Disney With Little Ones: Should I Buy the Dining Plan? (Part 1)

11221815_10101706188262114_7032818403538453335_oI started planning our recent Walt Disney World vacation on a mission to spend as little money as possible, convinced I could prove that families on a budget can afford a well-planned trip. I scheduled my time off from work to span two full weekends in order to allow for drive time. My husband declined this option – he was adamant about flying and I couldn’t argue that it’s so much quicker and less exhausting. That added about $1,000 to the budget automatically. We stayed 9 nights at Pop Century Resort, one of Disney’s value resorts, and skipped the park hopper on our 7 day park passes. Everything was carefully considered, including my decision to opt out of the dining plan.

In one of my attempts to save money, I started exploring what grocery items were available on Amazon.com Before I knew it, my cart was filled with bottled coffee drinks, Gatorades, bottled waters, cans of apple juice, and assorted food items totaling $140. The items were shipped directly to the resort for free. I ordered several bags of turkey jerky and other dried proteins to help us sustain energy. Care packages included cereal and protein bars, fiber bars, fruit snacks, popped and unpopped popcorn, nuts, applesauce, and more. Aside from our 2 character breakfasts, we were able to eat all of our morning meals in the room. This was also a time-saver as the little ones could eat while mom and dad took turns getting ready.

We started off sticking to our protein-packed snacks instead of opting for pretzels or other empty calorie foods in the parks. It was hard, okay impossible, to resist buying (multiple) slushes to keep cool on those hot, humid days. Toward the end of the trip, we’d depleted everyone’s favorite snack items from the care packages and on the last few days, we relied heavily on buying things in the parks. We consumed about 90% of those items purchased from Amazon and were able to give away a few bottles of water, Gatorade, and a few cans of apple juice to another family staying at our resort. All in all, it was a good plan/investment.

With that being said, I was quite surprised at how much we ended up spending on snacks in the parks. We didn’t spend tons on food but we did splurge on treats more often that I’d predicted. From Mickey’s Mini Kitchen Sink, birthday cupcakes, and just-because cake pops to our daily slushy drink fix, these items really added up. Per item, the care packages were expensive too, but less of a hassle than going to the store, dividing up enough snacks to maintain a good variety, boxing them up, and shipping them to WDW myself.

So, DID we end up saving money by not purchasing the Disney Dining Plan? It’s complicated. I’m all out of time for today, so stay tuned to find out!

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Candice was raised in east Tennessee. While in college, her best friend dragged her to a Walt Disney World College Program recruiting session at the University of Tennessee and the rest is Disney history. In the Fall of 1999, Candice became a quick service food hostess for Sunset Ranch Market and Fantasmic at Disney-MGM Studios – or what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While soaking up her time as a cast member, she met Ryan, a neighbor and a fellow college programmer who worked as a custodial host at Epcot. Four years later, Candice moved to the Midwest and married that boy from across the hall. They now live in Greenwood, Indiana with their two little boys. The Disney-loving foursome took their first family trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2013 and Candice is eagerly planning their return. Candice also works full-time at a community mental health center and enjoys taking photographs and blogging at Mommy in the Midwest.

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