How does the Disney Dining Plan work? Is it worth the cost? It’s a complicated plan, but here is the Disney Dining Plan explained so simply that even I can understand it!
To help explain, I start with the items included in the plans. Then, I’ll get to the dining plan options.
Items in the Dining Plan
There are four items in the Disney Dining Plans. The different plan options are different combinations of these four items.
Each person gets one mug for the duration of the stay. The number of food items included for each person is based on the number of nights you stay. This part is always confusing, so I’ll return to it. A few times.
Sodas, tea, coffee
The mugs are refillable at the quick-service locations at the Disney resorts, but not in the parks. They’re a great souvenir that makes it easy to get drinks with meals at the resorts.
I don’t recommend carrying them to the parks unless you have a backpack or something to carry them in. Because they are refillable at the resorts, but not at the parks.
Examples of snacks are:
- an ice cream
- a pretzel
- a Dole Whip.
It’s not a meal unless you eat really small meals.
It’s quick, and there’s no table.
Quick-Service meals are kind like fast food. You wait in line for the ordering counter. Place your order and pay at the ordering counter. Get your order, then look for an available seat. What’s fun to do is one parent and a kid or two order food while the other parent and kid or kids “scout out tables.*”
They are meals, so it’s usually an entree, a side item such as French fries, and a drink. Quick-Service meals are plenty of food. We’ve never had one that wasn’t enough for my wife and me to split. In our case, each Quick-Service meal is enough for two people.
When In & Out first opened locations in Texas, my wife and I found ourselves in a situation perfect for trying out their burgers. We waited about 45 minutes for the food. It was late at night, so the lines were shorter. We waited 45 minutes for fast food.
If there are long lines at Quick-service dining locations, it may not be all that quick. Pound sign, mobile ordering.
It’s quick, and there’s no table.
Also, there won’t be any character meals available with the Quick-Service plan. You can still dine at those restaurants and meet those characters—assuming you have a reservation—but you can’t use one of your Quick-Service dining credits for that meal.
Let’s talk about table-scouting.
Table-scouting gets sketchy when the lines are long. Imagine the person who pays and gets their food then can’t find a table because they’ve all be scouted out by people whose spouse and kid are in line ordering. Depending on how crowded it is, I don’t look very hard for a table. As my wife gets closer to the front of the line, I look more thoroughly for a table. It usually works out.
Don’t stress. And be nice.
So be cool. Don’t hang out too long after you finish your meal. I mean, you’ve got rides to ride and characters to meet. Deposit your trash (don’t leave that for someone else to clean up) and get theme-parking.
Also, use mobile ordering. Order on your way to the quick-service restaurant, so you don’t have to wait as long.
It’s not as quick, and there’s a table.
A Table-Service Meal is where you have me book your reservation 180 days before your vacation. The restaurant staff seats you. No scouting required. Assuming you have a reservation. At your table, you place your order. The server brings the food to you. Then you pay. Unless it’s a buffet. Then the order changes a bit, but you still get a table.
Each Table-service meal includes:
- 1 Entrée, or 1 buffet, or family-style meal
- 1 Beverage
- 1 Entrée, or 1 buffet, or 1 family-style meal
- 1 Dessert
- 1 Beverage
It’s not as quick, and there’s a table.
Dining Plan Options
There used to be 3, but Disney added a 4th this year.
Everyone age 3 and over on the reservation gets a dining plan. Nobody gets left out. That means everyone on the reservation has to get one. Unlike the Universal dining plan, you can buy as many (or as few) as you want. The four dining plans are:
Included in All Four Plans
This is where I might sound like I’m explaining it to a child. I want to make this explanation so clear that even I can understand it.
Each Plan Includes a Refillable Mug
With all four plans, everyone gets a refillable mug for your stay. You don’t get a mug for every night of your stay; you each get one for the vacation. Whether you stay four nights or 14 nights, you each get one mug.
Each Plan Includes 2 Snacks per Night’s Stay
With each of the four plans, each person on the reservation, age 3 and over gets two snacks for each night’s stay.
Let’s say you get a late morning flight and arrive at Disney’s Art of Animation resort (my favorite) at 3:00 PM on Tuesday? Why Tuesday? Why not Tuesday? That’s for another episode. Subscribe, so you don’t miss it. You arrive at 3:00 PM Tuesday, and you’ll have to check out on Saturday morning, but you have a later flight.
Examples of snacks are:
- Frozen/ice cream novelty, popsicle or fruit bar
- Popcorn scoop
- 12 oz. coffee, hot chocolate or hot tea
- Prepackaged milk or juice
- Piece of whole fruit
- Bag of snacks
- 20 oz. bottle of soft drink or water
- 20 oz. fountain soft drink
An Example of Disney Dining Plan Snacks
Checking in Tuesday and checking out Saturday is four nights. With your meal plan, you get 2 snacks/nonalcoholic drinks for each night’s stay. I’m going to call them snacks for simplicity. 4 nights times 2 snacks equals 8 snacks per person on the reservation total for your trip.
