Hopefully you were browsing the TouringPlans.com blog last week and caught my article on Disney’s Basic Dining Plan. That plan is sort of the mid-range plan that most families opt to use. There were a few responses to that blog post from readers who were curious about Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan and if it is economical. Lucky for you, I enjoy crunching the numbers (minus the math enduced headache I sometimes get) and would like to show you my results.
First off, the Deluxe Dining Plan offers you much more food than the Basic Dining Plan and the Quick-Service Dining Plan. Per night of your stay, each person will receive three meal credits of your choice. That is right. You get to choose if you would like a counter-service meal or a fully loaded sit-down meal. Each meal credit is exactly the same and you have the freedom to mix and match what types of meals you would like to have throughout each day. On the Deluxe Dining Plan, you are given an appetizer at any table-service restaurant on top of your entree and dessert. Each person also receives two snack credits and a refillable mug. All of this comes at a cost, however. For 2013, the Deluxe Dining Plan costs adults $99.97 per night, and $26.84 for a child under 10 years of age per night.
A few people had mentioned that in my figures on the last article I wrote, I did not include the refillable mug into the overall total. I did that on purpose and here is why. Those mugs have very limited use. If you are not a guest that frequently travels through your resort’s food court, you will not be getting your monies worth. If you are not filling each and every mug in your party up at least twice a day, you are not fully receiving any savings by having the mug. Disney can pump out these mugs for just pennies yet raise the cost of the mug every year to make you believe you are getting some big perk when you are using the Disney Dining Plan. All of that being said, if you truly are a family that uses those mugs constantly, go ahead and figure that amount into your total when crunching the numbers for your family.
When figuring out how I should lay out this post, I had a hard time deciding how my prototype family would eat while using the Deluxe Dining Plan. I scoured Disney message boards and read some dining reports to get a feel for how the average family utilizes the plan on vacation. I decided to give you three scenarios to compare. The first scenario is the super savvy, over-planner family. They want to maximize the plan and get the biggest bang for their buck. The second scenario is the family with the mind-set that their food is already paid for and they do not have to look at prices at all on a menu. They also are pretty active tourists and probably use this website’s super awesome touring plans to fit in the most attractions each day. Finally, the third scenario is what the average Deluxe Dining Plan family does based on what I have seen in my research. This family feels that three sit-down meals a day is too much so they use two of their three credits each day and dine at a signature restaurant for dinner. Their other meal credit is spent either on a character breakfast or table-service lunch.
Since this is oodles of math, I decided to keep the family simple, just two adults on the Deluxe Dining Plan. The family is staying at Pop Century Resort and they are spending their day at Epcot and not leaving to go to another park or resort for any of their meals. Later, I will add in a child and show you how that affects their savings.
Best Case Scenario
Akershus Character Breakfast
2 adults at $40.46 each = $80.92 (including tax)
+18% gratuity = $95.49
Person 1: Appetizer – Prosciutto = $18, Entree - Pork Chop = $28, Dessert – Cannoli $12, Drink – Soda = $3. Total = $61.00
Person 2: Appetizer – Calamari = $16, Entree – Canaroli and Seafood = $28, Dessert – Copetta Sotta Bosco = $14, Drink – Soda = $3. Total = $61.00
Total + tax = $129.93
+ 18% gratuity = $153.32
Chefs de France
Person 1: Appetizer – Crab Meat Salad = $14.99, Entree – Duck = $31.99, Dessert – Creme Brulee = $7.25, Drink – Soda = $2.95. Total = $57.18
Person 2: Appetizer - Cheese Board = $14.50, Entree – Beef Tenderloin = $34.99, Dessert – Crepes = $7.25, Drink – Soda = $2.95. Total = $59.69
Total + tax = $124.47
+ 18% gratuity = $146.87
Total + tax = $17.64
- Disney Dining Plan covered $352.96 worth of food
- The family paid $60.36 in gratuity
- The family paid $260.30 total (price of the plan and gratuity) to use the plan
- If the family purchased the same food off of the Disney Dining Plan, they would have paid $413.32
- By using the Deluxe Disney Dinig plan, the family saved $153.02
In this situtation, the family saved a ton of money by doing three sit-down meals for one day. They also opted for more expensive options in Epcot. If the family ate the exact same way and opted to use the Tables in Wonderland discount card and get 20% off, they would not have saved as much money as they would on the Disney Dining Plan. The Deluxe Dining Plan would save them $68.32 over Tables in Wonderland. Next up is the worst case scenario for this family spending a day in Epcot on the Deluxe Dining Plan.
