So far Disney has shared that the Dining Plan will be coming back at an undisclosed time in the future. Disney hasn’t really announced too many details about the return of these plans just yet, which leaves us with a LOT of questions. Most importantly — what will the Dining Plan options look like when they return? Since we can’t quite see into the future yet, we thought we’d take a little trip in our imaginary time machine to the past (*cue wind chime flashback music*). What changes has the Dining Plan seen since it was introduced? And could more changes be in store for our old friend the Disney Dining Plan? Here’s what we know.
If you’re new to the Disney Dining Plan scene, there’s a lot to catch up on!
You can read about all four of the past Disney Dining Plan options here to get some background info on what Disney’s most recent Dining Plan situation was.
For just a quick summary, before the suspension of the Dining Plan there were four options: the Quick Service Plan, the Standard Dining Plan, Disney Dining Plan Plus, and the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan.
Each plan came with a combination of credits for Quick Service and/or Table Service meals. There were snacks included in the plans as well, in addition to a resort refillable mug for each guest. Guests could use the refillable mug to get sodas or hot beverages at their resort.
Basically, the Disney Dining Plan is a way to pre-pay for your food and drinks before you get to Disney World. You would pay the set amount for your plan and receive the appropriate number of credits associated with that plan. Then, you could redeem those credits throughout your trip to cover the costs of your food. So instead of paying for that Quick Service meal during your trip, you’d just redeem a quick service credit you had already paid for ahead of time. Easy peasy, right?
Importantly, Disney Dining Plans were only available as an add-on for Disney Vacation Packages, meaning you must be staying on a Vacation Package at a Disney owned-and-operated hotel and you must have purchased at least one ticket per person.
The Disney Dining Plan was first introduced at Disney World back in 2005! Since then, it’s had a lot of changes. Let’s take a look at them here.
The Scale of the Dining Plan
One of the biggest changes has been how much the Dining Plan program has grown! When the Disney Dining Plan was first introduced in 2005, there was only one plan offered. Guests could add it to their Disney hotel reservations to pre-pay for meals and snacks.
Original Dining Plan:
Here’s what the original dining plan featured.
1 Table Service Meal — appetizer, entree, dessert, a nonalcoholic beverage, and the tip
1 Counter Service Meal — entree, dessert, and a nonalcoholic beverage
1 Snack — Most snacks $5 or cheaper qualified as a “snack” category for the Disney Dining Plan
There was an option to trade 2 table service meals for 1 Signature Dining Experience or 1 Disney Dinner Show. A signature dining experience basically means a fancy restaurant at Disney World, like California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Only select restaurants fall under that category.
In the years between 2005 and 2020, several different dining plan options were added and things were rearranged. Desserts were largely removed from Quick Service meals on most plans, and appetizers were removed from most Table Service meals (dependant on your plan level). In past years, like 2015, there were things called Premium and Platinum Disney Dining Plan options.
Dining Plans Most Recently (2020):
Prior to the pandemic shutdowns and the suspension of the Dining Plan, there were four options for Disney Dining Plans. You could get different plans that ranged from the quick-service plan that offered two quick service meals per day (plus other things) to the Deluxe plan with a possible three table-service meals each day.
We won’t go into FULL detail for each of the plans, but here’s a quick breakdown of what each plan included per day (you can click the links to learn more about each plan):
Quick Service Plan — 2 quick service meals with beverages, 2 snacks, 1 resort refillable mug
Standard Dining Plan — 1 quick service meal and 1 table service meal (entree and dessert or family-style/buffet meal) with beverages, 2 snacks, 1 resort refillable mug
Disney Dining Plan Plus — 2 meals per day of any combination of quick service or table service (entree and dessert or family-style/buffet meal) with beverages, 2 snacks, 1 resort refillable mug
Deluxe Dining Plan — 3 table service (appetizer, entree, and dessert or family-style/buffet meal)or quick service meals with beverages, 2 snacks, 1 resort refillable mug
Note that certain specialty beverages were included in the most recent plans, including select alcoholic beverages for those 21 and older.
Just by taking a look at the one original plan versus the 4 most recent plans, it’s clear that the scale of the Disney Dining Plan overall has changed. Over the years, these various plans have been added to the available offerings. Most recently, the Disney Dining Plan Plus was added for 2020.
Not only have the number of Dining Plan options increased, but the plans themselves feature unique options and are more customizable, allowing guests to pick the one that best suits their need. Having more options can help make the Dining Plan appeal to a wider variety of people visiting Disney.
