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Walt Disney World Dining Plan Review: Worth The Money?

This post was Consumeristed! Woo.

I’m back from the Most Magical Place on Earth!:)It was a wonderful trip, and the food was surprisingly good – I’ve always associated theme parks with run-of-the-mill, overpriced fast food, but I’ve had a couple of really amazing dining experiences (albeit still with the Disney premium) at Disney World. Because food is such an important part of any vacation, let’s talk about a review of the Disney Dining Plan.

For my first trip to the Disney World Resort, boyfriend and I have decided to purchase the Disney Dining Plan (a feature available to guests staying within a Disney World Resort hotel). Would we do it again? As you’ll read on, although overall I was fairly happy with the plan, I have to say…. there are a few caveats.

Mickey is magically delicious!

Basic Dining Plan Information

We got the Basic Dining Plan (there are also Dining Plans a few tiers up, which offered more options but of course also cost more), which gives 1 Quick Service meal, 1 Table service meal, and 1 Snack per person, per day. The fee was $40 per person, per day. We spent 5 days at Disney World, so our total Dining Plan cost was ~$400. The Disney Dining Plan includes taxes but not tips or alcoholic beverages.

  • Quick Service = counter-service meal (think fast-food / food cart entree combo types) + 1 drink + 1 dessert. Usually around $10 – $20.
  • Snack = 1 dessert, drink, or pastry. Usually around $2 – $5.
  • Table Service = sit-down meal (entree + 1 dessert + 1 drink) or a buffet. Usually around $30 – $45.

Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth The Money?

If you select an expensive table service dinner (above $40), you will usually come out ahead of the Plan than if you had purchased the exact same meals not on the Dining Plan. But you’ll see that the Plan is very heavy on dessert – if boyfriend and I were purchasing our meals with cash, we wouldn’t be getting a dessert with every. single. meal.

That is one of my biggest problems with the Dining Plan – it would be much more convenient if we can choose either an appetizer OR a dessert with the Quick Service or the Table Service meal.

The first day we were there, we had dinner at Les Chefs de France, where we selected a prix fixe menu for $37 (soup + entree + dessert) and a drink (~$3). Total for the two of us including tax came out to around $85+. This means that we made back our $40/person Dining Plan fee that day. The last day at Disney World, we ate at Teppan-Edo, another delicious meal that cost us $80+. The other dinners during our stay ranged from $60-$75. Those days we probaly went $5 or $10 above the $40 / per person Dining Plan fee.

To truly take advantage of the Dining Plan, you MUST make advanced dining reservations (ADRs in Disney parlance). People make these reservations several months ahead of time. I made our reservations about 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time, and had to settle for very early (4pm) or late (9pm) dinners because all the other times were taken already. While at Disney World we’ve encountered many families turned away from sit-down restaurants because all the spots were taken. The chances of you getting a walk-in table is very very slim.

If you don’t have an ADR, you won’t come out ahead for the day in terms of Dining Plan costs because basically you will have forfeited your Table Service meal for a second Quick Service meal.

Was the Disney Dining Plan Enough Food?

YES! One thing you don’t have to worry about while on the Dining Plan is going hungry! We were quite stuffed during our trip – good thing we did a lot of walking, or else I might not have been able to fit in the airplane seats on the way back. If you’re not big eaters, two people can even split a Quick Service meal for lunch and be comfortably full.

In Summary: Disney Dining Plan Worth the Money But with Caveats

The biggest benefit of the Dining Plan is the fact that your meals are prepaid and you don’t have to worry about not going to nice sit-down dinner because of money. The Dining Plan is convenient, and, as a big dessert person, I have to say that I did appreciate the fact that we could get desserts with every dinner (although I would’ve preferred the choice to select appetizers).

If you decide not to get the Disney Dining Plan, but you still want to have nice sit-down dinner at the Parks, you won’t save much money – if any – money. A sit-down dinner will cost at least $30 per person, and a fast food lunch will be close to or over $10.

If you are willing to forgo the sit-down meals (i.e. no Table Service), however, you can probably save a little bit compared to the Dining Plan. Assuming 2 counter service meals (i.e. Quick Service) and 1 snack / water a day at $25-$30, you can save $10-$15 a day, per person, compared to the $40 / per person Disney Dining Plan fee. However, for that marginal amount of savings, I’d rather forgo eating out at home and be able to splurge a little on vacation at Disney World. 😉

image source: disneydreaming.com

  • Bucksome - Did you feel it took the spontaneity out of the vacation having to dine at a certain time each day due to reservations?

    P.S. That waffle/fruit looks delicious!ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - It didn't for me – it was actually something that I looked forward to – because after a day of running around I just wanted to sit down and enjoy a nice meal. And the food was really amazing at a few places. At Les Chefs de France, I had a lobster bisque, roast short ribs and pasta, and chocolate cream puffs. Boyfriend had salmon and creme brulee. We watched fireworks from the windows. It was great. ReplyCancel

  • Moneyreasons - Sounds like you had a great time 😀ReplyCancel

  • Disney World Recap | Well-Heeled Blog - […] realized that I haven’t really talked about my Disney World adventure (aside from the Dining Plan review) on this blog yet… and well, that oversight must be […]ReplyCancel

  • Annette - Good points, I think I will definitely subscribe!:). I’ll go and read some more!ReplyCancel

  • Sharon - I LOVED the dining plan on our Honeymoon! We had the Deluxe one and ate like KINGS! Just ONE of our sit down table bills was over $100!!!! We only paid $70 a day for it and we ate probably close to $150 worth of food a day. Niiiice!ReplyCancel

    • WellHeeled - Deluxe plan sounds luxurious indeed. What was your favorite restaurant? If I had the deluxe I would've tried to eat at Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian. ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Victoria and Albert's is unfortunately not included in any dining plansReplyCancel

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