Can a Cheapskate Princess Afford the Disney Dining Plan?

Disney Dining Plan

Updated for 2017

Free Disney Dining has almost taken on a life of its own. If you planned your entire vacation around qualifying for free food,  then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!  Travel agents stay tied up for days to get their clients the accommodations and Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) they have requested to get those free meals. People go crazy for Free Disney Dining, and why not? Traveling during those certain dates can save you a lot of money. Those of us who are DVC members or cannot leave work to travel during  the free dining dates, we just sit around and mope that we don’t get to eat for free.

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But, uh oh, what if you don’t qualify for the free dining and have to pay for your dining plan?  Is it worth the money? Let’s take a look at how the Disney Dining Plan works.

The Quick Service Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation, the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • Two quick service (counter-service) meal credits per night including non alcoholic beverage;
  • Two snack credits per night; and
  • A refillable drink mug per stay.

The current 2017 daily price of the Quick Service Plan is $48.19 per adult and $20.88 per child ages 3-9 for a stay during regular season. This is the lowest level for the dining plan.

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Disney Dining Plan

 

The Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation per night of package stay, the Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • One Table Service Meal credit per night including entree, dessert, and non alcoholic drink or full buffet;
  • One Quick Service Meal credit per night;
  • Two Snack credits per night; and
  • One  refillable drink mug per stay.

The current daily price per night for the Disney Dining Plan is $69.35 per adult and $24.95 per child for most times of the year. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate. Your gratuity is not included for table service meals. Be sure to include this in your food budget as some guests get a surprise while on vacation. Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery.

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Deluxe Disney Dining Plan

For each person on the room reservation, the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • Three meal credits at your choice of Quick Service restaurants or table service restaurants per night. When using the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, a Table Service Meal consists of an appetizer, entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage or one full buffet or family style meal;
  • Two snack credits per night; and
  • One refillable drink mug per stay.

The current daily price of the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan is $106.68 per adult and $38.75 per child during regular season. Children under three eat free from an adult’s plate.  Two table service credits can also be used for signature restaurants, dinner shows, private dining, or pizza delivery. Gratuity is not included for the table service meals.

 

Disney Dining Plan

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Want to see if the Disney Dining Plan is a good fit for you? Click HERE.

Lots of people describe “ease” as one of the main reasons the Disney Dining Plan is the route to go. Here are several reasons purchasing the DDP will make your vacation easier.

  • Simply present yourMagicBand  to your server or cashier just before you order. Your Magicband electronically monitors the meals allocated for your group.
  • You can track your meals with an easy-to-read receipt your server will provide you, which will display your remaining meal balance.
  • You can redeem your meals in any order throughout your package stay until each person’s meal total is complete.
  • There are over 100 select restaurants available throughout the WDW resort and Downtown Disney to choose from that accept the DDP.
  • The Dining Plans can save you money if you plan to eat at the parks or resorts for every meal. Unless you plan on bringing food into the park or eat meals in your room then the dining plans will save you money.
  • A positive reason to get the dining plan is that you can pay for your meals ahead of time. This helps guests be able to save and budget for their meals while on vacation. You will already have everything paid before your vacation even starts. This helps you to not hemorrhage money while eating on your vacation.

We ask our  Facebook fans what they thought of actually paying for the Dining Plan. Here are their thoughts.

Samantha Berry said, “Our family uses the dining plan for every trip! It is the best choice for our on the go family and offers the most flexibility and convenience for our stay at Disney World. It allows us not to price check everything during the trip and because we have already paid for the dining plan included, there are no surprises at the end and no overspending!”

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Disney Dining Plan

Kristen related, “Deluxe Dining gives us the flexibility we want in choosing where to eat, the opportunity to sample a greater variety on the menu, and the luxury of including signature restaurants in our plan. It’s my default for great Disney dining.”

Melissa said, “I definitely think it’s worth it. I’d rather pay for it up front and know I won’t have to pay for anything else other then gratuity. I order the most expensive meal and enjoy, when at home, I would always look at price. It’s a nice way to be care free.

Lori said for her family of seven, the DDP is the route to go. “We like to eat stuff other than quick service and really enjoy our character dining. Some of the places (1900 Park Fare from our last experience) are just too expensive to do otherwise.”

Kristy said, “The DDP is definitely worth it if you are going to do a sit down meal. It almost pays for itself with just that. Believe me, we keep receipts to add up and see how much we save!!”

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Disney Dining Plan

Melissa said Deluxe Dining, always. “Since we are DVC, we don’t qualify for free dining. We usually wind up saving a little bit of money, but we eat like kings and queens, and we aren’t worried about the cost, because we already paid for it!”

