Determining if the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal is an interesting task. I have been researching this for some time now and there are all sorts of opinions, analyses, and hard facts to search thru. After combing thru all this information I can offer the absolute definitive answer to the question: “Is the Disney Dining Plan a good deal?” The Answer is: It depends. I’m sorry, but that is the best answer anyone can truthfully offer. It simply depends on several factors. Mathematically, the Disney Dining Plan can certainly work out to be a great deal. On the other hand, you could end up in the red if you use your credits for items on the low end of the scale, are unable to use all your credits, or do too many of Disney’s Signature Dining experiences.
Based on this article at Only WDWorld, it should be fairly easy to at least break even. Their analysis showed that paying out of pocket without buying any desserts came out about even with the costs of the basic Disney Dining Plan. If you are one of the people that can and will take advantage of the desserts offered with the dining plan, you can certainly come out well ahead.
Here is the bottom line on our experience. For a five night stay for two adults in November 2009, the cost of the dining plan was $399.90. (Of course, if you know the free dining plan promotion history, you know that in 2009 the fall promotion was extended thru the end of the year, which made it a really good deal for us!) We kept track of everything and the sum of all dining costs covered by the plan was $523.79 for a total savings of $123.89. That savings was almost exactly offset by the costs of tips and adult drinks which totaled $116.45. We worked to maximize our savings some of the time, but not for every meal and every snack, so we could have done even better. The savings we saw on the DDP was 23.7%, not quite the 30% Disney claims is possible.
With all the factors that can affect the value of the Disney Dining Plan, you can be confident knowing that if you purchase the Disney Dining Plan for your next Disney Vacation you should break even and you will likely see respectable savings. The only possible exception to this would be if you are a very light eater or plan to keep eating out to a minimum by having groceries in your room. So, even though it can be a good value, should you purchase Disney Dining Plan?