As a follow-up to our previous post “Is the Disney Dining Plan a Good Deal?”, we will try to help you determine if the Disney Dining Plan will be right for you and your family. Several factors go in to determining if the Dining Plan will be a good deal for you. Note that Disney offers three options of the Dining Plan, Quick Service, Standard, and Deluxe. At this point, we are addressing only the Standard Disney Dining Plan. (See the Dining Plan Pricing here) Note also that during peak seasons plan pricing goes up $5 per day for adults and $1 per day for children corresponding with an increase in menu prices during peak season.
The first factor is whether or not you will be staying at a Disney resort. The Disney Dining Plan option is only available to guests staying at a Disney Resort. Staying off Disney property can save you money over a Disney moderate or deluxe resort, but beating the price of a Disney Value Resort may be difficult. The Disney transportation system adds value to your Disney Resort stay as well. Yes, non-Disney resorts may offer transportation too, but I have heard mixed reviews with the biggest complaint being that they just don’t run often enough. If your decision to stay on or off Disney property is driven purely by price, then off property may be your best bet and some of that savings can help pay for food.
Once you know you will be staying on Disney property, you need to decide if you will be able to take advantage of all the food offered with the dining plan. One snack, one quick service, and one table service meal per person per day doesn’t sound like a lot but the portions at Disney are generous. Some snacks can easily be shared, as can many of the quick service offerings. And remember, quick and table service credits include desserts. We brought collapsible Tupperware containers with us to take desserts back to the room when possible. At quick service locations you can sometimes have your receipt marked so you can come back later to get your dessert if you are too full to eat it right away. The bottom line is that, although it may not sound like a lot, it is quite a bit of food. If you are unable to use up all your credits you will not get the best value from the Disney Dining Plan.
Now that you are staying on property and you feel you can eat all the food available to you, we need to determine if your group will be willing to go for the more expensive dishes at the more expensive locations. If you have picky eaters or people with food allergies this will limit your options for selecting the pricier dishes at the finer restaurants and therefore limit the savings you could achieve on the dining plan. (See our post about Disney Dining with a Food Allergy for more info on this subject.)
As we mentioned previously, even if you don’t select the most expensive dishes at the most expensive locations, if you can consume all your dining credits you can still easily break even when compared to paying out of pocket for the same items. So if nothing else, selecting the dining plan when you book your trip offers you the comfort of knowing you have a sizeable chunk of your Disney travel budget accounted for before you go on vacation.