Interesting outlook on the Dining Plans...

Discussion in 'Disney Restaurants and Dining' started by highland3, Dec 15, 2008.

  1. highland3

    highland3 Member

    Disney Dining Plan Can Be Good Deal For Family
    MCT Regional News
    Sun 14 Dec 2008
    Byline: By Robin Stansbury, The Hartford Courant, Conn.
    Source: McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

    Dec. 14--There are a lot of decisions to make when planning a trip to Florida's Walt Disney World, and they don't end after you've selected a date, chosen a hotel and booked your airfare.

    Perhaps the biggest challenge remains: Where to eat?

    Although that might seem like a minor concern, with all the choices of restaurants at the four main theme parks, the resort hotels and locales like Downtown Disney, deciding where to eat, and when, can take hours.

    One of the hardest choices -- and the subject of much debate on Disney websites -- is whether to participate in the Disney Dining Plan. This pre-paid option provides most of your food for each day at the parks and hotels, but it comes at a pretty hefty price.

    The dining plan was introduced in 2005, and although it has changed -- most significantly this year, when appetizers and tips were removed -- it is popular among resort guests. That's why reservations are now required for most Disney World sit-down restaurants, which can fill up months in advance.

    On our trip to Florida in October, one family casually walked into a seafood restaurant at Epcot, asking for any availability that night. "We're booked through December," the polite but incredulous hostess told them.

    Briefly, here's how the basic Disney Dining Plan works: It gives each person in your group one counter-service meal (where you walk up and order at the cashier), one table-service meal (at a sit-down restaurant) and one snack for each night of your stay.

    The meals include an entree, a dessert and a nonalcoholic drink such as soda or iced tea. Snacks include a variety of items usually priced at $4 or less, such as soft drinks, coffee, pastries, fruit cups, gift-shop treats and ice cream.

    So why the controversy? The price.

    At about $38 per adult per day, and $10 per child (ages 3 through 9), the cost can add up quickly (and it is scheduled to increase by a few dollars a day in 2009, with several different dining plans to choose from).

    "I love having the dining plan. It saved my family a lot of money," wrote one commentator on the all-things-Disney website "I would definitely recommend anyone going to purchase this as part of their vacation package."

    Not so, said the very next entry.

    "The dining plan is a letdown. If you are planning to eat out at sit-down restaurants every day, this may be the way to go, but you can eat much cheaper by using good counter service. I would never do this again."

    What did we do?

    During our six-night stay, our family of five opted for the basic Disney Dining plan, which added about $635 to the cost of our trip. That gave us 30 snacks, 30 counter-service meals as well as 12 adult and 18 children's table-service meals. Trust me, it's a lot of food.

    Our verdict? Unless you are an incredibly light eater, the plan is worth the money if for no other reason than most of your food is paid for in advance, including the all-important snacks.

    Here's how we decided. The meal plan broke down to about $125 per person for our weeklong vacation. I don't see how you could spend less than that over the course of seven days at theme parks where a hot dog costs $5.79 and plenty of sit-down dinners cost $30 a plate before adding on drinks or dessert.

    And because of the dining plan, we ate far better food than simply hitting a hamburger stand. We savored grilled mahi-mahi at the Coral Reef, black bean burritos at Cantina de San Angel in Epcot, and thoroughly enjoyed a Hawaiian-style cookout at the 'Ohana in the Polynesian Resort. We also chose two "character buffet meals" where our kids got to meet Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a variety of villains and princesses. We never would have paid $30 an adult for a buffet, but the total cost of the Chef Mickey, about $90, was covered as part of the dining plan.

    On The Other Hand

    There are disadvantages. Table-service meals require reservations, which Disney recommends you make six months in advance of your visit. It's hard to think about where you want to eat on a Tuesday in October when it is only April. Locking in where you eat also sets your agenda for the day and therefore your entire trip -- you most likely aren't going to reserve dinner at the Animal Kingdom if you plan to spend that day at Epcot.

    Also, if you plan to spend days away from Disney, the dining plan is probably not for you. It would be hard to get the value from the plan if you are away from Disney for more than a day.

    Could you eat for less? Yes, especially if you bring much of your own food and drinks (see accompanying story), which Disney generously allows.

