Disney Dining Plan Calculator Spreadsheet

by 59 Comments

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest

This post was written by Joe Bouchard, a long time Disney fan who has visited Walt Disney World over 30 times. He and his wife (also a Disney lover) do a weekly YouTube show called See Ya Reel Soon.

One of the largest expenses when it comes to planning our Walt Disney World vacations has always been food. The cost for a family to eat at The World for a week can easily reach into the thousands of dollars. The sticker shock at each meal can even be an unpleasant experience to many guests. Balancing the cost with the enjoyment that dining out while on vacation can bring is often a challenge.

In 2005 Walt Disney World introduced its Dining Plan, an option that allowed guests to prepay a set amount in exchange for “credits” to be used at dining establishments throughout Walt Disney World property. The Disney Dining Plans have undergone many changes throughout the years and as the costs continue to rise many people, myself included, have started to question if it is the best option for them.

In 2009 after graduating college I planned my first trip to Walt Disney World as the primary planner, no longer tagging along with my parents. The planning was overwhelming to say the least. Whether it was when to go, where to stay, or how much to plan for each day it was a lot to digest. One way I found to ease some of the stress was to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. It made it easy for me to budget and let me focus more on planning the rest of our vacation. In the end it was a wonderful 2 weeks where I asked my now-wife to marry me during Wishes.

The next year as we were planning our Disneymoon, for the sake of saving time and minimizing stress I decided once again to get the Disney Dining Plan, after all this time we were offered “Free Dining”! It was great to order whatever we wanted on the menu, not worry about eating at more expensive restaurants and think to myself, “Wow this is free!” When the bill would come and I would see $70 for just the two of us it even made me feel like I was getting away with something.

It was in 2011 when we planned our next trip that I started to seriously budget. This time, I was more familiar with the costs of dining and started running the numbers, as I’m sure many others have. I mapped out where we planned to eat, looked at the menus, made some estimates and came out with a number quite a bit lower than what the Disney Dining Plan would cost. This got me thinking. Maybe the Disney Dining Plan wasn’t a good idea for us after all. Maybe we could save money by paying out of pocket for our meals.

Ever since then we have decided against the Disney Dining Plan. It just doesn’t mathematically work out for us. We are just 2 adults with no kids and we rarely eat dessert. This got me curious as to who the Disney Dining Plan benefits the most. To help me figure this out I started building a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel. It started out simple, but to be able to figure out as many variables as I wanted, the spreadsheet grew into thousands of complex formulas. The end result was a simple, user friendly spreadsheet that can be tailored specifically to each individual that uses it.

The calculator is quite simple to use. All you need to do is input the number of Adults and Children in your party along with where you plan to eat each meal. After that you choose from a few options such as how often you order drinks or desserts and what percentage you typically leave as a gratuity. After that, the boxes below will populate with estimated costs for you based on each of the 3 primary Disney Dining Plans as well as using no Dining Plan or if you qualify, using Tables in Wonderland.

A second tab of the spreadsheet will show you a list of your planned meals in descending order of expected costs, that way if you have more meals planned than you have credits to use, you know which are less expensive and you are therefore better paying for out of pocket.

The third and final tab is to benefit those who go during a time of the year when Walt Disney World offers “Free Dining”. It can often be tempting to take that offer but in order to get “Free Dining” you would have to pay rack rate for your hotel room and pass up any potential room discounts. This tab will help you decide which of those is more likely to save you the most money based on your specific itinerary.

Those who would like to test out this calculator, it is available to download for free on my website http://www.seeyareelsoon.wix.com/seeyareelsoon and there is also a video there that will walk you step by step through the entire process of using each tab.

So who, through my personal experiences, does the Disney Dining Plan benefit the most? The more children under age 10 that you have, the more the Disney Dining Plan starts to save you money. The Dining Plans are usually a great deal for kids. The cost for the plan is low for kids and the costs of many character meals and buffets are high. Also, those who eat Table Service meals for Dinner instead of Lunch can benefit, remember Dinner is often more expensive than Lunch, while requiring the same amount of credits.