Pop Century Food Court
Person 1: French Toast Platter – $5.29, Water – $2.50 = $7.79
Person 2: Breakfast Pizza – $5.49, Water – $2.50 = $7.99
Total + tax = $16.81
2 adults at $23.42 each = $46.84 (including tax)
+ 18% gratuity = $55.27
Person 1: Caesar Salad – $7.79, Cookie – $2.19, Water – $2.50 = $12.48
Person 2: Southwest Flatbread – $7.79, Fruit Cup – $3.39, Water - $2.50 =$13.68
Total + tax = $27.86
2 pickles = $1.50 each
2 bottled sodas = $2.75 each
Total + tax = $9.05
- Disney Dining Plan covered $100.56 worth of food
- The family paid $8.43 in gratuity
- The family paid $208.37 (cost of Deluxe Disney Dining Plan plus gratuity) to use the plan
- If the family purchased the same food off of the Disney Dining Plan, they would have paid $108.99
- The family lost $110.18 in savings by using the Deluxe Dining Plan
When you look at these numbers, you’re going to be one of two people. You’re either going to be unsurprised by the results or you’re going to be shocked that the family lost that much money in the end. What the family did wrong here is wreckless spending. Countless times I have heard guests say that they do not look at the prices when they are on the Disney Dining Plan because it is all pre-paid and they like how carefree it feels. That is all great and wonderful until you start crunching numbers and you realize that because you picked the French Toast Platter over the Bounty Platter at breakfast, it resulted in a loss of savings. This family also made the mistake of not getting their Advanced Dining Reservations long before they left for their vacation. They were stuck with lunch at Biergarten instead of dinner, which would have been the more economical option because dinner costs more than lunch despite having virtually the same options on the buffet. In almost all situations where a family dines at only one table-service restaurant a day while using the Deluxe Dining Plan, there is a loss of savings. You can see that the family also purchased soda for a snack option, a poor decision to maximize the plan. If you look at what this family ate and believe that it is about what your family might order, the Deluxe Dining Plan is definitely not for you.
Next I want to show you what the vast majority of Deluxe Dining Plan users opt to do when on the plan. For their three credits, they spend two of them on one signature dinner. This family is a little bit caucious of the way they order off of menus, but overall they are not concerned with prices. They also chose to use their snack credits for breakfast, a popular decision of many families.
Pop Century Food Court
Person 1: Cinnamon Roll – $3.19, Water – $2.50
Person 2: Danish – $2.69, Water – $2.50
Total + tax = $11.59
2 adults at $23.42 each = $46.84
+ 18% gratuity = $55.27
Person 1: Appetizer – Selection of Beets = $11, Entree – Salmon = $35, Dessert – Maple Creme Brulee = $7, Drink – Soda = $2.95. Total = $55.95
Person 2: Appetizer – Cheese Soup = $9, Entree = $43, Dessert – Cheesecake = $10, Drink – Soda = $2.95. Total = $64.95
Total + tax = $128.76
+ 18% gratuity = $151.94
- Disney Dining Plan covered $187.19 worth of food
- Family paid $31.61 in gratuity
- The family paid $231.55 (cost of Deluxe Dining Plan plus gratuity) to use the plan
- If the family purchased the same food off of the Disney Dining Plan, they would have paid $218.80
- The family lost $12.75 in savings by using the Deluxe Dining Plan
I know that this is not the result that most of you wanted to hear. Everyone wants to believe that they make out like bandits on the Deluxe Dining Plan. However, most of the time, that is just not the case. Could the family have done some things differently on the plan in order to save money? Sure! They could have picked Akershus for breakfast or lunch instead of Biergarten for lunch. I crunched numbers using Akershus for breakfast and that would put them in the positive with a $21.33 savings. That would mean that they would have to use their snack credits to fill in the holes when they get hungry in between meals. Did anyone else notice that the families total at Le Cellier, a two credit signature meal, was about what lunch cost the family at Tutto Italia in the best case scenario? Tutto Italia is only one credit and a much better deal than Le Cellier. If the family used Tables in Wonderland instead of the Deluxe Dining Plan, they would have saved $37.44 instead of losing money.
I know many of you have children that asked about how a family might fare on the Deluxe Dining Plan. I decided to add one child under 10 years old to the “Signature Restaurant Scenario” that I just showed you.
Pop Century Food Court
Apple Turnover – $2.69
Danish – $2.69
Cinnamon Roll – $3.19
2 Waters – $5.00
Juice – $2.59
Total + tax = $17.22
2 adults at $23.42 each = $46.84
1 child = $12.77
Total + tax = $59.61
+ 18% gratutity = $70.34
Person 1: Same as example above. Total = $55.95
Person 2: Same as example above. Total = $64.95
Child: Soup = $3, Grilled Sirloin = $9, Sundae = $6. Total = $18 (drink included)
Total + tax = $147.93
+ 18% gratuity = $174.56
- Disney Dining Plan covered $224.75 worth of food
- Family paid $37.36 in gratuity
- The family paid $226.78 (cost of Deluxe Dining Plan plus gratuity) to use the plan
- If the family purchased the same food off of the Disney Dining Plan, they would have spent $262.11
- The family saved $35.33 by using the Deluxe Dining Plan
The family with a child actually saved a little bit of money by using the Deluxe Dining Plan. It is worth thinking about the Deluxe Dining Plan if you have a child. However, if you and/or your child would not usually eat this much food, you are better off paying out of pocket and only ordering what you are truly hungry for. If this family used Tables in Wonderland instead of the Disney Dining Plan, they would have saved more. Their savings would then be $44.95.
After looking at all of these scenarios, it is pretty obvious that it cannot be too difficult to lose money on the Deluxe Dining Plan. Some people have very clearly stated that they do not care about the economics of the plan and will still use it no matter what the cost. However, if you are looking to make sure you get your monies worth, you are probably best not using a dining plan at all. It truly is the most economical option to pay for everything out of pocket with a Disney gift card that you have loaded up. That way you will not have to worry about extra uneaten desserts or ordering the “right thing” to save money. I simply cannot stress the importance of crunching the numbers for your specific family situation. On top of that, make sure you take your families eating habits into consideration before adding a dining plan of any sort.
How many of you have used Disney’s Deluxe Dining Plan before? Have you crunched the numbers for 2013 and will you use it again in the future? Let us know in the comment section! We would love to hear from you!