The Disney Dining Plan is Back in 2024. We List the Pros and Cons
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The Disney Dining Plan is Back in 2024. We List the Pros and Cons

Disney World used to offer a promotion so incredible that travel agents had to work overtime to keep up with demand. That promotion was the free Dining Plan. Reserving a room with that deal was like winning the golden ticket. Unfortunately, the free promotions eventually dried up and Covid killed Dining Plans altogether.

But the Disney Dining Plan is coming back in 2024, at least the paid version is. So let’s get reacquainted with it.

What is the Disney Dining Plan?

The Disney Dining Plan is a program that lets guests pre-pay for meals, snacks, and drinks at Walt Disney World. The plan is only available to those who book a Disney Hotel Resort package that includes the Dining Plan.

The Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan includes the following for each night of your stay:

  • 2 Quick-Service Meals
  • 1 Snack/Nonalcoholic Drink
  • 1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

The Disney Dining Plan includes the following for each night of your stay:

  • 1 Quick-Service Meal
  • 1 Table-Service Meal
  • 1 Snack/Nonalcoholic Drink
  • 1 Resort-Refillable Drink Mug

Beverages are included with each Quick-Service and Table-Service meal. Adults 21 and over may substitute a single serving of beer, wine, or a cocktail.

You’ll receive credits for each of the items in your plan. The credits will equal the number of nights of your stay. Credits can accumulate, but you will need to use them all before your vacation ends.

How Much Does it Cost?

Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan (priced per night)

  • $57.01 for adults 10 and over
  • $23.83 for children 3-9 *

Disney Table-Service Dining Plan (priced per night)

  • $94.28 for adults 10 and over
  • $26.69 for children 3-9 *

* Children will need to order from the children’s menu, where available.

Reasons to Purchase the Dining Plan

1. It Allows You to Stick to Your Budget

Many people have experienced sticker shock when opening their menus at a Disney restaurant, myself included. There have been many times that I’ve contemplated ordering a salad and water before I came back to reality and got the steak.

If you give into temptation and order that steak at every meal, then you might blow your budget. You’re in the Disney bubble. You’ve escaped reality. But reality awaits you back home, and that post-Disney-vacation credit card bill is no joke. The Dining Plan, while expensive, lets you know exactly what you’re spending on food before you ever arrive in Orlando.

2. You’ll Feel Like You’re On an All-Inclusive Vacation

The Disney bubble… it’s real. We don’t want to leave the bubble. Ever. And the Dining Plan allows you to remain blissfully unaware of reality. Order the most expensive entree. Get the creme brulee. Buy a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. And do it without worry, because you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. You are upstairs people!

There is a caveat to this that we’ll get to later, however. Sorry to burst that bubble…

3. You Enjoy an Adult Beverage With Your Meals

The Dining Plan makes the most sense for those guests who enjoy a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail with their meals. Alcohol at Disney is not cheap (nothing is, as we all know). Since the Dining Plan is the same price whether you enjoy that beer or simply want a Coke, it’s going to be the biggest benefit to those who do enjoy an adult beverage a couple of times a day.

4. You Want to Enjoy Fountain Drinks, Coffee, and Tea at Your Resort

The 16-ounce refillable mug is actually a huge money saver, especially when you take into account how expensive individual drink servings cost at Disney.

Reasons to Avoid the Dining Plan

1. There is So Much Food

Our first Dining Plan meal was at Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge. The food was excellent, and I ate plenty of it. Then the server asked us what we wanted for dessert. I told him I was tapped out, but he insisted we order something and take it back to our room. So we did, and those desserts sat in our mini fridge the entire week. That’s because the next day, we had more Dining Plan credits to use. The accumulation of food was overwhelming at times. I LOVE desserts, but there were just too many, even for me.

A friend asked me for Dining Plan advice a number of years ago. He was heading to Disney World with two toddlers and thought the Deluxe Dining Plan (no longer offered) would make things easier for his family. Downtime in air-conditioned restaurants sounded like a good plan. But in reality, nobody was even remotely hungry for dinner. He regretted his decision.

2. Some Restaurants Require Two Credits

This is where it gets really difficult to justify the cost. You’re already operating at razor-thin differences between paying a la carte and using the plan. Spending two credits on one meal blows that out of the water. And you’ll have to make up for that lost credit by paying for another meal out of pocket. Here are the restaurants that require two credits:

Magic Kingdom

  • Be Our Guest Restaurant
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table

Epcot

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse
  • Monsieur Paul

Hollywood Studios

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby

Animal Kingdom

  • Tiffins

Disney Springs

  • The BOATHOUSE
  • Jaleo by Jose Andres
  • Morimoto Asia (lunch is a single credit)
  • Paddlefish
  • STK Orlando

Resort Hotels

  • Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Cítricos (Grand Floridian)
  • Flying Fish (Boardwalk Inn)
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (Fort Wilderness)
  • Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  • Narcoossee’s (Grand Floridian)
  • Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White (Wilderness Lodge)
  • Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood (Coronado Springs)
  • Topolino’s Terrace (Riviera Resort. Breakfast is a single credit)
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht & Beach Club)
Via Napoli is a must for our family. And, yay, it only requires a single credit.

3. Disney Thinks a 10-Year-Old Is an Adult

We stopped buying the Dining Plan once our son turned 10. Although he didn’t eat like an adult and certainly didn’t act like an adult, he was being charged as an adult. On the Dining Plan, we would’ve had to pay almost three times more for him to continue to eat off of the kids’ menu.

4. You Don’t Drink Alcohol

As I said above, alcohol is one of the biggest benefits of the Dining Plan. If you don’t drink, you’re probably going to lose money on the deal.

5. You Can’t (Officially) Substitute an Appetizer for a Dessert

Desserts are great. Nobody loves them more than me. But even I need a break from the fat and sugar after a week at Disney. Unfortunately, swapping a dessert for an appetizer is not allowed… unless you have an amenable server. It could happen, but we recommend you not count on that pixie dust happening very often.

Deviled Eggs at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'
Deviled Eggs at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ may not be included in the Dining Plan, but we recommend you try them

6. You Start to Feel Obligated to Order Expensive Food

This is 100% me. I will order the most expensive thing if I’ve already paid for it. But I’ll pay for it in other ways. Like 3:00 AM heartburn attacks.

7. Tips Are Not Included

Ordering the most expensive thing made me feel like I was beating the system, but then I realized I had to pay a gratuity for everything I ordered.

8. The Resort Refillable Mug Can’t Be Used in the Parks

Imagine how embarrassed I was the first time I handed my mug to a Magic Kingdom Cast Member and asked for a Coke. We all feel for the Disney noobs, don’t we?

Conclusion

Okay, so that was a lot of info. It all comes down to this…

You Won’t Make Money If…

  • You don’t drink alcohol
  • You enjoy water more than fountain drinks
  • Your tween and teen children don’t appreciate adult food options
  • Your favorite restaurants require two dining credits

You Will Make Money If…

  • You enjoy an adult beverage with your meal
  • You hit those resort QS restaurants regularly for fountain drinks and coffee
  • Your children ten and over have highly refined palates and would never consider ordering chicken nuggets and fries off the kids’ menu
  • A large majority of your reservations are at single-credit restaurants

Buy the plan if you can make money on it. Otherwise, appreciate the freedom a la carte dining provides.