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Old 05-07-2009, 01:48 PM   #1
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My Disney Dining Plan Math

For a few years now I've agonized over using the Disney Dining Plan or going traditional (pay as we go) with our dining. We are DVC Members so the free plan as part of a vacation package doesn't factor in my planning.

In 2007 I decided not to use the dining plan and we (My wife and I, 3.5 year old DS and 1.5 DD) spend just under $500 on food in 8 days/7 nights. This included on character breakfast. So the dining plan would not have saved us any money.
But with our next trip coming this fall and some new options with the dining plan I'm re-examing the best option. I'll spare the detailed math, mainly because it's chicken scratches on notepads that I probably could no longer convert to anything logical in a post. So with much angst, a lot of reading, and some math here is what I think about the Disney Dining Plan for 2009:

This is for the Regular Dining Experience Only (not any of the other plans, although I tend to believe the conclusions are similar).

IF (and that's a big if) you were to actually order and pay for everything you can get with the Dining Plan should you pay as you go the DDP is about convenience - I think you'll pay the same. Perhaps a small savings. The catch here is pretty simple - it's pretty rare that a family would actually order and pay for all the food you can get with the DDP. If you do the math on what you'd really eat and where you'd really eat paying as you go you will very likely spend less money than the DDP will cost.
However, that being said there is a rather clear scenario in which the DDP becomes a good deal and wise choice for your vacation.
If you have the DDP you can do more character meals, you can do more higher end restaurants (both of which you might avoid paying as you go with an eye on the budge) and when deciding between pasta and a juicy steak the pay as you go mentality may have you thinking pasta sounds good but with the DDP you can get the much more expensive steak as your entree.

So as I sit now (and it's only May) when we go in October we will be on the DDP and instead of 1 character meal, we're now planning 4 - maybe 5.....and whereas LeCellier at Epcot was probably not on the itenieary without the DDP it is now!

I'd love to hear some others thoughts....afterall it's still May and I can and might change my mind.
Here are a few things on my mind about the DDP.

More character meals!! The kids love them, but they are crazy expensive - however the DDP makes them much more doable in my opinion.

Ease of use??? Not sure this really applies, either way I'm handing them my key to the world. Either a room charge of a DDP credit.

"Get the Steak" - Why not order the steak instead of pasta. I like steak. Steak good.

"Get Dessert!" - See below for more compelling concerns with dessert, but I like dessert!

Our kids (DS 6, DD 3) are good eaters so I'm not too worried about the kids not eating - they'd be getting their own meals anyway, not sharing with us.

The fear of not getting my money's worth out of the deal.

Fear of being confused and unclear about what is and what isn't on the plan, what I can and can't get on the plan.

Do we really need all that food?? We rarely order dessert at meals - because we're full usually. Now my wife and I each get one with every meal??? We can share with the kids of course, maybe carry a few out with us for later (???) but I'm afraid it's too much food leading to waste. Not overly concerned about the unhealthy factor - hey it's vacation and we walk a lot at Disney of course.

Lingering Questions I still need answers to:
Can I pay for the DDP with my Disney Dream Dollars Reward Card?

As a DVC Member when can I/must I add the plan to my trip?

Can I get the wonderful, signature Mickey Ice Cream Bars with my Snack credits?

Why doesn't the regular dining plan include resort refillable mugs?? The QS plan does....and we love those mugs!
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Old 05-07-2009, 02:04 PM   #2
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Wow, you have really thought this out. I am impressed by your planning because I am just like you.

DS12 and I went during the 4/3 deal in March to celebrate his birthday and I got the DDP since it was only the 2 of us and they gave us $200 gift card when we booked so I knew I could use this for tips.

So I kept all our receipts and added up how much we would have spent if we had paid OOP and we only saved about $40. Now in the DDP's defense we ate breakfast buffets twice and used 2 credits for CRT. So I was not trying to maximize my DDP credits. I told myself that we wouldn't do it again it was too much wasted food. A lot of times we took one bite of our CS dessert and threw it away. And you are right, we probably wouldn't have ordered a lot of that food if we had been paying OOP. Plus I was really annoyed at the 3 pounds that I gained while I was there that continues to linger.

But after all that I have actually decided to buy the DDP for our next trip. DD4 and DH are going as well and I have done more research and think we will save about $150. We are only going to do 1 breakfast and do supper character buffets instead and we are going back to Tutto's and try Chef's De France which both seem to be good TS values.

There are many, many things you can use the snack credits for like a side of fries, definitely the Mickey bars, and my personal favorite the Orange Dole Whip Float. And don't worry about not knowing what's on the plan, the CMs were helpful and educated in regards to this.

I'm not a DVC member so I'm not sure if the rules are different, but CM told me I have until 72 hours before check-in to add the DDP.

Hope all this is helpful and good luck with your decision.

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Old 05-08-2009, 02:30 AM   #3
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For us, the dining plan is more about convenience and enjoying vacation than actual savings. Would we eat that much at home? No. We almost never have dessert at home. We eat very healthy at home, but when I am on vacation, I want to be able to eat whatever I want, including dessert twice a day. It is VACATION, after all.

So as far as costs, I can't help you. But I can say that it makes your vacation more magical to order whatever and not worry about how much you have left for food for the rest of the week.

As far as what you can order at particular restaurants, it's pretty much open to whatever is on the menu, with a few exceptions (Cali grill's Yoshi platter can't be an app, but you can get it as your meal).

And for the mickey bars? By all means, have one every day!
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:53 AM   #4
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Let me address your dessert "issue".

At table service restaurants, generally the kid's choice is ice-cream or fruit. So assuming your kid is going to order ice cream at just about every TS meal, this gets boring really fast. However - if you and your wife each order a "cake" item and then use the scoop of ice cream to augment it - the four of you can share two servings of cake and ice cream for dessert which is not as much as four "real" desserts (I assume that at home if you were to have a treat such as cake for dessert - you would each be having your own piece but for whatever reason, Disney only seems to offer the kids make your own ice cream sundaes which consist of one scoop of ice cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles).

At counter service restaurants, kid's pick's don't have to include a traditional dessert like a cookie or pudding - you choose two sides so you could choose carrots and grapes or fries and applesauce - and then share yours and your wife's desserts around the table OR you two could order grapes for your own dessert or a fruit cup (where offered). Personally, I find I tend to have a piece of fruit with my lunch most days so this substition works well (when I choose it - but let me tell you that chocolate cake calls my name most of the time).

I find when ordering steak and a beverage at most table service places, I come close to the daily cost of the plan just by my one meal, add in dessert and I am generally at a break even point so my CS and SN are freebies.
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:02 AM   #5
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We're going with the DxDP this June and are dining at mainly TS restaurants and I think we have 3 or 4 character meals booked. I'm looking at it as convenience - especially with going deluxe. We won't be spending any out of pocket money for food or snacks (the ONLY exception being the tea at the Garden View Lounge). But when we did the regular DP we found that we were still spending another $500 on misc. snacks and stuff, soooooooo, we're now DxDPers and I sure hope I can walk out of WDW on our last day...LOL. It's a LOT of food, but we're also doing several 2 TS restaurants. I'm really looking forward to it!
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:08 AM   #6
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Your math is right on and your conclusions are correct.

Based on what you wrote go for the DDP. Yes it is more food then you usually eat, but you are on vacation. We used the DDP and it is easy to use.

For you and what you wrote go with the plan sounds like a good idea for you.
Plus you will know for future trips if you want to do the plan again.
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:18 AM   #7
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Yea i mean i like the idea of the plan because you know the food cost up front, which it good for me, might not be good for others tho
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