Best Disney Dining Plan values for 2016
(Article last updated: March 9, 2016)
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is something that people staying in an on-site Disney World resort can get by doing one of these things:
- Booking a package (that includes a room and tickets) online or by calling Disney
- Booking a room-only reservation by calling Disney
- Booking a DVC reservation
When you buy a Disney Dining Plan (DDP), you are pre-paying for your food and then using credits to get meals during your trip.
Let's take a look at the cost and see how to get the most out of the Disney Dining Plan for 2016.
Reasons for getting the Disney Dining Plan
There are a few different reasons that people might choose to get the DDP.
- To make trips feel all-inclusive. This is why our family likes the DDP. When your food is pre-paid, it can make your trip more fun when ordering isn't about checking prices so closely and worrying about the tab.
- Sometimes it's free. Disney sometimes offers the Free Dining promotion (usually in fall) which allows guests to get the DDP for free. If you book a trip using the Free Dining promotion, you give up the ability to use other promotions. People staying in Deluxe Resorts are usually better off using a room discount than Free Dining.
- To save money. If you play your cards right, you can actually save money on food by purchasing the DDP and then eating meals that cost more than the DDP. This is getting more difficult do and takes some planning. That's what the info below will help you do.
Cost of the Disney Dining Plan
There are 3 versions of the Disney Dining Plan that most people purchase (there are some more expensive plans as well but they aren't super common and would require a whole other post to explain).
All of these plans include 1 refillable mug per person which can be refilled at any resort, but not in the parks.
You get the credits listed above for each night of your trip. All of the credits are loaded to your account at once and can be used however you'd like during your trip (you could use 6 credits 1 day, 2 the following day, etc.).
Gratuity is not included in the costs above, so factor that in when deciding if the Disney Dining Plan or specific restaurants make sense for you.
What about kids under age 3? Kids under 3 don't require park tickets and they don't require a dining plan either. At buffets, kids under 3 can have their own plate. At all other locations, they can eat off of your plate.
Some people want to buy the Disney Dining Plan for their little ones but that requires that you also buy them park tickets as well so that's not generally a good idea. If you want your toddler to have their own meals, you'd be better off just paying out-of-pocket for them.
What does a credit include?
- A Quick Service credit includes an entree, non-alcoholic drink and dessert from a Quick Service restaurant (for breakfast, dessert isn't included). These credits aren't separated into child or adult categories so you can theoretically get adult meals for your child. You can substitute your QS dessert with a DDP-eligible snack. You can also use 1 Quick Service credit to purchase 3 DDP-eligible snacks, as long as they're done all in the same transaction.
- Table Service credits include a non-alcoholic drink, entree and dessert from a Table Service restaurant (except at breakfast which doesn't include dessert). People using the Deluxe Dining Plan also get an appetizer.
- Snack credits can be used for many things including bottled water, ice cream and bakery items. Generally speaking, snack credits are good for many things that cost $5 or less. This list of confirmed snack credits on DISboards.com is the best source for snack credits.
Making the most of Disney Dining Plan credits
- Quick Service credits are worth about $18
- Table Service credits are worth about $37
- Snack credits are worth about $5
That means to break even on the Disney Dining Plan, you'll need to choose food that costs at least that amount.
There are huge charts below detailing every Table Service and Quick Service restaurant and the value of a credit at those locations. You can plan according to those lists and/or keep these general things in mind when maximizing credits:
- Character meals are generally a great use of a credit.
- Signature Restaurants are almost never the best way to maximize a credit since they require 2 Table Service credits per meal but don't cost twice as much if you were paying out-of-pocket.
- Go for the steak, lobster, shakes and orange juice. Those are often the most expensive options so take advantage when they're on the menu.
- Don't choose breakfast. Not only are breakfast entrees almost always less expensive, but breakfast doesn't include a dessert like lunch and dinner do.
Table Service chart
The chart below shows the value of Table Service credits when using the Basic Dining Plan. This one might be confusing to some people, so let me explain some of the columns.
Average cost of meal - this is the average cost of an entree, drink, and dessert (breakfast doesn't include dessert) OR a full buffet
Average value of 1 credit - for most restaurants, this is the same number as the average cost of the meal, but this value is different for restaurants that require 2 Table Service credits. Average cost of meal/# of credits = average value of a credit
Max cost of meal - if you ordered the most expensive items at this restaurant, this is how much it would cost
Max value of 1 credit - the max cost divided by the number of credits required for the meals
On the Deluxe Dining Plan? Add the cost of an appetizer to the value of each credit.
Quick Service chart
And here's the chart for Quick Service credits.
Want the raw data?
Want to play with the Disney Dining Plan data that I used for the charts above in a spreadsheet so you can filter and sort to your heart's content? The link to the data is shown below to WDW Prep members who are currently logged in.
What about people who will NOT be using the Disney Dining Plan?
My advice for people who will be paying out-of-pocket and not using the DDP is to choose places that are not as expensive but still good.
Some Table Service restaurant suggestions for people paying out-of-pocket:
- Breakfasts in general - these meals cost much less than lunch or dinner (just be careful not to book breakfast reservations that overlap with morning touring)
- 50s Prime Time Cafe - can easily split the huge portions here and pay much less
- Nine Dragons - good Chinese restaurant at Epcot that doesn't cost much compared to other locations
Quick Service recommendations for people paying out-of-pocket:
- Riverside Mill food court at Port Orleans Riverside - the portions are often huge and easy to split (particularly the make-your-own pasta section), making it a relatively inexpensive meal
- Yorkshire Fish Shop at Epcot - delicious, affordable fish
- Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney
Have a comment or question on using the Disney Dining Plan? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.