When In Disney World, Skip The Meal Plan Unless You Really Love Dessert

Blogger Well-Heeled reviews Disney World’s $40-per-person-per-day meal plan. She semi-convincingly endorses it with a notable dose of buyer’s remorse.

The plan is good for one fast-food meal, one sit-down and one snack per day. Well-Heeled says the plan saves you money if you bought every item you ate on the plan a la carte, and are the kind of person who goes for multiple daily desserts. She writes:

If you select an expensive table service dinner (above $40), you will usually come out ahead of the Plan than if you had purchased the exact same meals not on the Dining Plan. But you’ll see that the Plan is very heavy on dessert – if boyfriend and I were purchasing our meals with cash, we wouldn’t be getting a dessert with every. single. meal.

That is one of my biggest problems with the Dining Plan – it would be much more convenient if we can choose either an appetizer OR a dessert with the Quick Service or the Table Service meal.

What’s your amusement park dining strategy? Mine involves pre- and post-game trips to McDonald’s and daylong fasting, shoving emergency churros into my kids’ mouths as needed.

Walt Disney World Dining Plan Review: Worth The Money? [Well-Heeled Blog]

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  1. cabjf says:

    In the past we would eat breakfast at the hotel or camp ground (so either complimentary or cook it ourselves). Then have granola bars and other snacks we carried in for lunch. Then we would ruin it all by going to a sit-down restaurant in the parks. Although that still is probably better than the $40/person/day plan.

  2. lilyHaze says:

    Packed lunches. If you’re somewhat discreet, the employees won’t hassle you about it. My family and I went to Disney World more than 10 years ago. After the first day of waiting in long lines to buy expensive, crappy food, we brought sandwiches and juiceboxes for the rest of the trip.

    No lines, better food, less waste.

    We also stayed outside of the world in a condo-type setup. We cooked most of our dinners (full kitchen) at our hotel. The [continental] breakfast was complimentary.

    • Ophelia42 says:

      No need to be discreet at Disney. They have no rules against bringing in outside food and drink. You can go ahead and pack yourself a cooler (if you don’t mind dragging it around with you all day)

      • lilyHaze says:

        It was a long time ago. We brought a soft-sided cooler in a backpack.

        The time saving was a big one. With a packed lunch, you could easily finish it within 15-20 minutes. If you had to buy lunch, the waiting in line, ordering, and then eating would take at least an hour.

        • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

          And instead of waiting in line for food, you could probably eat your sandwiches while waiting in line for a ride. Woo!

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      also, the employees [cast members] are bringing their own lunches when they come to the parks because they don’t get paid enough to afford disney restaurant meals. just don’t bring glass bottles. that’s frowned on for the breakability aspect.
      been there, done that, peanut butter and jelly travels well and doesn’t need a cooler

    • oloranya says:

      Condo’s are so the way to go. I just got back from 5 days in Orland at a condo with a full kitchen rather than a hotel and it’s soooo much better than a cramped little hotel room. We did the condo thing when we went to disney when I was little, too and not only did it probably save my parents tons of money on overpriced park food, but it was just a much more comfortable place to come back to at the end of the night than a cramped little hotel room/suite.

  3. Pibbs says:

    It really depends on the park and the quality of food. My usual ritual is to hit up the Wawa before and after my trips to Six Flags Great Adventure. The sandwiches are better than any food found in the park. At Busch Gardens last year, we ate in the park. At Six Flags in New England, there’s a food court with cheap Prime Rib sandwiches that are absolutely amazing.

    • DogiiKurugaa says:

      Which Busch Gardens, Williamsburg or Tampa Bay? I ask because unless the food suddenly improved a lot in the last couple of years the food at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is horrible. If you ate there you would have been much better off leaving the park to go to any of the places right near the park… or going to Wawa since Williamsburg finally has one as of two years ago.

      • Pibbs says:

        The Busch Gardens in Williamsburg was where I went this past summer, ate at Grogan’s Grille, which had some pretty decent food.

        If you are going to Six Flags New England, you need to go to the Riverboat Cafe, go to the counter at the far right, and order the Prime Rib Sandwich. You will not finish it. Absolutely incredible, and it runs around 6.50 w/ french fries.

    • lucky929 says:

      Hearing Wawa and Great Adventure in the same sentence made me suddenly want summer BAD. This is my standard routine, too. Parking lot picnics are some of my best Six Flags memories.