We’ll be breaking down the differences of what’s included with each credit in a second. But here are some BIG overall differences between the old plan and the most recent ones.
The new plans include two snacks per day instead of just one like the original plan, and Disney also added a resort refillable mug to each plan, which guests can use to get soda and hot drinks at their resort.
However, the most recent plans generally did not include appetizers for table service meals, unless you went with the Deluxe Dining Plan. In a way, the second snack has essentially replaced that appetizer. Note you DO get an appetizer on the Deluxe plan.
It’s also important to note that the Dining Plan no longer includes gratuity for table service meals, so that’s something you’ll have to pay for during your trip.
So overall the past few years have resulted in a Dining Plan that has more options and more customization to fit your needs.
We know there are MORE options for the Dining Plan, but how do the prices for these compare to the original plan?
Another one of the changes we’ve seen over the last 16 years of the Disney Dining Plan is the change in price. And, as you might imagine, these have all been price INCREASES.
The first Disney Dining Plan cost $35/night for adults and $10/night for kids. Really, it was a pretty good deal that would likely save you money if you used it for all the meals offered in the plan.
We’ve seen a price increase in the Dining Plans almost every year since then. We’ll focus on some of the more recent years.
In 2010, the prices for the Quick Service Plan were $31.99/night for adults and $9.99/night for kids. At the time there was also a Plus (Basic) Dining Plan which cost $41.99/night for adults and $11.99/night for kids (regular season ); and $46.99/night for adults and $12.99/night for children (peak season). The Deluxe Plan was $71.99/night for adults and $20.99/night for kids.
Note that the Disney Dining Plan Plus was introduced in 2020, so we don’t have prices for that plan until more recently! Note that what was included in these plans was also a bit different than what was included in the most recent plans, so that’s something to keep in mind. For example, the quick service plan included 2 quick service meals and 2 snacks per person per day (no resort refillable mug and no alcoholic beverages).
Moving up to 2013, the Quick Service Plan was $37.58/night for adults and $14.32/night for kids. The Standard Plan was $55.59/night for adults and $17.16/night for kids (value and regular season); and $56.94/night for adults and $18.16/night for kids (peak season).
The Deluxe Plan was $99.97/night for adults and $26.84/night for kids (value and regular season); and $102.27/night for adults and $28.91/night for kids (peak season).
In 2016, prices for the dining plan increased at the early part of the year. For purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the higher prices that were put in place as of March 9th, 2016. At that time, the Quick Service Plan was $44.13/night for adults and $19.04/night for kids. The Standard Plan was $63.70/night for adults and $23.85/night for kids. The Deluxe Plan was $115.08/night for adults and $35.49/night for kids.
You’ll note that by this point, price differences for the standard plan for regular/value season vs. peak season were done away with and a single price was instead utilized for the entire year.
As you can see, prices have risen pretty steadily over the past few years. Here’s the breakdown of the Disney Dining Plan prices as of 2020:
Quick Service: $55/night for adults, $26/night for kids
Standard Dining Plan: $78.01/night for adults, $30.51/night for kids
Disney Dining Plan Plus: $94.61/night for adults, $35.01/night for kids
Deluxe Dining Plan: $119/night for adults, $47.50/night for kids
Although the prices tend to rise just a little bit at a time year after year (generally a few dollars’ difference each year), the change from 2005 to 2020 is substantial! The Quick Service Plan is now about $20 more per adult than the original Dining Plan (which gave you more food!).
The original Dining Plan was closer to the Standard Dining Plan, however, in terms of including a table-service and quick-service option. If you compare those plans, the price increase is even steeper — a difference of $43.01 between 2005 and 2020. But the plans featured different benefits.
The original plan had fewer snacks and didn’t include the resort refillable mug or the option for adults 21 and older to get select alcoholic beverages included in the plan. But the original plan did include an appetizer and gratuity for table-service meals, which aren’t included in the Standard Plan now. So it seems like the offerings for each plan have shuffled around as the price rises steadily.
The steady and frequent price increases have meant that in the Dining Plan’s short 16-year lifespan, it’s grown to be quite a bit more expensive than the original plan.
Though the prices have gone up, some Dining Plan perks have grown/changed as well like we noted with the change in the refillable mug and as we’ll discuss with other perks below. Let’s see what the changes have been over the years as far as what you get for each credit in the plan.
