by Disney Magic Diva
Many guests love to add the Disney Dining Plan to their Walt Disney World Resort vacation. It has tremendous advantages – everything is pre-paid so no worrying about keeping to a budget when you’re busy enjoying the magic, order anything you want off the menu without paying attention to the price, ability to try lots of fabulous table service restaurants (and even meet some characters!) and not focus on feeling like you’re spending a fortune with each bite.
Disney offers three types of dining plans for guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel.
Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan offers each guest two quick-service meals and two snacks for each night of your stay plus a refillable resort drink mug. (For 2018, price (including tax) per night per adult is $52.50 and per child (3-9) is $21.74)
Disney Dining Plan offers each guest one quick-service meal, one table-service meal, and two snacks for each night of your stay plus a refillable resort drink mug. (For 2018, price (including tax) per night per adult is $75.49 and per child (3-9) is $25.75)
Disney Deluxe Dining Plan offers each guest three meals (quick-service OR table-service) and two snacks for each night of your stay plus a refillable resort drink mug. (For 2018, price (including tax) per night per adult is $116.25 and per child (3-9) is $39.99)
New for 2018 is the addition of alcohol! That’s right – you can enjoy an adult beverage with your meal! For those under 21 or who prefer non-alcoholic beverages, specialty drinks like artisanal milkshakes and fresh smoothies are included! You can read Pixie Dusted Diva’s full explanation on the 2018 dining plan details here.
The prices can seem like a little sticker shock, because, let’s face it; a Walt Disney World Resort vacation can quickly break the budget. Hotels, airfare, park tickets, souvenirs – it adds up quickly. Adding the dining plan isn’t always the most economical choice. But many families still find that the convenience and value is worth it. To see Military Diva’s tips on how you can make the most of your dining plan, click here.
Although we love the convenience, we don’t normally purchase the dining plan. We seldom are able to take advantage of the “free dining” promotions; and as Annual Passholders, we ordinarily book a “room only” reservation rather than a room/ticket/dining package. We typically are a “rope drop til kiss goodnight” type of family, and prefer to grab quick meals or just make sandwiches in our rooms. (Read Pixie Dusted Diva’s article, here, on using Amazon Prime Now to have groceries delivered to your resort!) Adding the cost of the dining plan just doesn’t usually make sense for us.
Diva Tip: Don’t forget about the Tables in Wonderland card! It is a dining discount card available to Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club members and Florida residents. Pink Diva explains all about it here.
But on a recent adults only trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday, we knew we wanted to enjoy some nice meals at signature restaurants. When we began looking at the menus and budgeting for dining, we started to consider a dining plan. And it quickly became obvious we should purchase the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. Here’s why.
The deluxe plan allows each person three meals and two snacks per night. One of the major reasons many people don’t choose the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan is they think it’s just too much food! And they have a point! While Disney Dining Plan lunch and dinner table service meals include an entrée, dessert, and beverage the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan also includes an appetizer for each table service meal. That adds up to a lot of food! If you had three table service meals every day, you may not be able to fit back through the door of the Magical Express to go home – let alone have enough park time to ride Space Mountain as much as you’d like!
Diva Tip: Disney meals are usually ample portion sizes. We often find we are able to split meals between two people, and still feel like we had plenty to eat. It’s another good point to consider when determining if a Disney Dining Plan is right for your family.
So we knew we didn’t want three table service meals each day, but we did want to eat at signature restaurants. And those restaurants require two table service credits. So with the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan, we could have a table service breakfast and then a lovely dinner each day. Not to mention the snacks! We thought it would work perfect for our plans.
And it did! We only had two nights for this weekend birthday celebration. We enjoyed delightful, relaxing meals at The Boathouse and California Grill, and fun character breakfasts at Trattoria al Forno and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. (Check out Fairy Diva’s review of Akershus Royal Banquet Hall here.) Our visit coincided with Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts, so in addition to enjoying some scrumptious meals, we knew we wanted to try some of the culinary snacks featured at Epcot. (See my review, here!) Having two snacks per person per day with a dining plan let us try all the exquisite snack choices we wanted at the Festival of the Arts.
But did it save us money? ABSOLUTELY! There were five adults on this trip, so adding the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan came with a price tag of $1,162.40. ($116.24 x 5 people x 2 nights = $1,162.40) But, what if we had paid for those meals and snacks out of pocket? We saved receipts and here’s what we would have spent:
- The Boathouse: $551.67
- California Grill: $497.88
- Trattoria al Forno: $236.17
- Akershus: $305.93
- Snacks: $122.50
- Total: $1,714.15
BUT WAIT! There’s more!! In addition to our meals and snacks, the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan (like all Disney Dining plans) includes a refillable resort mug. And if we had paid for them out of pocket, it would have cost our party $94.95 ($18.99/mug).
So here’s the final accounting:
- Meals/Snacks/Resort mugs $1,809.10
- Disney Deluxe Dining Plan (for 5 adults): $1,162.40
- Total savings: $ 646.70
Naturally, our experience isn’t going to be right for everyone. If we were traveling with small children, I doubt we would choose the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan. But, for our group of adults, all of whom enjoy long relaxing dinners at fine restaurants, it was a perfect fit!
And I should note: we chose what we wanted from the menu – not necessarily trying to maximize our value. Also, one person in our party did not drink alcohol, so we didn’t always fully utilize the potential of our table service credits. You may be able to save even more! (We did have some pixie dust at a couple meals – when someone in the party wanted a second adult beverage, our server charged it to the dining plan credit of our teetotaler and charged us out of pocket for his soda, saving us a few bucks!)
Diva Tip: If you really want to enjoy an adult beverage, pay attention to which restaurants offer them, especially for breakfast. We were able to order mimosas and Bloody Marys at Trattoria al Forno, but not at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
For this particular trip, the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan saved us quite a bit of money. It made our trip much more relaxing knowing our meals were all paid for, and we could just concentrate on having a magical birthday celebration. I would definitely recommend always doing your homework and crunching some numbers to see when or if a dining plan is the right option for you.
If you’d like some help with that, Patricia at All for Dreams Travel is an expert at booking Disney vacations! She can answer all your questions, book your trip, and even make those dining reservations for you. Best of all, all this service is FREE! Contact her today to begin planning your vacation! And remember….calories don’t count at Disney!
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