    • Chmeeee says:

      Food that is both good AND cheap at Six Flags? Good Lord, details, we need DETAILS!

  4. temporaryscars says:

    Get your hand stamped, leave, eat, go back.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      We did Disney World in 2007 and stayed at the Armed Forces Resort “Shades of Green”. It’s on resort property and counts as “staying at a resort” when making reservations at restaurants on Disney, but it’s not technically a Disney resort. They had a wonderful package that included breakfast and dinner each day at their buffet restaurant. We would make reservations for lunch at the Disney park restaurants then it was easy to go back to the hotel for a lighter dinner and then hit another park until closing. With five in our family, it was well worth it. If you are military or retired military, it’s worth looking into.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      Sorry, that comment was not supposed to be a reply to you. I have to get used to this new fangled consumerist!

    • xredgambit says:

      I got a pass to kings island this year and bought a cooler just for this. I can use the exercise and walk out and make a sammich. Much cheaper. But ice cream inside the park is ok.

  5. dragonfire81 says:

    I’m with you Phil. Eat somewhere else, go to park, eat somewhere else again on way home.

  6. pervy_the_clown says:

    I went down to Disney in July, and had the Deluxe Dining Plan. Honestly, I would never go back without it. I definitely came out ahead, as we ate at some great restaurants ( California Grill and Le Cellier had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten). The best part of it though, was not having to budget for that part of the trip. Not looking at menu prices and just ordering whatever I wanted took alot of stress out of the vacation.

    • Veridian Dynamics says:

      Yes we got the basic plan the last time we went and I really liked that I didn’t have to worry about the food portion of the trip at all.

      You do not have to use snack credits on a drink, dessert or pastry. You can buy all sorts of things with them and not overload on sweets.

      • Rachacha says:

        Exactly. On the last day at Disney several years ago we purchased several drinks and sealed snacks (chips etc) for the 2 day drive back home

    • sleze69 says:

      That is the consensus I get from the few friends of mine who are Disney addicts (who know all the tricks to get the most experience for the least cost). They say that at best it saves you money and at worst you break even but you don’t have to worry about that particular expense.

    • kalaratri says:

      We had it on our honeymoon and it was worth it to us. Usually used the ‘snack’ credits for lunch and then used 2 meals to eat at the fancier restaurants.

    • cptkincaid says:

      I agree 1000%. I ate at spots that I never would have considered had I not gotten the meal plan.

  7. lestergazer says:

    WTF? people still go to amusement parks in these recessionary times?

    i’ve been fasting for 3 days now, please send food (will comment for food, too).

  8. dolemite says:

    I usually like to eat at the park at least once (for some reason). Despite their fantasyland pricing of $6 for *just* 1 small cheeseburger, and then fries are $3 and drink is $3. They almost make the movie theaters look reasonable.

    • JanetCarol says:

      wow those are great prices compared to the amusement parks I’ve been to this year. I was paying like $9.50 for cheeseburger and 4.50 for fries.

    • Fett101 says:

      According the internet, a cheeseburger with fires or apple slices at the Pecos Bill is just $6.59. That’s not bad at all. And IMHO, I think the quality of the park food is very good and well worth the price.

  9. Zeke_D says:

    I usually vacation at Disneyland, but for my 10th wedding anniversary, my wife and I spent 4 days in Disney World (without the kids,) and 3 days on the Disney Cruise Line ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/agent3375/sets/72157613500918445/ ). Now, of course there was no need for a dining plan on the boat, I avidly endorse and recommend the Disney dining plan, but only at WDW. You can’t simply “stamp your hand” and go across the street like at DLR. To get outside of the park to a neighboring resultant at WDW it could easily take you 20 – 40 minutes. My wife and I found that we used the “quick service” for breakfast, the “snack” for lunch and the “meal for dinner. We of course planned the meal to be at a nice restaurant (I recommend the Crystal Palace and the aquarium restaurant.) We found on the last day of the stay at WDW, we had several desserts left over.

  10. mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

    Opting for or against the dining plan is just one of many variables one must consider in planning a cost-effective and enjoyable Disney vacation. I think the best advise is simply to peruse sites such as AllEars.net and purchase (or check out from the library) the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World.

