Tell me why I shouldn't get the Dining Plan

Okay, I need someone to talk me down and tell me I’m crazy. I think the Disney Dining Plan might make sense for my family for our trip this December.

We still have little kids, so most of our choices for TS meals are character buffets. I estimate that for 3 adults and 2 children, this will be at least $200 per meal (probably more, but I’ll stick with $200 for now. We will be staying onsite for 5 nights with 6 park days (possibly partial days on the first and last day), so the cost of the plan should be $1475. In order to make sense of it all, I’m not going to price out everything the plan includes, but rather what we would likely buy if we are paying out of pocket.

4 TS meals = $800
5 QS meals = $400
35 snacks = $175

So that’s $1375 assuming we just do what we would normally do. That might include sharing a QS meal, buying a cheaper menu item, not getting an extra Mickey bar. So, with what I expect we would do anyway, it will only cost $100 to get us an extra character meal, the freedom to order the most expensive item at QS restaurants if we want (with no sharing, or share and get an extra QS meal out of it) and another 15 snack credits so I can throw Mickey bars at my kids when they get grumpy.

I’m thinking that $100 is money well spent. Am I missing anything? Please tell me where I’m making a mistake. Paging @ryan1 to tell me I’m wasting too much money, @OBNurseNH for the voice of reason and @Randall1028 to tell me to eat more ice cream. Plus, @mousematt is invited to come call me names.

Thanks!

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I can never get it to work for me…but I’m just 1 or 2 adults. I always use this tool just to quickly price it out…if I need to talk myself out of it (or in your case, justify it) https://magicguides.com/disney-dining-plan-calculator/

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You’re wasting too much money. :wink:

Okay, okay. You might not be…but you told me to tell you that.

I think in order to really price it out, you should look very honestly at what you are likely to order at various places. Don’t price out most expensive or least expensive, but what each person is most likely going to order. That’s what we looked at. Once you have that, and add in taxes (NOT tip, since you have to pay that either way), you have a comparison.

Now, as you said, if you really WANT to do more TS or character meals, but are skimping because you don’t have the plan, then you have to decide how important that character meal is versus saving 100 bucks.

Now, when my wife and I did the exercise for our December 2020 trip, we found we wouldn’t order the most expensive items, despite doing quite a bit of TS eating this trip that we would never otherwise do. After figuring out what we really would spend (taking into consideration we have a kitchen and will have breakfast in our room), we found getting the dining plan would be significantly more than just paying out of pocket. This didn’t even include the savings I’ll get using my AP.

The question really sounds like it comes down to what you want to do with that extra $100. More food/character meals? Or something else?

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That’s what I’m trying to do, but for QS it doesn’t matter TOO much (a little, but not much), and we will mostly do buffets, which are set price and very expensive.

Also, thanks for letting me know I’m wasting too much money. If it makes you feel better, I think I’m going to save some by renting DVC points and staying in a studio at Boardwalk.

Looks like it pretty much agrees with what I already estimated. If I stick to the plan and deny my kids any extra snacks, I save around $100. If I get the Dining Plan, I get a half-price character buffet, extra snacks for my kids, and re-fillable mugs (which I also consider a souvenir, so win-win. Plus, I will get a free alcoholic drink with every meal.

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If you are really committed to a bunch of character meals (that you would honestly pay cash for no matter what), than you might be able to make a dining plan work out financially. But especially now that QS have to be kid meals (harder to share) for the kid credits…it gets a lot dicier to maximize value.

We prefer TS to be brunch (which is a lot cheaper than dinner), and don’t like doing TS every day, so for us we actually have to move to non-optimal meals to get even close to making dining plan work out.

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Well, depends. If you don’t rent DVC points, would you stay in one of the value resorts like All-Star Sports, Music, or Movies instead? Because then you’re just spending MORE money, not less. :wink:

You’re going in December…presumably not during Dec. 1-8. If you were, we could be neighbors in Boardwalk. :slight_smile:

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If you really do the character meals/buffers for almost every TS (and think you would do this even without DDP) and you are committed to getting an alcoholic beverage with at least every TS, you are probably coming out ahead. I have a hard time with all the snacks but you are probably coming out ahead anyway. Just think if you really want to do all those meals and drink alcohol at every meal. If you were to pay cash and cut some stuff out, then you end up saving money.

