For the first time, we tried the Disney Dining Plan. We had the standard option which gave us 1 snack, 1 table service, and 1 quick service meal per person per day. Because our oldest was 10 and youngest 2 on this trip, by Disney’s definition we had 3 adults, 3 kids, and 1 infant. In theory the kids have to order off the kids menu (Disney usually, but doesn’t always, differentiate), adults from the adult menu, and anything ordered for the infant is extra.
First, some obvious points. This is only beneficial if you actually plan to use table service meals. They will take longer and often require reservations so if you want to maximize your time in the park and/or plan less, you may want the stepped down dining option that is quick service meals only. There’s also a few levels of stepped up options that offer three meals, all table service meals, etc. Overall, though, we felt the standard option was a pretty good compromise.
Second, the way Disney counts “days” maximizes the number of meals you get so you may need to go to a two point table service meal, for example, to actually use all of them. Specifically, we arrived for dinner and left before breakfast – I think this would be pretty typical for a group traveling by air. We also brought/bought breakfast for our room so we only ate two Disney meals per day. This gave us a couple of extra meals. We actually had planned to eat at a number of two point table service restaurants so those were fine. But, we were going to have extra quick service meals. Some of those were used up purchasing a 7th quick service meal for the “infant”. Note: as far as I can tell Disney does not track adult vs kid quick service meals. They do for table service. The others worked out as we ended up with a lunch reservation at Be Our Guest. It turns out to be quick service at lunch, though two table service points at dinner, which worked out great for us. I believe in the end we had to purchase one round of table service and a few quick service meals additionally, which is certainly better than paying for more than you use.
What about those snacks? I knew going in that we’d have extra snacks so we weren’t too careful about using them. We did bring our own water to the parks each day vs use a snack credit for a bottle of water. We used the snack credits for the occasional extra (popcorn, pretzel, etc) or cold beverage (soda, Dole whip, slushies, etc). All that being said, we still had over 30 snacks with two days to go. Thankfully, we had a day at Epcot planned and the Food & Wine Festival was underway. So, we snacked our way through lunch and the rest of our snack credits. However, if this option had not been available I’m not sure how we would have used them up besides buying snack items that could be brought home (entirely unnecessary so I’m glad we could avoid that).
My one issue with the Disney Dining Plan is that every adult meal, and table service kids meals, include dessert. This is entirely unnecessary. Since we had more people than adults we shared to mitigate the problem, but I could have done without desserts all together. I did discover that at Flame Tree BBQ I could get fries or onion rings instead of dessert, and used that option. But, I didn’t come across any other quick service places that offered alternatives.
In summary, I did feel the meal plan was worth it (count your planned meals first to see which plan works for you). For us, breakfast in the hotel room works best. However, its similarly better for us to eat dinner in the parks before leaving (plus we like the table service dinners) vs trying to cook in a condo or eat at a non-Disney restaurant; the kids are just too tired by that point. Yes, I would use this option again.