    Such resources not only cover the pros and cons of the dining plan but staying at a Disney resort (required for that plan) or off-site, plus many other tips to make the most of your time.

    • lilyHaze says:

      I planned out my family’s trip to Disney World using the Unofficial Guide. We got to ride all of the “hot” rides. And the trip was made more enjoyable with the tips on which parks to visit first. This was before the popularity of the Internet, so the book was very helpful.

  11. pgh9fan says:

    When we went to Disney World we bought the dining plan, but it was slightly different that what’s offered now. However, we also said the same thing as the blogger–we’d like less desserts and more appetizers.
    Generally we did like it. It was a ton of food and you could move things around to get nicer restaurants if you wanted.
    The drawbacks I found: All restaurants were more crowded because of the dining plan.
    And, there’s a pizza place in Animal Kingdom where you can go for lunch. Adults can get pizza. Kids on the dining plan get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I could just see that. My wife and I would order pizza and then say to my son, “No pizza for you. You get a PB&J.” The Disney employee who came up with that one obviously has no kids.

    • Annika-Lux says:

      The reason for the pizza/pb&j situation at Pizzafari is that you used to get these free coupons for a soda, popcorn, & ice cream at the park with every adult and kids meal you ordered. The adult and kids meals were the exact same thing, with a different size soda, and included the same coupons. Therefore, adults were ordering the cheaper kids meals and getting the same free coupons. So, Disney made the kids meal completely unappetizing to adults (and most kids) to thwart this practice. This was before the Dining Plan, however, so not sure why they haven’t changed it back. If I go to a place called Pizzafari, I want some damn pizza!

  12. JF says:

    Heck, when I had annual passes and lived an hour away the hubby and I would drive over to the park sometimes on PURPOSE to have a nice meal at Epcot (we like the restaurant in Mexico). Park, eat, and then leave without going on any of the rides…….

    I guess we must be really weird.

  13. ShruggingGalt says:

    The Dining Plan is a ripoff.

    Trying going during a medium to busy time. Then try getting a seat at the sit-down restaurants. The uber-fans know that you can reserve a seat at those 6 months in advance, and they book multiple restaurants at the same time since there is NO PENALTY for booking them and not showing up.

    But if you try to “walk up” to a restaurant, the staff will refuse to even let you wait because of the advance reservations.

    There used to be a time when going to the sit down restaurants at the World was an enjoyable experience. Now, there are less options on the menu (since the dining plan forces them to make every meal cost about the same in order to make money), and too many restaurants share the same food items.

    • feline says:

      The dining plan isn’t a ripoff, necessarily, but it’s something that requires planning ahead to use since Disney doesn’t penalize people who don’t show up for their reserved meal times. If Disney did that (don’t show up, you are charged a no-show fee, or you lose a dining plan credit), it would help a lot with making table service dining accessible for those who want to use it.

      I live near Disney and am terribly unprofitable, food-wise, for them, since I just go home when I get hungry. But it’s irksome when I am there with visitors and can’t find anywhere to eat with them.

      • ShruggingGalt says:

        It’s the planning ahead part that I consider a ripoff, kind of like the Fastpass machines not turning off at certain times. (Soarin’ is out of Fastpass at 10am…for the whole day? Toy Story Midway Mania???)

        Nothing is more exciting than knowing in advance where you’ll have to be dining at a certain time! Imagine not being able to ride some attractions because you’ve got your ADRs.

        The Dining Plan, like the Fastpass, only benefits those who have the knowledge. Regular guests, who only visit the World every couple of years or longer….won’t have this knowledge and will have a worse experience than they would without those items.

        (Side note: I hope they figure out how to block APs from getting FastPass for the World of Color show at DCA, maybe only allow 1 fastpass per AP per month or something)

  14. Conspirator says:

    I had a good friend who worked in sales for Disney who recommended the meal plan before a trip a few years ago and I agree. The sit-down meal includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert for each person. You MUST make reservations as far in advance as possible (weeks or months) to eat when and where you want.

    Be aware that not all restaurants are on the meal plan. Some non-Disney places, i.e. Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom, were available through the reservations program but were not covered in the plan.

  15. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It also depends on whether you’re going to the amusement park for the entire day, or if it’s something you fit in between activities. I could probably spend all day at Six Flags, but I wouldn’t want to. Four or five hours is plenty of time for us to ride all of the roller coasters, complain about the kids, and walk around. I think if tickets are expensive, people feel some kind of pressure to “get their money’s worth” but some parks really don’t take more than five hours to enjoy.

