As in all things, value is in the eye of the beholder, but I recently returned from a Walt Disney World vacation and used the Dining Plan, so the following are my experiences and thoughts.
First, it’s important to know that there are several different dining plans to choose from and each provide their benefits per NIGHT of your vacation. So if you are staying five nights, then you would get 5 of each of the options, even if you happen to visit the parks more or less than the five days. It’s also important to know that everyone in your room must be on the package. No just paying for 1 and then splitting all the meals allowed.
All plans also include a refillable resort mug. This mug is only good at resorts, and is good from the food courts for everything in the beverage area, such as coffee, hot chocolate, sodas and tea. You cannot refill these mugs at any of the parks. They are imbedded with a chip to make the self-serve fountain drinks work. You can also purchase the mug outside of the dining plan, for a variety of time frames. Being able to use it for the length of stay will set you back $17.99. If you’re a big soda drinker, this can be a benefit, but the idea of filling the mug, taking it to the parks and then lugging around an empty mug until you return to a resort, seemed like more hassle than it was worth. Therefore, I found no value in the mug.
The three basic plans include: Quick Service Plan, Disney Dining Plan, and Deluxe Dining Plan. They break down as follows:
Quick Service per person per night of stay: 2 Quick Service meals, plus 1 snack. Meals include a basic beverage, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include a dessert). Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $41.99 per adult and $16.03 per child.
Disney Dining Plan per person per night of stay: 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service meal, plus 1 snack. Meals include a basic beverage, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include a dessert). Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $60.04 per adult and $19.23 per child. (be aware that some higher end eateries such as character dining, require 2 Table Service credits per
Deluxe Dining Plan: per person per night of stay: 3 meals, plus 2 snacks. Meals include a basic beverage, appetizer, entrée and dessert (except for breakfast, which doesn’t include an appetizer or dessert) Cost for 2015 per night of stay is: $109.53 per adult and $29.86 per child.
So the question is…how much do you eat and would having a Dining Plan increase what you’d eat since you ‘have’ to fully utilize the plan to get your money’s worth?I visited Walt Disney World under the Play, Stay & Dine promotion. Because of this I got the adult Disney Dining Plan for the cost of a child. I stayed six nights, so for my meal plan I paid $115.38. A true bargain. Had I paid the regular adult price it would have been $360.24. Keep these figures in mind as I break down my dining experiences.
My Table Service meals had me experiencing Boatwright’s at Port Orleans twice, (I had planned on Raglan Road, but inclement weather in Downtown Disney changed that. Boatwright’s is a new favorite.), Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and The Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios (which counted for 2 Table Service Meals). At each of these locations I got a beverage such as coffee or a smoothie, an entrée and a dessert. Please note that the dining plan does NOT include Gratuities. I tipped over 20% at each Table Service meal, so take the cost of tips into your calculations if you wouldn’t eat at Table Service locations if not on the plan.
Totals: My total charges for Table Service Restaurants came to $174.00, for Counter Service $99.00 and for snacks $28.00, totaling $301.00, and if you add in the value of the mug, $319.00. So, getting the plan for the price I paid was terrific in terms of cost compared to value received, but had I paid the full price of $360.24, I would have come out behind. Granted, I could have had another meal had I not eaten at the Brown Derby and had I ordered the most expensive menu item, but I ordered what I wanted at each meal and didn’t try to max out each meal in terms of price.
The big bonus is the feeling of your vacation being close to all-inclusive, with almost everything prepaid. It was lovely to just wave that Magic Band and not worry about the cost of the meal.
The big negative for me was that I ate far more than I normally would since I didn’t want to ‘waste’ the plan. On a normal vacation, I tend to have a snack or two to fill in, have a kid’s meal instead of an adult size meal, rarely order desserts and only occasionally eat at a Table Service location.
What camp do you fall into? Many things in life don’t come down to dollars and cents, but on perception and convenience. For myself, I’d certainly do the Dining Plan at a discount, but I wouldn’t find it a good fit for myself at full price. Many families feel the complete opposite.