Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?
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  1. #1
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    Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Mission: Disney Dining Plan
    Good Value for the Money?

    Accuracy Note - Dining Plans are reissued by Disney every year, including price updates and offerings. They are generally released in the late fall, early winter, but won't be fully finalized until late December. This article is written using information available for the DDP in 2015.

    The Disney Dining Plan is something which causes lots of questions from new visitors, as well as detailed debates within the Disney Fan Community. Why?

    Well, lets find out.

    Common Terms
    First, we need to get some common terms out of the way.

    Dining Credits - Disney Dining Plans include a certain number of credits, per person, per night of stay (hereafter pppn).

    Snack Credits
    - Redeemable for small treats such as cupcakes, ice cream, popcorn and drinks

    Quick Service Credits
    - Redeemable for an entree and dessert at fast food restaurants around the parks and at Disney Springs. (hereafter QS Credits)

    Table Service Credits - Redeemable for and entree and dessert (and appetizer on Deluxe or higher plans) at Table Service restaurants (sit down restaurants) around the parks and Disney Springs. Table Service Credits may also be used at any Quick Service, if you so decide, but not vice versa (you can't use QS Credits at a TS restaurant). (hereafter TS Credits)

    Refillable Mug
    - These are chipped mugs...no, not like Chip from Beaty and the Beast. Disney Resorts have a control system on their beverage bars called RapidFill that reads an RFID chip in your mug and allows you unlimited refills during your stay, but not before or after. The mugs activate as soon as you check into your hotel and pick them up from the food court, and deactivate at midnight of the last day of your stay. Mug washing stations (small sinks) are available at the bars as well, so they are easy to keep clean. The mugs only offer refills at resort food courts that have beverage bars. Not hotel restaurants, and not at the Parks or Disney Springs.

    Types of Plans
    There are several flavours of Dining Plan that are available. They are (with per adult / per child cost in parenthesis):

    Disney Quick Service Dining - DQS - ($41.99 per adult per night, $16.03 per child per night)
    This gets you 2 QS credits pppn, 1 Snack Credits pppn, and 1 Refillable Mug per person good for the length of your stay

    Disney Dining Plan - DDP - ($60.04 per adult per night, $19.23 per child per night)
    This is the most common, and the one that is available for Free Dining promotions (which generally run in the spring of the same year for trips planned in the fall). It gets you 1 WS credit pppn, 1 Snack Credits pppn, and 1 Refillable Mug per person good for the length of your stay

    Disney Deluxe Dining Plan - DLX - ($109.53 per adult per night, $29.86 per child per night)
    This gets you 3 TS credits pppn, 2 Snack Credits pppn, and 1 Refillable Mug per person good for the length of your stay.

    There are also Premium and Platinum plans that have other benefits, but as far as Dining offer the same benefits as the Deluxe Dining Plan does, so I will not cover them in any detail. Also, they are EXTREMELY expensive.

    Is it a value?

    Strictly speaking, yes. You CAN come out ahead with all three of the Dining Plans. Or at least close to break even. As you now now the per night costs of each, you can calculate what an estimated day would look like. But, I would point you to this site, which does a much better job of calculating the benefits for your specific situation, rather than a series of rather dry analysis for me to write here.

    Disney Dining Plan Calculator - Save money eating at Walt Disney World!

    In general, the DDP is the easiest to come out ahead on, but if you do the DLX plans, you'll need to eat at a LOT of TS restaurants (pretty much every meal) and use all the snacks to come out ahead.

    It is a better value with kids involved. For example, me and the kiddo on our 3 day coming in August, were she still between the ages of 3 - 9, would save me around $120.96 with our current dining reservations (Cindy's Royal Table, Be Our Guest Lunch, Tony's Town Square, Teppan Edo, Le Cellier, Boma). But, since she's 10 this year, she is no longer limited to the children's menu, and her cost shoots up to the full adult price. So, our projected savings will be more like $36.

    But, we will save money.

    Also, Disney offers the DDP as a "Free Dining" promotion during certain periods of the year. This is a mixed bag. While the Dining is "free", it also strips away any room discounts other packages have. So, you do end up "paying" for it through higher per night room costs. So, this is something to consider before using a "Free Dining" promotion. Sometimes it's a great deal, sometimes it is not.