    If you go to a park that is near anything else, and you have some mode of transportation (and not like a shuttle from your hotel that goes directly to the park and only to the park), you could easily explore the surrounding areas and eat, then go into the park, then leave in time for dinner somewhere else.

  16. bsh0544 says:

    At the local amusement park (Darien Lake, used to be a Six Flags) we usually head out early afternoon with a pile of snacks and stay through close, with a quick stop at a subway on the way back for dinner.

    We had the dining plan when we went to Disney World this past fall and it was decent. I did certainly appreciate not having to worry about food for most of the trip, but I found myself skipping desserts and wishing I could use the dessert credit on something more useful (as the article said, an appetizer would have been wondeful). My mother in law made reservations for our table service meals every day so there was no trouble finding a place to eat. I suggest to anyone going that the Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom was fantastic.

    A note about the quick service meals, you don’t actually have to take the kids’ quick service meals for your kids. We frequently just got an adult meal for our daughter as sometimes the quick service kids’ options didn’t make any sense.

  17. JanetCarol says:

    “What’s your amusement park dining strategy? Mine involves pre- and post-game trips to McDonald’s and daylong fasting, shoving emergency churros into my kids’ mouths as needed.”
    haha I’m pretty sure that was my parents plan.

    I either try to find the healthiest large options and split them, or pack lunch and eat in the parking lot depending on the park.
    Occasionally you just have you buy the $6 hot dog and cry yourself to sleep later that night.

    Sometimes we’ve been known to smuggle nuts and things into a park. Put ‘em in a ziploc and roll it in your towel.

  18. iakoolguy says:

    What the Blogger missed is that Disney “gives” the dining plan away for “free” if you stay at one of the hotels during the off times of the year. When we go out meals usually run anywhere from $70 – $300, and all we have to do is tip.

    But if you pay for the plan, and actually plan your schedule around your meals, you can actually come out ahead.

  19. Etoiles says:

    On the other hand, our trip included the dining plan for *free*… so it was most assuredly worthwhile. I loved not having to worry about a bottle of water being a rip-off or about ordering the expensive entree at the restaurants we went to for dinner.

    Though there are a ridiculous number of desserts. We brought a bunch of portable ones (brownies, rice krispie treats, etc) home with us.

  20. ahecht says:

    On my last 10-day trip to WDW we ate breakfast in our hotel room most days (bagels, cream cheese, and lox that we brought with us), had 7 “Table Service” meals, 16 Fast-Food meals, and about 6 snacks. We never purchased sodas (water is free and caffeine leads to dehydration in the Florida heat), although we did buy alcoholic drinks on 3 occasions. Including the price of the breakfast food and granola bars we purchased in advance, we spent about $30/person each day including tips.

    The Regular Dining Plan would’ve been $40+tips/person each day (probably around $45/person each day). The “Quick-Service” (fast-food only) dining plan would’ve been the same $30/person each day but we would’ve had to skip the Table Service meals or pay for them out of pocket. In 2010 it gets even worse, with the dining plan costing between $42 and $47 depending on how busy it is.

    For us, the dining plans were not a good deal.

    Here are my tips for eating cheap at WDW. The first two are really the most important — so many people don’t know that they can save money by leaving off the sides and end up just throwing them out anyway, and sodas are a huge waste of money.

