Thrifty Thursday: Is the Disney Dining Plan Right For You?

When folks ask for my help with planning their Disney vacations, once the dates are decided, there are then usually two major discussions that we have. The first is, where to stay. And the second is, should they get a Dining Plan? So let’s chat about this today, because like most things about planning a Disney vacation, the answer depends on your family.

Are any of the Disney Dining Plans worth the money for you? Or similarly if you are considering a Disney promotion that includes Free Dining, is that the best deal for your family? Deciding either of these questions has to start with this: Will any of the Dining Plans suit your family’s eating…and vacationing style? Because if the answer is “not really”, then spend your money on something else.

So to help you decide, I think it is important to honestly, and realistically, think about the following as they relate to your family:

  • Consider what everyone likes to eat, especially your children: Do your children (or you) have limited “likes” when it comes to food options? Would elaborate menu options be a waste if everyone is happiest with burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets? Do your family members enjoy trying new foods? Will your family want to try multiple character meals or some dinner shows? Or do you anticipate wanting to eat many meals off-site completely?
  • Consider if your little ones will want to sit for long meals: Many toddlers or preschoolers are just not going to be happy sitting for an hour at a table service meal. Thinking character meals or buffets? Then think about how your child is likely to feel with characters coming to visit them throughout a meal: some kids think this is fantastic, but others are completely overwhelmed by the procession of characters invading their dinner space. I have seen children spend an entire breakfast at Chef Mickey’s in tears because they are just not comfortable with the character interaction, which is NOT a magical way to spend your dining dollars.
  • Consider if you will want to take the time to sit for long meals: Will you be commando touring from sunrise to sunset, with only the briefest of breaks? Do you want to squeeze as many attractions and rides out of each Disney day as you possibly can? If so, then don’t get a Dining Plan that includes table service meals, as you will be unhappy taking the time to eat them! Instead, consider the Quick Service Dining Plan as a better value for the way that your family will want to eat.
  • Do you consider food to be an attraction all by itself? Are you a “foodie”? Do you get hungry just looking at pictures of different Disney dishes, mentally adding different choices to your “must eat” list? You know who you are….. 🙂 and at least the basic Disney Dining Plan is for you.

I think the most important part of this is to make sure that the Dining Plan you are planning to buy (or get for Free) truly matches your family’s eating personality. I know when there are Free Dining promotions being offered, people immediately assume that this is the best possible deal. And it *might* be best for you! But it might not too. Before you book, consider some of the other expenses/aspects of your Disney trip, such as airfare, crowds, school vacations etc. to see if, all things being considered, it is just better for you to go at another time. Yes, you may pay more for food….but if you are paying less for airfare, who knows, that may just be more of a savings. Do the math to see!

I have said many times that *for our family* of 3 “foodie” adults, the basic Disney Dining Plan is absolutely the most affordable choice for us. I also know many families where that is clearly not the case. What about your family? 🙂

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