There are two major approaches to dining at Walt Disney World. Do you purchase the Disney Dining Plan and use meal credits throughout your stay, or do you pay out of pocket? Which is better?
Even if you get the free dining plan, it all depends on how you look at it. The free plan usually comes at the expense of other more valuable promotions. Likewise, there are pros and cons to the prepaid Disney Dining Plan and paying out of pocket.
Disney Dining Plan Pros and Cons
The Disney Dining Plan lets you get the food spending out of the way so you can enjoy your meal selections without worrying about the cost. The meal plans account for two meals per person and two snack credits per day per person and include dessert and a beverage at table service restaurants.
The downside to the Disney Dining Plan is that is is not designed to save anybody money. The plan is based on the average costs of everything provided in the plan. If you dine at a more expensive restaurant, you could lose two meal credits on one meal. The credits offered are based on how many nights you stay, so there is a good chance you will pay out of pocket for some meals. It’s also easy to forget to use some snack credits or lose value by purchasing low-cost snacks with a credit.
Out of Pocket Pros and Cons
When you pay for dining out of pocket, you have more flexibility with your meals. You only pay for what you order and do not need to concern yourself with Desserts you don’t want, or ordering the most expensive thing on the menu. Typically, dining out of pocket will save more money if you are watching your budget.
The downside to paying out of pocket is you may let cost hold you back from splurging on extra snacks, desserts, or alcoholic beverages. Although you have to pay for your food, either way, paying out of pocket results in more charges during your vacation, or all at once when you pay your final bill at the resort. If you dine out of pocket and always order the most expensive thing, always order dessert, always by snacks over $5 and always get alcohol with your table service meal, you may wind up spending more than the Disney Dining Plan would cost.
Which is Better?
If you like the peace of mind of paying for your food in advance and you don’t want to concern yourself with the value of what you order, then The Disney Dining Plan is for you. On the other hand, if you have a dining budget, or are interested in saving money on meals during your vacation, the Disney Dining Plan will not be helpful.
Personally- We use Military Discounts or stay off property. If it comes down to going to Disney or staying home, I will crunch the numbers in any way to make a trip possible. Free Dining for us usually is at a time we cannot travel, and the thought of scheduling that many meals – ruins what we love about our trips. We are there to ride rides, enjoy shows, and soak up the Disney Magic. We DO enjoy scheduling a few character meals- but for the most part, eating in our room with Amazon Prime now, or other delivery services made more sense. Sit down and crunch the numbers, play around! The restaurant lists are endless, and the experiences will be different everywhere, but to make out of pocket worth it – bottom line you will spend most of your vacation trying to eat.
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