    Pros
    Prepaid - It's nice to know you don't have to pay for anything but alcoholic drinks and tips on your trip
    Encourages you to try new things - The TS credits will encourage you to try new things that you may skip for a variety of reasons (including desserts). CAN you do it cheaper by skipping certain elements of the meal? Yes, you can, but many who enjoy the Dining Plan actually enjoy that price and offerings aren't a concern for them

    Cons
    Cost - None of them are cheap. And the savings are not significant in most cases. But, it is rather easy to come close or break even.
    Limitations - If you are doing a more general area trip, like, say, a few days at Disney, but also going to Universal or Sea World for a day or two, you need to find a way to use up the credits before you leave Disney Property at the end of your stay. And, you'll still end up paying for meals while you visit these neighbor parks. Also, the Dining Credits and Snack Credits are applied to your room. They can be shared among the room, and are not limited to child / adult (an adult may redeem one of the credits allocated to the child). But, they cannot be shared between rooms. So, for larger groups, this is something to consider.

    Summary
    Overall, it is very easy to make the Dining Plans work for you, and to save money with them. But, you may not save very much. Other options, like Tables in Wonderland, which is a discount card you can purchase that is accepted at most restaurants on Disney Property, may end up saving you more depending on your family's Dining Habits. Also, you'll want to consider the convenience of it all, and if it's something you value. In my opinion, it IS worth the money. But, every situation and family is different.

    I linked the calculator before, and specific menu prices are available at the WDW website, so you can even go as far to calculate what you think you'd like to spend per meal based on the exact dishes that you'd want to experience! However, just make sure if you do your own calculations that you include the 6% sales tax. With the Dining Plans, you will not pay that tax. But, if you pay Out of Pocket, you will.

    It sounds complex, and that's because it is. There are a lot of options, and a lot of variables involved. So, when choosing if it's a Good Value to you, you need to crunch the numbers and take your specific trip and dining goals into account.
    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
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  2. #2
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Saves our family of 4 some money.
    2002-off prop, 2005-cabin FW, 2006-cabin FW (MVMCP), 2007-POR (MNSSHP & free dinning), 2008-CBR(MNSSHP & free dinning) no kids, 2011-CBR (MNSSHP & free dinning), 2013-cabins FW (MVMCP)

  3. #3
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    I think the fact you only have to worry about alcoholic beverages and tips is certainly a plus to getting the dining plan, especially for those who cringe every time they have to dip their hand in their pocket.

    It also forces you to take a break and sit down for a nice meal (except the DQS of course), which can be really beneficial in such a fast paced environment.

    I'm a fan even if it doesn't save you tons of money.
    “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by vanessprincess View Post
    I think the fact you only have to worry about alcoholic beverages and tips is certainly a plus to getting the dining plan, especially for those who cringe every time they have to dip their hand in their pocket. It also forces you to take a break and sit down for a nice meal (except the DQS of course), which can be really beneficial in such a fast paced environment. I'm a fan even if it doesn't save you tons of money.
    Those are excellent points Vanessa!
    Frying pans! Who knew, right!?

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  5. #5
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    My family has gotten this a few times, and am getting again for our October trip. Just the fact that we are doing 7 different character meals alone shows that it is wort it (each one costs >$25/pp), so we are saving a lot of money!! PLUS... we got the free dining!

  6. #6
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    I researched it and it will actually cost our family $40 more per day. We have opted out every vacation!!

    2015-Beach Club, 2013-Old Key West & Vero Beach, 2011- Animal Kingdom Lodge-Kidani Village, 2009- Boardwalk, 2007- Saratoga Springs, 2006- Hilton Head, 2006- School Trip, 2004- Wilderness Lodge & Ft. Wilderness, 2003-Disneyland, 2001- Boardwalk, 2001- Vero Beach, 2000-Dixie Landings (Join DVC) 2000- Vero Beach, 1997- Dixie Landings

  7. #7

    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    I have to say they are worth it if you can eat\drink\snack it all away. I have used the quick service meal plan twice now... we have left over 10 snacks (which btw can be used for waters etc) one year and one meal, this year i have no idea how many snacks were left and we left two meals in play after gorging ourselves before we went to the airport... lol I think i will opt out next time or dont plan any "extra" meals.
    Mike
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  8. #8
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    Don't forget, leftover snack credits can be used to buy bags of candy to take home. And under recent changes, QS credits can be used to buy 3 snacks at certain locations - so no need to waste credits now.

