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Is The Disney Dining Plan Worth It For Canadians Visiting Walt Disney World?

Is The Disney Dining Plan Worth It For Canadians Visiting Walt Disney World?

By Thomas Kenzaki

UPDATE (April 24, 2018): The 2018 Free Dining offer has been released. For details click here.

For those of you who aren’t Disney World regulars, you probably haven’t heard of the Disney Dining Plan. It’s a special dining program available to resort guests who purchase a room and ticket package. You’ll receive meal and snack credits for each night you stay and can redeem those throughout Walt Disney World. The dining plans are a popular way to simplify your vacation by predetermining your food budget. However, it may not necessarily save you money.

What do you get?

There are 3 different options for the Disney Dining Plan:
  • Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan
    • 2 Quick-Service meals per day
    • 2 Snacks per day
    • Refillable resort mug
  • Disney Dining Plan
    • 1 Quick-Service meal per day
    • 1 Table-Service meal per day
    • 2 Snacks per day
    • Refillable resort mug
  • Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
    • 3 Meals (Table-Service or Quick-Service) per day
    • 2 Snacks per day
    • Refillable resort mug

Your next question is probably: “What does all of the above mean?” Good question!

Quick-Service meals are similar to the experience at a fast food restaurant. You typically line up at a counter for your food and then find an available table to eat at. Adult entrees range from $12-20. Each meal consists of 1 entree and 1 drink.

Table-Service meals are at restaurants where you order at your table and are served by a waiter/waitress and also include buffets. Adult entrees range from $20-40. Each TS meal consists of 1 entree, 1 dessert and 1 drink. Those on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan also receive an appetizer. It’s important to remember that while taxes are included with the dining plan, gratuities are not and you’ll need to pay those separately.

Snacks have a broad definition but typically most smaller single items such as popcorn, ice cream, snack bags, fresh fruit and non-alcoholic drinks (including Starbucks) are included. Any menu item displaying the Disney Dining Plan logo beside it is eligible.

The Value of the Disney Dining Plan

Now that you know the basics it’s time to look at if it’s worth it for your group or not. First off, if you’re not big eaters or want to spend 4-6 hours a day eating, let's skip the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan entirely. It’s a LOT of food and 3 sit down meals a day eats up a lot of time (no pun intended).

The Quick-Service and Disney Dining Plans are far more realistic options and also more affordable. Here are the approximate costs of all the dining plans:

Plan
Adult $
Child $
Quick-Service Dining Plan
$52.50
$21.75
Disney Dining Plan
$75.50
$25.75
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
$116.25
$40.00
Pricing is per nights stay and in US dollars.

The best thing to do is to spend some time looking at menus from participating restaurants on the Disney World website. You’ll be able to see the menus with prices and get a better idea of how much the food you want will cost. If on average it’s equal to or higher than the daily cost of the dining plan, it’s probably worthwhile to purchase it.

If you really like salads and burgers but are forcing yourself to order higher priced menu items such as steak or seafood just to make the dining plan worth while, I strongly advise against going on the plan.

While doing your calculations keep in mind that snack credits can be worth up to $7-8 each depending on what you redeem them for. Also new in 2018 is that select alcoholic beverages are now included with the Disney Dining Plan. Wine and beer are more expensive than pop and water so there is increased value in that.

The coveted FREE DINING offer

Each year Walt Disney World puts out a free dining offer and it's usually released in late April. Yes, you heard right. They offer select dining plans for free when you book a non-discounted room and ticket (with park hopper) package . The key phrase here though is “non-discounted room and ticket package”.

Above we mentioned the value of the dining plan so you should have a rough idea of what it would regularly cost your group. You need to then calculate how much a non-discounted room and ticket package would cost versus with discounts applied. Keep in mind purchasing the more expensive park hopper tickets (required with free dining) will increase the ticket cost over non-park hopper tickets (one park per day) if you weren’t already planning on purchasing those.

For example if the room and ticket discounts only add up to $500 but the dining plan for your group would cost $700, you’re coming out $200 ahead by booking the free dining offer. There are many key things to note about the free dining offer though:

Value and Moderate resort hotels receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan. If you want to have a Table-Service meal each day you’ll need to pay to upgrade to the Disney Dining Plan (an extra $23 per night for adults and $4 per night for children) and you might not be saving any money by booking the free dining offer anymore.

Deluxe resort hotels receive the Disney Dining Plan. You won't need to calculate any additional costs unless you were set on the Deluxe Dining Plan (which we already said isn’t likely worth it for most people).

Groups of adults staying at a Deluxe Resort see the best value from free dining as it’s included for everyone staying in the room (max of 5 people in most rooms). The room discount you’d give up, which is sometimes 30% per night, would easily be trumped by having 5 adults receiving free dining (a value of approximately $378 per night).

Final Thoughts

If you do decide to go with the dining plan, whether you pay or receive it for free, you’ll get to experience the vast array of food Walt Disney World has to offer without worrying about your daily food budget.

