Free dining survey

disneysteve

DIS meet junkie
Joined
Sep 29, 2002
Can you tell me the last time the room discount at a moderate or value for a family of 3 ages 11 and older was a better deal than the free dining? I personally don’t it ever has been because the room discount would need to be more than $156 a night.
You need to look at the cost of a package with "free" dining vs. the cost of just booking a room and paying as you go for your food. Are you actually saving money by having the dining plan? In some cases you might be, but not nearly as often as a lot of people think.
 

rteetz

Rumors and News Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2013
Can you tell me the last time the room discount at a moderate or value for a family of 3 ages 11 and older was a better deal than the free dining? I personally don’t it ever has been because the room discount would need to be more than $156 a night.
All I’m saying is it’s best to do the math and research on your own to find what is best for you. I’ve personally never gone during the free dining window.
 

tguz

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 6, 2018
You need to look at the cost of a package with "free" dining vs. the cost of just booking a room and paying as you go for your food. Are you actually saving money by having the dining plan? In some cases you might be, but not nearly as often as a lot of people think.
I’ve compared costs with free dining and without free dining and for a value and moderate it’s better to take the free dining. No doubt about it if have a party of 3 all over the age of 11. I guess you could do something rediculous and not buy a single snack and buy only 1 meal at lunch n dinner and split it 3 ways to save money but that isn’t the norm at Disney. It’s a different story if the question is....Is it worth it to BUY the dining plan? But if it’s free, it’s the better deal at a value or moderate and a party of 3.
 
  • disneysteve

    DIS meet junkie
    Joined
    Sep 29, 2002
    I’ve compared costs with free dining and without free dining and for a value and moderate it’s better to take the free dining. No doubt about it if have a party of 3 all over the age of 11. I guess you could do something rediculous and not buy a single snack and buy only 1 meal at lunch n dinner and split it 3 ways to save money but that isn’t the norm at Disney. It’s a different story if the question is....Is it worth it to BUY the dining plan? But if it’s free, it’s the better deal at a value or moderate and a party of 3.
    And that's why everyone should run the numbers. Sometimes free dining is cheaper. Sometimes it isn't.
     

    tguz

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 6, 2018
    If you’re happy with quick service and you’re content staying at a Value resort, and you’ve booked a standard room, FD is almost always going to be the best deal.

    The thing to consider is that some people book through Priceline/Hotwire/Orbitz etc...and get pretty steep discounts, even at Values. They buy discounted tickets without Hoppers and prefer to not have a package. They also might prefer to not eat so much.

    I know that my family of four can easily eat for under $100 per day. We typically don't buy Pop and prefer to drink ice water. We also like to share meals and happily enjoy kids meals sometimes as well.

    So if you factor all that in, it can be cheaper not to go with fd.
    The math works for moderate hotels also. I don’t know about priceline and hotwire as that wasn’t part of the initial question. The discussion was basically centered around free dining or room discount. I’m glad your family can eat cheaply but I’d rather take the free dining and save a lot over the room discount and everyone can eat what they want and not have “how much is that costing” bouncing around in my head.
     

    disneyholic family

    disney on my mind....
    Joined
    Jan 31, 2002
    I always use free dining as a way to get character dining at every one of my sit down meals (I have young kids). If we weren't doing character meals, I would never use a dining plan.
    yes, if you're going to do a lot of character meals, the dining plan is the way to go, free or otherwise...
    those meals cost four arms and five legs out of pocket...

    .
     

    piccolopat

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2014
    We've never done the dining plan, free or otherwise. This is because although I always plan ADRs in advance, we aren't always that hungry. Sometimes we'll opt for an appetizer and a salad instead of a lunch. Sometimes we'll just have an entrée for dinner and nothing else. We keep the ADRs because we like the reprieve from the heat and enjoy sitting in the A/C for a while. With the dining plan, we'd always be thinking about the stuff we "should" eat to get the value out of the plan. I always wondered how many families would have less ADRs if they paid cash instead of being on a dining plan, especially with all of the posts about picky eaters and what kinds of accommodations they can find at certain restaurants.
     
