First off, I love the Disney Dining Plan. It allows me to eat at the restaurants that I want to on the schedule that I allocate for my vacation. That being said, it’s a product that you buy from Disney just like anything else…you have to want to use it properly. What does that mean? If you go to DisneyStore.com, would you buy a customizable iPhone case when you have a LG?
Just wanted to start off so that you’ll understand where my motivations are coming from with this topic. The Disney Dining Plan is NOT for everyone! I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head without even breaking a sweat.
Here are 5 Reasons Not to Get the Disney Dining Plan
Reason # 1 – “You don’t save enough money”
Saving is important! You’re on a vacation that will be costing you a lot of money that you’ve spent time saving. But how can you lose at the Disney Dining Plan?
The big issue that comes up is with families, and we 100% agree that if you are going down to Walt Disney World with kids under 10, the Disney Dining Plan may be something you’d want to skip. This is due to the stress that comes with finding a restaurant that would be perfect for everyone in your family.
Are you about to eat at the best locations? If you’re going to do the DDP, you want to ideally book your reservations 180 days out. This means that you definitely don’t want to wait to the last minute to try to get an Advanced Dining Reservation to something like Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table…because you just won’t be able to win!
Tip: If you’re not able to book a minimum of 30 days out, maybe the DDP isn’t the best option for you. You want to be able to eat at one of our Top ADR’s to get ASAP restaurants.
Reason # 2 – “Give up flexibility – must buy for everyone and for every day”
We had this come up during a trip in 2015. We had scheduled two of the seven days at Universal Studios, and thus weren’t going to be on Disney property for a significant portion of our vacation. If it were anyone else, it may have been too much time away from the parks to find ample reservations.
I also had the opportunity to plan a solid meal plan for Jill, which was fun because she’s a vegetarian! Most would recommend that you need to eat Steak every night to make the DDP worth it, but we found that working in a few buffets actually helped the variety for her, as most restaurants provide a limited vegetarian menu.
Families may want to think realistically on how much their kids will eat.
Related Article – Best Restaurants for Vegetarians
Reason # 3 – “Eats up too much time – stuck at all sit-down meals”
Depending on the situation, this could be seen in two different lights. Do you have kids travelling with you? If the answer is yes, then 100% take this into account. BUT, look at the alternative.
Your family has to eat. If you are eating at Quick Service locations, then you’ll be having to find seats for everyone in your party…usually during the busiest times of the day. If you do mid-day naps at the resorts, then maybe plan your lunches to be at the resort and then dinners at the parks after your afternoon relaxing!
If you don’t have kids: This is a completely false claim, as Table Service meals are actually easy to plan into any touring plan. Let’s look at the two most popular Disney Dining Plans; The Quick Service Dining and the Disney Dining Plan.
- Quick Service Dining Plan – two quick service meals and two snacks & 1 refillable mug
This plan actually gives you the most flexibility, without having to plan anything in advance…besides which type of food you actually want to eat. The only Quick Service restaurant that has reservations available is Be Our Guest Lunch, and that’s easy enough to get as long as you’re planning 30+ days out.
- The Disney Dining Plan – 1 Table Service Meal, 1 Quick Service Meal and two snacks & 1 refillable meal
If you plan your day around your Dining reservations, which we recommend, you’re able to purchase a one-park ticket and never have to worry about wasting time at a meal. You’re either doing an Early Lunch (1030-12pm), Late Lunch (2-4pm), an Early Dinner (4-5p) or a Late Dinner (6p-8pm) as your daily Table Service Meal and your Quick Service meal depends on when you’re hungry.
Table Service restaurants are actually some of the best experiences to do at Walt Disney World, as long as you’re planning properly.
Whoever says that you spend all your vacation at Sit-Down meals should see what we accomplished during our Fall 2015 trip (9 Nights):
- ADR’s at Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table (2 credit), Be Our Guest, Captain’s Grille (now the Ale & Compass), Tusker House, Crystal Palace, Planet Hollywood and Whispering Canyon
- QS at Tangerine Cafe, Contempo Cafe, Art of Animation, Rosie’s, Be Our Guest (twice), Pecos Bills, Restaurantosaurus, and Sunshine Seasons.
- 102 hours in the parks, including 59 @ MK, 20 @Epcot, 13@ DAK and 10 @DHS
- Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party, Keys to the Kingdom and 7 Total Extra Magic Hour timeslots.
Not to brag, but the only meal we had to pay out of pocket was $6 at Earl of Sandwich over a 9 night trip! 25k steps a day average…so yea…we were always “STUCK” at sit-down meals;)
Reason # 4 – “Doesn’t cover everything – tips not included”
This is a completely valid concern, as you are paying for a Dining Plan…so why would you have to pay more for tips? Well if you were to go for a meal at a regular restaurant in your hometown, you’d tip if you had a good experience.
We’ve done an article that explains how to Tip the Disney Dining Plan, and one of the tips is that you’re not obligated to tip if the service is poor.
Reason # 5 – “Wasteful – begins arrival day, bound to face unused credits”
You have a number of credits, depending on how many nights in your vacation. On the number of trips that we’ve been on to Walt Disney World, the only credits that I had left over were Snack Credits…and that was planned.
If you plan accordingly with a basic timetable…you shouldn’t have an issue. What would this look like?
Disney Dining Plan Example
Monday – at the Magic Kingdom. Breakfast Cinnamon Roll at Gaston’s, Lunch at Cosmic Rays, Afternoon Dole Whip and Dinner at Crystal Palace.
Quick Service Dining Plan Example
Monday – at EPCOT. Breakfast pastry at France Pavilion Bakery, Lunch at Sunshine Seasons, Afternoon Snack at Mexico Pavilion and Dinner at Tangerine Cafe.
What’s the takeaway from this article
Just like everything in life, you get back what you put in. The Disney Dining Plan is a great value if you want to have fun planning a trip that will be memorable for everyone in your party…but if you’re expecting things to happen just because…then you should definitely not do the DDP and look at paying for your meals individually.
If you want to see the other side? We have The 5 Reasons that you should get the Disney Dining Plan
Still wanting more ideas for experience on your next Disney World vacation? I love sharing more and more content to keep your trip planning juices flowing to build the excitement!