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Is the Walt Disney World Standard Dining Plan a Good Deal?

Updated on August 18, 2014

Is the Walt Disney World Magic Your Way Standard / Plus Dining Plan Worth the Cost?

Wondering if the Disney World Dining Plan is a good deal? Here is a three day outline of with actual Disney restaurant menu prices comparisons to help you decide whether or not the Standard Disney Dining Plan (also called the Plus Dining plan) is a good value for your family.

All photos are my own. (c)Stephen Johnson.

How Much Does the 2014 Standard (Plus) Disney Dining Plan Cost?

What is included in or covered by the standard Disney Dining Plan?

Cost of the 2014 Disney World standard (plus) dining plan: $60.64 per Adult / $18.88 per child (age 3- 9) per night of stay. The dining plan is only available as part of a Magic Your Way Package for guest staying at a Walt Disney World Resort. If you choose a dining plan, it must be for the duration of your reservation. For example, you cannot choose to only have the dining plan for 3 days on a 5 day reservation.

The "Plus Dining" plan provides one table-service meal credit, one counter-service meal credit, and one snack credit per person over age 3 per night of stay.

The Standard / Plus Dining Plan also includes one resort refillable mug for each person in your party. This mug can be used in any of the resort food courts and can be filled with things like soda, coffee, lemonade, iced tea or hot cocoa. The mug cannot be used in the theme parks.

The Child's Meal plan is for children between the ages 3 - 9 years. They must order from the children's menus except in buffets or where meals are served "family style" so we always encourage our clients to book some of these to give the kids a break from kids meals. Children age 10 or older are considered adults.

Your table service credit covers (1) an entrée, (2) a beverage like soda, coffee, milk, or iced tea, and (3) a dessert. Sales tax for the meal is covered but the gratuity (tip) is not covered by the dining plan. Most Disney table-service restaurants require only one table service meal credit per person. There are lots of great choices: character meals, fun themed restaurants like "Sci Fi Dine In" and lots of nice restaurants. Advanced reservations - which can be booked up to 180 days prior to arrival - are strongly recommend. Popular restaurants like Chef Mickey,, Coral Reef, and Ohana often fill all their reservations very early and frequently cannot accommodate "walk up" guests.

The counter-service meal credit covers (1) an entrée & side dish or a "combo" plate, (2) a beverage like soda, coffee, milk, or iced tea, and (3) a dessert. These are quick-service locations like resort food courts or restaurants where you order at the counter and take the tray to your table yourself. These locations do not accept advance reservations.

Snack credits can be used for a myriad of food items costing less than $4.

There are a few locations that are "Signature Dining Experiences" and these will require 2 table-service credits per person. Some examples are "The Hoop Dee Doo Revue", Cinderella's Royal Table, California Grill, or Jiko.

Children under age 3 do not participate in the dining plan. You can purchase food for them or they can eat from your meal.

You will use your room key card at the restaurants to apply dining credits to your meals. At the restaurant, you only need to present one person's key card to use dining credits to pay for the meals - you don't need to present a key card for each person. If your family is in two separate rooms, you may want to present a key card from each room to evenly use the meal credits. You will need to pay the gratuity (tip) with cash or a separate credit card.

You can add a Disney Dining Plan to your Walt Disney World "Magic Your Way" package at any point up to 5 days prior to arrival. You can remove the dining plan from you package anytime up to 45 days prior to arrival and not pay a penalty; removing the dining plan less than 45 days prior to arrival will incur a change fee of $50 per room. The dining plan cannot be added once you've arrived.

Three Day Comparison of Meals at the Walt Disney World Theme Parks and Resorts

Sample meals and prices to help you decide whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is right for you.

I took meals from three days and ran some comparisons to show whether the dining plan will be a good value or not. I tried to be very moderate in my selections: mid-range entrees, desserts, etc. Even though you can select a snack up to $4, I used $3.00 to $3.50. I did not include sales tax.

Counter-service meals are all comparably priced. I purposely chose to use the table service credits at one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner just to show how that affects the value of the dining plan.

Holiday Surcharges - The value of the dining plan increases a bit during the holidays when the Disney World buffets tack on a "Holiday Surcharge" to their price.

