Should You Buy a Dining Plan?

Disney is an expensive place to eat at. Many people think purchasing a Disney Dining Plan (DDP) will save them money, and that may be true in many cases. There are many opinions on whether it is better to pay out-of-pocket (OOP) or use one of Disney’s many dining plan options.

Here’s a quick rundown of each plan and what is included. The Disney Dining Plans have several tiers with increasing prices.

  • Quick Service Plan– This plan entitles each person in your party to two counter-service meals, and one snack per night, and one refillable drink cup. If you are staying at a Disney resort for 5 nights, you will have 5 days of meals, even if you’re in the parks 6 days. Get it?
  • Standard Dining Plan– With this plan, each person will have one counter-service meal, one table-service meal (including character dining,) and a snack per night, and a refillable cup. This is the plan we get and have been really happy with it.
  • Deluxe Dining Plan– Each person gets three meals per day. That can be a counter-service or table-service, and appetizers are included. You also get two snacks, and a refillable cup.
  • The Premium Plan is the same as the Deluxe except that for signature meals that would normally take two dining credits from your bank of credits, every meal is only one.
  • The Platinum Plan basically entitles you to the first born of any Disney cast member. But seriously, if you’re getting the Platinum plan, you don’t need to worry about budgeting for Disney.

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Getting silly at Chef Mickey’s
Each meal takes a credit out of your allotment of dining credits. Now, if you are set on dining in the castle at the Magic Kingdom and get an ADR to Cinderella’s Royal Table, you should know that it will cost you two of your credits. So, you will have to skip a meal on another day or pay OOP.

There are so many fantastic signature restaurants and dinner shows (all 2 credits) on which you might want to splurge (we always do.) California Grill is a favorite of ours, and the view from the top of the Contemporary resort is worth 2 credits alone. I usually schedule a reasonably-priced meal on another day that we can easily pay out-of -pocket, like a breakfast buffet at Crystal Palace or lunch at the Plaza restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

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Hanging with Dale at the Garden Grill at Epcot
So, back to the question of “should you or shouldn’t you?” In my opinion, if you are going to do a lot of buffets and character meals, the dining plan is probably a good idea. Let’s look at some numbers. For an adult, the standard DDP costs $63.70 per night in 2016. Dinner at Akershus in Epcot, which features all your favorite princesses is about $45-$50. The New York strip steak, Olaf cupcake and fountain drink on the menu at ABC Commissary totals almost $23. Add $4 for a Dole Whip float and you’ve spent in the area of $77.

If you’re a light eater, you might balk at the idea of all that food. If splitting meals and grabbing a hot dog for dinner is more your speed, the Dining Plan will almost certainly be too much food for you. Save the money for a few special souvenirs or upgrade your resort room. Take a moment to peruse the menus on Disney’s website to get an idea of what your family would order. You’ll quickly see if any of the Disney Dining Plans make sense for you.

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