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Is The Disney Dining Plan Worth It? How To Decide

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adult beverage at disney

Here’s a burning question for many people planning a Disney World vacation in 2019: Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it??? 

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.

So my short answer to the question is the Disney Dining Plan worth it is – it depends! 

In this post, I’ll share the cost of the Dining Plans, what you’ll get, and how to decide if the plan is worth it for you. If you are just starting to learn about the plans, you’ll probably want to start with my Disney Dining Plans 101 post first.

What is the Cost of a Disney Dining Plan?

rib plate at flame tree bbq in 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 2019:

Is the disney dining plan worth it? - 2019 plan prices

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 plan so you can decide if it is worth it to you.

What Is Included With the Disney Dining Plan?

tacos and margarita at disney

Here is what is included with each type of Disney Dining Plan credit:

  • Quick Service Credit: Entree + beverage
  • Table Service Credit: Entree + beverage OR Buffet/All You Care To Enjoy Meal

As of 2018, you can get any drink from the menu (including alcoholic drinks) as long as it doesn’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)!

You can also get tremendous value from your snack credits, some of which can be used to buy items up to $10 at the Epcot festivals (get an overview of the Epcot festival scene in this post).

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It For You?

little girl meeting snow white

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. Here are some factors that will help you answer the question is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?

You should consider using the Dining Plan if you:

  • Want to eat at several Character Meals or buffets (These tend to be the most expensive out-of-pocket and represent the best value of dining plan credits)
  • Have one or more “big eaters” in your party
  • Would enjoy an alcoholic drink with lunch and dinner most days
  • Are visiting Epcot during a festival to maximize snack credits

You might want to avoid the Dining Plan if you:

  • Are a light eater (e.g. like to order an appetizer as your entrée)
  • 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 lots of sense)
  • You don’t drink alcohol at all

How Much Is a Quick Service Dining Plan Credit Worth?

Rib meal at The Polite Pig

Here’s my most useful tip for deciding if the plan is worth it for you. I use some quick and dirty math to help me decide whether or not I should get the dining plan for a trip based on where I want to eat. 

I estimate the value of a Quick Service credit on the dining plan to be about $20 (for adults). If you can get your food and drink for less than $20 at a quick service location, you are better off paying out of pocket. 

Maybe entrees at quick service locations are in the $15 range. When you add a drink and tax it will bring the total up to around $20. 

You can start to see great value on the plan when you add alcoholic drinks to the mix! I’ve gotten up to $35 in value from a $20 quick service credit thanks to the ability to get an alcoholic drink with my meal (see the example below!)

And if you want to use your credits for the BEST quick service dining in each of the four Disney World theme parks, check out these posts:

How Much is A Table Service Credit Worth?

Entree at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Using my quick and dirty math, I estimate a table service credit on the dining plan is worth about $40. So if you will spend $40 or more on your table service meal, the dining plan will be worth it for you. 

Here are some sample prices at popular restaurants for examples:

  • Dinner at Akershsus Royal Banquet Hall: $56 – $65 (depending on the day)
  • Dinner at Chef Mickey’s: $47 – $55
  • DInner at Tusker House: $40 – $52

As you can see, you would definitely save money at these character dining locations with the dining plan. 

Restaurants That Are The Best Value On The Plan

Zebra dome dessert at Boma

Boma, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Now you have a general idea of who stands to benefit most from the Disney Dining Plan. If you are considering one, it helps to know which restaurants will make the plan worth it. Here are the restaurants that represent the best value on the Disney Dining Plan:

Dessert at Satuli Canteen

Satu’li Canteen

Quick Service

  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kindgom)
  • Satuli Canteen (Animal Kingdom)
  • Sunshine Seasons (Epcot)
  • Tangierine Cafe (Epcot)
  • La Cantine de San Angel (Epcot)
  • Be Our Guest – Breakfast/Lunch (Magic Kingdom)
  • Columbia Harbor House (Magic Kingdom)
  • Peco’s Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe (Magic Kingdom)
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (Magic Kindgom)
  • Landscape of Flavors – Lunch/Dinner (Art of Animation Resort)
  • Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs)
  • The Polite Pig (Disney Springs)

Table Service 

  • Fantasmic Dining Package (Hollywood Studios)
  • Chefs de France – Dinner (Epcot)
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot)
  • Tutto Italia -Dinner (Epcot)
  • Crystal Palace – Dinner (Magic Kingdom)
  • Boma – Dinner (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Cape May Cafe – Dinner (Beach Club Resort)
  • Chef Mickey’s – Dinner (Contemporary Resort)
  • ‘Ohana – Dinner (Polynesian Resort)
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe – Dinner (Wilderness Lodge)

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!

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

Sunshine Seasons Epcot Food Court

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. 

Sample Day on the Quick Service Dining Plan

The one instance of where the dining plan is almsot always worth it is when you can get it for just one day and stretch the credits out. 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

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!

Is It Worth Getting the Dining Plan at Disney World?

Mickey Mouse Waffle

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 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 answer the question is the Disney dining plan worth it?

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

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