Disney Dining Plan Debate

Every trip is a back and forth to whether or not we will get the Disney Dining Plan (DDP)– except the upcoming one, but that’s another story. It’s also one of the most commonly asked planning questions: “Is the Disney Dining Plan really worth it?” That answer is it depends.

Our first visit was a no-brainer as I started looking into it. It was a huge value. Nearly table service (TS) every meal we ate was a character dining experience. When the first bill was placed in the table at over $100 for three meals Grumpy was very happy to see that quickly disappear into credits and immediately felt the DDP was good money spent. (Diva was only 2 years old had no charge at meals unless we ordered her a plated meal.)

In addition to checking out the cost of TS meals. I also checked out pricing at some of the quick-service (QS) locations that we would likely choose during our trip. I added up the pricing and compared. I didn’t even have to think about snack credits, the refillable mugs, or even half of our QS meals before we were breaking even and dipping far into the savings category.

I did the same with the next trips. The dining plan easily won again in 2017, but 2018 was a very close call. We had done many of the character dining meals and were opting for some different and less expensive choices. After estimating QS options and adding in snacks it seemed like we would come out ahead if we went with the dining plan again. This time I tracked it… well, as much of it as I could.

October 20th-24th was the first portion of our split stay. This four night stay was giving us each four TS and four QS meals. Our table services were at Whispering Canyon, Sci-Fi Diner, Garden Grill, and Cape May Cafe. It’s much easier with the latter two choices having family style and buffet meals, respectively, that have a set price. The others I really had to think about what we would eat. Okay, so I didn’t think at all for my own choice at Whispering Canyon. I’d been dreaming of the skillet for so long.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 2018 DDP price. The QS Dining Plan and Delxue Dining plan are also offered.

Child = $25.75/night
Adult = $75.49/night

Our nightly total = $202.48

For the first part of the trip the DDP total was $809.92. I lost some receipts along the way and used mobile order for the first time so I didn’t know how to get back to the receipts too up the total pricing before our credits were applied. We did not pay for any food out of pocket during this time.

Here’s a look at the TS meal receipts:

Whispering Canyon   $175.91
Sci-Fi Diner        $103.62
Garden Grill        $153.36
Cape May Cafe       $132.06

TS Total            $564.95

We were already beyond halfway to the break-even point. Add in the refillable resort mugs and it brought us to $640.91.

I can honestly say that if it weren’t for the DDP I would not purchase the mugs for our family. One or two may be useful but at $18.99 each and the ability to only refill at (any) resort property they don’t provide much value. Also, I only drink water at the refill stations. Grumpy and the kids will use it if we are in the food courts, but it’s not our prime source of beverages. I do use the mugs ever single day at home.

Quick Service Dining

Now we have 16 quick service (QS) meals to use up. Here is where we really get a lot of value out of the plan. While this translates to one QS meal per person per night, we do a lot of sharing by ordering two meals for breakfast since we don’t make a lot of reservations for the morning meal and then two more for lunch or dinner. Meal portions can be rather large and makes sharing very easy. My kids are also used to three meals a day at home, and generally need the same during vacation.

On our 4-park hopping day we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at QS locations. Breakfast was an order of 2 bounty platters each which included scrambled eggs, a Mickey waffle, bacon or sausage, breakfast potatoes and a biscuit. Two of these were more than enough for all of us to share. Grumpy had only a few bites and we had some potatoes remaining but cleared most of the plates by the time we arrived at Animal Kingdom. Later that day we picked up three lunches to share at ABC Commissary–including their rib platter (which used to be ribs and chicken) that could have also easily fed all four of us had one child not wanted chicken fingers and another a hamburger. Our last stop that day was for dinner at Cosmic Rays in Magic Kingdom we used 2 more QS credits. Grumpy and I had already eaten quite a bit and only picked at the kids leftovers. We did lose our breakfast receipt but each meal was around $11 which brought our food total for the day to $95.22.

Most of our QS meals at the beginning of the trip were conveniently from either Beach Club Marketplace, Ale & Compass, and Hurricane Hannas, the pool bar at the resort. The receipts I located added another $114.66.

Our current total was up to $850.79 and I was missing two quick service receipts. We’d surpassed the meal plan value already!

Snack Credits

Since we’re already exceeding the value of the plan snack credits are like a bonus! I’m certain that you know by now that I looove snacks! We definitely ate our variety of Mickey pretzels, cotton candy, popcorn, and a few stops at Beaches and Cream for ice cream. The to-go menu and walk up counter made Beaches and Cream a very easy choice for our snack credits. One or two scoops in a sugar cone or waffle cone count as one snack credit.

We also picked up some cupcakes and rice krispie treats on the night of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I intentionally left extra snacks on both portions of our stay to buy take home treats including more rice krispie treats, gummies and a few other packaged treats. Grumpy also used our snack credits for fresh fruit cups when he wasn’t hungry enough for a full meal. I had receipts for half of our credits totaling $87.73.

As you can see we came out way ahead by choosing to purchase the DDP.

The second half of our trip was included an table service meal over our credits and we opted to pay out of pocket for one of the meals (breakfast at Trattoria al Forno). We also left 1 unused QS credit. This was the first time that ever happened.

I didn’t do as well tracking our receipts this time, but used what I had an estimated the rest. We still came out ahead of the dining plan cost, just not nearly the same amount as the first half.

Don’t worry…. all the snack credits were used. My nieces loved their souvenir snacks and nothing beats being at work a week after vacation but still having a bit of Disney with me!

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  1. it is an easy no for us, especially now with a 3 year old who is no longer free and barely eats anything and a 10 year old who is an adult….Since we stay mostly DVC we have a grocery delivery on our first day for breakfast and snack items. We also will share meals where we can if we all want similar things. For example, Via Napoli, we get a small pizza as an appetizer and then share 2 pasta dishes and a dessert rather than each of us getting our own. Same goes for our Kona Cafe breakfast, we will share the pineapple macadamia pancakes, tonga toast and a kids meal rather than all of us getting something. When we go and it is hot we don’t like being stuffed with food. We hardly ever do the character buffets anymore. We even nixed Chef Mickey last time and chose The Wave instead for dinner. The Wave was one of our best meals on property, ever! SInce we own at OKW we frequently spend mornings in the park, afternoons at the pool, and eat dinner in Disney Springs which is just a short boat ride away. They have so many good choices down there for anybody! We will use our DVC, AP or Tables in Wonderland Discounts if we have them. If I was going to do a dining plan it would only be done strategically as part of a split stay. If I was doing a couple of nights, and my kids were dying to eat somewhere that was going to cost us $200+ I might consider it for just those 2 nights. We also did buy one refillable mug on our last trip. My son used it in the mornings for hot chocolate. He then would use is for Gatorade or iced tea by the pool. Occasionaly I would throw something in there to mix with my alcohol 🙂 Now we use the cup at home as well.


    1. I feel like 10 will be our breaking point too! Unless both kids start eating a LOT more food. A split stay with the right restaurant choices is a great idea to save!


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