    * Skip the sides. Many of the sandwiches and entrees from the Counter Service places are enough for a meal if you don’t want to share. If you ask them to leave off the apples, carrots, grapes, or fries it will usually knock $2 or so off the price. All Counter Service places in Disney World will do this even though it isn’t on the menu.
    * Skip the sodas — they add up quickly and every food service location will give you water for free. You can also order a case of bottled water from Costco for $7 shipped ( http://bit.ly/4xYny8 ) even if you aren’t a member and have it sent directly to your hotel. Caffeine can also lead to dehydration and isn’t the best idea in the parks, but if you really need it to get you through the day bring Excedrin.
    * Skip the snacks and desserts. Portions are large enough at meals to get you through the day, and if you’ll really need a boost you can bring granola bars with you from home.
    * Bring your own breakfast, and don’t skip it. Eating a good breakfast will make you less hungry for expensive park meals. If your room will have a fridge you can bring cereal and milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and other breakfast foods (freeze it before leaving home and pack it with ice in a soft cooler in your luggage). Otherwise, you can buy bagels or english muffins, peanut butter, jelly, granola bars, etc from a grocery store at home and bring it with you. This also has the advantage of giving you more time in the parks in the morning when crowds are still low.
    * Scout out the menues in advance at http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm so that you don’t have to settle for something expensive because it’s all that you can find. Think outside the box — Downtown Disney and resort hotel food service can be cheaper than those in the parks.
    * Don’t be ashamed to order a kid’s meal if nothing on the adult menu appeals to you. Unless you’re a heavy eater most kids meals have enough food for an adult. I wouldn’t make a habit out of it (I only did it once on my recent trip), but it can help occasionally.
    * If you want to eat a sit-down meal, do so at lunch. Reservations are easier to get and the food can be 2/3 the price it is at dinner.

    • CherieBerry says:

      Thanks for the Costco tip! We are planning our first trip to Orlando/WDW and we are definitely shipping some water to our hotel room.

    • Spider Jerusalem says:

      Thanks for reminding me about the kids meals. I don’t know what parks some of y’all have been going to, but Disneyland has really stepped up in the quality/quantity department, and have been particularly responsive to adult concerns about kids’ meals, so the kids meals are usually cheaper AND healthier, and also the adults probably shouldn’t have huge meals if they’re walking around all day anyway.

  21. jayphat says:

    Trips to Cedar Point for me involve a heavy McDonalds breakfast before hand, one meal inside the park, and a heavy meal again on the way home, leaving around 5 or 6 just so we don’t die from starvation. The $3.00 bottle of waters in the park really eat into you but it has to be done. You can’t stand in 96 degree sun and have nothing the entire time.

  22. MeOhMy says:

    If you get it free, of course it’s great. I think if you have kids it might be useful just in terms planning and budget management.

    If you concentrate on buffets you can really come ahead, but otherwise….yes, you come out ahead compared to ordering all that stuff a la carte, but my wife and I we don’t drink soda, we never order desserts. We came out ahead by just eating breakfast in our room (we bring cereal, granola bars, etc) and eating a light lunch and then doing whatever we wanted for dinner (Artists Point, Boma, Kouzzina, etc).

  23. VA_White says:

    We just went in the fall and the dining plan was free so it was a smokin’ deal for us. It would have cost us twice as much to pay cash for all the meals over eight days. We had leftover snack options at the end of the week so we used them to fill the kids’ backpacks with snacks for the trip home.

  24. enabler says:

    It really is nice to order anything you want and fully enjoy it without thinking about the cost, but the dining plan offers an Enormous amount of food. If you plan to go off-season and stay on Disney property, if the free dining plan offer reappears, it’s a no-brainer. Most restaurants aren’t hard to get into during non-peak season, even with many of the guests who are there utilizing that free dining plan.

  25. menty666 says:

    Now see, had the headline been, “Disney promotes obesity” maybe they would have just stepped in to allow the appetizer OR dessert concept and everyone would be happy(ish).

  26. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    My parents just tried the meal plan for the first time this past Thanksgiving and they had nothing bad to say about it – what was especially cost effective was that my parents were on the meal plan yet I was not, but we managed to feed all three of us for two days in a row with no trouble. My aunt and uncle always get it.

    And if you think about the prices otherwise $40 per person per day is actually cheap.

  27. rondalescott says:

    Well, you’re already going to Disney World, so you are not that concerned about value in the first place, are you?

    That being said, I have to agree with the analysis. If you actually were planning to buy every single item you were entitled to on the dining plan, you will save money with it–otherwise, it’s a wash.

    There are a few intangibles to keep in mind, though… not having to do any food prep yourself is a huge boon. Not having to carry and handle cash is another. Also, generally, the plan is “fun” in that you get to try things you probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

    One other point is that during the off season (mid/late fall, winter) you can often obtain the dining plan for free with the purchase of a vacation package, which basically amounts to getting free food for your whole stay. In THOSE cases there’s no reason not to take advantage of it.

  28. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I’ve never been in a theme park long enough to need more than one full meal.

  29. theblackdog says:

    When I have gone to King’s Dominion or Cedar point, I usually take my camelbak with me and avoid buying drinks at the park.

