C. Dining Plan vs. Paying Out of Pocket
The decision as to whether to get the dining plan or not will be different for everyone. Personally, I feel that if you are able to get the free dining promo, then it is very much worth it. The savings do seem to be much greater than what you would get if you were simply applying a room discount and paying out of pocket for food.
If you will be buying the dining plan, you really do need to do the math to see if it will save you any money. You need to decide what kind of meals you would like to eat and then figure out how much it would cost to pay out of pocket.
For example, a quick-service entrée can cost anywhere between $10-$14, with another $3.50 for a drink. If you add tax, that roughly comes out to about $19 per meal per adult. Let’s say you were to spend about $15 per day on snacks (which is more than enough for me), this is what your total out of pocket would be:
($19*2) + $15 = $53
The cost of the quick-service dining plan for 2018 is $52.50 per adult, per night. With these calculations, you can see that taking the dining plan may be worth it because you would be breaking even. These calculations though were based on $14 meals and spending $15 on snacks per day. If you decided to stick to $10 meals and only spend $5 on snacks per day, then the out of pocket expense would look more like this:
($14*2) + $5 = $33
You can even cut down that cost if you were to eliminate the drinks and bring your own water bottles. The dining plan will not always be the best option for everyone, it all depends on whether you want to be economical (then I would not suggest the dining plan) or have the option to splurge a little and not worry about the cost.
You need to be realistic about how much food you will actually eat. Two snacks per day, per person is a lot. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen families at the resort grabbing tons of items to take home with them just to use up the snack credits they have left. Oftentimes, people get to the end of their vacation without having used all their credits, which means they essentially prepaid for something they did not use all week. If they had paid out of pocket, they probably would of ended up spending a lot less on food.
If you want to eat out at sit down restaurants every day and book character meals, then the Disney Dining Plan could be a very good option for you. A character meal can easily cost us (family of 3) $150 and up. That is just about the entire cost of the Disney Dining plan per day for our family and that is only counting one meal. With the dining plan we would still get another quick service meal and 2 snacks. There is a lot of value if doing character meals and eating at table service restaurants every day is important to you.
You can go to Disney’s website and look at all their dining options. All of their menus are available online, so you can estimate how much it would cost you to eat where you want to eat if you were to pay out of pocket. Once you have that figured out, you can compare it to the cost of the dining plan to see which option would be better suited for you.