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Disney dining plan plus

Is the Disney World Disney Dining Plan Plus Worth it?

Earlier this year, Walt Disney World introduced a brand new dining plan for Disney resort guests, the Disney Dining Plan Plus. This new plan is a combination of the original Disney Dining Plan and the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan.

What is the Disney Dining Plan Plus?

The new Disney Dining Plan plus includes the following:

  • 2 meals per night
  • 2 snacks or non-alcoholic drinks per night
  • 1 resort refillable mug

The meals can be used for either quick-service or table service meals. You can also combine 2 credits and dine at a signature restaurant if you wish. Of course, if you plan on using the meals for quick-service restaurants, you should stick with the Disney Dining Plan, which is cheaper and would fit your plans better.

Currently (Spring, 2020), the cost for the Disney Dining Plan Plus is $94.60 for adults and $35.00for children (3 – 9 years old) per night of your stay. You must purchase a plan for your entire stay, and everyone in your party must purchase the same dining plan or no plan at all.

Let’s look at an average day for one adult and one child. That would cost $129.60 and include two meals for each person plus 2 snacks. We will leave the refillable mug out of the equation, as that only amounts to a dollar or two per night, depending on how long you stay.

We will look at three different options since this plan is so flexible. In the first example, our family is going to a character breakfast at their resort and then dinner at a table service in the parks, plus a few afternoon snacks. Let’s say they are staying at the Contemporary and then are in Epcot and pick these meals:

  • Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s – Contemporary – Total cost for this breakfast buffet (complete with Mickey and friends) is $83.00.
  • Afternoon Snack – Two Mickey Ice Cream Bars ($5.69 each). With tax, a total price of about $12.15.
  • Second Afternoon Snack – A bottle of diet coke ($4.50) and popcorn ($5.25), a total price of about $10.40.
  • Dinner at Tutto Italia – Epcot – Adult dinner of Bistecca del Macellaio ($36.00) plus Mocha Tiramisu for dessert ($12.00) and a fountain drink ($4.25). Child dinner of Spaghetti ($10.00) and a Gelato Sundae for dessert ($5.00). With tax, you get a total price of about $72.00.

So, for the two meals and two snacks, I get a rough total price of about $177.90

Our second option will include one deluxe table service dinner, plus the snacks of course.

  • Breakfast at Contempo Cafe – Contemporary – Mickey Shaped waffles ($10.29) plus orange juice ($4.99) for the adult and mini-Mickey Waffles ($6.99) and chocolate milk ($4.19) for the child. With tax, you get a total of about $28.31
  • Afternoon Snack – Two Mickey Ice Cream Bars ($5.69 each). With tax, a total price of about $12.15.
  • Second Afternoon Snack – A bottle of diet coke ($4.50) and popcorn ($5.25), a total price of about $10.40.
  • Dinner at Akershus (Norway) – Epcot – This restaurant features your favorite princesses and great food. With tax, you get a total price of about $104.00.

So, for the three meals and two snacks, I get a rough total price of about $154.86.

Option number three, one signature restaurant for dinner, plus the snacks:

  • Afternoon Snack – Two Mickey Ice Cream Bars ($5.69 each). With tax, a total price of about $12.15.
  • Second Afternoon Snack – A bottle of diet coke ($4.50) and popcorn ($5.25), a total price of about $10.40.
  • Dinner at California Grill – Contemporary – Adult dinner of Oak-Fired Fillet of Beef ($59.00) and Strawberry Creme Brulee ($16.00) and a fountain drink ($5.00). Child dinner of Wild Seared Salmon ($17.00) and ice cream ($11.00). Total price with tax is about $115.56

For the super nice dinner and two snacks, I get a rough total price of about $138.11.

For all of these options, I did not include alcoholic beverage (they are typically quite a bit more than soda), so the prices could be quite a bit higher.

You can see from the first two options, there is quite a savings by purchasing the Disney Dining Plan Plus. Even in the second example where you only did a quick-service breakfast, it still saved you money. Using your two credits for one deluxe dinner probably isn’t the best idea, but you do save some money.

Disney Dining Plan Plus PROS

  • With the examples shown above, you do save money. The more character meals you do and the fewer quick-service meals you do, the more money you save.
  • The plan is very flexible, allowing you to use your dining credits at just about any restaurant.
  • For most people, this plan is better than the Disney Deluxe Dining Plan since it is cheaper and you don’t have to be eating constantly to make it work for you.
  • The biggest benefit I try to explain to my clients is that with all the dining plans, everything is prepaid and budgeted, so you just show up and eat, no need to worry about the cost of meals, how much money to bring or trying to order the cheapest thing on the menu just to save money. Just enjoy, that is the idea of going to Disney World, isn’t it?

