5 Important Reasons to Buy the Disney Dining Plan
The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is a controversial topic among Disney fans. Some vacationers prefer the package while others prefer to pay out of pocket for their meals. Both choices are valid, with plenty of supporting details. When you’re on the fence about the DDP, it’s important to consider both sides. In this discussion, we’ll emphasize the positives. Here are five reasons to buy the Disney Dining Plan.
1) Controlled Cost
When you travel on vacation, your budget only stretches so far. Someone I read on social media recently joked that there’s nothing that causes her a stronger sense of trepidation then when she checks her credit card statement the day after she returns home. It’s a familiar feeling to Disney fans, as we all share that love of park merchandise. Sometimes, we get a bit too carried away while we’re at the Most Magical Place on Earth.
One of the ways to alleviate these fears is by saving money in other ways. Alternately, it’s by paying for parts of your vacation in advance so that you don’t get hit with one big bill all at once. The Disney Dining Plan can help you achieve one or possibly both of those fears. The former consideration will depend on how much you ordinarily spend on your Disney meals. The latter is an inevitable part of the Disney Dining Plan.
When you add the Disney Dining Plan, you gain the ability to pay for your Disney meals in advance. How much is ultimately up to you. Once you add the plan, it gets added to your room total, an amount you can pay down whenever you decide during the months prior to your vacation. It’s akin to a layaway system, only for your vacation meals. And you can save money, especially when you know the best ways to maximize the value of the DDP.
2) Easy Integration with Mobile Ordering
Disney’s Mobile Ordering system has revolutionized food consumption at Walt Disney World (and Disneyland). Under the new program, you can order an entire counter service meal directly from your phone. You get to skip the line and the aggravation that comes with ordering in a crowded line.
Mobile Ordering also ensures that you’ll receive your meal just as you ordered it. Anyone who has ever eaten fast food anywhere on the planet knows that the failure rate on special orders is…substandard. Cast members are much better at getting everything right than your average fast food employee, but mistakes still happen.
Crowded lines mean lots of noise, and a missed word here or there is the difference between the food you want and…the exact opposite of it. “I thought you said you wanted extra onions,” is a phrase I’ve heard a lot over the years even though my onion allergy makes that like extra poison on my plate.
With Mobile Ordering, you remove any confusion. The kitchen receives the precise meal instructions that you send, which means that user error (i.e. you making a mistake) is the only way your meal is wrong. What I’m saying here is that when you eat Quick Service meals, use Mobile Ordering as much as possible.
What does this have to do with the Disney Dining Plan? Disney recently updated the Mobile Ordering app to integrate the dining plan. You can now check off your meal entitlements right there from your phone. In other words, you can order your food on your phone, use your DDP to pay for it, and pick up your food conveniently on your terms. It’s glorious.
3) Alcohol Now Included
Prior to 2018, all booze cost extra under the Disney Dining Plan. Even the most expensive versions of the plan were sadly lacking in margarita options. Thanks to the 2018 upgrades to the DDP, however, I’m happy to say that you can now order a glass of wine or a beer or whatever. Disney listened to the complaints of guests and heard that it was a glaring omission in an otherwise perfect system. Since Disney is passionate about customer service, they updated their program to satisfy more guests. Feel free to pair your entrée with a delicious wine! It’s all part of the plan.
4) Free Drink Mug and Snacks – free beverage refills for two weeks!
So, again, I have no idea how you vacation. You may not be much of a snack enthusiast. You may even bring your own water with you to the parks. If you’re that forward-thinking and strategic, I applaud you.
Personally, I’m a lazy guy with a sweet tooth. When I’m at a Disney theme park, I need lots of beverages to stay hydrated. And I WANT Mickey Ice Cream Bars and Dole Whips and, well, basically anything at Main Street Bakery.
With the dining plan, I don’t have to pay out of pocket for my first two snacks each day. The DDP includes two free snacks per person for each night of your trip. Since my wife is one of those weird, in-shape health enthusiasts (the kind who have abs where their potbellies should be), I get one or two of her snacks every couple of days, too! All of these sugary goodies are my way of rocking my dad bod while she’s staying in shape. Thanks to the DDP, we can have it both ways!
I do have one suggestion for you, though. Cast members know a secret about snack credits on the DDP. Some of them are worth as much as $8, especially when Epcot has an event like the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival happening. Many of the kiosk foods are snack credits!
Conversely, bottled water is kind of a sucker usage of a snack credit. Some cast members will even try to warn you not to burn a credit this way. Instead, you should use a service like Amazon to deliver bottled water to your room and then carry it into the park. Save your DDP snack credits for the sweet, sweet candies available at Walt Disney World!
5) It’s Free (Sometimes)!
Okay, this one isn’t applicable all the time, but it’s significant enough that it still justifies mentioning. Disney sometimes offers special vacation packages that include a free Disney Dining Plan. These packages are among the most likely to sell out, which is why you should use an established Disney travel agency service like Mickey Travels to book your room. Otherwise, you’re likely to get shut out of this deal, costing you hundreds of dollars.
What do you get with free Disney dining? It’s the middle DDP package, the one that includes a Quick Service meal and a Table Service meal each night of your stay. With that plan, you will enjoy a nice balance of counter service offerings coinciding with several delicious meals at Disney’s finest restaurants.
A general rule of thumb is that a Quick Service meal for a family of three costs around $50, while Table Service meals are around $100-$120. Let’s say that you spend four nights at Walt Disney World and receive the free DDP. This package would save your family at least $600! The only catch is that you must stay at a qualifying Disney resort to receive the middle tier of the DDP. Some resorts only receive the Quick-Service Dining Plan, which is two Quick Service meals a day. While that’s fine, the entrée options are limited.