The most common question......should I buy the Disney dining plan (DDP)? Well, there's no cut and dry answer to that. There are a series of denominations that come into play that determine whether or not DDP is a good fit for you and your vacation party. How many people? Kids? How old are they? How do you run your day? Do you eat at a lot of character restaurants? Do you and your vacation party eat like birds or do you eat regular meals? Would you rather pay for most meals in advance? Do you have a kitchen in your room? Do you plan on eating breakfast in your room?
Here's why: If you have a 10-12 year olds and they don't eat much, you're paying adult prices for children's meals. If ages 3-9, it's a GREAT deal. The price per day is nothing compared to what you would normally spend for a meal, snack, refillable mug, etc, for a child. If you eat mainly snacks and bring sandwiches to the parks, you may not want to get the DDP. There are a few different plans, but I'll be honest with you, the 3 TS meals per person per day is a whole lot of food in addition to the snacks they allow. Even if you merely eat a small amount at each meal, you're paying top dollar along with tips at each meal for something you could go to a QS and buy a sandwich.
The dining plan starts on your checkin day. You will have all entitlements to use however you want on the day of your arrival through to midnight of the day you checkout.
We prefer the regular Disney Dining Plan, which allows you 2 snacks, 1 QS, 1 TS per person per day plus a refillable mug. The plan is paid in advance with only having to pay tips on the TS meals at the time of dining. We like to eat QS for lunches. So, ask yourself those questions, because the DDP is not for everyone. It saves us money, is convenient and less stress, because we've already paid for the plan in advance. It's truly a personal decision. Be sure to read the tips and hints at the bottom.
Disney Dining Plan Details
The DDP has the same benefits as the previous plans, but now Disney has added a special option for guests over 21 years of age.
Guests have several new beverage options available including non-alcoholic specialty beverages and, for Guests 21 and older, beer, wine and cocktails.
Quick Service meal includes (for breakfast, lunch or dinner)
- 1 Entrée
- 1 Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)
Table Service meal includes
- 1 Full Buffet or Family Style Meal
- Or, 1 Entree (if not buffet or Family-Style Meal)
- 1 Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)
Lunch and Dinner--
- 1 Full Buffet or Family-Style Meal
- Or, 1 Entrée (if not buffet or Family-Style Meal)
- 1 Dessert
- Non-alcoholic Beverage (or Alcoholic Beverage, for Guests 21 and older)
As far as details and how to even qualify for a DDP, here are the specifics.
Qualifications to purchase a dining plan:
1. Book your stay at any Disney resort
2. Buy theme park tickets (any number of days) for every person in your vacation party.
As long as you have those two items above, you are given the option of any dining plan you wish to purchase. Everyone on the reservation must be on the dining plan except children under 3.
(Disney reserves the right to change rules, special offers, plan details, etc. at any time.)
Go to Disney's page by clicking here for more details.
TIP: It has been brought to my attention that Disney's website contradicts what cast members can do over the phone. As long as you have a room booked on Disney property, you can call to have one of the Disney Dining Plans added to your reservation for all guests in your vacation party without having to buy theme park tickets. This information has been verified (June, 2017) and has been done by cast members for the last few years. But, you MUST call Disney in order to add the dining plan. It cannot be completed online if you don't have theme park tickets linked to your "My Disney Experience" account.
- Breakfast is the cheapest meal so it's best to plan on buying that meal. You can use your allotted snacks for breakfast, if you want. We would use our daily snacks for a breakfast bagel, danish, drinks, etc. The cast member at checkout will assist you with all details.
- As far as how it can be used is completely up to you. If you wanted to use all TS meals on your first day, you can do that. If you want to use your QS entitlements in 2 or 3 days, you can do that. If you want to evenly spread them out throughout your entire stay, it's your prerogative. Just don't leave anything on the table when it's time for you to leave. That's another way many people waste their money. They leave meals and/or snacks on their plan and go home. Plan in advance, if at all possible!
- The Deluxe Dining Plan allows 3 Table Services (TS) per person per night's stay. If you are an annual/seasonal passholder, DVC member or Florida resident, consider the Tables In Wonderland (TIW) card instead of the Deluxe Dining Plan. You will save more money with the TIW card.
- Lunch is the second least expensive out of all three meals. It's best to use the QS entitlement for lunch for a few reasons: 1) It's the less expensive meal compared to dinner. 2) You and your party are probably running around in the parks enjoying yourselves. 3) You never know where you may be during the day. You, certainly, don't want to be at Magic Kingdom (MK) at 11:30 and are supposed to be at Epcot for a noon time lunch reservation. You can stop wherever you are for a QS meal and continue on without adding so much more time, walking, interrupting your day and missing out on rides, because you have a reservation across the park or in another park. 4) The odds of getting a TS without a reservation at lunch time is difficult, if not impossible, depending on the time of year or you could waste a lot of your valuable time waiting for a table to open if you don't have a reservation. Planning is key. If you can plan your days accordingly, then using a TS for lunch is good. Just be prepared when booking reservations.
- Dinner, on the other hand, is best for TS reservations. It's the most expensive meal of the day so you get more for your money. Many will head back to their room in late afternoon to rest, swim, nap, shower, etc. Then they can go to their reservation in a resort or at a park and enjoy the evening after they are done eating where ever they are.
- Just because Disney provides dates allowed for the free dining offer and your trip dates do not fall completely into their date bracket, does NOT mean you do not qualify. It depends on when your vacation starts! As long as your first day is within their dates, then you qualify for your whole stay for free dining.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, the dining plans include beverages, tax and food. They do NOT include tip. Please remember that the waiters/waitresses at all TS restaurants earn around $2-$5/hour and rely on tips just like any other restaurant in the US to make a living. All of the restaurants provide an itemized receipt with a total in order for you to calculate the 20% tip. Wouldn't you want your hard-working son, daughter, spouse, friend, parent, grandchild be rewarded for good service? Click here for a list of all instances where you would be tipping.
- DVC members, annual/seasonal passholders, Florida residents: Depending on how you and your vacation party eat, how you like to schedule your day, the ages of your kids, etc., the dining plan may not be the best option for Disney Vacation Club members. Go to Tables In Wonderland Pros and Cons for more details. Here are some quick TIW details: It's a card purchased for $175 for Florida residents and a discounted rate of $150 for DVC members and passholders. (Be sure to look at blackout dates.) It can be used for up to 10 people per card for 20% discount on EVERYTHING at select table service restaurants. It's important to remember that it must be at an approved, table service restaurant, be outside of blackout dates and all guests must be together for the card to be used, because the card must be with the purchaser and it's not transferrable. With the TIW card, you can buy what you want. If you want an appetizer, get it with 20% off. The amount to spend to break even for the $150 fee is $750.
- A quick service meal can be traded for 3 snacks and a table service meal can be traded for 5 snacks. You must buy all of the snack items with the exchange at the one location. This is very important for those attending the Food and Wine Festival. The food at the festival is not cheap and this is how you can get the best value for your snacks (Alcohol not included). Plus, after having a few snacks at the festival, most are too full to go have a QS meal. For more information, go to Greatest Value For Dining Plan Snack Entitlements.
***When trading in a QS or TS entitlement for snacks, all snacks from that one entitlement must be used at the one location. Click here for QS restaurant recommendations in the theme parks. Disney Dining Plans cannot be used towards a dessert party.
DVC--Disney Vacation Club
TIW--Tables In Wonderland