The Lack of the Dining Plan Has CHANGED How Guests Eat at Disney World

Eating in Disney World is…different right now.

Mickey eggs!

Some restaurants still haven’t reopened, others have changed from their regular buffet-style service to family-style meals, the Tables in Wonderland service has been suspended, and character dining isn’t quite what it used to be (though that should be changing soon!). But perhaps the biggest dining change that has lasted for quite some time now is that the Disney Dining Plan is unavailable. No pre-paying for all of your vacations’ meals, no snack credits, NADA. So, we wondered, has the lack of the Dining Plan CHANGED how YOU eat in Disney World? We reached out to our wonderful readers via Facebook with this question and their answers might surprise you!

What’s Going On?

If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Disney Dining Plan is basically a plan that guests pre-purchased ahead of their trips. These Dining Plans could be added to Disney Vacation Packages (meaning the guests must be staying on a Vacation Package at a Disney owned-and-operated hotel and must have purchased at least 1 park ticket per person).

With the Dining Plan, guests got a certain amount of “credits” that could be used at different restaurants per day. There are credits that can be used at quick service meals, credits for table service meals, and snack credits (and certain combinations of credits you can do for certain things).

Disney Dining Plan Options | 2020

Basically, by getting the Dining Plan, guests were able to pre-pay for much of their food costs, and then simply show up to Disney World and “redeem” those credits when they ate at the restaurants. For some, it took away the stress of paying for meals at Disney World since everything was paid for in advance. The Dining Plan was also a set cost — in other words, it didn’t matter if you got the most expensive entree or the cheapest entree when eating at a particular spot — it would all cost the same on the Plan.

But, for many families the Dining Plan simply wasn’t a good deal as it included too much food (beyond what the family would realistically eat) or just wasn’t a good value. Many families could actually save money (depending on their eating habits) by simply eating how they normally would, splitting meals, etc. rather than filling up on the Dining Plan.

Price Comparison | 2020

After the pandemic-related closures and reopenings, the Disney Dining Plan was temporarily suspended. It has been unavailable since then. But, back in June of 2021, Disney confirmed that the Disney Dining Plan WILL return at some point in the future.

Disney hasn’t shared exactly when it will return, what it will look like when it returns, what the prices will be, or other details, so we’re on the lookout for that. Check out some of our posts about the Dining Plan below:

Disney Dining Plan Shirt

Until the Dining Plan’s return, guests have had to survive without it in the parks. That got us wondering…has the lack of the Dining Plan CHANGED how people approach eating in the parks? We reached out to all of you wonderful readers via Facebook and got LOTS of responses, some of which might be a little shocking to you (depending on your stance on the Dining Plan). Here’s what you had to say:

Yes, It Has Changed Things…But Not Always in a Bad Way

MANY of our readers said that the lack of the Dining Plan has changed their eating habits in Disney World, sometimes in a not-so-good way, but sometimes in a great way!

“We Wish the Dining Plan Would Come Back”

In our first group, we have those who said that the lack of the Dining Plan has changed their eating in Disney World, but NOT in a good way. These folks WANT the Dining Plan to come back A.S.A.P.

Some shared that the lack of the Dining Plan has made them think differently about what to order or where to eat. One reader said that they found their family isn’t ordering what they really want or isn’t eating where they really want to in the interest of saving money. That reader said that the change has added a lot more stress to their trip. Many others felt the same way.

House-made Artisanal-style Duck À L’Orange Pizza from California Grill

One reader shared that with the Dining Plan, they did a character meal almost every day to break up park time and get some much-needed air conditioning. But that isn’t the case now that the Dining Plan is gone.

Another reader shared that same sentiment, saying that they would try to do a character meal every day with the Dining Plan, but now that it’s gone, they skip character meals and opt for some tasty Counter Service options instead.

Another said that they only did 2 Table Service meals during their past trip and stuck to Counter Service for the rest. They shared that it saved them time and money, but they missed the convenience of having things pre-paid.

MICKEY(!!) at Chef Mickey’s

In terms of changing where they eat or what they eat, other readers said that the Dining Plan allowed them to eat at places they probably wouldn’t choose now. Another said that the Dining Plan totally “spoiled” them and allowed them to have some seriously SWANKY dinners. But now that it’s gone, they’re hesitant to order the most expensive thing on the menu.

