I thought this was super interesting…
So one one of my most recent trips, because we were going to be there for 4 full days but only 3 nights we figured that we would forgo the dining plan and see how it all worked out money-wise if we just paid out of pocket. I had been curious about this for a while and we knew even if we did the dining plan we’d be paying for at least a day of meals out of pocket anyhow.
I always save all of our receipts and I did the math… very intense math for someone who does not fully understand this language of numbers… lol…. and I accounted for everything from refill mugs to alcohol to how we would have allotted our credits realistically and most affordably.
Here’s the breakdown:
Dining for me and the hubby (our party was just us two adults), eating when/where we felt like it (we had reservations at 1900 Park Fare, California Grill, Kona, and O’Hana during our trip and eat 3 meals a day) and paying completely out of pocket (we actually charged everything to our room and then settled up at the end) =$550.79
If we had gone with the Basic Dining Plan and accounted for the cost of the DDP plus the alcohol that wouldn’t have been included, plus the refill mugs, plus the meals for our 3rd and 4th day that we would have had to pay for OOP our total would’ve =$625.32
And if we had gone with the Deluxe Dining Plan and included the drinks and last day of meals to account for running out of credits our total would’ve =$657.44
I was very surprised at the result! Really we would’ve saved NO money using Disney Dining Plan?! We actually saved a bit by NOT using it!! I thought I would have come out having been able to save like $40-50 per person if we’d used DDP not the opposite. And to be honest, that would have been negligible as well.
It reminded me of our first trip in 2006 going and just charging everything to the Key to the World and really feeling the all-inclusiveness. We had set aside $500 for meals beforehand so it was no big deal as far as budgeting goes but really I think the bang for your buck has gotten lost over the last 4 years on the DDP. The biggest thing I don’t like is tips not being included anymore. Don’t get me wrong I am an excellent tipper BUT the all-inclusiveness of the DDP is lost when you are pulling out your wallet to leave cash behind. And with the added QS and Deluxe plans it seems like the more options have not been anything that helps us with our eating habits. We went in 2008 during Free Dining and just upgraded to Deluxe but had to pay for a few things out of pocket as well because the Wine & Dine option is just not affordable for us although we like a drink or two at lunch and dinner. It would work so much better for us if the DDP allotments went by the number of days or park tickets you had or something because we always stay late our departure day, or if you could swap out dessert for a cocktail or something more flexible.
In any case, I liked our new way of dining and will probably stick with it in the future unless the dining plan changes in the next couple years. I urge anyone to do the same your next trip, save your receipts so you can do the math and make sure you are making the right choices for you and your family. I suspect that in some cases you may find the opposite true (that paying out of pocket is not the deal and you will save on DDP). Nonetheless, you have to figure it all out, which can be tedious, as you would have to account for what you would get in DDP credits, plus things like alcohol or refill mugs that may or may not be part of your dining plan.
Good luck and happy planning!