So this is a contentious one. Of all the amenities Disney offers, the Dining Plan is one of the most misunderstood. While it may not be for everybody, there are some pretty compelling reasons to opt for the Plan. Well, let’s get to it.
Okay, so here’s the thing; it’s possible to save using the Plan, it’s just pretty difficult. You will have to carefully plan out each and every meal, and pick restaurants based on price, not necessarily on what they have to offer. All in all, it’s a bad reason to go with the Plan. So why did I put it first? Well, a lot of you are going to be considering it for this reason primarily. I just wanted you to know out front that it’s not the best way to go, if this is your main concern. But no need to abandon all hope, ye who (have) enter(ed) here. Because while it’s not the best for saving money, it is kinda great for…
Yes, this is ideal for budgeting. Because you know how much you’re going to spend on food, since you’ve already spent it. If you are the sort (like us) who has to do some major planning and saving to put together a Disney vacation, being able to roll your meals into your savings plan is a great help. Instead of taking a stab at what you think you might spend, you can just figure “Okay, with the dining plan, we just need to save X more dollars each month.” Boom. Done.
Peace of Mind
This kind of goes along with the last one, but I want more headers, because it makes it look like I did more work. Once your meals are covered, you have more peace of mind. It’s that simple. This way, you know that even if your souvenir money runs out on day one, you still get to eat for the rest of the week, or whatever. It’s one less thing you have to worry about while you are there, so you can focus more on having fun.
Let’s face it; many times we want to try something new, but just wind up getting burgers, again. Because your dollars are valuable, and while that new fusion Vietnamese place might be awesome, it also might not. So you go with the safe option. The dining plan allows you freedom to try new things. Because some of you may be like Beth, and maybe not love African/African inspired cuisine. Some others of you may be like me, and try literally everything that Tusker House had to offer. The thing is, it’s okay. I didn’t know I would like it until after we had already paid. But I wasn’t afraid to try it, and neither was Beth, because it was already covered by our Dining Plan. Also, this freedom led to us finding out that you can get the best snow cones on the planet in the Japan area of Epcot’s World Showcase.
So… uhh, here’s the thing. There are some “classic” dining experiences that everyone loves at Disney. Except maybe sometimes everyone doesn’t love all of the “must visit” places. I won’t name any names, I’m not here to critique restaurants that just didn’t get off the ground for me. Suffice to say that while many people love them, I didn’t. However, the two main ones on my list are among the most expensive places that Disney offers. So, if I had paid the price on the menu just to be disappointed, it could have ruined the rest of the day. But since it was just a meal credit for us, it wasn’t such a big deal. More like “Well, not going there again,” and then on with the magic of the park.
There are some unique character interactions available in certain restaurants. For example, if you want to meet Mickey in his farmer overalls, you have to eat at Garden Grill. It’s that simple. The whole reason we chose Trattoria Al Forno was because we got to meet Rapunzel, Flynn, Ariel and Eric (and get an awesome souvenir) there. Getting the Dining Plan freed us up from price concerns when picking places to eat, so we got to experience a lot more character interactions because of it.
If you have travelled anywhere with kids, you already know what I am talking about. The tantrums, the unreasonable demands, the tears, acting like a butthead for no reason, picking on each other, etc. And that was just Beth and me. No, but really, children can get overstimulated, even in the most magical place on earth. This can turn a fun day into a nightmare. But a chocolate dipped Mickey ice cream or a Darth Vader cupcake can be just the thing to stave off disaster. Plus, it only costs you a snack credit.
Soften the Blow on the Last Day
Okay, this one is a little left field, so I will set the stage for you. We were all packed up and it was time to leave Disney, so none of us were in a very good mood. Additionally, since Disney is pretty liberal with the snack credits each day, almost everyone has some left over at the end. So we let the kids blow them all in the hotel’s gift shop, and they each picked out some fun snacks for the trip home and/or days to come. It took a little bit of the sting out of leaving for the last time. And we didn’t have to spend any extra money doing it.
So Now You Are Convinced
And I have done my job completely. Okay, fine, no it’s not for everybody. As I led with, if price is your only concern, the Dining Plan may not be for you. But there are still plenty of good reasons to get the Plan, so I urge you to think beyond just dollars and cents. After all, a Disney World vacation won’t be cheap, no matter what you do. So why not get as much as you can?