Is Disney’s Dining Plan Worth It?

Planning a trip to Disney World is fraught with all sorts of decisions. Length of stay, where to stay, to park hop or not. One question that I encounter over and over again in the various Disney advice groups I’m in – and trust me, it’s a lot of groups – is this: is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?
The answer is… complicated. But I’m going to do my best to answer it by looking at a few areas. Pure economic worth, budgetting worth, convenience and emotional worth.
First, though, a few definitions.
Quick service dining is what Disney calls fast food eateries. It isn’t all burgers, fries and hotdogs, though. Some Quick Service  places are fancy, some are varied, some are exotic.
Table service is your basic sit-down restaurant. The sort where waitstaff take your orders and bring your food. Buffets also fall into this category.
Signature dining is high-end table service. It’s expensive, and it’s usually worth it, too. You might be surprised at the quality of some of Disney World’s Signature restaurants.
The Disney Dining Plan has three tiers:
* Quick Service comes with two quick service meals and two snacks per day, plus a refillable resort mug, which you can use at any resort’s food court as much as you like
* Standard comes with one quick service meal, one table service meal, and two snack credits per day, plus the refillable resort mug
* Deluxe comes with three meal credits which you can spent on either table or quick service, two snacks, and the refillable mug
Got it? Awesome.
Economic Worth
Will the dining plan save you money? With two exceptions, no. It very likely won’t. However, assuming you use all your credits, and don’t do things like spending a snack credit on a bottle of water, it won’t lose you money, either.
However, if you’re looking to cut back on spending, this is not really the way to go. You’d be better off bringing your own snacks, and even doing things like ordering groceries to your hotel to provide for breakfasts.
I mean, think about it. Disney, much as I love it, is a corporation who is trying to make money. They probably wouldn’t promote a dining plan that loses them money. So, no, this isn’t a way to save loads of mulah as a general rule.
The exceptions are twofold, as I said. The first is if you are taking advantage of free dining, which is usually offered once a year, and only for limited dates. If you book at the right Disney hotel for at least four park days, with parkhopper tickets, you qualify for free dining. However, you can’t use this with any other discount, so I suggest doing the math first to make sure this really is your least expensive option.
The second exception is if fine dining is a huge priority. See, Signature dining costs two credits, not one. With the Deluxe plan, if you eat at a signature restaurant every day, and have a regular table service meal for your other credit use, then you will save money. You’ll just also spend a lot of time eating. Which is great for some, not so great for others.
Budgetting Worth
However, sheer saving of money isn’t the only way you should consider the dining plan. As a budgetting tool, it is actually pretty great.
With the dining plan, you pay ahead of time. Disney does accept partial payments over a period of time, too. Prepaying for your food like this takes the guess-work out of trying to come up with a budget. After all, you know exactly how much you’re going to be spending on food, and can get it taken care of in a manner that works for you.
Convenience Worth
There is no two ways around it: the dining plan is just plain easy. As you can only have the dining plan if you’re staying on Disney property, you’re already getting a magic band, as that comes with your stay. This thing functions as your room key, park ticket, and possibly your credit card if you so choose, and it will also function as your dining plan card. Whenever you order food, you simply scan the band and the meal credits are deducted from your account. No need to carry cash. No need to pull out credit or debit cards. Just press your wrist to the reader, enter your PIN, and you’re good to go.
Emotional Worth
Finally, the big one. At least, I consider it to be the big one. Disney is expensive. Themepark food is expensive. There is also a lot of very tempting things. Things you may find yourself wanting quite badly. If you’re like me, you may refrain from ordering them, though. After all, do you really need the pretzel shaped like Mickey Mouse? Or the fancy, brightly coloured drink?
You may look at a menu, and try to calculate the least expensive item, rather than going for what you really want. Sure, that bison loin sounds good, or that sushi platter. But you could just order the least expensive option.
When you’ve already paid for it all, though, you gain a certain freedom. You can order the most expensive thing on the menu, if it’s what you want. You can have that ice cream float shaped like Peter Pan’s hat. That pretzel is all yours, if you want it. This one gets even more interesting if you’re there during one of Epcot’s festivals, and given how long those last there is a higher chance of being there during one than not. Most of the items sold at carts are snack credit eligible, and most of them sound intriguing.
Not only can you get those snacks, but you should get those snacks. After all, you already paid for them.
So, is the dining plan worth it? I think that it is, so long as you are not looking at it from a purely money-saving standpoint. Will it work for you? Only you can answer that. If you’re a light eater, probably not. If you want to cut corners anywhere you can, probably not. But aside from that? Probably.
Oh, and remember that if you do wind up with leftover snack credits, and you may very well wind up with them, you can spend them in gift shops on packaged snacks to bring home and drown your post-Disney blues with. Or, you know, give as gifts.
I want to thank my friend Jen from the Will Save For Travel blog for her input on this topic. She has some really great advice for budgetting, and is as big a Disney fanatic as I am. If you want to check out her blog pop on over to https://willsavefortravel.com/ and take a gander.
Want to follow or interact with me on social media? Find me on Twitter by following @jennifermorash or head over to https://www.facebook.com/jennifermorashblog. I post blogs every Wednesday.

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