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Disney Dining Plan – Worth It or Scam?

The Disney Dining Plan can be confusing, with three options to choose from that cover a wide variety of restaurants, snack carts, and dining experiences around the Walt Disney World Resort. It’s also not cheap, adding several hundred dollars to your vacation package total. The big question, of course, is “Is the Disney Dining Plan worth it?”

Here’s how our family came to the decision to buy the Disney Dining Plan, and why we’ll keep buying it – although if you’re on the fence, taking advantage of the Free Dining Plan Promotion is a great way to test drive it!

Pros:

  • Makes budgeting easy. There’s no mental math at the parks, when you’re trying to decide where to go for lunch or whether to get an afternoon snack. For me, it’s much easier to keep track of “Have we eaten lunch today?” than “We spent $49.97 at dinner last night, but we budgeted $40, so we’re $10 over budget….”
  • Desserts are included. Need I say more?!
  • Snacks are included. At home, we avoid snacking. Mostly because with a big family, anything involving food is a production. If I served morning and afternoon snacks as well as three meals per day, I’d never leave the kitchen! I’d also go crazy trying to keep track of the kid who’s eaten nothing but graham crackers for two days. On vacation though, it’s a different story. I don’t worry about nutrition and balanced diets. If we pass a food cart with ice cream or cookies, it’s really nice to be able to say “Sure, why not?” without worrying about the cost.
  • No need to carry cash. Your Key to the World card acts as your meal plan card as well as your room key and park admission ticket. Gratuities are not included on the Disney Dining Plan, but you can charge those to your room using the same card. I feel much more secure knowing that I’m not carrying a credit card or large amounts of cash with me into the parks. If my Key to the World card is lost or stolen, guest services will replace it immediately, unlike the bank which will mail me a new credit card in 5-7 business days. Doesn’t do me much good on vacation!

Cons:

  • Cost. You can eat less expensively on your own, especially if you eat several meals in your room or count snacks as meals. (Some of the snack options at the Walt Disney World resort are certainly as big as a small meal!)
  • Amount of food. I’ve heard people object to the Disney Dining Plan because you do get a lot of food. I don’t see this as a big deal, personally. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean I have to eat it. I’d rather have more than enough than leave a meal hungry. You can always take leftovers back to your room for a late-night snack!
  • Limited dining options. Not really. Most restaurants at the Walt Disney World resort accept the Disney Dining Plan. The major exception are restaurants at Downtown Disney.

It really all comes down to what’s important to you on vacation. For me, simplicity of budgeting and the luxury of knowing everything is taken care of is worth it. What about you – do you consider the Disney Dining Plan an essential part of your vacation, or do the cons outweigh the pros for you?