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I agree with all of this. Luckily, my kids are picky eaters (at least 2 are), and will only be ordering from the kids menu any way, so no difference there for me. The non-picky eater is the one who might share with me and my wife.

I would never do all those character meals if it was just me, buy my kids will only be young so long, so I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.

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Right now I’m planning for December 5-10, if I can get the standard view. If not, I’d prefer to have Beach Club, since its the same price as Boardwalk preferred view.

We have 3 kids, so a family of 5 needs 2 rooms at the values or a family suite. So by staying all in one studio we definitely will save money. I started thinking CBR, but then I said, if we’re going to stay in just one room, it might as well be the location we want, especially if it’s cheaper.

TS meals can be a big time commitment. Are your kids happiest there, or would they rather have a little extra pool time or nap time or would you simply prefer not to be tied down to ADRs? If you take $1375 in gift cards and have to cancel a meal (any meal!) at some point, you may end up with money in your pocket for something else at the end of the trip.

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Ah. We’ll have a few days of overlap if you do. We’ll have to plan a photo-op meet-up if that happens.

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We’re a family of 5 too, and while having to spend more for rooms sucks some times (the world is designed for families of 4 it seems)…it’s also nice to have a valid good excuse to stay in the nicer resorts!

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I haven’t asked them yet for this trip. They have not complained about it yet. I think last trip we did 5 or 6 in 8 days. I prefer not to be tied to ADRs, but if they enjoy seeing the characters, I enjoy seeing them happy and will give up an extra ride on Splash Mountain. :slight_smile:

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We really like Swan/Dolphin, but they have raised their rates so much and the points rates have gone up so much it just doesn’t seem worth it any more unless you have tons of Marriott points and nothing else to use them for.

While I have saved money doing the DDP it’s usually no more than the $100 you mentioned. Plus, if you’ve never done it before let me say… it’s too much food! There will be a point when you’ll feel like, "idk… I guess we can stuff our bags with candy apples and rice krispies, but I’m already sooo full!

I never recommend it because, IME, I spent more buying the DDP to “save more”. Then I feel like I have to maximize my plan. It’s not a bad deal, but it’s just close enough to being one that I avoid it.

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Of course! Book the ADRs early and get all the meals in the schedule. The big draw for me is that if the kids are tired the day before or having more fun elsewhere, I can cancel a reservation and not feel too guilty about it. On the DDP, if I cancel a reservation I stress that I just overpaid for something we’re not going to enjoy, or try and pack in another TS meal another day with a bad reservation and end up eating too much in a day. My family is much more likely to want to skip a meal than to want to spend the time going to more than one in a day. Yours could be different :slight_smile:

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Sometimes, you can really make it work with a meal plan. To do the math, you really need to know exactly what you would order on each method. The mistake a lot of people make is assuming that you’d eat the same way in each method. If it makes sense to eat in a way that justifies the meal plan, I say go for it. Just don’t forget tipping in the equation (those drinks can inflate your tipping cost a bit).

The vast majority people paying out of pocket aren’t going to order a specialty beverage, an entrée, and a dessert for each person at every meal. So, if they got the plan, they’d either not be getting their money’s worth, or ordering more food than they really wanted. (For example, my wife and I would rather buy 3 snacks throughout the day, hit up a lounge and have a drink and app like some small plates or a charcuterie board for a late lunch, and then have a late sit down dinner where we each have a drink but split one app and one entrée.) I’ve tried to make the math work for the dining plan work for us, but it just doesn’t. We have friend with small kids who need set mealtimes. The dining plan just works for their family and save them so much aggravation.

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If you don’t use all your snack credits, you can use them to buy souvenir candy to bring home. I personally think if you’re pretty close when you do an estimate, it’s probably better to get the dining plan. I used it on one trip and didn’t on the other, and while I think I made the right decision when I didn’t, I did think about every meal, and whether I wanted to pay that much, etc. The nice thing about the dining plan is you pay for it ahead of time, and then there are no thoughts about trying to order something cheaper when you really want something more expensive.

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THIS!! Thanks! You said it better than I did in my post above.

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