Whenever I help friends and family plan their Disney vacations, I have noticed the most questions and confusion seem to center around the Disney Dining Plan. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions regarding the meal plan.
Q8: Who is eligible to purchase a Disney Dining Plan?
A: If you are staying at any Walt Disney World Resort hotel (with the exception of the Swan and Dolphin) and book a package including park tickets, you are eligible to purchase a Disney Dining Plan. DVC members using their points to stay at any DVC resort hotel and annual pass holders can purchase the meal plan without purchasing park tickets.
Q7: Not everyone in my family wants to buy the dining plan. Can we buy it for just a few people in our party but not the others?
A: Everyone staying in the same room must be either ALL ON the meal plan or ALL OFF the meal plan. You cannot pick and choose to buy the meal plan for certain people and not others.
Q6: How does the meal plan work? Am I given a monetary allowance for each meal or is it on some kind of credit system?
A: When you purchase a Disney Dining Plan, each person in your party is allotted a certain number of meal credits per day. There are different types of meal credits and they include different things. A quick service meal credit can be used at any quick service location and includes a non-alcoholic drink, an entrée and a dessert (breakfast does not include dessert). A table service meal credit can be used at any table service location and includes a non-alcoholic drink, an entrée, and a dessert (no dessert at breakfast) or one complete buffet. Snacks credits can be used at many locations around Walt Disney World, like food carts, food courts, and bakeries.
Q5: How many meals do I get each day? What is included?
A: The amount of food you get each day depends on which plan you choose. Let’s talk about the 3 most popular choices. They are the standard Dining Plan, the Quick Service Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan.
The regular or standard Dining Plan includes credits for one “table service” meal, one “quick service” meal, and one snack per day. It also includes one Rapid Fill mug, which can be filled at any quick service location in any resort hotel (but not in any of the theme parks).
The Quick Service Dining Plan includes two “quick service” meals, one snack, and the Rapid Fill mug.
The Deluxe Dining Plan includes three meals (you can do three table service, or a combination of table service and quick service if you so choose) and two snacks. The Rapid Fill mug is also included.
Q4: Where am I allowed to eat? Which restaurants accept the meal plan credits?
A: There are hundreds of eligible locations at Walt Disney World. Practically every restaurant in every theme park is included. Most restaurants in the resort hotels are also included. You can also use your table service dining credits to see select dinner shows or for in-room dining or pizza delivery at certain resort hotels.
Be aware that although most dining locations participate in the dining plan, there are some that will “cost” you more than one credit. Any signature restaurant (Citricos, Hollywood Brown Derby, or California Grill to name a few) would use two table service credits per person. Cinderella’s Royal Table, in-room dining and pizza delivery also require two credits.
Q3: Do I have to use a certain number of meal credits each day? If I don’t use them, do I loose them?
A: All of the meal credits for your entire party are pooled, and you can use them however and whenever you want (beginning on the day of check-in and ending at midnight on the day you check-out). Let’s say for example that you were going to be in Disney for five days and you had two adults on the regular meal plan. You would have 10 table service credits, 10 quick service credits, and 10 snack credits total for your trip. So, if you wanted to eat two table-service meals on your first day you could, but that would use 4 table service credits. You’d have 6 left for the rest of your trip. You’d still have all 10 quick service credits, so you could just double up on quick service dining some other day of your trip. If you don’t use all of your credits by the end of your trip, you would loose them. This isn’t such a tragedy for a quick service meal or two, but loosing a table service meal would be a real waste. Snack credits can be used in pinch on your check-out day for certain pre-packaged food items in the resort gift shops (like a giant lollypop or bag of gummy candy). The moral of the story – if you buy the meal plan, use your credits!
Q2: Will being on the meal plan save me money? Is it worth the cost?
A: The answer to this depends on what and where you like to eat. The current cost per day for the regular dining plan (one table service, one quick service, and one snack per person per day) is around $60 for an adult and $20 per child (ages 3-9). If you prefer eating at the all-inclusive restaurants, buffets, or character meals, the meal plan will very likely save you some money, or at the very least, result in a “break-even” situation. If you generally eat at the less expensive table service restaurants, share meals, or wouldn’t normally order a drink or dessert with your meals, the meal plan may actually cost you more per day than paying out of pocket. Let’s break down the cost of meals over the course of a day in Epcot to compare:
Lunch at Coral Reef (Table Service):
Lobster and Shrimp Orecchiette Pasta – $29.99
Baileys and Jack Daniel’s Mousse – $7.99
Fountain Drink – $2.99
Dinner at Sunshine Seasons (Quick Service)
Oak-grilled Rotisserie Chicken – $11.79
Crème Brulee – $3.79
Fountain Drink – $2.99
Snack at Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles
Croissant Jambon Fromage – $4.75
The total for this day is $64.29 – so the meal plan would save you a small amount of money here. But if you wouldn’t have ordered desserts, and would have gotten a cup of ice water with your meals rather than a fountain drink, the total for the day would have been only $46.53. The meal plan would not have saved you any money in this case.
Let’s look at another scenario in the Magic Kingdom:
Lunch at Be Our Guest (Quick Service)
Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich – $12.49
Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcake – $4.19
Fountain Drink – $2.99
Dinner at Crystal Palace (Table Service)
Complete Buffet – $37.99 (or slightly more depending on date of visit)
Snack at Aloha Isle
Dole Whip Float – $4.99
The total for this day is $62.65, so once again the meal plan would save you a small amount of money. However, if you’d skipped either your drink or dessert at lunch, paying out of pocket would have saved you money.
There is one more thing to consider. The cost of a meal plan for a CHILD for the day is almost ALWAYS going to save you money, especially if you eat at the buffets or character meals. For example, a child’s lunch at the Crystal Palace is $17.99 (minimum). That means the entire cost of the meal plan is covered almost completely in one meal. It’s like getting your child’s quick service meal and snack for free each day. So, if you’re traveling with a party of two adults and two or more children, you might be breaking even with the adults, but you’d be saving a significant amount on the children. You might find the meal plan to be well worth the cost in that situation.
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Q1: Is there anything else I should know? What’s the bottom line?
A: I have traveled to Disney many times as a DVC member and have purchased the meal plan at some times and not at others. I find that it is extremely convenient, but depending on the people I’m traveling with it may or may not make financial sense. Typically, I make my dining reservations prior to purchasing the meal plan. If I’m able to get all of my usual reservations for more expensive table service meals and character meals (Akershus, Crystal Palace, Hollywood & Vine, Coral Reef, Be Our Guest) then I will generally purchase the dining plan. I also tend to eat the higher priced entrees at quick-service locations, and I do LOVE my desserts and snacks. I rarely drink soda but almost always order an iced tea. For my family the meal plan does make sense most of the time.
You should keep in mind that gratuity is not included in the meal plan, but it would be an added cost paying out of pocket as well.
Finally, you should be aware that children on the meal plan must choose an entrée from the children’s menu if there is one available. You cannot substitute an adult meal for a child’s meal.
Have you ever used a Dining Plan at Disney? Did you feel it was a good value? Leave a comment below!