Not only do we love Disney World, but we are huge fans of the Disney Dining Plan. (I have shared all kinds of Disney dining tips before, including how to get the Disney World reservations that you really want.)
We have had trips where we’ve had free Disney Dining Plans, reduced price dining plans, and paid full price (with five “adults”) for the dining plan. While it all seems nicer when it’s totally free, I still mostly recommend the Disney Dining Plans even at full cost.
Now, before I get anyone telling me that the vacation is much cheaper without the dining plan:
Yes, I know. It is a splurge. However, you can sometimes find vacation packages with dining deals, so then it just makes sense (especially when it’s free). At full price, it is a splurge that I think can be worth it. I’m going to share why I think you should do your own splurge and sign up for a Disney Dining Plan for your next Disney trip.
Six Reasons We Love the Disney Dining Plan (and Why I Think You Should Get it too)
You can read more about what exactly is included in the different different dining plans here. It changes from time to time, so it’s best to see what the current Disney Dining Plan offerings are. There are three different plans: the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan, the Disney Dining Plan, and the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan.
At the current time, the regular Disney Dining Plan, for example, includes one quick service meal, one table service, and two snacks for each day of your trip – based on the number of nights you are staying. You also receive a refillable mug to use at your resort.
You don’t actually have to use one quick-service meal and one table service meal per day of your trip though. You can use two table service meals one day and two quick-service meals another day. They give you the flexibility to figure out how to best use your credits for your family.
Here’s a great page to check out for Special Offers at Walt Disney World. They sometimes run deals that include free or reduced cost dining plans.
Trying New Foods
Because you have already committed to eating lots of meals at the parks and resorts, you can find unique restaurants and foods to try. I especially like the standard Disney Dining Plan because you can go to the various buffet restaurants, and most are filled with not only standard buffet foods, but also with unique or exotic options.
My family has been able to try many foods that we had heard of before but had never had a chance to taste, all alongside things like macaroni and cheese.
Seriously though – Disney World has the best macaroni and cheese.
Food is Paid for Before You Go
Sure, this doesn’t work if you paid for your trip with a credit card and haven’t paid the trip off yet. We have been blessed to have completely paid for most our trips prior to arriving in Disney World. That meant that I didn’t have to feel like being ill every time we ate a meal at a park or one of the resort hotels. With five people in our family, it gets pricey.
Even if we could save money by getting less food and not using a dining plan, I don’t know that I could mentally deal with having to pay for each meal as we had it. Instead, I like seeing the amount, and then scanning my MagicBand to make the amount zero out.
Always Plenty to Eat
On our trips, we have had the standard Disney Dining Plan on each trip except one where we used the Quick-Service Plan. We all agreed after that one that we far prefer the regular Disney Dining Plan.
Since the Disney Dining Plan allowed us to have one quick-service meal and one sit down meal per day plus snacks, we had plenty to eat each day. (Sometimes too much!)
We typically use a snack credit at breakfast time for things like muffins, chocolate croissants, or cinnamon rolls. We like to change up if we use our table service meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus there are even sometimes when we use two sit down meals in one day or two quick-service meals in one day. It’s nice to have the flexibility to do that.
Each year, we have had more than we needed to eat and pretty much were able to use things like snack credits for any extras we wanted. This means that we have rarely had any food costs outside of our dining plan.
Easy Access to Characters
Again, this just applies to the Disney Dining Plan or the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. With your one table service meal per day (on the standard plan), you’re able to book reservations at restaurants that have character meals. For us, this means that that the majority of the characters that we tend to see and get autographs from are ones that we see character meals.
Don’t despair though! There are lots of opportunities to meet characters in the parks without table service meals. You just have to be prepared to wait in lines, rather than having characters come right to your table. For someone special we want to see (or if a line seems short), we’ve waited in those lines too. We just have a tendency to meet most of our characters at meals.
Note: Some character meals actually use two table service credits. We splurged with our credits two different years and have had one breakfast and one dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table, which is the small restaurant in the castle that features several princesses.
It Becomes Part of the Experience
With things like character meals and various themed restaurants, the dining experience becomes part of the larger Disney magical experience. We just love that!
Every time we plan a trip to Disney World now, we start talking about the food and restaurants right away.
It’s a Chance to be a “Yes” Parent
If we were paying for each meal right as we ate it, we would be more picky about what the kids could or couldn’t get.
With so much included, however, it’s fun to have a time of saying things like, “Hey – make sure you don’t forget to pick up your dessert.”
Or, something like, “You want to try a chicken Caesar salad? I’m not sure if you’ll like that, but okay, give it a try,” knowing that there would be enough food to go around if that child hated it. Surprisingly, Jack loved it (and got it again another day) and I probably wouldn’t have let him order that if we were paying right that moment because of my doubt about what he would think of it.
We can’t wait for our next trip to Disney World! The rides, the food, the family togetherness – it’s my favorite vacation spot.
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. They don’t change the price you pay. However, when you shop through them, we may receive a small compensation.
This post was originally published on October 1, 2013. It was updated in February 2018.
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Kay @Kay's Korner says
Someday we are going to hit Disney. We have no idea when, but we would love to just have the experience. A friend of mine loves doing the dining plan when it fits into her budget. It is just easier than trying to figure out alternate plans. We will have to see what comes up when we get to the actual planning stage. Thanks for the tips!
What a great list! We are hoping to go to Disney next summer although we’re not planning on staying at a resort. But I always wondered what people thought of the dining plan! Thanks for sharing your experience!
I totally agree with all your reasons. We went to Disney world this past January, paid for dinning, just figured it in to what we were saving. It was so nice not to think about what we were spending. We used several snack credits for candu we brought home, we just enjoyed our last suckers, and it was so nice to remind us of the magic long after the trip.
Angie Kauffman says
We had some suckers for a month or so after our last trip. You’re right – that did make for a fun way to keep remembering our trip. 🙂
Chris Tilley says
We are going to Disneyland at the end of the month. My wife is looking in to the Dining plan today. So we will see how it fits our budget.
Valerie @ Momma in Progress says
We love the dining plan and get it every time. The character meals are the best. Our favorite is Pooh and friends at Crystal Palace. We just made our last visit with Agent A as a freebie; he turns three in a few weeks.
Angie Kauffman says
We love the Crystal Palace too! 🙂
Sariah Meagle says
Trying out new foods as you mentioned really tempts me to get a Disney Dining Plan, but I’ll read some short articles about it before I make a final decision. I like the idea that the food is paid before we go as you pointed out so we no longer have to worry about buying any. Since you said that we always have plenty to eat, I’ll take a look at some posts to look at the latest food offers and get the best rates for my family when we go this January.