---Sample Day One---

Adult Lunch at Columbia Harbour House (Counter-Service at Magic Kingdom)

Anchors Aweigh sandwich: $9.19

Soda: $2.99

Seasonal Cobbler - $3.99

Adult meal cost: $16.17

Children's meal at Columbia Harbour House: $5.99

Character Dinner at Crystal Palace

Adult meal: $39.40 to 43.66 Child's Meal: $19.99 to $21.29 (Lowest price used in comparison)

+ one snack per person, approx. $3.50 each.

Adult Daily total: $59.07 (up to $63.33) - Dining plan value: -$1.57 (+2.69 w/ holiday surcharge)

Child's total: $29.48 (up to $30.78) Dining plan value: +$10.60 (+$11.90 w/ holiday surcharge)

---Sample Day two---

Character Breakfast at Donald's Breakfast Safari (Tusker House Restaurant - Animal Kingdom): Adult: $28.75 to $33.01 / Child: $15.97 - $18.01

Adult Lunch at Pizzafari (Counter Service - Animal Kingdom)

Pepperoni Pizza with Caesar Salad: $9.69

Soda: $2.99

Cheesecake in a glass: $3.99

Total: $16.67

Children's meal at Pizzafari: $5.49

+ one snack, approx. $3.00

Adult Total price: $48.42 to $52.68

Dining plan value: - $12.22 to - $7.96

Child's total: $24.46 to $26.50

Dining plan value: +$5.58 to +$7.62

---Sample Day Three---

Adult Lunch at Coral Reef (Epcot):

Orange Ginger-glazed Scottish Salmon with vegetables: $23.99

Lemonade: $2.99

(Dessert) Vanilla Panna Cotta Tart: $7.99

Meal total : $34.97

Note: entrees range from $18.99 to $32.99 - value of the plan will vary according to selection.

Child's meal at Coral Reef (Epcot): $8.99

Dinner at La Cantina de San Angel (Counter Service / Mexico Pavilion - Epcot)

Tacos de Pollo with corn tortilla chips - $10.99

Soda: $2.89

Churos with Carmel Sauce: $3.99

Total: $17.87

Children's meal at La Cantina de San Angel: $7.99

+ one snack, approx. $3.00

Adult Total price: $55.84

Dining plan value: - $4.80

Child's total: $19.98 Dining plan value: + $1.10

---Three-Day Summary---

Adult (or child age 10 or older) 3-Day Savings Using the Dining Plan: - $18.59 (loss)

Child (Age 3 - 9) 3-Day Savings Using the Dining Plan: +$17.28

Summary of the Disney World Standard Dining Plan

Our recommendations and a few factors to consider before you decide whether the Disney World Meal Plan is for you.

We purposely tried to be very conservative in our selections for this comparison. We personally would use all of our table service credits for lunches or dinners so we would ordinarily save more money than the examples given above. We also tend to be very aggressive about getting the most from our snack credits. In a nutshell, we find that most people do get a good value from the dining plan. Having the dining credits tied to your room key / admission ticket is very convenient and works great for families with older kids who might need to get meals on their own.

Remember that your meal credits are based on the number of nights (not days) in your vacation package; most people have partial days on their arrival day and departure day. Your Disney World meal plan credits are available until midnight of your departure day, even though check-out is earlier. You can use your meal credits on your arrival day, even if you aren't going into a theme park; there are lots of resort based restaurants to choose from.

We typically try to have some type of quick breakfast (cereal, bagels, etc.) in the room. Two meals and a snack is usually enough food for my family. Doing this means that we have enough meal credits to cover our needs for arrival/departure days.

In most cases, families with children aged 3 - 9 always come out ahead with the dining plan. Couples or families with older kids may not save as much money with the dining plans - especially if you have several signature dining reservations. If your 10 - 12 year old typically eats a kid's meal at restaurants, you may not appreciate having to pay the higher dining plan price.

Make your decision about the dining plan before making your final payment (45 days prior to arrival) on your Disney vacation package. Disney is great about letting you upgrade so you can easily add the dining package up to 5 days prior to arrival. However, you will incur a $50 "change fee" if you downgrade your Walt Disney World Magic Your Way vacation package by removing the dining plan after final payment. Do your research and make your reservations prior to final payment to avoid extra fees.

