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. Pros: 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. Cons: 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!