Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth It? Weighing Both Sides

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? The School Bread at Norway Pavilion in Epcot. It definitely makes my top five list fore best Disney World snacks!

Are you on the fence about whether or not to purchase a Disney Dining Plan (DDP)? With every question answered about it, do you have 10 more in its place? Trust me, you are not alone. As a gal that’s been on both sides of the DDP plate, here’s what I’ve learned about the DDP, its cost, and benefits. Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Here’s the scoop. 

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Sandwiches and tater tots at Woody's Lunch Box in Toy Story Land, Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Sandwiches and tater tots at Woody’s Lunch Box in Toy Story Land, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We love the fact that most of the menu items are on the Disney Dining Plan. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

It’s true, I’ve purchased the Disney Dining Plan and paid out of pocket several times each. And each time, I’m certain I made the right decision. Here’s how to narrow down if the DDP will work for you and when to pass. 

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Disney Dining Plans Tiers

First, let’s start with the basics of each plan. In order to decide which to go with, you’ll need to consider how much both you and your family like to eat. Straight from the official WDW website, here’s the breakdown. 

Quick Service Disney Dining Plan: What’s Included?

Everyone in the party ages three and over will receive the following each night of their package stay:

  • 2 Quick-Service Meals & 2 Snacks

Each Quick-Service meal includes (for breakfast, lunch or dinner):

  • 1 Entrée
  • A Nonalcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

Beverages:
Guests under 21 years of age can choose one nonalcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered). Guests 21 and older can choose either one nonalcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered) or one single serving mixed cocktail, beer, or wine (where offered) within their meal entitlement.

Disney Dining Plan: Whats Included?

Everyone in the party ages 3 and over will receive the following each night of their package stay:

  • 1 Quick-Service Meal, 1 Table-Service Meal, & 2 Snacks

Each Guest ages three and over will receive a refillable drink mug, which is eligible for refills at self-service beverage islands at Quick-Service locations at any Disney Resort hotel. Guests ages 3 to 9 must order from a children’s menu, where available.

Guests have several new beverage options available including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for Guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.

Each Quick-Service meal includes (for breakfast, lunch or dinner):

  • 1 Entrée
  • A Nonalcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

Each Table-Service meal includes (for breakfast):

  • 1 Entrée
  • 1 Nonalcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

OR

  • 1 Full Buffet or Family-Style Meal

Each Table-Service meal includes (for lunch or dinner):

  • 1 Entrée
  • 1 Dessert*
  • Nonalcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

OR

  • 1 Full Buffet or Family-Style Meal

Beverages:
Guests under 21 years of age can choose one nonalcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered). Guests 21 and older can choose either one nonalcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered) or one single-serving mixed cocktail, beer or wine (where offered) within their meal entitlement. 

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: What’s Included?

Everyone in the party ages three and over will receive the following each night of their package stay:

  • 3 Meals & 2 Snacks

Each Guest ages 3 and over will receive a refillable drink mug, which is eligible for refills at self-service beverage islands at Quick-Service locations at any Disney Resort hotel. Guests ages 3 to 9 must order from a children’s menu, where available.

Guests have several new beverage options available including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for Guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.

Each Quick-Service meal includes (for breakfast, lunch or dinner):

  • 1 Entrée
  • A Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

Each Table-Service meal includes (for breakfast):

  • 1 Entrée
  • A Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

OR

  • 1 Full Buffet or Family-Style Meal

Each Table-Service meal includes (for lunch or dinner):

  • An Appetizer, 1 Entrée, 1 Dessert, & A Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)

OR

  • 1 Full Buffet or Family-Style Meal

Beverages:
Guests under 21 years of age can choose one non-alcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered). Guests 21 and older can choose either one non-alcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered) or one single-serving mixed cocktail, beer, or wine (where offered) within their meal entitlement.

Ok, now that you have the story on what’s included in each Disney Dining Plan, here’s how to narrow down whether or not it makes sense for your family.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I and my family big eaters?
  • Would we like spending several hours per day at a dining table?
  • Do we want to try only sit-down style meals when we visit?

If your answer is yes to all, you may want to consider the Deluxe Dining Plan. On my family’s first visit to WDW, we had the Deluxe Plan. We consider ourselves foodies and wanted to try as many sit-down restaurants as possible. 

Now, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want a combination of sit-down and counter service dining?
  • Will one sit-down restaurant be enough per day?

If you answered yes to these ones, the classic Disney Dining Plan may be for you. As it has both a sit-down and counter service restaurant allotment per day, it’s the best of both worlds. 

Lastly, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I only want counter service restaurant dining?
  • Is being in the parks more important than sitting at a dining table?

If you answered yes, the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan is probably your best bet. 

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? 1900 Park Fare buffet options
1900 Park Fare buffet options. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

What’s Not Included in a Disney Dining Plan

I remember the good old days when gratuity was included in the Disney Dining Plan. Currently, server tips are not included, so keep that in mind regarding table service credits. 

Does the Disney Dining Plan Save Money?

In a word, yes. It definitely does save you money. But here’s the kicker: you pretty much have to use it by the book to save money. If not, you’ll end up losing money. 

Can I Buy A Disney Dining Plan Separately?

If you’re staying on-property, you can purchase a Disney Dining Plan with your resort stay and park tickets when you book. You can also add it on (when applicable) up to two days before you arrive. 

Tip: Disney Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members may add on a DDP to their on-property resort stay. Is a Disney Annual Pass worth it? Here’s when to say yes. 

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? From meal options to free dining plans, here's the scoop and your questions answered. #Disney #DisneyDining #WDW #WaltDisneyWorld #DiningatDisney #DisneyDiningPlan

Are there Ever Free Disney Dining Plans?

Yes, happily. In general, a couple of times each year free dining offers are released. Of course, this may be more or less depending on where you live. A free Disney Dining Plan offer will accompany a reservation package with both tickets and resort room stay. 

So, say you’re a Disney Annual Passholder and found a free Disney Dining Plan offer online. You’ll need to purchase both park tickets (there’s a minimum number of days required) and an onsite resort room reservation together to take advantage. But, I’m able to bank those tickets towards a future Annual Pass purchase. So, in this case, it makes sense for me to purchase the DDP. 

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse at Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse at Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom. Photo Credit: Karyn Locke

Can I Upgrade a Disney Dining Plan?

If you already have a Quick Service or middle tier DDP, absolutely. Of course, you’ll have to pay the difference in pricing between the tiers. 

When Do I not Get the Disney Dining Plan?

When I’m ready to visit the Disney parks with my family and there’s no free dining plan available, at this point I forgo purchasing it separately. Here’s why. 

I’ve actually tested if my family and I would go above the dining plan cost by purchasing a Disney gift card with the exact amount the DDP would cost us. I then used it for dining throughout the resort and theme parks – and ended up with hundreds of dollars left over. Why?

Because we’re not strapped into eating a specific way. Some days we want Quick Service dining only. Other days we want to sit at a table service restaurant and dine. And, Walt Disney World does have generous portions so we rarely purchase more than one snack per person per day – the DDP offers two. 

Additionally, Annual Passholders receive dining discounts on select restaurants from 10-20% per person. Add that in and we’re saving even more. 

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