Disney Dining Plan v. Paying Out of Pocket
Walt Disney World’s Disney Dining Plan has become a popular pre-paid “eat what you want” meal plan that some people swear by. It’s especially popular during “Free Dining” season, when it’s offered as part of a package discount (unquestionably the most eagerly anticipated discount of the year for Disney enthusiasts). The Disney Dining Plan is easy to use and if you eat a certain way, or plan well, you can save a lot of money. There’s no question about this, and we even have a number of resources on our site devoted to helping people maximize their savings on the Disney Dining Plan.
What isn’t so clear is whether using the Disney Dining Plan saves you money versus paying out of pocket if you don’t eat the certain way it is designed. If your party consists of light eaters, or you are spontaneous, or are able to use the Tables in Wonderland card, is the Disney Dining Plan right for you?
A lot of guests visiting Walt Disney World just assume the Disney Dining Plan will always save them money, which isn’t always true. In fact, a lot of times it will cost more money than paying out of pocket, and that’s the case even when the Disney Dining Plan is offered for “free.”
Rather than approaching this in the abstract, we decided to do a little “case study,” taking all of our receipts from our most recent 4-day trip to Walt Disney World, adding up our totals, and comparing our out of pocket costs to what we would have spent if we used the Disney Dining Plan. We’ll then examine free dining to explain why that doesn’t always save you money.
Which option “wins”? Let’s break things down…
On our recent 4-day Walt Disney World trip, we visited a number of restaurants, both table service and counter service, and had a lot of snacks. Most of our plans for dining were made at the last minute shortly before the trip or on a whim the day of, which meant that we didn’t do the math in advance to determine whether the Disney Dining Plan would have been right for us. Had we booked the Disney Dining Plan in advance, our plans would have changed to better suit the Plan and “save” more money. That said, we ate exactly where and ordered exactly what we wanted while paying out of pocket on this trip.
We arrived mid-afternoon our first day and left mid-afternoon our last day. Here’s where we ate and how much we spent:
Flower & Garden Festival Kiosk – $13.11
Garden Grill – $73.62
Everything Pop Food Court – $7.01
San Angel Inn – $54.92
Flower & Garden Festival Kiosks – $6.92
Artist Point – $120.79
50s Prime Time Cafe – $63.20
Restaurantosaurus – $25.92
Auntie Gravity’s – $5.52
Landscape of Flavors – $10.80
Tusker House – $57.78
Animal Kingdom Snack – $4.25
What We Paid…
Tables in Wonderland Proportional Cost: $25
What We Would’ve Paid on the Disney Dining Plan…
Disney Dining Plan Cost: $333.54
Out of Pocket Cost: $253.50
Unused Credits: 0 Table Service, 3 Counter Service, 0 Snack
Okay, time for a little explanation. How much we spent at each location speaks is the total we paid, including tip (~18%) and less Tables in Wonderland discount. All of these amounts added together form the basis of the subtotal, which is $443.84. Now, since we benefited from a Tables in Wonderland discount, and since that card costs $100 and we take about 4 Walt Disney World trips per year, I’ve attributed $25 of the card’s cost to this trip. That brings the total we spent on food for this trip to $468.84. Follow so far?
Tracking the amount spent gets a little trickier on the Disney Dining Plan. If we were on the DDP, we would have spent $333.54 on the plan alone, which would have given us each 3 credits for table service meals, counter service meals, and snacks (since our trip was 3 nights long).
As for the out of pocket portion there, the Disney Dining Plan does not cover tips, nor does it cover some other things we ordered, like alcohol and appetizers. We also paid for two table service meals out of pocket, since we only had enough credits for 3 table service meals, and we ate 5 table service meals. Here, I made sure to apply the DDP credits in the most efficient manner (so in this hypothetical, I applied a snack credit to a $4.25 cupcake rather than a $2.19 coffee, etc.).
