One of the most common questions that I hear from people planning Disney vacations is this: “Is it worth it to get the dining plan?” I myself have only had the dining plan once, but it was a good experience and I would like to talk about it here to give people an idea of what is worth it with the dining plan.
Disney Dining Plan Basics
A couple of things you should know if you’re considering the dining plan. There are three different plans available for three different prices (current prices as of 6/10/16 for adults and include tax):
- Quick service dining plan: includes 2 quick service meals (entrée, non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert) and 1 snack per person, per night $44.13
- Disney Dining Plan: 1 table service meal (entrée, nonalcoholic beverage, and dessert), 1 quick service meal, and 1 snack per person, per night $63.70
- Deluxe dining plan: 3 meals (table service or quick service, with table service meal including appetizer, entrée, and dessert), and 2 snacks per person, per night $115.08
And some other things to be aware of with the dining plan:
- Gratuity is not included
- Most restaurants, but not all, are on the plan
- More expensive restaurants, like character meals and signature restaurants, may require 2 table service credits
- Dessert is included with quick service and table service meals, but only for lunch and dinner (not breakfast)
- A resort refillable mug is included with the dining plan purchase.
People want to know if the dining plan will save them money. When I did it in 2011 the Disney dining plan was $45.99 per person per night. The price has since gone up, but so has the cost of food so I’m guessing it more or less evens out. We had the dining plan for 8 nights and two people, for a total of $735.84.
Adding up everything we used the dining plan for (not including alcohol and tip, since those aren’t covered in the dining plan), we spent $816. Plus, there were two quick service meals we didn’t even get around to using. So by purely looking at these numbers, we saved about $80.
But there are a couple of things to consider. With the dining plan you get a dessert at every meal. Would we have each ordered dessert at every meal? Probably not. And sometimes when we get quick service we share a drink, so that value might go down slightly. There are also “better ways” to use your dining credits. For instance, you could use one credit at the Plaza in Magic Kingdom where entrees are sandwiches and burgers and are in the $15 range. Or you could use one credit at Liberty Tree Tavern where it costs about $35 per person.
Something else to consider is the convenience of having the dining plan. There are several advantages to this. The first is that everything (except alcohol and gratuity) is paid for ahead of time. So not only do you know exactly how much your food budget is going to be for the trip, you also don’t have to worry about sorting out payment at each restaurant. You just use your magic band and the credit is taken from your account.
And this doesn’t go for everyone, but for me I tend to be rather budget conscious, even when I’m on vacation. That means that if I’m looking at a menu I’ll probably choose a chicken dish over the steak to save some money. But with the dining plan, since it’s already paid for the chicken “costs” the same as the steak. It’s a nice luxury for me to be able to get what I want and not worry about saving a couple of pennies here or there. I try to let myself go on vacation but sometimes it is hard to get out of that mindset!
Personally, I am definitely pro-dining plan. I feel like if you use your credits wisely you can usually at least break even, if not save a little money. The biggest benefit is getting some peace of mind and not constantly fretting about how much something costs, which is definitely worth it for me.
So why have I only used it once? Because I became an Annual Passholder, and the Tables in Wonderland card, which gets you 20% your table service meals, is almost certainly a better value (and by the way, this card is also available to Florida residents). But when this isn’t an option for me once I give up my annual pass, I’ll go back to the dining plan for trips where I know I’ll be doing a decent amount of table service dining.
What do you think of the dining plans? Have you used one before?