As anyone reading this will know, a trip to Walt Disney World is never an inexpensive proposition. With the value of the pound falling over the last few years this is especially true for those of us visiting from the UK. Disney have typically offered their Disney Dining Plans for free to UK guests to entice us to stay onsite, but what if you actually pay for a plan? Is there any value to be had in actually purchasing a Disney Dining Plan? To find out (and hopefully save some money) I purchased the Quick Service Dining Plan on my recent November 2018 trip to Walt Disney World. In this post I’ll cover what the plan offers, whether I saved any money, and some more analysis of the plan with some final conclusions.
The Quick Service Dining Plan is the cheapest of the three payable plans offered to guests staying onsite at Walt Disney World. When purchased, each guest will receive the following for each night of their stay:
- 2 quick service meals per day – each meal consists of an entree and a non-alcoholic or alcoholic (21+) beverage.
- 2 snacks per day
Each guest also gets a refillable mug to use at their resort for the length of stay.
The credits are allocated on a per night basis, but they can be used freely throughout your trip. This means they are valid from your check in day until midnight on check out day. In addition you can use as many of your credits in one day as you wish – perfect for those attending events such as the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
Finally, there are some other options to make the credits even more flexible. For example, it is possible to exchange 1 quick service meal for 3 snacks. This again is perfect for events such as Food and Wine, but note that the exchange needs to be made for all 3 snacks at the same location and at the same time. Some locations will also let you swap the drink included with a meal for a dessert. This is mostly true in resort food courts where cast members recognise most guests already have a refillable mug and as such are happy to make the exchange.
This post isn’t going to look at the other dining plans that are available. For more information on these please see Disney’s website:
Value for money
This is the bit with all of the maths.
To add on the dining plan I was quoted a total of £370 for 10 nights by my travel agent (Attraction Tickets Direct).
The total cost for the food I ate on the dining plan (inclusive of tax where applicable) was:
- Quick service meals – $379
- Snacks – $121
- Refillable Mug – $20
- Total – $520
The dollar to sterling rate when I travelled in November was around $1.27/£1, which means the total of $520 above becomes £409 – a saving of £39.
This doesn’t quite tell the whole story though so lets delve into the detail a bit.
Before I look at the practical side of how I used the plan, lets stick with the numbers and look at how the average price per meal compares at each of the places I ate.
The prices very pretty wildly, ranging from nearly $30 at Satu’li Canteen in Animal Kingdom down to less than half that at just over $14 at Starbucks. The latter was actually trading in 3 snack credits to use up a quick service credit on my last day – anecdotal evidence that doing this switch at Starbucks won’t be a terribly great value.
There’s a few reasons why Satu’li Canteen is so high compared to everything else. Firstly the entrees at this restaurant are a few dollars more than you’ll typically find elsewhere. Secondly, this is one of the few occasions on the trip where I had a beer with my meal. This, and Be Our Guest which is higher priced for similar reasons, show the probably obvious conclusion that if you like to have alcohol with your meals you’re going to find better value in the dining plan. The lowest priced meals came at places like Intermission Food Court (at All Star Music) and Pinocchio Village Haus where I had basic food like chicken nuggets and chips with a soft drink. If these are your meals of choice it’s going to be more difficult to get value out of this plan.
The snack situation isn’t quite as exciting. My most expensive snack was $8, found at the Italy pavilion for Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays. The least expensive was a muffin I had for breakfast at $3.49. Most of the snacks though – things like Mickey bars, dole whips – averaged between $5 and $6 before tax. To get your money’s worth out of the plan I’d aim to buy snacks that are at least in that range – $2 bananas are not your financial friend.
Practically, I think you really need to think about this plan before purchasing it. Eagle eyed readers may have noticed I was staying for 10 nights but there’s only 14 places in the chart above. If you didn’t notice I bet you just double checked it now. I was actually on holiday with my mum and step dad for a few days of this trip and decided to share a few of my credits with them to cover some of the more expensive meals (Be Our Guest and Wolfgang Puck Express) as well as covering an additional meal we had (Pinocchio’s Village Haus).
If I hadn’t done this I would have really struggled to use all the credits. This is a lot of food, and if you’re planning on doing any sit down meals at all I think you’ll also struggle to get through the credits without either half eating lots of meals or doing a massive snack run on your last day.
Another consideration is the slight mental effect the dining plan can have on your holiday. At times I found myself picking more expensive meals to try and “justify” paying for the plan. On the other hand though there is piece of mind in knowing that pretty much all of your meals have been paid for.
If someone was to ask me if I recommend paying for the quick service dining plan, my response would unhelpfully start with “it depends”. For me the plan is good value if:
- You enjoy alcohol with the majority of your meals.
- You like having piece of mind that your food is paid for before travelling.
- You seek out the most expensive or more unique snacks and quick service meals.
The plan is probably not for you if you don’t agree with any of the above statements, and:
- You don’t like the stress of tracking dining credits on holiday.
- You are planning to have a few table service meals. If you’re planning several of these consider upgrading to one of the more expensive plans.
- You are planning on spending a lot of time offsite. The credits are only usable (obviously) at Disney World, so the more meals you eat out of the bubble the more credits you may find yourself left over with.
That sums up my experience with the Quick Service Disney Dining Plan. I hope you’ve found it useful in planning your upcoming trip or just found it an enjoyable read around Disney Maths.