Planning a trip to Disney World? Congratulations! While your kiddos’ minds are likely filled with visions of characters, rides, and pixie dust, yours might be filled with logistics and spreadsheets. (If you’re anything like me, this is NOT a bad thing.) If you’re in the midst of planning a trip, you’ve perhaps come across the conundrum of whether the Disney Dining Plan is right for you. Fear not – we’re here to help!
Today, we’re going to take you through an average day on the Disney Dining Plan, so you can see the amount you’d pay on the Disney Dining Plan vs. the amount you’d pay out-of-pocket.
Let’s take a deep dive into the Disney Dining Plan!
If you aren’t familiar with the Disney Dining Plan, you can read all about it here. Each plan is available to book with a Disney resort package and includes two snacks per night of your trip, a certain number of quick service and/or table service credits per night of your trip, and a resort refillable mug for the duration of your stay. There are now four plans to choose from, so there’s likely one or two that would appeal to you the most. Since the credit allotments and values are different for each one, we’re going to go through a day of what you’d spend on each plan.
Quick Service Dining Plan
First up in our study is the Quick Service Dining Plan. If you choose this plan, you’ll get two quick service credits per night of your trip, in addition to the snacks and mug mentioned above. For 2020, this plan costs $55 per adult per night and $26 per child ages 3-9. Our hypothetical Wilson family (two adults, two kids) is staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and visiting Magic Kingdom.
They kick off their day by visiting Sleepy Hollow Refreshments for breakfast. Mom and Dad each use a snack credit to get a Mickey Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream ($6.79 each) while their son and daughter each use a snack credit to get a Mickey Waffle with Powdered Sugar ($5.79). They grab cups of free iced water to enjoy with their breakfast, bringing their breakfast total to $25.16.
Mom orders Coq au Vin Braised Chicken ($18.99) and a glass of Chardonnay ($13) while Dad enjoys a French Dip Sandwich ($17.49) and Stella Artois beer ($9.25). Their daughter chooses Lumiere’s De-Light for $9.99 and their son orders Feast a la Beast for $9.79. The Wilson family members each use a counter service credit, while the out-of-pocket total would come out to $78.51.
At around 4:00, it’s snack time! Since there are so many awesome snacks in Magic Kingdom, they decide to split up. Mom and her son make a beeline to Aloha Isle, where they order a Pineapple Upside Down Cake ($6.99) and Raspberry and Pineapple Swirl Float ($5.99) respectively.
Dad and his daughter head to Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, where they get a Brownie Sundae ($7.49) and an Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich ($6.99). In total, the Wilson family’s afternoon snack haul comes to $27.46.
Before they leave the Most Magical Place on Earth, they head over to Columbia Harbour House for dinner. Mom gets a Lobster Roll ($15.99) and a soda ($3.99) while Dad orders a trio platter ($13.99) and lemonade slushy ($5.99). The kiddos enjoy Chicken Breast Nuggets ($7.49) and Macaroni & Cheese ($6.99). That brings the Wilson family’s dinner total to $54.99.
Per night, the Wilson family spent $162 on the Quick Service Dining Plan, when they would’ve spent $186.12 plus any applicable tax if they chose to pay out-of-pocket. In this case, the Wilson family came out ahead!
Standard Disney Dining Plan
The step up from the Quick Service Dining Plan is the Standard Disney Dining Plan. This includes one quick-service meal per day in addition to one table-service meal per day. Currently, the Standard Disney Dining Plan costs $78.01 per adult and $30.51 per child, bringing the per-night cost for the Wilson family to $217.04.
To reduce complicating this article, we’re going to keep everything the same as we did for the Quick-Service sample day aside from dinner. So, the Wilson family will enjoy breakfast at Sleepy Hollow, lunch at Be Our Guest, and an afternoon snack at Aloha Isle or Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. For dinner, they decide to venture to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge for Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White.
Artist Point currently operates with a set price for adults ($60) and children ($39). Since the Wilson family is on the Disney Dining Plan, Mom and Dad will get to choose a beverage in addition to their shared appetizers, desserts, and entrée of their choosing. Mom orders the totally cool Smoking Mirror drink ($14) while Dad opts for The Antidote beverage ($13). The Wilson family’s dinner total comes out to $225 plus tax and gratuity.
