Disney World on the Deluxe Dining Plan

During my annual Fall trip to Disney World in 2018 I decided to test the waters known as the “Disney Dining Plan”, or more specifically the Deluxe version of the plan.  It had been more than 7 years since I had purchased a dining plan, deciding instead to purchase membership in Disney’s Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount on both food and alcohol at most of the full service restaurants at Disney World.  But then things changed in 2018.  First, in 2018 Disney added alcoholic drinks as an included beverage option with their dining plans, for those 21 years of age or older.  This made the dining plan a little more attractive to me.  Though I rarely drink at home, when I’m on vacation I do like to partake of some wine or a cocktail during some of my meals.  Being that the wine and cocktail prices are pretty high at Disney World, having these as included beverage options on the dining plan really drew my attention.  Another factor was that I had an old park ticket that I wanted to use on this trip instead of purchasing an Annual Pass, so therefore I would not qualify to purchase a TIW membership.  The final factor which influenced my decision to purchase the dining plan was that I would be dining alone at most of my meals during the first part of this trip.  I knew this would very much limit the amount of food I could review for my blog.  By purchasing the Deluxe Dining Plan it enabled me to try both an appetizer and dessert in addition to an entrée at each of my full service meals and still stay within my trip budget.  The one drawback though is that eating 3-course meals twice a day is a pace that I could not keep up with for long.  So in the end I was very glad that I had limited my dining plan purchase to only the first 3 nights of my 12 night trip.

So now for a recap.  The cost of the Deluxe Dining Plan in 2018 (and remains the same for 2019) was $116.24 per night.  I purchased it for the first 3 nights of my trip so paid $348.72.  The entitlements (9 dining credits or 3 per night and 6 snack credits or 2 per night) could be used from the time I arrived at the Polynesian on Day 1 of my trip through midnight on my check out day (on Day 4) or until they were all used, whichever came first.  On my first night I was able to use 2 of my dining credits to treat a friend to dinner at Narcoossee’s.  It was nice to have that option/flexibility.  Besides Narcoosee’s I dined at one other signature restaurant, Citricos.  So with those two meals alone I used 6 of my 9 dining credits during the first two nights of my trip.  The 3 remaining credits were used at 1 credit restaurants, Tutto Italia, Tony’s Town Square (for their Festival of Fantasy Parade Package), and The Plaza Restaurant.  Of my 6 snack credits, 4 were used at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival booths for $8 items (an excellent value).  The last two snack credits (used on Day 4) were used for a Dole Whip float ($6.38) and a Mickey pretzel with cheese sauce ($7.46).  Both of these were well above the average value for a snack credit, which is about $5.  Another Dining Plan included item which turned out to be of great value to me was the refillable mug.  I received it on my first day and immediately used it for a soda and continued to use it nearly every day of my 13 day trip for coffee each morning (coffee price of $2.29 plus tax) and an occasional soda  (soda price of $3.29 plus tax).  I was able to use it throughout my trip (since it is good for 14 days after activation), even after I was no longer on the Dining Plan, and at all 4 of the resorts at which I stayed.  So even if I’d paid out-of-pocket for the refillable mug ($18.99 plus tax) I would have definitely got my money’s worth.  Being that it was “free” (or included in the overall cost of my dining plan) made it another good selling point for me when considering the purchase of a Dining Plan.

And now let’s crunch the numbers:

Refillable Mug = $18.99 plus tax or $20.22

6 Snack Credits = $45.84

Subtracting this $66.06 worth of purchases that I would have probably made anyway if paying out-of-pocket (with the possible exception of the Mickey pretzel) from the total of $348.72 that I paid for the Deluxe Dining Plan leaves $282.66.  Dividing this by 9 dining credits means that as long as I received a value of $31.41 in food and alcohol per a dining credit I would at least come out even.  Let’s see how I did, shall we?…

  • 4 Dining Credits used for myself plus a friend for dinner at Narcoossee’s = $222.91 (or $55.73/credit)
  • 1 Dining Credit used for lunch at Tutto Italia = $79.88
  • 2 Dining Credits used for dinner at Citricos = $99.32 (or $49.66/credit)
  •  1 Dining Credit used the Festival of Fantasy Dining Package lunch at Tony’s Town Square = $72.42
  •  1 Dining Credit used for dinner at The Plaza Restaurant = $53.25

{As a side note here, I was very satisfied with my use of dining credits for dinner at Narcoossee’s and lunch at Tutto Italia.  Both meals were among the best of my trip.  I would consider including both of these restaurants in my dining plans if I decide to purchase the Dining Plan again on my next trip.  Also, I feel that one credit for the FOF Dining Package lunch at Tony’s was also a good value, especially if you are a fan of Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade.  However, I was disappointed with my other two meals, especially my dinner at Citricos which cost 2 credits.}

TOTAL VALUE OF FOOD & ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES RECEIVED FOR MY 9 DINING PLAN CREDITS = $527.78 (or $58.64/credit)

AND THE OVERALL TOTAL INCLUDING SNACK CREDITS & REFILLABLE MUG = $593.84

So subtracting the amount I paid for the plan ($348.72), I came out ahead by $245.12 (or a little more than a 40% savings).  This savings (or discount) was more than twice what I would have gotten with the Tables in Wonderland membership.  Also since the TIW membership would have cost me $150, I would have needed to purchase $750 worth of food and alcohol eligible for the 20% discount just to break even (20% of $750 = $150 membership fee).  So the Dining Plan is sounding better and better, right?  Well, something you need to consider when making a decision (and be sure to include in your overall food budget) is the gratuities.   Though you pay a gratuity to your server at your full service restaurant meals whether you are paying out-of-pocket (with no discount), paying out-of-pocket using TIW (18% gratuity on pre-tax bill total required), or using Dining Plan credits, the bill when using the Dining Plan tends to be more.  To get the most value on the Deluxe Dining Plan you are having 3 courses plus an alcoholic beverage at each meal.  And if you are like me, you want to maximize the value received by ordering the more expensive options available, like the $54 Surf & Turf entrée at Narcoossee’s.  Though I really enjoyed this, I probably would have ordered a less expensive entrée at Narcoossee’s and probably would not have gotten both an appetizer and dessert if I’d been paying OOP.  So more food and more expensive food means a bigger bill, which means more gratuity paid.  However, though this additional gratuity paid cuts into my $245.12 savings I believe I still came out ahead when all is said and done.

So overall I feel my experiment with using the Deluxe Dining Plan was a success.  I believe that my blog reviews benefited from it while still allowing me to stay within my trip budget.  My one caveat, I must reiterate that I could not have kept up this pace of eating for longer than I did.  It was great for the first 3 nights/4 days of my trip, but I’m afraid that if I’d continued eating at that pace I would have either spent a lot of remaining trip time miserably full or I would have been forfeiting snacks, appetizers and/or desserts to which I was entitled, thereby decreasing the value of the plan.  I would definitely consider purchasing the Dining Plan for my trip this year, but again only for the front end of my trip.  I think the current version of the Deluxe Dining Plan is good and would recommend it to others.  But remember that too much of a good thing can be bad, so keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to purchase the Disney Dining Plan and for how long.

 

 

 

 

 

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