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Is The Disney Dining Plan A Good Deal? Part I

The Disney Dining Plan is popular, and it allows you to try Disney World’s wonderful restaurants, butIs the Disney Dining Plan a good deal?

That is the question that Only WDWorld set out to answer.

How do you define a good deal?

Disney claims that the Dining Plan can be a 30% savings vs. paying out of pocket (OOP) for the meals. Others will say that when they are not on the Disney Dining Plan they never order desserts, especially at lunch. So what is the best way to compare?

Here is how we decided to do our Financial Comparison to see if the basic Disney Dining Plan is a good deal:

Assume the following:

  • Eat at one Table Service restaurant per day.
  • Order only entrée and soft drink (no desserts).
  • Choose only entrees at the low end to middle of the pricing for the restaurant (No steaks).
  • Eat at one Quick Service Restaurant per day.
  • Order only entrée and soft drink (no desserts).
  • Avoid the very pricey dining options if available.
  • Order one snack per day
  • Did not include Gratuities in the analysis since Dining Plan doesn’t include them either.

To complete our analysis we compiled a list of meals from 13 Table Service and 13 Quick Service Restaurants that are amongst the most popular in Disney World. There are restaurants chosen from each of the 4 theme parks, as well as, some of the most popular resort dining locations, and some at Downtown Disney. These are ones that you would most likely be eating at during your vacation.

We chose a balanced selection of entrée choices so that we could eat well, but avoided the priciest options at each meal.

We did the analysis for Adult Meals and then repeated it separately for Child Meals (presented in Part II).

Here is what we found:

The average Adult Table Service Meal costs $26.90, and increases to $29.06 during the Seasonal Pricing times which includes much of the summer and around Holidays. By choosing the lowest cost entrees the costs were kept down at some of the traditionally pricey restaurants such as: Le Cellier, Chefs de France, and Coral Reef. If you opt for one of the more expensive choices your costs will increase. If you eat only at the buffets and character meals, you will average $30+ per meal.

The average Adult Quick Service Meal costs: $10.10. The entree selection is greatly varied from Burgers and Pizza to Salads and Grilled Chicken w/Rice & beans. You will see that the costs are very similar throughout.

The average snack costs $2.93. The snacks range on the low end for a soft drink to $4.00 for some of the frozen treats that are popular during the hot Florida days.

The total for an Adult for each day averages $39.94 or $42.09 during the Seasonal pricing times. The basic Disney Dining Plan costs $39.99 for 2009 with no increase during Seasonal pricing times. We were pleasantly surprised to find out how close paying out of pocket without the “extras” comes to the price of the Disney Dining Plan (DDP).

The DDP gives you the flexibility to order anything on the menu at the given restaurants, including steak. At Le Cellier, the Filet Mignon entrée alone costs $34.99.

The DDP also adds in dessert for both the Quick Service and the Table Service Meals. Often there is an option to get the dessert to go if you are not hungry at the time.


If you enjoy eating at a Table Service restaurant once a day during your vacation, then you should really consider the Disney Dining Plan. The analysis shows that by ordering carefully and avoiding desserts you still will only break even with the DDP cost.

We feel that the ability to relax and order whatever you want off of the menu without looking at prices is definitely a benefit to allow you to enjoy your vacation.

The indulgent inclusion of desserts twice a day may be over the top, but again it is a Disney World vacation.

Treat yourself during your next vacation knowing that even if your party only consists of Adults ( ages 10 and over) the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal.

Part II will address the Analysis of the Child Meals on the Dining Plan

8 comments to "Is The Disney Dining Plan A Good Deal? Part I"

  1. Mayzic says:

    Based off your numbers the QSDP would be a total of around $26. Which is $4 less than the cost. Add the desserts and your would be over.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Did you include tax in your estimates?

  3. Mayzic - You are correct the QSDP (Quick Service Dining Plan) would total around $26.06 aoccording to my examples for 2 Quick Service meals and 2 snacks per day. The QSDP also provides dessert at each meal and a refillable mug. If you are going to make use of the desserts and mug then the QSDP would make good sense. Also if you plan ahead and eat at the better QSDP restaurants then you really will come out ahead.

  4. For the purposes of calculations, taxes were not included in the estimates.

  5. If visiting Disney World for the first time, the Dining Plan is a good idea: 1)menu prices can result in serious sticker shock and 2) as you pointed out, your food expenses are already taken care of so you don't have to worry about staying within a budget.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Were you aware that the DDP includes tax? So it would be more accurate if you included in your estimates as well. Thanks for your research, it was very helpful.

  7. Yes, the currently published rates for the Disney Dining Plan are inclusive of taxes.

    The cost analysis did not add taxes to the individually priced meals.

    The end result: when taxes are added to the individual meals, you will find that the Disney Dining Plan becomes an even better deal.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Do you plan to update your spreadsheet any time soon? How does it compare in 2011?

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