Disney World on a Budget: Dining Plan

Last week I started a series about doing Disney World on a Budget. I covered their Special Offers and using Disney gift cards to pay for your trip. In this post we’ll be covering just the dining plan. Some people love the dining plan, some people avoid it, and others may not realize what it is.

First, let me explain for you what the dining plan provides. There are multiple levels. The quick service plan provides for 2 quick service meals (think burgers, fries, and chicken finger types of food most of the time) and a snack for each person each night you stay. The standard plan gives you one quick service meal and one table service meal instead of 2 quick service meals. From there you can go into the deluxe plans where you get 2 table service meals in a day and more. With the deluxe plans, you won’t be walking around Disney World. You’ll be rolling around or hauled in a cart after eating that much food. All of the plans give you a refillable mug you can use at your resort.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to cover the standard plan that gives you a table service and quick service meal each day. I’m sure it is by far the most popular option that people choose.

Pros

  • Since the dining plan is baked into the cost of your trip, it makes it easier to budget for your trip.
  • You can use the snack credits you get each day to get items like cinnamon rolls for breakfast the next morning.
  • It gives your Disney World trip more of an “all-inclusive” feel.
  • You can use your table service meal for character dining experiences that would other otherwise cost you $100-150+ for four people if you paid out-of-pocket.
  • Disney World sometimes offers free dining during times of the year when the parks aren’t as busy. If you take the free dining, you can sometimes use the savings to stay at a nicer resort and still come out ahead.
  • It makes a trip less stressful since you don’t need to track how much you’re spending at each meal.

Cons

  • You have to stay at a Disney World resort to get the dining plan.
  • Even though the dining plan offers food at a discount, you can definitely do dining out-of-pocket for less than what you would pay for the dining plan. The dining plan includes desert with almost every meal, which isn’t necessary when paying out-of-pocket. Plus, you can probably get by with sharing meals at some restaurants, especially for kids. Otherwise, you’ll likely leave food on the table.
  • The dining plan does not include tips, so you’ll want to carry some cash with you to table service meals. Expect to pay a tip of anywhere from $15-30 for four people.

No matter what you choose, it’s a good idea to do the math ahead of time. You can look at the Disney World website to figure out about how much a meal will cost at various restaurants. Try not to let your jaw hit the floor when you see the prices. For us, the dining is part of the Disney experience, so we would have a hard time going without getting the dining plan.

How do you dine on vacation or at Disney? Let me know in the comments below.

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