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Disney Dining Plan Info

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#1 Dianna

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:57 PM

Here's my experience with the dining plan:

 

The dining plan (whether free or not) isn't as much of a bargain as it used to be. You currently have to pay for a 2-day park ticket now in addition to paying for our group tickets, and you have to stay at a Disney deluxe or moderate to get the regular dining plan (paying full price for your rooms). You can stay at a value resort and get the quick service plan (paying full price for the rooms) and upgrade to the regular dining plan for an extra fee per person, per day, but that just increases the cost of the "free" dining.

 

Also keep in mind that the dining plan (whether free or not) doesn’t include gratuity. Meals at Disney restaurants are very expensive, so their gratuity is also very expensive. (In some cases, the gratuity we paid for a Disney "free" meal was the same or more than what we paid for a meal for our family of 5 off-property.)

 

We did the math and found that we could get our discounted tickets, pay out of pocket for our dining, and come out with a better deal. We've done this for the past two years (after doing the free dining for 4 or 5 years prior to that), and found that we actually ate better, and enjoyed our meals more. Why? Because we could park in the off-property restaurant's parking lot and walk right in, with no reservations, and were seated immediately. The atmosphere was always better - quieter, less hectic, and more leisurely paced. And the food was better than comparable Disney restaurants (the quality and portion sizes at Disney have decreased over the years at Disney's restaurants due to the free dining).

 

Every family is different, though, so I encourage you to check out your options and do the math. The dining plan has changed so much now that it may not be the best deal for your family, either.

 

Warmly,
Dianna



#2 Dianna

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:03 PM

Also, forgot to add - we went to restaurants like Olive Garden, a great Japanese steakhouse, Outback, etc. which give you bread and salads with your meal. With all the extras, we were able to eat half the meal at the restaurant, and take the rest back to our room, to be eaten as our second meal for the day. We also brought along breakfast stuff (pop-tarts, donuts, cereal, milk, etc., etc.) and snacks that are bad for you that we never eat otherwise.

 

Between the one big meal, and the food and snacks we brought with us, we only paid for one meal out a day, and it was always much less ($100 or more) than a comparable meal at Disney. This won't work with buffets, where you can't bring food back with you.

 

If you'd rather not bring food back (don't have a microwave or fridge in your room), think about sharing meals. Like I said, with all the extras, you might be able to share plates more than you'd think. That will cut your food cost in half.

 

Of course, you can always bring your own food and cook meals there (if your accommodations include a kitchen). I'm really spoiled, though, and won't cook while we're on vacation.

 

Dianna



#3 Amanda Eadens Marksbury

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:25 AM

We have done the free dining plan, and done Disney without. The Disney YES tickets increased in price this year compared to last year. Although since I'm new I'm not sure if you get the same pricing as the regular YES programs? For families that are dead set on staying on site, have no intention of going offsite, either due to not having a rental car, or just no desire to leave property, taking advantage of the free dining is likely going to be beneficial for them. Families with 4-5 members per room, or children that are considered Disney 'adults' sometimes come out ahead on the dining plan as well in my experience. I agree with you that the Dining plan is not nearly as good as it was as when it first came out. I want my gratuities and appetizers back!  One of the huge markets the dining plan attracts is the people who want to just pay everything up front and be done with it. There are so many ways though to save money on meals and snacks at Disney, several that you listed (eating breakfast offsite, bringing back the rest of the meal to eat later). There are also so many places even onsite that serve huge meals for a somewhat (by Disney standards) reasonable price that 2 people can easily share. If anyone wants any tips I'd be happy to share some!


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#4 Dianna

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 01:36 AM

Amanda, yes, please do share your tips. Anything that will help people cut costs and make it more affordable will be very appreciated by my families.

 

Regarding the YES tickets - they're going up a little more than usual this year for us, but not as much as the Homeschool Days tickets (the last time I checked, and from what Disney told me), and definitely not as much as Individual Enrollment, which has changed so much that it's not that great of a deal anymore, either. Our Universal group tickets are projected to go up a little (but I'm going with 2-day tickets this year to accommodate the extra time needed for the educational tours). Our SeaWorld discounts are an amazing deal, and they think they'll stay the same price, too.

 

Edited to add: I meant to also say, for families who choose the free dining, I would recommend not going with my group because you'd have to purchase 2-day tickets (without my discounts), in addition to our discounted tickets, in order to qualify for the free dining. It's just not a good deal. You would save a lot of money by skipping the free dining and going with our group, but you would need to have transportation. (I believe a rental car would still be cheaper than paying for the free dining, but I may be wrong. It would be best to do the math for yourself.)

 

Dianna



#5 Lisa Schroeder

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 03:41 PM

Everytime we have done the math, it never works out. We are not dessert people as a rule, so if we skip dessert, we have already lost money. Sometimes we eat one sit down, and snack the rest of the day. You really need to eat the more expensive meals at most places to get your money's worth. \

The only time it was worth it for us to get the dining plan, was our first year, when our kids wanted to go to character meals constantly.. which can get pricey. 

