Disney Dining Plan – Is it worth it? Detailed review

Is it worth it to get the Disney Dining plan?  Yes, especially if it is offered for FREE as a special promotion.  As your travel agent I am here to help you watch for great deals & determine the best dates for your vacation.  Contact me for help with your vacation.  Melissa@PixieDustAdventures.com  (((shameless plug, done)))

In this article I will share with you a detailed review of my personal experience with the Disney Dining Plan.

First, I will say that I am always a skeptic when it comes to handing my money over for vacation.  I probably would have never purchased the Dining Plan on my own, but it was offered as a special promotion on one of our trips.  This promotion has come to be known as ‘Free Dining’ and typically occurs when attendance in the parks is low.

The cost of the dining plan changes from year to year and since I want this information to be timeless I will not include the cost of the dining plan.  For the current price you will need to contact Disney or your Travel Agent, Me <wink, wink>

Table at the Beautiful, Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot.
Table at the Beautiful, Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot.

Disney Dining Plan Overview:

The dining plan is available to people purchasing a Disney vacation package at one of the Disney Resorts.

Note: when using the dining plan everyone in your group must be booked under the same package, using the same ticket options.  Children under 3 may share from an adult plate.  Children 3-9 must order off of the children’s menu.  Alcohol may not be paid for using the dining plan.

Every year different restaurants around Disney World take part in the Disney Dining plan.  I feel that most of the major Disney Dining establishments & snack locations accept the Disney Dining Plan.

Meeting Goofy at the Tusker House Restaurant in Animal Kingdom for lunch during Donald's Dining Safari.
Meeting Goofy at the Tusker House Restaurant in Animal Kingdom for lunch during Donald’s Dining Safari.

Is the Dining Plan Worth the Money?

This is a frequent question that I have even asked myself.  I think the answer depends on your party size, age & eating habits.  There are various different dining plans available to Disney Resort guests.  For my purposes here I will talk about the most popular Standard Dining Plan and will list a link where you can review all of the dining plans at the end of the article.

With the Standard Disney Dining Plan each guest is given 1 Table Service meal credit, 1 Quick Service meal credit & 1 snack credit for each night that they stay in their Disney Resort (applies to a single resort only).  So if you are staying 6 nights, each person would get 6 Table Service meal credits, 6 Quick Service meal credits and 6 snack credits.  These can be used all in one day or spread out across your entire trip.  Snacks are something that are easily shared; our family of 4 had 24 total snacks for all of us to use during the duration of our trip.  Great to use at the food booths during the Food & Wine Festival in Epcot.

Last year we scored free dining during our travel dates, but I wanted to know for sure if it was worth purchasing for our young family of 4: 2 adults & 2 children.  So I kept detailed receipts of what the cost would have been had we paid cash for all of our meals.

When we take a trip to Disney Dining is part of the experience for us.  The restaurants are just as well themed as the rest of the parks & we really enjoy the food.  Our children hear the word “no” from us on a regular basis at home; when we are vacation we like to be able to let them eat what they want & order dessert with their meals.  We don’t like the feeling of having to budget for our food & cost compare everything.

Meeting Mickey Mouse at the Garden Grill Restaurant in Epcot.  Our children love the character meals!
Meeting Mickey Mouse at the Garden Grill Restaurant in Epcot. Our children love the character meals!

So this is exactly what our eating habits & cost looked like during the Food & Wine Festival in 2012:

Included Below:
Restaurant – meal type – cost if paying cash, not including gratuity

Day 1:
Pecos Bills – 4 Quick Service meal credits – $48.00
Main Street Bakery -4 snacks – $18.49
Day 2:
Old Port Royal – 4 refillable mugs – $66.00
Food & Wine Festival, dessert booth – 1 snack – $3.75
Food & Wine Festival, Hawaii booth – 1 snack – $3.79
Coral Reef – 4 Table Service meal credits – $117.03
Day 3:
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – 4 Table Service credits – $109.61
Old Port Royal – 4 Quick Service credits – $45.00
Day 4:
Tusker House (character meal) – 4 Table Service credits – $93.68
T-Rex Cafe – 4 Table Service credits – $101.60
Day 5:
Sunshine Seasons – 4 Quick Service credits – $47.00
Food & Wine Festival, Scandinavia – 1 snack – $4.00
Food & Wine Festival, S. Africa – 1 snack – $5.00
Food & Wine Festival, Octoberfest – 2 snacks – $8.25
Food & Wine Festival, Hops&Barley – 2 snacks – $13.00
Garden Grill (character meal) – 4 Table Service credits – $110.72
Day 6:
Old Port Royal – 4 Quick Service credits – $31.23
Columbia Harbor House – 4 Quick Service credits – $47.00
Aloha Isle – 3 snacks – $13.30
Ohana – 4 Table Service credits – $108.59
Day 7:
Old Port Royal – 4 Quick Service credits – $36.00
Old Port Royal – 6 snacks for our journey – $34.78

Bottom Line if paying cash:
Total cost $1,065.82
Total without snacks $841.46

So after reviewing the above we decided, with our family’s eating habits while on vacation, the Standard Dining plan is worth the money for us.  Especially if we score ‘free dining’ through a special promotion.

If you have fewer people in your party, the dining plan may not have as much value to you as a room only discount promotion.  If you have children over the age of 9, they will be charged as an adult & ‘free dining’ will have even more value to your family.

In addition to value it is also a matter of being able to eat without getting heartburn when the meal ticket is brought to your table.  My dear husband likes to go on vacation knowing that it is all paid for up front.  It makes it much easier to order that extra soda or buy that cotton candy that the kids want when we know we are not going to pay extra out of pocket.  I guess it can be considered pre-paying for your meals.

Nemo ice cream dessert at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot.  It is nice to be able to say "yes" to dessert when our children ask for it and Disney dessert is always fun.
Nemo ice cream dessert at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot. It is nice to be able to say “yes” to dessert when our children ask for it and Disney dessert is always fun.

Go HERE for more detailed information on the Disney Dining Plans that are offered.

Do you think that the Disney Dining Plan is worth paying for or would you only be interested if it was offered to you for free?

If you are really Type-A ((Like yours truly)), then you can download this wonderful calculator and fill in your family’s eating habits.  It will estimate if the Disney dining plan will pay off in the end for your family CLICK HERE

For help booking and planning your next Disney vacation please contact me. I am here to help you chose the best vacation package for your family.  My planning services also include dining reservation assistance at no extra cost to you.
Melissa@PixieDustAdventures.com

Contact us today for assistance with booking and planning your next Disney vacation.  All of our planning services are FREE.
Contact us today for assistance with booking and planning your next Disney vacation. All of our planning services are FREE.

by Melissa Mathies

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