Our Dining Plan Experiment

We just returned from our trip and our first ever experience with the Dining Plan. We booked a military rate at the Cabins at Ft Wilderness and added the dining plan to one cabin- 5 adults. We had another cabin booked as well, with my parents and two of my kids. So we had in my family 7 people eating off of the one plan, plus my parents who did use some of our credits.

We had a 5 night stay, which meant 25 TS, 25 QS, and 50 Snacks. Since we were arriving from the west coast, we didn’t get in early enough on check in day to really use the credits well. We ended up sharing a few TS dining credits at La Frontera in Disney Springs, and that was it.

We found it pretty tough to use the snack credits on a day when we had a table service meal. The table service meals were huge, especially since they come with desserts. Typically we would use 3-4 table service credits at any venue, and a couple of people would maybe get an appetizer or a soup instead of an entree. We would share entrees, which worked just fine. There was always so much food, and we were constantly stuffed!

Paying the bill was a little complicated, but definitely doable. We would charge to our room the non-dining plan charges, and even in the case when we had a combination of dining plan charges, non-dining plan charges, and my parents’ charges, the servers were more than happy to ring up 3 different checks.

We did have a reservation for BOG for lunch, which was good because it ate up 7 of our quick service credits. Even at BOG, some people only wanted soup, so we were able to pay for those separately from the Dining Credits. That was very nice of them to do for us, since I thought we were going to have to just “waste” QS credits on soup.

In general, the TS meals (we had on average 1 TS per day) kept us so stuffed that no one wanted a full QS meal.

We used only snack credits on our EPCOT day eating at all the food booths. We converted several quick service credits to snack credits at the booths. Most of the time, we found that 2-3 snacks would be enough to fill us up for several hours. Between the 7 in my family, we used up about 35 snack credits at EPCOT and we were so stuffed! And that was for a full day- eating from 10A to 9P, no other meals. The snacks go a LONG way.

Some interesting things we found- we ate at Sanaa and since we were on the dining plan, they gave us 3 curries instead of 2 in the “journey” dish. For our table of 9, ages 10-76 with 3 teenagers, we ordered 2 Bread service, 2 other appetizers, 4 “journey” dishes, mango lassi drinks, and the 4 desserts. That was a TON of food. I can’t imagine using more dining credits! We did not finish the food. But my son (who loves curry) took the food with him as carry out and was actually able to eat it later on. So we didn’t “waste” anything, sort of.

At the quick serve take-out at the Ft Wilderness you can get loaves of the cornbread and banana bread. It’s a great value (they are about $6.50 each) and they keep well. I was able to convert QS credit to those snacks. I was kicking myself for not getting more of those little loaves of bread. They were really good. (Same cornbread they serve at Hoop Dee Doo and at the Trail’s End.)

We did sort of manage to use up all our credits, thanks to the last-minute add of a Crystal Palace TS meal, for which we used 9 TS credits.

If we ever did this again, I would make sure that we could use more dining credits on the first day of our trip somehow. Also I would make sure that we had a little bit of flexibility on our last day because we were trying to use up snack credits at the halloween party, and it was so stressful to try to use up those credits by 12 midnight. I think it would have been better to be at a resort or at DS where we could just go get some treats to pack. Also I would schedule more buffets (and character meals) since those move along more quickly and you don’t HAVE to stuff yourself with dessert.

All in all, I do not think this saved us any money and it was more inconvenient because we were always having to split checks and worry about that process. Plus trying to figure out drink orders was sometimes a challenge. I know that we would have eaten quite differently without the dining plan. Also sometimes that extra step of waiting for dessert just took that much longer. We spent about 1.5-2 hr on our TS meals, which was a long time.

For the second part of our trip we were not on the dining plan. Eating how we were comfortable, we ate basically 2-3 snacks in the morning, split 2 QS entrees if we were hungry, and had one TS meal a day, where people ordered what they wanted. That was a better amount of food for us, and everyone felt relieved to not have the pressure to eat, eat, eat…

But, if I’m in a spot where everyone wants a character meal, I can see the Dining Plan being a great choice. Also, if there are several people in the party who enjoy drinking cocktails, that would make it a great value as well.


Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Dining Plan in detail. I always look longingly at the Dining Plan but I couldn’t see us eating all that food! We don’t drink and we are beyond the character meals. We would stress out trying to get our money’s worth and not eat what we really wanted to eat. We have had no problems ordering what we wanted and swiping our credit cards. We have added up our food tabs at the end of trips and they were always cheaper than the Dining Plan.

This unexpectedly happened to us one year when we were stranded in Disney because there was a hurricane at home. Everyone loved not having a plan during the “bonus” time there. It was so much more relaxing and no one felt like garbage from eating too much. We did the dining plan for our most recent trip and I kept meticulous notes on how much the meal would have cost OOP and compared it to the dining plan cost and we just about broke even. We used to say that the dining plan gave us the ability to eat at nicer places for the same cost and forced us to take a break for TS, but that’s less true now with the cost of the plan rising so much recently.

Another benefit of not using the dining plan is you can eat anywhere you like. You never have to pass on something because it’s not on the on the plan.

Some folks do very well on the plan, and that’s totally fine.
I’m a total pig and could never eat the amount of food on the plan. It doesn’t make sense for my family, we just don’t eat that much, and would be throwing away a lot of food that we’ve already paid for. I do crunch the numbers, and try to see if it’ll work, but we normally only do one character meal, and basically eat whatever we want, wherever we want, and trust me, we overeat constantly, and do a few nice meals, and we save money versus the ddp. The meals can be shockingly large.