The Disney Dining Plan – is it worth it?

Thank you to Hi Ho Vacations Planner Danielle Ott for sharing incredibly helpful information with us!

Just as with anything Disney related, if you mention the Disney Dining Plan, opinions start to fly.  Most people have strong opinions about the Disney Dining Plan, one way or another.  With 2019 Walt Disney World packages opening tomorrow, my last week has been full of phone consultations preparing guests to book their trip.  What is the one thing everyone wants me to justify and explain in more detail? … The Disney Dining Plan.

So first, what is the Disney Dining Plan?  The Disney Dining Plan allows you to pre-pay for all of your meals prior to arriving on property – a huge perk for budgeting purposes!  You pay a flat fee per person, per night of your stay.  In return, you are given dining credits to be used however you like throughout your trip.

Flexibility – another perk!  There are 3 levels of dining plans; Quick Service Dining, Basic Disney Dining and Deluxe Dining.  Most people choose the Basic Disney Dining Plan, so for the intent of this post, I am going to walk through this plan.

Included in the Basic Disney Dining Plan are 2 snacks, 1 quick service meal and 1 table service meal per person, per night of your stay.  In addition to your credits, you also receive a refillable drink mug to use at your resort.  Children ages 3-9 are approximately $26/night and adults (anyone over the age of 9) are approximately $76/night.

The Disney Dining Plan had a great new addition in 2018 – alcoholic beverages are now included with your quick service AND table service meals.  The value in this is huge as most alcoholic beverages are $11+.  Don’t drink?  That’s ok, there are plenty of specialty non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy.

An interesting perk of this plan – if you have children over the age of 9, you are also entitled to the alcoholic beverage that would have come with their plan (since adults and children over 9 are the same price).  If you choose, each adult has the ability to have 2 alcoholic beverages per meal included in the price of the plan (one from your plan and one from one of your child’s plans).

So let’s break this down to actual application.  I just returned from an 8-day Walt Disney World vacation with my family of 5.  For the sake of an experiment, I elected NOT to add the Disney Dining Plan and keep my receipts for comparison sake (yes, I took one for the team for the sake of an example! ).  The verdict…I stopped counting my receipts as it became a bit depressing.  Let’s just say I spent quite a bit more than if I had just had the plan.

But I didn’t go through all of that for nothing.  Let me walk you through just one of my days of vacation as a good example.  I selected restaurants that are popular yet not over the top to have good baseline.

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Example day without the Disney Dining Plan:  We began our day bright and early at the Magic Kingdom for a breakfast at Be Our Guest.  If you have been living under a rock, this is just about the #1 requested dining venue on Disney property.  Breakfast and lunch are quick service and dinner is table service (now requiring 2 dining credits).  In full transparency, I had no idea that this restaurant is price fixed for breakfast and lunch.  Since most of my guests do the Dining Plan, the cost is not important.

Paying $135 ($25/person) for a quick service breakfast hurt a bit for sure!  Due to the cost, I feel like this restaurant is the best quick service value on property if you are on the dining plan.  The experience feels like a blend between table service and quick service.  You order your food at a register, but your food is brought to you in a charming cart.  I have older children so I worried they would think this restaurant was too young for them, but they loved sitting in Beast’s room and enjoyed the atmosphere.

We did an early reservation at 8:45 AM, so we were in the park before everyone else and rode the trolley down an almost empty Main Street.  After a few hours in the Magic Kingdom, we chose to head back to our resort for a rest and quick swim in the pool – a necessity during the summer heat or even high travel times!

Since we had a large breakfast and were having a large dinner, we snacked around for lunch.  I choose a Yogurt Parfait and apple for my lighter lunch.  Dinner was in EPCOT at Teppan Edo. Since we have hibachi style restaurants at home, I have avoided this restaurant for quite some time, but it is one of my 11 year-old’s favorite meals, so we tried it for the first time in 10 years.  I was pleasantly surprised with this meal.  Our chef had been cooking at this venue for over 20 years and he was such fun to watch.  Each of our meals were delicious and the kids were entertained during the entire meal.

So here is my breakdown for my example day:

* Coffee before heading to the Magic Kingdom $2.50  (this would have free and included in my refillable drink mug with the Disney Dining Plan)
* Be Our Guest Breakfast $25.00 (quick service credit)
* Yogurt Parfait $5.79 (snack credit)
* Piece of fruit $1.99 (snack credit)
* Teppan Edo $35 meal and $11 glass of wine (table service credit, but my wine would have been included)

Total for the day = $86.97 (includes 7% sales tax)

Let’s do a quick review.  My price per night on the Disney Dining Plan would have been $76/night and I spent $86.97 in one day – that’s $10.97 more.  Again, my day looks very similar to many guest’s plans.  If I had chosen other popular locations such as Akershus, Tusker House, Hollywood and Vine or even 1900 Park Fare, the difference in price would have been even larger (these are all price fixed restaurants costing $55 or more per person).

Disney vacationing is never one size fits all.  It is important that you discuss your plans with your agent to ensure you are making the best decision for your family and trip.  While 90% of my guests choose to add the Disney Dining Plan, there are about 10% where I don’t recommend the Dining Plan based on specific trip restrictions or limitations.  Personalizing vacations is my #1 goal, so I carefully review each guest’s trip and make specific recommendations.  All of that to say, the Dining Plan does save guests 15% or more in most situations.

In summary, the 5 main perks of the Disney Dining Plan:

  1.  Budget Friendly – All of your meals are paid for before you travel and with the credit system the plan helps you keep on track and not overspend, which is easy to do at Walt Disney World!
  2.  Flexible – The Disney Dining Plan allows you to use the credits however you like during your trip, and yes, character meals and dinner shows are included on the Disney Dining Plan.
  3.  Variety – There are over 200 restaurants on property where you can use the plan, so there is something for everyone.
  4.   Value – Most guests save 15% or more using the Disney Dining Plan, but even if you only saved 10% that can still equate to hundreds of dollars on a week-long trip.
  5.   Convenient – All of your dining plan credits live on your Magic Band and can be tracked on your My Disney Experience App on your phone.

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This is the refillable drink mug included on the Disney Dining Plan. This mug can also be purchased outside of the plan for approximately $20 + tax for your length of stay.

 

Planning a Walt Disney World Vacation and confused about the Disney Dining Plan? Contact your Hi Ho Vacations Planner today!

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