Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Epcot, France Bakery

Photo by rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

The dining plans at Disney World profess to offer you a great value, but do they?  Is a dining plan the right choice for your family?  The answer is, for some people, the dining plan is absolutely a great value; find out here if you are one of them.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at the Standard Dining Plan.  We’ll look at the Quick Service Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan another time.

There are two ways in which the dining plan provides a value.  First, there is a set cost for each dining plan.  The idea is, if the amount you’d spend normally would exceed the cost of the dining plan, then you will save money by purchasing it.  Let’s take a look at how this works:

The 2013 Dining Plan is $56.94 (peak season) per person per day.  This includes 1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack each day, plus a refillable resort mug.  To compare costs, we can look at some menu items to see what we’d be purchasing during our stay.  Let’s say we’re going to eat at Sunshine Seasons for our quick service today, the Princess dinner at Akershus in the Norway pavilion, and we’ll get ourselves a delicious Napolean from the France Pavilion.  I’ll pick the Spicy Cashew Chicken  at Sunshine Seasons for $9.99  , the buffet at the Princess dinner is $55.37 (price changes seasonally), and my snack of a Napoleon from Boulangerie Patisserie costs $4.50.   You can see we’re already at  $69.86.  We’re already over the daily price for the dining plan.  But wait – there’s more!  The dining plan includes dessert and basic drinks (soda, milk, tea, coffee, etc) with each meal, which we haven’t included with our lunch here (this particular dinner is a buffet and does included dessert) added in to our total, so there are more savings to be had.  Ok some of you are thinking there is no way you’d normally pay for dessert.  Fair enough, except, if it was more or less free, consider how fun it is to try new desserts everywhere you go!

Maybe you aren’t sure if you will always get savings with the plan or if some days you might just break even.  That brings us to the second way that the dining plan provides value: peace of mind.  Let’s go with that – what if you only break even?  Why have the dining plan then?  Well, if you are like many people, sitting down at expensive restaurants (and let’s face it, the Disney restaurants are expensive) while on vacation can lead to sticker shock each time you open a menu.  You may see an item you really want but then tell yourself you should order the cheaper item.  Maybe your husband always wants to order the most expensive steak and you tend to bicker over it (ahem…personal experience here perhaps…).  Having the dining plan means that you have already paid for your food.  When you sit down and you open that menu, it doesn’t matter what you choose – you can freely order whichever entrée looks good.  You can get any dessert you’d like.  You can get your $30 plate and he can get his $50. Or maybe, you’ll get that $50 plate now, too, because why not??  It’s already paid for, already done, and there’s no need to stress over the prices or experience sticker shock each day.   So the second value in the dining plan is peace of mind and reducing stress.  And in the end, shouldn’t your vacation be filled with as little stress as possible?

Not everyone needs the dining plan… those who eat very little, or those who really enjoy bringing their own food into the parks and perhaps cooking in a condo rental for dinner won’t find value in it, of course.  And you can certainly just pay as you go for each meal.  But if you’re on the fence and you’ve never tried it, give it a go and see what you think.  Once I tried it, I never wanted to go without it again!

 

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2 Comments
  1. We just got back from Disney (thanks Sabrina!)and we found a way to work the dining plan that was a good fit for us. We had the plan where we got a snack, quick service meal and sit-down meal a day. We used the snack for breakfast, so we would have a pastry or apple or bowl of cereal for breakfast. Since you get a refillable travel mug for staying on property, that was our coffee or hot chocolate for breakfast. By the time it was time for lunch we used the counter service meal, which gives you a lot of food. For dinner we had the sit-down table service meals, and that really fills you up. With the amount of food that you get you don’t really need the snack, but if you want to you could always have a soda at the hotel with the travel mug for free, or just get a vending machine snack.

    We went to Disney once and got full-service meals for every meal, and that really was way too much food. Even for our group of two adults and two teenagers, the snack for breakfast was the way to go.

    • Great way to use the snack! We also sometimes split a quick service meal at some of the locations that have very big portions, leaving us extras to use for breakfast on some days. I think I’ll write another post later about clever uses of the dining plan.

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