Is The Disney Dining Plan Worth It?

Disney claims using a dining plan can save you up to 15% for quick service, up to 20% for the basic plan, and up to 35% for the deluxe plan.  The key words are “up to” since how much you save depends much more on how you dine while on your Walt Disney World vacation.  It is even possible to spend more money on the dining plan than you would if you paid for everything out of pocket.  Let’s take a look at how to examine the dining plans.

First, in order to purchase a dining plan you must be an onsite guest at any Walt Disney World owned and operated resort.  You also must be purchasing a package—that means booking your room and tying your tickets to the room reservation.  This automatically means that you won’t save money by staying offsite and you are paying the highest prices for tickets to begin with since you cannot purchase from an authorized discount ticket broker.  You must include the difference in ticket costs into your dining plan charges, since if you aren’t purchasing the dining plan, there generally is no advantage to booking a package.  The exception to tickets is if you are staying at a Disney Vacation Club resort or have purchased an Annual Pass; in these cases you may book the dining plan and room as a package without adding tickets.

Step One: Come Up With Your Dining Outline

Do not consider cost in step one.  Cutting costs is something you do after you have your vacation planned out and not before.  If you consider costs at this point, you will not get a true evaluation. 

Go to a website, such as All Ears, that posts the menus for Walt Disney World restaurants.  Plan out your ideal dining plan—which restaurants you want to eat at and what you are likely to order, if applicable.  For later use, mark down all costs associated with each item that will be purchased.  You also need to note what snacks and their cost somewhere.

Step Two: Determine Your Out of Pocket Costs

Set up a columned sheet, such as in excel.  Have the restaurant listed, with the price of each meal, also found at sites like All Ears, for every member of your party.  Don’t forget to include items such as appetizers, alcoholic beverages and/or second non-alcoholic beverages.  Then have a subtotal listed of total meal cost across the row.  From the subtotal of total cost, figure out 18% to represent gratuity in yet another column.   Finally, add the subtotal and the tip column together to get a total.  It should come out looking something like this:


Person A

Person B

Person C

Person D


18% Tip











































Take the Total Column and add it together to come up with a grand total.  That is your Out of Pocket costs.  You might want to add in a snack cost total somewhere too.

Step Three: Determine Which Dining Plan Would Work For You

For each restaurant you would like to dine at, you need to mark it as CS (Counter Service), TS1 (Table Service, one credit), TS2 (Table Service, two credits), or OOP (Out Of Pocket).  This is to help you determine which Disney Dining Plan you would need to purchase; you will need to look over the various dining plans and figure out which one is the one that fits your dining style the best.

Step Four: Compare Dining Plan Costs With Out of Pocket Costs

For whichever dining plan worked well for you, determine the total cost by multiplying the daily cost by the number of nights you will be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort.  Then add some items to that—all the things from step 1 (i.e., alcoholic beverages and uncovered snacks) that are not included in the dining plan and the amount of your tips.  That is your dining plan cost.  Take the grand total cost and add in your snack costs.  That is your true out of pocket dining costs.  You now know which plan is the most cost efficient for you.  That is not all though.

Step Five: Consider Non-Monetary Aspects

These are more a series of questions you must ask yourself.  Only you can rate them as worth it or not.

  • Do I want to vacation around my dining plans?
  • How many credits will go unused?  Does it bother me to have “wasted” credits?  Does it bother me to still have to pay for things out of pocket?
  • Do I want to track each credit use and still pay out of pocket for tips?  Would it be easier to just put my dining budget on a gift card and still have it “pre-paid”?
  • Do my children over the age of 9 want to order off the adult menu?  Do my children under the age of 10 want to order off the kids menu? 
  • What happens if I can’t get the Advance Dining Reservations that I want?
  • Do I want to pay more for tickets than I might have to otherwise? 
  • Do I want to be tied to the stricter rules regarding package reservations than a room-only reservation?  Do I want to give up the option of staying offsite?
  • Am I willing to cut my out of pocket costs in other ways?  Would I be willing to bring in my own snacks and drinks?
  • Do I qualify for any other dining discounts such as an Annual Pass discount or the Tables in Wonderland card?

In Conclusion…

You will find people on both sides of the fence—those that hate Walt Disney World Dining Plans and those that swear by them.  It is different for everyone.  How you dine makes a huge difference.  How you vacation adds the finishing touches to how you feel about Disney’s Dining Plans.  In the end, it is up to you.