Time and time again, whether I’m planning vacations for clients, friends, or family, as soon as we decide on a resort, the very next question is almost always “Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?”  The answer to this question varies for every traveler, so here are a few things to consider when pondering the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World.

Know Your Disney Dining Plan Options

There are three basic dining plans at Walt Disney World. The Quick Service Dining Plan (QSDP) offers two quick service meals and one snack per night of your reservation. The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) offers one table service, one quick service, and one snack per night of your reservation. The Deluxe Dining Plan (DXDP) offers three meals of your choice (quick or table) and two snacks per night of your reservation. All plans include a refillable resort mug for each guest (except those under three years old).


ŸGet Park Wise: Make sure your choice restaurants accept the dining plan.  Double check before booking to ensure you won’t be paying out of pocket unexpectedly.

Know What You’re Spending

At time of publication, the QSDP is approximately $38 per night per adult (10+) and $15 per night per child (3-9).  The DDP hovers around $56 per night per adult and $18 per child per night. The DXDP tops the group at $100 per adult per night and $27 per child per night. Here is where the personal math of your family will come in. I know my kiddos will definitely save money, but I don’t know about the adults.


Know How Much You’re Eating

Another important factor is that all guests on a reservation must have the dining plan.  It’s all or nothing, so if you just pick at your food while your spouse eats an average amount and the kids will only eat mac & cheese, it may not be right for your group.  However, if you have a lot of hungry travelers who will load up when it’s time to eat, it will probably save you some money (up to 30%, according to Disney). Personally, I think the DXDP is way too much food, especially if you’re spending long days in the parks. It might be more doable if you were planning a leisurely trip and enjoying drawn out meals in between spa appointments and jaunts to the parks. The other two dining plans seem more manageable and likely to save the average traveler a little cash.


ŸGet Park Wise: Quick service meals are often large enough to share between two people, so use this info to stretch your credits or to avoid buying and wasting the dining plans.

Know the System

Keep track of your credits, because if you leave a few credits unused, you may only break even or possibly lose money if you chose to purchase the dining plan. You also need to know if any of your choice restaurants require more than one credit per meal. Signature restaurants, dinner shows, and private dining (aka room service) require two credits. Depending on what you’ll be ordering, the savings may not add up for you.


Know Your Discounts

We’re not DDP people. We usually have a car at Disney World and enjoy a few off-property favorites during our vacations. However, I am a Tables in Wonderland cardholder, and that often proves to be a better savings than the DDPs would ever be for us.


If you’re wanting to give the DDP a try though, keep an eye out for the ever popular free Disney Dining Plan promotion, more popularly known as “free dining” by the Disney throng. The promotion is currently being offered for most dates in September (and I happen to know a gal who can help you out if you’re just dying to try it out!). On the other hand, there is also usually a room discount offered concurrently.  Depending on where you’re staying and the factors mentioned earlier, the room discount may save you more, as you cannot combine a room discount with the free Disney Dining Plan offer.


Get Park Wise: I highly recommend making advanced dining reservations if you’re traveling during the “free dining” period, as this attracts many guests who are chomping at the bit to use their free credits.

Are you a Disney Dining Plan advocate?  Which one is your favorite?  Or do you prefer to pay as you go?  Why?

  • dsnygrl13

    For the three of us adults, the Disney Dining Plan was great. We got to eat at restaurants that we could never afford otherwise. Each dinner was well in the $200.00 range and I would never spend that much on our own. For an adult to eat $50.00 worth of food per day is not much of a stretch, but I think that the plan is a waste if you have small children.

    • See, I thought of it the opposite. With character dining, we would easily recoup the money spent on the kids’ dining plans, but I’m not sure the adult cost would be worth it on a daily basis.

  • daliseurat

    You really have to do the math for your family. Figure out where you would most likely eat, look up the menus and prices online and figure out the tax for the food you would normally order, and also for what you would splurge on. If it’s less money than the plan…it’s not for you. It is very convenient. You also can lose a lot of money on the kids 9 and up because they frequently do’t eat as much. Plus the plan includes dessert, which many people don’t eat at both meals. You can of course take a fruit or an extra water instead of dessert to take with you. The original plan was great…appetizers and desert with tables service and tip were part of the plan. When we did the math for that plan several years back, it was a huge savings, the way we ate, and a good savings if we had eaten normally and not splurged. Today’s plan we’d break even, maybe.

