I remember Googling “Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?” about 1,000 times prior to our family’s first trip to Disney World in 2018. I wanted to make sure that our family was getting our money’s worth dining out in Disney, but I couldn’t find much information with real numbers, cost, and figures to use in my decision-making. Now that our family has visited twice, once with the Disney Dining Plan and once without, I want to share the cost, price comparisons, and key takeaways with you.
Our First Trip: The Big, Mambo, All-Out Trip in November 2018 with The Dining Plan
This trip was epic! Since childhood, I have visited Disney World around 6 or 7 times with my parents and friends. Additionally, prior to getting married, Adventure Dad, my family, and I celebrated my thirtieth birthday in Disney.
However, our 2018 trip to Disney was the first visit for both of our boys. It was also my nephew Jimmy’s first visit. In addition to the 3 boys ages 3 and under, the family members on the 2018 trip consisted of 6 adults: grandparents, brother, sister-in-law, my husband, and myself. It was momentous! We had a blast!
In preparing for the trip, I felt overwhelmed with all of the options and planning. I also felt frustrated that I couldn’t seem to find any “real numbers” to help decide whether or not we should add the Disney Dining Plan to our trip.
I already knew we’d be staying at a Disney Resort, and I knew we were going to purchase the Memory Maker, but I went back and forth about the dining plan. In the end, my immediate family purchased the Standard Disney Dining Plan (middle level). Our younger son was free since he was only 2, so we bought the plan for 2 adults and 1 child for 4 days.
We also went all out in terms of character and show dining, so we actually spent out-of-pocket for meals on top of what we’d already paid for the Disney Dining Plan.
Our total dining plan cost was $706.92 for 4 days, and we spent another $382 for dining experiences on top of that cost (breakdown and cost comparisons of everything in chart below). This was a very special trip after all!
Disney Dining Plan
If you’re not familiar with the Disney Dining Plan, basically if you are staying at one of the Disney Resorts, you can pay one price per person in your group, and then you’re given a certain amount of credits that can be used for different types of dining. On the Standard Dining Plan, each person in your party is allotted the following:
- 1 Table Service Credit per day
- 1 Quick Service Credit per day
- 2 Snack or Non-alcoholic Beverage Credits per day
If you don’t use all of your credits in one day, then they roll over and accumulate. However, you must use them all before midnight on the last day of your trip or your forfeit the cost and credits.
First Trip: Disney Dining Plan Restaurants and Totals
As I’ve said, we stayed on property for our first trip and we purchased the Standard Disney Dining Plan for 2 adults and 1 child for 4 days. This chart shows where we ate and which meals we ate at each restaurant during our visit. It also gives you a price comparison so you have a real idea of how much the meal would have cost if we’d paid out-of-pocket.
|Location||Restaurant||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, or Snacks||Type of Meal||Disney Dining Plan Credits (per person)||Approximate Cost of Meal|
|The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort||Hoop-de-Doo Musical Review||Dinner||Family-style table service with live musical show||2 Table Service||$72/adult (age 10 and over) and $43/child (age 3-9)–For this show, these prices include gratuity.|
|Hollywood Studios||Backlot Express||Lunch||Quick Service||1 Quick Service||$13/adult meal and $7/child meal|
|Hollywood Studios||50’s Prime Time Cafe||Dinner||Table Service||1 Table Service||$25/adult meal and $12/child meal|
|Disney’s Contemporary Resort||Chef Mickey’s||Breakfast||Buffet-style character dining||1 Table Service||$52/adult buffet and $31/child buffet|
|Disney Springs||T-REX||Lunch||Table Service||1 Table Service||$22/adult meal and $9/child meal|
|Disney Springs||Amorette’s Patisserie||Snacks||Bakery||1 Snack Credit (for some items)||$10 for 3 cookies|
|Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort||‘ohana||Dinner||Family-style||1 Table Service||$46/adult (age 10 and over) and $26/child (age 3-9)|
|Magic Kingdom||Be Our Guest Restaurant||Breakfast||Table Service||1 Quick Service||$28/adult and $15/child|
|Magic Kingdom||Aloha Isle||Snacks||Quick Service||1 Snack Credit||$5 for Dole Whip cup|
|Magic Kingdom||Liberty Tree Tavern||Dinner||Family-style||1 Table Service||$42/adult (age 10 and over) and $22/child (age 3-9)|
|Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort||‘ohana||Breakfast||Family-style character meal||1 Table Service||$40/adult (age 10 and over) and $25/child (age 3-9)|
|TOTALS||Per person, we used 8 Table Service, 2 Quick Service, 2 Snacks||$885 worth of dining (for 2 adults and 1 child age 3)|
Total Credits Used on 2018 Trip
On this trip, we ended up using
- 8 Table Service credits per person–Yes, we used twice as many as included with the standard dining plan. Oops.