Of course, there is also something to be said about it being prepaid. For many people, not having to look at the prices on the menu will allow them to be more relaxed and more carefree. If the Dining Plan doesn’t save money or even if it costs more money, the peace of mind while on vacation may be worth it. Dining at Walt Disney World can be an experience in and of itself. If you’re anything like me, some meals may be something you remember for years to come, whether it is the food, the atmosphere or both. Bon appétit!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
Posted on March 15, 2013

59 Responses to “Disney Dining Plan Calculator Spreadsheet”

  • Love the spreadsheet! We have two kids under 10 but the spreadsheet told us the DDP would cost us slightly more than OOP, apparently because we don’t get dessert at every meal, tend to do TS for lunch and tend to drink water. I can see how people might like it being prepaid but it’s actually less stress for me to budget to pay OOP than it is to figure out if this restaurant/cart is on the DDP, how many credits I have left, if I’m ordering the best meal to get my money’s worth, etc. Thanks to Joe and Ashley for putting this together! Hope touringplans will buy it and make it part of the subscription service :)

  • For folks where the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t make much sense, you may want to consider whether or not the cost of a Tables in Wonderland card might help out. 20% off, including on Alcohol, can be a pretty significant discount over the course of a trip. You’ll have to do the math to find out if your savings is worth the cost of the card, though. But if you like to eat at very nice restaurants, it can pay for itself. For example, one meal at Victoria & Albert’s can pay for the card, and then you’re eating at a discount the rest of your trip! Disney Vacation Club members will be getting a discount on TIW soon as well, which may make it an even more compelling offer!

    • by JoeBoucharf on March 15, 2013, at 1:03 pm EDT

      Good point Rob! And a bonus is that this spreadsheet will also calculate Tables in Wonderland for those who are eligible! Only thing it won’t do is estimate alcohol. But you can always just estimate what you would spend on alcohol and add that to the TiW estimation!

      • It’s a great resource you’ve build, Joe! I’ll likely consult it for my 2014 trip back to WDW. As DVC members, it’ll be a tough call between the cost savings of TIW vs. the convenience of the DDP.

        I did find out, though, that you can use BOTH. TIW can be used to cover any charges (like alcohol) that aren’t included in your DDP purchase. For some people, a DDP Quick Service plan combined with TIW might be an interesting tactic. As DVC members, we get TIW for only $100, so we could come out ahead very quickly.

        • Rob, the closer you get to your trip make sure to check back for an updated copy. I have been trying to update it as often as possible…it’s a bit difficult living thousands of miles away. But any major restaurant/menu or price changes I try to get updated within a few days. I also put the date I update it on the site next to the download so you know if a new copy is out or not.

  • Glad to see this spreadsheet getting the recognition it deserves!

  • This is the nerdiest/most awesome thing I’ve seen all day, and I look at a LOT of nerdy/awesome things. Well done, and thank you.

  • by Patrick Watts on March 15, 2013, at 1:38 pm EDT

    This is simultaneously insane and awesome. Great work.

    I’d love to see a (not so minor) addition. Instead of picking every single restaurant, let me choose TS/CS/CSSig for each meal and plug in the median amount

    Or, a “random” button that just throws values in. (“Flame Tree Barbecue for breakfast!!”)

    • Patrick, I understand your idea however I’m not sure about implementing it. I agree that it would be fun to randomize and mess around with it, however it would take quite a bit of work to implement it and this was just something I created in my spare time. Sorry! Maybe someday though!

  • Thank you so much! I am planning my family’s first trip to WDW next year. We are two adults, 1 child and 1 infant. The Dining plan has been making me crazy. Do I get, do I not, arg! This is so awesome!

    Jenn
    NYC

    • Have fun! It is such a magical place! Remember that the calculator doesn’t account for infants…i’m not sure how to implement them into it to be honest. If they are going to do more than eat off of your plate, you’ll want to account for that but I believe they are free at buffets/family style meals.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! The Meal Plan is something that we have gone back and forth about. This really put things in perspective and made it very clear which is the best route for us (2 adults + 1 child = WAY cheaper to pay out of pocket)!

  • Thanks for the work on this. We’ve been using the DDP for a while becsuse it was a no-brainer when it included tip and appetizers but not so much any more. I liked not having to look at prices and telling the kids to order steak or whatever they want at every meal. This will help us decide before our August vacation.

  • I LOVE this spreadsheet. Finally someone with a crazier sheet than the ones I’ve tried to come up with. One question though, when were the prices updated? I came up with significanly higher costs for tickets (spreadsheet said $592 for 2 adults, 1 child, 6 days – I computed $869 based on published prices)? Also, some of the buffet meals seam to be higher when I take the published price (from allears) and compute for 2 adults and 1 child than what shows up in the spreadsheet? I have tried to compensate by selecting “High” on sheet one, but this does not seem to change those numbers at all. Anyway, just a few questions. Overall, I love the spreadsheet and the video!

