Dining plan...is it ever worth it?

Based on the research I’ve done, and the practical experience in how much we find ourselves eating in the parks, etc., I’m wondering why anyone ever gets the Disney Dining plan with the exception of two reasons:

  1. Just for the fun/convenience of it
  2. It was a free add-on during one of Disney’s specials

Other than that, we found, after numerous calculations, that having the Dining plan usually ended up costing more than it was worth. We could pay less…and significantly so…by not getting the dining plan.

Of course, this isn’t just Disney. I’ve found that the dining plans from almost EVERY amusement park we’ve been to helps to pad the pockets of the amusement park rather than the guests they are meant to help.

Now, if it were offered during a time period for free, I can see the benefit…although, having spoken to a travel agent friend and having done some reading on-line, it sounds like the free dining is usually offered in time periods when they do NOT discount the rooms and that the room discount time periods often save you more money than getting the free dining plan.

I’m wondering if anyone has actually found it BENEFICIAL (financially speaking…not as a matter of convenience) to get the Dining Plan.

I signed up to a dining plan for a theme park visit in the UK. I did it out of convenience. But in order to make it value for money I had to be both greedy and wasteful.

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It always depend on what my dining plans are and if EP has a festival with food booths. I have had short stays with signature dining/ buffers and I have saved a lot of money. It is rare for me to purchase it but I love steak and seafood when I eat out and always order dessert!


We did it over the Christmas weekend of 2016.

We had a split stay, and the first part was 23rd to 26th Dec at BLT. We decided on CP for dinner on 24th, GG for dinner 25th and Ohana breakfast on 26th. Plus a BOG breakfast on 24th.

Made financial sense for us when I tallied it up. And we then had our mugs for 15 days.plus the snack credits could be used for the 500ml tubs of Haagen Dazs ice cream lol! That took care of breakfast for our boys … (no kidding), we had 6 tubs in the freezer when we moved to Kidani.

I was contemplating it for the NY weekend too, but decided against it. We had HDDR on NY, a DS restaurant for NYE and a Fantasmic dinner package on the 30th. But that stay was from the 30th to 3rd, and we went to Universal on the 2nd, so it didn’t quite make sense. We had the TS meals covered, but not the QS. Didn’t really want to commit ourselves on the 3rd either, and couldn’t include the mugs in the analysis.

I’ve run the numbers as well and read a fair bit about it… The general view seems to be that unless you eat at the most expensive 1 credit restaurants, order the most expensive meals, eat the desserts, and all the snacks it is not worth it. My one child turns 10 this year which means we would have to pay an adult price for her even though she eats like a child.

I have a 5 night split stay like Nickysyme. If it was only for a couple nights and my kid was not 10 I might consider it. You would get the mugs and could easily eat a couple of nice expensive meals. Those meals could be on the day of check in and day of check out with a day in between. I think in that case it might be financially beneficial.

But remember character meals are expensive. And if you are doing them anyway, it could be worth it. Especially travelling at peak times when the prices go up! We loaded those type of meals over the 2 holiday weekends.


It is way too easy to have a dinner bill cost almost $60 for one person these days. Look at the new restaurant at the Yacht Club. There are 2 items (chicken/waffles and ravioli) that cost unde $20. There is a $40 entree. Desserts are between 7.50-10 and a drink $10?) comes with the meal. So $60 plus tax and the dining plan is $75? Two snacks, a QS meal and the resort mug? Even if you get the mid-range entree of $28 your meal with tax is over $50. Disney food is expensive! I think we often think it will cost the same as a restaurant at home and it reality it is usually double that! Looking at these numbers/ BOG being 2 credits for a fixed menu that costs $55 is a rip off! Pay out of pocket!

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All my calculations have been with actual costs of food at Disney. And also based on what we actually eat. In order to make the Dining Plan “worth it”, we would have to force ourselves to eat more than we would otherwise, which means it isn’t really saving anything…just padding our waistlines. :slight_smile:


If you arrive early on day one/late on last day or eat at signatures your meal stretch out. We often share QS meals but we eat a TS meal every day. Years ago I was lucky if I did one TS a trip.
Adult trips and years of wdw changed that for me! Isn’t it great that you can choose to not purchase since it doesn’t work for you, but I can buy it to save money? Lol-
I did a 3 night trip a couple of years ago on the MVT Labor Day rate and I couldn’t get the dining plan. I spent over $750 at restaurants. I should have looked for a different deal!

The Dining Plan wasn’t worth it in my case. It was more money for us, but we’re also eating one night at Shula’s which doesn’t accept the Dining Plan. But the Deluxe Dining Plan for 9 nights was about $700 more than paying out of pocket.

I think @PrincipalTinker hits the nail on the head - it’s worth it for some, but not for others.

Here’s an example - forgoing a room discount in order to pay rack rates and get free dining probably makes very little sense if you’re in a deluxe by yourself (or with one buddy), but lots if you’re four to a room at a moderate or value, especially now that you can get alcohol with your meals.

@ryan1, good on you for doing the math to see if it makes sense for your trip! It may make sense at a future date, so keep it up!