  • TheMaxRebo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2008
    I’ve compared costs with free dining and without free dining and for a value and moderate it’s better to take the free dining. No doubt about it if have a party of 3 all over the age of 11. I guess you could do something rediculous and not buy a single snack and buy only 1 meal at lunch n dinner and split it 3 ways to save money but that isn’t the norm at Disney. It’s a different story if the question is....Is it worth it to BUY the dining plan? But if it’s free, it’s the better deal at a value or moderate and a party of 3.
    There are usually there are other requirements too - like having tickets of a certain length and having park hoppers (which if you weren't planning on getting, then is an extra cost you have to include as well) and is usually for certain room categories so might have to upgrade to a preferred room, again, and extra cost to include. I do think that for the value and moderates if you were planning on having the QS dining plan and/or eating similar to the QS dining plan and have more than like 1 person it basically always will work out cheaper to get the Free Dining promotion if offered for when you are going

    The value of the dining plan in general I think is a bigger debate, and centers much more about how you would dine anyway (would you get what is included as the meal is laid out? Do a lot of buffet/pay one price things?). If you would do what is covered by the plan anyway, then it can work out to save money. But if it would change what you would get, then the value diminishes - I find it to be too restrictive as sometimes we might want to just get appetizers, or share an entree, etc. We also generally just drink water with meals, so having a beverage included doesn't save us any $ and we don't drink soda so the refillable mug has minimal value to us.

    For those that want the convenience or prepaying and giving that "all inclusive" feel I think that is added emotional value to getting the plan, but we aren't like that. The one time we did get it to try it I found I was wanting to order the most expensive item on the menu just to get the most "value" whether that was what I wanted or not. I know others have a very different take on/response to it
     

    TheMaxRebo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2008
    We've never done the dining plan, free or otherwise. This is because although I always plan ADRs in advance, we aren't always that hungry. Sometimes we'll opt for an appetizer and a salad instead of a lunch. Sometimes we'll just have an entrée for dinner and nothing else. We keep the ADRs because we like the reprieve from the heat and enjoy sitting in the A/C for a while. With the dining plan, we'd always be thinking about the stuff we "should" eat to get the value out of the plan. I always wondered how many families would have less ADRs if they paid cash instead of being on a dining plan, especially with all of the posts about picky eaters and what kinds of accommodations they can find at certain restaurants.
    we are the same - sometimes just getting appetizers or share an entree or something. To get the best value out of the dining plan you would need to eat how it is laid out whether you have the plan or not - and we typically don't do that, so isn't for us. For those that love it, great for them, but definitely not universally good or bad to get
     

    disneysteve

    DIS meet junkie
    Joined
    Sep 29, 2002
    The value of the dining plan in general I think is a bigger debate, and centers much more about how you would dine anyway
    Exactly. The real question isn't which is cheaper: free dining or room-only and paying for DDP? It's which is cheaper: free dining or room-only and paying out of pocket for meals?

    The dining plan generally doesn't save you money. It's about convenience. Some people are willing to pay for that; others aren't.

    We don't eat nearly enough to make the dining plan worth it. And we don't spend anywhere near what the dining plan costs if you are paying for it. We also like to eat at a number of places offsite so not all of our meals are eaten on Disney property no matter where we are staying. And we often have APs so we couldn't book a package that included tickets.

    There are so many factors that go into deciding which is the best way to go for your group for any particular visit. There's no right or wrong answer. Ultimately, you need to crunch the numbers and figure out what makes the most sense for your circumstances, and that may even vary from trip to trip.
     
  • wendlle

    Aussie Wendy
    Joined
    Jan 7, 2014
    We had always chose the FD discount and it worked out so much better for us that paying OOP for our food. We came out hundreds and close to thousands ahead.
    BUT that was when we stayed at Value resorts, now we have two small kids, we don't want the crush of people you feel like you get at Values. I wanted Deluxe resorts, so for this trip we are renting points and paying OOP for food. Renting DVC points was so much cheaper than any deal we could get thru Disney if we wanted to stay at the top level resorts.

    I also feel like FD has "cheapened" the food. The quality isn't there that used to be IMO.
     

    Gehrig1B

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 15, 2016
    I fully understand that rarely is the DDP worth getting under any circumstances...

    While I agree with many of the anti-DDP sentiments offered in this thread the one I disagree with is the idea that the DDP somehow provides "convenience". What could be more convenient than having a seat, ordering exactly what you want from the menu, then paying for it? That is much more "convenient" than trying to figure out what I can and cannot order based upon some plan and how to maximize the value as well!
     

    TheMaxRebo

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 12, 2008
    I fully understand that rarely is the DDP worth getting under any circumstances...

