For those of you that travel to Disney World Often and LOVE having a Dining Plan OR maybe you have been booking a first time trip but wanted a dining plan: Here is our experience with how we handled not having our beloved pre-paid dining plan.
Deluxe Dining Plan – (This was fantastic because ALL of our food was paid off prior to our vacation, excluding tips)
Pre-Covid – in recent years, when we would travel to WDW we always preferred to have the Deluxe Dining Plan. This gives us 3 table sit-down services per day ( for each member of your party) – which can be used at any of the Disney Dining locations – buffets, quick services etc. It also gives each person 2 snacks per day – to use on any snack from ice cream, cupcakes to beverages. We normally love character buffets and fine dining. At each sit down meal you get: 1 appetizer per person, 1 main course and 1 desert per person including beverages and the adults were allowed 1 alcoholic drink per adult. I mean can you say SPOILED!? For a family of 4 which has been 3 adults and 1 child (according to their age range), it usually costs us close to/ roughly $2,000 for roughly a 7 or 8 day vacation; ****that we can pay off before we go*** – always using discounted Disney Gift Cards. It is a great feeling when you know the food part of your vacation is already paid off, before you even arrive. They do offer other options of dining plans, but this is the one we always choose because we get the most value for our money out of this one. We have 2 growing boys and a type 1 juvenile diabetic husband – so we need to eat so his sugar does not drop. Plus we love our air conditioned breaks and being waited on when you’re hot and tired from all the hustle and bustle of the vacation.
June 2021 Vacation NO Dining Plan
So after dealing with the pandemic for over a year, as things started to get better we couldn’t wait to get back to our happy place. We knew going in that we were already spoiled and we wouldn’t be eating nearly as much, or as GOOD as we usually do. So I have to tell you that we did a LOT of mobile-ordering to quick services. We had to budget since I hadn’t worked all year and we didn’t have our precious dining plan. The quick services seemed to be the cheapest option coming to anywhere between $60-$70 for the 4 of us… There were a few sit-down restaurants that actually did not come to much more – but not including tip – for instance Mama Melrose and 50’s Prime Time both in Hollywood Studios were pretty reasonable and delicious. I did use discounted Disney Gift Cards to save as much as we could. We did NOT dine at finer signature restaurants like Le Cellier or Chefs de France in Epcot, or Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom, or even Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
All in all, we spent around $2,000 out of pocket, not being able to dine at the lovely select Disney Signature Restaurants, and mostly quick services. My kids do love those mickey bars; but at $6.00 a pop we were feeling it. Chef Mickeys and the Crystal Palace were the most expensive costing well over $200 plus tip.
Keep in mind during this late June 2021 trip a lot was still not opened, character meals were scarce and not like they used to be. So many options still closed. Part of what used to make our Disney Vacations so magical was the character dining – that made it much more affordable with the dining plan! They actually just started fireworks at Magic Kingdom a few days after we checked out.
Ways To Save Money
Annual Pass Discounts
Already being annual passholders, we were only able to afford to renew my annual pass. This way with the annual pass we got a decent room discount. The Annual Pass Discounts also get you 20% off merchandise and about 10% off of dining. I had hoped the AP Discount would have been higher for food but unfortunately it was not. Your annual pass is connected to your My Disney Experience so when you mobile order your AP Discount will automatically be taken off, as long as the restaurant takes it. We were sad to learn that Cosmic Rays in Magic Kingdom DID NOT give any Annual Pass Discounts. I am not sure renewing my AP was actually worth it in the long run – unless we are able to make it back this fall. There are currently NO AP room discounts for the fall yet – and WHO KNOWS IF THEY WILL EVEN RELEASE ANY. Disney World is booking up fast for their 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Discounted Disney Gift Cards
I always purchase Disney Gift cards through Target or BJ’s. At Target you save 5% and BJ’s is around the same, but can be slightly lower as the pricing fluctuates there. This is something I always do – because I use them to pay for our entire Disney Vacation. When it’s all said and done I end up saving around $300 which is worth the effort to me. I also like not having to pull out a credit card every where we go. So while there we were able to use the Disney Gift card for mobile order, merchandise, drinks and cocktails, snacks, and the table service restaurants. You can combine Disney Gift cards onto 1, holding up to $1,000 on each gift card. In Disney World $1,000 goes quickly!
We are so EXCITED for the return of the Disney Dining Plan!
We really hope that when the Disney Dining plan returns, it will be the same or better – and not worse. We will not be returning to WDW until it does return because a big part of what we love about Disney is eating!
We are keeping all eyes and ears on the lookout for the return date!
Here is my video on our recent June 2011 Disney World Trip without the dining plan!
Planning a Disney Vacation? Know THIS before you go!!
Hot Tip for Planning Your 2022 Walt Disney World Vacation