Finally, the unused credits show what we didn’t use. We exceeded both our table service and snack credit allotments, but only had 3 counter service meals, so we would have had 3 credits remaining. Were we actually on the Disney Dining Plan, we would have used all of these credits, and not done one or two of the table service meals that we did. It’s also worth noting that for some meals we ordered appetizers and split desserts (or didn’t order dessert), which wouldn’t have been efficient on the Dining Plan, but we ordered what we wanted since we didn’t have to consider the Plan.
Case Study Conclusion
I normally do this math (very roughly) before each trip based upon menus from places we’re dining to get an idea of whether we might want to use the Disney Dining Plan. The first thing I want to note here is how liberating it was to do things spontaneously and not do this degree of planning (of course, I ended up doing even more work after the fact for this blog post, but whatever) and just eat what and where we wanted to eat without thinking about credits or Disney Dining Plan efficiency.
To that end, I think it’s much more convenient to NOT use the Disney Dining Plan. I say this in our review of the Disney Dining Plan, and I know this flies in the face of why so many people use the Dining Plan, but I don’t possibly see how it’s more convenient to use the Dining Plan than to not use it. Unlike what some people say, you are not “just” paying the cost of the Plan and then forgetting about dining costs and “eating whatever you want.” You’re pre-paying a portion of the cost, then paying another (significant) cost at each meal in the form of tips. Oh, and you can only eat certain things and have to plan the types of meals that work with the Disney Dining Plan, otherwise you waste credits.
When paying out of pocket, you show up where you want, order what you want, and pay for what you ordered. Done. I’m not even going to address the “budgeting” argument, as without extensive pre-planning, you can’t completely budget dining costs with the Disney Dining Plan any more than you can when paying out of pocket. So that’s a wash. Our experience with both paying out of pocket and with using the Disney Dining Plan has been that paying out of pocket is unquestionably more convenient. Any convenience of the Disney Dining Plan is illusory.
More importantly, what about actual savings? Based on my numbers, we clearly saved more money by not using the Disney Dining Plan and instead paying out of pocket and using Tables in Wonderland (we would have saved more even without the Tables in Wonderland card). However, in fairness, those numbers are a bit misleading. As mentioned above, we didn’t eat in a manner that fit the “style” of the Disney Dining Plan, and we had a table service-heavy trip. Honestly, we could have changed our style pretty easily without negatively affecting our experience and that would have made the gap between out of pocket and the Disney Dining Plan a bit smaller. By that, I don’t mean trading Artist Point for a counter service meal (unless there’s an AMAZING counter service restaurant we’ve never heard of, that swap would have had a negative affect on our experience!), I mean not ordering appetizers and instead doing more desserts.
Something that would have negatively affected our experience, but would also have decreased BOTH totals would have been to eat 2 additional counter service meals and 2 fewer table service meals. Obviously, this would have decreased the Dining Plan total more than the out of pocket total since we had the unused counter service credits on the Dining Plan. In fact, my rough math shows that, had we done that, the totals would have been almost even.
My preference is eating whatever I want at any restaurant and dining at the two table service restaurants rather than adding 2 counter service restaurants to the plans, but the point remains. For the sake of fairness to the Disney Dining Plan, we’re showing that a change to our plans could have made a big difference in terms of costs. We don’t want to make it appear that paying out of pocket will always be considerably cheaper than using the Disney Dining Plan, because that’s simply not true. It was true on this one trip we took, but is definitely not always true, even for us. On other occasions, we’ve saved a lot of money by using the Disney Dining Plan! In fact, this article is sort of a “counter-point” to last year’s case study showing how we saved a lot of money on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. (Just to show we’re not biased one way or the other…)
This also shows that there is no single answer to the out of pocket versus Disney Dining Plan question in terms of savings. The results can substantially deviate based upon your personal dining reservations, plans, and eating habits. While my numbers illustrate this point, they offer little more than illustration, and are really little more than academic here. The real point is that both paying out of pocket and using the Disney Dining Plan can each be viable options worthy of consideration. In other words, don’t just rely on the numbers presented here–read past them and do your own math if saving money is something about which you really care.
