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  1. #1

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    Dining option - worth it?

    My goodness, why is it that Disney World requires a whole well... WORLD of knowledge.
    We have heard about the dining option and wondering if this is beneficial to do. It sounds good in order not to worry about costs constantly while on vacation and a good way to try the nice restaurants, but my thought is, does it require a lot of time to dine?
    Meaning, if we use the plan to the max, will we just be stuck in restaurants all day?
    I don't know if we can make reservations since we are planning a trip only 2 months away or less. I couldn't believe you need to reserve 6 months in advance.

    How much time does it realistically take to dine at a nice place? I'm sure we wouldn't want to spend all day around dining, but it sure sounds like a nice option...

  2. #2

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Dining Plan really only makes sense if you know you're going to be eating 3 meals a day, or 2 meals a day and snacks. In regards to the nice restaurants, the Dining Plan only makes sense if you must purchase the most expensive items on the menu.

    If you want to go to a place like Le Cellier for lunch. Do you need to splurge on their 3 course lunch whose regular price is $28.99, or will you be ok with a great sandwich and non-alcoholic beverage? That will only run you about $15. You can do one of those meals everyday, have the restaurant experience, and not spend anywhere near the per person per day total cost of the Dining Plan. The Dining Plan costs about $40/day, and it must be prepurchased for every night of a WDW Resort stay. Do the math, and see if there is a senario where the Dining Plan actually saves you money by giving you more food than you'd ordinarily want by not charging you beyond the $40/person/day pre-payment. Then remember you'd have to eat that much, and that often every day you're there. This Dining Plan is nowhere near out to save you money as it is trying to get you to overbuy your food while Disney pockets the money whether you eat that much or not.

    Another strategy to consider is the free $200 Gift Card that's given with the MYW Packages these days. Think about how you might want to spend that in regards to food. True, food is not a tangible souvenir like a character plushie, but you do walk away having had the experience of visiting the restaurants. On my most recent trip to WDW, my friend and I visited Ohana twice, Whispering Canyon Cafe once, and Le Cellier once. It was all on Disney's nickel via the Gift Card.

    Beyond the gift card, just think about how much the meals actually cost. The great places like Ohana cost about $30/meal, but they require TWO days worth of Dining Plan table service credits unless I'm mistaken somehow (this plan changes every season it seems). One strategy I employ sometimes is having the great meal at Ohana or Boma or someplace like that reserved at a time after the parks are closed, and then snacking on the large $3 pretzel bag during the day while chasing them with free 20oz ice waters that can be obtained at various places. The $3 pretzel bag can last a few days, and fits nicely inside any small backpack or tote bag you might already be bringing into the parks.

    Bottom line, if you come to WDW with food as your top priority, then go for the Plan. If you come to WDW to see WDW, it's parks, Resorts, and all the activities it offers, then don't waste money on the Plan. You'll be waaaay too busy to spend that much time eating.
    Last edited by PeoplemoverMatt; 02-11-2009 at 09:47 PM.

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  3. #3

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Wow, thanks for all that breakdown.
    I have heard of the quick service plan that's new for this year - 2 quick sevice meals and 2 snacks each day and it costs 30 bucks. Wondering if that's worth it maybe.
    Navigating through all the menus at all the restaurants and figuring out what's what and what's worth it or not sure is a huge job, since I'm not even that familiar with any of them!

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    My general rule for quick service meals is $10 or less per meal, or I'm overspending for a meal of that type. ($5 footlong anyone?) 2 quick service meals a day = $20. That leaves $10/day for 2 snacks. That means you're spending $5 on a snack twice a day, every day. A snack is something as little as a piece of fruit. Do you want to spend $5 for an apple? Well, it's your choice, but Disney requires you make the choice to buy that $5 apple twice a day, every day. Again, more overbuying ahead of time. Whether you eat the 2 $5 snacks or not, you've already bought them.

    To me, a $5 apple fails where a $7 turkey leg totally wins, but a turkey leg is not considered a snack on any Dining Plan as far as I know.

    Then I'd consider the fact that if I'm spending $30/person/day on food already, how can I also go spend money in the table service restaurants? That might up my food bill to $60 or higher per person on certain days. Ack! If I'm going to spend that much, then going for the regular Dining Plan at $40/day might be comparitively the better option. But it's only the better option when compared to the $30/day Quick Service Dining Plan. It might not be the better option when compared to other options.

    It's kinda like buying sodas at the movie theatre. The $4 small soda is puny compared to the $5 behemoth drink, so the $5 giant drink seems like the better value. But do you really want to guzzle 44oz of soda in 90 minutes? That'll likely cause a few bathroom breaks where you miss some of your movie. Then consider you're spending $4 minimum for buying soda. Suddenly neither seems like that great of an option. At a movie theatre, that might be the only game in town, but we're considering Dining Plan or no Dining Plan where you do have a choice.
    Last edited by PeoplemoverMatt; 02-11-2009 at 11:08 PM.

