Disclaimer: All posts are the opinion of the author and should not be taken in place of professional legal or professional financial advice. For direct sales/MLM analysis fans, don’t worry – we’ll be have a new post for that category very soon.
It’s no secret we’re a Disney family, and that we like a good deal, too. So when it comes to planning our annual Disney vacation, we always shop around. One question we’ve come across is regarding the Disney Dining Plan. Does it make sense? We did a Disney Dining Plan cost analysis to find out.
What is the Disney Dining Plan?
The Disney Dining Plan is a vacation package add-on for your Disney World experience. It allows you to bundle your on-site resort stay, Disney World tickets, and dining into one vacation package.
Many people like the Disney Dining Plan because it gives their vacation an all-inclusive feel. But is it the best decision financially?
Types of Disney dining plans
There are three Disney Dining Plans:
- Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan (“Quick Service” or “Quick Serve”)
- Disney Dining Plan
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
Each Disney Dining Plan has its own rules and regulations. We’ll do a Disney Dining Plan cost analysis for all three plans.
Some Important, little known things to know about the Disney Dining Plan options
- If you don’t use your credits by the end of your vacation, you lose them. This has resulted in lots of people using their credits for snacks to take home.
- To add a Disney Dining Plan to your vacation, you need to have a vacation package. And this means staying “on property” at Disney World, purchasing tickets through Disney World, and adding your dining through Disney World. And you need to decide to add the dining plan option in advance.
- Be prepared to do a lot of prep and calculations. Because if you want to use all your credits and save money, you’ll need a plan.
Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan value
For the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, each person over age 3 gets:
- 2 Quick Service meals (meal + drink)
- 2 snacks (1 item per snack)
Daily! If you’re over 21, your Quick Service meal includes 1 entrée and 1 alcoholic drink.
According to disneytouristblog.com, the cost of the Quick Service plan is $52.50/night per adult and $21.74/child (aged 3 through 9)
If you’re a party of two adults, your cost is $105 per night.
For a family of four (2 adults and 2 children), this comes to $148.48 per night for the Quick Service plan.
For a party of four adults, the cost would be $210 per night.
If you do not anticipate spending this much money per day on Quick Service meals and snacks, then the Quick Service plan will not save you money. It will cost more. Also, if you choose to change your plans and order a pizza or a sit down dinner, the Quick Service plan will not cover that.
Disney Dining Plan value
The mid-level option is the Disney Dining Plan. This includes:
- 1 Quick-Service meal
- 1 Table-Service meal
- 2 snacks
According to disneytouristblog.com, the cost of the Disney Dining Plan is $75.49/night per adult and $25.75/child (aged 3 through 9).
So for a couple or party of two adults, the cost is $150.98 per night.
For a family of four (2 adults and 2 children), the cost is $202.48 per night.
For a party of four adults (or 2 parents and 2 children over age 9), the cost is $301.96 per night.
Under the Disney Dining Plan rules, you can use your credits for pizza delivery, in-room dining, and signature dining.
Signature dining requires 2 table service credits, and your meal there will not include alcohol. So that’s something to keep in mind if you choose Cinderella’s Royal Table or other Signature dining experiences.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan value
The top-tier option includes:
- 3 meals
- 2 snacks
Though it’s not super clear from the Disney website, it’s likely this is 3 Table Service credits per night, per person.
According to disneytouristblog.com, the cost of the Deluxe Dining Plan plan is $116.25/night per adult and $39.99/child (aged 3 through 9).
So for a couple or party of two adults, the cost is $232.50 per night.
For a family of four (2 adults and 2 children), the cost is $312.48 per night.
For a party of four adults (or 2 parents and 2 children over age 9), the cost is $465 per night.
When is a Disney dining plan option worth it?
So you’re probably wondering what to do with the dining plan information. And that makes sense. It feels like an overwhelming amount of details (and math) necessary for planning your vacation meals. First, let’s address other important things to note:
- Gratuity is not included, “except at Dinner Shows, Private In-Room Dining and Cinderella’s Royal Table.“
- Things not covered under your plan may have gratuity automatically added
- You need to provide another form of payment for gratuity
- Parties of 6 or more automatically have gratuity added to the bill (but it’s still not included)
when the Disney quick service plan is worth it
So when is it worth it to get the Quick Serve plan? The answer depends on your eating habits and preferences. Because if you’re fine with a refillable souvenir popcorn bucket for snacks, you’ll actually come out ahead by not doing the quick service plan.
For example, let’s say you bring water or bottled drinks into the park. You’re totally allowed to do that. So instead of spending $4 on a bottle of water, you spent that on a case. And you bring a couple in your backpack each day.
what do quick service meals and snacks cost
If you get a souvenir popcorn bucket, the cost is about $10 for the bucket. The refills are $1.50 each. However, awesome “snacks” like the macaroni and cheese from Eight Spoon Cafe run between $4.49 and $6.49 per bowl. And Mickey pretzels with cheese are $5.69 out of pocket.
The average cost of a Quick Service meal is between $8.50 and $18. It really depends on your taste. For example, a couple of our family’s favorites are Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom and Yorkshire County Fish Shop in Epcot.
