Just a heads up that Disney updated the 2014 Dining Plan brochures on its website today: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/disney-dining-plan/ including a list of restaurants that accept the Plans in 2014. Look for the PDF files on the right side. The website has an overview of the various Dining Plans and an article on Figuring Out If One of the Disney Dining Plans Makes Sense For Your Group.
I am not a big Dining Plan proponent.
- The Dining Plans are expensive – $59 per night for adults and $19 per night for kids ages 3 to 9 for the regular plan. It’s only possible to come out “ahead” if you plan to eat at the most expensive single credit restaurants and order the most expensive entrees and desserts at each restaurant. It’s virtually impossible to come out ahead on the $40/night quick service plan, particularly with Disney only serving the more expensive entrees beginning at 4pm. Quick service desserts might add $4.50 to the “value” of a quick service meal, but they’re largely mass produced, dense, flavorless gut bombs.
- The Dining Plan is less convenient than paying with cash or a credit card, particularly with the new MagicBand scanners that don’t always work and are in short supply at many restaurants. Pay with your credit card and dine when you want, where you want without having to think about how many credits you have left.
- It forces users to pre-pay for their meals and ties them to Disney property. Disney management will tell you straight up that MyMagic+ is designed to keep guests on Disney property. The Dining Plan was the precursor. Have credits? Use them on property or lose them.
- The Dining Plan forces users to eat in a specific way according to the structure of the plan. One quick service, one table service, and one snack per day, for example. You can use them in any order, but be careful – two credit meals are always less of a value compared to two of the more expensive single credit restaurants.
- Light eaters are paying an awful lot of money to eat a little food. Disney charges full price for everyone over the age of nine.
- Paying more for the Dining Plan than you’d pay out of pocket isn’t helping anyone’s budget. Don’t fall for the “We’ve already paid for it, now we can go enjoy it” trap. It’s just as easy to pull out your credit card, close your eyes, and sign the bill at the end of every meal than it is to to watch the same amount of money deducted from your checking account at the end of the month. Trust me. I do it several times a week.
Most of the positive reviews of the Dining Plan come from people that received it complimentary as part of a full price package. Relatively few people that pay full price for the Dining Plan elect to pay full price for the Dining Plan again. There was a time when it was a great value, but Disney has taken away the second snack in recent years and has not covered the tip or appetizer for many years before that.
It is possible to save a bit of money if you plan out dining at the most expensive restaurants and everyone is on board with ordering the most expensive items at each single credit restaurant. It’s also possible to save money if you have two kids between the ages of 3 and 9 and eat at a lot of character buffets. But more often than not, going to all that trouble detracts from the overall experience instead of enhancing it.