Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I don’t use the Disney Dining Plan


So have you heard about the Disney Dining Plan?  If you are staying at a Disney owned/operated hotel with one of their Vacation Packages (including tickets) OR if you are an Annual Passholder booking either a package or just room only, adding the Disney Dining Plan basically allows you to pre-pay for your meals.  They have a few different plans to choose from ranging from their Quick Service Dining Plan which is just two quick service meals, one snack item and one Resort refillable drink mug per person, to their Platinum Package Plus Dining Plan which has accommodations at  select Disney Deluxe Resort or Deluxe Villa Resort plus the Premium Dining Plan (3 Meals-can be Table Service or Quick Service, 2 snacks plus the refillable mug), a fireworks cruise, reserved seating at Fantasmic!, a select spa treatment and more).  The plan has to be purchased for everyone staying on the reservation.
How much does all this cost?  The simple Quick Service Plan for adults is $37.99 per person, per night--this is in addition to the cost for your vacation package (or room if you are an Annual Passholder doing the room only option).  Pricing goes all the way up to $239.00 per adult per night for the Platinum Package Plus Dining Plan (again, in addition to your regular vacation package).
Now I’m extremely budget-minded (aka CHEAP)...I have to be in order to visit WDW as often as I do.  DH and I do splurge from time to time and go for the moderate resort instead of a value resort...but I have never stayed at a deluxe resort (YET).  I’d rather stay in a less expensive room and be able to stay longer and do more extras (like the behind-the-scenes tours).  Because I watch my money, I am not averse to wandering off-property into the Orlando metro area to eat at a non-Disney (*gasp*) restaurant which as I’m sure you can guess is normally a lot cheaper than eating on-property.  
One of the great things about that is that many of the large chain restaurants (and some of the smaller ones too) offer great rewards programs where you can earn freebies from appetizers/desserts all the way up to a high-end entree or even a whole meal.  There’s also rewards programs like MyPoints where you earn points by reading emails, checking out web sites, shopping online, taking surveys and more...and you can redeem those points for gift cards or even money deposited into your PayPal account (email me at thedisneyworldfiles at gmail dot com if you’d like me to send you a referral invite-it really is a fantastic site!).  
I was just in WDW the first weekend of May for the Expedition Everest Challenge.  I was there from late Friday morning to late Sunday afternoon.  I had a TGI Friday’s certificate for a free steak or ribs entree from their rewards program plus a $25 gift card for Rainforest Cafe that I got from redeeming points on the MyPoints site.  I brought some snacks with me and originally planned on eating breakfast in the room, but wound up having more brunch-like meals instead...mostly due to the fact that Friday and Saturday night were very late nights so Saturday and Sunday mornings I slept late.  How much did I spend out of pocket?  Just over $50 for the whole 3-day weekend.  And that was with two excellent meals (steak at TGI Friday’s and Rainforest Cafe).  If I had added the lowest plan (Quick Service), it would have cost me $75.98 for the plan for the weekend and I would have not had as many meals.  Plus, my roommate would have had to pay for the plan as well since everyone on the room has to have the dining plan.  Another thing-my room rate would have been higher, adding about another $40 to my hotel bill since the room rate would no longer be discounted...so my 3-day weekend trip would have cost me about $65 more if I added on just the Quick Service dining plan.
I try to do this for every trip to WDW.  This means for me...well, the dining plan doesn’t make financial sense.  Granted, I do drive to WDW and so I have a car which makes heading off-property fairly simple (and no, it doesn’t take a long time to get off property-especially when you know the back ways like I’ve learned over these many years).  But even if I didn’t, there’s always the Rainforest Cafe gift cards or PayPal deposits that I can earn from MyPoints...and from time to time some of the restaurants on Disney property have certificates available on Restaurant.com (I was able to score one for the House of Blues at Downtown Disney once...I’ve also seen the restaurants that are in the Swan and Dolphin on there).  Right now, the MyCokeRewards website will let you trade in 750 points for an admission to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch-a buffet brunch with live gospel music on Sundays that normally costs $33.50 per adult!  You can’t beat deals like that!
So the verdict for me personally?  No dining plan.  I may splurge here and there with a character meal once a year, but for now I’m saving as much as I can so I can enjoy being at WDW for more days and try more of the fun extras.  Some day when money is no object, I may try out the dining plan just for the convenience (and the free mug!).  And if I ever win the lottery, count me in for that Platinum Package Plus Dining Plan (read about everything you get here).  For now, my cheap self can’t justify it.
Do you use the Disney Dining Plan?  If you do (and use something other than the basic Quick Service Plan), would you consider lowering your plan to incorporate some of these suggestions to fill out your dining repertoire for your trip?


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