I wanted to put this extended piece together to properly explain the Walt Disney World Disney Dining Plan as it is an area that can be confusing, especially if you have never used it before! This post is exclusively about the Walt Disney World plan and does not cover any of the other plans present at the likes of Disneyland Paris and Disneyland. I am also only talking about the three main types of Disney Dining Plan. If you have any further questions once you have read this then please feel free to hit me with questions either in the comments below or on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

What is the Disney Dining Plan?

So you might have heard a host/hostess asking you if you are on the Disney Dining Plan when you have sat down at one of the many restaurants in Walt Disney World only to answer with a confused no?

Essentially, the Disney Dining Plan is a way of pre-paying for meals at Walt Disney World. The plan covers the four main theme parks, the two water parks, Disney Springs and pretty much all of the hotels that are on property at the resort.

The key thing to know before purchasing the Disney Dining Plan is that it consists of more than one version of the plan and each version is tailored to suit the needs of different guests and of course the versions vary by price and what you get on the plan. More on the different versions of the Disney Dining Plan in the section below.

Whenever a Disney Dining Plan is purchased, no matter what the version, a set number of Dining Plan credits will be encoded onto your MagicBand or Key to the World card and when paying for food or beverages your MagicBand will be scanned and the credits are then taken off from your total amount that you have on your account during that particular stay.

Still with me? Then lets move onto the different versions of the Disney Dining Plan.

Different versions of the Disney Dining Plan

To make things even more confusing (at least to begin with) Disney have a number of different versions of the Disney Dining Plan and each is very different and suited to the level of price you are willing to pay and the amount of food you think you will need on your trip.

Quick Service Dining Plan

This one is arguably the easiest of all of the packages to understand and is the cheapest and most basic of all of the dining packages available.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Hot Dog

An example quick service meal from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The plan is per person, per night of stay on property inclusive and comes with:

  • Two quick service meals (this includes a meal and non-alcoholic beverage)
  • Two snacks
  • One Resort refillable drink mug that lasts for the duration of your stay

The quick service meals can be used at pretty much any location on property that does counter service food (essentially fast food that you grab yourself and sit down to eat it after getting it). A few examples of restaurants that offer quick service meals:

  • Pecos Bill Cafe at the Magic Kingdom
  • Electric Umbrella at Epcot
  • Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Flame Tree Barbecue at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

One of the key things to remember here is that you can use the meals and snacks in any order and at any time. Essentially at the start of your trip the complete number of meals and snacks are added to your MagicBand and then whenever someone in your party uses a credit the number is taken off from your total.

Let’s say you are staying for 3 nights you will have 6 meals and 3 snacks per person to use, these can be used in any order but if you were to use them all in the first 2 days you would be without any credits on your last day.

Prices for the Quick Service Dining Plan can vary drastically depending on the country you are looking at pricing it up from but know it is usually the cheapest Dining Plan option that Disney has on offer (unless you have special discounts).

Disney can be very strict when it comes to the details of the plan so here are a few extra things you should know about the Quick Service Dining plan:

  • Everyone staying in your hotel room must be booked on the same package
  • Kids ages 3-9 must order from a children’s menu where available
  • Kids under the age of 3 are free, and may share a meal with an adult. However, if you don’t want to share you should expect to pay for a meal for your child
  • For cancellations made 1 day or less prior to check-in, the full price of the package is non-refundable

Disney Standard Dining Plan

While the quick service plan is great if you are on a budget, I would always recommend this for anyone who is staying for a longer period than just a few days as it is a lot more flexible and allows you to eat a larger variety of restaurants. Of course this does result in the plan being more expensive but it is certainly worth the extra money without going into the huge expense that can come from the Deluxe plan.

Lamb at the Be Our Guest Restaurant

Example entrée from single credit Be Our Guest Restaurant

The plan is per person, per night of stay on property inclusive and comes with:

  • One table service meal which includes an entrée, dessert and non-alchohlic beverage
    • The table service credit can also be used to eat at one of the many buffet restaurants at Walt Disney World
  • One quick service meal (this includes a meal, and a non-alcoholic beverage)
  • Two snacks
  • One Resort refillable drink mug that lasts for the duration of your stay

Like the quick service meals, table service meal credits can be used at most restaurants at Walt Disney World including restaurants located within any hotel on property, you are not limited to eating at the hotel you are staying at! A few examples of the restaurants you could be eating at:

  • Be Our Guest Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom
  • Mama Melrose’s Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Yak & Yeti restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

It is important to note that while most restaurants use a single table service credit, some restaurants require two in order for you to be able to eat there. This is usually because prices are a lot more expensive and the food even higher in quality. Speaking from experience it is well worth booking at least one or two of these restaurants if you are staying for a two week period as the dining experiences are just incredible. A couple of my favourites that require two credits:

  • Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot
  • Jiko – The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge hotel
  • Narcoossee’s at Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort

It is also possible to use table service credits to attend some of there great dinner shows at Walt Disney World (though all require two credits). These include:

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Don’t worry too much about having a couple of meals that use two table service credits, you are certainly not going to go hungry. Often when we are booking a meal that uses two table service credits we will grab a snack around mid-morning, perhaps buy another snack and then go for our meal That way the next day we have two quick service meals saved up which more than makes up for the lack of table service meal for that day!