Tammy told us, “Free dining is by far the BEST, but we’ll still always go with a dining plan. My kiddos are older, and between their dining preferences and mine, we always come out ahead on the dining plan. For our next trip, we actually decided to go Deluxe rather than Basic, as a matter of fact. My number-crunching teenager went through the list of restaurants we want to go to (many of them 2 credit eateries) and ball-parked the costs from the menus on allears.net. When he compared it to the cost of the deluxe plan, we came out money ahead using the plan. We won’t save a TON of money, but a little ahead is still ahead, and that gets combined with the convenience of the prepaid plan and snacks thrown in. If you tend to get quick service most of the time, you’re going to be better off paying out of pocket, though.”

These items are not accepted with the Disney Dining Plan.

  • Alcoholic beverages;
  • Items that are more than one serving, like a box of doughnuts or a jar of peanut butter;
  • Items served in souvenir containers;
  • Items sold at recreational rental counters;
  • Items that are considered to be merchandise, like bottle toppers, glow cubes, and bottle straps; and
  • Some special event dining events with special menus.

 

The Fine Financial Points to Remember with the Dining Plan

  • Gratuities are not included except at dinner shows, private in-room dining, and Cinderella’s Royal Table.
  • 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bill for parties of 6 or more.
  • Items that are not included in the Disney Dining Plan will be added to your bill.
  • If a guest under three orders a meal off the menu, this cost will be added to your bill.

Want a free, no obligation vacation quote?  Click HERE.

I read some DDP reviews on Allears.net. , where someone commented that the cost of the Disney Dining Plan has increased by 22% over the last several years, so while you were saving a fair amount of money several years ago, this is not necessarily the case now.

Cheapskate Princess fan said, “You will like the DDP if you like to take the time to eat and like good quality food and trying new things. It works out really well, especially if you are traveling with kids and adults (like me) that like to do character dining experiences. Then it pays for itself. If you have a bigger appetite, the meal plan is the way to go. If you go by yourself or travel with people who do not want to take a lot of time for dinning, then just do Quick Service only. However if you are like my sister and her family, who can live on a cup of soup for 10 hours, then don’t do any of the meal plans.”

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Melissa said her group just got back from Disney, “We didn’t do Disney Dining, but we had a condo and brought in lunch every day of sandwiches, drinks, and snacks. We only paid for our princess lunch at Epcot and two other meals in the park, which was less expensive than the dining plan for us.”

Disney Dining Plan

Jennifer described her dining plan experience. “We’ve always had free dining in the past, but this year we’re looking for a room-only rate to stay at a dream resort and won’t have dining. I think it works out. The dining plan for us ends up always being too much food. We wouldn’t normally order desserts and sodas with every meal, and we tend to want less sit-down meals each trip. If we actually calculated what we would normally purchase, it would turn out to be far less than the dining plan cost. Even when it’s “free,” there is a cost because you must pay rack rates for rooms instead of getting the sometimes-hefty room discounts. Since we do like the ease of not thinking about the price of things, I think for the next trip we’ll pre-purchase Disney Gift Cards in large amounts and just hand those over when it’s time to pay. That way we still won’t have to see cash exchanging hands, and it will still have the illusion of being free!”

Kim said, “We used to get free dining, and then once we paid for it because we got a great discount. Now that we have Annual Passes and the dining price went up… Nope. We eat at Taco Bell and Fuddruckers!”

 

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Disney Dining Plan

Jennifer explained her opinion, “We’ve been annual pass holders for the last few years. Our December trip will be our very first time on a dining plan. We’ve seen no need for it before, and the only reason why we have it this time is because it was free. We easily save hundreds of dollars more by purchasing meals ourselves. We don’t need a dessert or a soft drink with every meal, and we actually prefer to drink water. And if you stay off resort, it’s much cheaper to eat out, even at Cracker Barrel or Chili’s, than it is to eat in the parks. It’s all about preference and convenience. The meals are so big that you can easily share anyway, especially if you have kids.

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Now looking at the numbers, I can totally see how free dining would pay off, even if you were paying for the upgrade for a more expensive dining package. It might not work for every vacation, but run the numbers and you might be surprised that it can save you money in the long run.

One factor to remember is that with the popularity of the free dining promotion, if you plan a last minute trip while other people are eating for free, or you stay in a DVC resort using points, should you try to purchase the dining plan on your own, you may not be able to get reservations at the restaurants where you really want to dine.

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Disney Dining Plan

So most of the Disney’s Cheapskate Princess Facebook fans responded that they purchased the Disney Dining Plan for the convenience of having meals paid for ahead of time. No one mentioned they were saving a tremendous amount of money using the plan, although lots of people said they saved a ton of money by vacationing during the free dining promotion. Which leaves me cupcake icing green with free dining envy.

A special thanks to Bob Abgelo for his fabulous dining photos.

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Disney Dining Plan Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from  Elizabeth, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

Give Elizabeth Mallers a call at 317-753-5959, or send an e-mail to elizabeth@destinationsinflorida.com

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Thanks you for stopping by, and we’ll see you in line for Chef Mickey’s. I’ll be seated in the Contempo Cafe looking over the barrier wall to see what I am missing out on. Be sure to wave at me!