Disney Dining Plans: Pros and Cons
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
If you've ever dined at a sit-down Disney restaurant, you've probably been asked the question, "Are we on any kind of Dining Plan?" If you're unsure of what the Dining Plans are all about and whether or not they're worth the money, take a look at my list of the pros and cons to see for yourself.
1. You get to eat a lot of food
The Regular Dining Plan includes: 1 Quick-Service (QS), 1 Table Service (TS), and 2 Snacks (S) for the amount of nights you are staying at your Disney resort.
For example: a 3 night stay would give you 3 Quick-Service meals, 3 Table-Service meals, and 6 Snacks.
The Dining Plan Plus includes: 2 meals (QS or TS) and 2 Snacks (or Non-Alcoholic Beverages) for the amount of nights you are staying at your Disney resort.
The Deluxe Dining Plan includes: 3 meals (any combination of QS and TS) and 2 Snacks for the amount of nights you are staying at your Disney resort.
Quick-Service meals include: 1 entree + 1 drink (alcohol included, for ages 21+)
Table-Service meals include: 1 entree + 1 dessert + 1 drink (alcohol included, for ages 21+)
Snacks include: popcorn, snacks in bags, candy, any size coffee from Starbucks locations, frozen treats, and anything marked with the Disney Dining Plan Snack credit on the menu
2. You can enjoy very expensive restaurants for a better deal.
If you want to eat at a lot of nice restaurants or do a lot of character breakfasts, you save money by getting the Regular Dining Plan, Dining Plan Plus, or Deluxe Dining Plan. Although Character Dining, Dinner Shows, and Signature Restaurants like The Hollywood Brown Derby could use up to 2 TS credits, you still are saving a lot of money. Here is the price breakdown:
Quick-Service Dining Plan: $55/day for adults and $26/day for kids
Regular Dining Plan: $78.01/day for adults and $30.51/day for kids
Dining Plan Plus: $94.60/day for adults and $35/day for kids
Deluxe Dining Plan: $119/day for adults and $47.50/day for kids
For example: If you were to pay out of pocket and eat at Chef Mickey's (a popular character dining spot) for breakfast, Pinocchio's Village Haus for lunch, Tony's Town Square Restaurant for dinner, and eat 2 Mickey pretzels, you would pay at least $100 for that day on food. If you were on the Regular Dining Plan and ordering the same food, you would pay $78.01. See what I mean? If you plan on eating at lots of expensive restaurants, you might as well be on a Disney dining plan to save a little money.
3. You get a free refillable Disney souvenir cup.
Alright, it's technically not "free" since you're paying so much for the dining plan...but it's nice to have and refill at any resort on Disney property. It sadly cannot be refilled at Quick-Service restaurants for free, but you can fill it up each time you leave your resort in the morning or anytime you stop by a resort throughout the day! The cup is also a cute souvenir to take home after your vacation.
1. The Dining Plan Table-Service meals do not include tax.
This is a huge con that my family realized once we got the check at the end of our first meal on the Deluxe Dining Plan. After ordering an entree, dessert, and alcoholic drink per person, the bill can be astronomically high. The price that you pay initially for your dining plan doesn't include the tax that is tagged on the end of each TS meal.
2. You can potentially lose a lot of park time.
If you are eating (or traveling to eat) at a lot of sit-down restaurants during your vacation, you are sacrificing time spent on rides or at shows in Disney World. I learned this when I was on the Deluxe Dining Plan, eating at sit-down restaurants for almost every meal and spending a lot of time traveling to restaurants all over Disney World. However, if you are a huge food-person and would rather eat really good meals than spend time on rides and exploring the parks, the Regular Dining Plan, Dining Plan Plus, or Deluxe Dining Plan would be perfect for you!
3. The Disney dining plans are expensive.
As I mentioned above, the prices for the dining plans can be really high, especially for people on a budget. Some people end up wasting their food (thus, losing money) on the dining plan if they aren't used to eating an entree and dessert for most of their meals. Here is a calculator to see if a dining plan would be worth it for you and your family or not.
I have gone on vacations with and without being on a Disney dining plan, and I have loved each vacation the same. My personal favorite dining plan is the Regular Dining Plan, because the Deluxe Dining Plan was too much food for me. Eating an entree and dessert for three meals each day eventually made me feel sick. However, I loved eating at The Hollywood Brown Derby, an expensive restaurant that I would not have eaten at had I not been on the Deluxe Dining Plan. On my last vacation, I paid out of pocket, ate at one sit-down restaurant per day, and spent about $50 on food and coffee per day. So, whether or not you should purchase one of the three Disney dining plans for your vacation totally depends on what your budget is and what kind of vacation you want. If you love food, have children, and don't mind sacrificing park time, definitely DO a dining plan. If you are on a tight budget, don't really care about eating fancy, and want to maximize your park time, DO NOT do a dining plan.