Now that our son is 10 and an "adult" it does not pay for him... and my daughter is often happy with a yogurt for lunch, so paying for a full day's worth of food for her never worked out!



#6 hsmama

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Posted 07 May 2013 - 08:50 AM

well,I've done Disney both with and wothout the dining plan in the past....I plan to NOT use it this trip,and join up with this groups disounted homeschool deals. I looked at it this way, when we had the free dining, it was fun,and we ATE a lot, but our trip was organized around that food. With the discounted h.s. tickets,we can organize our trip around a more leisurely, hang out wherever we feel like it ,use thos park hopper tickets kind of pace. ANd pay out of pocket for quick service? No problem,I think I could keep it under 100.00 per day,onsite only,at QS places. (4 people)There are some excellent quick service choices on property!

  FD did save us some $$$,but we had to use less 'tickets' as in I couldn't afford to upgrade too many days in parks, or hoppers,etc.

  And it seems to me this group rate is a FAR better price than average yes programs.......so what is the focus,eating,or touring? For us, this trip it'll be less about food I think. (not so bad for my diet LOL)

I'm looking forward to eating when and where we feel like it,instead of worrying about credits/plans/times.


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#7 Dianna

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 10:25 PM

bumping this to the top.



#8 Laura Launius

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Posted 10 January 2014 - 12:09 PM

We used a dining calculator to determine if the dining plan would save money versus discounts at hotels, etc.  This is of course assumming all meals are eaten on property.  We took 5 of our family -- all counting as Disney adults- this past Nov. and the estimate was pretty spot on.  For us, because we like to not leave Disney (except for Sea World) when we arrive it has always worked out to save us money for the dining plan.  We have only "paid" for the dining plan one time -- although it could be argued that by not using a room discount in order to use free dining we are paying for it.  I will also say that we enjoy the character meals (Cinderella's Table, Chef Mickey, Crystal Palace) and other more expensive restaurants on property - if we were to eat at less expensive restaurants and leave property it might be different. www.seeyareelsoon.wix.com/seeyareelsoon#dining-plan-calculator/cxc0  is the link we used.


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#9 Dianna

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Posted 11 January 2014 - 03:59 AM

Hi Laura, in order to a family to get an accurate total for dining plan vs not, they'd have to include the room-only discounts into the total (in addition to the higher cost of park tickets). Substantial room-only discounts are usually available for the times we travel, so if you're paying full price just to get the "free" dining, then you're actually paying for the dining.

 

Also, they'd have to take into account the cost to upgrade to the regular dining plan if they stay at a value resort instead of a moderate or deluxe.  (Most families find the counter service dining plan to be very inadequate.) And the cost of tips (which are substantial since the cost of meals on Disney property is at least double, if not triple that of comparable off-site restaurants).

 

I don't know if the calculator takes all of that into account, but I think those things are where families don't realize how much they're paying for until they return home and add it all up. (At least from my experience and that of many of the families who've traveled with our group and provided feedback.)

 

That said, anything that'll help families figure out the bottom line is a benefit, so thanks for the link.

 

Warmly,

Dianna



#10 Laura Launius

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 09:03 AM

The calculator does have a place to insert room price only, ticket prices, and then a place where you select for the dining plan whether it's "free dining" and which dining plan, etc.  It was really fun to play with and I was able this past fall to look at the discount with our PIN for "free dining" versus upgrading to deluxe dining versus room discount only and paying OOP for the meals we planned versus the discounted rooms you had and tickets, etc.  We happened to get lucky this last time as our PIN came out early enough that we actually got our ressie in before WDW had a slight price increase :)  so I'm sure that helped our numbers too. 


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#11 Dianna

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 12:40 PM

Laura, it sounds like a great tool with all those options. There are so many factors to consider that my vertigo sets in every time I try to think about it! ;)

 

Warmly,
Dianna



#12 beachmom

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 11:45 AM

We used a dining calculator to determine if the dining plan would save money versus discounts at hotels, etc.  This is of course assumming all meals are eaten on property.  We took 5 of our family -- all counting as Disney adults- this past Nov. and the estimate was pretty spot on.  For us, because we like to not leave Disney (except for Sea World) when we arrive it has always worked out to save us money for the dining plan.  We have only "paid" for the dining plan one time -- although it could be argued that by not using a room discount in order to use free dining we are paying for it.  I will also say that we enjoy the character meals (Cinderella's Table, Chef Mickey, Crystal Palace) and other more expensive restaurants on property - if we were to eat at less expensive restaurants and leave property it might be different. www.seeyareelsoon.wix.com/seeyareelsoon#dining-plan-calculator/cxc0  is the link we used.

Thanks for the link. Is there some secret to be able to plug in my info? When I try, it just makes a "forget about it" noise :(   Thanks!



#13 Laura Launius

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:31 AM

Thanks for the link. Is there some secret to be able to plug in my info? When I try, it just makes a "forget about it" noise :(   Thanks!

