Disney Dining Plan

As I just mentioned, we just returned from a week at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida, where we spent a few days at the All-Star Music resort, and a few days at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  All-Star Music is a bit tacky but has a theme and sticks to it, I'll give them that.  The atmosphere there is pretty nice at night.  The rooms are fairly spartan but if you're at Disney to "do Disney" then it's a reasonable place to stay.

Animal Kingdom Lodge is another story.  It' s a Deluxe resort, in Disney terms, which means it's expensive.  And unlike, say, the Polynesian, you're not paying for a better room - you're paying for the view.

It's undeniably cool being able to wake up in the morning and have your morning coffee or tea on the balcony overlooking the savannah, watching the zebras, giraffes and various other Savannah-dwellers going about their business, but the rooms themselves are nothing special. 

But the topic of this post is the Disney Dining Plan

In a nutshell, the Disney Dining Plan is an option on the park ticket you can get when you stay at a Disney resort, where for about $40/day/person, you get one "Table Service Meal", one "Counter Service Meal", and one "Snack" per day, per person.  It's all-or-nothing, you can't get the dining plan for just 2 days of your 5 day stay, for example.

There are a few points I want to make about the dining plan:

  • It's not the same as an all-inclusive meal plan like you might get at a hotel in the Dominican Republic.  You get one table service and one counter service meal - but this means you either get breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, but not all three.  You'll still be spending additional money eating at Disney, unless you typically skip breakfast.
  • You need to make reservations way in advance.  Seriously.
  • To take advantage of it, you really need to eat more food than most people would.  Dinner, for example, includes a drink, appetizer, a main course, and dessert.  But how often would you go 5 nights in a row eating all of those items at every meal?

We at ate at the Sci-Fi drive-in theater restaurant at MGM, Coral Reef at Epcot, the buffet at Wilderness Lodge, the Concourse Steak House at the Contemporary Resort, and San Angel Inn at Epcot in the Mexican pavilion of the International Showcase.  I'd recommend any of them except the Wilderness Lodge, and only because it's not a great dining plan value.  If you're paying for your own meal, though, it's good food and not that expensive.

The main reason I went for the dining plan was to force us to try the restaurants.  It's pretty easy when you're at the park to say "woah that place is expensive, lets eat burgers again", but with the dining plan prepaid, we had a real incentive to get the most out of every restaurant we went to, and in the end I think that was the right choice.

One other point about the dining plan, though, and it's not a good one.  When you're at Disney with a 13 month old, it really helps to have some flexibility in your schedule.  If our son was tired, or sleeping, when our dinner reservation time came up, we had no choice but to bring him to the table and sit him in a high chair.  For us, bad luck maybe but it didn't go well most of the time.  If you hear a crying baby at dinner at a Disney restaurant, it could be because someone was forced to put their tired baby in a high chair because if they didn't, they'd lose their reserved time at a restaurant and risk losing many $$ worth of dining plan reservations by skipping their time slot to let their baby sleep.