When you do the math, don’t base your calculations on what the Disney Dining Plan provides. Base your numbers on what you’d actually like to eat on your vacation. If you don’t do much snacking at Walt Disney World, but would take home a bunch of bags of Disney candy with unused snack credits if you had to, don’t factor that candy into your calculations. It’s not something you really want, and just because you would use snack credits on the candy (instead of letting the credits go to waste), doesn’t mean those credits are “worth” $4.19 each. Spending more money to “save” more money isn’t really saving money at all–it’s wasting money.
What About “Free” Dining?
I mentioned Free Dining above, and the same principle that the Dining Plan–even when “free”–doesn’t always save you more money. This is something I’ve harped on in the past, and it’s worth sounding like an ornery nag for the sake of hammering home, because many people still don’t seem to understand this: FREE DINING IS NOT FREE.
Walt Disney World almost always has discounts. The place is like the Kohl’s of vacation destinations. No one is paying full price at either place, making full price/rack rates almost meaningless. Since the statement that Free Dining isn’t really free seems to confuse a lot of guests, let’s go through it point by point. Walt Disney World almost always offers discounts on vacations. If you book with one discount, you cannot book with another discount (at least guests from the US can’t). Free Dining is one discount that Disney offers. A room-only discount of 20%/25%/30%/35%/40% off is another discount Disney offers.
It thus becomes a question of opportunity cost. Do YOU save more money paying with free dining and a full priced room and tickets than you do with a room discount and paying out of pocket for food (and with potentially discounted tickets)?
If Free Dining were offered during our visit (it wasn’t), it would have been a far better offer because room-only discounts were meager. Then again, meager room-only discounts partly explain why free dining wasn’t offered. If discounts are meager they are meager across the board, and they are meager because Disney doesn’t need to use them to “persuade” more guests to visit (this is why summer break discounts are so rare). When Free Dining is offered, it’s usually offered in off-seasons when room-only discounts are also usually much more substantial.
It’s frequently true that Free Dining is the best discount. If you have a family of 4 staying in one room, no matter the resort, that’s usually the case. However, if you have a couple staying in a more expensive room, it’s often not the case. Sarah and I frequently staying at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, which often has a 30% room-only discount or Free Dining when we stay there.
With a 30% off discount at BoardWalk Inn, we save around $125 per night with a 30% off room-only discount during our annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival trip. This is more than the average daily amount that we spend on food, which is why we book the room-only discount at BoardWalk if both discounts are offered. If there were 2 more people staying in the room with us, that would tip the scale in favor of Free Dining. Likewise, a family of 4 staying at a non-Deluxe resort, such as Disney’s Coronado Springs, is probably going to find that they save much more with Free Dining than they do with a room-only discount. I know everyone hates math, but the point, once again, is that you have to do the math for your circumstances to know for sure. Better to suffer through a little math and save some money than just assume based on marketing buzzwords like “free,” be wrong, and end up paying more.
Our example illustrates why it’s important to do some advance planning when it comes to dining at Walt Disney World. You vets out there already know this, but if you’re a first-time visitor or are only really familiar with Disneyland, you may not realize this. Planning your dining is almost as important as booking your airfare. A lot of Walt Disney World restaurants book up months in advance, and the difference in experience between a good and a bad restaurant is like night and day. We highly recommend reading some of our restaurant reviews and checking out menus online before before making your Advance Dining Reservations. Not only will they give you an idea of what restaurants to book, but they’ll help you do the math and figure out whether the Disney Dining Plan or paying out of pocket is right for you!
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Do you typically use the Disney Dining Plan or do you pay out of pocket? What works best for you? I would love to hear what your thoughts are about the Disney Dining Plan, and how it works—or doesn’t work—for you. Share your thoughts in the comments!
Hi, i have just discovered your blog and i am using it every step of the way to plan our amazing WDW trip hopefully in 2023. We are all the way from Australia 🙂
I am curious if you could shed some light on one thing for me please – the advice I have read is that you want to book restaurants 180 days from your arrival to secure a table. That sort of works against any spontaneity of walking around the park on the day and choosing a restaurant we feel like dining at. If we don’t book a restaurant 180 days out from out arrival date, what are the chances of us dining where we want?