Another said that they enjoyed sitting down and not having to worry about the price of the steak that they really wanted to eat. They shared that they’ll be ordering a LOT of appetizers this trip (instead of going for those more expensive items) because it “hurts to see the total on that check!” We feel that! 😂

Again, remember that the Dining Plan was a set price that included certain credits redeemable for specific types of meals or snacks. So if a spot cost 1 table service credit, that 1 credit could get you a pricey menu item (let’s say a fancy steak) or it could get you the cheapest menu item (oftentimes a plant-based item) — the choice was yours, but certainly to get the most “value” out of the plan, ordering the more expensive items was the way to go.

Miso Glazed Salmon from Grand Floridian Cafe

Others made similar comments, sharing that the Dining Plan gave them the “flexibility” to try items that they would have normally thought twice about ordering. Another said that the lack of the Dining Plan made them “less adventurous” when it comes to their dining choices. One said that they “miss the freedom of having the table service credits and not worrying about what you order.”

For many, the lack of the Dining Plan has forced them to focus a lot more on budgeting and planning. One reader said that because of the lack of the Dining Plan, they ate a lot less and only opted for 1 Table Service restaurant. They skipped appetizers, shared dessert, split meals, and made other choices to help better budget and plan for their trip.

Burger to the Moon from Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

Another shared that they plan their Table Service meals a LOT more carefully now. And yet another reader said that they opted for fewer of the pricey snacks in the parks, skipped dessert, and opted to get tea in their refillable mugs for breakfast instead of their normal OJ, all due to the lack of the dining plan.

Several readers also shared that they’s turned to Disney gift cards as a sort-of pseudo replacement for the Dining Plan. Some shared that they pre-load gift cards with set amounts and then use that to pay for their meals, giving them some sense of having “pre-paid” and budgeted for their meals, without the full Dining Plan effect.

Princesses Gift Card

A big response we heard repeated over and over again was that the lack of the Dining Plan took away some of the “magic” of not having to look at prices during the trip. One shared that having meals paid for up-front made Disney feel more like an all inclusive vacation.

Another said that the Dining Plan was great because you didn’t have to look at prices and that took some of the stress out of mealtime. One reader said that part of their vacation was NOT looking at prices, and the lack of the Dining Plan has obviously changed that feeling for them.

Gotta Count Every Penny

Some readers said that the lack of the Dining Plan has encouraged them to eat off property or otherwise bring snacks. Some said that they plan to pack their own lunches and take their own food into the parks to save money on meals. Another said that they use Instacart (a delivery service that can get food delivered to your hotel from local grocery stores) to get food for breakfast and snacks.

But, the temporary suspension of the Dining Plan hasn’t always equaled sadness for all of our readers.

“Actually Not Having the Dining Plan Has Made Things BETTER”

Some actually shared that the fact that the Dining Plan is gone for now has made things BETTER for them in Disney World.

One said that they’ve made more reservations for their upcoming vacation because they’re no longer confined to the credits available in their plan (Of course, guests could always make more reservations, even while on the Dining Plan, and simply pay out of pocket once their credits were all used up, but some guests may not have wanted to do this before in an effort to make sure that they weren’t spending more than what they had already pre-paid for).

Dinner Spread at Boma

Another said that they’re no longer trying to “maximize” their credits on the Dining Plan (a.k.a. trying to get the best value out of each and every point by ordering the most expensive snacks and meals, etc.). Instead, they shared that their family feels like they can now eat wherever they want and however they want. This particular reader said that not having the Dining Plan has allowed them to try places and entrees they would not have tried on the Dining Plan.

Several others felt the same way. One said that they no longer feel “pressured” to get ALL the snacks or eat so much. They even said that they like NOT having the Dining Plan better than being on the Dining Plan. They shared that they miss the paying-up-front aspect of it, but expressed that it wasn’t much of a value for them.

We love you, ‘Ohana noodles

Another reader said that they’ve been able to try so many more things because they aren’t so FULL from all of the Table Service meals (they noted that their family used to purchase the Deluxe Dining Plan, which came with credits for 3 table service meals or quick service meals).

Another said that they don’t overeat now because they don’t feel like they HAVE to get the most expensive meals to get their money’s worth out of the Plan.

One person said that because of the lack of the Dining Plan, they didn’t feel like they “had” to eat more food than they wanted because it was part of the Plan. And, based on the 2017 prices, they said that they saved around $600 by NOT using the Dining Plan.

Maybe the Lack of the Dining Plan Meals You’ll Skip the Milkshake?

Other readers also noted that not being on the Dining Plan saved them money. Some shared that they now feel able to just make meals out of the appetizer and kids menus, compared to the Dining Plan where they said that they feel they “wasted” a lot of food.

Another said that not having the Dining Plan changed things in a good way for them because they don’t eat food when they don’t want to, whereas with the Dining Plan they felt like they had to eat all the time so as to not waste the credits. They shared that this change has actually given them the ability to spend more time in the parks without having to spend all day thinking about where and what they’ll eat to “maximize” the credits.

