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How To Determine If The Disney Dining Plan Is NOT For You

Although the Disney Dining plan in its various levels can be a great value and savings to many families, there are some groups for whom it just doesn’t work out. I always encourage families to do the math for themselves based on what they think they might eat on vacation and weigh that against the convenience of having everything prepaid making your Walt Disney World vacation “inclusive.” Here are some circumstances when the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you:

1. If you are staying in a one or two bedroom Disney Vacation Club Villa with a full kitchen.

In this circumstance you may choose to make some meals in your room taking advantage of your full size refrigerator, stove and, most importantly, dish washer. It can be very low cost to make a stop at a local grocery store (or have groceries delivered by one of the convenient services in Orlando), and make some easy meals in your room. Tacos, spaghetti, baked chicken, and breakfast items all can be made for pennies on the dollar of what you would pay to eat a similar meal in the park, even if you are using the dining plan. It does take some planning ahead of time, and the willingness to spend an hour or so in your room to prepare and eat your meal.

2. If you have young children and you are not going to eat many character meals.

The real savings with the Disney Dining Plan for children comes when you are eating a lot of character meals. One dinner at Chef Mickey’s covers the entire daily cost of the dining plan for a 3-9 year old. If you are not planning many character meals, and your children are young (maybe under 6) you may not get the full value out of the dining plan. Often those younger children are not going to eat their entire kid’s meal at a restaurant, and would do just as well sharing from your plate. Sharing is not allowed at buffet or all-you-care-to-eat locations, but at an a la carte restaurant or counter service it is certainly acceptable. You be able to share with you toddler or preschooler for a savings, and to get them an even better meal than what is offered on the kids menu.

3. If you are visiting during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.

During the fall many Walt Disney World vacationers are traveling to the parks with one main goal: to visit Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival and eat and drink around the world. Often this doesn’t fit with the structure of the dining plan because you are getting small portions at several different kiosks. While those can count as your snack credits, you may not want to eat the table service meals included in the dining plan because you are eating your meals from various Food & Wine Festival Kiosks.

4. If you want to spend more time touring and less time eating.

Most of the non-character table service meals will take at least 1 hour out of your park touring time, which varies depending on your wait time to be seated and served. The character meals can take longer if you want to see each character. This can add up to a significant amount of time away from touring the parks and seeing the attractions you have on your must-do list, along with a loss of flexibility for your touring schedule. If your primary goal when visiting Walt Disney World is to see and do as much as you possibly can, then the dining plan may not be for you.

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5. If your family are light eaters.

If the members of your family are light eaters you may get a better value by purchasing your food a la carte, rather than having the dining plan dictating how much you should eat. As stated in #2, you can share meals at the non-buffet and non-family service restaurants. This is often a good option during a warm Florida day when you don’t feel like eating too much. The Disney Dining plan includes desserts, so if you seldom order desserts the value may not be there for you. And, you may not want a snack everyday if you are a light eater.

6. If you are planning a last minute vacation.

Disney opens reservations for its dining locations 180 days in advance, and many of the popular dining locations fill up six months out. If you are booking a trip in the next couple of months you may want to check availability at your desired dining spots before adding the dining plan to your package. You may not be able to get in to the places you prefer, and therefore the dining plan would not be a value to you.

7. If you are visiting other Orlando Attractions.

If your itinerary includes visits to Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland, or any of the countless Orlando area attractions, it might not benefit you to add the dining plan to your Disney package. You will most likely be eating some meals in the other parks, and since you will be traveling outside of the “Disney Bubble” anyway, you can take advantage of the less expensive off site eateries in the area.

While the Disney Dining Plan can provide a great value and convenience for some travelers, for others it can be better to look at the numbers and purchase your dining a la carte as you tour the parks. Disdining.com has up to date menus where you can look at the prices of your preferred Walt Disney World restaurants and see if you will actually be saving money using the dining plan based on your family’s eating habits. Happy Dining Planning! 

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).