Friday, June 3, 2011

The Disney Dining Plan and Other Fighting Words (Part 2)

In my previous post I discussed the Quick Service Plan and the pros & cons as well as my personal opinion on who the plan would benefit or not benefit. For Part 2, I will discuss the mid level plan, the Plus plan This plan is a mixture of counter service, sit-down meals and snack options. I like this plan myself and think that it works well for first timers as well as creative veterans. But I do want to be as honest about the plan as I can, so you can make the best decision as to whether or not the plan work for you specifically.

The Plus plan includes the following per person, per night:

(1) Counter service meal 

1 meal or combo meal
1 non-alcoholic beverage (juice, milk, coffee, tea, etc.)

1 entree or combo meal
1 dessert
1 non-alcoholic beverage (coffee, soda, iced tea, etc.)

(1) Table service or buffet meal:

1 entree or full buffet meal
1 non-alcoholic meal

1 appetizer
1 entree or full buffet
1 non-alcoholic beverage (coffee, soda, iced tea, etc.)

1 single serve size snack per person

(1) Refillable Resort Mug per person (*New for 2012)

*The cost of this plan varies by dates of travel:

$55.59 per adult (ages 10+)                                       
$17.16 per child (ages 3-9) 
During the following dates in 2013:                        
1/1/13  - 2/13/13
2/24/13 - 3/7/13
4/7/13  - 5/30/13
8/4/13  - 12/12/13                

$56.94 per adult (ages 10+)
$18.16 per child (ages 3-9)

During the following dates in 2013: (Peak Season)
2/14/13  - 2/23/13
3/8/13   -  4/6/13
5/31/13  - 8/3/12
12/13/13- 12/31/13                     

The Pros to this plan are:
* More dining options
* Character dining included
* Ability to get creative and use (2) table service credits on a Signature dining restaurant or a Dinner show
* More food including the addition of an appetizer for lunch/dinner dining.
* Early admittance to parks with an early morning ADR (Advance Dining Reservation)

The Cons of this plan are:
* Making Advance Dining Reservations (ADR) is highly recommended. If you don't like planning ahead-this          
   plan may not be for you (*the new reservation policy has helped a lot)
* Tips for table service restaurants are not included so this is an extra cost to factor in
* Time away from parks
* Childrens' dining options are somewhat limited and repetitious

For our family, this plan is a favorite. I like that we can grab a quick breakfast at the resort and then head out to the parks. Having done pretty much every character breakfast available & my daughter turning 10 has made character breakfasts a little less important to us. Don't get me wrong-I love a good breakfast buffet and Disney does them better than anyone-but we are moving into the 'slower start' stage of our vacation lives. Then we can plan for a nice sit-down dinner in a variety of restaurants in the parks, as well as resort restaurants. We also will trade (2) table service credits for a wonderful Signature dining experience as well.

Now will this plan work for you? Here are some things to consider when deciding if it will work for your family. First do you like to plan? Any Disney regular will tell you that to make the most out of your dining plan, you need to make advance dining reservations. While I am not saying you couldn't get lucky by walking up to a table service restaurant and asking if there are any openings, during busy times such as holidays and during Free Dining promotions (I will get into this juggernaut in a later post-but keep it in the back of your mind), getting into certain restaurants is nearly impossible without an ADR. I say if you're paying for it-take time to plan ahead and make sure you get to eat in the restaurants you want.

The next thing to think about is the time it takes to actually eat. As you've heard me say, dining is just as an important part of our vacation as being in the parks. We have also been to WDW many times and don't mind taking the time out of touring to eat. But you might feel different. Consider how your family tours and then consider your eating patterns too. Do you eat on a certain schedule? Are you a family of light eaters? Is it going to be a fight/waste of time to get your kids to sit down long enough to eat, or will they spend the whole meal asking when they can get back on Dumbo? All these things factor into whether the plan would work for your family.

And finally cost. This one is tricky and there are a lot of things to consider/compare here. I am going to work off of the $55.59 and $17.16 price points. Let's say a family of 5, consisting of 2 adult and 3 kids decides on the Plus plan. With no discounts promotions (like Free Dining-back to this later I promise) you would be looking at a total cost of $162.66 per day. Plus any additional gratuities for Table Service dining which I will figure at 18% on a buffet dinner at Chef Mickey simply because it is a fixed price meal and I like easy math, and get an amount of $26.00 (rounded up for ease). This gives us a grand total of $188.66 for the day, for (2) adults and (3) children to purchase the Plus plan and assuming gratuity on one sit-down meal a day.

Now for that $189.00 you get:

5 counter service meals (let's say breakfast at the resort counter service restaurant)
5 Buffet meals in Chef Mickeys (or any other sit-down of your choice-but pricing may change)
5 Snacks

The same days worth of dining would look like this if you paid out of pocket:

5 Counter service breakfast platters approx $37.00 (including tax)
5 Buffet meals in Chef Mickeys + gratuity & tax approx $170.00
5 Snacks which I averaged out to about $20.00
Giving me a grand total of $227.00

This would give you around a $38.00** savings BUT if you were to factor in appetizers and other ala carte dining options-you would more than likely see even more savings.
(* *Please note all these numbers are completely relative to what foods I chose to use as an example and might be drastically different than what you & your family might choose, changing the totals greatly.)

SO the answer really lies in you, your family and your dining habits. For us-if given the option, we would prefer to eat at least one sit-down meal a day in a nice restaurant. We often order appetizers & desserts for that matter, and don't mind taking time away from touring to dine-so the plan works for us and saves us money. You might be different-and that's ok. You might find the QSDP (Quick Service Dining Plan) or the Tables in Wonderland card might be a better option.

Hope this helps a bit, but if you have any questions-drop me a line. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about the plan :)

Next post Disney Dining Plan and Other Fighting Words (Part 3)

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