Complete guide to the Disney Dining Plan (and how to get it free)

(Article last checked: September 5, 2016)

If you're staying on-site at Disney World, almost everything is paid for before you even arrive - hotel, park tickets, airfare - but that leaves one main expense that you still have to think about: food.

As they always do, Disney came up with a solution for handling this when they created the Disney Dining Plan. This plan allows you to pre-pay for all of your dining so you don't have to worry about it later and gives your vacation an "all-inclusive" feeling. Disney even offers the plan for free during some promotions.

Here's how you can figure out if the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) makes sense for you.

Who can use it

In general, people that can purchase the DDP are those who have booked a package to stay in a Disney World resort (does not include the Swan, Dolphin, or Shades of Green). Packages include a resort and park tickets at a minimum, and you can optionally add a DDP.

There are 2 exceptions to this (these people will not qualify for Free Dining since that requires a package):

  • If you book a room-only reservation, you can add a Disney Dining Plan by using a travel agent or calling Disney World yourself and adding it.
  • Disney Vacation Club members or point renters can add a DDP to their reservation without booking a package.

What is included

When you're using a Disney Dining Plan, you can use it toward these things:

  • Table Service credits - used at participating Table Service restaurants, includes an entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. People using the Deluxe Dining Plan also get an appetizer with lunch and dinner.
  • Quick Service credits - used at participating Quick Service restaurants, includes an entree, non-alcholic beverage (plus dessert if you're eating lunch or dinner)
  • Snack credits - used at many locations, including some food carts. Can be used toward everything from a bottle of water to cotton candy to an ice cream bar. For the most current list of snacks, see this DISBoard list of confirmed snacks.
  • Refillable mugs - each dining plan includes a refillable mug for every guest who is 3 years old or older that can be refilled in any resort but not in the parks

Disney Dining Plan options

There are 3 main types of dining plans, each with different perks. The information below is per person per night (except for the refillable mug which is per person, but each mug is used throughout the duration of your stay).

2016 Disney Dining Plan pricing
All of these plans include 1 refillable mug per person which can be refilled at any resort, but not in the parks.

NameQS credits TS credits Snack credits2017 price for ages 10+2017 price for ages 3-9
Quick-Service Dining Plan202$46.34$20.18
Regular Dining Plan112$67.33$24.22
Deluxe Dining Plan<-- 3 credits to be used for either of these -->2$103.57$37.62

How to use your credits

There's a lot of confusion about how credits can be used. Here are some tips and tricks for using DDP credits:

  • Although the number of credits you get are based on how many nights you stay, you can use DDP credits whenever you'd like until they run out.

    For instance, you may have the regular dining plan which gives you 1 Table Service credit and 1 Quick Service per day. You could decide to use 2 Table Service credits one day and 2 Quick Service credits the next. You could use all of your credits in one day. It's up to you.

  • It's really difficult to break even or come out ahead financially on the DDP, but if you plan strategically, you can maximize your DDP credits. To see which restaurants provide the best value, check out my analysis of all Table Service and Quick Service restaurants.
  • Quick Service credits are not divided between adult and child's credits, which means kids can order off of the adult's menu if they'd like.
  • You can split meals using Quick Service credits which can allow you to stretch your DDP credits to cover all of your meals.
  • You can use Table Service credits to pay for non-DDP people. As long as 1 person is on the DDP, you can use the credits to pay for non-DDP friends.
  • At Table Service meals, you can substitute your dessert with a fruit plate, side salad, or cup of soup, but you can not substitute appetizers for desserts.
  • Quick Service meals include a dessert at lunch and dinner, but you can substitute your QS dessert with a DDP-eligible snack.
  • You can use 1 Quick Service credit to purchase 3 DDP-eligible snacks, as long as they're done all in the same transaction.
  • People using the Deluxe, Premium, or Platinum DDPs can use a child’s credit to purchase adult entrees.

How do you get it free?

Of course, if you don't have to pay for your Dining Plan then the calculations and comparisons don't matter at all. Free food is awesome. Disney does Free Dining promotions periodically.

Here's the history of when they've been announced and for what dates they were valid. You'll notice that Free Dining is usually a fall promotion.

