A lot of people ask "Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?"
That is a great question! And the answer is (drum roll please!):
Yes it is, and no it isn't.
"Really? Did you just say that it is worth it, and that it isn't worth it? How can that be?"
Boy, you do have a lot of questions.
Let me see if I can clear things up to at least be as clear as mud.
What do you plan to eat at Disney?
To begin to answer if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it, you have to first think about what are you going to eat at Disney. Or better yet, what are you going to WANT to eat at Disney?
Well, let's start with just a basic day in your life. You are probably going to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And maybe a snack between meals. If you are me, you even have an evening snack before you go to bed. (I didn't get this tummy by being a lazy eater!)
Are you a family that is going to want to have breakfast every day? Or are you alright with just grabbing something and going? Are you "a hot dog sounds good" kind of family, or do you want to have someone wait on you at a table? Do you want to spend a lot of time eating, or is fast food good because you want to get back out to do things in the park?
You also are going to want something to drink. Florida is hot most of the year, and lots of water is recommended! I personally carry my own water bottle. You can get free ice water at most quick service locations to refill your bottle. SO DON'T PAY FOR A BOTTLE OF WATER! There is no need to spend that money. It is also a HORRIBLE use of a snack credit!
What do I get with the dining plans?
There are three different Disney Dining Plans. And depending on how you are planning to vacation will make a huge difference.
The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan gives you two quick service meals, 2 snacks, and a resort refillable mug.
The Standard Disney Dining Plan gives you a quick service meal, and a table service meal, and 2 snacks. It also gives you a resort refillable mug.
The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan gives you 3 table service or quick service meals, 2 snacks, and a resort refillable mug.
I go over all of these options in more detail in my article about What Is The Disney Dining Plan. It's definitely a good read if you need some basic information. I try not to discuss if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it in that article, so it won't be too much duplicate information.
How does your family eat on vacation?
If you look at how your family eats, and the different dining plans, do any of them match up? Do you see yourself easily using a dining plan? Or do you look at the dining plans and think "I don't know..."?
Oh...and we should talk about that resort refillable mug. The reason it's called a "Resort" refillable mug is that you can only use it at your resort. You can't refill that mug in a park (water or theme). So the "Resort" piece is very important to understand.
Two of the plans only include 2 meals and 2 snacks. That means one of your meals will be on your own (meaning you will pay for it). Now that can work if you decide to eat a late breakfast, not have lunch, and then dinner. Remember you also get a couple of snacks in there. So really, that might work for you, if that fits your family.
My family, on the other hand, wants to have breakfast on vacation (even though they hardly EVER have one at home). They also want to have lunch AND dinner! Not to mention every single snack that they pass in the park.
So that is what I mean by how does your family eat on vacation. Do you have little ones that need to be on a schedule? It makes a difference! It is definitely something to think about when thinking is the Disney Dining Plan worth it.
How much will the dining plans cost me?
So let's look at the cost of all three dining plans. Let's assume you are a family of four (2 adults and 2 children between 3 and 9), and you are going to stay at Walt Disney World for 4 nights. Here is what each plan will cost:
- Disney Quick Service Dining Plan -
- 52.49 per adult/night
- 23.79 per child/night
- TOTAL COST: $610.24
- Disney Standard Dining Plan
- $75.48 per adult/night
- $27.98 per child/night
- TOTAL COST: $827.68
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan:
- $116.24 per adult/night
- $43.49 per child/night
- TOTAL COST: $1277.84
So let's look at how much an average cost of a meal is at Walt Disney World.
Let's start with a quick service meal. The average cost is about $15 per meal. And to be honest, a lot of times my wife and I can split a meal. So let's say that you spend the $15 for lunch, and decide to spend about $10 for breakfast (grab a coffee and a muffin or donut or something like that). So you are at $25.
Now let's say you do decide to do a sit-down meal in the evening. Those prices average between $20 and $60. So let's just say $40. You have now spent $65 on meals, and let's say an additional $10 on 2 snacks. That is $75 a day on food. And I would venture to guess that you will not do a sit-down meal every day. You probably won't want to spend that much time eating all the time with the kids wanting to get to the next attraction. So I go with about $60 per day per person for food.
The cheapest Disney Dining plan is $52 per day. That gives you 2 meals, and two snacks per day. You can see where I'm going with this, right? Add $10 for a breakfast, and you are already on the verge of losing money with the plan.
How do you get the most out of a Disney Dining Plan?
AH! Now we are getting to the meat and potatoes about this topic! How do you get the most out of the plan.
So here is the secret to getting the most out of the plan. When you use a dining plan credit, you should get the most expensive thing on the menu...EVERY TIME!
You read that right.
You have to go in and get the most expensive item on the menu. If you do that every time you use a dining plan credit (and yes there are snacks that are more expensive than others), you will come out ahead. It will actually be cheaper for you to use the dining plan than to buy your meals without it.
Before you say "I can do that", let's think about what that means. That means a steak at every sit-down meal. Or the surf and turf at every meal! The biggest item at the quick-service restaurant all the time. In 90 degree heat. You have to eat like you mean it!
To be honest with you, I don't know a lot of people that can do that in the Florida heat. There are times you just don't want that huge turkey leg for your snack. Or you just can't face eating another steak. And that's ok.
I am a vegetarian (aspiring vegan). That is the choice that I made. But because of that, the dining plan does not make financial sense. I know how I eat, and I am not going to the most expensive thing on the menu at every meal. I am probably getting the pasta, or salad, or soup. Not the most expensive stuff. My wife is also vegetarian (aspiring vegan...we love cheese!) And really my kids don't eat that way either. They like a hot dog or hamburger, but really are just as happy with pasta and other things. So it is cheaper for me to eat without the dining plan.
So How Do I Choose?
In the end I believe choosing a Disney Dining Plan comes down to personal preference.
It is definitely a way to budget your food BEFORE you go on vacation. If you are a person that wants to know what you are going to spend, then this plan definitely does that. It can provide ease of mind that you will not run out of money for food. Disney is expensive, and that can be a real concern for some families. I get that!
You also need to look at how you eat (as I mentioned before).
And don't rule out the possibility of bringing food into the park. You can do that! And then you save A LOT of money. If you have bagels and juice for breakfast in your room (you can get a fridge in your room), you have just spent $2 on breakfast instead of $10! And you can get that food delivered to your room from a food delivery service. So it's easy to do.
I have not done a great job of keeping my personal preference out of this article. For my family, the Disney Dining Plans don't make sense. We don't eat enough, or expensive enough to make it work for us. And believe me, I have tried it many times. And every time I feel like I come away having lost money. That may not be true for you and your family. It has just been my experience.
Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?
To be honest, I don't think you can make a wrong decision here. It is more about making the most out of what you choose to do. The Disney Dining Plan is convenient. And sometimes that is the reason to get it.
Whatever you choose, be sure that you enjoy the food at Walt Disney World! There is a lot of great stuff to eat, and that alone can be an adventure itself. Try something new! If you don't like it, send it back and get something you do like. Become a foodie for a week! Even if it is a foodie for hot dogs! Enjoy those hot dogs! There are some good ones!
What are your thoughts on the Disney Dining Plan? Leave a comment below so we can discuss it! I would love to hear your opinion!
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