What Happened to the Disney Dining Plan?

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World Food

If you’re missing the Disney Dining Plan, you aren’t alone! We’re breaking down what happened to this popular vacation add-on – and how you can still save money on food at Walt Disney World.

UPDATE: The Disney Dining Plan will be returning in 2024. You can read more details on its return here.

When planning a visit to Walt Disney World, the costs add up fast when you’re purchasing park tickets, making hotel reservations, and paying for airfare. But there’s another major expense that comes with a Disney vacation: dining. While there are many different dining options available, trying to budget for every meal can be tough – which is why the Disney Dining Plan was so popular with Guests!

The Disney Dining Plan was a popular add-on to Walt Disney World vacation packages and resort stays. It allowed visitors both choices and flexibility, and best of all, it packed a lot of value for its price. But if you’ve started planning a Disney World trip recently, you’ve probably noticed that the Disney Dining Plan is no longer available.

If you’ve been wondering what happened to the Disney Dining Plan – and if you’ll ever be able to purchase a dining plan again – we’ve got the answer! Below, we’re breaking down why the Disney Dining Plan is no longer available, what alternatives exist, and our best tips for saving and sticking to a budget for all of your Disney World meals.

What is the Disney Dining Plan? 

Mickey-Shaped Pretzel at Magic Kingdom

The Disney Dining Plan included meals, drinks, and even snacks! Photo by Cliff Wang

The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is (well, technically was) a prepaid dining package. There were multiple dining plans available to choose from, and each offered a set number of meals and snacks at certain types of restaurants per day, bundled together for one convenient price

Depending on the exact Disney Dining Plan purchased, Guests could prepay for full meals. The plans were pretty extensive, including everything from an appetizer to an entree to dessert (and even drinks!). Plus, the plans also included snacks and a free refillable mug for each Guest. 

When you purchased a Disney Dining Plan for your vacation, you’d get a certain amount of credits, per person, per day for your trip. How you used those credits was totally up to you – which means you could get some flexibility out of your meals and try everything from quick service spots to the best fine dining places. Even the most popular restaurants across Walt Disney World Resort were included in the Disney Dining Plan!  Signature restaurants at Walt Disney World used to count as two table service credits, while table service restaurants counted as one credit. 

Best of all, though, purchasing a Disney Dining Plan package allowed Guests to save about 30 percent on food

Why Isn’t the Disney Dining Plan Available? 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Disney Dining Plan was available to purcahse as an add-on to any Walt Disney World vacation purchased through Disney. However, when the pandemic ended and Walt Disney World’s theme parks, resorts, and more reopened, the Disney Dining Plan never returned

Initially, it seemed like the Disney Dining Plan would return, but it’d need a little more time to get up and running once again. In fact, back in 2021, Disney did announce that dining plans would be back soon. However, no more information was ever released. 

Now, it’s looking like the Disney Dining Plan may never return – at least not in its original form.

While we don’t know why Disney hasn’t reintroduced its popular dining plan, but we imagine it involves the financial impact of COVID-19. Though Walt Disney World Resort is open once again, the effects of the closure are still felt throughout The Walt Disney Company. But, we’re hopeful that maybe one day, the Disney Dining Plan will return!

How to Save Money Without the Disney Dining Plan

While we’re still eagerly awaiting the possible return of the Disney Dining Plan in any form, it’s important to plan ahead if you’re hoping to save money on all of your meals during trips to Walt Disney World. Fortunately, there are other ways to save on dining – and we’re excited to share six of our favorite ways to keep meals budget-friendly without relying on a dining plan. 

1. Take Advantage of the Disney Dining Promo Card

Visiting Disney in 2023? You’re in luck! A new promotion was announced in early 2023, which gives Guests who stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel a Disney Dining Promo Card loaded with money to pay for food. 

How do you earn a Disney Dining Promo Card? Guests need to travel between the dates of June 25 and 30, July 11 and 31, July 1 and 10, or August 1 and September 14, 2023. Depending on the resort you choose to stay at, you can get anywhere between $35 per night and $150 per night in dining credit (or cash). All stays must be at least four nights long. 

For example, if you stay at a value resort for four nights, you’re looking at a Disney Dining Promo Card that’s worth $140 (and that’s the starting number!). At a moderate resort, you can get a promo card starting at $300; at a deluxe resort, you can get $500 or more. The amount of dining credit or cash loaded onto your promo card will vary depending on the length of your stay, number of guests, and other key booking details.

That’s a lot of free dining money you can take advantage of. In fact, if you plan your meals right, you might not even have to pay for dining during your trip! 

2. Use Annual Passholder, Disney Vacation Club, and Disney Rewards Visa Dining Discounts 

Annual Passholder Entrance Walt Disney World Featured Helms

Don’t forget to use your Annual Pass discount when you dine! Photo by Judd Helms

This might seem like a no-brainer, but some people don’t know they’re entitled to some major discounts at Walt Disney World restaurants! If you happen to have a membership within certain Disney programs, you could save anywhere from 10 to 20 percent on the cost of food and drinks when you visit restaurants across the theme parks, hotels, Disney Springs, and more.

