The Disney Dining Plan, to do or to do not…

I have read various post on the Disney Dining Plan. Many for and many against the option. So where do I fall on the subject?

Well let me say I get the against crowd, honest I do, but I am really for the Disney Dining Plan, with some caveats.

Why do I like, maybe even love, the Disney Dining Plan?

I have been married 22 years this fall. We have 5 kids. There have been anywhere from 6 to 2 kids traveling with us on any one trip. (3 of my kids are married). I know that food takes up a HUGE portion of our budget. Our first two trips to Disney, one with 5 kids and one with 4 kids, we did not use the Disney Dining Plan. So I have done it with and without. Here are 5 things I have learned that I like about the Disney Dining Plan.

  1. I like to budget and know exactly what it cost. The Disney Dining Plus is added to our vacation and I can budget that cost.  I know that no matter what our meals are covered at that cost. There won’t be any unexpected surprises.
  2. I won’t be tempted to save money by skipping dining experiences. Lets face it for my family Disney is a lot about the food! And sometimes I can be too focused on the cost. With the dining plan it is covered and paid for so I know they, and me, will get that experience.
  3. It forces me to plan ahead. OK, so you can get the dining plan and not make reservations, but I do. I know where we are going to have all of our sit down meals before we leave the house. One less thing to worry about. I mean who doesn’t hate that conversation, “where do you want to eat?” ” No, where do you want to eat?” or the “I don’t care where we eat, let’s just find some place” and then not enjoy it. One less vacation pitfall taken out of the mix!
  4. You get to enjoy snacks! I am all for making my snack credits go as far as they can. When you start purchasing Mickey Bars for everyone those dollars start to add up. And who can go to Disney and not get a Mickey Bar? Oh, or a Dole Whip?? Oh and snacks count at the Food and Wine festival and the Flower and Garden Festival! Those are things I would probably pass on if I wasn’t on the dining plan!
  5. I try things I wouldn’t have tried before. OK, now here is a sticky point. The nay sayers are like, you are on vacation you would try those things! Nope, not me, I would look at the menu, look at the price and then determine if we are going or not. We often try new quick serves because we have the credits and are like ohhhh lets go here and see if we like it. Other wise my daughter and I may just snack on fruit from a food card. True story!

So are you for or against the dining plan? There are several things to take into account here.

  • You have to maximize your dining credit. That means that for the Disney Dining Plan, that is one sit down, one quick serve and two snacks you are paying about $70 for every night you stay per adult. That means about $35 to $45 or more for a sit down meal to make it worth it. One of our favorite places to eat is the Dinner buffet at 1900 Park Fare. It ranges in price from $35 to $59. Last time we ate there it was $42 per adult. That leaves about $28 for the two snacks and the quick serve meal. One of our favorites is Farefax Fare the pulled pork sandwich and drink comes to about $15. I am going to round up to figure in tax and it comes to about $57 for the quickserve and sit down. Then you have two snacks for that day. We try to use our snack credits for $5 or more. Since we go during the Food and Wine Festival, this isn’t a problem. Some snacks there are at $7. But say you just use it for a dole whip. I go for the Dole Whip Float which is $5.49. Oh and I probably could eat 2, they are delicious, but for argument sake lets say that and a Mickey Bar that is $4.69. All together that is 67.18. Now I didn’t add tax in there which would put you over the $70. So on that day I broke even. If we go to more expensive options you are saving money. If you opt for lesser you come under. You have to sit down and average it all out as well. I know, MATH! But let’s just say that If we maximize our sit down meals and don’t use our snacks for under a $3 snack we always seem to come out ahead!
  • Make those advanced dining reservations. You don’t want to be without those sit down meals. Many times these reservations fill up fast. You can exchange a sit down meal for a quick serve, but you would kind of lose money that way. Pick some new adventures in restaurants and try them out!
  • Disney offers 3 dining plans – the quick serve, the dining and the deluxe dining. The one I described here was the dining plan. It is what my family enjoys. If you think that your family won’t be into sit down meals or character dining try the quick serve. I am not sure who I would recommend the deluxe plan to. That is a whole lot of food. There are 3 meals a day, quick serve or table service. I don’t think I could eat that much! But if you are a foodie and have lots of places you want to try, go for it!
  • Don’t just go with everyone else’s opinions. Do your research. Menus and prices are posted online. I know I am not a math wiz, but it is just adding 🙂
  • Want to try the dining plan, but not pay for it? Try to get a reservation during free dining! This year it is in the fall, with the exception of October. You have to get tickets and resorts fill up fast for this one, but it is worth the free dining! Moderate and Value resorts offer the quick service dining plan for free, but you can pay the difference and upgrade to the Disney Dining. Deluxe resorts offer the Disney Dining.

All in all do what is right for you and your family. Different families have different needs. The same family can have different needs on different trips. But I would say that the dining plan is always something to consider!

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