    • This is pretty much it right here. A lot of people don’t want to do the math, so they’ll either waste money buying the dining plan or waste money by not buying it. It’s definitely some work to figure it out to the penny, but if you’re a number cruncher, you can really figure it out and work it to your advantage.

  • I like the idea of the Disney Dining Plan, but I just can’t make it work for me. You really have to order the mst expensive items on the menu and get a dessert at every meal to end up “saving” money. But, if you are ordering more than you would normally eat, are you really saving?

    Also, I don’t like how the Dining Plan has changed restaurant menus across the resort. Menus are now smaller, options standardized, prices fixed, and reservations full booked. It’s been a terrible impact.

    Unless the plan came free with my booking, I wouldn’t add it to my reservation.

    • MainSt1993

      Agreed, and I also dislike how many former table service restaurants were converted to buffets. It’s like 3/4 of World Showcase is now Presented by Golden Corral.

      • Come on, they’re not as bad as that! But I can see what you’re saying. I like a buffet here and there, especially when trying to please several palates, but I also enjoy the menu restaurants.

    • Westsider

      The Disney Dining Plan certainly doesn’t allow a person to live a sustainable lifestyle. It’s wasteful and environmentally unfriendly, but then that’s the point to an entire Disney theme park experience anyway so I doubt most of Disney’s customers care.

      A few Billion starving peasants elsewhere on the planet would love to have a chat with us about our waste, however.

      • Isn’t that the case with so much we have, though? Cars, computers, houses, clothes… I am grateful for what I have and for what we can experience and help my fellow man however I can.

      • nikalseyn

        As long as the ‘few other billion” people pay their own way, I don’t care about any waste—I am paying good money for the dining plan and since it is my money, I can waste as much as I want. We go to WDW to have a good time, spending alot of our money and there is no reason to worry about the “great unwashed.”

    • This is, more or less, how we feel about it, too. The math just doesn’t work out for us, especially when we have members of our travel group who may or may not join for this meal or that and may end up wasting credits.

    • daliseurat

      Exactly. It works best for people who would normally eat those items. But having to pay an adult price for an 11 year old will lose some money.

    • Hawaii Disney Fan

      I’m a foodie, so grabbing the most expensive and a dessert works for me. Hell, I usually pay extra for the appetizer as well so we definitely come out ahead. The only ones I don’t like are the premium dining restaurants. Two points is pushing it there.

  • StevenW

    I don’t mind gorging. In fact, I’m going to Las Vegas soon and will be enjoying many wonderful feasts (buffets). Fortunately, some feasts are included with the package. Others are discounted offers. However, I don’t plan on eating like this throughout my trip. Otherwise, I will be sick.

    I remembered that before the dining plan, I made reservations at many coveted restaurants. I did manage to spend a lot of money, but eventually, the restaurants lost its allure and we didn’t honor our reservations near the end of the trip. If I were to be on the dining plan, I wouldn’t be able to take full advantage.

    The pricing is very weird. Adult pricing is more than double the child’s pricing. (DDP $56 per night per adult and $18 per child per night.) While the child’s price seems like a give away at $6 per meal, the adult price is ridiculously high. I wish they offer a plan that works like a ticketbook. You use whatever you need and you get cashback when you don’t take full advantage.

    • I agree that the pricing is a little odd. This is why I think the DDP would be great for the kids, but probably not for us adults. That’s where they get ya!

  • JiminyCricketFan

    When the original dining plan came out it really was a good way of saving money if you wanted to dine at the expensive restaurants at Disney World. The current plan is really quite difficult to determine whether you’re really going to save money. I think for most people if you pay for the plan you really aren’t going to save any money. Also the more limited menu that you have to choose from really is restrictive as to really enjoying her time in the park. I think if you paid for your own meals and chose really what you want, the cost would be about the same.

    Getting the free dining plan is a very good option. But you have to remember you still have to get a restaurant reservation. Often during the special month that they have the free dining plan it is almost impossible to get a reservation if you booked less than six months in advance.

    • Reservations are really hard to come by during “free dining” periods, I agree. We don’t use the plans but occasionally overlap those dates, and it can get a little irritating when our favorites are booked.