Final Thoughts and Tips for Getting the Most from the Disney Dining Plan

The dining plan many not be a good choice if you don't think you'll enjoy the desserts or your family always orders water.

Even if the dining plan isn't a huge savings, many people like the convenience of knowing a good total cost for their vacation without having to guess on a budget for dining.

The dining plan is honored at over 100 Disney theme park and resort restaurants.

A lot of the Disney sit-down restaurants have children's meals in the $6 - $9 range but the character meals are generally at least double that price. The more character meals you have booked, the more the dining plan will save families with 3-to-9 year old children.

Some of the Downtown Disney (shopping district) restaurants are not Disney-owned and may or may not participate in the dining plan. For example, House of Blues does not participate in the dining plan but you can use your table service dining credits at Planet Hollywood.

Remember that alcoholic beverages and specialty drinks are not included in the dining plan.

Unless you have a lot of extra snack credits, we recommend that you use cash to pay for items $2.99 and under and save your snack credits for items between $3 - $4.

If you have a rental car, consider buying a case of bottled water off Disney property, This is a lot cheaper than buying individual bottles in the parks and leaves your snack credits for other things.

Here's one of our favorite ways to use a snack credit: On a free evening (maybe after visiting Animal Kingdom), go to Disney's Polynesian Resort and use snack credits in Captain Cooks foodcourt to get Dole Whips (frozen pineapple soft-serve), then take it out to the resort "beach" area to watch the Electric Water Pageant (floating parade - 9:00PM) and the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Departure day - use any remaining snack credits to purchase Disney themed candy bars, pretzels, etc. These can easily go into your luggage and can be enjoyed after your trip. They can also make fun little gifts for the pet sitter or the neighbor that collected your mail. Remember that you cannot take beverages through airport security so you probably won't want to use left-over snack credits for sodas or bottle water unless you have time to enjoy them before checking in at the airport.

---Thoughts on Breakfast---

When using the dining plan, I typically discourage using table-service/ full service restaurant credits for breakfasts in favor of lunch or dinner. This is for two reasons:

1.Breakfasts are the least expensive meal of the day so you get a better value using your dining credits for a lunch or dinner.

2.Morning is when the parks are the least crowded so it doesn't make sense to have you in a restaurant during low crowds and then out in the park when crowds are at their peak - I'd rather reverse this.

3. Many people use their snack credits for a light breakfast by getting a fruit cup or muffin. Another option is to bring cereail and disposible bowls with you - then use a snack credit for a container of milk from the foodcourt or the resort gift shop.

IllumiNations Fireworks at Epcot
IllumiNations Fireworks at Epcot

Here's How Our Disney-focused Travel Agency Can Help You Have A Better Disney Vacation

Get the best price and avoid crowds and long lines.

Build A Better Mouse Trip gives you a better Disney vacation by taking the stress out of trip planning & providing theme park touring plans. We book directly with Disney so you never pay more than if you booked the reservation yourself and we provide lots of help and advice designed to take the stress out of vacation planning at no extra cost to you.

1) Help with selecting the right resort or hotel for your budget. We don't just book Disney resorts - we're happy to make reservations at other accommodations too.

2) Help with building a Best Days Itinerary - a daily schedule that puts you in the best park for each day of your trip

3) Help with dining reservations (subject to availability)

4.) We are convinced that everyone can benefit with good touring plans. During busy times, a good plan will absolutely keep you ahead of the crowds and out of the lines - our clients typically wait less than 20 minutes for rides, even thrill rides and headliners. During less crowded times, a good plan factors in shorter park hours and fewer performance times. But the most important benefit of a good plan is that everyone gets to ride and see the things that they are looking forward to because everyone's priorities are included in a plan that tours the parks efficiently and effectively. At no extra cost to you, we will provide 1) a TouringPlans.com subscription, - or - 2) the newest edition of The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World when you book through www.buildabettermousetrip.com.

Contact us today to start planning your Disney Vacation:

Build A Better Mouse Trip Travel

Toll free: 877-815-6515

More resources to help you plan a great Disney vacation.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014

The great Disney guidebook includes disney restaurant information and ratings.

