If you are planning a Disney park vacation, you may have been faced with the option of a Disney Dining plan. The Disney Dining plan was developed several years ago as a way to make dining at the Disney parks easier and possibly less expensive. While the specifics of this dining plan can be a tad confusing, it is important to break it down and try to understand it to make sure you are getting the best deal. After all, isn’t enjoying all of the wonderful things to eat part of the fun of a vacation? If you are unsure if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it, take a look below at the basic breakdown to help you decide!
First, let’s take a look at the perks that the Disney Dining Plan offers. Many travelers who take advantage of this plan cite these reasons time and time again as the reasons this plan is worth checking out. These perks are as follows:
*The plan allows for families to pre-pay for their meals ahead of time.
*The plan does provide an enormous amount of food and drinks.
*You do not have to concern yourself with looking at menu prices.
*There is no need to feel like you need to dine off property to save money.
*The plan saves families money while offering convenience.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the negatives as cited by Disney travelers who do not care for the Disney Dining Plan. They go as follows:
*The cost of the plan has increased almost yearly since it was first introduced.
* It is more difficult to control your gratuity on the plan.
* The dining plan covers sit down dinners that the guests may not have opt for otherwise. This increases their plan cost to pay for meals they may have avoided before.
*Appetizers have been omitted from the plan.
*The increase in plan users has caused sit down venues to be booked far in advance and sometimes impossible to get into.
It seems as though both sides of the argument have some valid points, but do these help you make a choice just yet? Maybe not.
When you invest in the Disney Dining Plan, you pay X amount of dollars depending on the plan you choose. You then are given X amount of dining “credits” you can use each day at various park eateries. As mentioned above, Disney does take an 18% gratuity out of these points with your meal. Depending on your eatery choices, you can either blow all of your credits early in the day causing you to have to come out of pocket around the dinner hour, or you can carefully conserve them and make sure you have plenty for a sit down dinner option. The Disney Dining plan is almost like a puzzle that you have to carefully maneuver through the day to be sure you are using it to the best of your advantage.
So how do you use it to the best of your advantage? It seems as though guests who opt for a light breakfast, and refrain from using their credits for snacks and drinks fare well. They instead save their credits for a mid sized lunch and heavier dinner options. Because of their choices they have plenty of credits left at the end of the day to pay for this meal. However because the dining plan has caused an increase in dinner reservations, they had better called ahead or those credits won’t get used as they had wished.
Looking at various scenarios, it seems like even in a best case scenario the average savings to families who use the Disney Dining Plan is around $50.00. So, you have to ask yourself if saving $50.00 is worth monitoring all of your food spending during the day, making reservations months in advance, and sill possibly having to spend out of pocket for snacks. If your answer is yes, this plan may still be ideal for you. After all, the perks previously mentioned such as being able to prepay for your meals prior to traveling may be incentive enough for you.
However if you enjoy more flexibility, and don’t want to worry about tracking credits throughout your vacation, you may wish to opt out of this plan. If you are already a budget savvy traveler, chances are you can save money on your own just by practicing the tips and tricks you have learned in the past about eating for less while on vacation.
Whatever you decide, be sure to check out the Walt Disney World website for the up to date information about the Disney Dining plan. It does tend to change, certain promotions are offered, and certain stipulations are being put into place. You won’t want to walk into it blindly if recent changes to the plan have been implemented.
The Disney experience is a fabulous one, even down to every bite of every meal you enjoy. Take some time to consider if the pros outweigh the cons or vice versa when decided if a plan is right for you and your budge! Bon appétit!
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Although the DDP is a slick marketing move, it is a terrible value. Gratuities are no longer taken out of your credits, you must pay for them yourself…and they are automatically calculated. Also, on the plan you receive expensive desserts at lunch AND dinner…adds to the check total for sure! Whereas several years ago you did not have to worry about the price of menu items, now you do. You can very easily end up having to pay a gratuity in the price range of $30-$40 dollars for dinners….every dinner of your trip. (and let’s not forget about gratuities at lunch) That cost adds up quickly! If you would like to “pre-pay” your meals for a Disney trip, please, do yourself a favor & simply purchase Disney gift cards. They are sold at lots of grocery stores, Target, etc. This way, you can control your spending, have meals pre-paid, & not stress out about the Disney Dining Plan.
This is the best review of the DDP that I have read. We considered it for our trip next year but when we added up the per day cost of what we would spend we would never buy enough food to make it equal to the cost. Unless there is an offer for a free dining plan during the time we go, we will pay out of pocket. It will definitely be more cost effective. Also the comparison of $50 of savings, I know it’s really not worth it for us and our eating habits.