Ummm, I don't know.  I just downloaded it on a new computer and I'm not having any problem entering any info.  Sorry I can't help.



#14 Laura Launius

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 07:57 AM

Free dining is available to book for Disney Visa holder beginning today and opens to the public on May 7.

 

It includes the dates for Carolina Homeschooler trip and excludes All-Star Movies; Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter Grand Floridian Villas, Fort Wilderness campsites, Little Mermaid rooms in Art of Animation and all 3 bedroom villas.

 

 



#15 bless9ings

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 06:53 AM

After having free dining on two trips, we finally decided to try out of pocket.  We would do out of pocket again, but I need to revamp some details to make it run smoother with a large family and still being frugal but fun.

 

Sign us up for the the fan club of Earl of Sandwich!  We ate there 3 times on our trip!  The sandwiches are great tasting and the prices are so much cheaper than Disneys!!!  I wished they had Earl of Sandwich in the Disney Parks, they would have long lines I am sure!  You have to make an effort to go to downtown Disney to eat there and I like staying in the parks or at the resort for eating. 

 

I didn't like the dining options at the Dolphin, they seemed too expensive for me.  I would have loved them if they hadn't been so expensive.  They say some of the best dining on property, but we didn't try them.  It wasn't in our budget.  Everything at Picubu was just way too expensive!  I think it was $3 for a 6 oz yogurt.  $3 for a quart of milk.  The meals just seemed that much more expensive than eating in the parks.

 

We bought food for breakfast, like we always do.  I had planned on buying some lunch supplies to make sandwiches at the room to save a bit of money and for convenience of being back to the room. I didn't want to, but I thought a few days to save money.  When we got to Walmart the prices were too much, we decided to see what it would cost us to eat in Disney out of pocket.  The cheese and meat prices were mostly $7/lb.  There might have been one or two that were not, but all the rest were $6.98/lb.  The bread started at $3/loaf for 16 slices.  We didn't want the stick to the roof of your mouth bread.  But their stick to the roof of your mouth bread wasn't much cheaper, you just got more slices.  I am always so frugal at home with our food budget. I started I guess you could call it a church coop.  Buying food at wholesale prices. We buy our cheese at $2/lb.  Our meats range from $2 to $7 (for the real expensive cuts.   It kills me to spend money at Disney for 10 days that would be a 4 or 5 mth food budget at home.  I just had to keep telling myself, look at the total package price, like you would have with the free dining.  We did get more for our vacation doing it this way!  Thanks Diana!!!!  :D

You will have to excuse me....food is where I save money in our budget...but not at Disney!  That is why my husband says to look at the whole package price.  Is that worth it to you...and yes it is but not singling out food.  Thanks Diana for the other price cuts...its a life saver!!!!  I appreciate all that you have done!!!  It might not sound it...I am just being candid about my thoughts.  You haven't heard the well balanced version yet....and I am also finding that different trips, different family size and dynamics of ages makes a difference on our thoughts.


Edited by bless9ings, 26 September 2014 - 07:15 AM.


#16 bless9ings

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Posted 26 September 2014 - 07:12 AM

Oh I wanted to say that we went to Port Orleans Riverside for lunch and it was great!  The options are much bigger than most resorts and even some of the park options.  I don't know if we weren't suppossed to or not but we got two kids meal salads for 50 cents more and got a much better deal then if we had ordered the adult salad.  The adult make your own salad was $11.49.  It was a good size and had awesome picks for a salad!!!  All your regular stuff plus greek olives, feta cheese or parmesan or mozzarella.  Walnuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, chick peas, croutons, chinese noodles and I think a few other extras.  It was the same for the childrens meals.  They came in a box, but I think the two boxes were as big or bigger then the one adult portion.  Plus with the childrens meal you got to pick two sides from apple slices, grapes, carrots and one other small package of something healthy.  Then you got to go over and pick a drink from the cooler like milk, Nestles chocolate milk, orange juice and quite a bit more, but I wasn't interested in the options.  The kids meals were $5.99 a piece!  My husband bought a cajun chicken sandwhich.  One of my sons got a turkey club.  They had a hot sandwhich station.  A cold sandwhich station.  Design your own salad station and a pizza station.  Oh yeah a soup station.  The theme of food was cajan, but had just american foods too.  We would definitely go back here!

 

We checked out the Polynesian food court also.  We almost ate supper here, but then opted for soft opening for the food and wine festival in Epcot.  We liked the variety of themed island food here and the prices were like in the park.  We would try them out on another trip for variety.

 

Just a quick note, we did eat around Epcot at the different countries with the family.  We would just buy one or two meals - basicly trying whatever we wanted to try and we all got a few bites and then on to the next country.  One way to try lots of different countries to see what you liked!  For me, I am not always so daring to try something new if its my whole meal, but this way it wasn't my whole meal and I found new things I liked!  Would reccommend doing this and will do again!