Ahhhh, the Disney Dining Plan. I get hungry just thinking about it. We LOVE the Disney Dining Plan here at the Stites house, though we've only used it once and even then didn't pay for it. For those of you who may not know, you can find out all the specifics from Disney here, and read a really good discussion of how to tell if it's right for you (including charts and graphs) here. In a nutshell, it's a way to pre-pay for your meals during your Disney vacation. You must stay at a Disney resort to participate.
From a marketing standpoint, the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is genius. Sometimes when we've stayed on property, we've taken days to visit outside the Disney properties. At the time that meant Sea World, but today it could be Universal or any number of other attractions. I think the DDP was meant to make those trips "off property" less appealing. I mean, if you've already paid for your meals in Disney, why would you leave to go eat somewhere else? But that's all fine with me, we've reached the point where we really don't want to leave the property once we get to Disney World, heck, I don't even want to see my car for the duration of the trip. So the DDP suits us just fine.
There are several variations of the plan. The cheapest only covers 2 meals at counter service restaurants and one snack per day while the most expensive covers three meals a day, anywhere you like, plus two snacks. We like the mid-price plan, which includes one counter service and one table service meal per day, plus a snack. We find it works well, giving us flexibility and allowing us to experience some of the coolest restaurants Disney has to offer. The plan has been pared down over the years. The last time we used it, it included an appetizer, entree and dessert for each person at a table service meal, and also included tips. Now the appetizers have been dropped and tips are no longer included, but we still see it as a good deal.
We are taking advantage of the free dining plan again this trip, but were planning on buying it before we discovered that offer. We love the convenience of not having to worry about paying for food, it lowers my wife's stress level considerably. We also are huge fans of food and eating. It's ok, we'll admit it, we don't eat to live, we don't count calories and we don't concern ourselves with what is in the food we eat. We love to try new things, we love to eat until we are stuffed and we love all the things that are "bad" for you. Don't judge. The DDP was made for people like us. I've heard of people coming home with un-used snack or even meal credits. They split counter service lunches because "it's so much food." Not the Stiteses, we all get the big combo platter and all eat every bit of it, then walk around laughing about what gluttons we are. We are on vacation after all, if you can't over indulge then when can you?
This trip we are visiting several new places, including the all-you-can-eat, meat-on-a-stick 'Ohana. I hope they are prepared!