Walt Disney World offers four different Dining Plans for guests staying at their Disney Resorts. These dining plans are paid for upfront and give guests credits that can be used at restaurants found at each theme park, Disney Springs, the water parks and all of the resorts. We’ve added one of the dining plans to each of our Disney World vacation since 2012. On our last vacation, January 2020, we opted to pay out of pocket instead of using a dining plan. With three kids: 7, 5, and 1, the cost was higher than it ever was for us. When kids are 3 and under they are free under the dining plan. Our older two kids typically share meals and we figured that we would end up saving in the long run. As Disney Vacation Club members and we get discounts at each of the sit down restaurants we were eating at and thought this would also add to money saved. We were so wrong. We did save approximately $100 by paying out of pocket but that extra $100 we would have spent on the dining plan would have given us way more than $100 value in food. The dining plan we are normally on gives us credits to eat at one table service restaurant for each night of our stay. We only ate at 7 restaurants, the dining plan would have given us credits to eat at 8 restaurants. Here are a couple of the things we didn’t order because we were paying out of pocket but would have come with our meals if we had been on the dining plan: alcohol/specialty drinks and desserts. Each day of your vacation you get two snacks to enjoy during your day. We purchased half the amount of snacks we would have gotten if we had been on the dining plan. So again, maybe we saved money but we also really skimped.
Now that we’ve experienced what it’s like to not be on the dining plan, here are the five reason why we’ll always do the dining plan from here on out.
When you’re on the dining plan you get drinks with all of your meals. This can be alcoholic and non-alcoholic. This means you can order milkshakes, cocktails, beer, and wine. This goes for the kids too, they can order milkshakes and mocktails. This might not seem like a big deal, if you don’t want to have specialty drinks with your meals than this may not sway the scales. But friends regular drinks at Disney are expensive. A drink with your Burger meal at a quick-service restaurant is going to run you $3. Kids drinks are included in their meals but if you’re paying for 2 adult meals twice a day, that’s an extra $12 a day, over $70 for the week. There’s our “savings” right there. On this trip we rarely got anything other than water. Bit of a bummer when you’re on vacay.
I love desserts! I love ice cream, creme brûlée, brownies, cheesecakes, if it’s sweet send it my way. When you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan and the Disney Dining Plan Plus desserts come with your table service meals. On this trip, we did not order dessert once. There was one meal that our dessert came with our meal because it was prix fixed, but other than that one meal we didn’t have any desserts. Because we were paying out of pocket I had a hard time adding another $10 to our bill when I didn’t have to.
On each dining plan, guests get 2 snacks per night of their stay. These snacks can be used for popcorn, ice cream, drinks, but it can also be used for many of the food items found at the Epcot Festival kiosks, snack style lunches at counter service restaurants, and specialty treats. We did have a few snacks during our trip but not to the same extent we would have had on the dining plan. When we’re on the dining plan we normally have enough credits at the end of our vacation to pick up some treats to bring home with us.
4. Ordering Freedom.
I’m a penny pincher. If I see something on a menu that I would be fine with eating but what I really want to choose is $10 more, I’m going to pick the cheaper item. When you’re on the dining plan you can pick whichever entree you want. When on the dining plan I can look at the menu and see what I WANT and order that.
5. Stress Free.
The meal is over. The server comes over with the bill. You open the bill. You look at the total and try to figure out how the total got so big! This does not happen with the dining plan. The total is $0 because you’ve already paid the total. All you have to pay for is the gratuity. Getting the bill can then become super fun, you can look and see how much value there was in choosing the dining plan.
When we made our decision not to go with the dining plan we knew it was an experiment. We thought we’d try paying out of pocket once and go from there. Now we know it’s not the right approach for us. We know the dining plan is the best for our family and for the desires of our vacation. And from this point forward I feel very comfortable in strongly recommending that other families do the same. Happy Planning, Friends.