If the Wilson family didn’t have the Disney Dining Plan, they would’ve spent $356.13 plus applicable tax and gratuity. They do have to pay gratuity for dinner even though they’re on the Disney Dining Plan, but they still come out well ahead. Their Disney Dining Plan cost in addition to a 20% tip for dinner would bring their total to $262.04, saving close to $100.
Disney Dining Plan Plus
The brand-new Disney Dining Plan Plus includes two meal credits that you can use in any way you’d like. The per-night cost comes out to $94.61 per adult and $35 per child, for a nightly total of $259.22 for our hypothetical family. The Wilson family knows how important it is to get the most bang for each dining credit, so they decide to do a table service lunch in addition to dinner. They’ll follow the same plans as they did for the Standard Disney Dining Plan, but they’ll swap out lunch at Be Our Guest for lunch at Crystal Palace.
Lunch with Pooh and his friends currently costs $55 per adult and $36 per child. This price includes tax but does not include gratuity. As with Artist Point, Mom and Dad have the option to plus up their meal with a specialty drink. Mom chooses House-made White Sangria ($11) while Dad orders a glass of wine ($10). This brings their lunch total to $203 plus gratuity.
Following this plan (breakfast at Sleepy Hollow, lunch at Crystal Palace, snack at Aloha Isle/Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and dinner at Artist Point), the Wilson family would’ve spent $481.07 plus applicable tax and gratuity if they paid out-of-pocket. Factoring in a 20% gratuity for both table service meals, they spent $344.82 on the Disney Dining Plan Plus – a savings of $136.25!
Deluxe Disney Dining Plan
The most expensive option is the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. In addition to snacks and a refillable mug, this plan includes three meal credits per night, to use in any way you wish. The per-night cost is $119 per adult and $47.50 per child, for a nightly total of $333 for the Wilson family. Our hypothetical family is not sure they want to spend the stomach space (or time) on three table service meals, so they decide to upgrade their Artist Point dinner to dine at The Contemporary’s California Grill instead.
Since the Wilson family is on the Deluxe Dining Plan, each adult will get an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and beverage of their choosing. Mom orders a Plant City Strawberry Salad ($18), Oak Fired Filet of Beef ($59), Strawberry Crème Brulee ($16), and a glass of Rosé ($19). Dad chooses Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons ($18), Grilled Colorado Bison Loin ($62), Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake ($17), and a Sonoma Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned ($18). On the kid’s menu, their daughter picks Chicken Noodle Soup ($6) and Seared Wild Salmon ($17) while their son chooses Hearts of Romaine ($6) and Grilled Beef Tenderloin ($19). Their total for dinner is $275 plus tax and gratuity.
Following this plan (breakfast at Sleepy Hollow, lunch at Crystal Palace, snack at Aloha Isle/Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and dinner at California Grill), the Wilson family would’ve spent $530.62 plus applicable tax and gratuity if they paid out-of-pocket. Factoring in a 20% gratuity for both table service meals, they spent $428.60 on the Deluxe Dining Plan – a savings of $102.02!
It’s important to note that our hypothetical family would probably have saved more if they chose three one-credit table service meals, but as that is not always practical or doable, we did it this way.
So, Is It Worth It?
As you can see, it is absolutely possible to come out ahead with any of the four Disney Dining Plans. The savings are the greatest on the Disney Dining Plan Plus and Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, with the former perhaps offering a greater amount of flexibility and practicality. And many guests simply choose the Disney Dining Plan for the comfort of pre-paying for their food.
Having said that, if you are a light eater, don’t care about desserts, or are a vegetarian, the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you. In order to come out ahead, you’ll want to enjoy the higher-priced items included with your package. If you don’t enjoy meat and/or seafood, you may not get the best value out of purchasing the DDP.
As we tell everyone, it really is important to crunch the numbers to see if purchasing a Disney Dining Plan makes sense for your family. While some families absolutely save money on the plan, others may not.
Are you a proponent of the Disney Dining Plan? Let us know why in the comments below!