In my opinion the free dining offer can be great but you definitely need to do the math first. Don’t just blindly assume it’s the best thing ever because it's "free". In some cases it could end up costing you more because you'd be giving up other discounts (e.g: room discounts, Canadian resident ticket discounts, etc.).

Remember that some of the best restaurants at Disney World are located at the various resorts and at Disney Springs. I’ll include a list of a few of my favourite restaurants below which you can use as a starting point when researching restaurants to eat at.

‘Ohana - Polynesian Village Resort
Sanaa - Animal Kingdom Villas - Kidani Village
Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' - Disney Springs
Morimoto Asia - Disney Springs
Cape May Cafe - Beach Club Resort
Olivia's Cafe - Old Key West Resort
Teppan Edo - Epcot
Tusker House Restaurant - Animal Kingdom
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant - Hollywood Studios
Be Our Guest - Magic Kingdom

Also make sure you setup a Deal Alert for "Disney Free Dining" to make sure you're notified the minute the free dining offer is released!

6 Comments

    • Yes it is . We didn't eat all the food available with the plan .
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    • If you plan to eat at the theme park for both lunch and dinner for sure, the meal plan is not bad as a lunch combo alone is easily $13-15 USD alone. Drinks for the whole day will set u back big time too.
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    • We had the Deluxe and tried the 3 meals per day. It was wayyyy too much food. By the time we had lunch, we were so full, we did the eat supper.

      We did the regular next and found it to be best. We would have a quick serve at the resort in the morning then have an early supper in the afternoon before many of the standard reservation times so it wasn't as packed.

      Having said that, many restaurants in park can open earlier than the park itself, so you can book a reservation an hour before park opens at a table serve, eat and then be some of the first in line.

      Also, if you are staying in Orlando after your Disney stay for other park visits, if you have left over table serve and quick serve you can convert those to snacks (3 to 1 and 2 to 1 if I recall). Then you stock up on water, orange juice, other snacks/treats and are all set for the next part of your adventure.

      For a quick serve cost example - we ate at Casey's in Magic Kingdom. 2 foot long combos and an order of chili cheese fries (the foot long chili dog is awesome and monstrous). It was about $60 US for the 3 of us. Had the chili fries been another combo it would have been closer to $75.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that some table service take 2 table service instead of just 1 so plan accordingly if you want to hit the better steak houses.

      If your kids are older but still fall under child, the MUST order from the children's menu. Our daughter preferred the more adult menu in many places and grew tired of Mac n cheese/burger/chicken nuggets.

      I can't recommend Ohana enough for breakfast. Chef Mickey's for breakfast. Tusker House for supper.

      To add to the author - Be Our Guest is only table service for supper and breakfast/lunch is quick serve. Beast only comes around at supper. It books up quickly.
    • Report Post
    • TimM31424 wrote:
      Apr 22nd, 2018 9:05 am
      We had the Deluxe and tried the 3 meals per day. It was wayyyy too much food. By the time we had lunch, we were so full, we did the eat supper.

      We did the regular next and found it to be best. We would have a quick serve at the resort in the morning then have an early supper in the afternoon before many of the standard reservation times so it wasn't as packed.

      Having said that, many restaurants in park can open earlier than the park itself, so you can book a reservation an hour before park opens at a table serve, eat and then be some of the first in line.

      Also, if you are staying in Orlando after your Disney stay for other park visits, if you have left over table serve and quick serve you can convert those to snacks (3 to 1 and 2 to 1 if I recall). Then you stock up on water, orange juice, other snacks/treats and are all set for the next part of your adventure.

      For a quick serve cost example - we ate at Casey's in Magic Kingdom. 2 foot long combos and an order of chili cheese fries (the foot long chili dog is awesome and monstrous). It was about $60 US for the 3 of us. Had the chili fries been another combo it would have been closer to $75.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that some table service take 2 table service instead of just 1 so plan accordingly if you want to hit the better steak houses.

      If your kids are older but still fall under child, the MUST order from the children's menu. Our daughter preferred the more adult menu in many places and grew tired of Mac n cheese/burger/chicken nuggets.

      I can't recommend Ohana enough for breakfast. Chef Mickey's for breakfast. Tusker House for supper.

      To add to the author - Be Our Guest is only table service for supper and breakfast/lunch is quick serve. Beast only comes around at supper. It books up quickly.
      Thanks for sharing your tips!

      The Deluxe Dining Plan really is way too much food for most. Maybe it's for those who go to Disney for the food first and parks second.

      Converting a quick-service credit for 3 snack credits is great if you have leftover credits when you're leaving Disney. Even if you're staying it can be a great value using them at the various festivals in Epcot. Some of the menu items there are $8-9 and snack credit eligible so you're turning that quick-service credit into a $24-27 value!
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    • If you guys like the food they have at disneyland/world check out this blog I found a while back, I was trying to find a recipe for the gumbo they have at one of the restaurants in New Orleans square. Some really good recipes in there ;-)
      http://thedisneydiner.com/?m=1
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    • For me personally it’s not worth it because I don’t need to have multiple sit-down meals per day.
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