- 2 Quick Service credits per person–We left 2 of these “on the table” because we did not use quick service as much as we thought we would and did not convert them to snack credits.
- 2 Snack Credits per person–We did end up using all of the snack credits by buying candy and bagged snacks in a gift shop on our last day.
Was the Disney Dining Plan worth it for our all-out 2018 trip?
Admittedly, we did not do this dining plan thing correctly in terms of thinking through the total bill at each restaurant before we went. That being said, I think what we did was typical of what many people do when planning for Disney World. We picked out the restaurants and dining experiences we thought would be the best for our family. And, we had a fabulous time!
Was the Disney Dining Plan worth it for us? Well, I’ll let you decide:
- We spent $706.92 for the Standard Disney Dining Plan for 2 adults and 1 child over 3. We also spent an additional $382 for the extra table service meals that we enjoyed. This brought our grand total for dining to $1,088.92 for 4 days.
- If I only add up the meals for which we used the Disney Dining Plan, then our credits were used for $503 worth of food plus A TON of snacks. These totals mean that we paid $203.92 more with the dining plan than we would have if we just paid for those meals out-of-pocket.
- We should also note that none of the totals here, including what you pay for the Disney Dining Plan, have gratuity included except for the Hoop-de-doo Review dinner show. In other words, make sure you take into account that you will need to pay tips out-of-pocket when dining on the Disney Dining Plan.
- Also, we did not take advantage of the alcoholic drinks that we could have had at some of the restaurants. This would have increased the value on the meals for which we used our credits.
Big Takeaway from 2018 Trip with The Dining Plan
Our experience and these totals show that it is soooo important to plan ahead exactly where you’ll eat each meal and how many credits it will take. In other words, don’t be like us and leave quick service credits on the table. Also, plan ahead so that snack credits can be used to purchase bigger snacks that might replace some of your meals.
Our Second Trip: The Pared-Down But Still Magical Trip in November 2019 without The Dining Plan
We had so much fun on our first trip that I wanted to go again as soon as we could. This time, it was just our immediate family going (2 adults and 2 kids), and we decided that we would try staying off-property and see how we liked that. Of course, staying off-property meant that we would not be able to purchase a Disney Dining Plan. This also gave us an opportunity to see if we could still have a magical vacation without going all-out for every meal. Spoiler alert: We did!
Second Trip: Restaurants and Total Amounts
This chart shows where we ate and which meal we ate at those locations. These prices show our cost as a family of 2 adults and 2 kids for 4 days. It also gives you a price comparison so you have an idea of how much the meals cost out-of-pocket.