    But if you plan to eat more than burgers, chicken fingers and french fries, the dining plan is the way to go.

    Here are a few tips to make the plan work for you.

    >> While table service credits can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner, using the credit for dinners will maximize your dollar value. One table service credit is just that -- one meal -- whether it is a $15 breakfast or $50 dinner, so save it for dinner.

    >> Sharing meals on the dining plan is allowed, which is how we made our plan stretch further. We could share three counter-service meals for lunch, leaving us two counter-service meal credits for breakfast.

    >> If you have children in your group and eat at a sit-down restaurant, the children must order off the kids' menu. But that's not the case at counter-service restaurants, something we discovered halfway through our trip. And this made a big difference when we could order chicken breast nuggets off the adult menu -- which were actually made with real chicken -- instead of the processed and disgusting nuggets served as part of the kids' menu meals.

    >> Some restaurants have coupons that allow you to return at a later time for dessert, a great way to get the most out of the plan. We also substituted fresh fruit cups for some desserts and took them to go, a great snack for later.

    >> Snack credits can be used to purchase packaged Disney cookies, rice crispy treats and other food items in resort gift shops. Those are great take-home gifts, and a way to use up any leftover credits you might have near the end of your stay. Also, grab food to go from your resort hotel to eat at the airport on the way home.
  2. It's a good overview. ;

    Personally, my family always gets the dining plan, and we find it a tremendous value. ; course, those that aren't sure should always try it - then save the receipts for the meals. ; That way you know what you're getting.
  3. highland3

    highland3 Member

    We've never used the DP, but I'm seriously considering it for next time!
  4. amw

    amw Member

    Is that true? I thought kids had to order kids' meals even at Counter Service. Have I been missing something?!
  5. scratch

    scratch Member

    I just wish they gave the appetizer and got rid of the dessert!
  6. Csaks

    Csaks Member

    We have the same thoughts, the only time we do deserts is at Disney!
    The plan is still worth it to us. If you add up our bills and compare to the Dinning Plan we come out on top big time.
  7. Miss Megara

    Miss Megara Member

    Yes, this is absolutely true. :) Disney of course doesn't advertise it. ;

    The fact of the matter is, the system can not differentiate between child and adult counter service meals, as it can with table service ones. ; So children can indeed order adult counter service meals.
  8. PGFamily

    PGFamily Member

    To resurrect a post from the past... ; Does anyone know if the "kids" designated meals in the counter service plan can still be switched for adult ones (i.e. Disney cannot track the credits between adult and child)? ; Obviously, they don't advertise this but for kids who are "on the line" in terms of age, it might be nice to get away from the PBJ sandwiches and carrot sticks for a meal or two... ; Just wondering if Disney has enhanced their systems since the last time we went.
  9. amw

    amw Member

    I think it's still the same way (not sure for 2011), but there are a few things to be aware of:

    - a lot of places that used to only have adult meals have now added kids meals so you can't get around the DDP that way (Pizza Planet is a main example)

    - you can only order as many "adult" meals as are on your card. So, if you have 2A2C on your DDP card, you can't order 3 adult meals at once. You can however go up separately and have one adult order 2 and have another order 2 ... or go back in line twice. ; ;)
  10. deblen4

    deblen4 Member

    We have purchased the dining plan the last few trips and find it worth the money. ; Our family is now 4 adults so it is well worth the cost and it saves dad from doing the 'stare-down' with the 'kids' while everyone is deciding what to order. ; Dad isn't scanning the prices, and the 'kids' can order whatever they want! ; You really have to manage the reservations to ensure they work with the park you are visiting that day or allowing time if you are traveling to a resort restaurant. ;
    The only minus I find is that we do eat far more food than we normally would but the walking at Disney allows you to burn the calories.
    I've added the actual cost of what we ordered against the cost of the dining plan and if you select the more expensive meals it does save you money. ; You probably could eat for less, but it is nice to have everything included in a vacation. ;
  11. PGFamily

    PGFamily Member

    - you can only order as many "adult" meals as are on your card. So, if you have 2A2C on your DDP card, you can't order 3 adult meals at once. You can however go up separately and have one adult order 2 and have another order 2 ... or go back in line twice. ; ;)


    This comment was very interesting and I will definitely keep it in mind when at WDW this November!!! ; Thanks!

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