Do restaurants book out 100% or do they accept bookings for 50% of the tables and the other 50% is set aside for walk ins? I want to know how much planning and research i need to do to secure the restaurants we might like.
Thanks again, i absolutely adore your blog and I am taking all your advice on board to plan the perfect trip!
Thank you for give us grate idea.
Thank you for this comparison. It really helped me a lot. Looking a planning another Disney trip. I will probally end up going with the meal plan even though we will probally not quite get our moneys worth. Just because I want to be able to eat all the good food and if I do not pre spend on this my hubbs and in-laws will stress over the costs and well pinch all our pennies again and I won’t get to try all the delicious food I want.
your case study is quite flawed as you’re comparing apples to oranges.
proper examination should be apple to apples.
1. you’re using Wonderland table card.
majority of visitors are out of state, OR out of country, AND not part of DVC, or passholders. they arent eligible to purchase the wonderland table card.
2. you’re buying on a whim.
of course cost is never a factor when you’re buying when and whatever.
3. you’re only buying food for 2
most visitors are families of 3 or more
4. you’re comparing Dining Plan vs Open plan
Dining plans follow a format. thats not the same as buying anything you want.
– – – – – –
The best case study for everyday people would be:
1. use NO discounts – – Other than what Disneys gives you for staying on-site.
2. buy for 1 Adult + 1 Child. (people can add the $$ according to the # in their group)
3. follow the Dining Plans rules, and buy the foods out of pocket correlating to the plan.
then total your receipts against the cost of the Dining Plan, to see whos actually saving money.
QS plan = 2 snacks + 2 QS meals + 1 drink cup
your test shoulda been: i will buy my food according to the QS plan, but as out of pocket purchases.
then compare your receipts vs the cost of the QS plan.
4. then you do this for Dining Plan.
5. then you do this for Deluxe Plan.
this way, you’re comparing apples to apples.
and could better show actual price differences of your purchases vs each of the Dining Plan.
using your AP + FL discounts puts about 80% of disney travellers at a complete disadvantage.
its the same for Military people bragging about how much $$$ they saved, then telling people how they did it.
wow, you “found” all the discounts to pay for $1200 total for Room + Tix for family of 4 with 6 day tix. Good for YOU !
But what about the rest of us who pays >$4000 ?
Unless you’re offering to buy Wonderland Table Coupon for every person in the park, and give everyone FL discounts, and Annual Passes, your case study is too abstract and doesnt offer actual analysis for a convincing argument of Dining Plan vs Out of Pocket costs.
another way to test Dining Plan vs Out of Pocket (OOP) is break it down in term of $$$.
most websites says 1 AD Dining plan is about $55, and 1 KD plan is about $27
so if QS Plan = 2 snacks + 2 Meals + 1 cup
then price break down per food would be $55/5 = $11 per piece.
minus the Cup, now gives you $44 to spend between 2 Snacks and 2 Meals
remember that Alc is included with AD meals. Soda doesnt count since you have the refill Cup. unless you want Shakes, Fraps, etc.
so that means your $11 is now stretched rather thin per item.
even if you limit your Snacks to < $5 and Meals to < $13, you'd still end up spending more OOP than what Dining Plan offers.
OOP for 1 ADult = = $4 Snack, $6 snack, $13 sandwich, $5 Smoothie, $15 Burger,
$7 Beer = = $50 + $10 in taxes = $60 spent for Day 1
(you only have $44 max alotted)
Looks like *somebody* is trying to make the math work to justify his purchase…but the fact is, the DDP is NEVER a good deal unless you have a minimum of four people sharing one standard room at a Value resort. In almost any other scenario, you’re far better off paying OOP.
I am a Disney/ABC TV employee planning my first trip using my free park admission, resort discount and I also get discounts all over the park for food as well as shopping. I am not a huge eater and will definitely want some alcohol at some point during the day due to the nature of Disney World and spending the entire day there with my niece and nephew. My husband can definitely eat, but only if it is available to him. He won’t go seeking out constant food sources if they aren’t right on the table in front of him. 🙂
I shouldn’t bother with the meal plan right?
