In 2011 and 2012, we were lucky enough to not only go on trips to Walt Disney World, but also to do it with a free dining plan each time. We’re now gearing up for (hopefully) booking one last Disney World vacation before taking a few years off from Disney trips. Not that I want to, of course, but they’re pretty expensive, and we wanted just one more chance to go back before we were the parents of three children who were all “adults” according to Disney prices.
The problem with our upcoming reservations is that the rumor mill seems to indicate that we probably won’t be able to score a free dining plan at the time of year that we’ll have to go this time. We’re still hoping for some deals that will offset the cost, but after two years of using the Disney Dining Plan, we’re willing to splurge to use it again because we love using Disney’s Dining Plan!
Now, before I get anyone telling me that the vacation is much cheaper without the dining plan:
Yes, I know. It is a splurge. Of course, we got it free for two years, so that wasn’t much of a splurge. “Please – don’t make me eat free food.” But, we’re hoping that with the deals we’ve heard as a rumor on some message boards that we will still be able to get the plan at a reduced price.
Trying New Foods
On both the quick service plan and the standard plan (which includes one quick service meal a day and one table service meal a day), you can find unique restaurants and foods to try. I especially like the standard plan because you can go to the various buffet restaurants, and most are filled with not only standard buffet foods, but also with unique or exotic options.
My family was able to try many foods that we had heard of before but have never had a chance to taste, all alongside things like macaroni and cheese. (Seriously though – Disney World has the best macaroni and cheese.)
Food is Paid for Before You Go
Sure, this doesn’t work if you paid for your trip with a credit card and haven’t paid the trip off yet. We were blessed to be able to completely pay for our trips the last two years prior to arriving in Disney World. That meant that I didn’t have to feel like being ill every time we ate a meal at a park or one of the resort hotels. With five people in our family, it gets pricey.
On our last trip, we had a one day stay at our resort before our second reservation started that included our park tickets and free dining. This meant a full day of paying for all of our meals. I was so relieved once our dining plan kicked in!
Even if we could save money by getting less food and not using a dining plan, I don’t know that I could mentally deal with having to pay for each meal as we had it.
Always Plenty to Eat
As I said, when we went in 2011 and 2012, we had the standard Disney Dining Plan. This included a refillable mug to use in our resort (well, the second year it did) per person, and then each day, each person got one snack, one quick service meal, and one table service meal. We typically used our snack credit at breakfast time for things like muffins, chocolate croissants, or cinnamon rolls. We changed up if we used our table service meal for lunch or for dinner (and even twice used it for breakfast).
Each year, we had more than we needed to eat and pretty much were able to use things like snack credits for any extras we wanted. This meant that we rarely had any food costs outside of our dining plan.
Easy Access to Characters
Again, this just applies to the standard dining plan. However, with the standard plan’s one table service meal per day, you’re able to book reservations at restaurants that have character meals. Both years, the majority of the characters that we saw (and got autographs from) were during character meals.
Don’t despair though, there are lots of opportunities to meet characters in the parks without table service meals. You just have to be prepared to wait in lines, rather than having characters come right to your table.
Note: Some character meals actually use two table service credits. We splurged with our credits this past year and had a breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, which is the small restaurant in the castle that features several princesses.
It’s Becomes Part of the Experience
With things like character meals and various themed restaurants, the dining experience becomes part of the larger Disney magical experience. We just love that!
We Get to Be “Yes” Parents
If we were paying for each meal as we ate it, we would be more picky about what the kids could or couldn’t get.
With so much included, however, it’s fun to have a time of saying things like, “Hey – make sure you don’t forget to pick up your dessert.” Or, something like, “You want to try a chicken Caesar salad? I’m not sure if you’ll like that, but okay, give it a try,” knowing that there would be enough food to go around if he hated it. Surprisingly, Jack loved it (and got it again another day) and I probably wouldn’t have let him order that if we were paying right that moment because of my doubt about what he would think of it.
We can’t wait for our next trip to Disney World! The rides, the food, the family togetherness – it’s my favorite vacation spot.
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