Making decisions is hard. Making decisions for your Disney World vacation, which your family may be building up as the “vacation of a lifetime,” can be even harder.
What hotel should you stay at? Where should you eat? Should you get Genie+? What parks should you go to? Is Park Hopping worth it? And (when it returns) should you buy the Disney Dining Plan? The Disney Dining Plan is set to return at some point in the future, and when it does you might be debating whether you should buy it or not. We reached out to our fabulous readers via Facebook and Instagram to get their input, and things are…complicated!
What’s the Disney Dining Plan?
First, let’s start with a quick 101 on the Disney Dining Plan itself. The dining plan is basically a way to pre-pay for your meals in Disney World. The plan is pre-purchased and added onto a Disney Vacation Package (that means you must be staying on a Vacation Package at a Disney World hotel and must have purchased at least 1 park ticket per person).
Essentially, what you do is pre-pay for a specific Dining Plan. Each plan type includes a different amount or arrangement of credits that can be used for specific things. During its most recent iteration, there was a quick service plan, standard plan, dining plan plus, and deluxe dining plan.
Once you’ve pre-paid, all you need to do is “redeem” those points at your meals. So, instead of paying for your table service meal right when you eat, you’ll have paid for it in advance. You’ll then use your appropriate dining plan credits to pay for the meal and only need to pay for gratuity (or anything you ordered that wasn’t included with the table service credit).
What’s Going on With the Dining Plan?
Since the pandemic closures, the Dining Plan has essentially been suspended. Guests have essentially just had to pay out of pocket for all meals in the parks and resorts now.
For months, we wondered what would become of the Dining Plan, and then Disney FINALLY gave an update in 2021. Disney has announced that the Dining Plan will be returning at some point in the future.
What will the dining plan look like and cost? Exactly on what date will it come back? Disney hasn’t shared those details yet, but we’re on the lookout for more updates.
Will You Buy It?
We had already reached out to our readers to get their thoughts on how (if at all) the lack of the dining plan has changed their eating habits in Disney World. And we’ve shared our thoughts on whether the Dining Plan will be a better deal when it returns, how the Dining Plan has changed and could change again, and whether prix fixe menus are essentially the “new” Dining Plan. But all of that got us thinking…when the Dining Plan comes back, is it something you’ll actually buy?
We reached out via Instagram and Facebook and got a whole BUNCH of responses. Overall, on our Instagram poll, 62% of folks said they’d totally buy the Dining Plan when it comes back! That’s a pretty big number and ultimately came out to about 3,201 votes! But, still, 38% (1,943 votes) did say “nope!” to the possibility of buying the Dining Plan when it returns.
We got hundreds of responses explaining both sides, and we even got some people saying the classic “it depends.” So just what are the reasons why some people might jump at the chance to buy the Dining Plan or stay FAR, FAR away from it? Here’s what we saw.
The “definitely’s” won the poll here — a majority of our readers on Instagram did say they’d get the Dining Plan when it returns. Why? Well, there are multiple reasons.
On Facebook, one reader said that they enjoyed the “freedom” the Dining Plan gave them to pick the priciest options for meals. They said that it also made meals more peaceful because there was no need to fuss over prices or “settle” for a cheaper option when what you really wanted was that pricier entree.
Another Disney fan said that they are fully aware that they could potentially save money by not using the Dining Plan, but that they really enjoyed “not having a care in the world when it comes to food” while in Disney World. They liked being able to just scan their MagicBand and continue with the fun, so they felt like the plan was worth it for them.
Others echoed this statement. They noted that while it might not be a cost saver for their family, they like how the plan gave them the chance to order whatever they wanted at every meal without having to worry about the price. For them, that was a “serious stress reliever.”
Many more readers felt the same way, and specifically mentioned how they liked that the Dining Plan made Disney feel like an “all-inclusive vacation.” One said that they like to pay in advance and plan things before going. They shared that they don’t go to Disney to “save money.” They’ve already spent money to be there, so they don’t mind spending a little more for peace of mind.
Another said that the Dining Plan was too much food for them, but they liked the ease of it and the all-inclusive feel. Others said they liked the “convenience” of using it.
Some shared that having the dining plan was in fact worth it for them financially and helped with budgeting. One reader said that they got a good value out of it since they liked to do table service meals and order steaks (which can often be pricier entree options).
One reader said that they love not having to budget for food. Plus, they felt like they wouldn’t eat at the fancier restaurants WITHOUT the Dining Plan. Another said that they spent more money on food on their last trip than they ever spent with the meal plan, and one reader said that they can be “big spenders” on food, so the Dining Plan helps “keep that in check.”
