The summer before my September 2010 trip Disney was offering a great deal. “Free Dining Plan” they said. Awesome! Except I wasn’t eligible. Or so I thought! When I first booked my trip the cast member signed me up the deluxe dining plan.
In case you’ve never heard of the deluxe dining plan the rules for it go a little something like this: 3 meal credits a day and 2 snack credits a day per person per night of your vacation. Meaning for my 7 day 6 night Disney vacation I was able to have 18 meal credits and 12 snack credits.
After I had already paid full price (At the time this was $72 per person per day) for the plan I went online and saw that you could still get free dining on regular dining plan or you could get deluxe dining for a way reduced rate. I called Disney a second later and got my $500 off my dining… I know. It’s awesome!
So how did I like the dining plan you ask? (Ok maybe you didn’t ask but I am answering) I personally LOVED it. But I also see why it gets mixed reviews. Let me tell you what I loved about deluxe dining and then you can make up your own mind.
What I loved most about it is I didn’t have to think about or budget out food for my trip. It was already paid for! I could just walk into any (eligible) restaurant I wanted, sit down and enjoy the food. Ok truth be told I found myself the weeks before my trip being a total ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) freak and trying to plan everything out perfect. But once I got to Disney I just went with the flow and ate where I wanted.
I also got to try places that I would have overlooked. For example me and my best friend decided to would be great fun to use a dining credit at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary. I would never have wanted to pay the $36 out of pocket. But a dining cred?! Sure. Why not?
Having the dining plan also made it so I could go to restaurants that I couldn’t afford to go to otherwise. I was able to go to 3 different Signature (read: expensive) dining restaurants and 2 of those I went to twice! For me being able to go to Citricos and California Grill twice in one trip made the deluxe dining plan completely worth it! Most signature places are 2 credits off the dining plan but that’s not too much to ask.
Now a word of caution: Not every part of my meal was paid for. If I wanted alcohol (and I did) that came out of my own pocket. Also tips were out of my own pocket. So even though I would go to a restaurant and get over $100 worth of food and pay nothing I would still have to tip according what I would’ve paid. And let me tell you tips add up quick! So even though most of my food was paid for when you add up tips and alcohol I probably spent as much as I saved. (Contrary wise if I hadn’t had the dining plan I would’ve had to spend twice as much.)
Anyone paying attention will have noticed that I said the meal plan comes with snack. They would also notice that I did not mention snacks. This is because with all of the regular food I couldn’t find room in my stomach for snacks! But a smart planner might use the snacks as breakfast and use the meals for lunch and dinner. The other way snacks help is one snack credit is a bottle of water which you need in September in Florida.
In any case that was my experience with the dining plan. As of this post I am fairly certain there are no free dining deals floating around so if you do decide to go for deluxe dining it will cost you $79 per person per day. However if it helps your decision $79 will barely pay for one diner at California Grill! Happy dining!
- Disney Dining Plan or Deluxe Disney Dining Plan… Which To Choose? (chipandco.com)
- Deluxe Dining, More than a Meal (chipandco.com)