Disney Dining Plan Down to the Penny

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PhillNYC's picture
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Disney Dining Plan Down to the Penny

Well, I started planning our September trip, started tallying up rooms and such on the WDW website. I got curious about DDP, and wanted to know for sure. I mean, heck, I know what we tend to eat. I'm sure someone has done this before, but ... I love trivia. LOL So, I pulled out my fourth grade math skills and went to work. Grade

Our Quick Service Dining plan costs $317.12 for 2 guests/4 days
That works out to $39.64 per day per person, Which includes 2 meals + 1 snacks + resort cup

To purchase exactly the same thing with cash "

$4.98 Resort cup per day ($17.99 over 4 days)
$9.99 Columbia Harbor House shrimp basket
$2.98 Drink
$9.99 Cosmic Ray's 1/2 Chicken basket
$2.98 Drink
$4.99 Funnel Cake snack
$2.37 Tax
($38.42 Total per day cash)

$39.64 QS plan cost per person per day
$38.42 Cash cost per person per day

($1.22 Difference in WDW's favor)

Conclusion " It's totally a wash. If I got the salmon instead of the shrimp, the difference would be down to fifteen cents in their favor. So, in our case, the CS dining plan basically breaks even. In my case, I'll book it. Knowing everything is taken care of in advance is worth fifteen cents to me. Nerd

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Kristen K.'s picture
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For me personally having the Dining Plan is more about not having to worry about the money while I'm on vacation. If I'm paying out of pocket I will spend the entire time adding, figuring, and budgeting in my head and worrying about every cent with the fear that we will ru out of money before the end of our trip. That's not what I call a fun vacation. The dining plan allows me to relax and just eat whatever the heck I want - it's already paid for.

The standard dining plan is just "meh" for my family. When we travel with the dining plan we frequently do the Deluxe version.

jhugo's picture
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I do the deluxe dining plan every year and find that it does save us about 20% on food costs per trip. We pick deluxe because the DH likes sit down meals. If you don't want all sit down meals pick the basic meal plan or you will lose money. Keep an eye out as your trip gets closer because we go every year in September and the last 2 years have lucked out and gotten a free dining plan! If you have already booked and paid for your trip don't worry they will credit the money for the dining plan back to you. I like the dining plan also because it's just one more thing already paid for and than we only have to worry about tips and drinks.

PhillNYC's picture
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jhugo wrote:
Keep an eye out as your trip gets closer because we go every year in September and the last 2 years have lucked out and gotten a free dining plan! If you have already booked and paid for your trip don't worry they will credit the money for the dining plan back to you.

<------- I'm hoping so! I'm going to keep an eye on it! That would be awesome!

I thought about going up one level this time, but we're not much into the sit-downs, we wouldn't do character meals, and we don't eat a whole lot. The basic QS plan works well for us. We usually end up doing one sit-down, so we just do it on the fly.

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kywildcatchick's picture
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For us, esp when the kids are with us, it's mainly not having to worry if they have money for food. With three teenagers, we usually come out ahead with the dining plan. My family has quickly learned to work the system to get the higher priced snacks on the plan and pay for smaller snacks or drinks. We also bring desserts home, especially cupcakes to enjoy in the room!

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I am trying to work out whether to add DDP to our 4nts in October at the Beach Club, we would want a sit down every day but still not sure if it's worth paying for the DDP.

From the UK the deal for free DDP is normally minimum 5nt stay and to buy our WDW Ultimate tickets through Disney, but the tickets can't be activated until check in day, whereas our onsite stay will be the last 5days/4nts of using our tickets. But if there is another way to get free dining added I would be interested, would add a night to our stay just not the tickets, though we heard free DDP is finished for good?

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Eeyore's picture
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I think the regular dining plan works in our favor. I've done the math before when we returned and the money was in our favor. I also like prepaying so I don't have to worry about spending more money, except tipping.