With the prices, it really isn’t “worth it” if you use the plan or not. But as others have said, the 2 credit meals are certainly not going to be worth the cost because you end up having to pay for another meal out of pocket.(and even something small adds up at Disney) And what price do you add to a meal with characters? It is different for everyone. We like the plan(snacks, QS & TS for each day) and try to use it to its max -we find ourselves eating more desserts than needed for sure, but after all, we are on vacation and we certainly end up walking them off. And there is something to be said to having all food paid for before your trip begins. I think utilizing the snacks for breakfast is a smart option to maximize value and also sharing drinks during the hot summer months, specifically lemonade slushes and dole whips. We find it works for us adults and our teenage son, but the value may not work out for those who have no desire for a dessert after eating a full meal and don’t care for a late night snack.

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We have done both ways in the past and are doing Dining Plan this time. Going with kids and doing a number of character buffets, that tipped it for us, as well as the issue of going with grandparents and having the convenience of not looking at the check and not worrying about splitting. I did a lot of calculations and while we may save $100-200 going out of pocket vs the plan, it was worth it to us to not have to complicate bills/dining choices (i.e. not worry about going to a more expensive place if some people would otherwise balk).

I don’t find the DP worth the money, but I guess it depends on what and how you eat. In general we tend to share desserts so everyone getting a dessert at a TS meal means food is wasted. I have done the regular DP on rare occasion, but always felt like there was too much food. All that said I am going to do the deluxe DP for two nights of our upcoming trip (we are doing a split stay). We picked some expensive places to eat so I think it might be worth it, but I don’t think I could eat like that for more than 2 or 3 days.

Simply this. But change “dining plans” to “everything offered by the parks”. It it wasn’t a good deal for them, they wouldn’t offer it. The house never loses and Disney is not out to help the guests.

Now, for any one particular family, it may work out. But Disney, like a casino, doesn’t bet on 1 family. They bet on ALL families. And on the spending from ALL guests. Disney wins.

So, for any 1 guest or family, it may make sense financially, simply based upon the desires, needs and habits of the family. But many will pay, a few will come out ahead, many more will come out behind, and Disney pays a handsome stock dividend. :wink:

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I really think this is so specific to the group traveling. For example, our daughter is 13, but eats light; always off the kids menu. So it’s significantly cheaper for us to pay out of pocket, versus paying the adult price for her on the dining plan.

Also, I tend to snack all day versus sitting down for meals, so it’s more convenient for me to not have to think about credits.

Look at the rates, and think about how your group will eat. It is a good idea for some, just not for us.

I have no quibbles with Disney wanting to make money. But I suspect many people choose to eat less in the parks (other than resort guests perhaps) and eat more out of the parks to save money. Offering a dining plan that encourages people to spend MORE than they would outside the parks but LESS than they would if they ate inside the parks actually benefits them, I’d think. For example, when we go, we only ever eat one meal and one snack at the parks. But even if we ate EVERY meal in the parks or resorts, we’d end up spending more on the Dining Plan than just buying it otherwise. Yet, if the Dining Plan were to provide some seeming financial advantage, I’d be more inclined to pay for it, thereby bringing in MORE money to the parks than I otherwise would pay.

But then, I think the Dining Plan is only offered to resort guests anyhow. I’ve just struggled to find any time it really makes sense to get it (other than the aforementioned convenience factor). It is interesting to see how people have used it successfully.

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I toiled with this myself. If I don’t pay now will I have the money later? The answer for me is no. I’ll pay now and play later, or in this case eat later. With the new plan offering alcohol it came close to us saving a few dollars. I figured out what we would eat at each meal and added the costs up, to get a ruff estimate. It came out to about even, then I add the souvenir mug with the free soda and coffee and that tipped it in my favor. Wow not a big savings but I booked it anyway. Then they came out with the free QS meal a day and now I saved about $500. So now I took that $500 and bought MM and still I’m coming out ahead from my original booking.

We have gotten the QS dining plan twice during the “free dining” promotion and it has made sense financially for us both times. We are a family of 2 adults and 2 teens. We always stay at value resorts. A common argument is that room discounts that are offered can save more money. However, for us a 20-30% room discount at the value resort was actually less savings than the cost of the food we ate. I can easily see how this could be drastically different if you were looking at a 20-30% room discount at a deluxe resort rather than a value though. Also note, on those two trips we ONLY ate QS except for one TS which we paid out of pocket for.

That being said, we have done the math and the dining plan would never make sense for us financially if we had to pay for it.

It really depends on how you and your other guests like to eat. I personally do not like the counter service restaurants and quickly get tired of the “fast food” burgers etc. I also find that having a sit down meal totally relaxes me. My family also enjoys having an appetizer as well as dessert with our last meal of the day. We do the character breakfasts each morning and everyone can have their choice from the buffet and it keeps us going all day. The kids also get great time with the characters and this lets us bypass many of the meet and greets in the park. On our last two trips I carefully collected all of the dining receipts and tallied them up when we came home. We saved over $600 and $846 respectively, and that did not even take into account all the 40 snack credits I had left over and brought home candy from the Main Street confectionery (This alone was worth about .$200) It also gives everyone the option of trying something new,(and potentially expensive) without the pressure of felling. We also enjoy doing some of the Signature dining meals and since we usually don’t do lunch these are possible. Bottom line is it depends on what you like to eat and what those meals typically cost. If you’re OK with burgers, chicken tenders, etc the dining plan is probably not a good value for you, but if you order the most expensive items on the menu, it can be worthwhile.