Dining at Disney, Disney Dining Plan, Disney World Tips

Disney Dining Plan

The New Disney Dining Plan (2018)

UPDATE 01/02/20: Disney has released it’s “Free” Dining Plan update for 2020, now with more caveats than ever before. Anyways here’s the 411:

Valid for Arrivals Most Nights
June 27 through 28, July 5 through 7 and August 29 through September 8, 2020

Package Includes:

  • Room
  • Theme park ticket(s) with Park Hopper Option
  • Dining Plan (Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan with Value and Moderate Resort hotel packages; Disney Dining Plan with Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort hotel packages)

*This promotion must be booked by January 16th, 2020

Guests staying at Value and Moderate resorts will receive a free quick-service dining plan and Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort guests will get a free Disney Dining Plan.

However Guest staying at the following Resorts are EXCLUDED: 3-bedroom villas, campsites, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Bungalows at Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, Little Mermaid Standard Rooms at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.

With that being said you just wasted your time reading that shit above as had you have read our original article below you know that the dining plan “free” version or not, is an exercise in lunacy if you’re actually trying to save money (and even time).

I’m often asked by friends in the midst of planning their Walt Disney World vacation the age old question of whether or not to buy the Disney Dining Plan. Without hesitation my answer has always been, “Fuck no.” Even with the addition of the free alcoholic beverage with your meal, it’s still a no go in my book. So, if you’ve got a short attention span you can stop here. For the rest of you who like to know the entire breakdown let’s get right into it.

So, now that the sweet nectar of life is included, Should I buy the DDP?
The math has been done by many a blogger, one of my favorites being Tom Bricker.
Basically in order to actually save money using this crap you’re gonna have to consume lots of food and know exactly where the most expensive items are at each Park or Resort. You’d then have to actually want to order those items or else you’re just doing so on the account of “saving money.” With over 140 eating establishments at WDW, that is going to involve a lot of planning which if you’re doing things right you’ve already racked your brain trying to plan Park days, where to stay, what to pack and so on and so forth.  You also need to keep in mind that though it’s widely accepted, the DDP is not a usable form of payment everywhere on property. Take some time and peruse through the menus that other Disney fan sites have posted so you can gain an idea of what you’ll be spending per day in the parks based on your eating habits (Touring Plans is one of those sites. I highly recommend signing-up for their premium subscription. They’ll save you an ass-load of time waiting in line at the Parks). Besides the monetary investment you must also consider your time. If you are maximizing the DDP to save money you most certainly are losing time actually doing things inside the Parks because a sit down meal takes time. Sure you can “maximize” the Quick Service plan too, but to much less of an extent than you can with the Standard and Deluxe Plans which offer meals at Table service locations. The prices on those QS meals are relatively low to begin with so any dollar savings is small even if you do manage to turn it into a cost savings (which you probably won’t).
Editor’s note: By “maximizing” your DDP, you will likely fall into the trap of thinking that cost is equal to quality at Disney World. While this is sorta-kinda the case when jumping from Quick Service to Table Service. Even though there are some Table Service places to avoid like San Angel Inn which is absolute fuckery in terms of food quality. Now, within the same category of eatery price is just a price and really no indication of what’s good food so you have to be cognizant of what your fellow park goers are saying about their meals. Simple Google searches and Yelp reviews can help with that. Oh and be sure to check the dates on reviews you read shit changes with these places often as restaurant staff has turnover just like any other place you’d eat outside the Disney bubble.

But I got “Free Dining!”

Awww, that’s so cute how you think Bob Iger is handing out free shit. Think again! First of all the Dining Plan is for guests of Disney Resorts only and you absolutely SHOULD stay at a Disney owned resort during your trip, but in order to get the “free” dining plan you must book as a package thru Disney. Meaning you pay the room rate they want you to pay in order to “qualify” (foregoing any room-only discount which can range up to 30% at times) and you must also buy your Park tickets from Disney directly which you SHOULD NOT do unless you’re only going for one day or you are an annual passholder. The savings you can gain by pricing things individually can be substantial. Reputable 3rd party ticket brokers can sell Park tickets at great savings to you. Full prices Park tickets (plus taxes) and then missing out on heavy room discounts in order to get the “free” Dining Plan is not something I can recommend.

But I just want to know what my food cost is before I leave.

OKAY OKAY I get it! We all want to have a budget in mind so if you’re hell bent on knowing a dollar figure here’s what you do. Figure out the cost of the DDP for your trip. Then instead of paying Disney for it, march your ass over to Target or Sam’s Club or wherever you can get maximum credit card points then buy some pre-loaded Disney gift cards  for the amount you would have shelled out on DDP. My favorite method is to combine the Sam’s Club discount with Discover Card Cashback during the months when warehouse clubs get 5% back. You end up saving around 9% because Sam’s Club is offering the cards for about 4.5% below face value already. At Target you can use your RedCard (if you don’t like credit cards just get the Debit version, it’s free) and that saves you 5% on all purchases at Target (not including actual Target Gift Cards). This method is starting to be frowned upon by Target as people have been buying them left and right on their website. So Target has begun to limit or outright block you from doing this online. However, you can still find these in-store and you still will save 5% there without hassle. There are ways to save more, but that requires more legwork than I’m willing to provide so I’ll let you figure it out if you really want to dig deep. Anyway, once you’ve done this you’ve saved money and since I’m fairly certain you won’t eat enough to run through your full gift card balance you can use the rest to buy souvenirs or really anything else Disney since your dollars are not tied to just food. If you buy the DDP your unused dining credits are lost.

So now I’ve got a bunch of Disney gift cards and I’ll have to read them off one-by-one to some poor Disney cast member to pay off my room-charge balance before checkout, right?

Nope. Just go here, click on “Manage Card” and consolidate that shit
Editor’s note: Be sure to stay mindful of your spending limit at each resort. If you reach this limit the credit card you have on file will be charged. So before you hit your threshold and/or the night prior to check-out make sure to go to the front desk to pay down your balance with the gift card.
Just a note: I’m not affiliated with nor compensated by any of the websites I’ve mentioned above. I’m just a fan like you trying to pass on a bit of advice. If you’ve already got the Dining Plan don’t worry it’s not going to make your vacation any worse, in fact many folks purchase it even after knowing its many shortcomings and still make it home in one piece.

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