One thing to keep in mind, it is highly likely you will end up with credits leftover at the end of your stay, we honestly struggle to eat a quick service and a full table service meal in the same day (especially given it is impossible not to grab a snack or two in Walt Disney World). I would recommend booking all of your table service meals in advance so that you know you will use all of these up, this is where the majority of the cost of the plan comes from so make sure you use them!

As mentioned, this is the plan that I would always personally recommend anyone who is unsure about what Dining Plan to choose as it is the best of both worlds, you have the choice to eat in all of the quick service locations as well as getting a full table service meal and a snack every single day of your stay on property.

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

Of the three main Disney Dining Plans the word Deluxe gives the clue that it is the more expensive of the three. However, it also gives you more access to food, in fact my personal opinion is that it gives you too much food!

Lobster at The BOATHOUSE

An example two credit meal (entrée only) at The BOATHOUSE

The plan is per person, per night of stay on property inclusive and comes with:

  • 3 meals per guest per night of stay
    • Credits can also be used to eat at one of the many buffet restaurants at Walt Disney World
  • 2 snacks per guest per night of stay
  • One Resort refillable drink mug that lasts for the duration of your stay

The unique part of the 3 meals here is that you have the choice on whether or not you want to use a table service or quick service meal. So, in theory you could have 3 table service meals in a single day if you wanted to and then do the same the next day!

As I mentioned, I do feel that this option is a little unnecessary for the majority of guests, I have always found that the normal Disney Dining Plan is always enough food to get us through our trip and as mentioned, we tend to have credits leftover at the end on this plan!

The difference between the Deluxe Dining Plan and the normal Dining Plan is that when eating at a table service restaurant you also have the opportunity to have an appetiser as well as an entree and a dessert so at least it gives you access to what should be a considered a full meal.

What Disney Dining Plan is best for me?

I have already covered off what I feel to be the best value for money with the Disney Dining Plan but it really depends on how much and how often you want to eat when staying at Walt Disney World. It is pointless to spend money on the Deluxe Plan if you look at it and are unsure on whether you are going to be able to consume that amount of food every day of your stay.

What are the benefits of the Disney Dining Plan?

  • You will be paying for the majority of your food before you even arrive in Orlando. Yes there will always be additional snacks and beverages you will want to buy but trust me, you won’t need to take anywhere near as much money with you
  • Disney claim that by using the Disney Dining Plan you can save up to 40% of the cost of meals purchased individually. While this is true in some of the pricier restaurants, do not assume this to be true across all restaurants within Walt Disney World
  • It makes life so much easier! Knowing that you have a bunch of credits to use makes it easy to plan which restaurants you want to eat at and when. If you like planning in advance then the Disney Dining Plan is the thing to do!
  • If you are going to Walt Disney World with children under the age of three keep in mind that there is a lot of food, especially if you are on the Deluxe Dining Plan. This means you should have food that you can share round to the younger family members and therefore do not have to pay for them

What are the disadvantages of the Disney Dining Plan?

  • There is a ridiculous amount of planning to do in advance, especially if you are staying for as long as I normally do (2 weeks). If you want to be booking some of the most popular restaurants like Be Our Guest then you need to be prepared to book up to 6 months in advance in order to secure a table. For some people planning this far in advance just isn’t fun. Of course you do have the freedom of cancelling a restaurant 24 hours before the booking and choosing to book another restaurant but you run the risk of the best ones not having an available slot.
  • Sometimes I get the impression that servers just want to get people that are on the Dining Plan out of the restaurant as soon as possible, likelihood being that people not on the plan spend more and therefore pay more gratuity!
  • Sometimes you will find that not getting the dining plan can get you a better discount on your room rate at your resort. This is because often discounts wont apply if you choose any of the dining plans. While this might put you off, keep in mind this is very much dependant on the time of year you book and the resort you are staying at
  • Tips can soon add up, especially if you are a part of 6 or more. Make sure you budget for tips as these can get expensive when dining at restaurants that require 2 credits. Parties of 6 are more unfortunately have an enforced 18% tip to pay at the end of every sit down meal!