I think your correct, forget the meal plan. I get it when it’s “free” and we stay in a value hotel (we actually prefer the value hotel to the moderates ….. stayed at the beach club once and it was a disappointment).
I like to use the meal plan cost as a budget number for food though. About $75/day per adult if your planning on a sit down dinner each night and about $50/pp if you just want quick service. I tend to average them and would say about $63/day is a good budget number for me. Your mileage may vary (the children should be considerably less).
The deluxe plan does include appetizers, and alcoholic beverages. Maybe that is new since you did this. Many people cannot get a Tables in wonderland card, or go 4 times a year, so we do not really mind planning out and getting reservations. And do you totally not care about the mug at the resort? The way I see it when figuring out if it is worth doing or not you take the value of that and the snacks off first. I do know that we are not saving money on tips, but neither is anyone else. You tip on the bill, and do not take off discounts anyway. I am just getting ready for my first trip where I stay at a resort, and my husband is going to want 2 non fast food meals each day. Plus, if you do any of the special things like Morimoto Asia, and use a lot of you snacks at an Epcot festival like food and wine, well, I plan to check the totals at the end and see, but so for we are coming out way ahead. Also, there is no reason not to finish out any meals you have left over before you leave by loading up on Disney snack items, so I see no reason to have any left over. We are doing exactly what we want to do too. Things we have never done before, and my numbers on those things show we are saving so much more than we spent on it that we can use our last 4 credits on anything we like and add at least $60 more to the $60 I already have on the plus side. And all the sales tax is figured on the cost of the plan rather than the cost of the food we actually bought.
Plus, if you don’t plan ahead of time you may not be able to do what you really want. Some of the things we really wanted, and I got are full now. Or you have to spend a lot of Tim waiting for a standby spot.
I am not really big on planning a lot at Dwd I like to wake up and decide where I want to go. While there are places I really like to eat it’s not why I am there. I am sure I will find food. A few years ago I went with my daughter and the family a 12yo and 8 yo. The schedule was harrowing. We were constantly watching the time have to get from animal kingdom to Epcot by 7 have to be at fast track at 8. All day every day it was a lot of work not my style! If the lines too long I’ll be back.
Hi there, silly question. Can I choose to pay out of pocket even if I have the Dining Plan? For example, I want to save two of my table service credits for CRT, but a quick dinner grab at Mama Melrose, can I just pay out of pocket to save the credit?
Of course you can pay out of pocket if you wanted. Just don’t mention the dining plan.
Me 1 month ago when I first thought of going overseas to WDW : “That’ll be fun, lazy vacation, I just have to remember to book the food 6 months in advance”
Me now : “Oh my god!!! I need to first plan everything to the millisecond, then see IF the dining plan is a good deal or not, THEN make the reservation, THEN hope that 6 months before coming, the availability of the restaurants and the vacation plan are compatible, THEN hope that 2 months before going, the availability for Fast Pass will be compatible with everything else….. AHHHHHHHHHHH” :p No kidding, planning WDW is one of the most stressful thing there is XD
So confusing! How do you know when you will be hungry and what you will be close to so you can preplan? Our first time and making reservations without any of the above knowledge is crazy to me! Aaaack!
I know right? I’m accustomed to Disneyland Paris (by accustomed, I mean I go there once every two years :p ), And I never had to plan anything this much
If I want to go to a high value restaurant, yeah i’ll need to book it, but everything else I can do whenever I want…..
Did you manage to plan your trip in the end? ^^
We’ve done both the Quick-Service DDP & eaten on our own. Perhaps the best (and first) two questions to ask will help clarify your priorities:
1) What matters to your family the most? The accommodations? Time sitting around the pool? The food? Or is the most important aspect of a Disney vacation your time in the parks on the rides, at shows & events, and meet & greets? My family are “park people” – we don’t go to WDW to spend time around the pool, and would prefer doing meet & greets that don’t require us to pay $$$ for a waffle (just our personal opinion).
