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Old 02-23-2013, 03:00 PM   #1
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Dining plan necessary??

I was wondering for some more experienced opinions on getting a dining plan or our first trip to WDW. It will be me, my DH & our DD (5yr) and DS (2yr). We plan on booking a suite at AoA so we can do breakfast in room as we have done on other family vacays and/or possibly a lunch for those days we get to a park early and decide to head back to our hotel for lunch and a rest. Eating out every meal several days in a row usually leaves us all feeling The kiddies arent big eaters at all and neither am I , only my DH would be needing a decent lunch daily, I would be good with a snack and the kids would prob share a kids meal. OUr plan is to try and do a special reservation for dinner each night at a character dining place and/or a breakfast or two if we cant get reservations for a dinner experience.

What would a fair budget for eating be for our family?
Overall, conservatively speaking whats your opinion on the cost of a character dinner each night for 2 adults, a 5 yr old, and one under 3? Adding the cost of a lunch and snacks here or there to this, generally speaking would you think it be cheaper to do a dining plan or pay out of pocket? Lat question, given our plans for dining, if a plan may be cheaper do you recommend the quick service or disney dining option?
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Old 02-23-2013, 06:39 PM   #2
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Here is a link for the cost of the dining plan. If you compare it to the costs of the character meals OOP, the dining plan IMO is cheaper as you are getting2 meals plus a snack each day for close to the same price. If you are going to do a character meal every day anyway, why not go for the dining plan? However note.. if you do get the dining plan and intend to do character meals, you will need the plus dining. Quick service is counter meals only, does not include character meals. : ) Also note.. some like hoop de du revue use 2 table service credits. : ) If you find you have snacks left at the end of your stay, use them to get snacks to take home!
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Old 02-23-2013, 07:18 PM   #3
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excellent reply above - good info.

We love the dining plan b/c it helps make our trip more "magical" as we're not thinking about $$$ we are spending with every meal, snack, etc.

We ate all breakfasts in our room last trip, too (suite at ASMu)... but still used all our dining credits easily at character meals + quick service. We had some snacks left over at the end - used those to bring home some yummy treats for friends/family.

It's not needed of course- but if you are like me and don't want to have to think about $ the whole trip - it's great. And your 2yo is free- which is even better... my twins were under 3 on our last trip and was awesome to not have to pay for them at buffets - though, now they are 3.5 so costs more lol

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Old 02-23-2013, 07:58 PM   #4
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Only thing I would add is when you compare prices with dining plan and OOP, remember that the dining plan includes tax, but not gratuities. There is a site with menu prices so you can compare if it would save you or not.

If you are light eaters, I'd say skip the dining plan. But...since you want a character meal every may be cheaper to do the dining plan. Those will be buffet style and you will all have to pay(except for 2 year old) even if you don't eat much.
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:38 PM   #5
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I agree with the pps. We also love the dining plan and would rather everything be paid for up front. A lot of times we use the snack leftovers on the way home and/or for Popsicles in the parks. It's been hot when we went and a great way to get the kids to cool off. We generally like to do character meals a lot too...for the kids. Having dining reservations also helps shape our day and which park we are in. We did have too many QS during our last trip. We paid for CRT OOP then used the others for other character meals.
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:43 PM   #6
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With the ages of your kids, and wanting to enjoy character meals, definitely do the Dining Plan!

I also think that you may underestimate how long it takes to get from one park to your resort, and from what I understand, AoA is not really close to any of the parks. If you are only relying on Disney transportation it can take close to an hour, you have to factor in the time it takes to get from the exit to where the busses are, you may have to wait for your resort bus to arrive, and then drop you at the resort's stop, and then walk to your room/suite. If you are driving from your resort to another, it won't take as long, but it can take a lot of time just in transportation. I understand wanting to take a break for naps, but it is something to consider when thinking of how you may want to structure your park time.

The other thing to consider is the time of year you will be traveling, during peak times (summers, spring break, Easter, Christmas...) the parks are open later, similarly, when you go during less crowded times the parks close earlier.
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Old 02-23-2013, 11:55 PM   #7
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The child's price for the Dining Plan (1 CS, 1 TS, 1 Snack/ night of your stay) is about the cost of most of the child prices for a character meal.

I just paid for our DDP and I think it worked out to be $55/ adult and $17/ child. The total for our family (4 adults & 3 kids for 7 nights was around $1930).

Even with tips being extra, it was less expensive for my family to get the DDP since we are doing so many character meals. I studied the menu prices and did a lot of math and I just couldn't feed my family for less. (DS15, DS13, DD9, DS7, DS4 and DD2)

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Old 02-24-2013, 08:55 AM   #8
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For our family, it's a waste. You get 2 meals (including dessert with each meal and snack). Well depending on the plan you get. I went through and added up what we would eat (3 meals plus stuck a little in for snacks) and it cost as much as the meal plan did for 2 meals. We don't eat dessert, especially at every meal....the dining plan made us eat more then we normally would, for us, no. The dining plan just makes it more convenient because you don't have to carry cash. But I recently learned that you can use your room key to charge and then pay at the end of your vacation.
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Old 02-24-2013, 09:48 AM   #9
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I've done it both ways (dining plan and paying out of pocket).