|Location||Restaurant||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, or Snacks||Type of Meal||Disney Dining Plan Credits (per person)||Cost of Meal Including Tax and Tip|
|Off Property||Chick-fil-A||Dinner||Quick Service||NA||$36.36|
|Magic Kingdom||Crystal Palace||Breakfast||Buffet-style character dining||1 Table Service||$166.14|
|Magic Kingdom||Liberty Tree Tavern||Dinner||Family-style||1 Table Service||$163.58|
|Off Property||Chick-fil-A||Breakfast||Quick Service||NA||$19.91|
|Animal Kingdom||Zuri’s Sweets Shops||Snacks||Quick Service||1 Snack Credit||$20.20 for 2 cookies and 2 slushies|
|Animal Kingdom||Flame Tree BBQ||Lunch||Quick Service||1 Quick Service||$36.50|
|Animal Kingdom||Tusker House with Rivers of Light Reserved Seating||Dinner||Buffet-style character dining||1 Table Service||$214.70|
|Off Property||Muffins from grocery story||Breakfast||Quick Service||NA||$5.00|
|Off Property in Tampa||Eddie and Sam’s New York Pizza||Lunch||Quick Service||NA||$26.17|
|Magic Kingdom||Columbia Harbor House||Dinner||Quick Service||1 Quick Service||$40.95|
|TOTALS||Per person, we would have used 3 Table Service, 2 Quick Service, and 1 Snack Credit||$729.51 (for 2 adults and 2 children ages 4 and 3)|
Would the Disney Dining Plan have been worth it for our more conservative 2019 trip?
Again, even though we didn’t go all-out for this trip in terms of dining, we still had 2 character meals and lots of yummy food both on and off property. So, would we have been better off with the Disney Dining Plan on this trip? Again, I’ll let you decide:
- If we purchased the Standard Disney Dining Plan, we would have paid $827.76 for 2 adults and 2 children. For that price, we would have been able to use 1 more Table Service credit per person, 2 more Quick Service credits per person, and 7 more Snack Credits per person than we would have at the restaurants we chose. In other words, we would have been able to get A LOT more food for about $98 more.
- HOWEVER, the price we paid out-of-pocket in this chart includes gratuities while only paying for the Disney Dining Plan does not. Do not forget to take that into account when trying to compare prices! As one experienced Disney-goer pointed out to me, having the dining plan might force you to eat more table service meals. This means that the amount you spend on tips would be higher than if you were paying out-of-pocket and enjoying more quick service meals or snacks.
- Also, we did not buy any alcoholic drinks on this trip, and those are included at some restaurants when using the Disney Dining Plan, so that could increase the value if your family would be buying alcoholic beverages.
Big Takeaway from 2019 Trip without The Dining Plan
If you’re going to be staying off property to save money or for other reasons, don’t get too down about the fact that you can’t participate in the Disney Dining Plan. No matter what, you’ll be having fun in Disney World, so you’re a winner!
So, is the Disney Dining Plan worth the cost or not?
After looking through the numbers from our two trips–one with the dining plan and one without–we still can’t give you a yes or no answer, BUT here’s what we think:
- If you are willing to put in the time planning where you’ll eat ahead of time so that you get the most (value-wise) out of every meal, then the Disney Dining Plan can totally be worth the cost. This includes planning out your snack credits. Remember, any credits you don’t use by the end of your trip just accounts to wasted money.
- If your family has a lot of “big eaters” that will order, eat, and enjoy the costliest items on the menu, then the Disney Dining Plan might be worth it for your family.
- If you are going to enjoy alcoholic beverages whenever you can, then the Disney Dining Plan might be right for you.
- If you are wishy washy about going with the Disney Dining Plan because you think you’d rather spend the extra money on souvenirs, shopping, or other added experiences, then do that instead.
- If it doesn’t bother you to eat off property or at fast food restaurants for some of your meals, then you can totally save money that way, especially if you have your own transportation to get to and from those restaurants.
- Conversely, if you know you’ll need to eat on property for every meal during your stay, then the Disney Dining Plan might save you some moolah.
- In our opinion, the #1 reason the Disney Dining Plan might be worth the cost for your family: If you do not want to worry about how much money you’re spending on food while in the park and would rather just take care of the cost in one lump sum up front, then buy the Disney Dining Plan. We believe this is the biggest benefit of going with the dining plan.
Last Piece of Advice
Before deciding one way or another, go through and add up how much you think you’ll spend at each restaurant you plan to visit during your stay. Then, compare that to the price that your family will pay for the dining plan. That is the only good way to decide for yourself whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is worth the cost for your family.
No matter what, we hope you enjoy your trip to Disney World as much as we enjoyed ours!