Disney World has reopened, and we’re slowly seeing suspended offerings return.
Prior to the reopening of the theme parks and resort hotels, Disney unexpectedly canceled all Advance Dining Reservations and suspended the Disney Dining Plan. Though dining reservations have returned (with a window of 60 days rather than 180 days out to book), the Disney Dining Plan is still unavailable. When could the Disney Dining Plan come back to Disney World? Here’s what we know.
The Disney Dining Plan is an offering in Disney World that allows guests to pre-pay for a select number of meals and snacks for their their vacation. The plans are available to those booking a Vacation Package at a Disney World hotel. All guests in the same room must be on the same Dining Plan. Each of the Dining Plans grants each guest a specified number of snack credits and fast food and/or sit down meal credits per day along with a refillable mug for each guest. This means guests who opt to get the Dining Plan can pre-pay for most of their food costs before their trip (except for gratuity at table-service spots).
When was the Disney Dining Plan suspended?
On May 28th, in the midst of the park closures, we got the surprising news that Disney was canceling all Advance Dining Reservations and the Disney Dining Plan for the foreseeable future. As we mentioned, the ability to book dining reservations has since resumed, but the Disney Dining Plan has not.
As far as we know, this was due to unknown restaurant availability and limited capacity upon reopening. Disney wasn’t sure if they’d be able to accommodate the amount of plans that had been sold. Even if more restaurants had been open, the capacities would have seriously limited the number of guests who would be able to dine. With restricted options, those who had pre-purchased the Dining Plan may not have felt that it was worth the money they had paid for it if they had limited options available to them.
In lieu of the canceled plans, eligible guests were refunded or given a significant discount on their vacation packages to make up for the cancellation. Otherwise, new sales of the Disney Dining Plan were halted and we haven’t seen them return.
Is the Disney Dining Plan being sold with 2021 vacation packages?
The Disney Dining Plan and dining reservations weren’t the only major suspension at the time either. During the closures, Disney underwent a series of systemic cancellations including hotel booking, the sale of new park tickets, and the Park Hopper ticket add-on. New park tickets are now being sold for 2020 (without the Park Hopper option) and 2021 (with the Park Hopper option).
If Disney is confident enough about the return of Park Hopping to sell the Park Hopper add-on in 2021, could we see something similar for the Disney Dining Plan?
As it turns out, no. The Disney Dining Plan is not currently available at all — and that includes 2021 bookings. It’s possible that Disney is waiting to confirm when availability will reopen for all of their restaurants, or waiting until limited capacity is no longer a game-changer for dining. When the Dining Plan IS brought back, those who have upcoming reservations might be able to modify their package to add it on if they choose.
What needs to happen for the Disney Dining Plan to return?
For one, Disney will need to reopen enough restaurants and capacity will need to increase enough that the value of the plans is worthwhile for guests. Most likely, we’d need to see restaurants operating at more than 50% capacity.
Beyond that, Disney will need to feel assured that they can deliver on the Dining Plans that they’re selling. This means that they’ll need to be able to make reliable projections about vacation package sales and hotel capacity. If they need to rollback capacities or adjust measures, these plans could lose their value. Disney most likely won’t risk this until the health situation stabilizes.
They also may need to adjust the way the Dining Plans are sold to account for the lower capacities in restaurants. This could come in the form of modifications to the actual plans, fewer plans being sold, and even price changes.
Here’s an interesting note and hope for the future!
As of now, the Disney Dining Plan suspension is indefinite. Disney’s language so far hasn’t given us much of a clue as to when or if the Dining Plan options will return, but we have noticed some signs that it will.
For instance, many of the Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival menus have Disney Dining Plan logos. This may mean that Disney is hopeful that the Dining Plan has a chance of coming back before the festival ends. Remember though, the end date of the festival still hasn’t been revealed at this time. Many standard menus still have notes about what qualifies as a Dining Plan snack as well.
We’ll be waiting to hear about plans for the future of the Disney Dining Plan and we’ll be sure to update you as soon as we know anything! Stay tuned.
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Are you hoping for the return of the Disney Dining Plan soon? Tell us in the comments!