Walt Disney World Annual Passholders get between 10 and 20 percent off the price of food and nonalcoholic beverages. This also includes most restaurants in Disney Springs and at the resorts. 

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members receive the same discount as Annual Passholders: 10 to 20 percent off of food and nonalcoholic beverages resort-wide. 

Disney Rewards Visa Card members are also entitled to discounts at Walt Disney World for dining. While not all restaurants are included, Guests can find a select list of restaurants that offer discounts for those who present a valid Disney Rewards Visa card online. 

3. Eat at Quick Service Locations

There are so many different dining options available to choose from throughout Walt Disney World Resort. While it’s tempting to want to spend every meal at the most in-demand dining spots and treat yourself to an incredible signature dining experience, you don’t have to go big – and you definitely don’t have to spend a ton to eat well. 

Not every night of a Disney World vacation requires a visit to a table service or signature restaurant. Why not try a quick service location instead? While most people think fast food when they think quick service, Disney has taken some of these options to the next level. By choosing quick service restaurants over other, pricier options, you’ll be able to save money and enjoy some delicious food. And, as an added bonus, you don’t need a reservation! 

Bar Riva and Primo Piatto at Disney’s Riviera Resort are great examples of this. The food at these two quick service spots is anything but fast food, and it’s sometimes even served on proper plates. Plus, the atmosphere of both locations is classy and fun. 

4. Create Your Own Dining Plan

While the official Disney Dining Plan isn’t available, you can actually create a dining plan of your very own prior to your next vacation. Sure, it’s not conveniently prepaid and bundled with your vacation package, but it can help you easily stick to a budget and avoid overspending! 

Map out what types of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you prefer. You can also set a budget per meal, per person that will help you select which restaurants to visit. And if you’re into snacking throughout the day, you can set a daily budget for the types of snacks you like to enjoy.

For example, maybe you decide to do a quick service breakfast, skip lunch, and a table-service dinner. You also decide that you’ll have two snacks during the day to hold you over. This manages your expectations of where to go and what you expect to spend money on. It also allows you to make any necessary reservations in advance, which can be hugely helpful as you plan out each day at the parks.

Of course, tastes change when you actually get to the theme parks or wander throughout the resort. But ultimately, having some type of game plan will help you keep to a budget and know where you’ll be stopping for each meal. 

5. Have Character Meals for Breakfast

Character breakfast at Topolino's Terrace

Character breakfasts at Topolino’s Terrace are a great budget choice. Photo courtesy of Disney

Traditionally, character meals are more expensive at Walt Disney World – after all, they’re a meal and an experience in one! But there’s actually a difference between opting for a character breakfast versus a character dinner.

Character breakfasts are typically cheaper than character dinners. Take Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, for example. A character dinner is $59 per adult, plus tax and gratuity. A character breakfast, however, is only $45 per adult, plus tax and gratuity. You’ll save $14 per adult and still be able to see your favorite characters!

Always keep character breakfast buffets in mind, too. These are one of the most cost effective choices if you’re looking for a special dining experience, since they tend to be less expensive than dinner and offer an unlimited amount of food. 

6. Find Other Ways to Pay 

Instead of pulling out your credit cards or cash at Walt Disney World, you can save money by opting for alternative – and potentially cheaper! – methods. Here are a few options that may offer more bang for your buck:

  • Buy discounted gift cards. Warehouse clubs like Costco often offer Disney gift cards at a discounted rate. If you buy these discounted gift cards, you’ll pay less as you use them for your meals and snacks! The savings are small, but they can add up in bulk.
  • Use Disney Dollar Rewards from your Disney Visa. If you’re a Disney Rewards Visa Cardholder, you can turn your points into straight Disney cash! You’ll earn additional rewards every time you swipe your card at Walt Disney World, and if you have points banked prior to a trip, you can cash them out and use your points as rewards dollars to pay for food and more.
  • Cash in credit card points. While a Disney Rewards Visa is great for Disney-specific rewards, you can also save money by turning other credit card rewards points into spending money. For example, if you have points saved up on a card like the Chase Sapphire, you can convert the points into cash (which will apply right to your statement) or into gift cards that can be used for your food costs on vacation.

For more tips to save money without the Disney Dining Plan, keep reading:

Staying On-Property and On-Budget at Value Resorts

How to Have a Romantic Date Night at Magic Kingdom On a Budget

Posts by Jenn Marrazzo

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Jennifer Marrazzo is a writer and adjunct professor and knows way too many facts about Disney and cruises. She’s a DVC Member and WDW Annual Passholder and has a vast collection of Disney merchandise from Beauty and the Beast to Baby Yoda. Jennifer has her own blog, The Happiest Travels on Earth, where she offers reviews and tips for Disney and cruises!
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Authored by
Jenn Marrazzo

Jennifer Marrazzo is a writer and adjunct professor and knows way too many facts about Disney and cruises. She’s a DVC Member and WDW Annual Passholder and has a vast collection of Disney merchandise from Beauty and the Beast to Baby Yoda. Jennifer has her own blog, The Happiest Travels on Earth, where she offers reviews and tips for Disney and cruises!
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