This is a question we get asked a lot when planning Disney World dream trips for our clients. So we decided to do a little experiment on our own recent trip to Disney World this past weekend. We were there for only two nights, so we decided to splurge this time and got the Deluxe Dining Plan, versus the standard dining plan that we typically purchase (be patient with me, I’ll explain the differences between the three dining plans a bit later).
With the Deluxe Dining Plan we got 3 table service meals and 2 snacks per night of stay and a refillable souvenir mug, per person. So for 2 of us staying 2 nights, that was a total of 12 table service meal credits and 8 snack credits on our account. We made dining reservations as follows:
Sunday lunch at Yak & Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1 table service credit per person)
Sunday dinner at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (2 table service credits per person)
Monday lunch at the Rose & Crown Pub in EPCOT (1 table service credit per person)
Monday dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (2 table service credits per person)
Sunday breakfast was procured before we even arrived at Disney World, and Monday breakfast was paid for with cash (total $19.36 total for the 2 of us) at the quick service restaurant at our resort.
The cost of the Deluxe Dining Plan for 2 adults for 2 nights came to $440.92. When we first booked it, it seemed like a lot to pay for food for 2 days for only 2 people. All the same, we bit the bullet for the sake of research. As for the four table service restaurants where we ate, here is what the meals would have cost if we had paid for them individually:
Yak & Yeti lunch = $91.08 (works out to $45.54 per person)
California Grill dinner = $170.38 (works out to $85.19 per person, or $42.60 per table service credit)
Rose & Crown lunch = $77.99 (works out to $39 per person)
Yachtsman Steakhouse = $184.23 (works out to $92.12 per person, or $46.06 per table service credit)
Our 8 snacks (a pineapple soft serve, and several bottled sodas & water) total value was $23.06, and the value of the refillable mugs was $25.54 total for a 2 night stay. So our grand total “spend” would have been $572.28. By using the Deluxe Dining Plan we actually saved $131.36. So was it worth it? For us, yes. But the bigger question is: would it be worth it for YOU? It truly depends, and this is one of many aspects of planning that we help our clients navigate.
The three dining plan options
I promised I would explain the three different dining plans, so here it is (please note that prices may change at any time):
QUICK SERVE DINING – this includes 2 quick service meal credits and 1 snack credit per person, per night of stay plus a refillable mug The cost of this plan is $41.99 per night per adult (ages 10 and up) and $16.03 per night per child (ages 3-9).
REGULAR DINING – this includes 1 quick service meal credit, 1 table service meal credit, 1 snack credit per person, per night of stay plus a refillable mug. The cost of this plan is $60.04 per night per adult and $19.23 per night per child
DELUXE DINING – this includes 3 table service meal credits and 2 snack credits per person, per night of stay plus a refillable mug. The cost of this plan is $110.23 per night per adult and $29.86 per night per child
None of the dining plans include gratuities.
What qualifies as a quick service meal? It is valid in any quick service restaurant (think fast food style) and includes an entrée (or combo meal, if offered at the restaurant where you’re eating) and non-alcoholic beverage. If you’re eating lunch or dinner, you also get a dessert.
What qualifies as a table service meal? It is valid at any table service restaurant (like going to Outback Steakhouse at home) and includes an entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage per guest. On the Deluxe Dining Plan it also includes an appetizer.
What qualifies as a snack? A lot of things qualify as snacks, including a 20 ounce bottle of soda, a piece of a fruit, an ice cream bar, etc. You can always ask before making a purchase, or check the menu board to see if the dining plan symbol is next to the item in question (designating that it qualifies as a snack credit). Piece of advice: use your snack credits for the more expensive items (like a $4 pineapple soft serve) and pay cash for the lower priced items (like a $2.50 bottle of soda).
What is the refillable mug? Each resort has a self-service soda fountain. Without a dining plan, you can pay for a 12 ounce, insulated mug (cost varies based on your length of stay). You can then have as many complimentary refills of that mug at your resort as you’d like. You can refill it with coke products, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. But it does not work in the parks, only at your resort (not even other resorts).
Questions to ask yourself
Do you enjoy sit down meal services? Or do you prefer grabbing a quick fast-food or cafeteria style meal on the fly? If you don’t want to take time out of your schedule to sit down and be waited on, then the quick serve plan might be your best bet. Also if you don’t want to plan ahead and decide what park you will be in for any particular meal, table service meals may not be a good fit for you either. All table service restaurants take reservations, and for some of the more popular restaurants reservations are a necessity. If you resist planning ahead, or being tied to any kind of schedule, you may chafe under a plan that requires you to plan meals and make reservations.
Are you a “foodie”? Do you like to splurge on great food and get your money’s worth? If money were no object, would you order the 32 ounce Porterhouse for Two? Or the 18 ounce Kansas City Strip Steak? (By the way, that strip steak costs $58, and the Porterhouse for Two is $120). It is vacation after all, you might want to eat out like you wouldn’t normally do at home. If this is the case either the standard or deluxe dining plan might be a good fit for your vacation.
And finally, are character dining meals a must? Many of these qualify as “signature” experiences and require 2 table service credits per person. If you want to maximize your food budget, getting the standard or deluxe dining plan might be a good fit, providing the necessary credits to cover character dining (keeping in mind, you need reservations, so some planning is required).
If you need help assessing which dining plan would best fit your vacation plans, give us a call!
At Ships 'N' Trips Travel we have been providing memorable travel experiences for our clients since 2005.