2018 at 8:37 am Reply
  • Jessica

    Hi Leah,

    Thanks for the updated post! We’re considering the dining plan for our trip in December IF free dining happens to work out for us – big IF, but would like to be prepared if it does. I might possibly add on the QS dining if not, just for the added alcohol value and the fact that we have 2 boys ages 5 and 7 that would benefit from not having to choose kids meals at QS. Our livers and wallets would probably not appreciate it as much though 🙂 Quick question – if we did the dining plan with 1 QS and 1 TS could our boys also choose non-kid items for the QS restaurant or is that only applicable if you have the QS plan? If we did the regular dining we’d likely opt for buffets/family service for the TS credit.
    Thanks!
    Jessica

    March 2, 2018 at 5:49 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Great question, Jessica! Any Quick Service credit on any plan doesn’t distinguish between kids and adult meals, so you would also have that option with the Standard Disney Dining Plan. I fear this might change in the future but for now, your kiddos can get an adult meal at Quick Service locations. This does not apply to Table Service meals, however – kids are limited to the kids’ menu there. I’m hoping for free dining in December for you!

      March 3, 2018 at 8:40 am Reply
  • Aaron Totty

    Hi Leah,

    I have really enjoyed your blog and I think the information you provide is very helpful! I am working on planning a trip with my husband and two kids later this year. We are staying at one of the resorts and doing 3 days at Disney and 2 days at Universal/Islands of Adventure. I’m trying to figure out if the dining plan would be beneficial for us since we will only be in the Disney parks for 3 days (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios). I am more interested in the Quick Service dining plan. My husband and I do enjoy adult beverages and we all love to try new and delicious food, but I want to make sure we get our money’s worth. What do you suggest?

    March 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm Reply
    • Leah

      Hi Aaron!

      Are you staying at a Disney resort for five nights? If so, you will be required to get a Dining Plan for the entirety of your stay and in that case I would not recommend you get the plan. If you are only staying on Disney property for the nights you are going to Disney then it would make sense to get it. On the Quick Service plan kids credits are the same as adult credits, so your kids wouldn’t be limited to the kids’ menu which is great. You can contact me here and send me more details and I can help you decide: https://www.thefrugalsouth.com/contact-us/

      March 2, 2018 at 4:06 pm Reply
  • Cathy

    Thank you so much for this breakdown. I was curious as to whether or not the addition of alcohol to the dining plan would be beneficial for me and my adult daughter, as we travel together to WDW. We did do the dining plan in 2016 and discovered very quickly that it really was not a good fit for us, as it was just too much food. In addition, I didn’t like being tied down to a specific schedule of eating. We did use it at Narcoossee’s and that was beneficial. Looking over your breakdown I see even with the alcohol it’s still not a good fit, as we don’t drink during the day, and it’s still too much food! 🙂

    What I DID find was a good fit for us (not for everyone, but for us) was staying at club level. We managed to snag a nice discount in a club level room at Yacht Club and it was the best decision EVER for us! So much food, and we ate every breakfast and some dinners there. There is also unlimited beer and wine, although with the exception of the 5 pm – 7 pm hours you do have to ask for it. I read elsewhere that they will also serve you any type of spirit although I’m not certain of that. But since we both love our nightly wine it was great for us. We ate very few meals in the park because of this. Again, this won’t work for everyone, but it’s a good deal for adults traveling together who aren’t spending every waking moment in the parks.

    March 2, 2018 at 9:29 am Reply
    • Leah

      Staying club level sounds like SO much fun, Cathy! It’s something I’ve never done and I should look at the numbers to see how much extra it is. The dining plan can definitely be too much food! I’ve never tried the quick service plan until this recent trip and I actually really liked it. You are right that if you don’t like a drink with lunch and want more flexibility it still isn’t a good fit. Thanks so much for your helpful comment!

      March 2, 2018 at 9:46 am Reply
      • Cathy

        Leah, I have to admit that we are so spoiled after doing club level! Like the dining plan, however, financially it will work for some people better than others. It’s such an individual choice and sooo many factors go into it.

        We just went again in early February of this year and that’s when we did club level. It was not in our initial plans but the discounts opened up on club level after we made our reservations so we decided to try it. I can’t say enough about it, so I encourage anyone who might have considered to try it out. We got a 25% discount at a value time so it was about as good as one can hope for at WDW!

        I do think if we ever considered doing the dining plan again that the quick service option would definitely work better for us; that is, if we don’t do club level. I think that in general, doing both club level and dining plan would not be a good deal. I’m sure there are some exceptions to that, but for us, certainly not.

        March 2, 2018 at 10:15 am Reply

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