Is the Disney Dining Plan Right for You?

With the recent extension of free dining, I’m often asked if the Disney Dining Plan is worth the cost.  My answer?  It depends.  Do you enjoy Disney restaurants, or do you prefer going off-site for a meal or two?  Can you commit to booking dining reservations far in advance, or do you prefer to ‘wing it’?  Will you be staying in a standard Disney room, or a Deluxe Villa?  Here’s my breakdown on the many versions of the Disney Dining Plan:

 The Quick-Service Dining Plan is for you if…..

  • You plan on eating mostly quick-service meals
  • You’re more laid-back in your touring style and don’t want to be hassled with making advanced dining reservations (note that this only works if the first bullet point is also true)
  • You want to spend more time in the park than eating in a restaurant
  • You plan on eating most of your meals on Disney property
  • Everyone in your party can eat two counter-service meals (in most cases, a beverage, entree, and dessert) and two snacks per day

The basic Dining Plan is for you if….

  • You can commit to book one meal per day during the length of your visit
  • You and your travel party are planners and enjoy staying to a touring schedule
  • You plan on eating all meals on Disney property
  • Everybody in your party can handle an entree and dessert twice per day (one counter service and one table service) and one snack per day (Note: this is assuming no signature restaurants are booked: ones that require 2 table service credits per person)

The Deluxe Dining Pan is for you if…

  • You plan on eating all meals on Disney property
  • You plan on eating at predominantly table-service restaurants
  • You and your travel party are planners and enjoy staying to a touring schedule
  • You don’t have any people with small appetites in your party (you get a LOT of food under this plan: 3 credits per person, per night of  your stay, any combination of quick-service and counter-service, plus two snacks)

Note that each dining plan has flexibility in it.  When you check in, you’re given a pool of credits that are based on the number of nights you stay, not days.  For example, if you’re on the basic dining plan and want to eat two counter-service meals on one day and two table-service meals the next, you can do that.  You can also trade in 2 credits (table service credits if basic plan, and 2 of your 3 credits on the deluxe plan) and eat at a signature restaurant, such as the California Grill, Le Cellier, a dinner show, etc.  Also, keep in mind that unused credits expire at midnight on the day you check out.

A dining plan might not be for you if…..

  • You’re more laid-back in your touring style and don’t want to be hassled with making advanced dining reservations (note that most Disney restaurants fill up quickly, and walk-up reservations are very unlikely, especially during busier times of year)
  • You hold a Tables in Wonderland card
  • You are staying off-site (not on Disney property)
  • You are staying in a Deluxe Villa resort (Disney Vacation Club) and plan on doing the majority of your cooking/eating in the room
  • You plan on eating several meals off property

There is some math involved with all of the dining plans.  Even with free dining, you are paying full price for the room.  Is it better for you to book a discounted room-only reservation and pay for your meals out of pocket?  Again, it depends on your touring and eating habits.

No free dining available for your travel dates?  No worries!  Use the above guide to determine if a dining plan is best for you.  Next, get a general idea of where you want to eat and get the pricing for those restaurants (there are plenty of Disney websites that have restaurant menus and pricing).  Compare that to the cost of the dining plan you’re looking at to see if it’s a good value for you.

All of this talk about food is making me hungry!  Who’s up to eating a virtual Dole Whip with me?

Editor’s Note:  This blog is from our newest agent, Debbie.  For help with a Disney vacation that’s right for you, contact Debbie at Debbie@travelonadream.com or by using our quote form on Travel On A Dream‘s website. 

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Rhonda on September 9, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    mmmmmm…..Dole Whip!!

    Reply

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