Disney Dining Plan: When is it a No Brainer?

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If you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World in 2024, you’re likely aware the Disney Dining Plans are BACK! But, how do you know whether the Dining Plan is a good fit for your family? There are a few things to consider when looking at the Disney Dining Plans. With a little reflection on how you want to spend your vacation, you may quickly realize that it’s a no-brainer.  

With the Disney Dining Plans, you can budget in advance for your meals and snacks, which can help you save money and avoid unexpected expenses. The plans include a set number of meals and snacks per day. They can be used at over 100 dining locations throughout Walt Disney World. Plus, with countless options for guests with special dietary requirements or lifestyle dining requests, it’s easy to find meals that fit your needs.

Understanding the Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plans offer two options in 2024: the Quick-Service Dining Plan and the (Standard) Disney Dining Plan. Each plan includes a set number of meals and snacks per day,. as well as a refillable resort mug for drinks. The number of meals and snacks varies depending on the plan and the length of your stay.

The Quick-Service Dining Plan is the most basic plan and includes two quick-service meals and one snack per day. Quick-service meals are meals that are ordered at a counter (or by mobile ordering through the My Disney Experience app) and do not require a reservation. The Disney Dining Plan includes one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and one snack per day. Table-service meals offer a sit-down dining experience and reservations are highly recommended, and often required.

Disney Dining Plan Explanation Chart 

It’s important to note that the Disney Dining Plan does not include gratuity. You will need to pay for any tips out of pocket. The plan does cover alcoholic beverages for guests 21 and older when available, and you can also use your snack credits to purchase non-alcoholic drinks when indicated. There are a number of other rules for the Disney Dining Plans, but we’ll save those for a different day!

So…When is the Disney Dining Plan a No-Brainer?

We’ve crunched the numbers on all of the menus and costs associated with the Dining Plans (and there are free calculators available to check them yourself). Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you have kids ages 3-9 in your vacation package? 
  • Do you enjoy table-service meals? Do you typically make Advanced Dining Reservations?
  • Do you anticipate most of your meals will be at Walt Disney World during your vacation?
  • Will you drink fountain beverages daily at your resort? 

If you answered “Yes” to two or more of these questions, the Disney Dining Plans are likely to save you money on your Walt Disney World Vacation. 

The more children in your party, the more savings you will have on the Disney Dining Plans. Specifically, children ages 3-9, because the cost per table-service meal is incredibly low for kids in comparison to entree prices when you’re not on the dining plan. 

Garden Grill character meal entrance
Character Dining at Epcot’s Garden Grill Restaurant

While quick-service meals are largely close to the same value on or off the Dining Plans, table-service meals can be a tremendous value. Particularly if you like to eat at  higher-cost table-service meals, such as Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and more. 

SAtu'li Canteen adult bowl entree
Satu’li Canteen Bowl

If you eat all of your meals “on property” (at Walt Disney World) then you will be able to maximize your credits on the Dining Plans. 

Lastly, one of the most overlooked “values” of the Disney Dining Plan is the included refillable mug. It’s a $23 value per person. Plus, with free refills on soda at any Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, it can save you a ton considering each soda typically costs between $4-6. 

Disney Resort refillable mugs
Resort Refillable Mugs

Save Time, Create Certainty, and Maintain Flexibility

You’ve probably already decided the Disney Dining Plan is a no-brainer for your next trip, but if you’re still not sold, here are a few other benefits:. 

  1. The Dining Plan creates financial certainty. Have you ever been hit with a large bill at the end of a great family meal that you weren’t necessarily expecting? Yeah, me too. I think we all have. With the Dining Plans, regardless of what you order, it includes the cost, as long as it’s within the plan. They allow you to enjoy some of the best restaurants in the park without breaking the bank.
  2. The Dining Plans can save you time. When you have a Dining Plan, you know what restaurant options are available and it narrows down your decision making. 
  3. They are flexible! Credits roll over each night and don’t expire until midnight on check-out day. There are endless ways to use them throughout your vacation and the Dining Plans allow you the flexibility to get the meals you want when you want them. 
  4. Discounts. Disney often offers discounts and promotions on Disney Dining Plans, which can just make them even more of a value! 

A Disney Dining Plan Tip!

Be sure to make your reservations early. Some of the most popular restaurants in the park, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, can fill up quickly. By making your reservations early, you can ensure that you get a table at the restaurant of your choice.

If you want to make your trip to Disney World convenient and enjoyable, the Disney Dining Plan is a no-brainer. With its convenience, savings, and flexibility, it’s a great way to enjoy some of the best restaurants in the park without breaking the bank.

*This article was co-authored by Matt Brandabur and Stacy McGrath. Reach out to them today for a free no obligation quote.

Follow Matt (@adventuresofadisneydad) and Stacy (@adventuresbystacy) on Instagram.

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