Dining Plan Dilemma

Talk to me about the dining plan. We’ve got it included in our package for May but the more I’ve been reading the less I think it’s the best option for us. I even made a spreadsheet and tried to figure out if it would be a good value. I enjoy food but my husband isn’t a big eater and my daughter turns her nose up at most things these days so I don’t know what to expect from her. I’m also not sure that we want to do a character or fixed price meal every day and those are usually a better value. I’m thinking if we save the cost of the dining plan in cash and pay out of pocket we will have more flexibility. At the same time, my spreadsheet showed that we could save money so I’m conflicted and second guessing myself. Help!

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Some people save money on the dining plan and some lose money on it. Depends on what/where you eat. I tried it once and definitely came out on the short hand. We are not big eaters (eg rarely have dessert, drink water instead of pop). We have not done the dining plan since then and have been happy with out it.

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We just got back from WDW with the QS DDP, which was also included in our package. I went the QS because I did not want to deal with all the ADRs for TS meals. We did do 2 TS meals, which I paid out of pocket for. This was the first time ever using the DDP. It’s a lot of food but I truly enjoyed the ease of not having to think about the cost of food or making ADRs. With that being said, I’m not sure if we would have used all the credits without the food & wine festival.We were a party of 4 adults so we did take advantage of the alcohol beverage with each meal. I do think I would do free dining again if offered but not sure if I would pay for the DDP.

I have never used the dining plan and I was convinced that I wanted it for our upcoming (21days) trip. I ran the numbers over and over again to try to make it seem like it would be the way to go. Even with getting the plan for one room and sharing it with the 2 adults in another room, I just wasn’t going to save money.

We’ve previously tried just about every dining approach, using the deluxe and regular dining plans or by paying cash. We haven’t done the Quick-Service plan, mostly because we like our table service meals when on holiday.

Full disclosure: we are foodies and we enjoy the challenge of discovering hidden food gems throughout the world.

With that said, the Deluxe Dining Plan just about killed us. We had so many table service credits that we were dreaming up ways to spend them. We were so stuffed with restaurant food that we had something like 28 snack credits left at the end of the week, requiring us to buy a bag full of Mickey rice crispy treats to hand out at the office when we got home. We also felt that we had been tethered by all of our ADRs and didn’t have enough room to be spontaneous. On the upside, despite eating an unbelievable amount of food, we didn’t gain a pound as a result of all of our walking.

When we went all cash, we stuck to one Table Service meal a day, except for a few select breakfast experiences (okay, about 3-4 of them). I have to say that we experienced sticker shock at most meals (and this despite not being big consumers of adult beverages- in fact, we laughed that I had had 5 whole drinks in a week, roughly equivalent to my consumption for the previous year). Disney meals are more expensive than they can sometimes appear. That sticker shock led us to select meals with a little more caution, sometimes not choosing what we really wanted to save a few bucks here and there. Plus, as Canadians we were automatically factoring the additional exchange in when we were stuffing our mouths with something. Bottom line, we didn’t save anything and we were a little less carefree about eating what we wanted. It didn’t ruin our vacation by any means but we were constantly conscious of spending money and didn’t enjoy it.

Which leads me to the regular Dining Plan. Like with Goldilocks, this plan has felt just right to us, particularly when travelling with our DDs. It provides us with our desired table service experiences without requiring us to over-subscribe our time running from one ADR to another. It means that can fit some character meals in (speaking of sticker shock!). It means that we have the run of the menu when ordering without having that feeling that we should have ordered something slightly cheaper to save money. It provides us with cost certainty before we leave on vacation and means that we can try things here, there and everywhere without guilt. We often also leverage snack credits to pay for a quick service breakfast at the resort or in park. And if we just have to back to Kona Café or have a CG brunch, we splurge and pay for it out of pocket.

Ultimately, you have to do what works best for you and your family. There is no right or wrong answer, but there might be another Dole Whip in your snack credit future! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I’ve never used it because it has never made financial sense. My cousin uses it every trip and doesn’t really worry about breaking evening. Her perspective is, when taking a family of 4, she wants to know what she is spending up front.


If you go on the “dashboard” page and click “dining” it brings up a calculator where you plug in how you plan on dining during your trip and then breaks it down for each dining plan vs. paying cash. For us it confirmed that no DDP makes sense. For others it probably makes more sense!

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I have done it both ways. The biggest reason I do it is to keep the the Disney magic alive during our trip. It’s nice not to have to be reminded of how much you are spending every time you eat and not ruling out a particular dining experience because of its cost. That being said, I’m not sure it saves a ton of money.

I think you can maximize the value if:

  • you will drink the alcoholic beverage at each TS meal
  • you have lots of character dining or buffets planned
  • you don’t plan on doing lots of signature dining that sucks up two TS credits
  • you can maximize the snack credits, like using them for F&W food items

I haven’t found it too constricting because it has been pretty easy to change TS ADRs on the fly. We’ve changed half of our ADRs on the day of, because our park plans changed spontaneously. I’ve found that a lot of hard to get ADRs pop up on the day before or day of too, because other people must be changing their plans last minute as well.