What’s Offered for Each Credit
There are three kinds of credits for dining plans: snack credits, quick service credits, and table service credits.
The names for these have generally stayed the same over the years, but what you get for each has changed a bit.
Here’s what was included in each credit in 2005:
Snack credits: A snack credit was good for various snacks throughout the parks, which were marked with a Disney Dining Plan symbol. They were usually $5 or cheaper and included things like Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars, a box of popcorn, a 20 oz bottle of Coke, and select other items.
Quick Service credits: Each quick service credit included an entree, dessert, and a nonalcoholic beverage.
Table Service credits: Table service credits included an appetizer, entree, dessert, and nonalcoholic beverage. The tip was also included in the credit, which was usually between 15% and 18%, depending on the restaurant.
In 2005, guests were able to trade 2 table service credits for 1 signature dining meal or 1 Disney dinner show experience.
Here’s what was included in each credit in 2020:
Snack credits: Most recently, snack credits were worth a bit more, with more snacks in the $7 and under range qualifying as a “snack” under the plan. Though you could also get some MORE expensive items for a snack credit as well. They’d always be noted with the Disney Dining Plan snack logo.
It seems that as the prices for food have increased over the years (we’ve certainly seen a lot of increases recently in 2022), the base level of the food included under the snack credit category has also increased, which makes sense. If the popcorn you used to get for under $X is now above $X in terms of pure cost, then it makes sense that the overall price of the snacks included in the snack credit be increased to adjust for this.
As of 2020, you could get some pretty good snacks for this credit, such as loaded fries from Casey’s Corner, the Colossal Cinnamon Roll from various spots, or even a Mickey Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream from Sleepy Hollow!
Quick Service credits: A quick service credit now is an entree and drink or a combo meal at a quick service location (which includes a drink).
Note that the drink offerings in 2020 were more expansive for your meals. Guests under 21 years of age could choose one non-alcoholic beverage with their Quick Service (and Table Service) meal (including specialty beverages — i.e. Artisanal Milk Shakes, Fresh Smoothies, Premium Hot Chocolates, or Soda, Coffee or Tea — where offered). Guests 21 and older could can choose either one non-alcoholic beverage (including specialty beverages where offered) or one single serving mixed cocktail, beer, or wine (where offered) within their meal entitlement.
The inclusion of specialty beverages (especially select alcoholic beverages) was a BIG change for the Dining Plan. Surprisingly though, it didn’t dramatically increase prices. From 2017 (no specialty drinks included) to 2018 (specialty drinks now included) the price change for quick service was $48.19 to $52.49 for adults; standard plan went from $69.35 to $75.49; and deluxe went from $106.68 to $116.24. An increase for sure, but perhaps not as dramatic as might have been expected.
Table Service credits: Finally, with the most recent dining plans, a table service credit was good for an entree, dessert, and a drink (alcoholic or nonalcoholic — again, see the notes on drinks above in the Quick Service credits section). This credit is also valid for a full buffet or family-style meal entitlement per person.
The Deluxe Dining Plan includes an appetizer as well with Table Service credits.
So what are the biggest differences or changes that have been made with the plan as it began and as it existed in its most recent form?
For starters, you could get more expensive snacks with the most recent Dining Plan — giving you the chance to really get a good bang for your buck (though some of that may simply have to do with the fact that the cost of food has increased over the years, naturally leading to an increase in the base value of snacks included in the snack credit).
Second, specialty beverages have been included with quick service and table service credits, including select alcoholic beverages for those 21 and up. This is a change that was made back in 2018.
Finally, most table service credits now don’t include an appetizer or tip (but you could get an appetizer included with the Deluxe Plan as of 2020).
With all the changes to the overall price, items included, and the value of each credit, one more big thing to look at is which Disney World restaurants participate in the Disney Dining Plan, because that’s changed as well!
Each year, Disney has also made changes to which restaurants around the parks and resorts will accept the Disney Dining Plan. For example, in 2011 for the Standard Dining Plan Disney added a few table-service locations to be included in the plan, like La Hacienda de San Angel and Via Napoli in EPCOT.
A big change that we’ve also seen taken place over the years is that more and more restaurants have been added to the Signature Dining list. These restaurants require 2 table service credits for each meal (as opposed to just 1). In 2011, dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT became a Signature meal, and in mid-2018 (as of July 27th, 2018) dinner at Be Our Guest joined the list of Signature Dining Experiences as well.
