Updated July 2019. Obviously everyone wants to get the most value out of their Disney World vacation and food is a big ticket purchase for most families.
As we always say the "Good" news about Disney World is that they give their guests SO many choices....The "Bad" news about Disney World is that they give their guests SO many choices!
Disney's dining plans are just one of the Disney vacation choices.
Purchasing a Disney Dining Plan is a big decision for many families counting their pennies. Deciding on the right Disney Dining plan for the needs of your family is key here. We wanted to walk you through a few basics here to help you make the RIGHT choice for your family.
Is it worth it? We believe the answer is YES on many levels. The big perk for many vacationers is that it's nice to know the total cost of your vacation up front. You can use our Free Vacation Layaway to budget accordingly. Who wants to sweat and worry every time you flash your credit card to pay the bill? Food is expensive when you buy it in a theme park because you are a captive audience. Orlando is full of theme parks so even area chain restaurants outside of the theme parks charge a premium price. Cooking your own meals is not much of an option at most Orlando resorts and hotels, and keep in mind that area grocery stores also have higher pricing than the food stores back home because they too are located in a tourist area.
If you are planning to enjoy a few character meals with the kids it is ABSOLUTELY worth the dining plan. If your family likes to have a sit down meal every day to enjoy not only an amazing variety of offerings, but just the time to enjoy your family in a relaxing venue, then yes again.
Even if you're not big eaters or have kids who are picky eaters, the quick service dining plan will give you all sorts of fabulous food choices "on the fly". Quick Service (aka Counter Service) does not mean "fast food" and a week of eating burgers and fries. You can find many different cuisines at Disney's counter service restaurants, so yes you can have burgers but also Mongolian beef, tofu salad, lobster rolls, shwarma, bratwurst, to inter-world menus with a unique Asian flair and more. One great tip for the quick service dining plan is that here kids can order from the adult menu. So your small eaters might share a single meal and stretch that dining plan a little further.
Everything is recorded and tallied on your Magic Bands so the only decisions you have to worry about is what to pick from all the delicious choices. Meals now even include specialty drinks and beer and wine – you will still need to add gratuities at table service meals (which you can charge back to your room if you like).
Food allergies or special diets - No worries! Even in the quick service restaurants, Disney chefs will personally speak with you, discuss your special dietary needs and prepare meals to order.
Disney Resorts - You MUST be a guest staying at a Walt Disney World Resort in order to qualify for one of the Disney dining packages. If you are staying at a hotel outside of Disney World - Fuggetaboutit! This is one perk not offered to Good Neighbor Resort guests. Not only can you use your Disney Dining Plan inside all four Disney World parks but every Disney World Resort offer dining venues so you can use your dining plan even if you are taking a day off to enjoy the pool, water parks or Disney Springs entertainment area.
There are 3 main Magic Your Way Dining Packages for Disney World Resort Guests to choice from:
- Quick Service Dining Plan
- Disney Dining Plan
- Deluxe Dining Plan
Here are some details of each plan, what's included and average pricing for 2020 (Note that there are peak season charges, so if you're traveling during a holiday, you may pay a bit more):
Quick Service Dining (per adult, per night $55/per child, per night $26)
- 2 Quick Service Meals, per night of your resort stay at a counter service restaurant which includes one entree and one non-alcoholic (or alcoholic for guests over age 21) beverage.
- 2 Snacks, per night of your resort stay
- 1 refillable mug
Dining Plan Dining (per adult, per night $78.01/per child, per night $30.51)
- 1 table service entitlement, per night of your resort stay. The table service meal will include an entrée, and non-alcoholic (or alcoholic for guests over age 21) beverage per guest.
- 1 counter service entitlement, per night of your resort stay. The counter service meal includes the same things outlined for the quick service dining plan.
- 1 snack, per night of your resort stay
- 1 refillable mug, per guest
Deluxe Dining plan will include for each guest over the age of 2: Dining (per adult, per night $119/per child, per night $47.50)
- 3 meals, per night of your resort stay at table service or counter service restaurants
- 2 snacks, per night of your resort stay
- 1 refillable mug
**with few exceptions (such as like Cinderella's Royal Table and the Hoop-de-Doo Review), Disney dining does not include gratuities for your servers.
Disney Dining Definitions: Disney seems to have it's own language, even when it comes to how they describe their dining plans. Here are some of the basics:
Snacks: a “snack” at Disney World refers to anything from a bagel to a Mickey Bar to a fruit bowl. Typically snacks range in cost from $4 - $8, and can be purchased in resort gift shops, snack bars, small kiosks around the parks, or as a la carte items at the counter service restaurants. If you're not a big breakfast eater you can use your snack for a bagel or fruit to start your day.
Counter service restaurant: A restaurant where guests order their meal at a counter, wait to have it handed to them, and then take it back to a seat in the restaurant. Counter service restaurants do not require reservations and can be found at all parks, Downtown Disney, water parks, and at the resorts. A counter service entrée averages $15, $8 for children, and soft drinks average $4 but can vary.
Table service restaurant: This is your typical sit down restaurant, with waitstaff to take and deliver your order. Almost all table service restaurants accept reservations. Depending on the time of year, guests can walk up to a restaurant and ask for seating (or check the wait time), and guests can also stop in popular restaurants in the morning and ask about available seatings for later in the day. (Your travel agent can help you decide where to eat and make reservations for you.)
Character meals: some table service restaurants offer character visits to guests during their meal. Nearly all of the character meals at Disney World are buffet service, where guests help themselves to hot and cold items. Wait staff will continue to bring drinks and help with special requests. Character meals can cost $50 per adult, $30 for children. (Reservations are highly recommended, and often fill up months before travel dates. Connect with your travel agent as early as 7 months before to discuss your dining preferences.)
Signature Service: a higher valued restaurant at Disney World where guests using the dining plan or deluxe dining plan will need to use two table service credits instead of one. Examples of these include Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier Steak house in Epcot, the Hoop de Doo Review dinner show, and the Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian.
Hopefully this will give you some of the basics and help you make the right dining decisions for your family. We know many folks enjoy the thrill of booking their own Disney World Vacation but PLEASE KNOW there are so many ways one of our Travel Agents can help. For example, once you choose your dining plan, our agents will make your dining reservations for you (this can save you HOURS!). They can help you plan daily park itineraries and offer suggestions on how to leverage your meal plans to get the most out of your dining experiences at Disney. They have many more secrets and tips that will make your experience even more magical....all for the same price as if you make your own reservations. So talk to one of our Vacationkids Disney Experts to get all the facts.