We get this question more than almost any other – is the Disney Dining Plan financially worth it, or is it better to pay out of pocket for your meals? The answer to that question is complicated, and ambiguous, and unfortunately boils down to this – it depends on the person. David and I don’t always get a Disney Dining Plan when we go to Walt Disney World. We probably have one about 50% of the time that we travel to the happiest place on earth, and there are many variables that factor into a decision to purchase a dining plan, or not. Today, we’re going to try to break down not the costs of the different dining plans (because there are different levels that come with different meal entitlements for different prices), and that information can be found anywhere online. What we’re going to do is try to determine if the meal plan is worth it for your family, and the kind of trip you want to take.
1. Peace Of Mind
One of the biggest things you’re buying when you purchase the Disney Dining Plan, is peace of mind. People who enjoy all-inclusive vacations, will most likely want to go ahead and book the Disney Dining Plan, even if it is possible to save money by paying out of pocket for meals. We’ve found, when we’re on the Disney Dining Plan, is that we aren’t worried about money, or how much a meal costs, while on vacation, which leads to us enjoying our trip more. We know that Disney can be expensive, and there can be the tendency to have ‘sticker shock’ when seeing price tags on menus. The Disney Dining Plan can alleviate that, because your meals are paid for upfront.
2. Saving Money
Yes, you can save money by using the Disney Dining Plan, but only if you use the Dining Plan wisely. True story – we met a family a few years ago that got a Deluxe Disney Dining Plan every year for their family of four (they had two toddlers), and at the end of every week would have a massive amount of unused credits – so they would use all of them for caramel apples to take home to friends. This is NOT A GOOD FINANCIAL USE OF THE DISNEY DINING PLAN. Yes, it is your money, and you can do whatever you want with it, including giving it all to Richard at The Grand Floridian (that’s a great use of money, who are we kidding.) If you’re willing to do a little research, and you are the kind of person who always wants to order steak on a menu (aka the best kind of people), then there’s a good chance you’ll end up saving money. If you’re a light eater, don’t believe in dessert, and are a vegetarian, you will not save money on the Disney Dining Plan – bottom line. If saving money is what you’re after, and you fall into any of those categories, you should consider paying out of pocket for your meals.
3. Are You Sharers?
This isn’t widely spread around, but you can share meals while using the Disney Dining Plan, and make your credits go much further. David and I do it a lot, as we aren’t fond of each eating a three course meal in 100 degree heat, and it really makes the Dining Plan a good value for us. You obviously cannot do this at a place that is a ‘set price’, like a character buffet, or Cinderella’s Royal Table. We understand that some people don’t like the idea of sharing food, but if you do, this might be the tipping factor that will get you more mileage out of your Dining Plan, and make it worth the money.
We know that we don’t have definitive answers for whether or not you should purchase a Disney Dining Plan – we go both ways on the trips we’ve taken, and have amazing times both with, and without the plan. We hope we’re able to provide you with more information though, to make your decision easier. Either way, we know you’ll have a great time eating your way through Disney World -because that’s why you’re really going, right?