Check out www.distripplanner.com and put in the places you’d like to eat. I saved all my receipts and we saved money on the dining plan with one TS and 1 QS per day. The cost of my meals alone without even adding what we got in snacks was more than what I paid for the dining plan. DH and I did get a beer or wine with every meal. Those ranged from $9 to $15 each. We’ve gotten the plan four of our five trips. The only time I didn’t get it was when it was just DH and I and we were spending most of our time in Epcot doing Food and Wine Fest. I did find that without the plan, I wasn’t necessarily ordering what I really wanted at TS meals because I was worried about the price. We are going again in December with the dining plan.

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There was another price increase recently on food items. Since the dining plan has not been increasing at the same rate I plan a general idea of where I want to eat and then make my decision. Recently, the dining plan has saved me a lot of money.

Edited to add: can I spend $80 for one meal at home- never. Can I do it at many TS at Disney? Yup…


It all depends on your eating habits. If your family eats an appetizer, entrée and dessert per person, as well as 2 snack a day, then it is worth it.

I don’t know if this helps out, but we’re a family of 4 who typically would order 2 appetizers and 2 desserts to share, 4 entrees (one of those vegetarian and the other a kids’ size meal), only 1 person drinks, and the kids do not drink sodas. We have a couple of snacks a day and some of these we share, and we’re not into refilling cups unless it is with water. With this example, any dining plan is more expensive than paying out of pocket.

I hope this helps.

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As others have stated, whether it is worth it from a purely financial standpoint varies. Having said that, when we’ve done the calculations, we NEVER could come out ahead using any of the dining plans.

However, I’ll add this: Note that I stated, “From a purely financialy standpoint.” Just like people are willing to pay extra for a Fireworks party, despite the fact you can see the fireworks without paying the money and likely get snacks far cheaper, it is also about experience.

So, the question moves from a purely financial one, to an “experiential” one. Even if you pay more for the dining plan than you would if you paid cash, is it worth that extra amount to you to “experience” the magic of just paying with your Magic Band, etc? For some, the answer would be yes. For others, no.


Seems to me the plan may help if, and only if, more than one of these apply:
A) you get it at a discount (free dining) that helps you come out ahead compared to other discounts (I think only possible if you have 4 people in a room, 3 of them over 10yrs). Consider whether you would otherwise buy the tickets required to qualify, and whether you would otherwise buy them from a discounted broker
B) you would otherwise order desserts and expensive drinks like mocktails or wine
C) you enjoy expensive menu items like steak more than items like a burger or big salad
D) you like lots of buffets and character meals

We got it this time, and with 4 people in the room (1 child, 3 “adults”) it is a bit cheaper for us. But not by a ton. And with planning we could probably do it without the dining plan for the same price. But I’m looking forward to a couple of splurge meals and ordering a glass of wine if I feel like it without thinking about the fact that it costs the same as an entire bottle at home.

My workup showed that we could theoretically save money with our current ADRs, but we decided against it because it would limit us to skipping appetizers, picking from a selected menu, and likely force us to get more food than we would eat to justify the cost - meaning carrying leftovers through the parks or throwing away a lot.

We decided having more flexibility would ultimately make us happier and we will probably save money overall since we won’t be ordering a ton of items at every meal anyway.

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You only get appetisers on the deluxe plan, not the regular plan.

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You can pay for an appetizer if you want.

I don’t understand this? You have access to the whole menu, I don’t think I have been limited even when it came to alcoholic drinks? Enhancements would cost extra, but that would always be the case?

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We go with the dining plan for peace of mind, really. It probably doesn’t come out ahead, but personally, getting giant bills after every meal would stress me out, as would seeing that the Mickey waffles that my kids just ate two bites of cost $17. I’d rather sink the money up front and be able to say sure when my kids want a treat or dessert than to stress over ordering a drink for myself.


I think it has been stated plenty but I think the dining plans are more about ease and enjoyment. We have done DDP a few times and just doing the regular DP for our upcoming trip. TS is nice to get off of your feet, try new things and places (like Jiko, CG, etc) and be in the air conditioned environment ordering whatever you like with no fear of waste. Also, it can add some extra special elements like the Fireworks and piped in narrative/soundtrack at CG or a character experience. It just makes for a very relaxing and fun time. Now having said this, if food is just a required sustenance for you and you really don’t get any enjoyment there, I wouldn’t spend the money. I don’t think the money will be all that different. I have run several calculations for it and I think Disney has things lined out pretty well as you can imagine.

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This thread has made me really think about the dining plan.

Think my family would benefit from it. I also like the idea of it being paid for ahead of time.

So the only bill we come home to is souvenirs. Finger crossed.

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Although, don’t forget you still have to pay tip separately (not included).

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