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  5. #5

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Peoplemovermatt, your comparison to the behemoth drinks made me laugh so much!
    Well, I started leaning against the plan. But then started looking at the places I'd like to try to eat at while on vacation (like the buffets since that's much easier with a little one and seemingly faster, especially if it is a bonus character buffet), or to try the polynesian luau (sounds amazing) and suddenly all of those really add up in cost! (especially when you consider that it can't be the only meal for the day?)
    Is there a chart somewhere as to how many "credits" each restaurant/dining experience uses up?
    Can you upgrade your credits? LIke pay something extra to upgrade a quick service to a buffet for instance?
    $40 per person per day does seem like a lot to spend on food. But when I look at the prices everywhere, I can see how it adds up big time!!! Holy cow.

  6. #6

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    We did the dining plan when we went three years ago and felt like we were always sitting to eat, then swore we wouldn't do it again. FF to this year's trip and we're doing it again Why? Because, each person picked one restaurant they wanted to eat at and with 2 teenagers and a 10 year old, it was much more cost effective to go with the dining plan than not.

    We went to www.allearsnet.com got an idea of the prices at the restaurants we were interested in and compared that to the amount it would cost for the dining plan and went from there.



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    Quote Originally Posted by janmom View Post
    Peoplemovermatt, your comparison to the behemoth drinks made me laugh so much!
    Well, I started leaning against the plan. But then started looking at the places I'd like to try to eat at while on vacation (like the buffets since that's much easier with a little one and seemingly faster, especially if it is a bonus character buffet), or to try the polynesian luau (sounds amazing) and suddenly all of those really add up in cost! (especially when you consider that it can't be the only meal for the day?)
    Is there a chart somewhere as to how many "credits" each restaurant/dining experience uses up?
    Can you upgrade your credits? LIke pay something extra to upgrade a quick service to a buffet for instance?
    $40 per person per day does seem like a lot to spend on food. But when I look at the prices everywhere, I can see how it adds up big time!!! Holy cow.
    When I tried looking up the real details of the various plans, it felt like reading the tax code. It was that conveluded. I would say try calling Disney Dining, but regardless of how you research it, prepare for a challenge in really understanding the real nuts & bolts. Then Disney will change it on you without calling attention to their changes at all, which is even further frustrating. There is a chart somewhere but offhand I don't have the URL. I'm sure someone around here can provide the exact link.

    There are all sorts of special rules regarding character dining and credits, which of course change with the various different plans. I'm not even sure the Luau Dinner Show even counts on the plan at all anywhere. It's just so complicated, and so chock-full of overbuying via pre-purchasing that any version of the plan just comes off as not your friend.

    It's almost like Disney just wants you to not worrry about the real details and just trust their marketing taglines regarding the plan. Unfortunately when those taglines include phrases such as "you could save as much as" it's obvious they're talking up the rosiest of pictures that may not necessarily apply to you. So then you want to go to the details to find what you might actually save (or not), but, lots of luck with that. So many little rules. So much fine print. So many little *'s and crosses. It's too bad you can't be ignorant and not be taken for a financial ride at the same time.

    The costs do add up quickly, but it's worth taking the time to really add them up and see if the total cost is more or less than what the Dining Plan for each member of your party will cost. There is a threshold where the Dining Plan does save you money, but that comes with a significantly large food purchase.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsnylndmom
    Why? Because, each person picked one restaurant they wanted to eat at and with 2 teenagers and a 10 year old, it was much more cost effective to go with the dining plan than not.
    Really? I would very much appreciate hearing some more details of your analysis. How were the various credits n' such used at the different restaurants?
    Last edited by PeoplemoverMatt; 02-12-2009 at 02:00 AM.

  8. #8

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    We've done the dining plan the last two years and thought it was worth it. To us, it was nice to be able to have a sit down meal and not feel rushed (and while I love being in the sun, my boyfriend usually enjoyed the 45minutes-an hour we got out of the sun! ). We had some great food at Le Cellier, Ohana, Rose and Crown, Character Meals...that we otherwise would not have gone to due to the cost of an actual meal. I always fret about making sure we have enough money and it was a big relief to me to just have to pay tips. It was also a great way to try resturants and foods I might not have tried otherwise (like Boma).

    We did the plan with the one sit down meal, one quick service and snack a day. We thought it was more than enough food and I varied the sit-downs between breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we ate when we were hungry with the quick service. And Disney Dining is really great if you decide you want to change your reservations as well and they can tell you what other places have reservations open if you want to switch your sit-down meals. The only problem we had was with the snakc credits and where we could use them and with what (it varies from place to place).

    It never took us long to eat either. With reservations, I think we waited maybe 5-10 minutes to be seated at the most. Then however long we wanted to sit at the table and enjoy ourselves we could. I think the longest we stayed was an hour and a half at Ohana because we were enjoying the music and watching people dance. We never felt the need to be rusehd from our table either.


