5 Reasons Not to Buy the Disney Dining Plan
Even as a strong proponent of the Disney Dining Plan (DDP), I understand that it doesn’t work for everyone. While Disney offers several variations of the DDP to appeal to as many customers as possible, it has natural limitations. One size never truly fits all. Here are a few reasons not to buy the Disney Dining Plan.
Costs Too Much
During certain times of the year, the Disney dining plan is free. These packages frequently sell out due to their unsurprising popularity. The rest of the time, the DDP comes at a high price. At the time of publication, the Quick Service version costs $52.49 while the regular one is $75.49 per person per night. A couple traveling to Walt Disney World must pay $151 each day to get the benefits of the DDP.
Two diametrically opposed groups find these numbers frustrating. Irregular Disney visitors feel a bit of sticker shock when they see that cost. A lot of mid-range table restaurants in the United States cost roughly $25 per person, while fast food eateries are generally $10 or less. That’s $70 per couple on a regular day. Disney is more than twice that amount. I’m a devout believer that you get what you pay for during a Disney vacation, but the price of the dining plan still surprises some people.
The other group that frets over the cost is the core Disney travel group. These veterans have visited Walt Disney World more than Target and Wal-Mart combined. They know all the tips and tricks to cut corners and save money during a vacation. The DDP isn’t ideal for them, as it’s a generic dining solution. They need more nuance with their meal selections and don’t want to pay more for it.
This point ties into the second group above. Savvy Disney vacationers understand that there are several ways to receive discounts. Annual pass holders are the most prominent example, but park pros know a lot of tips and tricks. There’s no substitute for experience, which is why you should ask a MickeyTravels agent to schedule your vacations. They know all of these tips and tricks.
The problem when you vacation on the Disney Dining Plan is that your big savings strategies get negated. Your meals are already included in the package, and you don’t pay for each one per se. Instead, Disney gives you special entitlements, credits that you exchange for your meals.
One Quick Service credit is worth one Quick Service meal, and one Table Service credit is one worth one Table Service meal. It’s a solid system for everyone who wants a simple system in place. You swipe your Magic Band at the restaurant, your server brings you the food, and the system automatically subtracts an entitlement from your dining plan. It’s truly seamless as a process…unless you have the ability to save money on some of your meals.
When you’re an annual pass owner eating at a place that offers a 20 percent discount for such customers, you’d rather not waste the entitlement. Your meal is already cheaper than usual. You don’t get that choice, though. It’s one entitlement for one meal. Period. So, it’s a finite system that limits more creative Disney vacationers.
Too Much Food
This complaint is the one that anti-DDP Disney fans use the most. They say that the sheer volume of the food available on the Disney Dining Plan each day is more than a healthy person should eat. I take issue with this assertion, but this article must give balance to the negative side of the argument.
When you have the standard DDP, you get one Quick Service and one Table Service meal each day. You get two snacks per day, too. The Quick Service meal is an entrée or a combo plus a beverage. Table Service meals are the same for breakfast. During lunch and dinner, you get dessert, too, and that’s where the food issue becomes problematic.
Let’s say that you’re a party of four traveling on the dining plan. Your Table Service meal will include a sizable entrée, as Disney’s not shy on the portions. Then, you’ll finish the meal with dessert. Your table winds up with four different desserts, many of which are large enough to be shareable. It IS a lot of food.
Now, you’re burning a ton of calories walking around the parks each day, which means it’s not unhealthy. It may be a bigger meal than you want, though, and then the snack system is odd. Some Epcot festival events exchange full entrees for snack credits.
Not a Drinker
Disney recently raised the base rates of the Disney Dining Plan. They did so in exchange for adding a new feature. As of 2018, guests can use the DDP to get adult beverages. Since Disney pays more for beer and wine than fountain soda and lemonade, they increased the dining plan cost in tandem. The Quick Service version went up by $4.30 while the standard DDP is $6.14 more than 2017.
For drinkers, the price increase is not just fine. It’s a tremendous value, as most Disney beers and wines cost more than $6.14 on their own. For teetotalers, however, it’s a cost increase of nine percent that adds nothing useful to the plan. If you’re not a drinker, the DDP costs more than ever before, but the reason for the price hike isn’t something that applies to your meals. And that’s an understandable frustration.
Here’s the one that aggravates my family the most. Disney has created meal tiers on the dining plan. When you’re staying five nights, you get five Table Service entitlements and five Quick Service entitlements. What happens if you don’t schedule five of each? The pricing gets entirely out of whack.
Table Service meals cost more for you, and they cost more for Disney. Ergo, the company charges more for them. That’s why the regular plan costs so much more than the Quick Service version. You may prefer Quick Service meals, though.
Disney’s new Mobile Ordering system isn’t available for Table Service restaurants yet, making counter service meals exponentially more efficient. Also, sit-down lunches and dinners tend to take longer, as much as an hour more in my experience. You may not want to spend the time on five lengthy meals, but you’re paying for them anyway under the DDP.
Alternately, you may be like me. You might prefer the Table Service restaurants anyway, appreciating these opportunities to get off your feet and regroup after a hectic few hours in the park. If so, Quick Service entitlements are less appealing. You’d rather have a meal plan that caters more to the full dining experience rather than one that balances counter and sit-down service equally. The problem is that the standard DDP limits you to one such meal per day.
My family has a solution, one I’ll discuss in detail at a later date. We get the Deluxe Dining Plan instead, but that idea’s not for everyone…or most people, really. And that’s the major con about entitlement balance on the Disney Dining Plan. The current implementation is too restrictive. Guests cannot request the number of Table Service or Quick Service meals that they want. Instead, Disney chooses for you, and that’s less than ideal.
Overall, I believe that the DDP is well worth your time and money. All of the reasons above validate the opposite opinion, though. For some people, the DDP just doesn’t make enough sense.