  30. Outrun1986 says:

    If a park doesn’t let me bring my own food (or at least get hand stamped then go to the car to eat) then I am not going there. There is nothing in a park that I want to eat, because I can’t stand to eat most fast food without getting ill especially combined with rides. Most parks do allow food to be brought in these days. There are a few parks that do not allow re-entry, although this is becoming less and less common because theme parks have been hit really hard by the recession and making them guest-unfriendly is not a good thing. I do not want to feel as if I am trapped in a park.

    There is only one park that I know of, Holiday world in Indiana that offers healthy and normal food, and if I lived near that park I would most certainly patronize it. There might be others out there but healthy park food is very, very scarce. Considering that you have to be pretty thin to get on most roller coasters and rides at parks these days you would think the industry would offer more healthy options for park goes, but that just isn’t the case.

  31. TheJinManCan says:

    Actually, my wife and I did the math when we went for a 5 day stay at the resort in 07, and we WISH we would have done the dining plan. We didn’t think we’d use that much money for food, but holy cow, when hunger kicks in and you’re eating amusement park food… well, you all know how that goes. $20 for a fry, practically.

  32. Spider Jerusalem says:

    Cargo pants. I don’t like to carry a backpack anyway, so my credit card and some money goes in one front pocket, my phone and car key/house key go in the other front pocket. In the cargo pockets, one gets filled with energy bars, and one gets a Monster Lo-Carb or a couple of Red Bulls. I usually end up buying a water on a string and refilling it throughout the day.

    For Disneyland specifically, I only buy one meal there, the Corn Dog (which deserves the capital letters).

    Before I get to the park, I try to get something protein-heavy supplemented with a couple of pieces of fruit (banana and pear work well). Disneyland is NOT a pancakes or waffles day. It is a battle-plan day, especially if you want to get there early enough for Space Mountain and stay late enough for the fireworks show.

  33. gglockner says:

    Disney World isn’t the same as other amusement parks just because of the sheer size and options. Besides the restaurants at the four theme parks, there are a ton of restaurants at the resort hotels and Downtown Disney. You can’t use the same strategy at Disney World that you use at another amusement park.

    We’ve gone with both the Dining Plan and with good old cash. For us, cash is a much better option. The dining plan is OK if you plan to eat in a premium restaurant every evening and if you plan to eat an entree plus dessert. But there is less flexibility than you might think: appetizers aren’t included, you can’t eat at many restaurants in Downtown Disney, etc. As someone else pointed out, read the Unofficial Guide for full details. Also, if you’re watching your weight, getting the dining plan is stressful because you feel pressured to eat dessert at every meal.

    The way we eat, we’re basically breakeven with the Dining Plan. So going with cash gives us much less stress and more flexibility.

  34. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    My strategy? To not really worry too much about spending money at Disneyland or Disneyworld. I mean, what will I end up saving? A couple hundred at the most? I’ve already resigned myself to spending half my salary on the tickets, losing time in the park to do food runs seems silly to me when my time, on the margin, is now worth so much thanks to the cost of tickets and parking and transportation.

  35. Piznoup says:

    Dining plan has apparently got worse. They have removed most of the restaurant from Epcot and downtown disney. One of my favorites was always Chef de France in Epcot. Last year, dining plan, YES. Next year I doubt it.

  36. meltingcube says:

    Universal Studios has a similar deal, though I can’t remember the price of it. What we would do is just pay for myself, then my sister and I would share the food. If you share it between two or more people the price isn’t so bad anymore.

  37. nodaybuttoday says:

    Enter text…

  38. nodaybuttoday says:

    I have gone to Disney World MANY times and within the last few years have always gotten the dining plan. The strategy is you have to know which restaurants to go to so you get the most out of it. You skip the 50s prime time diner or the sci-fi drive-in and you go for Coral Reef or Le Cellier, where entrees usually cost $20+. Also, your meals come with non-alcoholic drinks which goes beyond soda. You can get specialty drinks, smoothies and milk shakes. Another strategy I have is having my lunch in food courts so that my dessert can be something like a cookie or snack bar which I can wrap up and keep in the hotel. Essentially, you just have to know how to work the system, but I agree that you should really get a choice of appetizer or dessert. The plan use to include both but Disney got cheap and excluded both appetizers AND tips which I believe is the biggest downside of the dining plan.