    While I agree with many of the anti-DDP sentiments offered in this thread the one I disagree with is the idea that the DDP somehow provides "convenience". What could be more convenient than having a seat, ordering exactly what you want from the menu, then paying for it? That is much more "convenient" than trying to figure out what I can and cannot order based upon some plan and how to maximize the value as well!
    Maybe “convenience” isn’t the exact proper word - but it is the idea that everything is prepaid and you don’t have to worry about having the money at the time of service and this don’t have to look at the per item charge. Also, if you have older kids that can go off by themsleves you know they have meals take care of. Also I read stories where one partner in a couple stresses about money and won’t order the more expensive items on the menu but when on the DDP they don’t really think about that since they know anything is covered. It’s that “all inclusive” sort of feeling

    So maybe “ease” or “less stress” would be better terms to use
     

    Gehrig1B

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 15, 2016
    one partner in a couple stresses about money and won’t order the more expensive items on the menu but when on the DDP they don’t really think about that since they know anything is covered. It’s that “all inclusive” sort of feeling
    For these folks, I always suggest "pre-paying" by putting the cost of the DDP on a Disney gift card (with tax and tip added) then use the gift card to pay! But I get what you are saying.
     

    Disneylover99

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 17, 2012
    The math works for moderate hotels also. I don’t know about priceline and hotwire as that wasn’t part of the initial question. The discussion was basically centered around free dining or room discount. I’m glad your family can eat cheaply but I’d rather take the free dining and save a lot over the room discount and everyone can eat what they want and not have “how much is that costing” bouncing around in my head.
    I love free dining. I really do. We take advantage of it as often as we can. We’ve had it at least once a year for several years now. But we’ve also done several none free dining trips and paid for food oop without buying the ddp. When we’ve done those trips, we’ve ordered what we want without trying to be cheap. It’s only after the trips that we’ve realized how much we actually spend on food, and for us, it’s not as much as we thought.

    You were wondering how it could be possible that FD is not the best deal. It is the best deal, most of the time. I was just saying that if you do eat a particular way and take advantage of room and ticket savings, instead of FD, it is possible that a family of 3 could come out ahead by not taking advantage of FD.
     

    Disneylover99

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 17, 2012
    While the free dining promotion started out as a way to fill rooms, I think it’s turned into a huge money maker for Disney and I don’t see it going away at all. I’m sure it will continue to change, but never go away.

    It keeps people on property and spending all their money at Disney. People are paying rack rate on expensive room categories that they wouldn’t always be able to move at those high price points. Because it’s “free” people splurge and pay oop for several more restaurants as well. Purse strings loosen up. You want that souvenir? Ooh, let’s book that dessert party! Sure! Why not! We just saved a bundle with free dining. I bet most families end up spending way more then they anticipated. People are happy, content and raving about what a good deal they got. They want to go back year after year. They tell all their friends.

    Yes, some people work those credits to maximize free dining and it is a huge savings for them. But many people do not. Many people will leave without using multiple dining credits, but they are not worried about it, because in their minds they didn’t pay for it. In that respect, it’s a win for the consumer and a win for Disney.
     

    disneysteve

    DIS meet junkie
    Joined
    Sep 29, 2002
    Maybe “convenience” isn’t the exact proper word - but it is the idea that everything is prepaid and you don’t have to worry about having the money at the time of service and this don’t have to look at the per item charge.
    Exactly. Convenience in the sense that it's prepaid and done so you don't have to worry about who is ordering what and how much it's going to cost.

    Personally, I'd much rather pay as we go because I know we will spend less money that way. My wife is the type to decide what to order based on price, though, so having the dining plan would make her more comfortable just ordering whatever she wanted. The gift card idea wouldn't work because she'd still know that that's our money on the card so she'd still go for the frugal options.

    It's just like when we cruise. We haven't taken the drink package but my wife avoids getting a 2nd drink that she would get if we had a drink card even though it's way cheaper to buy 2 drinks than to pay the daily cost of the drink package which requires 4-5 drinks/day to break even.
     

    GAN

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jul 18, 2005
    I planned a somewhat last minute road trip with my oldest daughter for the week of 4/14 on our DVC and looked into the Quick-Service Plan. And no way could I eat 2-TS meals a day for a week on the other plan! I really couldn't make it work for us -even considering snack credits at F&G booths it seemed like we would breakeven or maybe a little better. But at the cost of committing to Counter Service for the week ...and there are a couple Table Services places we're interested in. Beyond that, I don't want to eat just because I paid for it ..a lot of times, I eat just one meal a day with quick breakfast in the room and a couple (healthier, or not) snacks throughout the day. I think it would be hard for me to spend $40, never mind $50, on QS Meals/Snacks in a day.
     

    disneysteve

    DIS meet junkie
    Joined
    Sep 29, 2002
    I think it would be hard for me to spend $40, never mind $50, on QS Meals/Snacks in a day.
    Same here. We average about $30/person/day for food and drink when we're at Disney but as I said, we do eat numerous meals offsite. There are places we enjoy going in the area like Sweet Tomatoes and Flipper's and Bruno's. Plus if we have a non-park day, we'll often do offsite activities and eat while we're out and about.
     
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