Based on the average Quick Service snack ($5.49 * 2) and meal costs ($15.99 * 2), you’d actually save $9.54 per night per adult by paying out of pocket for the same amount of food. For a week long vacation (6 nights, 7 days) you’d save $57.24 per adult.
At Sleepy Hollow, the Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Waffle Sandwich is $10.49. And it’s easily shared between two people. The Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich (which has Nutella and is awesome) is $8.49.
And the fish and chips at Yorkshire County Fish Shop are $11.49. It’s another meal easily shared between two people.
in our experience
When we visit, we share meals and do the popcorn bucket. For some reason, we seem to fill up fast on food.
If you plan to spend more than $10 on snacks per person per day and $21.25 per Quick service meal per person per day for a total of $52.50 per adult, then you’ll get your money’s worth with the Quick Service plan.
But in our humble experience, it’s just too much food per person. Especially for the kids, who are happy to eat popcorn or share a pretzel.
And for us adults, too, who just feel this is too much food.
But one more important note: each Quick Service meal includes an alcoholic beverage for adults over 21. If you plan to drink alcohol with each meal, the Quick Service plan may be worth it for you. But you need to consider whether you’ll be purchasing additional food and drinks throughout the day, then add that estimate to your total costs.
What about the Disney dining plan or the Disney deluxe dining plan?
At the price per night, you’d need to be doing a significant amount of sit-down, table service dining. And that is wonderful for some people. But keep in mind you’d need to be eating an appetizer, meal, dessert, and alcoholic beverage at each sit down experience. For us, it’s difficult to sit down for 1.5 -2 hours per meal. It interferes with the time you get to spend in the parks. And when you spend a lot of money on park tickets, the value of the dining plan options is subjective.
What does it cost for sit down dining at Disney
At Disney World, you have a lot of dining options. Let’s take a look at the most popular Walt Disney World restaurant for 2018.
Cost of Dining at Disney’s Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom
So you decide to eat dinner at Be Our Guest. We’ve done it. And it’s awesome. But how much will you pay to sit down and dine in the Beast’s castle?
According to the latest menu, appetizers range from $10 for the French Onion Soup to $15 for the mussels. For argument’s sake, let’s say you choose the most expensive option at $15.
And for your entrée, you also choose the most expensive meal. $36 for a strip steak.
Assuming you still have room for dessert, you choose one. Each dessert costs just $5.
And because it’s included, you treat yourself to an alcoholic drink. But not just any alcoholic drink. You choose a $17 glass of wine. (Not sure that’s allowed, but this is fantasy land, right?)
Your dinner cost $73, before gratuity, which is not included. If you add a quick service meal ($15.99) and two snacks ($5.49 * 2) to your day, you’ll be at $99.97 for the day. And we didn’t even add your Quick Service meal alcoholic beverage cost, which is included in the plan.
In this example, you’ll come out ahead for the day. The cost of the Disney Dining Plan is $75.49/night per adult. But keep in mind that you need to have this experience each day to come out on top. So plan a table service restaurant each day for maximum savings.
In our experience, it’s too much time spent dining and not enough time left for activities.
the Disney deluxe dining plan – who is it for?
We think the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan sounds like a foodie’s dream come true. But read the fine print. If you’re going to places like Victoria and Albert’s, the gratuity alone makes it feel like you’re not coming out ahead.
And if you eat three sit down meals per day, that’s about 4.5 hours of your day in restaurants.
Disney dining plan and alcohol
If you’re over the age of 21 and plan to have an alcoholic drink with each meal, you may find that the Disney Dining Plans all provide some savings. However, it’s important to consider your realistic plans for eating and drinking throughout your vacation.
For example, if you see yourself grabbing a pastry for breakfast, then snacking and drinking around the world in Epcot, the dining plan may actually cost you more than its worth.
Why? Because you’ll be spending more than the plan allows. Which means you pay for the plan. And then if you miscalculated your dining/drinking for the day, you will have used credits on things that cost more than you paid. In addition, you’ll be spending more money for more items.
so what are you saying about the Disney dining plan?
At this point you’re wondering: what is the cost analysis? Is there really a benefit to doing the Disney Dining Plan?
The answer will be unique to your needs. But in our opinion, there’s no real benefit to any of the Disney Dining Plan options. (You can calculate how the Disney Dining Plan may benefit you with this calculator.)
And that’s an unfortunate conclusion. Because as self-proclaimed Disney addicts, we’d love to just hand over more money to the mouse in exchange for ease of vacationing.
Disney Dining Recommendations
To save money and maximize your foodie experience, snack your way around the world at Epcot. You’ll get to make the most of your time at the park and visit all the countries.
Stake out the best quick service dining in each park. Did you know that Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom, 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios (forever MGM, but still), and other sit down dining restaurants have walk-up lounges that allow you to grab your food and eat it on the go?
These options are perfect if you want the quality and selection of a sit down restaurant with the take-and-go aspect of a quick service station.
More Disney Cost Analysis
We hope you like what you’ve read! Because we’ll be back soon with our next installment: a cost analysis of on property vs. off property Disney vacations.
Please share this post with anyone you think would enjoy it. And if you have a different perspective on the Disney Dining Plan options, please share it in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