While the Disney Dining Plan is currently suspended, a major announcement in May of 2023 revealed that Disney World dining plans are returning in 2024. If you’re thinking about booking a vacation package for next year, keep reading for all the newest details.
As Disney veterans, there is one question we get asked more than any other pertaining to Walt Disney World dining: How does the Disney Dining Plan work and is it worth it?
For most people, the answer is a resounding YES, but deciding whether the Disney Dining Plan is right for you depends on how much you plan to eat, where you plan to eat it and what you’re willing to pay for convenience.
Understanding the dining plan is a big step in Walt Disney World Vacation Planning. So, to help you make the right choice, we’ve put together this guide to the Disney World Dining Plan, answering the most common questions we receive.
What is the Disney World Dining Plan and How Do I get it?
Before deciding to purchase the Disney World Dining plan, you need to understand how the plan works.
The Disney Dining Plan is a package that allows you to prepay for meals and then redeem the credits during your vacation. The Disney Dining Plan can only be purchased by guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort as part of a vacation package that includes the purchase of theme park tickets. Guests are provided a set number of meals for each day of their reservation, depending upon the type of Disney Dining Plan they purchase.
In the past, there was another way to purchase the Disney Dining Plan: by booking a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resort using points. DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare arrangement, allowing members to buy points, in exchange for ownership in one of the resorts. Points are then redeemed for yearly stays. While no official announcement has been made, we assume that the Disney World Dining Plan is returning in 2024 for DVC member as well as guests booking vacation packages.
If you are a DVC member and interested in addin the dining plan in 2024, bookmark this page, as we will promptly update it when new information become available.
How Does the Disney World Dining Plan Work and How Much Does It Cost?
Before we discuss how much the Disney World Dining Plan costs, you’ll also need to understand how the Disney World Dining Plan works. When the Disney World Dining Plan returns in 2024, there will be two options that guests can add to their package reservation: the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan and the Disney Dining Plan. Each offers a certain number of meals per day, and you can use them in any combination.
What is included with a Disney Dining Plan Quick Service option?
To understand how the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan works, let’s look at an example, using a four-night trip. In this instance, each guest purchasing the Disney Quick-Service Plan would receive the following over the length of their stay:
- 8 Quick Service Meals
- 4 Snacks
- 1 Resort refillable mug
In essence, you will receive 2 quick service meals for each night of your hotel stay, and they can be used at any time you choose.
To understand how this option of the Disney World Dining Plan works, we’ll need to break it down a little. A Disney quick service restaurant is equivalent to a counter-service or fast food restaurant. You walk up to a counter, order your food, find a table, and sit down to eat it. At the end of the meal, you clean up after yourself by throwing away your own trash.
It may not be glamorous, but believe me, it gets the job done, and where children are concerned, it often does so more effectively than some of Disney’s more glamorous table-service locations. In years gone by, this package was stuffed full of hamburgers, chicken strips and maybe a pizza or two, but Disney has done a lot to widen the variety of quick-service establishments over the last several years.
For example, Sa’tuli Canteen in Animal Kingdom is now one of our favorite restaurants. The menu includes a dazzling display of bowled entrees and falls under the category of quick service.
When taking advantage of the Disney Dining Quick Service package, you’ll have enough credits to purchase two meals for each member of your party for every night of your hotel stay. Meals include non-alcoholic beverages, including a wide assortment of options such as soda, bottled water, smoothies, milkshakes, milk and juice. Adults may also order alcoholic beverages.
When ordering, adults can select any regular meal on the menu. If you want the $13.29 beef brisket melt at Woody’s Lunchbox, it’s yours. Feeling the need to dine with other intergalactic travelers on their way to save the galaxy? That $19 quick-service Batuuan Beef and Crispy Topato Stir-fry at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo in Hollywood Studio’s Star Wars Land is also covered under your plan. Of course, when dining with children, they will be asked to select their options from the child’s menu.
Then come the snacks, and this is a term Disney uses lightly. Snack credits can be used to purchase a wide variety of items from the staple bottle of water to a container of fried rice large enough to be a meal. In the past, guests could even use snack credits to purchase alcoholic beverages in place of food. While we are still waiting for an updated list of items that will be eligible for snack redemption when the Disney World Dining Plan returns in 2024, we do knot that each member of your party will be entitled to one snack credit for each night of your reservation.
The last item included with your Disney Dining Plan Quick Service option is a refillable mug. This can be used for soda, coffee or tea, but before you get too excited, be advised that you can only refill this at a Disney resort. They don’t work within the parks.
