Dining Plan Decisions

Today is another repost of another contribution of a MousePlanet article that I would like to share about to do or not to do the Disney Dining Plan.  However, I would like to mention that I was limited in how long I could make my contribution so I also wanted to post the unabridged version here.  But do take time to read the article since it brings up different and very good viewpoints.

Here is the link to the MousePlanet Article —> LINK

Also take some time to read some of the comments on the Forum.  Some interesting feedback has already been posted.

Here is my version as well….  I would love to hear some of your comments and experiences.  I have to be honest, there may be a “part 2” to this as this is such an interesting topic and I really think that guests new and experienced alike that can benefit from knowing how to use the plan and if it really works – for them.

Enjoy!

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Dining at Disney is an experience in of itself. Being a self-declared foodie, I can tell you that the first several trips focused on where I ate as much as which attractions I tried to enjoy while at the parks. Even today, I still try to eat at new places or revisit restaurants that I have not tried in a long time. However, the thing that still catches my eye when it comes to dining at Disney is the cost. While I think there are very few establishments that I refuse to try again, I can also say that it is not the worst value in the world.

A very common question regarding dining at Disney is in regards to the Disney Dining Plan. (DDP) The questions on the topic usually pertain to if it is a good value. I see people answer in definitive yes or no answers. However, this is not a cut and dry answer and I tend to answer the question with a question:

Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it for you?

The question is very important because you are, in essence, pre-paying for most of your meals and this is a case where an educated guest is going to best answer the question as it pertains to their specific traveling party.

For the benefit of time, I am going to mainly break down the regular DDP for an adult and I am going to use rounded figures for the sake of conversation.

Currently, he dining plan is about $60 per adult for 2015. You get a snack, counter service meal, and table service meal as well as a resort-refillable mug for the length of your stay. Breaking down the value of what you are paying, and again – these are estimates:

Snack: About $4.

Counter Service: About $14 (Meal, drink, dessert)

That gives you a total of $28 of value so far. The big variable here is the table service credit. Using this simplified math, it is worth about $32. I know that I am not considering the mug for a moment, but let’s consider it a bonus for now.

Being that the table service meal gives you a meal, drink and dessert, it is not hard exceed $32 per adult for everything that you get. The estimated values are stacked in the DDP’s favor for sure!

Does that mean that you can save money using the DDP? This is where you have to ask yourself several questions:

  • Where do you wish to dine? If you do your homework about the cost of meals at the places where you would like to dine and the cost of the meals that you would likely enjoy, you may see that you can come out ahead.
  • Are you thinking about doing several character meals during one trip? If so, I think the DDP does add value because character meals are quite expensive. As a side tip – if you do character dinners, you get even more value out of the DDP since such meals tend to be much more expensive.
  • Since Disney considers kids 10 and up to be “adults” for pricing, will your kids really get the full benefit of an adult dining plan? While they can still order off the kids menu, the fact of the matter is that you would not experience the same monetary value for a kids meal. This reduces the DDP value quite a bit.
  • Do you tend to eat on the lighter side or tend to share meals? If so, you may not get the full value of the dining credits themselves.
  • Are you a dessert eater? If so, you are in for (many) treats! However, if you are not big into dessert, you might want to think twice about the DDP. This is because you would be missing out on value from not just the table service eateries, but also at the counter service locations.
  • Are you willing to make your dining reservations 180 days before you arrive? I ask the question that way because to use the DDP to its fullest, you have to use all the credits. If you are not a planner when it comes to dining, or if you are planning a last minute trip and ADR’s are scarce, then you may want to not consider the DDP. Unused credits reduce overall value.
  • Does your schedule allow for a daily table service meal which will consume anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes of time? Time dining, while can be very magical experiences, also takes away time from the parks.
  • Are you going during the hottest part of the year? Take into consideration that your appetite may change due to the weather. I speak from experience that it may seem like a relaxing idea to enjoy a nice meal after a hot day of touring only to find out that after a few days, your body may feel otherwise. I know this may not be the case for everyone, but it is something to consider.
  • Are you hoping to plan your vacation around the possibility of receiving a free dining offer? If so, I think that is a great way to save money. (Keep in mind that you would need to pay full price for your room.) At the same time, if you think that the DDP would not be a good fit for you if it was not free, then you may not realize the full potential of its value. Instead, consider the math and possibly seek out a room discount of sorts and pay out of pocket.

I would like to reinforce the idea that I am not anti-DDP. On the contrary, I tend to use the DDP when it makes sense for my specific vacation plans. It saved me a lot of money in the past and I am sure it will again in the future. Currently, though, my family dining and touring needs have changed and a lot of the questions I posted above originated from different dining experiences over the past several years.

I know this is a lot to consider for a single offering, but experience tells me that the DDP should be considered more of an option than a must-do. It may take a bit of time to crunch the numbers between what you would normally spend out of pocket and the costs of the DDP, but only then you can see if it would really be worth it for you.

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