Best Disney Dining Plan Values

Is the disney dining plan worth the cost?

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it? If you're like many, you want to know if it's worth it to purchase the Disney Dining Plan or just pay as you go. Some argue that you can save money by paying as you go while others say that the Dining Plan offers convenience. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and careful planning but if you decide to add the dining plan to your Magic Your Way Package, first and foremost is to be certain you can make the reservations you want. There's no point in buying the Dining Plan if you can't use it.

What our research says: We estimate that the target price point for menu items at Walt Disney World's is about $23 for dinner. We sampled a variety of restaurant menus and took an average of the items offered. In our research we determined that in order to at least break even on your Dining Plan purchase, you need to exceed a $30 threshold at each table service meal. That's pretty hard to do even when we consider how costly the restaurants are at Disney World however the real value comes when you visit buffets and character meals - they are downright expensive. If you plan to visit a few character meals, you could break even on the Disney Dining Plan or even do better. Below, we identified some of the more expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World that will at least help you make the most of the Dining Plan. Click here to view Disney World Restaurant menus and ratings.  

The 2014 adult Disney Dining Plan price, ages 10 and up, is $58.66.  Kids, ages 3-9, pay $18.88. Prices increase slightly during peak times of the year, mostly on holidays. The regular Dining Plan, known as the "Disney Dining Plan" entitles each guest to 1 refillable resort mug, 1 snack, 1 counter service meal, and 1 table service meal for each package night. If you stay 7 nights, you will have 7 of each entitlement. Gratuity is no longer included but you won't have to pay the 6.75% sales tax. Almost every Walt Disney World restaurant accepts the Dining Plan and most of the menu items are included. Excluded items are alcoholic beverages, most platters, and room service. 

Avoid these Disney Dining Plan Mistakes.  Don't use table service entitlements for breakfast or lunch because menu prices are typically less expensive than dinner Also, dessert is excluded from breakfast but included at lunch or dinner. The one exception are character buffets for breakfast and lunch, if you plan to go to a character breakfast, consider using your Table Service entitlement for that. Avoid using your snack entitlement for water or soft drinks, as they typically cost less than the component cost of the snack credit -- about $4. The food courts at the resort hotels might have eligible snack items that slightly exceed $4, so stock up on snacks there rather than the theme parks.
Additional tips:
  • Research menus online before purchasing the Disney Dining Plan. 
  • Know everyone's eating habits - Can your 10 year old eat $58.66 worth of food everyday? 
  • You need to spend the equivalent of at least $58.66 on food everyday, or you lose money. The chart below shows how a family of four (2 adults, 2 children ages 10 and 13) wasted over $70 in just one day of their vacation.
Was Purchasing the Dining Plan A Good Choice for this Family? 

The following restaurants will help you maximize your Disney Dining Plan Purchase:  

Best Values for the Disney Dining Plan

Character Dining Values on the Disney Dining Plan

Dining with Disney characters is very popular and require reservations months in advance. Expect a buffet, usually divided into separate sections for kids and adults.  The adult price for a character breakfast begins at about $20 and dinner about $41. Kids (ages 3-9) pay about $12 for breakfast and about $22 for dinner. 

A character dinner for two adults and two kids would be about $126.00 before tax and tip. That's about the break even point for the per-day cost of the Disney Dining Plan. Click here for the best character dining restaurants in Walt Disney World. 

Check with your Disney Travel Specialist for full details and current information on the Disney Dining Plans, as information is subject to change. Darren Wittko is a Disney Travel Specialist with Magical Vacations Travel and Creator of The Best of Walt Disney World. 

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Published March 2014