While many Disney fanatics are less than fanatical about the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), there are others who swear by it. So for every argument one might give about the increased prices and eliminated menu items that came about as a result of the DDP, others are just as quick to point out the potential cost-savings and convenience of the plan. As with most controversies, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Which is how the Disney Dining Plan can be a huge waste of money or a great savings, depending on the person that is using it. Those who do their homework and plan accordingly have the best luck maximizing their DDP value. Here are a few tips to get the most out of the dining plan:
1. Do You Need It?
If you are the type of family that is extremely cost-conscious when traveling to Disney World, the Disney Dining Plan is probably not for you. If breakfast consists of Pop-Tarts or cereal and milk in your hotel room, and you pack plenty of snacks in your backpack to take into the park so that you only have to buy one quick service meal for the family at dinnertime, you will undoubtedly save money by doing things on your own. On the other hand, if you plan to do a character meal every day that you’re on vacation you will likely save money by getting the dining plan.
2. Do You Want that All-Inclusive Feeling?
If you prefer to have your Disney World trip paid off well in advance, including the bulk of your dining purchases, getting the Disney Dining Plan can make your vacation almost feel like an all-inclusive experience. Even if you aren’t obsessed with getting the best value, having this cost mostly out of the way eliminates the possibility of surprises on your credit card statement when you get home.
3. Free Can Be a Four-Letter Word
Disney occasionally offers promotions where the Disney Dining Plan is free to guests. The downside is that you can’t use other promotions when taking advantage of the free dining. As a result, families staying in value resorts will probably save money by taking advantage of the free dining, whereas families staying in deluxe resorts would do better to find room discounts and pay out of pocket for their food.
4. Do You Have Any Reservations?
Telling someone that they need to plan ahead for their Disney vacation is an almost sure-fire way to get a “Duh!” in response. But it is especially true for getting the most value out of the Disney Dining Plan. Booking early is the best way to reserve your place at the restaurants and character meals that have the pricier menu items, thus maximizing your DDP’s value versus the cost you paid.
5. Be In The Know
The only way to know which Disney restaurants offer the best values is to do your research. Disney posts menus for their restaurants on their site, but there are also many other Disney fan sites that do the comparing for you. However, in your quest to find the best value for your DDP, don’t forget to make sure that you actually like the menu items offered! It doesn’t matter that your restaurant of choice offers expensive veal or lamb dishes if you don’t enjoy eating those things.
6. Not the Most Important Meal of the Day
As breakfast menus tend to offer the least expensive food options, you are usually better off saving your dining plan credits for lunch or dinner, when they offer more value. There are some exceptions however, where using a quick service credit for breakfast delivers a lot of value. Breakfast at Be Our Guest is one such example.
7. Hold the Protein, Please
As vegetarian items tend to be among the least expensive on the menu, it may also make sense for the vegetarian or vegan guests to Disney World to forego the dining plan and pay out of pocket.
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Disney travel deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius! Discover More >
8. Don’t Shortchange Yourself
The examples that the Disney Dining Plan brochure gives for using your snack credit include snack bag, popcorn, coffee, fruit, soda, and water. In truth, these are among the worst uses of your snack credit. With a little research of the menus, you can find some truly great items that are much more satisfactory from a culinary standpoint, if not outright better values. These include ice cream cookies sandwiches, pastries, Mickey’s premium ice cream bars, cheese-stuffed pretzels, and cinnamon rolls nearly the size of your head. And if you plan on attending Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival at Epcot, you should hold on to all of your snack credits for use at the food kiosks.
9. Save It ‘Til the Morning After
While the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t offer the amount of food that it once did, the dinner credits still include a dessert. You can sometimes find muffins or fruit on the dessert menu that would make a good breakfast the next morning, saving you that expense. Just tuck it away in your backpack. I always have Ziploc bags with me – they’re handy for protecting electronics on water rides – so it’s easy to save leftovers without worrying about spilling your crème brûlée. Did I say crème brûlée? I meant muffin.
10. When 2 for 1 Isn’t a Good Deal
As previously mentioned, if you plan to enjoy a lot of character meals the Disney Dining Plan can save you some money. But Disney also has Signature Dining restaurants that require you to use 2 dining credits for one meal. While these dining experiences can be amazing, they don’t tend to be the best value for your dining credits.
Getting the best value out of the Disney Dining Plan will vary from guest to guest based on the length of stay, the type of dining you plan to do on vacation, children’s ages, and a number of other factors, so even the most well-intentioned tips must be considered carefully for applicability to your circumstances. Nonetheless, these are just a few general hints for making the most of the dining plan. How about you? What are your best tips for dealing with the DDP?
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!