  • cjwestby

    We’re taking our second trip to WDW in August this year that will include the DDP. It’s just my wife and me traveling so, without worrying about picky kids or trying to figure out the math of saving/losing on character meals and the like. We don’t find the limited options bothersome, as we normally chose buffet restaurants or visit places we’ve not tried before, so it’s all new to us! We enjoy sampling the desserts, and even if we don’t finish them all, it’s fun to have a little bit. It really is a lot of food, though, but if you go hungry and burn a lot of energy traversing the parks, it works out

    For the real number crunchers, it may not save you enough to be worth it, but for us, having the fun of trying different places and foods makes it worth it.

    Perhaps the biggest benefit we find with the DDP is that the food has already been purchased when we get there, so it helps us tremendously when we’re planning our budget. By making it part of our vacation package reservation, we can use our Disney Visa and take advantage of the zero-interest financing, and receive the Disney rewards for using our card, which allows us to build up rewards to take with us on our vacation to use for tips, other dining choices (such as a snack or food not on the plan), or souvenirs. Adding the dining plan to our reservation allows the food purchases to earn us rewards in time to use them on our vacation.

    • You don’t need dining plan to make a reservation at any restaurant you want. I think of the dining plan as handcuffs which force you to dine in participating restaurants but doesn’t guarantee you a reservation at the places you like. Now that the plan costs about what you’d normally pay, what’s the advantage?

    • I do know lots of travelers who a pro-DDP specifically because most of their dining is taken care of before arrival. I can definitely see the allure in that. Enjoy your trip!

  • longears

    I’ve been to Disney World twice and both times signed up for the Deluxe dining plan. I think at the time the cost was around $79 per night for an adult. The first trip we kind of felt our way through the plan (made dinner reservation in advance and quickly learned to ask at the front desk each day for possible lunch reservations as we found places we wanted to try). The second trip we made the dining a major part of our trip and booked dinner each night, several lunches and a couple of breakfasts. This time we used mostly table services and keep a tally of the cost of each meal. At the end of the trip we still had about six meal credits each (it becomes difficult to eat more than two meals a day and we had at least two meals that took two credits per person). We ended up using most of our snack credits to purchase the bagged candy the last night to take home as gifts.
    When we got home we added up all the food receipts and found that we would have spent over $1,200 for the same food experience out of pocket. Now we wouldn’t have ordered two appetizers and two desserts at each meal if we we paying out of pocket. We never picked the most expensive item on the menu just because it was the most expensive, we each picked what we wanted or tried something we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to.
    I do like the freedom of the deluxe plan in that you can have either table service or quick serve, but I feel like three meals a day is a bit overkill. But if you’re going to do mostly table service it is fairly easy to get the value from the program.
    I did notice that the selection of locations had shrunk between our two trips (2008 and 2011), but the second trip still allowed enough choices that there were several places we didn’t get to try.

    • Thanks for your experiences. I think we’d just go from restaurant to nap to restaurant if we tried the DXDP. Haha!!

  • Big D

    I figure that the standard dining plan evens out for me, but the more I travel the more I prefer to prepay as much as possible, so it is a convenience for me.

    When I go to Orlando, I will usually stay a few nights at Disney World, and a few nights at the Portofino Bay. I also rent a car. So when I pick up my rental car, they will put a hold on my credit card for the entire cost of the car rental plus an extra $100 or so (in case I forget to fill up the car when I return it, smoke in the car, damage it, etc.). Then when I check in to my Disney hotel, even though the room is prepaid as part of the package, they will put a hold on my credit card for a certain amount (not sure offhand how much), so that I can use my room key to charge things in the parks, or at the hotel,or order room service, etc. Then when I check out and go to the Portofino Bay, they will do the same thing. The Disney hotel doesn’t always release the hold on my card right away, so for at least part of my trip, I will have two hotels and a car rental holding extra money on my credit cards that they’re going to release, but usually it doesn’t happen until I’m done from my vacation and so for the time there’s easily $300 or so that I can’t access on my credit card during my vacation. I only use two credit cards and I don’t have super high credit limits, so having as much room free on my cards as possible is invaluable.

