Time and time again, whether I’m planning vacations for clients, friends, or family, as soon as we decide on a resort, the very next question is almost always “Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?” The answer to this question varies for every traveler, so here are a few things to consider when pondering the Disney Dining Plan at Walt Disney World.
Know Your Disney Dining Plan Options
There are three basic dining plans at Walt Disney World. The Quick Service Dining Plan (QSDP) offers two quick service meals and one snack per night of your reservation. The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) offers one table service, one quick service, and one snack per night of your reservation. The Deluxe Dining Plan (DXDP) offers three meals of your choice (quick or table) and two snacks per night of your reservation. All plans include a refillable resort mug for each guest (except those under three years old).
Get Park Wise: Make sure your choice restaurants accept the dining plan. Double check before booking to ensure you won’t be paying out of pocket unexpectedly.
Know What You’re Spending
At time of publication, the QSDP is approximately $38 per night per adult (10+) and $15 per night per child (3-9). The DDP hovers around $56 per night per adult and $18 per child per night. The DXDP tops the group at $100 per adult per night and $27 per child per night. Here is where the personal math of your family will come in. I know my kiddos will definitely save money, but I don’t know about the adults.
Know How Much You’re Eating
Another important factor is that all guests on a reservation must have the dining plan. It’s all or nothing, so if you just pick at your food while your spouse eats an average amount and the kids will only eat mac & cheese, it may not be right for your group. However, if you have a lot of hungry travelers who will load up when it’s time to eat, it will probably save you some money (up to 30%, according to Disney). Personally, I think the DXDP is way too much food, especially if you’re spending long days in the parks. It might be more doable if you were planning a leisurely trip and enjoying drawn out meals in between spa appointments and jaunts to the parks. The other two dining plans seem more manageable and likely to save the average traveler a little cash.
Get Park Wise: Quick service meals are often large enough to share between two people, so use this info to stretch your credits or to avoid buying and wasting the dining plans.
Know the System
Keep track of your credits, because if you leave a few credits unused, you may only break even or possibly lose money if you chose to purchase the dining plan. You also need to know if any of your choice restaurants require more than one credit per meal. Signature restaurants, dinner shows, and private dining (aka room service) require two credits. Depending on what you’ll be ordering, the savings may not add up for you.
Know Your Discounts
We’re not DDP people. We usually have a car at Disney World and enjoy a few off-property favorites during our vacations. However, I am a Tables in Wonderland cardholder, and that often proves to be a better savings than the DDPs would ever be for us.
If you’re wanting to give the DDP a try though, keep an eye out for the ever popular free Disney Dining Plan promotion, more popularly known as “free dining” by the Disney throng. The promotion is currently being offered for most dates in September (and I happen to know a gal who can help you out if you’re just dying to try it out!). On the other hand, there is also usually a room discount offered concurrently. Depending on where you’re staying and the factors mentioned earlier, the room discount may save you more, as you cannot combine a room discount with the free Disney Dining Plan offer.
Get Park Wise: I highly recommend making advanced dining reservations if you’re traveling during the “free dining” period, as this attracts many guests who are chomping at the bit to use their free credits.
Are you a Disney Dining Plan advocate? Which one is your favorite? Or do you prefer to pay as you go? Why?