    • Annika-Lux says:

      Too many people don’t know that most snack-type things under $4 count as a “snack” on the DDP, even if it doesn’t have the little logo next to it on the menu. Dole Whip counts as a “snack” on the DDP… I know some people have enough Dole Whip and Dole Whip floats on their vacations to make the DDP worth it! You’re absolutely right, getting something like a cookie that can be saved for later makes the DDP seem a little more useful than if you could only buy popcorn or ice cream with your snack credits.

    • Annika-Lux says:

      And the MILKSHAKES!! At the Sci-Fi, you can get a milkshake for your drink and a milkshake for your dessert, and they have so many kinds of fun milkshakes (and that’s even before you get to the alcoholic ones). Even with just a couple, you can end up trying four milkshake varieties with the DDP. The Sci-Fi is a great deal with the DDP, that I have to admit. I recommend the Oreo milkshake… I think there’s an Oreo milkshake with liquor as well if you want to shell out a few bucks.

  39. nodaybuttoday says:

    I have gone to Disney World MANY times and within the last few years have always gotten the dining plan. The strategy is you have to know which restaurants to go to so you get the most out of it. You skip the 50s prime time diner or the sci-fi drive-in and you go for Coral Reef or Le Cellier, where entrees usually cost $20+. Also, your meals come with non-alcoholic drinks which goes beyond soda. You can get specialty drinks, smoothies and milk shakes. Another strategy I have is having my lunch in food courts so that my dessert can be something like a cookie or snack bar which I can wrap up and keep in the hotel. Essentially, you just have to know how to work the system, but I agree that you should really get a choice of appetizer or dessert. The plan use to include both but Disney got cheap and excluded both appetizers AND tips which I believe is the biggest downside of the dining plan.

  40. nodaybuttoday says:

    I have gone to Disney World MANY times and within the last few years have always gotten the dining plan. The strategy is you have to know which restaurants to go to so you get the most out of it. You skip the 50s prime time diner or the sci-fi drive-in and you go for Coral Reef or Le Cellier, where entrees usually cost $20+. Also, your meals come with non-alcoholic drinks which goes beyond soda. You can get specialty drinks, smoothies and milk shakes. Another strategy I have is having my lunch in food courts so that my dessert can be something like a cookie or snack bar which I can wrap up and keep in the hotel. Essentially, you just have to know how to work the system, but I agree that you should really get a choice of appetizer or dessert. The plan use to include both but Disney got cheap and excluded both appetizers AND tips which I believe is the biggest downside of the dining plan.

  41. Annika-Lux says:

    What it comes down to is that the DDP is useful for some people, but not everyone; kind of like everything else. We’ve never used the DDP because we always have an Annual Pass and therefore book our hotel with the Annual Pass discount and have no need to buy a ticket/hotel/food package. Back in the day, there was also only *one* DDP, not a separate one for quick service meals and snacks only, so if you weren’t the type of people to eat at sit-down restaurants everyday, the plan was expensive. We’ll eat at Chef Mickey’s maybe three times in a ten day vacation, and then probably a meal at the Kona Cafe and *maybe* one other sit-down restaurant, and then all quick service and snacks otherwise; the original DDP wasn’t made for us. But it *is* a good deal for some people.

    What I hate about it is that you can’t get a reservation at any decent restaurant anymore without booking several months in advance, because all of these people who can’t *really* afford a Disney World vacation are able to go now and take advantage of the *free* dining program when offered, and they hog up all of the reservations at the sit-down restaurants that they wouldn’t before have been able to dine at. Yep, I’m a Disney snob.

  42. BridgetPentheus says:

    My husband and I figured it out, we went last year on a cheap deal and will hopefully be doing the same this year. The dining plan is more expensive for us, we normally have cheese and bread for breakfast at the hotel, brought water bottles and refilled them constantly and since neither of us ever gets dessert or rarely an appetizer if we had a late lunch at one of the park restaurants (by the way we go to the prime time cafe simply for the reason that if you order a cherry or vanilla coke, it’s how they used to make it in the old days adding the syrup after) and came home and had a snack. We tracked exactly what we spent (using the room key that my credit card was attached to) and the meal plan + tips was far more than we spent on food + souvenirs. So it really depends what kind of eater you are. If you eat snacks and buy sodas during the day and want full meals than especially with kids you don’t have to worry as much about what you spend but for us it wasn’t worth it.

