Managing Without the Disney Dining Plan

The DDP logo is on the Flower & Garden menu boards

Possibly the two main questions that I hear these days are “When is FastPass+ coming back?” and “How can I budget for food without the Disney Dining Plan?” I don’t know about the return of FastPass+, but I can give you a couple of tips on managing without the Disney Dining Plan.

First, there is something that I want to point out. The Disney Dining Plan was never meant to save you money. In most cases, it is not a good deal. Unless you book a lot of character meals you probably will pay more for your meals with the Disney Dining Plan than you would have paid out of pocket. You are paying for the convenience.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me assure you that you can have a wonderful vacation without the Disney Dining Plan. Budgeting for food is not really difficult. You can find all of the information that you need on the Walt Disney World website. Just check the menus for the restaurants that you are interested in. Not only will you find the food choices, you can see the prices. That will give you an idea of how much each meal will cost. Plan for a little more than the prices listed. That will give you flexibility. Remember to factor in tax and, if it’s a full service restaurant, the tip.

One great way to keep your meal spending under control is to buy Disney Gift Cards. After you look at the menus and add up the prices, buy a gift card for each day of your vacation. You can almost create your own Disney Dining Plan that way.

If you’re worried that you will overspend on meals, plan to do some sharing with someone else in your party. Enjoy a full entree, but split the appetizer and dessert. You’ll still have a full meal and won’t have missed anything, but those savings will add up.

Unofficially I’ve heard that the reason that the Disney Dining Plan isn’t currently offered is because not enough restaurants are open. Limited capacity is also a factor. It can be hard to get a dining reservation in some restaurants right now! It wouldn’t be fair to purchase a plan that includes full service dining, only to not be able to book any full service restaurants.

I do think that the Disney Dining Plan will return sooner rather than later. It’s still easy to find information about it, and the logo has not been removed. It’s even on the menu boards for Epcot’s festivals! It’s going to be a while until Free Dining returns; if it ever does. Free Dining has always been an incentive for the slower times of year, and right now people are flocking to Florida. With The World Most Magical Celebration starting on October 1 and lasting 18 months, I don’t think that we’ll have any “slow times” for a while. But as capacity is raised, more restaurants reopen, and more people can dine at one time, in my opinion the return of the Disney Dining Plan can’t be too far behind. I would be shocked if it’s not back by the end of the year.