2) How much does the DDP truly cost, and will your family meet or exceed the cost? As many have noted, there is no such thing as “Free Dining”, and the “free” dining is typically tied in with a requirement that could mean you lose out on a room discount. For example, our upcoming trip using a room discount is $1300 less than if we booked the package with a “free” Quick-Service DDP. Given that we’re a party of 5 who will be staying 5 nights, that cost difference works out to be $52 per person per day. With lunch/dinners available for $15 and under, two picky eaters who last time on the DDP became experts on which venues offered the best chicken nuggets, and one child with a peanut/tree nut allergy, the numbers didn’t work for us.
Another often-forgotten part of this equation is that unless you have the Deluxe food plan, breakfast is at your expense anyway. We take that into consideration, and have found that a combination of buying our own breakfast, lunch & snack staples and eating dinner in the parks is the best combination for our family’s budget & time.
We typically do the dining plan because I find it helpful to plan. But we are small eaters, i.e. My husband and I typically share a counter service meal, so I wonder if it’s worth it. $$
This time we are going as annual pass holders for the first time. Annual Pass Holders enjoy a 10% discount at most restaurants. So, I’m thinking of skipping the dining plan in lieu of using our Annual Pass holder discount.
What do you thinkg?
There are six of us, four of us young children. “Spontaneous” in no way describes any dining experience we’ve had in the past few years, or will have for a few years more. The kids need to eat on a fairly regular schedule, and cannot do two “sit-down” meals in one day. So, the dining plan was an obvious choice for us, since we knew we would reserve several character meals well in advance, and we know we’ll eat at least one other meal that will definitely be counter service.
We went in Dec 2016. After getting the Disney dining plan for free with CBR, we upgraded as we did on our prior two trips for the deluxe dining plan. On most days, we’d do a buffet breakfast and stock up for the day knowing that we wouldn’t eat until 4 or 5.
The reason we wouldn’t eat until 4 or 5 was that we’d combine the remaining two points per day of sit down meals into one signature dining experience. Rather than getting on a bus and going back to the hotel to chill out after being out since 6:30AM, the family would hit a nice dining experience for an hour and a half and recharge.
We had great experiences at Be Our Guest (1 pointer still), the castle, California Grill, Narcoossee’s, Yachtmans, Mama Melrose (1 pointer still and you can get front row seating at Fantasmic in a pkg) and the Boathouse.
When I came back, I had held onto my receipts to do a little analysis of the food we got and the cost I paid for the bump up to the Deluxe Plan from the Disney Dining plan.
With 4 adults (me, wife, two of my older kids) and one child, the upgrade cost was $1309 for the whole week’s worth of deluxe meal points. My receipts totaled $3123 before tips (cannot count tips, you would pay them with or without the plan) so we got $1814 in food over and above the $1309 fee we paid for the upgrade. It was well worth it if you ask me for not only the dining experiences, but also using them as a place to recharge. Make no mistake; it is a lot of food! But I think you can enjoy it more (or at least we did) when spread out over two meals in one day.
I went by myself during free dining back in Fall 2016 and went with the free dining. I stayed at the value hotel Pop and upgraded to the dining plan with 1 table service and 1 quick service each day for about an extra $100. The main reason I went with the dining plan and upgraded it is because it offered dining options I would not have otherwise considered. I ate at least 5 character meals, substituted 1 quick service for 3 snacks (beignets), and used snack credits for the Food and Wine Festival.
I should note that I have a gluten allergy so I was getting access to foods that I hadn’t been able to eat in over 5 years since my neck of the woods isn’t know to be overly friendly to food allergies. I also pre-planned what and where I was going to eat each day (including quick service), but I do this even when I’m not using the dining plan (I like to plan trips). I was there for 7 nights ended up paying for an 8 day ticket instead of 6 days (I planned to be at universal on the first day and fly out early on the 8th) because it got me 2 additional table service, quick service, and snacks for only $20.
