I have written about this before but this morning I was listening to a podcast while I was doing business clean-up. And one of the commentators said; “If you really want to work a Disney Dining plan you should use the Deluxe Dining Plan.” And it struck me as totally true.
Before I even go into all the reasons the Deluxe plan is a good value I am going to give you some parameters for it.
- This plan is ideal for people who have children and they want to eat multiple character meals.
- The Deluxe Dining Plan is probably NOT ideal for people who plan to go dusk to dawn in parks (although I could see value in it even there).
- To get full value out of the plan I think it’s easier if you have a car (to get some of the resort hotel restaurants).
There are some basic reasons that I think the plan is a good value. And there are reasons I think you can work it to make it the best options.
Currently the deluxe dining plan costs $109/adult (depending on the seasonal rate) and for children $60/night. The plan includes three meal credits and two snack credits per person per night.
The Base Disney Dining Plan is $62/adult/night and $24/child/night. This plan includes one table service meal credit and one counter service credit and two snack credits per person per night.
- The plan costs about $109/night per adult. This gives you three meals per day. If you remove the 2 snack costs ($8/snack) you are at about $93/day for three meals. Lunch and Dinner at sit down restaurants include an appetizer, entrée and dessert.
Let’s look at costs and see how it adds up for a day.
Breakfast at 8:00 am Chef Mickey’s $40/adult
Running Total $93-$40= $53
Lunch at 12:00 pm at Columbia Harbor House: 1 Bottle of Water, 1 order Shrimp Mac & Cheese $16
Running Total $53-$16=$37
Dinner at Homecoming @ 6:30 pm 1 order Hush Puppies $10, 1 order Fried Chicken $27, 1 Bottle of Water $3.50, 1 Dessert Cake Slice $8 Dinner Total $48.50
Running Total: $37-$48.50= -$11.50
---I didn’t order the most expensive items off this menu and I used the menu listed on the Disneyworld.com website to find these prices.
---I did not include the dessert at Columbia Harbor House because I don’t do two desserts at the restaurants.
For this day, we came out ahead $11.50 and we ate two good meals, with one smaller meal in the middle.
Epcot Early Entry at 8:00 am
Tour Epcot until 10:20.
Breakfast at Norway’s Akershus Princess Breakfast at 10:20 am $50/adult
Running Total $93-$50= $43
Snack at Epcot (using plan snack credit)
Dinner at California Grill (Signature) at 7:00 pm 1 Tomato Flatbread (shared) $16, Grilled Pork Tenderloin (My favorite meal at Disney World) $43, 1 bottle of water $3.50, 1 Banana Buzz Dessert $13 Dinner Total $75.50
Running Total: $43-$75.50= -$32.50
Breakfast at Port Orleans French Quarter Food Court at 8:00 am 1 Cajun Grit Bowl with Shrimp $13, 1 Bottle of water $3.50 Breakfast total $16.50
Running Total: $93-$16.50=$76.50
Lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express (Disney Springs) 1 Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf $16, 1 Bottle of Water $3.50 Lunch Total: $19.50
Running Total: $57
Dinner at ‘Ohana at 7:00 pm $50/adult
Running Total: $57-$50= $7
*Note- this would have come out even if I had ordered dessert at Wolfgang Puck Express. It would have been negative if I had ordered both the dessert and appetizer at Wolfgang Puck.
I could provide more examples of where we either came out ahead or broke even on this plan, but I think these three highlight how this plan is a good value.
- This plan is the ultimate in convenience. Once I create an itinerary and work out how I am going to use the credits I spend almost nothing once I am on Disney property. When we use the base Disney Dining Plan I have to pay out of pocket for at least one meal per day. I also stress about the cost of that meal. It’s not fun to go to Disney and look at a menu and cringe.
- Point 2: When using this plan, I NEVER look at the price. I just order what I want.
- Disney is about family time. Some of my most cherished “kid” memories are of my children interacting with the characters at meals. Seth leading the parade at Ohana, Addison playing hide and seek with Tigger at Crystal Palace. Having a plan that allows us to eat multiple character meals is just more family time for us.
I struggled to find an all-encompassing topic for this last bit. So, these are just other ways that this plan can be worked to be a great value.
- The plan can be used to book dinner shows for two credits. (Hoop Dee Doo, Luau, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ)
- Eating character meals saves you time in the parks. When we meet the characters at meals we DO NOT wait in the park.
- My kids eat at buffets. The adults in my family are not huge buffet eaters but my kids love them. The Disney buffets are excellent (mostly) and expensive. On our last trip, we decided not to use any plan. We LOVE Boma (buffet) at Animal Kingdom Lodge. However, the out of pocket cost for dinner is $50/adult. While we love using this with a credit we felt it was too much to spend out of pocket. (See what we did there- I usually don’t pay attention when I use a plan. When I was paying, I had to look) I feel like my kids eat enough to make the buffets worth it for them. When you’re on vacation you don’t always have “fruit” hanging out in the hotel room for snacks. My kids are big fruit eaters. One of the better parts of the buffets at Disney for them is the large fruit selection they have at every buffet.
- Many families get sticker shock when they see the dining plan costs. They wonder how they could possibly eat that much. You can see from the examples that it doesn’t take much to get your money’s worth on a daily basis.
- My children and I cannot eat counter service all week during a vacation. I admit it, we cannot survive on chicken fingers and fries all week long. I know there are other options at Disney but my kids almost end up with chicken fingers. (Totally fine for a meal here and there but I cannot do it all week long) This plan lets my kids eat real food, daily.
- Disney World is an uber stimulating place. All day, every day. My kids need some down time/quiet time. Having a 60-minute meal is a reset for all of us. (Avoid TRex if this is your goal) Not only does food help the kids normalize, it helps my kids unwind and become human again.
- I am at home with my children. And we almost never go out to dinner. I cook dinner almost every night. And so, part of a vacation for me is not cooking, not shopping, not getting milk, having someone serve me food.
I don’t think you are going to come out ahead by hundreds of dollars on this plan. However, I do think it more than pays for itself over the course of the week. I also know that this plan lets my family relax, enjoy our meals. Many of the families I book trips for are shocked when they see the price of plans for food. But I think when you break it down you can see the value in using the Deluxe Dining Plan. I know some people won’t agree, I know some people will say it’s too much food. And maybe that’s true for some families. But for us, this plan is a good value.