These same sentiments kept popping up over and over again. One reader shared how they liked to use credits for EPCOT Festivals and ended up saving money that way. Another said that even though they don’t eat much, they liked not having to budget for food. Several mentioned that they’d use the leftover snack credits to grab goodies to take home.
And one reader definitively said they won’t be back to Disney World until the Dining Plan returns! Seems like some people had some strong love for the Dining Plan, despite it not always being a good deal for them financially. But not everyone felt that way.
Quite a few individuals shared that they would NOT buy the Dining Plan when it returns. While they didn’t make up the majority on our Instagram poll, they were still present and made their voices heard.
One reader on Facebook said that they could NEVER eat all of the food included in the Dining Plan. In their experience, even with table service and character meals, the Dining Plan would cost them more than paying out of pocket.
Plus, they said, they didn’t want to have to keep track of and plan for all of the credits and credit usage. Instead, they shared, that they like to just pay as they go.
Another said that they overate while on the Dining Plan in an attempt to make it “worth it,” spent too much time at table service restaurants, and even felt sick from the amount of food they ate by the end of the trip. They shared, “We’ve priced it out and we will save a ton by doing only our favorite [table service] restaurants and doing quick service and snacks the rest of the time.”
One fan said that they’ve done Disney World both ways — with and without the Dining Plan — and they felt like having the Dining Plan caused them to eat way more than they wanted to. They also said that all of that eating caused them to miss some hours in the parks, since they were spending that critical time inside of restaurants instead.
One fan said that the Dining Plan just isn’t worth it for them and they wouldn’t buy it in the future. Another also said it was too expensive and “not really convenient” because it made them feel like they had to order the more expensive items to really get the most out of their credits, even when those items weren’t what they actually wanted to eat.
Another said that it was too much food for them, especially considering the fact that they usually eat off of the kids’ menu when they can (a PRO tip for those looking to save a few bucks on food!).
A fan on Facebook said that they didn’t like the Dining Plan because they felt like it required too much time and planning to make sure you’re maximizing your credits. And yet another said that it takes too much time away from everything else.
The overall feeling here was that the Dining Plan included too much food, wasn’t as flexible as people would have liked (because people felt like they had to order the pricier options to really maximize the credits), gave too much time to eating, and took away time from being in the parks, and just wasn’t a good value.
But it wasn’t all just one way or the other for everyone. For some folks, whether to get the Dining Plan or not upon its return is a little less cut and dry.
Some noted that if Disney were to give a Dining Plan option that included an appetizer instead of dessert, then they might consider it. (Previously appetizers had been included, but they were removed from most Table Service meals at a later point in time).
Many said that it will depend on the price. Disney hasn’t yet announced what the pricing structure will be, what plans will be available, or what each plan will include. Many shared that if the prices become more expensive, they likely would not get the Dining Plan.
One reader shared that they’re just not sure anymore about whether to get the Dining Plan or not. They noted that they loved the ease of the Dining Plan, but now having gone on trips without it, they realize how much LESS they spend on food when not on the Dining Plan. They found that loading Disney gift cards with their budgeted food amount made things easy but still saved them money.
Others said they’d buy it or consider buying it, IF certain conditions were met — like if ALL of the restaurants in Disney World were to reopen, or if they could get the plan offered to them for free, or as long as alcohol remains part of the included options.
Another said that it would depend on whether Disney Vacation Club members could get a discount.
One fan said that if Disney adjusted the system so guests could just pay for points that could be used for any menu and snack item, then they might consider it. Another wanted a snack credit only plan that would include some of those more substantial snacks.
For some, the decision on whether or not to purchase the Dining Plan is a question of who they travel with — a group with small appetites and a focus on rides, or a group that likes nice meals.
Seems like the choice isn’t always easy.
So, what do you think? Would the Dining Plan be a must-get for you upon its return? Are you in the “no way” category? Or are you still on the fence? Tell us in the comments!
Again, the Dining Plan is set to return in the future, but Disney has yet to share exactly when it will be back. Be sure to check back with us for all of the latest updates!
When the Dining Plan comes back, will it be a better deal than before? Click here to see our thoughts!
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Would you get the Dining Plan? Tell us in the comments!
The post Thousands of Disney Guests Weigh In On If They Will Buy the Disney Dining Plan When It Returns first appeared on the disney food blog.