    I learned this in 2004 when I was at Walt Disney World and I got stuck in Hurricane Jean, and I was delayed flying home, and had to unexpectedly pay for two additional nights at the Portofino Bay. The hotel was very generous and gave me a very reduced rate, but I didn’t have any money available on my card to buy food because there were so many holds on my card and I hadn’t prepaid anything so I also had all of my expenses from buying food and souvineers at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.

    • StevenW

      At minimum, you could have charged to your room for food service. I never had a problem with holds. Then again, my credit limit is thousands of dollars. You could have called the credit card company for a temporary raise in your credit limits. I never knew a $300 hold prevents you from spending any additional money. You’re probably being too cautious.

      Prepaying isn’t the problem. You need to carry cash, carry a third credit card, and use a bank debit/ATM card.

      • Different strokes. For example, I’d never have a third credit card. I don’t even have a second credit card. Pre-paying for meals is a perfectly valid way to keep cards clear in case of emergency.

      • StevenW

        @JM: You will still need a third credit card. The credit card holds for your hotel room and rental card is still required. Then there is the Hurricane. You can’t expect Disney Dining to be valid when checked out. In an emergency, you need extra funds.

      • StevenW, we’re obviously interpreting this differently. Of course the extra days wouldn’t be covered on the dining plan. By paying for meals 45 days prior to vacation, theoretically, the card would have more “space” on it for incidentals and emergencies since food from the week’s vacation would NOT be on the card. Hence, pre-paying works to keep the card clear. Of course, if one is carrying a balance (and would still have the cost of the dining plan sitting on the card), a third credit card is probably not a great idea anyway.

      • Big D

        You’re absolutely right about charging my room, and that’s what I ended up doing. I had room service one day and ate at their restaurant one day (called Mama Mia’s or something like that). The problem was that I didn’t have enough money so I ended up only getting one meal per day for those extra two days. I actually did call my credit card company and request a temporary increase, but the one company completely declined it and the other one said they would review it and get back to me in a month or so, which obviously wasn’t going to help. A $300 hold prevents me from spending additional money when $300 is all I have left on the card.

        Prepaying may not be a solution for everyone, but it works for me and might be helpful to some other people as well.

      • Big D, thanks for sharing what works for you! And, yes, it may very possibly work out great for others, as well. Appreciate your thoughts!

    • I can definitely see how having most of that paid for as opposed to paying as you go would be nice, especially if you like to keep your card clear.

  • clewandowski

    This comment is just IMO! I am a Disney foodie, its almost unhealthy. Well it is! I dont go to Disney too often, but the food is a big thing for me . Not just the food, but the amazing restaurant themes. I could probably not afford to eat at a table service restaurant everyday of my trip without it. I enjoy it because I do not have to feel any guilt eating out over and over, because the moneys already paid for it. I don’t have kids, so that’s another plus. Ill do the DDP every time until I do! I love DDP!!

    • I wonder if what you pay out for the dining plan is actually less than what you’d pay if you ate at table service options without it. For some people it is, for others, it’s pretty equal and or they end up losing money. It’s mostly about the personal math.
      I do have to agree, though, most of the restaurants are experiences in themselves. We love Disney dining!

  • DobbysCloset

    The Chihuahua says this is the very best article we have ever read on Mice Chat! I’d already explained to him about Character Dining, but he says this article makes him want to visit WDW immediately! (As a party of one human and one chihuahua, I’m not really the market for this plan, but the article was great! Are there character experiences in these plans?)

    • Well, tell the dog thank you! You can try character meals on the dining plan.

  • pixie chick

    We used to be a “yay” on the Dining Plan, but we are now a “nay.” Back when gratuities were included and there were more table service restaurants not categorized as signature (costing two credits), it was a deal for our family. I do the math to the point of looking up menus of every meal and estimating which food items we will likely select, adding tax and tip, and subtracting discounts and it just doesn’t work for us anymore. Of course, I wouldn’t turn it down if it was free as part of a package. 🙂

    • It was something we seriously considered “back in the day” when there were more inclusions, but I tend to agree with you.