You can have a snack at the resort as soon as you get there Tuesday. You can have two snacks Wednesday, then 2 more Thursday, then two more Friday. Question: Do you have to starve on Saturday? No, you still have your 8th snack! Let the resort hold your luggage while you take the Magical Express to Disney Springs and enjoy a fabulous delicious cookie with ice cream at Ghirardelli.
Or you can do like we did on our first trip. We didn’t fully understand how to use the meal plan. We didn’t use our snacks during the week. On our last day, we still had about 6 snacks credits between us. We got 6 containers of hummus and pretzels to take on the plane. I mean, I love me some hummus, but not that much. So, I make sure my clients understand the meal plan. I would have preferred 6 Mickey bars. I love me some Mickey bars. More than hummus.
So all four plans, per each person on the reservation 3 years old and up, 1 mug for the week, 2 snacks for each night’s stay.
Items Not Included in Dining Plan?
- Alcoholic beverages
- Items that are more than a single serving (such as a box of doughnuts or a jar of peanut butter)
- Foods (such as popcorn or drinks) that are served in a souvenir container
- Items sold from recreational rental counters
- Items considered to be merchandise (such as bottle toppers, glow cubes, and bottle straps)
- Special dining events offered at certain Table-Service locations
Those Are the similarities of the Disney Dining Plans
That’s the easy part. What differs between the four plans is the combination of Quick-Service meals and Table-service meals.
With the first four plans, you get 4 food/drink items per night’s stay. With the Deluxe Dining Plan, you get 5 food/drink items per night’s stay.
Let’s break that down.
Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan
It includes 4 food items per day.
In addition to the two snacks per day and the mug, the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan includes 2 Quick-Service Meals Per Day.
No table dining is included. You can still go to a restaurant with table service; you’ll just pay for it out of pocket. You can still pay with the MagicBand, which is probably on your wrist and not in your pocket, but you can’t use a Quick-Service credit for it.
Two snacks per day and two Quick-Service meals per day equals 4 food/drink items per night’s stay.
To sum up the Quick-Service Plan: Per day, 2 snacks, and 2 Quick-Service.
Disney Dining Plan
It also includes a mug and 4 food items per day.
2 snacks plus 2 meals. What’s differentiates the Dining Plan from the Quick-Service Plan is that one of those meals can be a Table-Service meal. It doesn’t have to be a Table-Service meal. You can use your Table-Service credit for a Quick-Service meal, but you paid for Table-Service, so you might as well enjoy it.
An important thing to remember with the Table Dining in these remaining three plans is that if you’re going dine in a table service restaurant, you want to have a reservation.
You may not need a reservation, not in all restaurants. Some restaurants book up 180 days in advance by the time most of you lazy bums wake up.
It is better to have a restaurant than not. We’ve been there. During one last-minute trip, we went with no dining reservations. Things got a little desperate that night. We had to waste time finding a place that would have room for us. We didn’t have to wait long when we found a place.
But you don’t want to be searching for a place when you’re all tired and hungry. Have I mentioned the importance of booking your trip with an expert Disney Travel Advisor?
To sum up the Disney Dining Plan: Per day, 2 snacks, 1 quick-service, 1 table service.
Disney Dining Plus Plan
This 3rd plan is the new plan, this Disney Dining Plus
It also includes a mug and 4 food items per night’s stay. 2 of those are snacks, just like the Quick service Plan and the Dining Plan.
What differentiates the Dining Plus from the regular dining is that both meals can be Table-Service. The Disney World sight says, “Any combination of Table-Service and Quick-Service (per night of stay).”
If you get one quick-service meal and one table-service meal, then you’ve paid for Plus, but only used the regular. If you use both on quick-service, then maybe you should have got the Quick-Service plan.
The moral of this story. Book with an Advisor. Book early. Make reservations.
To sum up the Disney Dining Plus Plan: Per day, 2 snacks, 2 meals that can be any combination of quick-service or table-service.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
The 4th plan is the big plan, the foodie plan, Disney Deluxe Dining.
It includes a mug and 5 food items per night’s stay. 2 of those 5 food items are snacks/nonalcoholic drinks (just like the other three plans), but the other three food items can all three be table-service meals. With the Deluxe Dining play, you eat well.
You get to enjoy a nice table-service meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus 2 snacks. It will include more upscale dining. If you’re into that, this may be the plan for you. It’s the most expensive plan, but you get to use your dining credits on some fantastic experiences, and you get a lot of food.
To sum up the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan: Per day, 2 snacks, and 3 meals that can be any combination of quick-service or table-service.
Include a TABLE
Enjoy the extra value of working with a Travel Advisor at no cost to you!
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Next on The Travel Wizard: Episode 12: Should I purchase the Disney Dining Plan?
Previously on The Travel Wizard: Episode 10: Goodbye is the Hardest Part (A travel story from my upcoming book, Tinto Verano).