 
Sing Along Songs - Disneyland Fun
Sing Along Songs - Disneyland Fun

Disneyland is very similar to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. This is a cute and fun way to help your child know what to expect from the theme parks.

 
Modern Marvels - Walt Disney World (History Channel)
Modern Marvels - Walt Disney World (History Channel)

This is a great documentary for adults who would love to know more about the creation of these amazing theme parks.

 

If so, did you like the Disney Dining Plan? Did it save your family money? Tell us about your experiences.

Have You Used The Disney Dining Plan?

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    • profile image

      Steve 2 years ago

      Almost everywhere I look you have up to 72 hours before check-in to add the dining plan to your package. Are you sure it is 5 days?

    • BuildABetterMouse profile image
      Author

      Steve and Annette 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I loved those coupons but haven't seen them lately. MouseSavers.com is a great site to check for legitimate discounts; that may be a place to look.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Walt disney had coupons for 25% off food quick service counters are they going to have them this year?

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I've read about it, but have never tried it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      My wife and I have used the Disney Dining plan every time we've gone to Disney World. We find it a good value. The price has gone up this year, and I'm not planning to cart the souvenir mug (we are now forced to purchase) around the parks, but we make up the cost of the plan just in dinners alone. Here's a tip, get a Disney Chase VISA card and use it during the year earning Disney reward dollars. Then you don't even have to use your own money for tips or appetizers while you're there on vacation. Just make sure to pay your Disney credit card off each month to avoid interest fees.

    • profile image

      Arc4life 5 years ago

      very useful information 4 planning your neck disney vacationn. thanks !

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Sounds like an interesting option .

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I think the dining plan was a good deal when the gartuity was included. Now the the tip is not included, you can end up paying for gratuity what you would normally pay for a meal at a chain restaurant like Fridays or Ruby Tuesday's.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Last year we got the deluxe dining plan because we ate at Cinderella's Castle twice, which counts as 2 meals, and there were other places that were only included on this plan. Our last morning, we had 9 meals and 17 snacks left. The people at Pop Century food court were awesome. They loaded us up with so much food and snacks for our ride home. I am still finding little Mickey head goldfish crackers in our pantry.

      My point is, it's way too much food for most people. It was really nice basically being able to get whatever we wanted when we wanted it, but it is difficult to eat 3 full meals and 2 snacks everyday.

      We paid for this plan, so we will not be doing that again. On the other hand, if we went during free dining and could upgrade for a fair amount, we probably would.

    • BuildABetterMouse profile image
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      Steve and Annette 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you so much for your input - you've given some excellent tips and it is always helpful to hear about people's experiences. I'm so glad you took the time to write about it.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      We have used both the deluxe and regular dining plan. The deluxe was a ridiculous amount of food as it included appetizers with our meals so by the time we got to desert we were way too full to enjoy it. We found that the regular meal plan is perfect. We really enjoy eating at the signature restaurants and use our table service meals there. On our last trip we made a little discovery that Hollywood Studios seemed to have a lot more items that you could get as a snack...there is a delightfull little coffee shop as you go onto the streets of America area. My husband was very excited to find he could get a double espresso as a snack whereas at our resort it was a cash only item!

      All in all we find that the meal plans are a great deal as you can eat pretty much anywhere and enjoy a fantastic meal! Oh an one more tip ...we found the meals at the tangerine court at epcot huge and those are a cafeteria style meal! That is pretty much one of our favourite places to go!

    • BuildABetterMouse profile image
      Author

      Steve and Annette 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you for your great input - it really helps when people can read about how the Disney Dining Plan worked for someone else. I appreciate your taking time to comment.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I completely agree with this assessment. We frequently travel to the parks and always buy the plan. We are very happy with the table service selections and generally choose to use them at dinner. Being able to book reservations ahead of time ensures that we get the character dinners that we want, and allows for budgeting ahead of time. Utilizing snacks effectively (my husband gets the fizzy frozen drink and I get the funnel cake) by sharing makes a difference too. Many restaraunts, like the Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness lodge are almost as good as a dinner show and have fantastic food! They even include their milkshakes as your drink. We take full advantage of our plan, eat at the best places available...our savings last trip were over $100 for two adults.