  43. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    7 year former WDW cast member here

    magic kindgom: bring a lunch. there used to be some good food there but now all the food except cinderella’s palace is run by aramark. and cinderella’s palace is overpriced for the bland boredom on a plate

    animal kindgom: best value is tusker house. large portions, technically a counter service restuarant but the seating are is spacious and shady even on a hot day and the seagulls can’t get to you as easily as other parts of the park

    hollywood studios park [formerly MGM] if you HAVE to eat in the park, pizza planet, ABC commissary or sunset ranch market are the best value for the money. pizza planet is far enough out of the way that you can escape the crowds sometimes even on a badly crowded day

    EPCOT: mmmmm, EPCOT. the food at EPCOT in the world showcase, even at the counter service establishments, far outstrips any of the other parks for quality, quantity and value. also it tastes better.
    best value for the money is the buffet at germany. go for a late lunch, fill up, have a light dinner.
    the bakeries at france and norway are great places to grab something to nom without too much $$.
    the big treasure at EPCOT though is the Mitsukoshi department store. the “Est. 1348″ over the door is not a joke, and they had a lot of power when setting up with EPCOT. this means they set their prices on their merchandise, NOT disney. and they have packaged snacks and candy and …. drumroll please: sake and beer. at regular retail prices. mmmm, booze at disney.

    from EPCOT however you can always hop out the BACK gate of the park by france, hike a wee bit over the Boardwalk and enjoy the ESPN cafe, flying fish [the brunch at the flying fish is well worth the trip!] or pick up some pizza and baked goods

    yeah, i WOULD leave the magic kindgom for a monorail ride to EPCOT for lunch and then go back. but i wasn’t paying for my tickets

  44. toteadler says:

    When my parents took me and my sister to WDW a few times when we were kids and tried different strategies. The strategy that worked best for us was to eat free breakfast or prepare our own breakfast at the hotel. Have a snack part way through the morning and then have a sit down meal late in the afternoon 1:30 to 2 ish. It gave a chance to get off your feet and have a good meal too. The food in the restaurants is SO much better than in most of the food courts. I’m with JenniferF, the sit down restaurants in WDW are some of the best I’ve been to.

  45. soj4life says:

    It depends on what you want to eat while you are there. Do you want to eat fast food and golden corral the whole time or do you want to enjoy a sit down meal?

    Disney has 3 dinning options at 31.99, 41.99 and 71.99 per person, per day. 31.99 offers 2 quick service and 2 snacks; 41.99 offers a quick service, a table service meal and a snack; 71.99 offers 3 table service meals and 2 snacks per day. Also, the deluxe plan includes an appetizer along with a desert.

    We went a couple years ago and took up the deluxe plan. We went to Hoop-Dee-Doo, and Spirit of Aloha, each of those shows were 2 meal points but they included tax and gratuity. $72 per day, per person is high but we figured it balanced out well when 2 days included shows that each would cost 55 each. On top of that, we had plenty of snacks for the way home and when we got home.

  46. amuro98 says:

    We went to Disney World in 2008 and got a package deal that included the meal plan.

    Overall, the meal plan was a bargain since we wanted to eat at many of the full service restaurants where you would have easily spent $30-40/person for just that meal alone. Eating in the park also meant we had more time to spend going to the attractions, rather than spending time driving in/out of the park to get food. So in this regard, the meal plan is a good thing.

    However I agree that it seem REALLY odd that dessert is included but not an appetizer – like a salad. In a world where even McDonalds is trying to advertise healthier options for kids, what’s Disney thinking by making ridiculously large gooey sugar bombs a compulsory item at every meal? One meal we ate at the burger&fries joint in Future Land, where after getting a huge burger, large fries, and a huge drink, you’re given this hockey puck sized brownie, that’s smothered in sugary chocolate frosting. Even the kids were given one of these as part of their meals too. We couldn’t even eat the thing as it was just too sweet for us (and that’s saying something for me!) so I can’t even imagine what sort of parental terror any kid would become after consuming this…

    Despite all the walking and exercise we were getting, after about 3 days of the meal plan, I was ready for just a light meal of soup and salad – but those items always cost extra on the meal plan. Perhaps that’s their plan? I don’t know. It just seemed downright odd.