Not really sure about this “maximizing your credits” stuff? Click here to find out more

Nope, It Hasn’t Changed Anything!

For some, the lack of the Dining Plan hasn’t changed a thing! One shared that they just pay at the time of the meal instead of pre-paying for the Dining Plan in advance, simple as that.

Another said that it hasn’t changed their eating habits and they still do at least 1 Table Service meal every day (sometimes more than once a day!), and have snacks whenever! They also shared that Mobile Ordering has made that process easier for them now.

Mom’s Favorites at 50s Prime Time Cafe

Others shared that the Dining Plan being suspended hasn’t changed anything because they never really saw the value of the Dining Plan to begin with. One said that the Dining Plan didn’t appeal to them because they felt like it would force you to eat (again, similar to that feeling some said earlier about having to use their credits). They also said that trying to figure out how to get the best value out of everything sounded too stressful.

Several readers said that they stopped buying the Dining Plan several trips ago. Quite a few said that it was simply too much food for them. One reader shared that since they stopped using the Dining Plan a while ago, they’ve simply linked their credit card to their MagicBands and given their older kids a budget for spending each day.

ABC Commissary Meal

Another said that while they loved the Dining Plan, they were prepared for it NOT to return for their latest trip. So, instead, they started saving up and buying Disney Gift Cards to use for their meals and that plan worked out perfectly for them!

Another shared that for years before the Dining Plan’s temporary suspension they had already been relying on other things like getting Disney gift cards at a discount wherever possible, using Disney Vacation Club discounts on eligible food items, and ordering what they wanted, instead of what credits would include/require.

Some mentioned the Free Disney Dining Plan offers and said that those were the only times when their eating habits would have changed.

A feast from Satu’li Canteen

One reader shared that they stopped using the Dining Plan years ago because they found it too complicated and hard to use. Another said that they also never liked the Dining Plan because they didn’t like being restricted to it, having to figure out how many credits they have, being worried about not using the credits in time, etc. They shared that they like going with the flow.

And yet another reader said that the lack of the Dining Plan hasn’t changed their trip plans. Instead, for them, the delicious dining options at Disney is one of the reasons they keep coming back!

Click here to see our list of the 19 BEST restaurants in Disney World in 2022

It’s Changed Things, But in a More Unique Way

For some families, the lack of the Dining Plan has changed things, but not necessarily just related to dining.

A few readers shared that they either almost didn’t plan their trip this year because of the lack of the Dining Plan, or that they decided NOT to take their trip this year because the Dining Plan isn’t back yet.

Mickey Pretzels

Other said that the lack of the Dining Plan hasn’t changed how they eat, but it has changed where they decide to stay. Some shared that they chose to stay off-property because they can’t get the dining plan so that took away some of the reason why they’d stay on property. Another said that they’re looking at value resorts primarily because of the lack of the Dining Plan and they way Free Dining used to be offered for guests from the U.K.

Another said that the lack of the Dining Plan actually made it easier to justify staying in a Club Level room, which can come with its own unique perks.

All-Star Sports Resort

One said that it didn’t change their plans, but it did feel like a bit of a harder jab when they saw the bill and had to pay it right there (instead of paying for the Dining Plan). They fully admitted that the Plan might not save you money, but that it felt nicer to pay upfront.

A few readers weren’t concerned about the lack of the Dining Plan, but were less than pleased that Tables in Wonderland hasn’t returned! Tables in Wonderland was a special discount dining program that was open to Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Florida Residents. It provided members with a discount on food and beverages at over 100 spots throughout Disney World. But Tables in Wonderland cards expired back in 2021 and the program is suspended at the moment (no new cards are for sale).

Adult Buttermilk Chicken from Olivia’s Cafe

And that’s a look at our readers’ responses. For some, the lack of the Dining Plan has meant BIG dining changes in Disney World (and not in a happy way). For others, the change has actually been a positive one! And still for others there’s been no change at all or the change has been a bit more unique.

So…how has the lack of the Disney Dining Plan changed your eating in Disney World? Or has it not changed things for you at all? Tell us in the comments!

Again, the Dining Plan is set to return at some point in the future, but Disney hasn’t shared an official return date. Be sure to check back with us for all of the latest updates!

Click here to learn about 15 cheap but filling Disney World snacks for when you’re ballin’ on a budget!

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What do you think? Has the lack of the Dining Plan changed how you eat? Tell us in the comments!

The post The Lack of the Dining Plan Has CHANGED How Guests Eat at Disney World first appeared on the disney food blog.