Hello friends! It’s me, Jason! Michael and I (and Will and our friend Stuart and Stuart’s son Ben) all recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World and Michael and I decided to give the Disney Dining Plan a shot to see if it’s worth it.
More specifically, we wanted to know if the Disney Dining Plan is worth it for two adults travelling without kids and/or is the Disney Dining Plan worth it for a long weekend trip. To make a long story short, and because I don’t like rambling blog posts that are just reasons to get me to look at ads, for us this answer is, “sadly the Disney Dining Plan wasn’t worth it for us.”
When discussing the Disney Dining Plan, the arguments most people made in favor of the plan are cost and convenience. I decided to put those to the test.
When using the Disney Dining Plan, people tend to try to “get their money’s worth” like they do at a buffet. When Michael and I tried the Disney Dining Plan, we both felt like we were easily recouping the cost of the plan and likely ahead of the game. In reality though, Disney is in the business of making money and the house always wins.
Here are the numbers:
|Cost of the Plan for 2 Adults for 3 Nights:||$382.20|
|Total of food if purchased without the plan:||$325.23|
When you look at the numbers, the dining plan cost $56.97 more than it would have cost if we had purchased the exact same items a la cart.
If you take out things that we wouldn’t have ordered if we weren’t on the Plan – I’m talking about you, dessert – our food cost would have been $261.87. When you factor that in, we actually spent $120.33 more on the Disney Dining Plan than what we would have spent normally.
OK, so maybe the Disney Dining Plan costs a bit more than purchasing food normally, but it’s super convenient – isn’t it?
I am hella willing to pay a convenience fee – no problem. So let’s say that $120 is actually a convenience fee and the Disney Dining Plan takes the hassle out of meal planning. All of your meals are pre-paid so you don’t have to worry about hidden costs. Great!
Is the Disney Dining Plan really more convenient? We thought so when we were using it but upon reflection, I’m not so sure. In my opinion there are two main conveniences – everything is pre-paid and Disney keeps track of stuff for you.
- Pre-paid Meals – This is the biggest advantage of the meal plan in my opinion. Paying for your meals and snacks in advance essentially turns your Walt Disney World vacation into an All-Inclusive vacation. You don’t have to worry about the food expense once you get inside the bubble as it’s all been taken care of up front.
- Managed System – It is true that Disney keeps track of things for you using your Magic Band. This is super cool in that you don’t have to take out your card and wait for the server to run it and bring it back. That said, you can also link your card to your Magic Band and accomplish the same thing. This one isn’t really a convenience so much as it’s exactly the same thing that would happen normally. You can’t just get up and leave when you’re done like on a Disney Cruise.
There is one big inconvenience with the Disney Dining Plan – the rules. For the most part, you can order whatever you want from the entree section and the dessert section of the menu so that’s great – unless you’d rather have an appetizer than a dessert. Michael and I rarely order dessert but we frequently order an appetizer. “Just don’t order an appetizer,” you say? Well that’s not the point. The point is that the rules preclude us from ordering what we want on the Disney Dining Plan.
There’s also a case to be made for food waste. I’m sure they make and throw away a lot more desserts than they did pre-dining plan.
Perception vs Reality
I’ll be honest with you, Michael and I thought the Disney Dining Plan was great when we were using it and we were absolutely sure that we were at least breaking even but probably slightly ahead of the house. This is the real magic of the Disney Dining Plan – you feel like you’re gaming the system while you’re using it.
If I hadn’t run the numbers, I would have absolutely purchased the Disney Dining Plan the next time we went. Not only was I shocked at how much more the Dining Plan costs than a la cart, but I was also a little sad that we wouldn’t get to use it again. I was not, however, surprised that Disney came out ahead. As a lifelong lover of the parks, I am all too aware of Disney’s magical ability to take your money and make you feel good about it at the same time.
What do you think? Was the Disney Dining Plan worth it for your family?
If you like Disney and you like Podcasts, you’ll probably like The Florida Project – the podcast where three dudes talk mostly about Walt Disney World. Each week, join Jason, Michael, and Will as they explore the World in this upbeat, fun, and funny podcast. It truly is the best thing ever!