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan CONS

  • The cost! The dining plan plus is expensive. For a family of four, assuming the kids are between 3 – 9, you are looking at an additional $1,814 for a 7-night trip, just for the food!
  • While technically not a con, you must plan out in advance what your dining plans are going to be during your trip. If you are planning a lot of character meals and table service meals, this plan is a big winner. If you are just going to wing it and eat anywhere, most likely you will be much better off with another plan.

So, is the Disney Dining Plan Plus worth it? Absolutely (mostly). As long as you plan on using your dining credits for table service meals (either character or non-character meals), you should come out quite a bit ahead. Plan in advance and hit a lot of nice table service restaurants for breakfast and lunch, and you will have a fantastic Disney vacation for a lot less than if you had paid for your food out of pocket.

Have you ever used the Disney Dining Plan Plus?

 

favorite deluxe resort

My Favorite Disney World Deluxe Resort

This is nearly an impossible post to write. My favorite Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort? How about all of them? I think you could ask me to argue for any deluxe resort, and there would easily be enough Pro sides to the argument that it would be understandable. It is almost like asking me to pick which of my kids is my favorite.

Ok, ok, fine, I am picking one of my kids as my favorite. My favorite Walt Disney World Resort is Disney’s Beach Club!

beach club resort

What about the other Deluxe Resorts?

As I said, I really like every single Deluxe resorts, they all have fantastic things about them, even a few little tiny things wrong about them. I would be happy as a clam at high tide if you told me I was staying in any of the deluxe resorts.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is surrounded by a savanna. I mean, what is better than waking up at Disney with a giraffe outside your window? Fantastic rooms, restaurants, pool and everything else, but the resort is a bit isolated, you must take a bus to go anywhere, including Animal Kingdom Park.

Wilderness Lodge – If you are wondering, Wilderness Lodge is THE PLACE to stay during the holidays. Really great resort, but Disney has turned half of it into a DVC resort, and like the Animal Kingdom Lodge, you have to take transportation to get anywhere.

Boardwalk Inn is strangely enough, located on the Boardwalk. Fun resort, really fun pool and in a great location, being on the Boardwalk and all. The area gets a bit busy at night time, and if your room faces the Boardwalk it can get a bit on the loud side.

Yacht Club is the Beach Club’s sister resort. They have separate lobbies and theming, but do share the fantastic pool. For some reason, I just don’t like the Yacht Club as much as the Beach Club, as the Yacht Club has a big convention center, so fewer families, kids, etc.

Disney’s Grand Floridian is Disney’s premier hotel, located pretty close to the Magic Kingdom. Everything is first class, the rooms, grounds, hotels, pools and especially the view. It still confounds me that they built this beautiful hotel next to the Magic Kingdom, but you CANNOT walk there!

Polynesian Village Resort, which recently change it’s name from just the Polynesian Resort. You really get the feeling you are in the South Pacific while at the Polynesian Village, quite a change from the craziness of the parks.

Contemporary Resort is my runner up in favorite resorts. Many people don’t like ti for some reson, but the rooms are spectacular, the views are even better, and you can walk to the front gate of the Magic Kingdom in just a few minutes or hop on the monorail for Epcot.

Beach Club Pool

What makes Disney’s Beach Club Special?

Location, location, location! – For me, there is no better location to stay at in Walt Disney World. There are a ton of restaurants within a 5 minute walk on the Boardwalk, at the resort and inside of Epcot. Access to the theme parks is second to none, a short walk from Epcot, a longer walk or boat ride to Hollywood Studios and bus service to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. With the new Disney skyliner station going in between the Beach Club and Epcot, this will give you another access point to Hollywood Studios as well as more restaurants at Caribbean Beach and the new Riviera Resort.

Stormalong Bay – Without a doubt, Disney World’s best swimming pool outside the two water parks. A giant lazy river, sand bottom pools and the longest water slide at a Disney resort, which you have to access on a sunken pirate ship out in the Crescent Lake, a great kids pool and all the shade and sun you can handle. Pretty much a baby water park.

Everything else! – Once you have gone Deluxe, you never want to go back. The Beach and Yacht Club are home to Beaches and Cream, the best ice cream parlor around, fantastic grounds, rooms and the vibe is much like at Polynesian Village, it feels so far away from the parks, but you really aren’t.

