Disney Dining Plans

Updated August 27 with 2013/2014 pricing

Introduction

Along with lodging, theme park tickets, and transportation, food is one of the biggest potential costs associated with any Disney World vacation.  In fact, food purchases may very well be the largest overall expensive.  In an effort to help vacationers budget food expenses (and guarantee most of your dining dollars go right back into Disney’s pocket), Disney offers several pre-paid Dining Plans to guests staying at Disney-owned resorts.  If you are staying “off-site,” at one of the Downtown Disney hotels, at the Swan, Dolphin, or Shades of Green, or any other resort/hotel/motel/tent/etc., you will not be eligible to purchase the Dining Plan.  You must be staying at a Disney Value, Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa that qualifies.  In addition, the Disney Dining Plan must be purchased as part of a package that includes at least a One Day Magic Your Way Base Ticket for everyone on the reservation or you must be an Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club owner or renter, or add a Dining Plan as part of a land/sea cruise package.

Furthermore, everyone on the same reservation must purchase the same Dining Plan for the entire length of the stay.  For example, it’s not possible to book a room for four adults and purchase a Dining Plan for less than four people or purchase different Dining Plans for each person.  The Dining Plans can be added to your package up to 72 hours before your check-in date, so you have some time to consider your options, even after you make an initial reservation.  There is no benefit to adding the Dining Plan when you book your package, other than it will save you a phone call sometime in the future.  There is no discount for paying for it early and you don’t run the risk of them selling out of Dining Plans.  It’s also much easier to add the Dining Plan than it is to remove it and you don’t run the risk of any fees or charges for removing the Dining Plan too close to your check-in date.   Once you qualify for the Dining Plan, you can begin to figure out if one of them “makes sense,” both in terms of potential savings and convenience.

There are three common Disney Dining Plan “tiers” available.  A Premium and Platinum Dining Plan are also available, but they include a lot of other recreational activities, spa treatments, and other goodies and those will have to wait for a different article.  They also cost $189 per adult per night for the Premium Plan and $239 per adult per night for the Platinum Plan.  This article will take a look at the Quick Service Dining Plan, “Regular” Dining Plan, and Deluxe Dining Plan.

How Much Do The Dining Plans Cost (all prices include tax)?

Quick Service Dining Plan

  • Adults: (Ages 10+) $40.00 per night
  • Children (Ages 3-9): $15.25 per night

“Regular” Dining Plan

  • Adults (Ages 10+): $59.20 per night during regular season or $60.65 during peak season
  • Children (Ages 3-9): $18.28 per night during regular season or $19.35 during peak season

Deluxe Dining Plan

  • Adults (Ages 10+): $106.47 per night during regular season or $108.92 per night during peak season
  • Children (Ages 3-9): $28.59 per night during regular season or $30.79 per night during peak season

For all Dining Plans, kids age two and younger do not qualify.  They can either eat some of someone else’s food, you can purchase a separate item from the menu for them (and pay for it separately), or you can bring food for them to eat.

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Updated August 27 2013 with 2014 information.

Now that we have an idea about what we’re getting ourselves into with each of the three Disney Dining Plans, we can begin to consider whether or not one of them “makes sense” in different circumstances.

The Dining Plan is (Potentially) a Lot of Food

The first thing I recommend doing is sizing up the members of your group.  How much food does each person normally eat?  Would everyone be happy eating McDonalds for lunch followed by Applebee’s for dinner (Regular Dining Plan)?  Burger King for Lunch followed by Taco Bell for dinner (Quick Service Dining Plan)?  Olive Garden for Lunch followed by Chili’s for dinner (Regular or Deluxe Dining Plan)?  IHOP for breakfast, followed by Red Lobster for lunch, followed by Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for dinner (Deluxe Dining Plan)?

The Dining Plan comes with dessert at every meal other than breakfast.  Do you plan to eat cake, cookies, ice cream, or a similar item at every meal?  Can everyone eat that much?  There won’t be a lot of “doggy bags” or taking food home for later, unless you want to walk it around the theme parks with you or take the time to drop it off in a car/locker.  Consider what you would normally order at a restaurant or quick service location.  Check out the various menus at Allears and ask people in your group what they might order at several restaurants you’re considering.

With the rising cost of the Dining Plans, you can no longer assume that they will save you money.  The Dining Plan originally included the gratuity and one appetizer per person at table service meals.  It no longer includes either.  The Quick Service Dining Plan used to include two snacks per night, but now includes one.  On the other hand, all Dining Plans now include a refillable mug and most items as expensive as $5.49 are included as snacks.  It was only two years ago when the refillable mugs were not included and an item needed to be $3.99 or less to be included as a snack credit.  While the cost of the Dining Plan is going up,  it’s important to take into consideration that the cost of dining around Disney World is also increasing.  If you’ve used the Dining Plan in the past couple of years and were pleased with the value, chances are that they will continue to “make sense.”  If the cost is becoming prohibitive and you plan to share more meals, skip desserts, eat off-site, bring more food with you, etc. then paying out of pocket for meals may make more fiscal sense, even if out of pocket prices seem daunting.

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