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My Thoughts on Disney’s Dining Plans – Part One

July 3, 2012

There’s a lot of controversy over Disney’s dining plans, which are optional add on’s to Disney’s vacation packages. Most people seem to either love or hate them. I fall somewhere in the middle, and can see the benefits of using one, as well as the negative aspects as well.

The main reason I like them is to have everything, or at least almost everything, no alcohol is included in any plan, paid for in advance. The main negative, at least for me, is having an urge to use up each and every credit, so nothing goes to waste. Some people take it even farther then that, and over analyze the cost of each meal, ordering expensive items, making sure they are getting the absolute most for their money. Since I usually get the dining plan for “free,” (and it’s not really free, it’s a just a room discount, but free sounds better,) I don’t worry about the exact dollar value so much, but like I said, I still make sure I use every credit.

There are three types of plans, actually five, but two of the plans focus as much on special experiences outside of dining that they aren’t so much dining plans as the others, if that makes sense. The three dining plans that exist solely for dining purposes are the quick service dining plan, the basic dining plan, and the deluxe dining plan. Originally the only dining plan of those three to exist was the basic dining plan, before the quick service and deluxe plans were introdIt’uced in 2008.

The quick service plan includes only quick service meals. It’s around $35 a night, and includes two quick service meals and one snack per night, and a refillable mug. The basic dining plan includes one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack per night, as well as the refillable mug, and costs about $50 per night. The deluxe dining plan includes three dining credits per night that can be used for table service or quick service meals, and two snacks per night instead of just one, and the refillable mug, and costs about $90 a night.

All quick service meals for lunch and dinner include an entree or combination meal, (combo meals meaning something like fries are included,) a dessert, and a soft drink or bottle of water. Table service meals include an entree, dessert, and soft drink. Table service meals on the deluxe dining plan include an appetizer as well. Table service meals can also be used for buffets and character meals. There are certain table service restaurants in Disney that require two dining credits, the signature a.k.a. fancy restaurants. Snacks include any number of items, soft drinks, ice cream, popcorn, and pretzels are advertised by Disney, but there’s a lot more available for snack credits then that.

All of the dining plans can save money, but each year the plans cost more per night, and include less. The first year the dining plan was introduced it was $30 some a night, and included the same amount and types of credits, but an appetizer and tip was included with the table service meal. Now it’s $20 or so more a night, and you’re getting considerably less for your money. The same amount of food is included with the deluxe plan as when it was first introduced, but it used to be $70 a night instead of $90. The quick service plan has seen the least amount of a price change, I think it’s up to $35 from $30, but it used to include two snacks instead of one.

I only use the dining plan when I get it for “free.” I always stay at a value resort, which costs about $100 a night. The free dining deal means I can’t get any additional discount on the room. Now for a family of four, two adult, and two children, this works out to be a pretty good deal. A $35 dining plan, for each person in the room, (though the child’s plan costs a bit less, but anyone over the age of 9 I believe counts as an adult as far as dining and tickets go in Disney,) so for my cost comparison let’s say that the children in this family are 10 and 12 years old, so that would be a room discount of $140 a night. The best room-only discounts I’ve seen for the value resorts are about $30 off a night, so obviously for a family of four it makes more sense financially to book free dining instead of a room only discount.

There are some drawbacks though, and again there’s pay more for less in recent years here as well. It used to be, even when the quick service plan was originally introduced, that free dining included the basic one quick service – one table service a night meal plan no matter what resort you stayed at. Now if you book at a value resort with free dining, you get the quick service plan. (Booking free dining at a moderate or deluxe resort, you still get the basic dining plan.) That’s still $140 savings, but if it were still the basic plan, it would be a $200 savings instead, (for a family of four.) Though you can also upgrade to the regular dining plan from the quick service plan, and only pay the difference, which is still a pretty good deal in my mind.

Here’s where I lose the value. I almost always go to Disney solo, so that means I only save $35 a night. I can usually get a room discount for about the same amount. But would I rather go with free dining, and have my meals included, or get a room discount and pay for my food as I go?

Part two coming soon.

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2 Comments
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