This article is going to go into one of Disney’s great debates: Is the Disney Dining Plan a Good Value? I’ll run down the cost of the Disney Dining Plan and then go through some ways that the readers can use to determine for themselves if the dining plan is a good value.
This is one of those debates where what could work for one family and be a good value may not necessarily work for another family and not be a good value. But before we start trying to figure out whether or not this is a good value, we need to go over the cost of the Disney Dining Plan. There are three tiers of the Disney Dining Plan:
Quick Service Plan (2 quick service meals, 1 snack, 1 refillable mug): $41.99/adult; $16.03/child (ages 3-9)
Standard Dining Plan (1 quick service meal, 1 table service meal, 1 snack, 1 refillable mug): $60.04/adult; $19.23/child
Deluxe Dining Plan (any combo of 3 quick service and table service meals, 2 snacks, 1 refillable mug): $109.53/adult; $29.86/child
This is for each night of the vacation. For example, a four-night vacation on the standard dining plan would have 4 quick service meals, 4 table service meals, and 4 snacks while each person in the group would receive a refillable mug. This would cost ($60.04 * 4 nights = $240.16/person) for the vacation.
Now that we have a basic idea as to what the dining plan costs which is half the battle in deciding whether or not the dining plan is a good value. Let’s dive into what groups/families can look at to determine if it is a good value for them.
1) Know your families eating habits
You and NOT Disney knows your families eating habits the best. Everybody has different eating habits, in terms of how much food, they need to get through the day. This is especially true in children who can be more picky eaters than adults.
Disney, on the other hand, tries to fit everybody into the same eating habits with their dining plan choices. The table service as part of the standard and deluxe dining plans, it includes an entree, a dessert, and a non-alcoholic beverage. You can pay for any alcoholic beverages and appetizers out-of-pocket. Think about when you go out to eat at a restaurant, “Do you always get an entree AND a dessert?” The answer is probably no. Now, added on the idea that you may want a salad or other type of appetizers before your entree. You still get a dessert whether you want it or not. You can not transfer your dessert to pay for a salad/appetizer.
Typically, a person may be able have a salad/appetizer, entree, a dessert for a sit-down meal once, maybe, twice per week but not every day. Heck, for a lot of people (myself included) have a hard time getting through an entree and dessert for every meal during a vacation.
But Disney doesn’t know your eating habits, you know your eating habits. So, try to find the dining plan which could best fit your eating habits. For some people and vacations, this could be the quick service. For others, the standard plan and for the true foodie, it could be the deluxe dining plan.
DAD TIP: Everybody under the same reservation must be on the same type of dining plan.
2) Plan Your Dining
This goes back to the “180 Days from a Disney Vacation” article written a couple of weeks ago.
This is one of the best ways to determine what dining plan will work for your family and your vacation. Plan ahead. Look at what restaurants and see where you want to eat and which restaurants don’t appeal to you. You can also look and see how many of which type of dining credits the restaurant will use. All quick service restaurants use one quick service credit. However, some of the signature dining restaurants will cost two table credits as opposed to the standard dining restaurants which only cost one table credits.
Two table credit restaurants:
Animal Kingdom Lodge: Jiko – The Cooking Place
Boardwalk: Flying Fish
Contemporary: California Grill
Grand Floridian: Citricos, Narcoossee’s
Wilderness Lodge: Artist Point
Yacht Club: Yachtsman Steakhouse
EPCOT: Le Cellier (Canada Pavilion), Monsieur Paul (France Pavilion)
Hollywood Studios: Hollywood Brown Derby
Magic Kingdom: Cinderella’s Royal Table
Downtown Disney: Fulton’s Crab House, Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck’s
Going through the restaurants not only can make your decision as to what dining plan to use for your vacation, it can make it easier when you make your table service reservations at the 180-day mark before your vacation. This is one place where doing some research can go a long way.
3) Make “mock” Meals
Once you have decided where you want to eat, go through the menus at the restaurants. A great place for menus is http://www.allears.net/dining. They have up-to-date menu with prices. THERE IS NO SPECIAL DINING PLAN MENU. Disney does not have two menus; one for those on the dining plan and one for those aren’t. This makes doing a cost analysis very easy. You can go through the menus, see what you may want to eat, and price out your meals.
In general, it will be hard to “eat back” the $41.99 price tag on the quick service dining plan. A standard quick service meal will run somewhere between $10 and $15. Two quick service meals, then, will be around $20 and $30 per day. Add in a snack which costs no more than $5. So, you’re only at $35 worth of food per day. As a result, the only way that a guest can “make their money back” is through the refillable mug.
It is easier to “eat back” the $60.04 price on the standard dining plan. A sit-down can cost meal can cost as much as $45 once you factor in the cost of an entree and a dessert. Then a standard $10 quick service meal and a $5 snack. You’re at $60 for the day and you haven’t used your refillable mug.
I don’t have much experience with the Deluxe Dining Plan. It is $49 more expensive than the standard plan. On face value, it looks like that it is only worth it if a guest uses two table service credits and one quick service credit per day. The two snack credits, if used wisely, can fill in some of the cost to “eat back” the $109.53 value. But keep in mind that two table service credits per day can be a lot of food if it two separate meals. The flexibility with the three quick or table service credits allows guests, under this dining plan, to have a signature dining experience every day during the vacation if possible.
4) Dealing with food allergies
If you have a food allergy, Disney is very accommodating. That being said, you have to let them know IN ADVANCE that you have a food allergy especially for the table service meals. Disney will flag your reservation that some one of the guests has a food allergy. As a result, the chef will come out to the table and talk with the guest about their allergy and make suggestions about entrees or come up with alternatives that are not on the menu so the guest does not have to worry about their allergy. Quick service may be a little more difficult for guests with food allergies because the food is “mass-produced” but if you speak with a cast member BEFORE you order, they will try to work around your allergy.
Dining at Disney is one of the best way to find a good value at Disney….if you do your research. If you go with little or no knowledge about what and how to eat Disney, you may lose this value. Hopefully, today’s article helped you come up with some new ways to determine whether or not the Disney Dining Plan is a good value or which Disney Dining Plan is a good value based on your families eating habits and/or where you plan to eat while on your vacation. This is a question which has no right answer, in my opinion, what works for my family may not work for yours but may work for someone else’s. Every family and vacation is different and because of that they should not be treated the same.
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