Among Disney veterans, nothing causes more disagreements than the Disney Dining plan. On one side you have the folks who love it and feel they are getting value from it, on the other, those who feel it dilutes the quality of the food served as well as brings the overall level of service down. I guess I should be honest and tell you that I actually like the plan. Granted it has changed a lot from even just a few years ago, and of course not for the better, but we have found a way to make it work for us. So with my secret favoritism disclosed I am going to give my take on the pros & cons of the different plans.
There are 3 different plan options available and depending on your dining habits & your park touring style, you might find some suit you, while others most definitely will not.
The first option is the Quick Service Dining Plan. This plan is for the counter service lover in you. When I say counter service, think burgers, wraps, pizza, salads and sandwiches. This plan includes the following:
(2) Counter service meals and (1) snack per person, per night, which consist of the following:
1 meal or combo meal
1 non-alcoholic beverage (juice, milk, coffee, tea, etc.)
1 entree or combo meal
1 non-alcoholic beverage (coffee, soda, iced tea, etc.)
1 snack (Single serving sized snacks)
1 refillable resort mug
The cost is for this plan is:
$37.58 per adult (ages 10+)
$14.32 per child (ages 3-9)
The pros to this plan are:
*No need to make advance dining reservations
*Flexibility of not having to chose where you are going to eat months in advance
*Flexibility of eating when you're hungry, without much more planning beyond that
*Not losing very much park time to dining down time
*No extra tip expense
The cons to this plan are:
*You are presented with the same basic choices & burgers get boring fast
*If you are not a dessert person, you are getting something you don't want/need
*It can be argued that a Tables in Wonderland discount card would get you more savings
*No character dining/no Signature dining options
I will be honest and say we were on this plan for our December trip in 2010 and I didn't like it. My reasons are that food plays a big part of our vacation experience. We enjoy dining. We eat at home, but we dine out. Don't get me wrong-I like a pick 3 from Fridays & a icy Patron Margarita as much as the next person, but I wouldn't want to eat at Fridays 7 days in a row. We are complete food nerds. We enjoy sitting down to a 3 or 4 course meal and taking our time. We discuss each course. We order drinks to enhance the meal. And we have no problem what-so-ever spending 2-3 hours at the end of a long park day to sit down and be waited on and have a wonderful meal.
But remember-we've been to Disney world quite a few times, so there isn't that panicky feeling that we are missing something. On our first trip, we attacked the park like marauding barbarians, terrified we were going to miss something, and were NEVER going to make it back. So for first timers, this plan can be perfect for you. It gives you a lot of flexibility and is saves you something very precious at Disney-time. This plan is also good for folks who just don't eat very much normally. If you're like a good friend of mine, who usually eats an appetizer for her dinner when we go out, this plan would work nicely for you, whereas the Deluxe plan would be a complete waste. And finally this plan also has the benefit of giving the planners & book keepers of the family the ability to budget for their dining in advance. Because it is counter service and not a sit-down restaurant-there are no tips involved. You can plan how much it will cost you per person, per day, and know exactly how much money you will need before you even leave for your vacation. Conceivably you could stick to the plan, and not spend any extra out of pocket money.
As you will see in the next 2 parts of this topic, choosing a plan (or not) depends completely on your family and your habits. You might very well find the Quick Service Dining plan serves your needs perfectly.
Next post The Disney Dining Plan & Other Fighting Words (Part 2)