Free Dining Stay DatesBooking Period
8/23-10/1/16, 11/15-11/21/16, 11/26-11/28/16, and 12/10-12/21/164/25/2016 - 7/8/2016
8/28/2015-12/21/2015*4/27/2015 - 7/10/2015
8/31/2014 - 12/23/20145/7/2014 - 8/8/2014
9/29/2013 - 12/22/20138/1/2013 - 9/15/2013
9/2/2013 - 9/25/20135/9/2013 - 7/31/2013
9/30/2012 - 12/13/20127/12/2012 - 9/29/2012
8/25/2012 - 9/29/20123/5/2012 - 5/18/2012
1/8/2012 - 3/31/20128/3/2011 - 10/29/11
and 10/27/2011 - 12/17/2011
10/2/2011 - 12/17/20118/3/2011 - 10/29/2011
8/28/2011 - 9/24/20115/2/2011 - 8/27/2011
8/19/2011 - 9/29/20118/16/2010 - 12/20/2010
5/27/2011 - 6/2/20118/16/2010 - 12/20/2010
1/1/2011 - 3/3/20118/16/2010 - 12/20/2010
10/1/2010-12/21/20108/16/2010 - 12/20/2010
8/15/2010 -12/21/20107/6/2010 - 8/14/2010
8/15/2010 - 10/2/20105/3/2010 - 8/14/2010
9/27/2009 - 12/17/20097/27/2009 - 9/26/2009
8/16/2009 - 10/3/20093/30/2009 - 6/21/2009
and 6/10/09 - 7/26/09
*Blackout dates included 10/3/2015-10/24/2015, 11/1/2015-11/7/2015 and 11/20/2015-12/14/2015

When you book Free Dining, the level of your dining plan will be determined by which level of resort you have booked.

  • If you book a Value Resort, you will get the Quick Service Dining Plan for free. You can upgrade to the Regular Dining Plan for $19/adult and $3.49/child per night, and you can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan for $68.89/adult and $15.09/child per night.
  • If you book any other level of resort, you will get the regular Dining Plan for free. You can upgrade to the Deluxe Dining Plan for about $49.89/adult and $11.60/child per night.

Note: as long as you arrive by the last day of the promotion, you can enjoy Free Dining during your whole stay.

Free Dining strategies

Free Dining is by far the most popular promotion that Disney does, which means it can be very competitive to try to be one of the people who gets to take advantage of it after it's released.

Here are my tips for helping you maximize Free Dining:

  • Plan your trip during the time that Free Dining has historically been offered. The blackout dates have increased a lot over the years, narrowing the time frame that it's available.
  • If you plan to travel in early fall, go ahead and book your room and make all of your dining reservations before Free Dining is announced. That will make sure you get reservations, because the restaurants fill up quickly after the Free Dining announcement is made.
  • Since the phone lines are jammed for hours or days after Free Dining is released, I'd suggest modifying existing reservations online or making a whole new package reservation online.
  • Stay at a moderate resort to get the best bang-for-the-buck since you get the Regular Dining Plan by staying there but with lower-priced rooms than if you stay at a Deluxe Resort. You might also consider staying at a Value Resort and upgrading the dining plan, but you'll have to do the math to see which one makes more sense for you.
  • You should consider waiting until after package/room discounts have been released for your trip dates to add Memory Maker because modifying an existing resort reservation to use a promotion is much more difficult when you have Memory Maker than modifying one without it.

Disney Dining Plan vs. paying out of pocket

People have different ways of looking at using a dining plan. For some (like me), it's about having a vacation that is stress-free where we aren't worrying about money. For others, it's purely a financial decision.

Create a list of what meals would cost you if you were paying out of pocket. Then see what the same meals cost if you have the DDP. Be sure to add 18% gratuity to the cost (so if your strategy is to order the most expensive entree while using the Disney Dining Plan, remember that it increases your tip as well).

Many people get caught up in thinking that Free Dining is better than any other promotion but that's not necessarily true. For instance, there is often a discount code for 30% off room rates running at the same time as the Free Dining promotion. Depending on the hotel and dining package, 30% could work out to be a much better deal.

***********************

Have question or other thoughts on the Disney Dining Plan? Feel free to share in the comments.

ENJOY THIS ARTICLE? SIGN UP TO GET UPDATES (IT'S FREE).

Leave a Reply

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Renee Kikta

I’ve book my hotel and park tickets for a time that I hope free dining is offered…should I also go ahead and book a dining plan? Also, is there a H&V breakfast that also includes Fantasmic?

Paige Siker

You don’t have to have it before the special is announced. Just have to add it then.

Jessica Strickland

I believe you do already need the dining plan on your reservation.
Value resort get free quick service dining plan
Moderate and deluxe get free Disney dining plan

Erin

Not this year! Moderates only get the quick service dining package (but can upgrade for a fee to the regular dining plan).

Michelle

Hi I am looking to book next August 2018 , have been offered free breakfast at the All stars, which is great. We have just been advised we can upgrade £24 a day each,too 2 quick meals snacks does anyone know,do we still get our breakfast free as well. If anyone can help me please,as want to book at the end of this week please.

abi

Hi Michelle,

You’re looking at the UK free dining deal, which is a little different to the one in this article.

“Free Breakfast” consists of one quick service credit each per day, but as far as I know there are no time restrictions on using it, so it could be you’re evening meal (I think!). By upgrading you would gain 1 extra quick service credit, 2 snack credits and a refillable resort mug for fizzy drinks.

If you have kids I would recommend ordering 1 adult meal between two, saving you a credit.

