Ever since Walt Disney World re opened in July of 2020 after a 3 month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic I've heard the question 'are the dining plans back?' it feels like at least once a week! Well now we can finally say YES!
When 2024 packages are released on May 31st you will be able to add on one of two Disney Dining Plans for arrivals beginning January 9, 2024. Here is a breakdown of the two dining plans and my opinion on whether or not it's worth adding to your vacation.
What is the Dining Plan at Walt Disney World?
The dining plans make your vacation more all-inclusive so it's the convivence that appeals to many guests. Dining plans are only available to guests who purchase a Disney resort hotel package so if you are staying off property you will not have this option. The plan also applies to everyone over the age of 3 in the same room so you all get the dining plan or none of you. You can't purchase it for 2 out of the 4 guests within the same room or on the same package. The total points you receive is based on the number of nights on your resort package so if you book a 6 night trip your total points will be 6 times the number of guests over age 3 on your package.
It's important to remember that you can use your meal points however and whenever you want. For example the first day of your trip you decide to do a quick breakfast, lunch and dinner so you use 3 quick meal points per person. Then the next day you only grab a quick lunch using 1 quick meal point. The total points are given out at the start of your trip so there are no rules to how many you can use in one day. The points do expire though at midnight the day you check out of your resort hotel so you need to track them and ensure you use them up in time.
Disney Quick Service Dining Plan
Every guest receives 2 quick service meal points plus 1 snack or nonalcoholic drink per night of their stay along with a refillable resort mug. The resort mugs are good at any Disney resort hotel and make a nice collectors item or souvenir. Currently they feature a 100th anniversary design. You can sometimes choose to upgrade your mug for an additional fee. The upgrade options are stainless mugs. In the past their was a Star Wars and a Skyliner mug. (I had to get the Star Wars mug!) You can refill your mug at the self service stations for the length of your trip with fountain soda, tea or coffee however they are not good for refills in the theme parks. You will need to purchase beverages separately in all of the water and theme parks.
Beverages are also included with each meal. For guests over the age of 21 that includes one alcoholic beverage such as beer, wine or a cocktail. Guests under 21 will choose a non-alcoholic beverage and it usually includes any specialty beverages.
Disney Dining Plan
Every guest receives 1 table service meal credit, 1 quick service meal credit plus 1 snack or nonalcoholic drink per night of their stay along with a refillable resort mug. Table service meal credits can be used at most dining locations on property where reservations are required including character dining experiences. Restaurants classified as Signature Dining Experiences require 2 table service points. They include California Grill, Tiffins, Jiko, Narcoossee's, Le Cellier, Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue plus others across property.
What we don't know yet is what is included in each table service meal. In the past it was one appetizer or dessert, an entrée then a beverage which includes one alcoholic drink.
Is the dining plan right for my vacation?
Do you plan to book a few character dining, buffets or all-you-care-to-eat reservations for your trip? Do you enjoy sitting down and eating at nice restaurants? Do you tend to order the more expensive items on the menu like steak or seafood? Do you enjoy having a cocktail, wine or beer with your meal? If you answered yes to at least two of those questions then you will likely see value in adding the Disney Dining Plan. My answer to all of those is YES so we always added the Disney Dining Plan to our trips. Now this was back when my kids were still classified as kids by Disney or under age 9. I now have to pay the adult price for my 11 year old so I have to carefully consider will he eat that much food to justify the cost?
Now we haven't seen pricing yet and since the price for everything has gone up in recent years I'd be prepared to see a significant increase in the price for the dining plan since when it was last available way back in 2020. If you are willing, you could do a cost analysis. Take a look at the per person prices for the restaurants you are looking to dine at to get an estimated total just in table service meals. Then add up the cost of the dining plan per person per night of your trip. Once you factor in a quick meal per person per day and snacks you'll be able to see if the dining plan makes sense for your trip.
I think most guests will find value in the quick service plan. For example you can use a quick service credit for breakfast, 2 snacks for lunch so a pretzel and a soda for example then another quick point for dinner each day of your trip.
If you plan to pack lunches or are on a tight budget I wouldn't recommend the dining plan. If you don't usually eat that much then it may not make sense for you either. What you can do is share meals and pay out of pocket and bring your own snacks to save money. Portions tend to be large so sharing is definitely possible.
I do recommend at least one table service meal per day of your trip though. It's nice to sit and rest for a bit, it renews your energy and allows everyone to keep going. And you may think you won't eat that much but remember, you are outside in the heat, walking 5 to 8 miles per day. You will work up an appetite!
Here are a few tips after using the dining plan for many trips in the past.
Use your snack points wisely. Save them for a meal replacement or higher value items. I used to purchase specialty desserts, pastries, ice cream sundaes or a Dole Whip. You can even purchase a side of fries from Casey's Corner or Mickey waffles from Sleepy Hollow. Don't purchase bottle water that only costs a few dollars. Instead use Amazon Fresh to have bottle water or other items delivered to your resort or pay for them out of pocket.
Keep track of your points. Each time you use your points your receipt will include your remaining balance. I usually map out how and when I want to use my points ensuring they add up to 0 at the end of the trip.
The reason above is important because I've made the mistake in the past of paying cash for a meal instead of using meal points so always remember to use your points!
If you have snack points remaining head to the marketplace at your resort or a gift shop and use them for the Disney bagged snacks they sell. They make great snacks for the ride home.
Points are pooled or combined between everyone in your room. So for quick meals and snacks they don't need to be used evenly between each guest in the room. For example one guest may use 2 in one day while everyone else only uses one. That's why keeping track of the total is important.
Try to order the more expensive items on the menu for every meal, even quick service. If what you want is on the lower end price wise then consider paying out of pocket for it and saving your points.
If you book any additional dining reservations that you don't have points for use the points for the most expensive meals which is usually the buffets or character meals. The remaining meals pay for out of pocket.
Remember gratuity is not included so you can add tip via your Magic Band onto your resort room or by paying cash.
Have any additional questions on the dining plans? Reach out to a travel advisor at Coasters & Castles Travel!
Melissa Lenox is a Gold Level Vacation Specialist and blog editor with Coasters & Castles Travel. She is a former entertainment cast member, loves Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, Chip 'n Dale, great food and planning trips for others! Follow her on her pages below or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to plan your next adventure!
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