Thursday, November 14, 2013

Disney Dining Plan

A lot of sources around the internet question if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it.  My personal opinion is that it depends on what you want to get out of your trip.  It might be a great option for some, but for others, it could be a total waste.  Here's the breakdown:

Spender vs. Saver

Pictured here: the fine dining option, Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort.


Obviously, if your Disney vacation is all about living the life of luxury, you should choose the Deluxe Dining Plan!

  • Including 3 meals a day (either table-service or quick-service) and 2 snacks, you will never be hungry on this plan.
    • Each meal includes a drink and dessert, and the desserts at Disney are wonderful, even at most quick-service locations (read: Cappuccino cupcake at Pizza Planet in Hollywood Studios)
  • Fine-dining (signature) options, such as the Yachtsman Steakhouse shown above and Le Cellier in Epcot, use 2 meal credits, but with 3 allotted per day, it is a much more accessible option.
  • As with fine dining, certain dinner shows (ex: Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian) and character meals (Cinderella's Royal Table) cost 2 meal credits.
With so many meal credits to combine in so many different ways, the Deluxe Dining Plan gives you 
endless dining possibilities!


If your goal is strictly to go to Disney for as little money as possible, then it is unlikely that you will want to purchase any variation of the Disney Dining Plan.  Why?
  • Unless you consistently buy the most expensive options, you are unlikely to save money. (In fact, you might not end up breaking even).
  • Most meals include a drink and dessert, which are added in to the average meal cost on the plan, but would not be a cost for you if you typically get water or no dessert with your meal.
  • The dining plan does not include places outside of Disney, which if you have a car and access to those places, will likely be cheaper if you want a sit-down meal.
Penny for penny, you are more likely to save money by buying out of pocket meals during your Disney vacation.

Planner vs. Impulsive

Pictured here: Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, a quick-service option in Magic Kingdom.


For the planner, I recommend the standard Disney Dining Plan.  Here's why:
  • The standard plan includes one table-service and one quick-service meal per person per day, as well as a snack.  In my experience, this is more than enough food for the day (especially as both meals include dessert).
  • One table-service meal allows you to plan your reservations for each day.  This is a great way to develop a plan of what park you will go to each day of the vacation.
  • Having the quick-service option allows you to plan other activities/events for the day, and not have your vacation revolve around your meals.  There are quick-service options everywhere, so the meal can be fit in between your ride on Space Mountain and grabbing your spot for the afternoon parade.
To me, the standard Dining Plan gives a great balance of table-service and quick-service, and just enough food for everyone to be satisfied, making it perfect for the planner.


Those who are impulsive may not want to have the commitment of choosing a table-service restaurant, especially since it can be hard to get into most without a reservation.  I believe that the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan works especially well for you.
  • Quick-Service Dining provides each guest with 2 quick-service meals (entree, drink, dessert) and 1 snack per day.
  • The large availability of quick-service options in each park and resort means that it will be easy to find a place to eat.
  • Not having to have a reservation for quick-service dining allows you to eat when you're hungry, and not have any set schedule to adhere to based on a table-service reservation.
  • The dining option keeps you from having to worry about having cash for food, as it is accessed through the Key to the World card or Magic Band.
For the most worry-free option, choose Quick-Service Dining!

Romantic vs. Fun

Pictured here: Tutto Italia Ristorante, a table-service option in Italy, Epcot's World Showcase


For those couples going to Disney, I recommend first thinking about how much time you want to spending eating with visiting!

  • If eating really delicious meals is something you really want to do, go with the Deluxe Dining Plan.  Like I said above, it makes it much easier to use 2 credits for the Signature Dining restaurants.  And with places like California Grill on the list, with it's beautiful Magic Kingdom fireworks view at night, it's something to consider!
  • If you don't want to revolve your vacation around food, then the standard Dining Plan is liking more than enough.  Though it is harder to allott 2 credits to Signature Dining, there are plenty of other beautiful restaurant with delicious food (and great cocktails!) that are available for just 1 table-service credit. (Note: No meal on any dining plan includes alcoholic beverages.)
Either option is great for couples, it just depends on exactly what you're looking for!


Determining the right Disney Dining Plan for those who want to have fun just depends on what you think is fun!
  • If one of your favorite things to do is go out and get a good meal, then the Deluxe Dining Plan is likely your best option.  This plan gives 3 meal credits a day, so using 2 to dine at the fine-dining options is much more accessible.
  • If you want to have table-service meals, but don't want to revolve your vacation around them, then the standard Dining Plan is likely the right option.
  • The standard Dining Plan is also good for those who want to meet characters.  Most character dining locations only require 1 table-service credit (exception: Cinderella's Royal Table), and are often a good way for 20-something to interact with characters without wasting time standing in long line.
  • For those who don't want to be tied down by food, stick to the Quick-Service Dining Plan
Since there are so many dining options on property, figuring out your ideal dining plan should be done by first determining what your main goal for the time spent eating is!

Quick tip:
Something I learned during the first trip I planned was that the Dining Plan is factored for each night staying. So if you are going for 5 days/4 nights, on the standard plan you will get 4 table-service, 4 quick-service, and 4 snacks, not 5 of each.

Questions?  Feel free to comment, I'd be happy to answer!
Ideas for future posts?  Let me know!

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