With two quick-service meals and one snack credit at your disposal, the Disney Dining Plan Quick Service option makes it entirely possible to keep your party fueled for the duration of your stay, without dipping into any discretionary cash.
What is included with a Disney Dining Plan option?
While the Quick-Service Dining Plan is great for guests who like to eat on the run and get back to the action, the Disney Dining Plan is better suited to guests who like to stop and savor food experiences or to relax for an hour or so during the day.
The Disney Dining Plan offers a combination of quick-service dining and table service opportunities. We can better understand this plan by looking again at a 4-night trip. Each guest listed on the package would receive over the course of 4 days:
- 4 Table-Service Meals
- 4 Quick-Service Meals
- 4 Snacks
- 1 Resort Refillable Mug
The Disney Dining Plan is identical to the Disney Quick Service option with a small exception. While you are still entitled to two meals a day and one snack for each member of your party, you’ll find your list of dining options widens with this package.
For each day of your stay, you’ll receive one meal cat a quick-service restaurant. See the section above on the Disney Dining Plan quick service option for a complete rundown. Your other meal of the day will be enjoyed at one of Disney’s table-service restaurants. The advantages to this are two-fold. The first, is convenience. After walking from one end of the park to the other, often pushing strollers and toting bags, sitting down and letting someone serve you is an unbelievably nice respite. You’ll find that Disney table-service restaurants offer an incredible variety of food as well, from burgers to brats, steaks, fish, seafood and even international cuisine.
When you redeem table-service credits, each member of your party is entitled to an entrée on the menu and one non-alcoholic beverage, including a wide assortment of options such as soda, smoothies, milkshakes, milk and juice. Likewise, if the menu offers a buffet, as many do, each member of your party will be entitled to sample food from the full spread of items offered, as many times as they care to fill their plate.
Each guest is also entitled to two snacks per day. Snack credits can be redeemed for a wide variety of items, including soda, popcorn, and ice cream as well as some meal alternatives such as fried rice.
What Does the Dining Plan Cost?
Unfortunately, we don’t yet know the costs for Disney World dining plans when they return in 2024. We do know that there will be a significant cost savings over paying for meals independently. For instance, families can save up to 20% on dining for kids ages 3-9 when adding the dining plan as part of a Walt Disney World travel package.
I Am on the Disney World Dining Plan Package. Am I Restricted to One Table-Service and One-Counter Service Restaurant Each Day, or Can I Mix Them?
As long as you do not exceed the total number of credits for each category over the course of your trip, you may use your Disney Dining Plan credits as you see fit. In other words, if you want to have Lunch at Pinocchio Village House and dinner at Pecos Bill one day, you will use two quick-service credits. That means, that on another day of your stay, you will need to enjoy two table-service restaurants to even out your consumption.
The same goes for snacks. If you elect to redeem no snack credits on a day, you will have an extra credit for later in your trip.
How Do I Redeem My Disney Dining Plan Meals?
One of the most popular questions when learning how the Disney World Dining Plan works, involves meals and how they are redeemed. In the past, it was easy to keep track of meals used by swiping your MagicBand. This RFID-enabled bracelet holds all of the information about your stay and allows guests to easily swipe or tap to access tangibles such as Genie+ reservations, advanced dining reservations and Disney World dining meals. Since MagicBands are no longer provided as part of a Disney World vacation package, we suspect that guests will be able to use a variety of options to redeem their package meals, including MagicBands (should you decide to purchase them) or the MagicMobile app,
When it comes to redeeming Disney dining credits, people also wonder how they are assigned. In other words, does each member of the party receive a credit for each meal/snack per day?
It’s probably more appropriate to say that you receive a pool of meals and snacks, adding up to one of every associated type for each member of your party. What you do with those credits is up to you.
For example, we will say you have purchased the Disney Dining Plan. On the first day of your trip, your family of four enjoys a character breakfast. When a member of your party taps their band to pay, four table-service credits are deducted from your total pool of available table-service credits.
Then, comes dinner. You sit down to eat at one of Disney’s fine quick-service establishments, only Mom (or dad or son or daughter) isn’t hungry. She decides not to eat and sit this one out. When it comes time to pay, you use three quick-service credits from your pool and now have one extra that hasn’t been used.
The next day, you meet up with a friend. He lives in the area and decides to join you at the parks. You decide to grab lunch at a quick-service restaurant when you remember that you have this extra credit from the night before. Can you use this to cover the cost of your friend’s meal?
The answer is yes. While you are allotted credits per person per day, you may use them on anyone and in any combination throughout your stay until they are gone.