    Wish they'd have done that on our last trip. We had the free QSDP and came home with 22 unused QS credits!
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  9. #9
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Winkster View Post
    Don't forget, leftover snack credits can be used to buy bags of candy to take home. And under recent changes, QS credits can be used to buy 3 snacks at certain locations - so no need to waste credits now.

    Wish they'd have done that on our last trip. We had the free QSDP and came home with 22 unused QS credits!
    ^^ this

    Unused credits (including dining credits) can be exchanged for treats at the end of the trip, which if you have some, I'd highly recommend.

    You may not come out ahead financially on them, but I've literally walked out with about a dozen mickey rice crispy treats that were a hit for friends/co-workers/family when I get back to the "real world"...

    So, don't write them off, and take advantage of them!
    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
    A.D. (After Daughter)
    2010 - 2 weeks @ CBR
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  10. #10
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    I agree it is not for every family. I just know that it is worth it for us. I make a point of having some "down time" each and everyday, and make sure to do character meals during our trip. So when I am doing 7 different character meals for a week then it does work out best for us. It is usually the snacks that are not used up by the end of the week, and I make sure to use them up at the store before we head out to the parks!!

  11. #11
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Those that say they have left over credits, which dining plan are you on? We only get the regular dining plan. Never have left over credits.
    2002-off prop, 2005-cabin FW, 2006-cabin FW (MVMCP), 2007-POR (MNSSHP & free dinning), 2008-CBR(MNSSHP & free dinning) no kids, 2011-CBR (MNSSHP & free dinning), 2013-cabins FW (MVMCP)

  12. #12
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Quote Originally Posted by elric View Post
    Those that say they have left over credits, which dining plan are you on? We only get the regular dining plan. Never have left over credits.
    I get DLX every trip and I haven't had a single trip where I've used every credit. Though, I did come close last trip for the first part of it, but I forgot to burn two of the snack credits before we left for the Disney Fantasy.
    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
    A.D. (After Daughter)
    2010 - 2 weeks @ CBR
    2011 - 3 in DC, 14 @ CBR
    2012 - 3 @ Uni Royal Pacific, 12 @ Pop
    2013 - 3 @ DLR | Contemporary, DCL Fantasy, POFQ
    2015 - 2 in DC, 3 @ Uni Portofino, 3 @ AKL, DCL Fantasy, 4 @ AoA

  13. #13
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    To have the dining plan benefit you I really do think you have to do some planning. We did the regular plan last trip we used a quick service the day we arrived and had dinner at their resort food court. Day one we used our table service for Ohana and QS at dinner. The rest of the week we used Qs for breakfast and TS at dinner except the last day we used a couple snack credits for breakfast and our last table service for late lunch DTD then used whatever snack credits left for candy and treats for the way home.
    Also those of you who figure how much more or less it will cost you have to remember you can order the most expensive thing every time and it doesn't cost you anymore than what you have already paid. One meal my DH DS and I all got steak dinners at planet Hollywood these were $30 + dinners each. My DS is a rather picky eater but lives steak and he ate steak dinners several times that week.

  14. #14
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    Since on the dining plan topic I thought Id share this with you guys.
    This past weekend while staying at Coronado Springs resort a lady was walking around QS food court paying for people's meals because she had leftover credits. I ended being one of them. I asked her if she was sure because I heard that she can buy snacks with those credits but she said she couldn't. So I thanked her and got a free meal. Nice lady but feel bad that she couldn't reap the full benefits of her dinning plan.
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  15. #15
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    Re: Mission: Disney Dining Plan - Good Value for the Money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Freshee61 View Post
    Since on the dining plan topic I thought Id share this with you guys.
    This past weekend while staying at Coronado Springs resort a lady was walking around QS food court paying for people's meals because she had leftover credits. I ended being one of them. I asked her if she was sure because I heard that she can buy snacks with those credits but she said she couldn't. So I thanked her and got a free meal. Nice lady but feel bad that she couldn't reap the full benefits of her dinning plan.
    While that's great Disney Magic right there (guests creating magic for other guests, sortof like what happened with the old paper fastpass system, where random guests who decided they didn't need/want their fastpasses would give them away to other random guests)...

