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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?
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
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?
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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?
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!