I personally wouldn’t upgrade, as I don’t think we wouldn’t use all of those credits, and £24pppd is quite a lot! You know your family best, but it’s almost always cheaper to pay out of pocket, and that way you can eat at table service restaurants without feeling guilty for not using the credit you’ve paid for. (You can use them on another day obviously).

Hope that helps,
Abi

Tim

We have the Vacation Club and book through that. And we usually get tickets through our work discount Tickets at Work. Does this still allow for the free dining promotion? I didn’t see it addressed in the article.

Christina

Hi I booked 8/5 & 6 @ music can I still get free dining?

clara Lora

what are the dates for 2018? We’re planning on going on January and staying in Grand Floridian

Michelle

Hi got a first time trip planned for November 30-December 13.
If we stay at the Pop hotel we will only get free dining from December 8-13 because that is when the blackout dates are done for that week.
any tips on making the most of it during the free dining?
Thinking of upgrading for the free days but just getting the quick service for the first week. Any information would be great!
Thanks

Aimee Feste

Does anyone know if you can trade 2 quick service meals for one table meal? thanks

Jennifer

Does anyone know if you can use tickets previously purchased from Disney and get free dining? I was thinking they could be “re-packaged” so we could get free dining, but I was told I need to buy new tickets.

Cassie

It’s out! We managed to snag it for a 2 adult room at All Star Music (we’re doing a budget girls reunion trip), but had to make some rearangements. I had a reservation made for our room and tickets from September 13-19, but ended up cancelling that trip and making the Free Dining trip from the 14-19 and using the Enchanted Room rate for a room only reservation on the 13th since our original trip was unavailable. It was quick and easy to upgrade to the regular Disney Dining Plan from the Quick Service. The phone lines are jammed, I couldn’t even get to a hold music line so try your best to make the reservations online if you can!

Is it true that desserts have been removed from disney dining lunch? Also, at table service restaurants how many credits/meals is a large pizza (example tony’s town square)? Just wondering if a family of four can order 2 pizzas and use 2 meals instead of 4 meals.

Jessica Glickman

I believe that when sharing meals such as a pizza they still deduct the number of people sharing, not just the number of pizzas. 2 Pizzas between 4 people would still cost 4 table service credits. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

MARCELE GUEDES

Hi. First of all your site is amazing and has been very helpful. Second, I would like to know if only by booking the room I am eligible for the free dining when it comes out or do I need to buy the package? Also, how do I buy only the tickets I need and not for all the days I am staying.

Cassie

The Free Dining deal is for room and parkhopper ticket packages. A minimum of a 2 day parkhopper pass must be purchased to get the deal, but other than that you can choose how many days you want and choose which days to use them.

Chris

There was a Free Dining plan in some Spring dates earlier this year for non-US residents, with both value and moderate resorts being related to the quick service plan. Does someone know what plan will be provided for moderate resorts on 2017 Fall’s free Dining plan promotion ? Table or quick service?

Cassie

For the fall Free Dining promotion they did assign the moderate resorts to the Quick Service plans, so you’d need to upgrade (about $20/person/night) to the table service if you wanted that option (we did it, since we wanted a lot of character dining).

Laura

What about memory maker makes it more difficult? I have a reservation booked in December with Memory Maker and Dining Plan and plan to call to ask for free dining promotion when/if it become available. Should I try to remove Memory Maker for now?

Tanya

Does anyone happen to know why they discontinued the premium dining plan?

Jessica Strickland

Hi there, we are military and I currently have a trip booked for 12/10-12/17/2017. We are staying at Coronado Springs and we have the Disney dining plan. We are getting the military discount on our room(35%). My question is if when the free dining comes out and if it’s during my dates can I drop the military discount on my room and utilize free dining instead? It would be a bigger savings. We usually get our tickets through shades of green. This may be a stretch I just thought I’d ask!

Paige Siker

Yes, if you call and the room you are in is eligible for free dining, you should be able to adjust. I would go ahead and try to get your tickets on base ahead of time and not wait until you get there because you will not be able to book fastpasses if you haven’t bought the tickets. If you purchase them on base and at least have a confirmation number, you should be able to book them 60 days out.

wpDiscuz
Animal Kingdom Epcot Hollywood Studios Magic Kingdom
The pros and cons of all Epcot-area restaurants
Is the Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace worth the price?
The pros and cons of all Magic Kingdom-area resort restaurants
Planning Process Overview Step 1: Pick a Date Step 2: Lodging Step 3: Make a daily plan Step 4: Dining Step 5: Park Touring Step 6: Extra Magic
How Memory Maker works at Disney World
The pros and cons of all Epcot-area restaurants
Is the Fireworks Dessert Party at Tomorrowland Terrace worth the price?
Babies and toddlers Characters General Reference Group travel Luxury Saving Money Special needs Technology Transportation
The best Disney World tickets for 2017
Benefits of staying on-site at Disney World
WDW Prep Infographic Download Center