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January 24, 2011

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Whenever we go to Disneyworld (every year or 18 months or so) we use the dining plan. In fact, we've never not used the dining plan since they started the program. When we go, we go with the whole family - 6 adults and one 8 year old. We have never run out of food and we have even spent two seated meals at a time for the character dining. I wouldn't go to the park without it, nor would I stay off property. The benefits of the park properties (and their wide range of pricing option) with the transportation systems, the extended hours available and the the dining plan make it far more reasonable than you might imagine.

(We LOVE the express service from the airport. You don't wait for bags, you go from the airplane to the bus, they take you to your hotel and your bags are there a couple hours later. With 6 adults, you can imagine how much luggage we have, even doubling up.

The one time I've been to Disney, my wife and I got the meal plan. We went with a group of 12 adults as a family reunion type get together and received a group discount on park tickets. In addition at the time if we stayed four nights and got the meal plan, we received three nights free at the hotel and the extra nights were also added to the meal plan at no cost.

My wife and I both ended up burning several meals as snacks to bring stuff home with us since we had them left over (and some of the places we ate didn't take the meal plan).

Thanks for posting such a complete breakdown of the Disney Dining Plan. It sounds like an awesome deal during off-peak periods. Much better than the $5 vouchers airlines typically give you for "food".

The biggest saving sounds like the time. More time to spend changing diapers, looking for invisible restrooms and endless gift shops!

We went in Dec 2010. We took advantage of the free Disney Dining Plan, stayed in 2 Rooms at Pop Century (3 adults, 3 kids), flew down, and traveled on Disney transportation the whole time. The total cost (flight, food, tips, a few toys, a couple extras like Cinderella's Table and the Candlelight Processional) was just under $110/person/night. My wife claims she had the best meal of her life at Le Cellier at the Canada Pavilion in Epcot, my kids frequently ate veggies, salmon, shrimp and steak, and we scrambled to use all our snack credits by the end of the 6-day, 6-night trip. A little over $3500...

You need to plan ahead (way ahead - up to 6 months for some dining experiences) and that seems to be a downside for many people. Also, I wouldn't pay menu prices for some of the food, normally, but when you look at it as a "freebie", the price only gets factored into the tip...

For a first timer, I definitely recommend the Free Dining Promotion as worth it. I'm not sure I buy it on its own, because there tends to be a lot of waste because of the constraints of the Plan (not everything on every menu is part of the Plan, do I really want/need dessert with lunch and dinner, etc...)

I should mention our costs included the 2 rooms and 6-Day Disney tickets, as well...

Sounds like a good deal. Especially considering how more convenient it is to just stay at a Disney hotel.

The Disney Dining Plan worked out very well for our family on our last trip to Disneyworld. My teenage nephew, the bottomless pit, probably could have benefitted from two dining plans. For us, we wound up with a lot of credits for snacks left over, so we stocked up on snacks for the plane ride home. Came in handy while delayed on tarmac due to severe lightning preceeding a hurricane.

We've done the dining plan every time we've gone and I know we've benefited from it. It does take a little bit of planning, but it will save you money; especially since we don't really like the taste of the drinking water in Disneyworld. Many places will let you substitute dessert with a bottle of water or a piece of fruit at the quick service meals, so we just do that and keep it with us for the rest of the day instead of using our snacks. You can plan all of your table service meals in advance so you know what time of day your "big meal" will be and adjust the rest of your day accordingly. We always save our snacks to buy bags of Chip 'n Dale pretzels and the like to bring back for our daughter's classmates or to have snacks on the way home. Between the four adults and one child (grandparents usually come with us), we've always had more than enough food. We just try to be smart about ordering things that will keep for awhile and take leftovers to snack on throughout the day.

Also, the assortment of restaurants that take the dining plan is extensive so if you can't find something to eat while at the parks that is on the plan, shame on you.

We just got back from a Disney trip in December and used the DDP. It was great. We used Table service credits for all dinners since you get the most bang for your buck that way. For counter service credits, we would get 2 different meals for my kids and then my husband and I split our lunch meals (since they give you so much food) and we were then able to get some breakfasts paid for too. We had way too many snack credits and ended up just stocking up on mickey mouse rice krispy treats to bring home at the end. The biggest problem with the plan is getting reservations(ADR's) for the table service credits - we made our reservations 6 months in advance at the first possible date and were fine. At every dinner we went to, there were people that had the dining plan that couldn't get reservations and waited 2+ hours. Crazy! Just something to keep in mind.

Skip Disney Land and go to Kauai. It is absolutely gorgeous.

