Will The Disney Dining Plan Save Me Money?

Will The Disney Dining Plan Save Me Money?

My most recent article was geared toward saving money on food and drink at Walt Disney World.

I will now focus on the Disney Dining Plan.  This plan is designed to allow guests to pre-pay for their meals at WDW.  It is offered to guests staying at a Disney hotel and purchasing at least a one day park ticket.

There are 3 basic levels of the dining plan to choose from.  Below is a summary of what is included with each plan:

Disney Quick Service Plan: 2 quick service meals plus one snack per person, per day
Disney Dining Plan: 1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack per person, per day. This plan also includes 1 Rapid Refill drink mug per person.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: 3 meals and 2 snacks per person, per day. This plan also includes Rapid Refill mugs.

A quick service meal is a meal ordered at a counter and it includes an entrée, a drink and a pastry or dessert. Table Service is when you order from a server or eat at a buffet and includes an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert.

Alcohol is not included in any Dining Plan meal, and neither is gratuity.

Snacks are found all over the parks and resorts and include soft drinks, ice cream, popcorn and the famous Disney turkey leg. The Rapid Refill mugs included in the Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan allow you free soft drink refills at your hotel for your length of stay.

Your meal allotment is based on how many nights you are staying.  For example: if you are staying for 3 nights, in the quick service plan you would be entitled to 2 meals and 1 snack per night of stay totaling 6 meals and 3 snacks for the entire stay.  Your allotment begins on your check-in day and runs until midnight of your check out day and does not need to be used on a daily basis.

If you choose, you can use all of your credits the first day, and then you are done for the trip.  To answer the question as to whether or not purchasing this plan will save you money, you need to do a little research first.

Many Disney fan websites post the menus of the restaurants with the prices.

Recently, I took a trip with my husband and we determined that the plan would cost us more than paying for each meal individually.  Here is a comparison to show you how the plan may or may not save money:

The Dining Plan would not benefit you in this scenario:

Cost of adding Disney Dining Plan for 2 adults, for 1 day: $61.84 each, or $123.68.

Actual cost of food at Magic Kingdom:

Breakfast: Sleepy Hollow (counts as 2 snacks)- 1 Ham and Cheese Waffle Sandwich and 1 waffle $12.88.
Lunch: Casey’s Corner (Counts as 2 quick service meals) – 2 foot long hot dogs with fries: $21.98, 2 beverages: $6.58 = $28.56
Dinner: Tony’s Town Square: (Counts as 2 table service meals) 2 salads: $16.98, 1 margherita pizza $15.99, 1 pasta primavera $19.99, 2 chocolate cakes: $12.98. 2 soft drinks: $5.98 Total for dinner = $71.92

The food purchased would be the equivalent of a snack, a quick service meal and a table service meal.  The cost of these items for 2 people is $113.36.  Compared to the $123.68 the Dining Plan would cost, you actually spend less money buying your food a la carte rather than purchasing the Dining Plan.

Below is a scenario where the dining plan would be a benefit:

2 adults, Dining Plan cost for 1 day: $123.68

Actual cost of food at Magic Kingdom:

Breakfast: (Counts as 2 Quick Service Meals) Sunshine Seasons 2 Adult Breakfast Platters: 18.98, 2 coffees 5.98, 2 pastries 6.58. total: 31.54
Snacks: 2 Mickey Pretzels: $10.00
Dinner (Counts as 2 table service meals): Chefs de France: 1 Salade de Chevre Chaud 11.99, 1 Plateau de fromages de France, 13.99; 1 boeuf Bourguingnon $28.99; 1 Filet de Saumon, $29.99; 2 crème brulees ($8.99 each), $17.98. Total=102.94

Total for the day is $144.48.  This comes to more than the cost of the dining plan, so you are actually saving $20.80 by using the Dining Plan.

The biggest bang for your buck with the Dining Plan is if you book certain character meals or a Signature Meal.  Disney has a few high end restaurants that they classify as “Signature” restaurants and you will need to use 2 table service credits for those meals.  There are also some character meals, such as Cinderella’s Royal Table, where you will also need to use 2 table service credits.  Even though you are using up 2 days’ worth of meals, it can still save you money in the end as the cost of these meals can run very high.

Disney also offers this plan for FREE at certain times of year.  In past years, they would block out entire months during their slow season where, with the purchase of Magic Your Way park tickets with hotel, you can literally eat for free.

However, in recent years, they only offer this for a few weeks and only allocate a block of rooms at specific hotels for this offer.  Once those rooms are booked, they no longer offer the free dining.

They recently announced the dates for 2016 and they are listed below.  Keep in mind that many die-hard Disney fans wait for this announcement, following the rumors on the fan pages. The second the dates are announced, they jump on it.  Designated free dining rooms can sell out within hours of the announcement.

To get free dining for 2016, the offer must be booked April 25, 2016-July 8, 2016, for arrival dates between August 23-October 1; November 15-21; November 26-28, or December 10-21, 2016.

You will need to do your research before making the decision to purchase the Disney Dining Plan.  As I previously stated, restaurant menus are available on many different Disney fan websites.

As with any Disney vacation, planning ahead is your best bet to ensure you have a great trip.

Consumer Expert Karen Costa

Hi! I am an avid Disney fan, love to travel and really love to help others plan trips and getaways. I have a husband and 2 active, sports-obsessed sons that keep me busy. I work for a large heath care company as a systems analyst by day, but dabble in writing in my spare time. I'm excited to share my Disney knowledge on News for Shoppers.