2012 Walt Disney World Dining Plan – Sucks!

Is Disney World trying to trick me into spending more money?  It kind of feels that way from the revised dining plan to the ticket packages.  There is no doubt that there is a level of complexity here that requires study before making basic choices and I’m getting frustrated about the whole thing.

The Disney Dining Plan at a whopping $51.54 per day for each person over 10 is a complete rip-off but I had to dedicate some time to doing the math to figure this out.  If you want to get your $52 of food or more out of Disney each day you will have to do some serious advanced planning.  Additionally, you are required to get the plan for each night you stay.  Considering that the day you arrive and the day you depart are likely short days for you and your family at the World, chances are you’ll be hard pressed to find value in this purchase.

If you’re like me and eat only a moderate amount of food and avoid steak during your WDW vacation there may be no way to eat as much food as you paid for .  Not to mention, in order to get into the nicest (most expensive non-signature) restaurants you would have to have your day to day activities planned out to a tee so that you can make your reservations WELL in advance.  Reservations can be made 6 months in advance and many people do so they fill up fast.

The Math
I don’t eat red meat very often, it’s never been appealing to me so I”ll give you the data with the top of the line entree and the one that I would order:

The way I eat:

Lunch at Tomorrowland Terrace:

Citrus Shrimp Salad      $8.19

Carrot Cake                     $3.59

Main Street Snack

Dole Whip                        $3.19

Sanaa Dinner

Chick Curry                    $18.99

Chocolate Cake               $5.99

Ice Tea                               $2.50

Total:                               $42.45    Cost of the Dining Plan= $51.54  My loss: $9.09

Over a week, my loss could add up to $63.63 if I didn’t really make an effort to eat more expensive food.

Someone who likes to eat a lot and enjoys steak might eat like this:

Lunch at Tomorrowland Terrace

Lobster Roll                   $9.19

Carrot Cake                    $3.59

Dole Whip Snack           $3.19

Dinner at Sanaa

New York Strip Steak  $28.99

Chocolate Cake                $5.99

Iced Tea                            $2.50

Total:                               $53.45

The person consistently choosing nice restaurants and selecting the MOST expensive food options will not even save the cost of an iced tea.  I call shenanigans on the fact that Disney advertises it’s dining plan as a 20% savings!  The dining plan also limits you to no appetizers, no substitutes, and you must eat dessert with each meal to get your money’s worth.  You can’t can’t save those desert points for later which means many people would need to eat them selves sick to get any value with the plan.  I think the better option would be to get your dessert to go but now we have to walk around the parks with our dessert in hand until we’re hungry again.  If you don’t have a reservation at a table service restaurant with an entree you want to eat priced at $27 or more, you won’t get what you pay for.  You’ll basically need to eat a full steak meal followed by desert each table service meal so you might want to get an okay from your cardiologist before signing up for the plan.  Also note that anyone staying with you that’s 10 or older MUST also sign up.  With the exception of some teen boys in full growth spurt mode, I don’t see how a tween or teen girl can eat like that.  My 10 year old son certainly can’t eat that much.

Another potential problem with the plan is that some quick dining options don’t list desserts on their menu like the Diamond Horseshoe.  Perhaps they do serve these but if they don’t you’re losing money on the plan for that day.  I think it’s really wacky that you MUST eat all this food and have the necessary reservations BEFORE your stay at that particular resort hotel is up or you miss out completely.  I think the Disney bean counters are counting on it and it’s a seriously messed up move to generate additional income over what they would normally get on the cost of meals.  Most people purchase a dining plan option because they TRUST that it will save them money and hassle, not cost more and provide more hassle.  Shame on whoever took a good idea to provide service WDW guests and perverted into and money making scheme!

Some people even say that the dining plan is destroying the quality of food throughout park with some of the top menu items being removed to stay within their profit margins.  The plan requires the systematic homogenization their restaurant menus.  This sucks and it’s going to lead to guests seeking other options when they want a decent meal for their money.  Nobody wants to pay out the nose for food that tastes like sawdust.  I also don’t understand why WDW would want to compromise the quality of any aspect of the Disney experience.

Now when the meal plan first came out and it was around $32 per person, included an appetizer, entree and desert it was a good value.  Even if you weren’t able to plan that well, you could eat $32 in food in a day without too much trouble.  I think the problem of this from the WDW perspective is that a person who put some effort and planning into taking full advantage of the plan could possibly eat as much as $60 in food for this price.  If enough people figured this out, WDW could start to lose money on it’s food.

I think that if WDW wants to pre-sell food in exchange for a discount, why not make it an easy proposition to save 20% on food (just like they advertise the dining plan does) and sell you a $600 food card for $480.  No more fussing about meal credits and signature dining; it’s clean, simple and straight-forward.  If I were running WDW, which I would consider if they wanted to make me an offer (hint, hint), I would have a sliding savings scale which would give people the option of saving more buy pre-paying for more meals.

Pre-Paid Meal Card    % Savings    Price
100                             5           $95.00
300                            10        $290.00
500                            15         $485.00
800                           20         $780.00
1000                           20         $980.00

They could still have the cards expire after so many days, just like the park tickets and mission accomplished without a negative impact on the restaurants or the quality of the food.  Not to mention avoiding ripping off guests since this tends to generate negativity and bad-will.  The WDW guest can’t take advantage beyond the profit/loss threshold and also don’t have to stress about what kind of meal and specific menu items will allow him/her to eat as much food as they paid for.  Best yet, WDW won’t have the rush on dinner restaurants since everyone can eat how they want to eat and we can all enjoy appetizers again or skip dessert and not have to eat themselves sick at a single meal.

Ha – I just learned that the refillable mugs are only good at the resorts which really doesn’t make those a good deal at all.  On top of that, giving either of my kids a refillable mug to drink as much soda throughout the day as they would like sort of makes me shudder.  We only allow one soda or juice drink per day and most of the time we make our own by mixing juice with sparkling water.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by lifelibertyandthepursuitofdisney on April 5, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I completely agree! I always opt out of the dining plan. Not only does it cost more money than it is worth, but it also restricts your food choices! I like having a completely open schedule…I don’t want to have to worry about when I need to eat and what I need to eat there!


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