To Dine or Not To Dine? Should your family buy a Disney Dining Plan?
Walt Disney World recently announced their Free Dining Plan offer for this year. If you’re like my family, it’s a pretty enticing offer. So, maybe you’re considering the idea of a trip during the promotion dates. But, maybe you’re trying to weigh which offer is more of a savings to you (this one or another popular one, such as 30% off resort stays). Or, maybe, you’re not planning on going during those dates, but you can’t decide whether you should purchase a dining plan or not.
There is a lot to think about when planning a trip to Disney World. Factoring in the cost of food is just one of those things.
Last year (2014) my family took a trip and took advantage of the Free Quick-Service Dining Plan offer, with a value resort stay. We had 3 adults (my husband, myself, and my sister), 1 son with a park ticket (age 4), and 1 son without a park ticket (age 2). We stayed for 7 nights. Each of us with a park ticket got the Dining Plan benefits times those seven nights:
- 1 refillable resort mug (refillable only at the resort)
- 2 quick-service meals/night
- 1 snack credit/night
What about Kids who are “Mickey’s Guests” at the Parks?
Children under age 3 do not need a park ticket at Disney World. They are “Mickey’s Guests.” How much food should you expect to have to buy them?
Of course this depends on how much your toddler/baby typically eats. Our 2-year-old had enough food by sharing with those of us who had a Dining Plan. Occasionally, we would buy him a fruit cup or his own drink, but, overall, he was covered.
(Note: If your little one drinks whole milk, ask for it. It should be available everywhere where there is milk–which is most places.)
Is it Enough Food for Adults?
We started our days off with a granola bar in our hotel room (or as we waited in the shuttle line). These on-the-go breakfasts were perfect for us because we wanted to be able to get a good start on the day at the Parks, without having to get up earlier to eat breakfast at the resort or start riding rides later because we were spending time in the Park eating.
That said, 2 meals/night was perfect. Depending on when you arrive and when you leave at the beginning and end of your trip, you may need to purchase a meal or two. Or, do like my husband and have done before and share a meal or two when we weren’t so hungry. So, take a minute to figure out how many meals you will need and compare it to how many you’re given.
Each meal was plenty of food for us. Quick Service Dining Plan meals come with an entree, usually sides (depending on the meal and the restaurant), a dessert, and a drink. Kids must order off of the kids’ meal when one is available. This is a smaller amount of food, but it’s usually suited more to kids’ tastes. It worked well for our children. (Although, sometimes, they got a little tired of the options for sides, which were mostly the same at the restaurants. We never had much complaining though, and you can use the snack credits to help, if they didn’t eat something well at dinner.)
Is It Worth It?
It really depends on your family. Personally, we would never buy this much without a dining plan. But, having it allowed us to try more restaurants and foods than we would have otherwise. Especially since we were hot from the warm weather, we weren’t that hungry for full meals a lot of the time. If we’d been buying the meal, we may have shared an entree, and splurging on a soda or a dessert would have been rare. The snack credits were a lot of fun to use, but again, it’s not something that would have been a necessity most of the time. We just used the credits because we had them. Did we enjoy it though? Yes. Definitely. And they helped satisfy our cravings and curiosities when we walked past a yummy-smelling food cart or a bakery case.
As far as the Free Dining Promotion goes, we like getting something with our savings. Eating free food is more fun for us than getting a percentage off of our resort room. However, look at the details of the promotion. The offer in 2015 requires your stay to be 6 days/7 nights at a participating resort hotel. Plus, you have to add on either a Park Hopper or a Water Parks and More option to your tickets. Those “extras” raise the “cost” of the free dining plan. So, again, judge what works best for you.
One thing that I can guarantee is that you will enjoy ordering food for your whole crew and seeing a $0 total at the end. The convenience of the Dining Plan is excellent. They make it easy for you. Cast Members will help you know what you’re allowed and each receipt shows how many entitlements were used and how many credits are remaining.
Also check out these helpful posts about Disney Dining!