When the Disney Dining Plan made its debut, the options were simple and the savings fairly simple to achieve.
However, with new Dining Plan variations, changes in the Plan rules and in restaurant options, and increases in the prices of the Plan options, it has become increasingly difficult to know whether the Disney Dining Plan is a good money-saving option for your Walt Disney World vacation.
Let’s take a look at the top six questions about the Disney Dining Plan:
1 – Can the Disney Dining Plan Save You Money?
In a word: yes. It is absolutely possible to eat with of the Disney Dining Plans in ways that will save you money when compared to the cost of paying for those same meals out of pocket. However, the fact that a Disney Dining Plan CAN save you money is not the same as saying that it WILL save you money.
2 – What Are The Dining Plan Options?
There are three different plan levels. Saving money with a Dining Plan begins with selecting the right one. While the Dining Plan began with just the Basic Plan, Disney now offers three different levels for the plan: the Quick-Service Plan, the Basic Plan, and the Deluxe Plan.
The Quick-Service Plan allows guests two quick-service meals and one snack per day, the Basic Plan provides one table-service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per day, and the Deluxe Plan allows three meals (table-service or quick service) and two snacks per day.
3- How Do I Choose The Right Plan For Me?
Choosing to use a plan, and choosing which plan, is about looking honestly at how you eat and how you want to eat while you are at Disney World.
The way to save money with a Disney Dining Plan is eat the most expensive options available with the types of meals you have, and avoid spending more money on food out-of-pocket. Buying a Quick-Service Plan when you know you require three big meals a day will only mean that you throw away your savings by eating out-of-pocket once a day. Buying a Basic Plan when you want quick meals instead of table-service to maximize your time at the parks will also mean squandering the Plan savings. Consider that it takes a very hearty appetite to eat as much food as the Deluxe Plan provides.
Let’s say you know from experience that two Disney quick-service meals will be enough, or you know that you want to enjoy at least one luxurious table-service meal a day. Is a Quick-Service or Basic Plan a good option then? Well, maybe. But those aren’t the only variables to keep in mind.
When considering a Quick-Service Plan think about whether other light-eater-friendly options such as splitting meals wouldn’t work just as well – or even better. Meals at Disney World tend to be large, and splitting meals or ordering quick-service meals without sides usually leaves guests with plenty of food. These alternatives to the Dining Plan can leave you with a bit more flexibility while still keeping expenses down.
4 – What Is The Biggest Issue With Using The Plan?
The biggest hurdle visitors face with the Basic Plan is the need for Advance Dining Reservations. Many of the nice table-service restaurants where you can truly reap the benefits of your Plan are booked months in advance. If you are making your vacation plans at the last minute, or prefer not to schedule your meals rigidly, you may find yourself unable to take advantage of your Dining Plan since you won’t be able to get into the best restaurants without a reservation.
5 – Is The Disney Dining Plan More Convenient?
If used the right way, a Disney Dining Plan can be convenient. When used unwisely, a Disney Dining Plan can be a source of stress and unwanted brain cell exertion.
An individual or family who plans many of their meals ahead and then selects the right Dining Plan for their dining experience will probably find a the Plan to be hassle-free. However, if you are making dining decisions on the fly during your vacation, you will likely feel the pressure to make sure your Dining Plan is worth the cost. You may find yourself going without meals or treats that aren’t part of the Dining Plan, dining at more expensive restaurants because you feel obligated, or ordering dessert when you don’t want it because it comes with the Plan.
The current costs of a Disney Dining Plan leave relatively little room for error or flexibility, and many guests may feel that they don’t want the hassle of making sure they are getting savings out of their plan. Of course, some guests say that a Dining Plan is not really about the savings, but just about the ease of use. But in that case, what exactly is wrong with a credit card?
On the other hand, experienced Disney World visitors or careful vacation planners can easily squeeze the maximum benefit from a Dining Plan and have that much more money to spend on Vinylmation figures. A Dining Plan can also be a simple budgeting tool for visitors who know that they cannot spend more than a certain amount on dining (provided that they don’t give in and spend out-of-pocket for extra meals or snacks.)
6 – So Should I Buy The Dining Plan?
As with so many answers so complex questions, the answer is: It Depends. Knowing for sure can require quite a bit of calculation and planning. The bottom line is that you should not assume that a Dining Plan equals savings. Often times, in real world circumstances, it does not necessarily save money for you. You can probably assume it provides convenience – if you don’t stress out about unused credits. You should take a serious look at your own dining habits and dining plans for your vacation, consider other options, and choose a Dining Plan if it is truly the most cost-effective option for you.