Disney Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurant List

While there was concern at one point that the restaurant list was going to be minimal this year, it would appear the list seems to be relatively similar to last year. The full list is as followed and includes all snack, quick service and full restaurant locations taking part in this years dining plan:

Magic Kingdom Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Be Our Guest
  • Casey’s Corner
  • The Crystal Palace
  • Columbia Harbour House
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
  • The Diamond Horseshoe
  • The Friar’s Nook
  • Golden Oak Outpost
  • Liberty Tree Tavern
  • The Lunching Pad
  • Main Street Bakery
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
  • Pinocchio Village Haus
  • Skipper Canteen
  • The Plaza Restaurant
  • Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant (seasonal)
  • Tortuga Tavern
  • Tony’s Town Square Restaurant (seasonal)

Epcot Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (character dining)
  • Biergarten Restaurant
  • Chefs de France
  • Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast at The Garden Grill (character dining)
  • Coral Reef Restaurant
  • Electric Umbrella
  • Fife and Drum Tavern
  • Fountain View Starbucks
  • Katsura Grill
  • Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
  • La Cantina de San Angel
  • La Hacienda de San Angel
  • Le Cellier Steakhouse
  • Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
  • Liberty Inn
  • Lotus Blossom Cafe
  • Monsieur Paul
  • Nine Dragons Restaurant
  • Promenade Refreshments
  • Refreshment Cool Post
  • Refreshment Port
  • Restaurant Marrakesh
  • Rose and Crown
  • San Angel Inn
  • Spice Road Table
  • Sommerfest
  • Sunshine Seasons
  • Tangierine Cafe
  • Taste Track
  • Teppan Edo
  • Tokyo Dining
  • Tutto Italia Ristorante
  • Via Napoli
  • Yorkshire County Fish Shop

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • 50’s Prime Time Cafe
  • ABC Commissary
  • Backlot Express
  • Bocodas del Lago Nachos y Empanadas
  • Catalina Eddie’s
  • Disney Junior Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine (character dining)
  • Fairfax Fare
  • Hollywood Waffles of Fame
  • Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
  • Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner
  • Rosie’s All American Cafe
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
  • Sliders to the Stars
  • Starring Rolls Cafe
  • Studio Catering Company
  • Toluca Legs Turkey Co.
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby
  • The Trolley Car Cafe

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Creature Comforts
  • Flame Tree Barbecue
  • Harambe Market
  • Pizzafari
  • Rainforest Cafe
  • Restaurantosaurus
  • Tiffins
  • Tusker House (character breakfast)
  • Taki & Yeti Restaurant
  • Yak & Yeti Local Food

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Avalunch
  • Cooling Hut
  • Lottawatta Lodge
  • The Warming Hut

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Leaning Palms
  • Lowtide Lou’s
  • Snack Shack
  • Surf Doggies
  • Typhoon Tilly’s

Disney Springs Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants (some are expected once Disney finalise a deal with owners)

  • AristoCrepes
  • B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co.
  • The BOATHOUSE
  • Bongos Cuban Cafe Express
  • Bongos Cuban Cafe
  • Cookes of Dublin
  • Crossroads at House of Blues
  • D-Luxe Burger
  • Daily Poutine
  • Earl of sandwich
  • The Express at Wolfgang Puck
  • Food Trucks
  • Fulton’s Crab House
  • Homecoming
  • Marketplace Snacks
  • Morimoto Asia
  • Paradiso 37
  • Portobello Country Italian Trattoria
  • Raglon Road
  • The Smokehouse
  • Starbucks
  • Splitsville
  • T-Rex

ESPN Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill

Disney’s All Star Resort’s Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • World Premiere Food Court
  • Intermission Food Court
  • End Zone Food court

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Boma – Flavors of Africa
  • Jiko – The Cooking Place
  • The Mara
  • Maji Pool Bar
  • Sanaa
  • Uzima Springs Pool Bar

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Landscape of Flavors Food court

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn & Villas Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Big River Grille & Brewing Works
  • BoardWalk Bakery
  • BoardWalk Pizza Window
  • The Belle Vue Lounge
  • ESPN Club
  • Flying Fish Cafe
  • Leaping Horse Libations
  • Trattoria al Forno

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Old Port Royale Food Court
  • Shutters at Old Port Royale

Disney’s Contemporary Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • California Grill
  • Chef Mickey’s
  • Contempo Cafe
  • Cove Bar
  • The Sand Bar
  • The Wave of American Flavors

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Cafe Rix
  • Las Ventanas
  • Maya Grill
  • Pepper Market
  • Siestas Cantina

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Meadow Snack Bar
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
  • P & J’s Southern Takeout
  • Trail’s End Restaurant

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Beaches Pool Bar and Grill
  • Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner at 1900 Park Fare
  • Citricos
  • Courtyard Pool Bar
  • Gasparilla Island Grill
  • Grand Floridian Cafe
  • Narcoossee’s
  • Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare

Disney’s Old Key West Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Good’s Food to Go
  • Olivia’s Cafe
  • Turtle Shack Poolside snacks

Disney’s Polynesian Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Captain Cook’s Snack Company
  • Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner show
  • Kona Cafe
  • Ohana
  • Ohana’s Best Friends featuring Lilo & Stitch

Disney’s Pop Century Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Everything POP Shopping and Dining

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Boatwright’s Dining Hall
  • Riverside Mill Food Court
  • Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Artist’s Palette
  • Backstretch Pool Bar
  • The Paddock Grill
  • Turf Club Bar & Grill

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

  • Artist Point
  • Roaring Forks Snacks
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe

Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort Dining Plan 2017 Participating Restaurants

If you still have more questions then let me know in the comments or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.