This post was Consumeristed! Woo.
I’m back from the Most Magical Place on Earth! It was a wonderful trip, and the food was surprisingly good – I’ve always associated theme parks with run-of-the-mill, overpriced fast food, but I’ve had a couple of really amazing dining experiences (albeit still with the Disney premium) at Disney World. Because food is such an important part of any vacation, let’s talk about a review of the Disney Dining Plan.
For my first trip to the Disney World Resort, boyfriend and I have decided to purchase the Disney Dining Plan (a feature available to guests staying within a Disney World Resort hotel). Would we do it again? As you’ll read on, although overall I was fairly happy with the plan, I have to say…. there are a few caveats.
Basic Dining Plan Information
We got the Basic Dining Plan (there are also Dining Plans a few tiers up, which offered more options but of course also cost more), which gives 1 Quick Service meal, 1 Table service meal, and 1 Snack per person, per day. The fee was $40 per person, per day. We spent 5 days at Disney World, so our total Dining Plan cost was ~$400. The Disney Dining Plan includes taxes but not tips or alcoholic beverages.
- Quick Service = counter-service meal (think fast-food / food cart entree combo types) + 1 drink + 1 dessert. Usually around $10 - $20.
- Snack = 1 dessert, drink, or pastry. Usually around $2 – $5.
- Table Service = sit-down meal (entree + 1 dessert + 1 drink) or a buffet. Usually around $30 - $45.
Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth The Money?
If you select an expensive table service dinner (above $40), you will usually come out ahead of the Plan than if you had purchased the exact same meals not on the Dining Plan. But you’ll see that the Plan is very heavy on dessert – if boyfriend and I were purchasing our meals with cash, we wouldn’t be getting a dessert with every. single. meal.
That is one of my biggest problems with the Dining Plan – it would be much more convenient if we can choose either an appetizer OR a dessert with the Quick Service or the Table Service meal.
The first day we were there, we had dinner at Les Chefs de France, where we selected a prix fixe menu for $37 (soup + entree + dessert) and a drink (~$3). Total for the two of us including tax came out to around $85+. This means that we made back our $40/person Dining Plan fee that day. The last day at Disney World, we ate at Teppan-Edo, another delicious meal that cost us $80+. The other dinners during our stay ranged from $60-$75. Those days we probaly went $5 or $10 above the $40 / per person Dining Plan fee.
To truly take advantage of the Dining Plan, you MUST make advanced dining reservations (ADRs in Disney parlance). People make these reservations several months ahead of time. I made our reservations about 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time, and had to settle for very early (4pm) or late (9pm) dinners because all the other times were taken already. While at Disney World we’ve encountered many families turned away from sit-down restaurants because all the spots were taken. The chances of you getting a walk-in table is very very slim.
If you don’t have an ADR, you won’t come out ahead for the day in terms of Dining Plan costs because basically you will have forfeited your Table Service meal for a second Quick Service meal.
Was the Disney Dining Plan Enough Food?
YES! One thing you don’t have to worry about while on the Dining Plan is going hungry! We were quite stuffed during our trip - good thing we did a lot of walking, or else I might not have been able to fit in the airplane seats on the way back. If you’re not big eaters, two people can even split a Quick Service meal for lunch and be comfortably full.
In Summary: Disney Dining Plan Worth the Money But with Caveats
The biggest benefit of the Dining Plan is the fact that your meals are prepaid and you don’t have to worry about not going to nice sit-down dinner because of money. The Dining Plan is convenient, and, as a big dessert person, I have to say that I did appreciate the fact that we could get desserts with every dinner (although I would’ve preferred the choice to select appetizers).
If you decide not to get the Disney Dining Plan, but you still want to have nice sit-down dinner at the Parks, you won’t save much money – if any – money. A sit-down dinner will cost at least $30 per person, and a fast food lunch will be close to or over $10.
If you are willing to forgo the sit-down meals (i.e. no Table Service), however, you can probably save a little bit compared to the Dining Plan. Assuming 2 counter service meals (i.e. Quick Service) and 1 snack / water a day at $25-$30, you can save $10-$15 a day, per person, compared to the $40 / per person Disney Dining Plan fee. However, for that marginal amount of savings, I’d rather forgo eating out at home and be able to splurge a little on vacation at Disney World.
image source: disneydreaming.com