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PhillNYC wrote:
Well, I started planning our September trip, started tallying up rooms and such on the WDW website. I got curious about DDP, and wanted to know for sure. I mean, heck, I know what we tend to eat. I'm sure someone has done this before, but ... I love trivia. LOL So, I pulled out my fourth grade math skills and went to work. Grade

Our Quick Service Dining plan costs $317.12 for 2 guests/4 days
That works out to $39.64 per day per person, Which includes 2 meals + 1 snacks + resort cup

To purchase exactly the same thing with cash "

$4.98 Resort cup per day ($17.99 over 4 days)
$9.99 Columbia Harbor House shrimp basket
$2.98 Drink
$9.99 Cosmic Ray's 1/2 Chicken basket
$2.98 Drink
$4.99 Funnel Cake snack
$2.37 Tax
($38.42 Total per day cash)

$39.64 QS plan cost per person per day
$38.42 Cash cost per person per day

($1.22 Difference in WDW's favor)

Conclusion " It's totally a wash. If I got the salmon instead of the shrimp, the difference would be down to fifteen cents in their favor. So, in our case, the CS dining plan basically breaks even. In my case, I'll book it. Knowing everything is taken care of in advance is worth fifteen cents to me. Nerd

Very helpful although coke drinks these days are now $3.19 according to AllEars.net and Disney's website. (Although bottled water is cheaper at $2.50) Plus you forgot about the dessert that is required for each DDP QS credit so using your Columbia Harbour House example, the cheapest option is ordering two Strawberry yogurts, $2.19 each or a cobbler/chocolate cake, which is $3.99 so that is an extra $7.98, $4.28 or $6.28 for desserts if you're paying out of pocket. But paying out of pocket, you do not have to order a dessert whereas a QS credit obligates you to have a dessert. Can you use a DDP credit without getting a dessert if you don't want or need it? I don't know if you can but if you are allowed to decline the dessert, then it seems like you're overpaying a bit.

Having not used to DDP myself and people can provide appreciated insight for this but are you mandated to fulfill the meal requirements or they won't accept your DDP credit? If you wanted to get an appetizer at TS for whatever reason, but still have an entree and dessert with it, do you pay the credit with entree and dessert but out of pocket for the app? I read you can't replace the dessert with an appetizer to be able use your DDP credit in that situation. Insights most appreciated!

Anyway, I know I was not a fan of the DDP but the more I thought about it, the truth is, the DDP itself is a wild card no matter plan you use. I mean, there is no universal answer to say if it is worth it or not. A lot of people prefer the DDP because the meals are prepaid though like I said, if you really need all three meals, you'll have to pay out of pocket for one meal every day anyway or when your credits are running low or ran out. Some have said the best way to use the DDP and make it feel worthwhile is to pretty much buy the most expensive entree at every place. I think this quote says it best about assessing the DDP: "When you do the math, don't base your calculations on what the Disney Dining Plan provides. Base your numbers on what you'd actually like to eat on your vacation."

Some interesting and insight posts:
http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-dining-plan-v-paying-out-pocket/

http://www.vacationkids.com/diswithkids-blog/bid/315138/Disney-Dining-Plan-VS-Paying-For-Food-As-You-Go-Which-Is-Better

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Well I always take the Basic Dining Plan (1 table service, 1 counter service, 1 snack (a day) and free refillable mug). It may not be a lot cheaper but for me if I didn't do this when I went to a restaurant I wouldn't get what I truly wanted because I always look at the price (ask my hubby as it drives him crazy). So when am at Disney I don't even look at the price..if I want it I get it.

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Dining plans for us are too restrictive and we always come out ahead just paying cash and ordering only what we want on the menus. Plus there are no restrictions as to what you can order. As soon as you skip anything included in a dining plan (like dessert), you start losing. I typically don't eat dessert so right away it's out for me.

Magic Days's picture
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We have gotten the free dining plan for the value resorts the last couple years and just upgraded to the standard plan. Difference was around $20 and we loved relaxing at a sit down meal at the end of a long day.

