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Saving Money and Walt Disney World Dining Plans

Updated on May 4, 2011
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Walt Disney World says that you can save up to 35% using a Walt Disney World Dining Plan.  Does a Walt Disney World dining plan save you money?  Is buying a Walt Disney World dining plan a real money saving tip? Let’s look at the various Walt Disney World dining plans and see if they are worth purchasing.

Disney Dining Plan Basics

Disney has three different dining plans: The Magic Your Way Quick Service, The Magic Your Way Plus Dining, and The Magic Your Way Deluxe Dining. To purchase any dining plan, you must purchase a Magic Your Way package (Resort Room plus Tickets). The exception to this if you are an Annual Pass holder; then all you need to do is stay at a Walt Disney World Resort.

Each person staying on your resort reservation ages 3 and up must be on the same dining plan.  Credits, also called entitlements, are valid only at participating restaurants.  Children ages 3 – 9 must order off the child’s menu if one is available.  Credits expire at midnight on the day that you check out.  Signature restaurants require two credits for each meal.  Tips are not included on your Disney Dining Plan.  Credits can be used at anytime, in any combination, throughout your Walt Disney World vacation.

Each dining plan comes with different options and entitlements.

  • The quick service dining plan gives you two meals at a quick service restaurant and two snack credits for each night that you stay in a Walt Disney World Resort.  Each person in your party will also receive one refillable mug for use at your resort during your Walt Disney World Vacation. 
  • The basic dining plan (Magic Your Way Plus Dining) gives you one meal at a quick service restaurant, one meal at a table service restaurant, and one snack credit for every night you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort. 
  • The deluxe dining plan gives you three meal credits at any restaurant, two snack credits, and one refillable mug per person in your party for every night that you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort.  Additionally, you will receive one appetizer per person for each table service meal.

What Counts as a meal?

Quick service meals: Breakfast is one entrée (or combo) and one non-alcoholic drink.  Lunch or dinner is one entrée or combo meal, one non-alcoholic drink and one dessert.

Table Service meals: Breakfast is one entrée or buffet meal and one non-alcoholic drink, or a buffet meal.  A lunch or dinner meal is one entrée, one non-alcoholic, and one dessert or a buffet meal.

But does any of this translate to savings at Walt Disney World?

Disney states the quick service plan can save you up to 15%, the basic dining plan can save you up to 20% during peak season and 25% during slower times of the year, and the deluxe dining plan can save you up to 35%.  Of course, this is CAN save you UP TO these percentages.  Chances are likely you won’t save this amount of money.

In order to save this amount of money, you would have to eat at the most expensive restaurants and order the highest priced things. If you do this, you might not get to eat at the places you like or try the food you would truly want to order. Even if you were to do this, it would increase the amount of your would-be bill, and cause you to need to leave larger tips. 15%-20% on a $200 tab is more money than a $130 tab. As a matter of fact, tipping out a conservative 15% on those two amounts is $19.50 v. $30, for an increase of $10.50. That means whatever you saved on your tab was just decreased by $10.50.

You could also not eat at any signature restaurant because that would double your credit usage.  And if on the deluxe plan, there should be no eating at any quick service restaurant at Walt Disney World.

Next, would you really eat like that?  Would you, as a family of four, order four appetizers before your meal?  Would you then eat an entire meal and have four desserts?  The savings is based on ordering all this food.  Or would it be more likely that the table would order one or no appetizers if left to your own devices?  Would you skip dessert at the restaurant and grab a Mickey Bar later?  Entrées at Walt Disney World tend to be large and filling.

Then, take into account if you have a 10 – 12 year old child.  By Disney standards, this is an adult for the dining plans.  Would your 10 year old prefer a hamburger or lobster bisque with Pan Roasted Jumbo Sea Scallops?  If you are ordering out of pocket, your child is welcome (or any adult for that matter) to order off the child’s menu.  On the other hand, if you have a child who prefers something beyond fast food, he/she can’t order it because most, albeit not all, Walt Disney World restaurants do not offer anything beyond fast food type of foods on their children’s menu.

Will you use every credit?  Are you going to eat 2 snacks every day?  Even when you are eating all that food?  Each unused credit is money lost.  Each unused snack credit is a loss of $2.50.

In summary...

It varies from person to person if the dining plans translate to savings at Walt Disney World.  How you vacation and how you eat will determine the best value of Disney dining plans for you.  Not to mention if you are eligible for any other dining discounts, like a annual passholder discount, Disney Vacation Club discount, or Tables in Wonderland discount.  While chances are the dining plans are not a money saving tip for Walt Disney World, everyone needs to run the numbers for their party.

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