  • Redbeard25

    Great comments so far, but there is one overriding factor for me that results in a “no,” and I can sum it up in one word:


    If you buy the dining plan, you’re all in. If you change your mind and decide not to go to that signature dining restaurant on one night, you’re scrambling to find those two credits (or eight for a family) some other time. If three of the mountains are down and you don’t have a park hopper, you’re stuck in the Magic Kingdom because you have a Crystal Palace ADR and you would have had a much better day in Epcot. If you are just tired of resort food and want your favorite burger from just off property, tough. Or, the absolute worst case, like has happened to us once, you get a stomach bug and spend two nights in the Grand Californian, unable to make food go the right direction, much less enjoy those prepaid meals.

    If you are considering the dining plan, my suggestion is to calculate the price of the plan and put it all on a Disney or Visa/MC/Amex prepaid gift card. Then, use it for all of your food costs, snacks included. If you run out, you run out, and the dining plan may have saved you money, but, chances are, even with tips and snacks, you’ll be ahead of the game.

    For you real math nerds, be sure to check with a Disney travel agent if you’re making a reservation during a “free” dining period. To get booked into the package, you are usually paying the rack rate for the hotel room, and in some cases, the savings on booking a room-only discount plus tickets versus the package can far exceed the price of the dining plan… especially when you only have two or three people in the room.

    • Redbeard25

      (I mean “Floridian.” We were just in California. D’oh!)

      • Glad you edited that. Once I saw Californian, I almost slashed your credibility for buying into the “dining plan” at Disneyland. 😉

    • Totally valid points!! And I think a few people here feel the same way. Like I mentioned, we have a favorite pizza joint off property and may occasionally grab something when we head to the outlets. Definitely don’t want to be tied to on-property restaurants too much.

  • BuckyRister

    Stay off property. Go to Denny’s or an IHOP for breakfast, Budget $40 per person for the rest of the day for food. Grab a bite after the park closes. Save tons and tons of money…

    • WDWorldly

      IKEA Orlando: free breakfast and coffee Monday-Friday from 9-10:30am, $0.99 thereafter. Off-property FTW

  • waymire01

    One major plus not mentioned is convenience. The luxury of not having to worry about where you are going to eat, what it is going to cost, or what your budget is.. you just eat where you want when you want and know it’s paid for. Especially with larger groups or a lot of kids in tow it’s so nice. Our last trip we had an older teen, and he could go off on his own and use the DDP, we knew he was fed and could keep a block on his card for additional spending, great peace of mind for mom and dad.

    DDP is a must for us, we went without on our first trip (didn’t know it was an option), but have had some form of the plan for every trip since. IMO the deluxe plan is too much unless you plan to spend most of your time eating and have a large appetite. The only way it is worth it financially is if you are eating three table service meals a day, which are HUGE and will take up at least six hours of your day by the time you travel to the restaurant, wait to be seated, eat, and get back to where ever your next stop is. Plus you have to wrangle three reservations a day (it can be difficult even getting three reservations a day at reasonable times depending on the season) and plan every day around them. If a line for an attraction runs long you may have to reschedule or miss a reservation.. or skip the attraction. We found a wait of 15 to 30 minutes common even with reservations, and occasionally closer to 45 minutes. It’s even harder if you want to eat in the resorts due to the travel time back and forth, and there are some fantastic restaurants there. We did it on our last trip.. ate like pigs for three days (and felt miserable from food overload) and then gave up and started doing counter service on the go and one table service a day.. we wound up spending a bunch of credits on snacks and had a ton left over at the end of our stay that wound up getting blown on take home treats from the cafeteria. NOT cost effective. I would go with the regular plan, once nice big meal each day.. quick service on the run.. and a snack. We find ourselves splitting the quick service meals most of the time anyway, the portions are so big and it’s better not to stuff yourself and then jump on a ride.. so you can really do two a day.

    One other consideration is the kid meals.. if your kid is a “nuggets, hamburger, or mac and cheese kid” you are set.. if they prefer real food they will not be happy. Almost every quick service serves the same two or three options for kids, and even the table service have limited options, and it gets old really fast. In that case you might be better paying out of pocket and splitting your meal with them, which is not an option on the DDP since everybody has to be on it.