There were some table services that I didn’t use the dining plan because I planned more than 8 table restaurants and really only wanted to try a specific appetizer or dessert. Finally, I did end up having 1 quick service left over but that was due to being too tired the last night and deciding to leave early. I also last minute decided to go to the hoopiddy (sp?) doo da review. I didn’t use a table service because it would have required 2 credits and only cost about $50-60. Instead, I was able to add two character meals that came available while I was there for those two credits (Akerhaus and Be Our Guest Dinner).
Overall, I’d do the dining plan again if it is free because I ended up eating numerous $40-80 meals I wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed, it increased my Disney experience and saved me a lot of money.
Good lord, how complicated. We’re looking at a trip on the near future. Three adults who love to eat (2/3 are vegetarian) and one picky 3yo who loves to graze. Guess I’ll have to do some [[shudder]] math.
Sidenote: Does Disney allow you to bring in food/beverages?
Yes Disney allows you to bring in food/beverages—not like a cooler load but a back pack type cooler. I think there are rules against a cooler on wheels but we frequently take bottled water and small bagged snacks (think cookies; goldfish; etc)
I’m going to WDW in March and plan NOT to use the dining plan, even though I’ve loved it in the past. Each trip I say next time I’ll try it without. It all starts off fabulous, then I’m a stuffed whale. My deal is I LOVE good food and research where I’m going to eat and even what I will eat. Even the snacks, everything. I have a must try list a mile long. So I’ll get back with you after our next trip. Mind you, IF free dining were offered during said trip I would grab it. There are 4 adults staying in one room.
Here’s what I want to know….I have an 11 year old son (who’ll be 12 on our next trip) but he isn’t going to want to eat off the adult menu in most table service restaurants because he is a picky eater. He likes kid food like grilled cheese, mac & cheese and chicken nuggets and does not want steak and fish and veggies. So if I get the dining plan I have to pay for the adult price but if we ate on our own would they allow him to eat off the child’s menu? Because then and there that makes paying out of pocket cheaper than the dining plan for us and I won’t even consider it. But if they are going to force him to get something off the adult menu because he is older than nine (which just doesn’t sound very Disney) then it’s probably a wash whether we do the plan or not. Thoughts?
I am going through this dilemma right now. I’d love to get some WDW pro points of view. My family, 5 adults and 1 2 1/2. We have a resort that has full kitchens. We can eat all our meals at the resort if we wanted, but I know that we won’t. We will be there for 8 days, arriving on a Sunday at 10am and leaving the following Sunday at 3pm, which eliminates one breakfast and one dinner.
The dining plan would cost $2164.00 for us, since the toddler in the bunch doesn’t count. I have been crunching numbers, but I am a bit mind boggled about the entire thing.
Here is what I think will happen:
Breakfast in our own kitchen,
Lunch in the parks at counter service,
Dinner is already planned at the following places:
A Buffet with Character Dinner at The Crystal Palace
Fairy Tale Dining Dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table (prepaid)
Coral Reef Restaurant Dinner
Donald’s Dining Safari Lunch at Tusker Ho
Chef Mickey’s Fun Time Buffet Dinner at Chef Mickeyuse Restaurant (lunch)
The Hollywood Brown Derby Dinner
Breakfast will be in the room, will average $15.00 per person = $630.00
Counter Service lunches will average $100 each for the 6 of us= $800.00
Table Service Dinner is going to average $400 per meal for the 6 of us= $2400 (Cinderellas castle is prepaid)
Total (w/o snacks) = $3830.00
Total (w/dining plan) = 2794.00
What am I missing? When my husband and son go to WDW, I know we always have the dining plan and it has always worked in our favor. However, this is a different group and includes a 2 year old, who will eat pasta and grilled cheese all week. I’d appreciate any thoughts.
Hi! I was wondering what you ended up doing this trip and how it worked out (dining wise)…we are in the dilemma of plan no plan… we have 2 adults, 1 5yr old, and 1 2yr old. Mac and Cheese/ pizza is out life :0) We are trying to figure out if the dining plan is worth it?! Any thoughts/tips would be appreciated!