At first glance, the Disney Dining Plan seems like an awesome deal. Going into vacation with everything already paid for is definitely the most relaxing option, and the idea of never having to think about how much a particular food item costs before ordering is certainly appealing. However, the truth of the matter is that the Dining Plan isn’t for everyone. You see, in many cases the Dining Plan costs more than simply ordering what you like and paying out of pocket. Therefore, deciding whether or not the Dining Plan is the right choice for you should be a calculated decision based on several factors. Here are the things you might want to think about when considering the Disney Dining Plan.
1. Will You be Staying at a Disney Resort?
First of all, you need to determine whether you will be staying at a Disney-owned hotel. The Dining Plan is only available to guests of Disney Resort Hotels, and can only be purchased as a part of a vacation package. Therefore, if you plan to stay off-site the Dining Plan isn’t an option. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members are also welcome to purchase the Disney Dining Plan, as long as they are staying at a Disney Resort.
2. How Much Does Your Family Eat?
Next you’ll want to consider how much and how often your family eats. If you have a group of light eaters or a family of people who prefer snacking throughout the day over having large meals, the Dining Plan may not be ideal for you. On the other hand, those with families that enjoy eating a couple big meals each day might love the meal options offered by the Dining Plan. Each plan includes 2–3 meals per day plus 2 snacks and a refillable mug. That’s a good amount of food, but you are on vacation after all.
3. What Does Your Family Eat?
Another big question is, what does your family eat? The Dining Plan costs the same no matter what you order. This means that those who prefer salads and meatless pasta dishes will be paying the same as the guy who orders steak for every meal. For this reason, if you are a family of vegetarians or if you don’t usually order expensive dishes, the Dining Plan is probably not the best bet. On the flip side of the coin, the Dining Plan is an excellent deal for those who do tend to prefer ordering expensive dishes. In fact, if you plan to always order the most expensive items on any given menu and if lots of character meals are on your itinerary, the Dining Plan will almost certainly save you a decent amount of money.
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4. Do You Drink Soda or Alcohol?
The Dining Plan includes lots of beverages. A mug that can be refilled with soda, tea, or coffee at your resort is included for each guest. Additionally, every meal includes a soft drink or—for the adults—an alcoholic beverage. That adds up to a lot of sweet drinks, something that’s great for some but not for others. Since you’re paying for it no matter what, this is another factor to consider before purchasing.
5. Can You Get It for Free?
While there is no guarantee of this sticking around forever, for the past several years Disney has offered free dining to guests who stay in select Disney resorts on certain dates. The offer is usually released between March and May and usually includes dates which begin in August and end sometime in the late fall—or in some cases, even December. Generally speaking, the free Dining Plan is a great deal. However, it’s a better deal if you have 4–5 people in your party rather than just 2–3. It’s also best to choose a standard room for the best deal. Finally, you may want to check to see if there are any room discounts available, as these often provide a better value than the free Dining Plan.
6. Does It Fit in Your Budget?
If, after answering these questions, the Dining Plan still seems like a good deal, the only question remaining is whether it fits into your budget. Remember that while the Dining Plan can be a good deal in some cases, it is not the cheapest way to fill your belly while on a Disney vacation. Therefore, if you’re on a tight budget, it might be better to eat on the cheap and pay out of pocket in order to save your money for other experiences.