    And Ohana is AMAZING! And it only cost us one dining credit when we went. Our travel agent sent us a dining pamphlet that had all of the resturants listed on the plan and how many credits they cost.
    Last edited by FantasticDuck; 02-12-2009 at 09:03 AM. Reason: forgot something
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  9. #9

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    It's definitely worth it. Eating at different restaurants is part of the Disney experience.. and you'll get that with the dining plan. You MUST MUST MUST MUST make reservations though.

    If you're worried that you'll be sitting around at restaurants for most of your trip, then try going for a couple of services that charge you 2 points for their restaurant.

    To be honest, we were eating way more than we should have been.. but we were never hungry! It was eating too much in a good way I guess. At the very last night, 10 minutes before our points were going to expire, we had like 10 snacks left and 4 quick meals. We used those points at our resort's cafe to get snacks for the airplane, drinks for the next day, and the quick meals for late night dinners/breakfasts.

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Ok this is how I look at it, most of the character dining and table service restaurants are on the DDP and quite frankly it's still worth the cost to do it. Disney claims you can save up to 30% with it, and well I've come close but never quite hit the 30% mark but what I can tell you is this, it has saved us well over a hundred dollars each trip we've done it, even with the changes last year.

    Basics - Eat your tableservice for Dinners, your counter sevice for lunch and you save the most, plan ahead get your reserrvations in early, know what the menu's are and the prices (check all ears.net or the dis for full menu's/pricing) and make sure your choosing your restarants well, and most importantly use all of the meals or your just throwing your money away.

    I've been working on a web tool for my web site for a while now that will advise you on how much you could save on each plan based on your restarant choices and which restarants are the best value and it's almost done, maybe over the long weekend I'll be able to wrap it up and get it online. (the reservation reminder is on the front page already, tells you when you can start booking on the new 90 day calendar) Untill then look on all ears at the menu's decide what you like and pick which one makes the most economical sence. You do need to do a lot of homework or work with a Disney travel Planner who does it everyday to navigate though it all but the money you save it worth the effort. (just ask Dan Young)
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  11. #11

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Not for me. I tend not to eat very much on a trip to WDW. I eat snack bars when I'm hungry, and the wife and kids will eat instead.
    I don't want my vacation busied up with dining reservations and having to eat to get my money's worth. I'm too busy making sure I get my money's worth on the park tickets!

    Just thought of something: I might get the dining plan if I planned not to buy park tickets. I'd have more free time that way.
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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Quote Originally Posted by sediment View Post
    Not for me. I tend not to eat very much on a trip to WDW. I eat snack bars when I'm hungry, and the wife and kids will eat instead.
    I don't want my vacation busied up with dining reservations and having to eat to get my money's worth. I'm too busy making sure I get my money's worth on the park tickets!

    Just thought of something: I might get the dining plan if I planned not to buy park tickets. I'd have more free time that way.
    Afraid they are bundled together, it's MYW + Dining, only way not to buy park tickets with the Dining plan that I know of is if you have an annual pass and that option was just added this year. (Dining plan option for AP holders)

    Also new this year and probably better suited for you Sediment would be the Quick Service meal plan, it gives you 2 Quick service meals (versus 1 table, 1 quick service) 2 snacks per person per night, and each person gets a free refillable drink mug for use at the resort's snack bar. It's cheaper than the old Dining plan and better suited for folks who don't do as many sit down meals.
    Last edited by Jerren; 02-13-2009 at 11:39 AM.
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  13. #13

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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    You only need to buy a 1 day park pass to add in the dining plan. It goes by the number of days you are staying at the resort, not the number of days on the park ticket.

    We never buy the dining package. For us, it just doesn't pay. I did the math a few times based on what we eat, and the dining plan doesn't save us money.
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    Re: Dining option - worth it?

    Disney wants to get as much of your money up front as possible. I have done the dining plan on a previous vacation, and I have also vacationed without the dining plan. Since they have taken the tip off the plan, I have decided for the next vacation to mostly just eat as I get hungry. I figure that most of my breakfasts will be at the food court in the morning, and then I will eat at some of the quick service venues that I have not sampled in the past, when I get hungry during the day.

    I have been to WDW many times in the past, and I have been able to eat at most of the restaurants that I have wanted to. The character meals, and the sit down restaurants can get pretty expensive, and I do realize that the dining plan does save you money if you want to eat in these types of places. However, dining does take time, and planning, and sometimes in the course of a day, it does happen that you have an ADR, and quite frankly, you just aren't hungry. For most people, I believe, it comes down to the numbers. If you are smart, you will figure out just how much you are paying, and whether it is convenient, and or cost effective for you. A WDW vacation takes some planning, in order to avoid some unexpected surprises along the way.
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