What if I Don’t Use all of My Disney Plan Credits in a Single Day? Do Disney Dining Plan Credits Roll Over?
While Disney World Dining Plan credits are assigned on an individual per day basis, they become part of a pool of credits that can be used at your discretion. For instance, a party of two adults taking advantage of the Disney quick-service dining plan for a four-day trip will be allotted 16 quick-service meals. They could decide to enjoy these in any combination and order what they prefer, maybe three on one day and one on another.
Unused credits will roll over to the next day and are good until midnight on the day that you check out of your resort. In the example above, our fictional guests could even save all 16 credits until the last day of their trip and decide to feast around the world!
Are There any Disney World Dining Plan Tips for Maximizing My Experience?
There are several Disney World Dining Plan tips that will help you make the most of your dollars, but first, make sure you understand how the Disney Dining plan works, particularly the plan you plan to use.
Once you do, you’ll realize that most tips for for using the dining plan involve maximizing credits. You may have realized when reading above that there is a big discrepancy in the cost of certain snack items. A small scoop of popcorn, for example, is a far cry from a container of fried rice when it comes to filling empty bellies.
If you study out the options and select carefully, it’s possible to use some of those snack credits as meals. A similar phenomenon comes into play when selecting restaurants.
While many quick-service restaurants employ similar pricing, you’ll notice that pricing is higher at some, such as Sa’tuli Canteen in Animal Kingdom. Using your meal credits here will give you a bigger bang for your buck, especially if you plan to pay for some meals out of pocket.
Likewise, we’ve found that some buffet restaurants are pricier than others. Similarly, some restaurants have higher priced entrees than others. If you plan to purchase any of your meals, using Disney Dining Plan credits for the higher cost meals will save you cash out of pocket and help to maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan.
When Do My Disney Dining Plan Meals Start and End?
Disney Dining Plan meals are available from the moment you check in to your resort hotel until midnight on the day that you check out. However, keep in mind that credits accumulate for each night you stay. That means if you check in on Monday and out on Friday, you have four days’ worth of meal credits.
If you start using meal credits on Monday, and utilize your full allotment each day, you will be out of meal credits on Friday. If you do decide to stay until midnight, you will need to pay out of pocket for your meals. On the other hand, if you didn’t use all of your credits Monday-Thursday, these left-over points may be used until midnight on Friday.
Monday Check in 10:00 am
credit=2 Dinner: meal
credit=2 Dinner: meal
credit=2 Dinner: meal
credit=2 Dinner: meal
Credits Used: 16
Do I Need to Make Advanced Dining Reservations if I’m Using the Disney Dining Plan?
When we first started going to Disney World, it was easy to walk up to a table-service kiosk and get a table. The popularity of the Disney Dining Plan, combined with higher park attendance, means that seats at table-service restaurants can be in short supply depending on when you are traveling and the popularity of the restaurant.
We highly recommend that you make reservations in advance, especially if missing out on popular experiences such as character meals or Be Our Guest will ruin the trip for someone. If you change your mind about a restaurant, reservations can be cancelled via the My Disney Experience app. Just mind the cancellation policy when you book.
Many restaurants have a 2-hour cancellation policy and will charge a fee if you do not show up for your reservation. On the other hand, your full party does not need to be there in order for Disney to consider your obligation fulfilled, so if someone gets sick or is too tired, they can skip the meal, as long as other members of your party do attend.
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Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dried answer when it comes to deciding whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth it. A number of factors come into play, including:
- The Disney Dining Plan option that you purchase
- Where you plan to eat
- The eating preferences of the members of your party
- Your budget
The only way to determine if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it from a cost perspective, is to decide how many meals you plan to eat each day. For most families, the 2 meals included with the return of the Disney World Dining Plan will be sufficient, especially if you use a snack credit for a meal or bring items from home to much for breakfast. The majority of guests also consider the dining plan to be a tremendous value when it comes to covering dining costs. In essence, the dining plan lets you eat at a variety of reastaurants for a flat rate. Travelers often take advantage of this perk to dine at establishements that may be outside their budget when paying for meals separately.
Of course, there are factors beyond cost when it comes to booking a Disney World Dining Plan. Many people love the convenience and freedom associated with the Disney Dining Plan. They can eat where they want, order the highest cost item on the menu, and never worry about the expense, because they’ve already paid it when they purchased their vacation package.
If this is your traveling style, then the Disney Dining Plan could be well worth the expense as long as you will consume at least two meals and one snack per day.