We went in 2008 and used the dining plan. We loved it. My wife did a ton of research on which restaurants and stands to go to in order to get the best food and best bang for your buck. I think that's probably key is making sure that you don't just stop at the first place you see and end up burning through your credits.

It definitely paid off and I think we ended up getting one less day on the meal plan than we stayed only because we knew we wouldn't get the full benefit of the last day (or first day, whichever way you look at it).

We did that when it was just the two of us so the matter of kids eating their share hadn't come into play.

Love love love the disney dining plan! We have used it on all three of our trips there. I did plenty of research to find out where we wanted to eat and you do need to make reservations in advance for the table service meals. But it was just so easy. No staring at the menu and doing calculations or trying to just get enough and making kids share. We were able to splurge and tried new foods. And it was easier to keep track of the credits than to tally the costs each day and make sure they all were recorded correctly. And since it was already paid for I wasn't so stingy and let the kids have more treats. I know we paid less with the plan than we would have without and we did alot more. We fly down and use the Disney bus to take us to our resort and then use Disney transportation. I don't have to worry about directions or parking. Since we never leave Disney property it works so well for us. I was able to get Delta flights for $122. So for 1 adult and 2 children for 6 nights and 7 days we only spent $2,600 for hotel, ticket, airfare, and food. But we are going in February which is a low season.

The first time we went to WDW, we got the DDP and loved it. There were some downsides as in not all of the restaurants accept it, so it removes a few options. Still, if it's your first time, there's so many other places to try, you won't even notice. The biggest downside to us was that you are restricted on what you can order, like you can't get an appetizer and you "must" get dessert. We would have rather shared one appetizer and one dessert than have two desserts, but that's not an option.

The second time we went, we didn't get the dining plan as we realized the cost was about equal to what we would likely spend on food and we wanted the freedom from restrictions.

Honestly, having done both, we could go either way next time. The pro is that it changes things when you look at menu knowing everything is "free" vs. when you know the price tag is about to impact your wallet immediately. One seems a lot more fun.

The con is that you are limited in your choices, but depending on how you dine, it may not even be noticeable to you.

One final thing, the dining plan doesn't get credited to your card as "dining," instead it's considered "travel." Paying at the restaurants gets it categorized as dining.

I am a big Disney fan. One resource that I have found is a post on the Touring Plans site called Disney Dining Plan: http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/disney-dining-plan. The post provides a very detailed break down of different scenarios to calculate the savings/loss on the DDP. In general, it seems that in an apples-to-apples comparison, the DDP can save you money. In my opinion, I would suggest the DDP for a first time visiter. But as Ghenghy points out, you do give up a bit of choice.

As frequent travelers to Disney World (we have been visiting once every year for the past 8 years), I tend to not use the DDP. One of the requirements of the DDP is that you have to buy a package (unless you are an annual pass or DVC member): which is hotel, tickets, and dining plan. I typically go more a la carte. I do stay on property, but I usually don't pay rack rate. I do use a AAA discount for the rooms. For tickets, I buy 10 day Park Hopper Water Park Fun & More No Expiration tickets from a ticket broker. (A ticket broker is an authorized Disney ticket reseller and I have used Undercover Tourist.) The reason that I get this type of ticket is that the more days you buy, the cheaper the per day price. The adult 10 day hopper water park fun & more no expiration is $579.95 ($57.995 a day) and about $40 off of gate price while a 5 day version is $441.95 ($88.39 a day) and about $26 off of gate price. I am very careful with the tickets though and store them in our fire box between visits so that I don't loose them. I also keep good notes about how many days are left on a ticket because the only way to tell is to ask at guest services at a park. Because of the no expiration feature I am still using the rest of my 2008 ticket on my upcoming 2011 trip for 5 days in the Disney World parks. (Where those days from the 2008 ticket are at the 2008 price: Disney park tickets have typically gone up every year.)

Another site that provides money saving advice at Disney World is the appropriately named MouseSavers.com. They have tips on a variety of ways to save money on a Disney World trip.

I've been to Disney about 20 times. I've never done the dining plan, but i can say that the car rental cited is too high (I pay 200), and parking is free with a AAA pass. Plus, a week with your kids in the next bed versus a week with your kids in a different room in a condo does not have a dollar value of zero. I'd value it at at least 500 bucks.

I agree that the DDP is a money saver, but only if you plan it right to take maximum advantage of each and every "credit." We saved 40-50% off menu prices by using the Deluxe Dining Plan that we upgraded from the "free" dining.

Love the (free) Dining Plan. We had been without it but our last two trips took advantage and I honestly don't see going back without it. Great food. If you go, make reservations very early to get the best restaurants for your table service meals.

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