Dining at Disney (World)

Let’s chat about Disney World’s dining plans. Well, namely, the “Plus” Dining Plan - it’s Disney’s standard dining plan that generally works for just about every guest. A few things to get out of the way first: no, the dining plan won’t always save money - sometimes you’ll just barely break even. The dining plan is 99% convenience - being able to pay for your food before you arrive is one heck of a deal for me! I don’t know about you, but theme park sticker shock is a real thing & it knowing my food is paid for before I even arrive makes it easier to feel like I can order whatever I want when I’m sitting down for a nice meal!


Okay! So let’s talk about the dining plan.
It runs a steep cost, for some: approximately $75 for ages 10+, per night & $28 for ages 3 - 9, per night. So, let’s say we have a family of 4 with two adults and two kiddos ages 3 - 9, staying for 6 nights — you are looking at the dining plan adding about $1250 to your overall vacation cost. $1000+ for a weeks worth of food sounds like a lot - trust me, I KNOW. So let’s talk about what this cost is going to cover:

  • 1 Quick Service credit per person, per night. Quick service is Disney’s equivalent of “fast food” - though, don’t take that to mean hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken nuggets (although, it most certainly can!). One of my favorites in Magic Kingdom is Columbia Harbour House, which features a great menu such as fish & chips, lobster rolls, New England clam chowder, among other awesome choices. Another favorite, in Animal Kingdom, is Satuli Canteen - this location offers bowls where you choose your base (rice, potato hash, greens), protein (chicken, beef, tofu, sustainable fish), and you choose your sauce — oh my GOSH, this is one of the best meals I’ve had at Disney and it’s a quick service “fast food” meal!

  • 1 Table Service credit per person, per night. Table service meals are those that require reservations and are sit-down meals that you take time for. This includes character meals, too!! These meals can range in price wildly. For example, my meal at Artist Point was $60 per person, not including alcohol. So after all was said & done, mine and Casey’s meal (pre gratuity), ended up being $160 - which is more than what the dining plan costs for 2 adults for an entire day’s worth of food! So I mean…. great deal!

  • 2 Snack credits per person, per night. Here is where people get tripped up on how to use these credits. Basically anything in the $5 price range is considered a snack - popcorn, ice cream, churros, cupcakes, coffee at Starbucks, donuts, cinnamon rolls, dole whip… I could go on. These snack credits can even be used on select menu items during Epcot’s food festivals!!

So that’s what is included with those credits, exactly? With each quick service & table service meal, you are allowed to order an entree, dessert and beverage. This includes alcoholic beverages at participating locations! Unfortunately, the dessert can’t be switched to an appetizer, if that’s more your style, so that’s something to consider! Dining style comes into play a lot when choosing if the dining plan is right for you!

So now we lead to HOW to use those credits. And this is the fun part.
Credits can be used literally any way that you want to use them. The credits are all pooled together at the beginning of your vacation, and every time you redeem them, the number of credits just goes down from there, so you aren’t restricted to using each type of credit per day, you can So, let’s take that example of the family of 4, staying for six nights again! They would start their vacation with 24 Quick Service credits, 24 Table Service credits & 48 snack credits. So you could do 2 table service meals in one day, or no table service credits - it all depends on how you want to use them!

Here’s an example of a recent trip of mine:

Day 1
Breakfast: Cinnamon roll at resort using snack credit
Lunch: Casey’s Corner using a quick service credit
Afternoon Snack: Dole whip using a snack credit
Dinner: Artist Point using a table service credit

Day 2
Breakfast: Ohana using a table service credit
Lunch: used 2 snack credits in Epcot at Food & Wine Festival
Dinner: Rose & Crown using a table service credit

So, as you can see - you can use them HOWEVER you’d like, as long as you don’t go over or under the credit allotment (this is something I help plan out so you don’t have to stress about it!).

How can I maximize my dining plan credits?
** Go to character meals - these meals are generally $40 - 60 out of pocket, making them great uses of credits.
** Order the steak! No seriously, your credit is good for anything on the menu, so order whatever your heart desires, even if it is the most expensive menu item!
** Use table service credits on lunch or dinner, as those are typically the most expensive meals of the day for table service restaurants.
** A couple of restaurants offer dining packages for 1 table service credit and this is a real dang good value most of the time!

I’m staying off property, can I still use a dining plan?
Unfortunately, dining plans are reserved as a “perk” to Disney Resort guests & can only be purchased by adding it to your Disney vacation package.

Can I purchase the dining plan for only select members of my party?
Nope - when you add a dining plan to a package, everyone must have the dining plan.

Can I purchase the dining plan for only select days of my vacation?
This is a big one that I get asked all the time! The answer is no - when you add a dining plan to your vacation, it is for the entire length of your stay, not just parts of it.

How do I feed my kids who aren’t old enough for the dining plan? (2 and under do not receive dining plan entitlements)
The littles who aren’t old enough to have their own dining plan credits can still eat, I promise! At buffets, they are welcome to have their own plate, free of charge. At restaurants where you order off of a menu (such as quick service locations, and other table service restaurants that are not buffet or family style), you can order anything off the menu a la cart and pay for it out of pocket OR they can share from your plate (or siblings plates) at no extra charge.

Anything else included in the dining plan that you haven’t mentioned?
Rapid Refill Mugs! These mugs are good for the length of your stay and give you free soda/coffee/water refills at any Disney Resort (not just the one you’re staying at!). You pick these up at your resort’s food court, usually on the day you check in. Note: these mugs can be purchased even if you’re not on the dining plan!

What is NOT included in the dining plan?
Gratuity is NOT included (except at a select few restaurants) and that’s very important to note! So while this plan makes your vacation 98% all inclusive, there will be that extra 2% you need to account for — 1% on gratuity at table service meals and 1% on souvenirs. ;)

What are some of your favorite quick service locations?
** In Animal Kingdom - Satuli Canteen, Flame Tree BBQ
** In Epcot - Sunshine Seasons + any of the stops in World Showcase!
** In Hollywood Studios - Woody’s Lunchbox, Backlot Express
** In Magic Kingdom - Casey’s Corner, Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn, Be Our Guest (breakfast/lunch), Pinocchio’s Village Haus

What are some of your favorite table service restaurants?
** In Animal Kingdom - Tusker House
** In Epcot - Rose & Crown Dining Room, Le Chefs de France, Garden Grill, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
** In Hollywood Studios - Mama Melrose (with Fantasmic package), 50s Prime Time Cafe, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
** In Magic Kingdom - Skipper Canteen, Cinderella’s Royal Table (but I wouldn’t use dining plan here, I’d pay out of pocket for this one!), Crystal Palace
** Elsewhere in WDW - Ohana (breakfast/dinner), Artist Point, Homecomin’, Sebastian’s Bistro, 1900 Park Fare, Cape May Cafe, Splitsville (bowling alley + food!)

I think that’s it for now - if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll update this post as things change!

Until next time!