Pre-paid plans that give you ‘credits’ to eat at over 100 of the restaurants around Walt Disney World. There are different options, depending on your needs, from just quick service, to deluxe plans.
The Disney Dining Plans
There are 3 plans available to UK guests, which entitle each person, per night of their stay to the following credits:
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan
This gives you two quick (counter service) meals, two snack credits and a refillable resort mug.
Disney Dining Plan
This gives you one quick service meal, one table service meal, two snack credits and a refillable resort mug.
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
This gives you three meals that you can take either as a quick service or table service meal, you also get two snack credits per day plus a refillable resort mug.
Offered only in the UK, stays at Value resorts are sometimes offered with a ‘Free Breakfast’, which is 1 quick-service meal, to be taken at breakfast. This isn’t a plan that can otherwise be purchased.
So what does this all mean?
A quick service meal is a main course (which comes with at least one ‘side’) and drink. These are served over the counter so there is no table service.
A table service meal is a main meal and drink, or a full buffet / family style meal. On the child plan (age 3-9) it’s an appetiser, a main meal and drink, or a full buffet / family style meal. Most character meals such as Cafe Mickey as the Contemporary Resort are included.
Snacks are anything around the resort that has the Disney dining plan symbol next to it and includes things like ice cream, muffins, crisps, fruit etc. Snacks can be perfect for breakfast – fruit, muffins, croissants etc. Typically anything under about $5 is classed as a snack. The ones Disney mention in their leaflets are cheaper snacks, so make sure you keep your eye out for that symbol as you can get much better options than those suggested. Epoct is a great place to use your snack credits.
Dining Plan FAQs
Are you eligible for the Disney Dining plan?
In order to be eligible to buy a Disney Dining plan, you have to be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort. Depending on where you book, you may also need to have bought Walt Disney World tickets through the same place. This is the case if you book with Walt Disney World directly. If you’re interested, consider that when you decide who to book with – not all travel companies offer this as an option. Others do, but without really stressing when it’s being offered free, so make sure you know what’s available when booking.
Is it the Disney Dining plan worth it?
Well if you’re getting it for free (on one of the free dining offers), then yes, of course it is. If you’re trying to decide whether to buy a plan, then that really depends on how much time you’ll be spending within Walt Disney World. If you fully utilise the plans they’ll save you between 20% and 40% on what the same food would cost you to buy directly (although you have to consider the exchange rate at the time too). The regular Disney dining plan provides more food than the average Brit would really buy, it’sits not quite like-for-like, but still very much worth while.
You have to buy the plan for every person in your party, and for every night of your stay and you all have to be on the same plan – it’s all or nothing. So you need to eat outside of Walt Disney World less than the amount you’re saving. If you’re thinking of splitting your time between Walt Disney World and the other Orlando parks and shopping, therefore will only be in Walt Disney World for approximately 50% of your meals, then you’d be better paying out of pocket, at the time. If you plan to spend two or three days away from Walt Disney World out of a fortnight, but still eat breakfast there and maybe come back for the evening meal on one of those, then you could still be saving yourself some money.
The other big benefit is having most of your food paid for in advance – so no nasty surprises when you get back!
How does the Disney Dining plan work?
Children aged 3-9 have to have meals off the children’s menus and adults aged 10+ get adult meals (they usually let you downgrade to children’s meals if you have a picky eater – but you won’t be getting the best value for money). The meals are actually ‘credits’ and a record of these are kept on your Disney account and Magic Band. The entire amount of credits for your whole room, for your entire stay are placed on your account, for you to use however you like. So for instance, if you’re a family of three; two adults and one child, staying for 7 nights with the regular Dining plan, your account will have 14 (7×2) adult counter service credits, 7 (7×1) child counter service credits, 14 (7×2) adult table service credits, 7 (7×1) child table service credits and 42 (7×3×2) snack credits. During your 7 night stay you can use these how you like – if you want to use 2 lots of counter service meals on one day, you can. Most table service restaurants are just one credit per person, but the signature restaurants take 2 per person, so you can spend 2 credits per person on a really nice meal if you want to. At the end of each meal you’ll be given a receipt to sign, showing how many credits you owe, plus any excess to pay – i.e. anything not included in the plan and a gratuity. You scan your magic band and your credits are deducted (and if you want the balance remaining charged to your band, or you can pay separately). You then get a receipt telling you how many credits you have left to spend. And you can check your balance at any time using the Disney Experience mobile app.
What restaurants can I eat at?
The vast majority of the restaurants in Walt Disney World are part of the dining plan, including Signature restaurants (costing two credits per person), character meals and dinner shows. A few, which are not operated by Disney opt out of the plan and so if you eat at these, you’ll have to pay out of pocket – most of these are at Disney Springs. The Disney website and My Disney Experience app will tell you if an individual restaurant takes part in the plan.
Which plan should you choose?
This will depend on your eating preferences. The meals are pretty big, and even big eaters tend to find the standard Disney Dining Plan to have more than enough food and have no need to purchase anything else while they’re there (unless you want an appetiser). The free plans Disney occasionally offers are usually a breakfast for a value resort, the quick service plan if you stay at a moderate resort (but you can pay the difference at both, to upgrade) or a regular dining plan if you stay at a Deluxe resort. Upgrading to the regular plan is very common – the restaurants at Disney are fantastic and it means not eating counter service food for all 14 days. But if your plan is to enjoy the rides and theme parks and do little else, then the quick service plan could work well for you. The Deluxe Dining Plan, gives you optimum flexibility – but gives you a ridiculous amount of food, and with 3 table meals a day you might not have time for anything else. It is unnecessary for most people.
What about young children?
Children up to the age of 3 (including if your child turns 3 during your stay) are not eligible for a dining plan. Under threes are ‘Guests of Mickey’ and don’t really ‘count’ in numbers at Disney – they don’t need a ticket to get into the parks, they don’t count on your room count and as such, they’re also not eligible for a dining plan. However, they are allowed to eat off the adults’ plates for free – which works especially well for buffet meals. And is ideal if you have a 1-2 year old. But if you’ve got a nearly 3 year old, chances are that at least sometimes, they’re going to want or need their own meal. In that case, your only option is to buy them a child’s meal out of pocket. The counter service meals are usually enough to share around, or you can use a snack credit to get an extra ‘side’, so you’d mainly need to consider this for table service meals. They can also eat what they like at buffets or ‘family style’ meals, so it won’t be every meal, therefore it is still excellent value.
What isn’t included?
Gratuities – tipping is customary in the States – even when the service is bad (which is very rare in Walt Disney World). A 10% tip is standard for poor service, with 15-20% for good service. If you are a party of 6 or more, 18% is automatically added onto your bill, which you’re expected to pay. If you’re in a smaller party, a couple of suggested tips are calculated for you at the end, based on a percentage of the total of your order – and you can choose one of these to pay, or tell the waiter what you’d like to tip instead.
Alcoholic and speciality drinks are included in the plans but are not ‘bottomless’ like the fizzy drinks, so more than one per person would be paid for at the end of your meal
Appetisers – kid’s dining plans include appetisers, but adult plans do not unless you get the Deluxe plan.
Selecting a dining plan will be an option when you make you’re booking. If you’re going to get one that includes table service, it is absolutely essential that you make advanced dinner reservations, so you can make the most of your plan and eat at the best restaurants. You can do that 180 days ahead of your first night (and the most popular can get booked up that far in advance) via the Disney World website, or the My Disney Experience app.