This is probably the number one question I get asked when planning someone’s Disney vacation! The truth is – there is no right or wrong way to do Disney, and there is no set of standards when it comes to planning YOUR vacation. Everyone is different and everyone vacations different, so the answer is – maybe!
I am going to take you on a tour of our last Disney trip – two weeks ago from January 14-19, 2015. All prices that I’m going through are current for this year, so if you are using this as a guide, as of right now, this is what you can expect! I will tell you that for our family, we do not benefit from the dining plan.
Bear with me as this post contains a lot of math and numbers – good thing I LOVE math and budgeting!
As a reference point, there are three different levels of the Disney Dining Plan. The prices and meals listed below are per person per night. Notice I said night – you only have as many “points” as you do nights, so on check out day it is possible you are paying for any meals out of pocket depending on when you leave! Children under 3 can eat for free at buffets and can share with their parents at other meals for no additional fees. The children’s prices are for children 3-9 and adults start at age 10.
|Type||Includes||Price Per Adult||Price Per Child|
|Quick Service Dining Plan||2 Quick Service Meals||$41.99||$16.03|
|Plus Dining Plan**||1 Sit Down Meal||$60.09||$19.23|
|1 Quick Service Meal|
|Deluxe Dining Plan||3 Meals of Your Choice||$109.53||$29.86|
** For the remainder of this post I will be comparing against the Plus Dining Plan, as it is the most popular option.
So is the dining plan really worth it? Well, can you eat $60.09 of food per night, not including gratuity? We can’t. And the biggest question to ask yourself is what kind of eater are you? This is particularly important because this is a big place we lose money. We love to share an appetizer with our dinners, especially in Disney where the food is so good! These are not included on the Dining Plan so already that is extra money out of pocket. Also. we almost never order dessert, which IS included. So we lose money again as we are wasting food that we aren’t going to eat! Lastly, if you have children under 3 who are not on the dining plan, but you are eating at a non-buffet restaurant and they need their own food, this is also out of pocket! Seriously those little $8.99 meals add up!
Here is our trip in a nutshell (or a very detailed spreadsheet!)
|Port Orleans Riverside Food Court||2 adult meals||$48.09|
|1 children’s meal|
|1 juice box|
|1 refillable resort mug *included in dining plan|
|1900 Park Fare – Grand Floridian||2 adult buffet dinners||$104.56|
|*Lily ate free as she is only 2||*includes 18% gratuity|
|Ohana Character Breakfast||2 adult buffet breakfasts||$67.21|
|*Lily ate free||*includes 18% gratuity|
|Port Orleans Riverside Food Court||2 adult meals||$23.29|
|Animal Kingdom Vendor||Bottle of Coke||$2.75|
|Animal Kingdom Vendor||Bag of Chips||$3.25|
|Paradiso 37 at Downtown Disney||Enchilada Dinner Platter||$52.69|
|Baja Fish Taco Dinner||*includes 18% gratuity|
|Kid’s Chicken Fingers and fries|
|Columbia Harbor House – MK||2 adult meals||$23.82|
|1 large drink|
|Be Our Guest – Magic Kingdom||1 French Onion Soup||$103.89|
|Grilled Strip Steak Meal||*includes 18% gratuity|
|Sauteed Shrimp and Scallops Meal|
|“Beasts Casserole” (aka kids mac and cheese)|
|Port Orleans Riverside Food Court||2 adult breakfasts||$17.45|
|Pinocchio’s Village – MK||2 adult meals||$23.71|
|Crystal Palace – Magic Kingdom||2 adult buffet dinners||$104.56|
|*Lily ate free||*includes 18% gratuity|
|Cosmic Rays – Magic Kingdom||Kid’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Meal||$6.95|
|Magic Kingdom Stand||2 Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars||$8.00|
Whew! See.. we didn’t skimp on any meals on our trip! Also, the meals that are not buffets, I wrote down what we got to show you that we do NOT order the cheapest thing on the menu. In fact, at Be Our Guest, I ordered the most expensive (and boy was it worth it!!) Also something to keep in mind is buffets are always more expensive than sit downs, especially when they have characters! We did quite a few character meals, so we actually COULD have spent a lot less if we would have picked other restaurants! But, with a 2 year old who thinks she’s a princess – we’re eating with the characters! So the big question is was it worth not doing the dining plan!
For our family – YES! The cost of the dining plan for us would have been $600.90. Now before you go thinking I wrote this big blog post about saving $10.68 that is NOT the case! The Disney Dining Plan does NOT include gratuity, whereas 18% gratuity is included in all of my figures above! Also, an additional $53.97 was spent that would not have been included on the dining plan – Lily’s meals and my soup are an example! So our total savings by not using the dining plan really came out to be $158.75!! To me and my family, that is a lot of money! Heck that is what I spend on groceries for our family for 2 weeks!
Bottom line – the dining plan is great and can really work in your favor if you want it to, but it all comes down to what works best for your family!