Monday, July 14, 2014

Disney Dining: Is the Dining Plan worth the expense?

By: Lindsey 

It seems like everywhere you read people are debating about whether to get the dining plan or not. I’ve talked to people on all sides of the fence. Especially when we were planning our first trip.

When it came time to plan our first Disney trip, I knew two things for sure. One, I would fly. I had never flown before; we drove everywhere when I was growing up. If I can avoid it, I’ll never make that long drive again. 20 to 22 hours in a car, especially with a toddler, no thank you. I’d almost rather stand up and give a speech in front of a room full of people. That says a lot.

Secondly, I would eat at Disney restaurants. Eating is one of my favorite parts of vacation. I like eating at favorite places and I love trying new places. We had already worked out our budget and we knew what we had to spend. Luckily, that first trip, we ended up getting a pretty great discount on a moderate resort. Because of the great discount, we were able to add the dining plan and still save money off our original total.

We used the Magic Your Way Package plus Dining. Which means we got a snack, a quick-service meal, and a casual dining meal per person per night. Anniston was under the age limit at that time so she shared with us, which is no extra cost. I immediately got online and made my dining reservations.

We learned a lot about the dining plan that first trip. Things such as the best ways to use your snack credits, timing of meals, etc. You know what else we discovered about the dining plan? It was great. It worked so well for us.

We had a couple of breakfasts scheduled. On the days where we used our casual service meal for breakfast, we’d use the snack for lunch and the quick-service meal for supper. Never once were we ever hungry. We also kept things with us such as granola bars and fruit snacks for Anniston. Let’s face it; there are times when a toddler needs a snack for a moment of entertainment.

On the days where our casual service meal wasn't at breakfast, we’d use the snack for breakfast and then our other two meals for lunch and supper. We ate at a lot of great restaurants, a couple that we’ll eat at every time, and a couple that we won’t go back to.

When it came time to book our 2013 trip, we knew for certain that we wanted to get a dining plan. We were just lucky that they ended up offering free dining for the week we would be there. That’s even better! We used the same strategy for laying out our meals as the 2011 trip.

So, why did it work so well for us? To us, it was basically pre-paying our food. We didn’t have to worry about extra money while we were there (except tips and we charged that on our then Key to the World card, now Magic Band) for food. Also, if we were paying out of pocket for food, knowing we were on a budget, I wouldn't have gotten to try as many restaurants as we did. I also wouldn't have ordered some of the meals that I got to eat due to the expense. I also would have never gotten to try to the desserts, which, wow.

Does it really save you money? Eh. It’s debatable. Like I said before, if I were paying out of pocket I wouldn't order some of the things I did and I definitely wouldn't have gotten dessert with every meal. If you would typically order expensive and get dessert, then, yes, it saves you money. If you would normally be more frugal, it doesn't necessarily save money. 

You can use this calculator to see if it will save you money or not.

If food isn't an important part of the trip, the dining plan may not be for you. I’m a hungry girl. I like to eat. Plus the restaurants are so well-themed that it just enhances the experience.

It basically boils down to your preferences, your budget, and the amount of time you have. If you are there for a short trip, you may not want to spend the extra hour or two sitting at a restaurant instead of spending time on rides or in shows.

So is the Dining Plan worth the expense? For us, YES!

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