    It's also not completely true as of the start of June. Though, grain of salt, I haven't tested these changes for myself yet (though I will in August).

    "Beginning May 31, guests will be able to exchange some of their table-service credits and quick-service credits for snack items. This could come in handy at the end of a trip if not all meal credits have been used or if a guest does not want to eat a full meal. There will also be some changes to what is considered a “snack,” as well as the exchange of a dessert at a meal for a soup or other side item.

    Snacks were generally considered any item under $5 and marked with the purple DDP logo. They didn’t include most snack items with toppings, like a pretzel with cheese dip or ice cream with toppings. With the new change, guests can use a snack credit for: any single-serving size item, soup at quick-service restaurants, any side item at quick-service restaurants, a side of breakfast foods (like bacon or sausage), toppings and dips with another item, scooped ice cream (up to 2 scoops), and regular-size sundaes."

    "Quick-service meals – These meals typically consist of an entrée, dessert and drink. The changes will allow guests to choose any snack item or bottled drink instead of the dessert. This includes replacing dessert with a side item. The other big change to the quick-service meals is that adult and child quick service credits can now be used interchangeably. This has been a known loophole in the system for a while now; it’s now officially allowed. A quick-service credit can also be exchanged for 3 snack items instead of ordering a full meal. This can only be done in certain locations. Most resort food courts will offer this option, as well as select merchandise shops."

    "Table-service meals – Guests can now choose a salad, soup or fruit plate instead of the dessert that is typically included with the meal. At a meal, guests can use as many dining credits as they wish; for example, if you bring guests along, you can use credits to pay for them. In the past, you could only use the number of credits to match people in your immediate traveling party. Adult and child credits are not interchangeable, unless you are on the Deluxe, Premium, or Platinum plans."

    Maybe she ran into a Cast Member not yet aware of the change (and how to book it in the register system?), or it hadn't quite rolled out to that location yet?

    I'd be curious to see if all this stuff is just rumor, as it's made the rounds pretty hard.

    --Edit--

    Disney Food Blog has confirmed that as of right now, this is just a rumor. Disney hasn't officially announced anything (which is why I couldn't find it on any official Disney site).

    I do hope they make these changes though! I think it brings more value to the plan, and if you crunch the numbers, Disney likely is still coming out ahead.

    --Edit--

    This has now been confirmed as true by several sources. However, there are some limitations. QS/TS credits may be exchanged for snacks only at the following locations currently:

    Artist's Palette (SS)
    BayView Gifts (CR)
    Beach Club Market Place (BC)
    Calypso Trading Co. (CBR)
    Conch Flat (OKW)
    Donald's Double Feature (ASM)
    Dundy's Sundries (BW)
    Everything Pop (Pop)
    Fittings and Fairings (YC)
    Fulton's General Store (PORS)
    Ink and Paint (AoA)
    Jackson Square (PORS)
    Johari Treasures (AKL)
    M. Mouse Mercantile (GF)
    Maestro Mickey (ASM)
    Moana Mercantile (PR)
    On the Boardwalk (BW)
    Panchito's Gifts and Sundries (CS)
    Sandy Cove (GF)
    Seashore Sweets (BW)
    Settlement Trading Post (FW)
    Sport Goofy Gifts and Sundries (All Star Sports)
    Wilderness Mercantile (WL)
    Zawadi Marketplace (AKL)
    Big Top Souvenir (MK)
    Confectionary (MK)
    Prairie Outpost (MK)
    Karamell-Küche (EP)
    Beverly Sunset (HS)
    Writer's Stop (HS)
    Mombasa Marketplace (AK)
    Candy Cauldron (DTD)
    Goofy's Candy Co. (DTD)
    Last edited by englanddg; 06-30-2015 at 03:28 AM.
    B.C. (Before Child) '82, '87 - '95, 2004
    A.D. (After Daughter)
    2010 - 2 weeks @ CBR
    2011 - 3 in DC, 14 @ CBR
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    2013 - 3 @ DLR | Contemporary, DCL Fantasy, POFQ
    2015 - 2 in DC, 3 @ Uni Portofino, 3 @ AKL, DCL Fantasy, 4 @ AoA

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