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Spook's picture
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We find the dining plan to be too much food. I really liked the idea of prepaying, so when we went in November we prepaid our credit card (so it had a credit balance) and just charged our food to the room with the magic bands. It worked out great and we spent less on food than the cost of the dining plan awesome
However, I'd take a free dining plan anytime! mickey

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Allie's picture
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KenJ wrote:
Dining plans for us are too restrictive and we always come out ahead just paying cash and ordering only what we want on the menus. Plus there are no restrictions as to what you can order. As soon as you skip anything included in a dining plan (like dessert), you start losing. I typically don't eat dessert so right away it's out for me.

Ditto. I generally don't order desserts at restaurants and would much rather have an app so I would lose money on the dining. Now if I had free dining, I'd probably take the opportunity to try more desserts and maybe skip on apps that trip, but if I were going to pay for the dining plan, I'd rather just pay out of pocket and eat the way I like to eat.

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I agree that the DDP feels too restrictive. I also prefer appetizers so I'd much rather order those and then if I need something sweet (which is normally a little later on), I can grab a sweet snack in the parks. Even the "free" dining plan doesn't interest me as much as it used to. I'd rather get a room discount and buy discounted tickets than pay rack rate for the room and then feel restrictive with my eating. Also, since I drive, I just bring a case or two of bottled water with me and use that as my drinks most of the time, so I wouldn't need to purchase one (unless I reeeeally had a hankering for a Coke) during most meals and I also wouldn't need the refillable mug.

I do like the idea of having things prepaid, so I'm saving up gift cards I can use for dining! It's prepaid, and then if I have money left over I can buy souvenirs. yay

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In our last visit we got free QS DDP...Way too much food as we also done 5 ADRS...So this year the 40% off deluxe resort was a great deal..As we intend to have a few ADRS ( 1 signature ) and we tend to wing the CS meals..

PhillNYC's picture
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jw24 wrote:
"When you do the math, don't base your calculations on what the Disney Dining Plan provides. Base your numbers on what you'd actually like to eat on your vacation."

Yes. You see, that's exactly what I did.

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amy1989's picture
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We have done QS dining plan the past few years and I absolutely loved it!there was a lot of food to go through but I managed it, as a lot of people have said it just takes the stress away of having to worry about how much this is all costing because it already paid for! we have been lucky enough to get it free however if we ever didn't I wouldn't hesitate to book it and pay for it

PhillNYC's picture
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amy1989 wrote:
We have done QS dining plan the past few years and I absolutely loved it!there was a lot of food to go through but I managed it, as a lot of people have said it just takes the stress away of having to worry about how much this is all costing because it already paid for! we have been lucky enough to get it free however if we ever didn't I wouldn't hesitate to book it and pay for it

I think I'm beginning to agree, Amy. I love the idea of simply not having to worry about it. I'm pretty sure we didn't make it through all those snacks last time either! Lol

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amy1989's picture
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Well the first year we went we had 2 snack credits and before I travelled I was saying to everyone "there's not enough snack credits in the world to fill me" 17 bags of candy later we were on the plane home!!!!!!this year we had 1 snack credit per day and I was saying "there's just not enough credits for what I want" not quite as many came back but there was still 2 or 3 returned!!! they are good to bring back to work and it saves you buying some but this year I'm determined I will not bring back candy!!!!

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If you don't use up your snack credits go to the gift shop in your resort and load up on rice crispy treats to take home. They make great gifts for people back home. We had 5 snack credits left last trip and a CM told me about this idea. It worked great and my nephews and nieces loved them!

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We don't have any kids and really like a good meal with a glass of wine whenever possible. We find that Tables in Wonderland works the best for the way we generally eat, then grab the occasional QS meal when we're in a hurry. But when we take the nieces/nephews for a few days, we usually end up with the regular Dining Plan - doesn't save us any, but it is pretty darned convenient.