Are you planning a Disney vacation and you’re unsure whether or not the Dining Plan at Disney Parks is the best choice for you? Here’s our experience as a family of six and why we love the Dining Plan. It’s a must for us with every Disney vacation we plan.
Since our first visit to Walt Disney World, whenever we visit Disney Parks, we utilize the Disney Dining Plan. Unless we’re there for only a one-day trip, we’ve always gotten the Disney Dining Plan and have never regretted it. For a family of six, it’s a good deal and offers many perks and benefits for our family. Here’s why the Disney Dining Plan is always a must for our Walt Disney World Resort stay.
1. Character Dining
If your kids want to see characters in the park to get photos or autographs, the ability to use your table-service meal option through the Disney Dining Plan is hands down the biggest benefit (and a somewhat unknown secret!) that the plan has to offer. It is a time saver, sanity saver, money saver, and everyone is happy. I can’t tell you how many times we have done this. We’ll do a Character Dining experience each day we are at a park because it’s worth it for a family with kids who love characters. Here are some highlights of the benefits:
- No waiting in line for a character.
- You get extra quality time because the character comes around to see you.
- The character makes time for photos and autographs with each family member.
- You get more than one character per dining experience.
In the time that it takes you to eat and see two to four characters (sometimes as many as five or six characters!), you could maybe see one or two characters in the park if you are lucky enough to miss a line. And if you wait in line and it’s time for that character to go in, too bad for you. Not at the character dining! They come back out in just a few moments. If you do a Character Dining experience in the middle of the day, it’s a nice reprieve from the sun or a nice break to sit down and relax.
If you do a breakfast buffet, you can have a late breakfast/brunch and stuff your faces, eat a snack mid day, and save your quick service meal for your dinner. You’ll be able to basically go the day without buying other food in the park. If you pack a snack to bring with you, that’s all you need for the day
While the Character Dining is spendy on its own, as a Dining Plan meal, it’s worth the expense to us to save the time in the park to not wait in lines seeing those characters.
2. Quick-Service Meals Save Money
When you have kids, they want to order all sorts of items from the menu. If they are forced to choose a meal from a smaller selection of items from the limited quick service menu at whichever restaurant you go to, you will save money if you are disciplined. It’s a heck of a lot easier to say no to extra treats and junk when it’s not included in their pre-paid meal option. My kids are so much better about not even asking if they know it’s not a choice.
But if we go to the counter, and they know they don’t have a mandated pre-paid selection, they will try to negotiate for whatever they want that they see on that menu.
3. Nickel and Diming Sucks
“I love paying $4 for a bottle of water” said no one ever. No one wants to be nickeled and dimed. We all hate it. When you go to an amusement park and you have to pay $4 for a bottle of water, you want to die. If you have a snack item and you aren’t hungry, but you’re thirsty, you don’t feel as terrible about throwing down for a $4 bottle of water or soda if it is your snack item in your prepaid package. It also feels better to us to pay it all out ahead of time and be done. I like going to the park and not paying for anything. How often can you do THAT at Disney? Not often. But the Dining Plan can help.
The other great thing about the Dining Plan is that if you go to Disney Parks in the off season, you often can find deals where you get a Dining Plan for a great deal. Depending on the package and season, you can get a great a discount or sometimes even free dining plan depending on when you book your stay. We’ve had deals such as “book a stay and get a free dining plan,”and “book a stay with a dining plan and get 25% or 30% off your whole vacation.” There are numerous deals out there. You just have to look and be flexible with dates if you want a deal.
About the Dining Plans
The levels for the Dining Plans change periodically. For 2016, there are 5 options: Quick-Service Dining Plan, Disney Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan Premium Dining Plan, and Platinum Dining Plan. The Disney Dining Plan is the level we typically have gone with as it is the one that gives you a snack, a quick service meal, and a table-service meal each day. The table-service meal, at the time of this write up, is the one that you can redeem for a Character Dining experience.
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