Thursday, August 18, 2016

Evaluating Vacation Options - Disney Dining

As anyone who knows me well can tell you, I'm a planner. I like to know what I'm going to be doing on such and such a day pretty early on. It should be no surprise, then, that I'm already into planning our 2017 vacation. Right now the plan is to head back to Orlando, but this time we're going to visit Universal and possibly Kennedy Space Center, as well as Walt Disney World. We won't be going for two weeks this time, but we will be down there for more than one week.

Since we have our timeshare already booked for the first 7 days, we had a couple of more nights that we needed to take care of. Since I have never stayed On Property at WDW, we thought that this would be the perfect opportunity. So, I contacted the experts at Earning My Ears to get their opinions on hotel choices. We've more or less settled on where we're going to stay, but I had another question for them. Staying On Property gives you the opportunity to get a Dining Plan, and I had heard things both for and against this. It also turns out that the Scotts were split on it.

In any case, the discussion came down to comparing costs. All WDW restaurants have their menus online, so all you need to do is a little research. I started out with what would the dining plan add to the cost of our stay. Here are some numbers for you to consider for your trip.

First, the basics. We're talking about two adults and one child under 9 staying two nights. Each Dining Plan has two Snacks per person per night, as well as a beverage cup that can be refilled at any resort. For purposes of this exercise, I'm going to use the price of a Mickey Bar (~$4) as the base cost for a snack and the cup is approximately $17 each*.

That means the snacks for the stay would be $4 * 2 nights * 2 per night * 3 people = $48, and the total cost for the cups would be $17 * 3 people = $51. So we need to subtract $99 from the plan cost to get the cost of just the meals.

Now for the plan breakdown, based on the 2017 options:

Quick Service Dining Plan
(2) Quick Service Meals
Cost for our stay ~ $228
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $129
Cost per Meal ~$33

Disney Dining Plan
(1) Quick Service Meal
(1) Table Service Meal
Cost for our stay ~ $320
Cost without Snacks & Cup ~ $221
Cost per Meal ~ $56

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan
(3) Meals, Quick Service or Table Service
Cost for our stay ~ $492
Cost without Snacks ~ $393
Cost per Meal ~ $66

For comparison sake, let's look at Lunch at The Liberty Tree Tavern and Breakfast at The Riverside Mill Food Court.

At Lunch, we'd likely have the Kids' Pasta ($9.50), Angus Cheeseburger ($16.00), and Pilgrim's Feast ($19.00), possibly having the Boston Cream Pie ($8.50) and Johnny Appleseed's Tart ($8.00) for dessert. Plus 2 drink ($2.99 each) Total cost of the meal = $67.00

At Breakfast the likely choices would be Kid's Mickey Shaped Waffle ($4.99), Bounty Platter w/ Waffle ($9.49), Grits ($2.99), & Create Your Own Omelet ($8.49). Plus Iced Coffee ($4.69) & whatever juice choice they have (not listed). Total cost of the meal = $30.65

Using these numbers as a basis (~$49 average for the two meals), it wouldn't make sense to get any of the plans. However, if we were to possibly go to Chef Mickey's for Dinner, which is a more expensive restaurant, something else might fall in line.

Let's look at another example, just to be complete. This time it's Dinner at The Liberty Inn. Here we'll probably go for the Kids' Chicken Breast Nuggets ($6.49), The All American Burger ($14.49), and the Classic Cheeseburger ($12.99), as well as a Large soda ($3.69) and a Regular soda ($3.29). Total cost of the meal = $40.95

Combine both of our Quick Service examples and we have an average cost of $35.80 per meal, which is greater than the cost of $33 per meal of the Quick Service plan. In this case, it would make sense to have the Quick Service plan and then pay out of pocket if we want to do Table Service somewhere.

So we need to scope out where we want to eat and the likely cost of the meal, we can see if any of these plans would make sense. If that a bit of work? Yes, it is. However, I'm the guy who not only plans out where we're going to eat but, where ever possible, I make reservations for us, so I'd have to do some of this work anyway.

Will this kind of planning be helpful to you? I hope so. Yeah, you have to put some time and effort in but, really, you'll need to do that if you want to get the most out of a WDW vacation.

Speaking of which, I can't recommend this episode highly enough for planning your trip.

* If you don't think they'll lose money on me having a refillable cup for soda during my stay, you don't know me very well. ;-)

EDIT: We ran the numbers this weekend and it looks like the only plan that would make sense for us would be the Deluxe. There's a caveat to that, though. Since the plan only takes effect when we check into the hotel, that means that we would have to eat all the meals On Property for those days, essentially locking us into visiting only WDW. Since we are planning on meeting up with other people, possibly somewhere else, and that hasn't been finalized yet, this might not work for this trip.

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