You have decided to go to Walt Disney World. The excitement has set in. Then we ask you the question “do you want a dining plan”.
So, should you get a dining plan?
First, let’s go over what the dining plan really is. Disney offers the Quick Service Dining Plan, the Dining Plan, and the Deluxe Dining Plan. Walt Disney World has fast food options, sit down table service options, and a place to buy snacks just about everywhere you look. So here is a quick rundown of the dining plan options.
You can only purchase a dining plan if you are staying at a Walt Disney World resort. If you decide to purchase a dining plan, everyone on your reservation must purchase the dining plan and it is the same dining plan option for all. This means that Grandma and Grandpa must get the dining plan if they are on your reservation. You cannot have the Quick Service Dining Plan for your kids and the Dining Plan for you and your spouse. Everyone must have the same plan.
Children under the age of 3 are not on the dining plan. A child under 3 can eat off the parent’s plate or if at a buffet/family style restaurant they are able to get their own plate. If your child under 3 needs their own meal, you will have to pay out of pocket or use an additional m3eal credit. Please be aware of how many credits you are using extra for the child under 3.
You are given credits as shown in the table above for each night of your stay. If you are staying for three nights, then you would multiple each credit by 3. If you have chosen the Quick Service Dining Plan, then each person will have 1 Refillable Drink Mug, 6 Snack credits, and 6 Counter Service Meals (Fast Food). Disney does not ration them for you. You can decide to eat four Counter Service Meals on the first day of your vacation. You can also not use them and lose them. You have to manage them to make sure you get the maximum out of your dining plan.
So, let’s ask the question again: Should you get a dining plan?
A seasoned Disney veteran will always answer with “IT DEPENDS”.
Make trip feel all-inclusive – You can prepay for your meals so the trip feels like it is all inclusive. Most everyone likes to know up-front and in advance what something is going to cost them. By purchasing a dining plan, you can alleviate some of the uncertainty of how much food, a necessity, is going to cost you. If you are a planner, then this goes a long way to helping make sure you minimize your unexpected expenses.
Alleviates family conflicts – We have seen where extended families go and part of the family wants the memories of the sit-down meals or character meals and other parts of the family do not want to spend the money or do not have the money to spend. If you have a dining plan (Dining Plan or Deluxe Dining Plan in particular for this example) this can remove conflict between family members. It gives members of your family time to save and prepare for the cost of eating in advance. Everyone can have a little less stress and enjoy the vacation that much more.
To save money – A dining plan is not always a sure bet to save money. If you get reservations to the higher end sit down restaurants and order the high-end entrees, then yes you can save money. The dining plan does not restrict you from any entrée on the list. You can also lose money if you order the low-end entrees on the menu. We always like to look at the menus and do some quick calculations to see if we think it can truly save us money.
Are you a big eater? – If you and your family are big eaters, then this plan can save you money. If you are a steak and seafood lover, then it may be worth looking at. If you are a chicken and/or vegetarian person, it may not be such a great deal.
Sometimes it’s free – Disney uses this as a promotion, especially for Fall vacations, to boost attendance. Disney usually offers the plan based on resort category (Value, Moderate, Deluxe), so it depends where you are staying. We have seen in the past Value Resorts get the Quick Service Dining Plan, Moderate Resorts get the Dining Plan, and Deluxe Resorts get the Deluxe Dining Plan. The most recent promotion gave Value and Moderate Resorts the Quick Service Dining Plan and Deluxe the Dining Plan. The cool thing is Disney lets you upgrade the plan by paying the difference in price. You must eat, so this promotion can be very value and cost saving to a family.
It’s our first time to WDW – If this is your first time to Disney and having a hard time projecting a budget for your vacation, this can be a helpful option. As talked about in making the trip all-inclusive and alleviating family conflicts, adding a dining plan for your first ever trip can make a lot of sense to help worry a little less.
In the end, there is no one size fits all answer. Disney does not make you have a dining plan to be able to eat at the restaurants. You can pay cash or use a credit/debit card anywhere you want to eat, so don’t feel like you MUST purchase a plan. I-4 Travel Company has purchased all three dining plans during various trips to WDW as well as paid as went with no dining plan. We would like to learn more about your family and help you make the right choice for your WDW vacation. We’ve tried them all so we can give you the pluses and minuses of each choice. Let our experience help you make the right choice.
If you have any questions about the Disney Dining Plan or you are interested in getting a quote for a Disney vacation, reach out to us at 704.877.5868 or firstname.lastname@example.org.