Disney with Little Ones: Should I Buy the Dining Plan? (Part 2)

11221815_10101706188262114_7032818403538453335_oLast time I left you with a vague answer to the question above: It’s complicated. I thought I would be able to compare apples to apples with buying the dining plan vs. not buying it, but there are a lot of variables, or oranges, as it turns out. 

Long story short, for MY family, the dining plan doesn’t make sense. At least not for now, while my kids don’t have huge appetites. Ninety percent of the time they are able to share a kid’s meal (or even an adult meal for less than 2 kid’s meals). We would never opt for the regular dining plan because we don’t want to spend that much time at sit-down meals while at Disney World, so we’d choose quick service. Going that route would cost more than what we spent total on pre-purchased snacks, meals purchased in the parks, and our 2 character breakfasts at $120+ a pop.

For our family of 4, we spent $969 (with tax) on food during our 9 night stay. That included far more slushes and treats than what I’d anticipated prior to our trip. This total also includes the $140 we spent at Amazon.com on snacks, bottled drinks, and breakfast items. Other than that, we ate where we wanted, when we wanted, and what we wanted, which included 2 character breakfasts. Truthfully though, I was surprised that there wasn’t an even bigger difference. Three words – too…many…treats! The quick service dining plan (most comparable to how and what we ate) would have cost us $1112 (with tax), so even with our character meals, we still saved $143. Pretty significant!

Sometime between now (ages 4 and 5) and age 10, my boys might be able to hold their own and make the dining plan worthwhile, but for now all I see is a bunch of wasted food and/or food credits so we will continue piecing together our own ‘plan’ for the time being. Some people swear by the dining plan for no other reason than that the food is already paid for and they won’t incur any additional expense. That reason alone isn’t enough to entice me. In the future, I would try to budget more accurately for treats and maybe try to stick to a limit (for more than financial reasons) to control spending and calorie consumption. All in all, I’m glad we skipped the dining plan this time around. We might try it one day. Maybe. 

What do you say? Dining plan or no dining plan? 

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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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2 Responses to Disney with Little Ones: Should I Buy the Dining Plan? (Part 2)

  1. Pam Waters says:

    I found when the kids (4-8) were little it was the perfect plan. But when the kids reach 9 and went to the adult meal plan it did not work out well at all. For they still ate kids meals and not adult meal and some of the restaurant would not let the kids have kids meal at adult portion or at all. The only time it worked is if we ate at buffet but for the adult it gets old fast. now we do the TIW and that is perfect for our family because my son is still and picky eater and could order the kids menu and no argument.

    • Nancy says:

      Pam you bring up a good point! I have always said that whether the Dining Plan is right for a family just “depends”. Everyone’s needs are different. My family is a family of 3 adults and what is included in the DP is close to what we would order anyway….so it’s a great deal for us. It’s not the right thing for everyone however, as both you and Candice have pointed out. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! ~ Nancy

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