    • Pam, A few things. The ticket prices are accurate (just double checked) so let me walk you through to make sure you are getting the correct results. On the “Primary User Input Sheet’ tab, make sure you have 2 adults and 1 child selected in the upper left. Then on the Free Dining or Resort Discounts tab, select “6″ in row 20 (the number of days on the tickets). By doing that I get a result of $869.04 in the “Option 6″ box which matches the published price you posted above. As for individual meals, do you have an examples where you are finding a higher published price somewhere else (for example Chef Mickeys breakfast)? They are updated as regularly as I see they have changed.

      • My mistake, I had entered 2 adults and 1 child, but somehow between the time i first did it, and then finished, the 1 child got dropped. Now that i double checked all the initial information, ALL the other numbers are working out now. Even the meal prices (which apparently did not include the child meal, and now do). I’m also getting the correct ticket price now. So sorry. Again, I LOVE this spreadsheet. Thanks for helping me.

  • I cannot open the dinning calculator. I even tried to open it on my phone. It told me that the server didn’t regocnize it. HELP Please! I would really like to check it out.

    • Jennifer, I have gotten some feedback from people using Internet Explorer that the browser doesn’t always work. I have heard great things about Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari though. If you still can’t get it to work you can email us at seeyareelsoon@gmail.com and we can send you a copy!

  • Love the spreadsheet, it’s super helpful! We’ve done some dining cost analysis in the past, but none this detailed.

    Question – is there a Numbers version for us Mac folks?

    • Carolyn, Unfortunately ‘Numbers’ (or Google Docs version) doesn’t have compatibility with the complex formulas used in the spreadsheet. It is only compatable with Microsoft Excel which is where it was built. You can download a free trial of Microsoft Office for Mac on their website. We did that when we got our new Mac before buying the actual Office Suite.

  • This is truly awesome. Thank you for taking your personal time to create this resource.

  • I could never understand why people would say that the DDP was a rip off, but then again my husband and I having 2 children under ten most likely explains that… I loved using your calculator! According to you, I will be saving $89.03 by using the DDP. Makes me happy!

  • by Just some guy on March 16, 2013, at 11:13 am EDT

    Thank you. Again, this is exactly the kind of excellent information, well-researched and useful, that I read the books and use this site for.

  • Joe, I love love love your episodes of See Ya Reel Soon!! They are so informative and always bring a smile to my face! But who ever wrote your introduction for this blog misspelled “reel”. It’s “reel” and not “real”. Unless I’m mistaken. :)

    • Aw glad you enjoy them! We can’t believe how many people have subscribed and watched our videos in such a short amount of time. I’m glad we are helping people learn something new while also making them smile! And looks like the ‘Reel’ was corrected! :-)

      • the calculator is too low for out of pocket expenses. 3 ppl dining at park faire, it says $35.00 oop. snacks calculated on the high side add up to only about $3.00 per snack.

  • I found this a few weeks ago and LOVE it. I have always thought that we saved money with the plan, but now that my oldest of 3 is a Disney adult, I have begun to question myself. The spreadsheet showed that we saved money using the dining plan and we saved a TON of money getting free dining over the room only discount. I tried several times to run the numbers, but they were always very rough estimates. I love that this gives me firm numbers and provides all the different scenarios.

    • Do you mind me asking how you found it? I can’t believe the amount of people who already had found it in some way or another without us putting it anywhere but on the Chat area of TouringPlans to share with fellow TP users. We are getting emails and questions from all around the world! Glad it is helping you!

  • Is it available for iPhone? I LOVE this spreadsheet but want to take it mobile. App form would be lovely!

  • LOVE this calculator. I especially love that you include TiW as part of the calculation. I have been hemming and hawing over whether to get QSDP for an upcoming trip. The calculator helped confirm that, as I suspected, QSDP would not be a good choice.

  • I found your video about a week ago after doing a search on one of the Disney boards. We are talking about going again and this year seems a little light on the “free dining” packages. So we are looking at OOP for the first time and I wanted to see if anyone had figure out the secret.
    Thanks for your hard work doing this.
    I had one question/comment. I used last year’s dining as a model for where/when we would likely go again, but even with the dining plan we didn’t use 4 credits every time. Sometimes, we shared meals. Is there any way to do this on the spreadsheet – to split up the credits? So that for every meal, the user would have to input the number of credits used. I am sure this is a lot more work than it sounds.

  • Excellent article and spreadsheet; thank you very much!!

  • Hi!
    Thanks for your hard work!! Could you please email the spreadsheet to me. I am on a MAC and I can’t get it to open-from this link-I have tried a couple of times. We have microsoft office on our MAC :).

    Thanks so much!