Adding more restaurants to the Signature Dining Experiences list is one way to subtly require guests to pay more when using the Dining Plan. You’ll need to pay out-of-pocket for meals once your Dining Plan credits are all used up. If you intend on visiting various restaurants that now fall under the Signature Dining Experience category (requiring 2 table service credits as opposed to 1) it will mean you could use up those Table Service credits quite quickly.
If you don’t end up having enough credits to cover all of your meals throughout your trip since you’ll be using more up for these signature experiences, then you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the additional food costs. But this change may also just better reflect the prices of the dishes at that restaurant (which have also likely increased over the past several years) and Disney’s perception of the value of the experience.
Before the Dining Plan was discontinued, there was an awesome deal that a lot of people planned their trips around: free dining in Disney World! Yes! This is sometimes a thing!
Since 2005, Disney has occasionally offered FREE Disney Dining Plans at times when the park attendance was expected to be lower. But even Free Dining offerings have changed over the years.
Initially Free Dining was generally offered once a year. In some future years it switched to being offered more than once per year. For example, in 2019 Free Dining was offered two times, once for dates July 5 – September 30, 2019 (bookable January through February), and once for dates September 1 through September 18, 2019, November 17 through November 27, 2019, and December 8 through December 23, 2019 (bookable July through September). So even just that process has changed.
Then, back in 2020, Disney announced a vacation package that included a Disney Dining Plan for select guests who had trips booked during part of the time when the Resort was closed due to COVID-19. But then the situation with this offer later changed and the private offer was discontinued for new reservations.
The Dining Plan itself hasn’t been available for over a year, and Disney hasn’t said yet if the Free Dining will come back with it at any point in the future.
As we mentioned, Free Disney Dining was typically offered during times park attendance was expected to be slower. But are there really any “slow” periods in the parks anymore?
Disney has filled in some of the previously slower times with things like the Festival of the Arts in EPCOT in January and February and the extension of Halloween parties (like last year’s Boo Bash) into August and September. There’s a special reason (an EPCOT festival, holiday party, etc.) to visit Disney World during almost every month of the year now!
So is Free Dining even needed to entice guests to visit the parks anymore? Only time will tell if Disney decides that Free Dining is necessary to get more guests to visit and then brings this offer back.
There you have it! That’s a general look at the evolution of the Disney Dining Plan. Essentially, the number of plans offered has gone up, the offerings included in the plans have sometimes changed, the prices for the plans have increased, and what is included in each point or plan has also developed over time. Now, what could the future hold for the Dining Plan?
What Could the Future of the Dining Plan Hold?
So far Disney has indicated that the Dining Plan will return at some point in the future and that’s about IT. Disney hasn’t noted what the prices will be, how many plans will be available, what each plan will include, what the credits within each plan will include, etc.
Could prices increase again? We think it’s unlikely that Disney will just resurrect the exact prices for the 2020 plans for whenever the Dining Plan returns. Given the price increases we’ve seen on in various spots in Disney and the hundreds of price increases at restaurants in Disney World, it’s likely that prices will increase for the Dining Plan as well.
Will the future of the Disney Dining Plan feature new plan offerings or new plan structures? It’s certainly possible. We’ve seen the number of plans and their offerings change over the years. We could get less plans, more plans, or just plans with different mixes of offerings. More snack credits? Less snack credits? A snack credit only plan (hey, it could happen!)? There are a lot of possibilities for the future.
It’s possible that the future dining plans will have more offerings than the most recent ones, or that we’ll lose benefits from the most recent plans. There are a lot of questions here.
It’s also possible that the list of restaurants included could change. We’ve seen this list change over the years. Since the plan was suspended in 2020 we’ve also seen a number of changes come to Disney World’s restaurants. New spots (like Space 220) have opened up, and other spots (like Trail’s End Restaurant) have (at least temporarily) changed to family-style dining. Lunch is still not back to quick service at Be Our Guest, and character dining has not returned to select spots. Will more restaurants get added to the list or will some get taken away? Will more restaurants be placed under the 2-table-service-credits required Signature Dining level? It’s all possible.
Ultimately, the future of the Dining Plan has a number of unknowns. We’re looking for any and all updates regarding the Dining Plan and we’ll be sure to let you know of any updates.
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Do you use the Disney Dining Plan on your vacation? Let us know why or why not in the comments!