    One final thing.. on our last trip we were there for 20 days and we noticed a consistent difference in service for those on DDP.. and those not. We also noticed a difference when the “deluxe” upgrade was mentioned.. in fact it was the first thing we were asked 90% of the time when we arrived and checked in at a restaurant “what plan are you on?”. In one instance we were offered to be seated ahead of another party who was not “deluxe” and was there before us.. there was a long wait and we had been discussing the dining plans amongst ourselves while we waited so I happened to know..we refused and let the other party have our table. I have to wonder how often it happened without our knowledge. We saw similar issues based on your choice of resort level as well from the opposite perspective since we chose to stay at a value resort simply because the kids like the theming, and we are hardly ever there, just to sleep basically. So wrong in so many ways.. but a fact and something to consider.

  • Adding this info from a Park Wise reader who couldn’t get his comment posted:


    I wanted to respond to your article on MiceAge but couldn’t log in for some reason. Ah, well.

    I just recently went to WDW with my wife and 8-year-old son and hotly debated the dining plan for us. My son doesn’t eat much and is very picky so this became the most difficult decision I ended up making! I was really stressing about this as I read so many very different and often heated debates about whether or not to use the plan.

    We ended up using it and it was fantastic. Part of the reason it worked so well for us is that I’m a Cast Member in Anaheim. There’s not much info out there about how to travel as a Cast Member and all of the different options and discounts available, so I wanted to fill you in on how this works form our perspective. The dining plan ended up being a no-brainer really. I shouldn’t have stressed so much. As a Cast Member, I get a 20% discount on the dining plan for my entire party. Second, pending availability, Cast Members from Anaheim get a 50% discount on rooms at WDW. I don’t think the same offer is recipricated if your travelling from east to west. Additionally, again, pending availabilty, Cast Members get an ADDITIONAL 10% off the room discount if they use the dining plan. This means that I got 20% off the dining plan and 60% off my room cost. See, no-brainer! When I added the dining plan for 3 people for 4 nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it added a whopping $14 dollars to my bill. That’s $14 for three meals per day for three people. Now, I had to really do my homework and plan this. I made my dining reservations 180 days out like I was supposed to and I was very dilligent in calling in about these discounts because they’re not always available right away. I made multiple phone calls to get our desired hotel rooms and discounts, but it ended up working great.

    Now, for everyone, here are some things to keep in mind about the plan. We stayed at two different resorts for a total of 9 nights, split as such: 5 nights at the Polynesian and 4 nights at Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s important to understand that if you do this, this is NOT 9 sets of meals; it’s 5 and 4, because the plan is attached to your hotel reservation. In other words, if you don’t use all of your meals that are allotted to you at your first hotel site, you lose them. I made this mistake initially when I planned our dining and broke up our 9 table-service meal reservations unevenly. I had 6 or 7 of them within the first 5 days of our trip – all while we were staying at our first hotel location. This doesn’t work! I couldn’t pull from the meal allotment at my next hotel to use within the first stay. Does this make sense? In other words, if you’re going to be switching resorts and staying on the dining plan, you have to consider it two different vacations from that perspective.

    Many people say it’s just too much food. You have to order an appetizer or a dessert and a full meal per person. Many people think this is just too much. It is. But here’s the great thing; you can split meals. Unless it’s a buffet, two adults can split a meal and it counts as only one table service meal. We did this occasionally. If there were more restaurants we wanted to try but didn’t have enough credits, we simply would make multiple reservations and split a meal. This way we wouldn’t eat as much at one sitting and get to sample different restaurants. Here’s another thing to consider. Table service meals are divided among adults and kids, but quick service meals are not. In other words, for 5 days with two adults and two kids, they break that into 10 adult and 5 kid table service meals, but 15 quick service meals. Again, my son doesn’t eat much. We did occasionally use his meal for him, but we also brought lots of snacks for him to eat throughout the day
    and we just as often would use one of his meals for ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be a kids meal! You can order all “adult” meals if you want. Not so with the table service – kids must eat off the kids’ menu. Again, buffets are different. A buffet is one meal per person – no sharing or splitting.

    So the dining plan worked great for us. We really enjoyed its flexibility and the ability to not have to do much out of pocket payment. And the cost as a Cast Member made it a great deal. We were careful to note when the 18% gratiuity was included and when it wasn’t we added based on the value of the meal, not our discounted cost.

    I would definately use the dining plan in the future.


  • jalene19

    I wish they offered the dining plan to anyone visiting the park, not just those staying on property…or maybe a modified one for those not staying in a resort.