  • I love your spreadsheet too. We have always used the Deluxe Plan for the convenience of it, and never really crunched the numbers on how much it cost because we do almost all table service meals. This year our twins are 10, so they count as adults. We just got back from and 8 day trip and I was wondering how much this change hurt us. As it turns out, because they are big eaters, we probably broke even with the DDP vs. OOP. In hind sight, if we were paying OOP we may not have ordered as much or as high priced of items, but I feel we got our money’s worth.

    One small note though, the Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom does serve breakfast, but it’s not an option on your sheet.

    Thanks again!

  • I am looking forward to playing with this later. The fact that there is a 20 minute video tutorial scares me a little though. We have decided we are not doing the DDP on our next trip, but I am curious to see the numbers spelled out. Maybe it would be worth it for a future trip.
    Oh… assuming this will convert over to OpenOffice? We don’t actually run Excel at home. Hmm..

  • Great article! We’ve done Disney with and without the dining plan and have decided that unless we are loading up on character meals, like our last trip, it really isn’t worth it for us. We are headed back in August and will be purchasing a TIW card. We don’t really eat dessert with meals and would much rather enjoy an appetizer or glass of wine with table service meals. Thank you for linking the spreadsheets, I will be crunching numbers to see if my theory is correct!

  • Hi, This is a great idea, thank you for coming up with this, just one question,I don’t get the drop down menu on the dinner column?

  • My wife just left you a comment via your website, but I wanted to add…I am not the brightest bulb in the socket, but I am looking forward to using it over the next 18 days to help narrow down my ADRs for our December trip!

    You have fed her obsession with numbers, and are helping me understand how to plan a most fabulous time! Partnered with our Touring Plan, this should give us maximum time doing what we want, while helping us determine the best places and times to grab something to eat!

    I enjoy the YouTube videos, and will see ya again, real soon!

  • I worked at the Disney Reservation Center back in the mid-90s when a lot of these plans were being developed. The first thing that I have to say is that almost NO bundle that is offered by WDW is to save money. For the guest, it’s to simplify. For the company, it’s to generate revenue. Most people never ever use all that the bundles offer.

    From the grandfather of this program (The Deluxe Plan), there have only been a couple of times during very depressed economical circumstances when the plan was designed to actually save anyone money. The only way that I found that you could actually benefit from the plan was to eat at a full dining restaurant for three meals a day. That automatically takes between 3 and 4 hours out of your park experience – and that’s IF you can actually secure reservations (priority seatings?) at the restaurants that you desire. The current dining plans are a bit more refined with options for fast food. That’s an improvement. Thanks for posting this!

  • Is there a way to get the spreadsheet without having to sign into the Wix website first?

  • This blog post got a shout out from Len on WDWToday Episode #1213 on July 10, 2013. I had just been talking to a colleague from work the evening before about running the numbers before just thinking the Dining Plan is a good idea. So tonight, I downloaded it and played around with it. I love that it includes Tables In Wonderland! I was really surprised at how little it seemed to be saving me in the planning stage vs. the actuals I have experienced. Then it hit me. There is no allowance for “adult beverages” in the mix. I might hack the sheet to include something like number of bottles of wine, and number of cocktails/beers per adult per day.

    LOVE IT!!!!

    Regardless of using this to decide which plan or pay out of pocket, this is a great budgeting tool!!!!!

  • Hi…this is great. Do you know if there is an updated version of the calcualtor?

  • I think this is awesome.
    However, I am one of those who always gets the dining plan, for non-financial reasons. We always travel with the in-laws or my folks. Putting everyone on the dining plan means that the always awkward pre-meal debate is completely avoided. My retired father-in-law always wants to pay for every meal, and I don’t want him to pay for any, as they are our Guests. If it is all pre-paid, there is no argument to have at all. I let them buy the kids WDW toys and trinkets instead.
    Now, if we were ever travelling by ourselves, sans grandparents, yeah, I would do the math.

  • I wish I saw this before making my own spreadsheet. We did Disney dining once when we stayed in a hotel room at Disney. All the other times we stayed in the DVC. I love the ease of Disney Dining but that was a lot of food. My kids can share a kids meal with some let over, I rarely need dessert and when at Be Our Guest I found a bowl of soup and a cupcake was plenty for dinner (my daughter and I shared the cupcake). If you are a foodie or want to do a lot of character dining then the plan seems to be a good option. But don’t forget about even though the dining plan is covered by your credits you still have tips to fork out. If you are there for a week and have a family of 4, that is 7 table meals (costing about 100 dollars each) which will mean at least another 140 dollars in tips.

  • Hey there this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if
    blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted
    to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would
    be greatly appreciated!

    Stop by my website; Casual Sex Long Beach