Beach Club Room

What are the downsides of Disney’s Beach Club?

Not every Disney resort is perfect, and the Beach Club has a few drawbacks:

Location – Well, as I mentioned above, the location is down right perfect. However, if your plans at Walt Disney World include day after day at the Magic Kingdom, the Beach Club isn’t going to be your best destination.

Have you stayed at Disney’s Beach Club Resort??

disney free dining

Why Disney Free Dining isn’t really Free

Every year since 2006, Walt Disney World has released a Disney Free Dining discount, typically for Fall dates, though early on we did see some Spring dates included. The Disney Free Dining discount for 2018 was released earlier this week. Historically, this is the most popular and most looked forward to discount for regular Disney visitors. The basics are the Disney Free Dining discount is that you book a package at a Walt Disney World resort that includes your hotel and park passes, and Disney includes the dining plan for free. But, it really isn’t free.

One thing to note here, Disney DOES NOT love you, they are not giving you something free because you have been a great customer, or because they think you deserve it, Disney releases discounts, whether free dining or any other package or room discount, to fill rooms. If there is a time when they can’t fill up at full rate, they offer an incentive to get you to come to Disney. Disney Free Dining is just another marketing scheme to get you to come to Disney. Plus, Disney is smart, they know that when people hear “free” they go crazy and don’t even consider doing any math to see if it really is free, or even if it is a good deal.

Why Disney Free Dining isn’t really Free

  • Minimum Night Stays – As part of the 2018 Disney Free Dining discount, Walt Disney World requires you to stay a minimum of four nights, a maximum of 14. While this really does not affect many people, there are some that may want to visit Disney just for 1 or 2 nights, but must extend their vacation an extra day or two in order to get free dining.
  • Minimum Ticket Purchases – Disney requires the purchase of a minimum 4 day ticket with you Disney Free Dining package. This is a requirement regardless of the length of ticket you really want. If you are an annual passholder, you still must purchase a 4 day ticket. If you are a Florida Resident and have access to cheaper tickets, still, you must purchase a 4 day ticket. If you have tickets left over from another trip or happened to purchase tickets elsewhere, everyone on the package must purchase a 4 day ticket. While this doesn’t sound like a huge deal, a 4 day base ticket is roughly $405 per person, so for a family of 4, you are talking a minimum ticket purchase of $1,620 just for the right to get the free dining.
  • Park Hopping Add-on – Another requirement added in recent years, in addition to purchasing the minimum 4 day ticket, Disney also requires that you purchase the park hopping add-on for everyone in your room. The park hopping add-on runs about $75 per person, so a family of four must pay an additional $300 whether they want park hopping or not.
  • Limited Resorts – As part of the 2018 Disney Free Dining discount, Disney did not include many of the popular resorts as part of the discount. Want to stay at Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter or a Little Mermaid room at Art of Animation? Contemporary or Wilderness Lodge? All-Star Movies?You are out of luck. Plus, many of the resorts were included, but have zero availability? While this doesn’t necessarily increase your cost, you may have to stay in a resort that you have no interest in staying in just to get a discount. Many of my clients have actually had to upgrade to a more expensive resort to get the Disney Free Dining, they want to stay in a Value resort, but because they are all sold out, they are forced to pay more and upgrade to a moderate resort just to get a discount.
  • More expensive rooms – Availability with Disney Free Dining is very tight. While you may find a room at Pop Century (your preferred resort), they may be sold out of the standard view rooms you normally stay in. So, you are forced to upgrade to a more expensive room just to get a discount.
  • Bypass other discounts – At Walt Disney Wold,  you are not allowed to use more than one discount. Even though Disney released two discounts the other day, the Disney Free Dining and the Late Summer discount, which overlap for many of the Disney Free Dining dates, you cannot use both discount. So, if you opt to take the Disney Free Dining discount, that means you exclude yourself from the Late Summer or any other discount that comes along.

I am not saying that the Disney Free Dining discount can’t be a great deal, but DO THE MATH! I have clients that can get a better deal with a different discount, they insist they still want free dining, because it was “free”, even though they end up paying more in the end. Sometimes it is hard to understand that free really isn’t free.

When booking your Disney vacation, I would strongly suggest to book your initial reservation at a price you are comfortable with, and do not expect to see any discounts. Then, if and when a discount does come along, consider that as a bonus and upgrade your resort or dining plan and have a better trip than what you were expecting.