Overall, if you plan to do a sit down character meal every day I would get the dining plan. I kept all my receipts and found at the end that we just about broke even. I liked that it was paid for ahead of time and I just had to budget for tips.

If you don't plan to do a sit down character meal every day, I found it's less expensive to pay OOP, especially if you and your children are light eaters and tend to share meals.

For our August 2012 trip it was just my mom and I. Both of us are light eaters. We had breakfast in our room and shared a lot of meals. We find a lot of the QS places give you way too much food for one person. We did two sit down meals (Mama Melrose & Le Cellier). In Mama Melrose's we split a dinner (we'd had it before and knew it was huge) and we each got our own in Le Cellier, but then just snacked that night because we were still way too full to eat dinner. Between the 2 of us for 10 days we spent around $600 for food, much less than we would have spent on the meal plan, and we didn't eat hamburgers and hot dogs all week.
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Old 02-24-2013, 02:01 PM   #10
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I am struggling with this now for our upcoming late AUGUST vacation. We have only done the DDP and only paid for it once. We have always gone during free dining.
I am still keeping my fingers crossed for FREE DINING but we already have our ADR booked at 4 restaurants and I casually priced OP food costs and stings.

We 'have to' eat at Ohana, Tusker House, TRex and Liberty Tree but are fine with QS during the day. We eat breakfast in our room...such as a breakfast bar or banana and are fine until lunch.
We ONLY eat dessert when it's free with the meal.

Family of 4, me, DH DD 9 DS 8. 7 nights 8 days....I have calculated $1200. Sure hope I am wrong!!! Still might add the QS dining if nothing comes up for a discount...just so I can prepay for most meals.

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Old 02-24-2013, 03:43 PM   #11
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I would suggest going through the menus and adding up what the cost of your meals would be each day and totaling the cost and comparing it to the cost of the dining plan. Considering the fact that you and your children are light eaters, I have a feeling that the dining plan really isn't a money saver for your family. Since you want to do character meals, I don't think the difference is going to be too much though. You may find it worth the convenience of the dining plan to go ahead and pay that little bit extra and get the plan. Since you want to do character meals, you would need the Plus dining.
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Old 02-27-2013, 10:14 PM   #12
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thank you all for your great insight! my DH is thinking we do the DDP no question. I am going to take a look at that menu list and try to get a rough estimate on doing it OOP as some suggested, but I do like the idea of not worrying about every $ spent every time we pay OOP for a meal or snack.
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Old 02-28-2013, 06:28 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by makeithappen View Post
thank you all for your great insight! my DH is thinking we do the DDP no question. I am going to take a look at that menu list and try to get a rough estimate on doing it OOP as some suggested, but I do like the idea of not worrying about every $ spent every time we pay OOP for a meal or snack.
That's what I did for our first trip with my DH, and two of our kids who were 3 and 5 at the time. We skipped the DDP and paid out of pocket. Like the pp it was too much dessert and snacks - we just wouldn't eat it all. I also didn't want to build our day around our bellies and ADRs, we wanted to be able to go where we wanted (it was during a slow season so that played in to our being able to do that). We did some sit down meals and couple character meals, but mostly ate CS. A lot of CS meals we could split, or leave off the sides and whatnot so there wasn't too much food. Some of the sitdown meals were just an appetizer shared with a couple salads between my DH and I with the kids having kid meals. We lived in a town that had fantastic restaurants and dining wasn't a big part of our trip, so it worked for us.

Now that we have 4 kids with the youngest being nearly 6, AND the fact we now live in another country where food hasn't a lot of imagination, we may go for the DDP in October I still have to pour over menus and see what works out to be the best deal for us.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:18 AM   #14
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If you like prepaid, get some Disney giftcards. That is what we do. We have only paid OOP for the dining plan once (CS plan) and got it "free" once. We dont do many TS meals so the plan is not to our benefit.
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Old 02-28-2013, 08:31 AM   #15
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If your planning to do a sit down meal daily (atleast one) and you say dinner and character meals, along with the size of your party, I would most definitely go with the standard Disney dinning plan! It's always saved us a little bit and its almost like prepaying and giving you the all inclusive feel of a vacation! I never use to use the dining plan till 2010 and now I won't even go again without it! IMO it's the way to go but not everyone agrees, it depends on your personal family and knowing what you would spend daily on each person then add that up get a total and then add up how much the standard DP would cost you. With the standard DP you get one sit down meal a day, one over the counter meal a day, one snack and one refillable resort mug.
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