Disney Dining Plan – With or Without?

My family recently returned from an amazing time on our first Disney cruise.  We spent 3 nights on board the Disney Magic in the Bahamas.  We had a wonderful time and will definitely be going again someday.

When the cruise was over we stayed 2 nights at Pop Century with 1 day in the Magic Kingdom.  Ideally that is not nearly enough time but it was all we had and we’ve been to Disney every year since our “once in a lifetime trip” in 2012 so we didn’t have to see and do everything because we know we’ll be back soon.  Even though it was only 2 days, HOLY COW we spend a lot of money on food!!!  The Disney Dining Plan would’ve cost around $300 for my family of 4 and I would not be surprised if we spent that or more on meals, snacks, and drinks.  We did not do any table service meals; we ate at all quick service restaurants.

A big expense was pop (we’re from Michigan, you might call it soda).  I drink a lot of Coke Zero and I think they are somewhere around $3-5 for a 20 ounce bottle at the resort’s food court.  If we had been on the Disney Dining Plan, we would’ve each gotten a refillable mug.  We could’ve purchased one but I felt that the length of our stay was too short to justify the $17 price.  In hindsight, I should’ve probably bought at least one refillable mug because I’m sure I spent more than $17 on bottles of Coke Zero.

Another reason I think we spent more on food was that my children don’t share well.  The portions are plenty big enough for 2 kids to share and in a perfect world, they would.  Not my boys.  If one wants chicken nuggets, the other one HATES chicken nuggets today and will only eat macaroni and cheese.  So, to avoid a major meltdown, we end up buying 2 different meals and throwing half of them out because it’s too much food for one kid.  What a waste and all I kept seeing was dollar signs!

Speaking of waste, here’s how lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus went.  It was right in the middle of the lunch rush so tables were limited, everyone was starving, and the line was 10-15 minutes just to order.  I took my youngest son to find a table while my husband and oldest son got in line.  After ordering food and drinks for everyone, in excess of $40, my husband finally found us at the table.

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Naturally, he slept through the entire lunch.  We tried to eat as much as we could but ended up throwing most of his lunch out because it couldn’t be saved.  It goes without saying that when he finally woke up, he was starving.  Shocking, I know.

Maybe it’s because our kids are a year older this time, or maybe it was because we just came off the cruise ship where everything was included but we were just overly conscious about the cost of the food and it just “felt” like we spent a ton of money to eat and drink.  We’re not “foodies” by any means (I eat like a toddler); however we were all sick of chicken nuggets by the end of the trip.  I think the value of the Disney Dining Plan is different for each family.    It truly depends on your traveling style and how you plan on eating meals.  If you would be happy eating at quick service locations for the length of your trip, the Disney Dining Plan may not be for you.  For us, we look forward to a table service meal each day.

After our first trip to Walt Disney World without the Disney Dining Plan, I don’t think we would go again without it, especially on a longer trip.  With only 2 days, it would have taken too much time do table service meals but on longer trips, we enjoy them because they are a good way to take a break from the parks and see different resorts, all while still keeping that “Disney magic”.

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