Dining Plan or No Dining Plan. That is the Question

And if the answer is yes, that brings the next question; which one? Walt Disney World has three dining plans to choose from:  

Disney’s Quick Service Dining Plan (per person, per night)
Cost: Approximately $50/adult $21/child

  • Two (2) Quick-Service Meals (an entree and beverage or one complete meal combo)
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • One (1) Resort Refillable Drink Mug

Disney’s Dining Plan (per person, per night)
Cost: Approximately $70/adult $25/child

  • One (1) Table-Service Meal (an entree, beverage, and dessert or one full buffet)
  • One (1) Quick-Service Meal (an entree and beverage or one complete meal combo)
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • One (1) Resort Refillable Drink Mug

Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan (per person, per night)
Cost: Approximately $107/adult $39/child

  • Three (3) Meals any combination of Table-Service and/or Quick-Service Restaurants
    • Table-Service (an appetizer, entree, dessert, and beverage or one full buffet)
    • Quick-Service (an entree and beverage or one complete meal combo)
  • Two (2) Snacks
  • One (1) Resort Refillable Drink Mug

While those prices may seem high, keep in mind that theme park food, fair food, ball-park food, festival food, etc. always have higher than normal food prices. The awesome thing is, Disney does not hide those prices from you at all. Food prices can easily be found during the planning phase online or using the My Disney Experience App. This way you can see what it would cost to pay out of pocket versus pre-pay.

Now for my personal advice.

When I first started going to Walt Disney World on a regular basis I was trying to pinch every penny I could. I had planned to drink water only from a water bottle I packed. The people I traveled with were not big eaters either so we were going to split meals when we could and also take snacks. At least that was the plan. WDW is huge and you are walking many miles a day. You will start to feel every bit of weight in that backpack as the day goes on. Then by the end of the trip, we were really wanting to be able to sit down and enjoy a good steak dinner. I saved every receipt. We didn’t go hungry, but we were being extra careful with how often we stopped to buy something. After I got home and added up the receipts spent on food out of pocket, we could have purchased the Disney Dining Plan. If we had done so, we would not have had to of been worried about how many times we wanted a snack (you will walk MILES every day…you work up an appetite), we could have enjoyed a nice steak dinner every night, and had more food if we had wanted it without having to agree on the split meals every time. We would have had more food than we wanted, but at the same price as the worrisome “pinching pennies” trip we had. Next trip on – always on the dining plan.

Mindy, Owner of Once Upon a Vacation and my fabulously magical boss, recently had a similar experience where she thought since they were eating less, they would come out better paying out of pocket. She found out the same thing I did and here are a couple of her receipts as an example.

Dining Plan pic 1

Dining Plan Pic 5 water

Another example happened during my latest trip. Thankfully, I had booked the dining plan. I had contemplated canceling it multiple times because I knew some of my meals were covered under meetings. However, after I got there and started looking at my receipts. The very first day, I became thankful I had it. It easily paid for itself. At the end of the trip I had 6 snack credits left, but cashed them out on fudge and goodies to take home to my family (and myself lol).

I personally get the Disney Dining Plan.  My typical day is to use a snack credit for a cupcake or muffin to eat for breakfast, a quick service for lunch, and a nice sit down meal for dinner. Plus, as of 2017, you now have an extra snack. In 2018, alcoholic beverages and specialty non alcoholic drinks are added to the plan increasing the value even more. 

If you don’t want to waste any time on sit down meals, the quick service is the way to go for you. But keep in mind, if you book more than one character meal, you will be doing yourself a favor to get the Disney Dining Plan.

I personally never get the Deluxe Dining Plan because of the number of interruptions in my park time. However, if you have little ones and want to experience multiple character meals a day, or if you would like to try out several of Disney’s Signature restaurants that require 2 table service credits, this may be a good option for you.

When is the dining plan NOT a good option? Well, with my experience, it’s hard for me not to recommend at least purchasing one of them. But, if you book a room with a kitchen that you plan to cook in and don’t plan on eating but one meal in the park. Or if you have a club level and plan eating breakfast plus another meal at your resort. Do keep in mind this will cause you to lose a lot of valuable time in the parks.

After you decide on the dining plan and the best plan option for you, your OUAV travel agent will happily give you tips on maximizing the value. My favorites are ordering the best steak at table service meals (if you like steak) and never ever using a snack credit on drinks. And that is just my top two. May be a near-future blog post : )

#1 reason to get get a dining plan: It’s paid for before you get there and you don’t have to worry about those prices on the menu!

Need Amanda to help you with your Disney plans?  Reach out at Ahowell@onceuponavacation.com  

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