Confessions of a Disney Dining Plan Convert
by, 07-14-2009 at 01:43 PM (4668 Views)
From the time I started to plan my first trip to WDW, I was convinced that the Disney Dining Plan would not be on our agenda. The idea of the plan overwhelmed me. I was concerned that I would be obsessed with getting my money's worth, panicking about getting my ADR's lined up, overwhelmed by trying to coordinate where we would be when and confused by two-credit/Signature restaurant restrictions.
Gradually, things changed.
First, I assembled my preliminary list of must-do/cannot miss table service restaurants:
Looking at my schedule, I added Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater to the list because it was just too empty for our 11-day trip. In addition, some friends who will be there at the same time convinced me that we had to join them at Whispering Canyon.
At this point, I had plans which would use 8 out of 11 Table Service Disney Dining Credits, already.
The next concern I crossed off my list was the Signature restaurants/Double Credit issue. Somehow I had convinced myself that most of the restaurants that I would want to add to our schedule would be Signature restaurants. Urged by friends to take a second look, I realized that I was mistaken. At this point I started to look at what restaurants I would add to my schedule if I could:
Marrakesh, a Character Breakfast and maybe, even Le Cellier. We want to try to get a Grand Gathering Experience, which is currently sold out for the only date we can fit it in, and I found out that while it would require two credits, at least we could use credits to pay for it.
Third, I made my ADRs without actually hyperventilating once. I have to thank the friend who introduced me to her spreadsheet system. Swanie put together a wonderful spreadsheet. It shows me at a glance which parks have Magic Hours available and when, the parks' operating hours, when MNSSHP is scheduled, when I actually have tickets for MNSSHP, which day I blocked out for Kennedy Space Center and so forth. At a glance I started plugging in which table service restaurants I might visit on which days.
I realized that I did not need to commit to the Disney Dining Plan but I could book my ADRs as if I would use the Dining Plan and release some of my ADRs later if I changed my mind.
Lastly, I crunched the numbers.
I made my own spreadsheet. First, I looked up the cost of the must-do restaurants and calculated the minimum amount I would spend on Table Service meals with beverages. Next I looked at four or five of the counter service restaurants that my family would most likely enjoy and I predicted the cost for my family to eat one meal at those locations. At minimum, each restaurant bill came to $50 for our family of five, most were higher. Calculating conservatively, I estimated one counter meal at $50 into the various holes in our schedule (not one per day, but one per "hole".) I also added in the cost of five refillable cups that I had planned to purchase even if we had not purchased the plan.
The numbers started adding up fast. Without calculating the value of the snacks we were already approaching the cost of adding the plan to our schedule.
I looked at the schedule again and added in the value of the extra ADRs. Without the cost of the snacks, and leaving at least five adult Table Service and six child table service credits unused, we would... break even. We actually come out a little bit more ahead than that.
For the cost of the Disney Dining Plan, all of our snacks and several meals will be free, even with scheduling one Signature Restaurant. Although the children will not be joining us at that meal, we would still have five unused credits if they had. It will actually cost us a little more to not use the Dining Plan that night as the Kids Clubs do not accept Disney Dining Plan credits, unfortunately, but we're set on that adult-only opportunity for a special birthday celebration as well as giving our kids the chance to have a night of fun without us.
I see a bit of flexibility in the schedule. I have accepted that I can adjust the plans slightly if I need to. I was up at 4 am to make the Artist Point ADR because it was the most important ADR on my list. Several hours later, at the spur of the moment when we called to try to adjust another ADR, we asked if Le Cellier was available for the last night of our stay, and it was. So yes, I have a coveted Le Cellier ADR without even trying. Please don't hate me.
I still understand why the Disney Dining Plan would not be the perfect fit for every vacation. By not planning my vacation around the plan but by working backwards to see how the Plan would fit into the vacation, I spared myself quite a bit of anxiety and I will actually be saving myself quite a bit of money.