Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is the Dining Plan Worth It, Pt 2 - Quick Service Plan

Last week I took a look at the worth of the traditional Disney Dining Plan.  Today, my focus turns to the more economical version of the Disney Dining Plan, the Quick Service Plan and if it is worth considering for your Disney World vacation.
Great Quick Service Meal from Morocco's Tangerine Cafe in Epcot 

What Is the Quick Service Plan?

The Magic Your Way with Quick Service Dining Plan is a vacation package you can purchase from Disney that includes your accommodations at a Walt Disney World Resort, Magic Your Way park tickets and a meal plan that includes quick service meals and snacks.  On the dining side, your package includes two quick service meals and two snacks per person per night of your package as well as a refillable mug for each person on the reservation.

The quick service meals can be used at most quick service (fast food type) restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort – theme parks, resorts and downtown Disney.  Each meal includes an entrée or complete combo meal, a desert (at lunch and dinner) or juice (breakfast) and one single non-alcoholic drink.  Snacks are wide ranging and what is considered a snack changes frequently, but, generally includes items such as single serve popcorn or snacks, ice cream novelties, single pieces of fruit, 20oz bottles of soft drinks or water, fountain drinks, single serving packages of milk or juice,  and 12 oz coffee.  Other items such as baked goods (brownies, cookies, etc) may also be considered snacks depending on the location where it is offered.

The refillable mug is good for unlimited fountain drink and coffee refills at the resort you are staying at for the length of your stay.  They also make a nice souvenir to bring home.

Currently, the dining portion of this package costs $34.99 per adult per night and $11.99 per child (ages 3-9) per night of your package.  All meal and snack credits must be used by midnight of the day you checkout or else be forfeited. 

Advantages and Downsides

This plan may be for you if:
  • You enjoy the peace of mind of having your vacation completely prepaid, including dining.
  • You do not plan to eat at any table service restaurants, including character meals.
  • You plan on eating desert twice day and utilizing two snack credits per day.
  • You want the freedom to eat your meals when you want without the need for advanced dining reservations.
  • You do not plan your days in advance and go to the parks that suit your desire that day (no need to go to a specific park because of a dining reservation).
  • You plan to spend time at your resort where you can utilize the refillable mug to its best value.

This plan may not be of value to you if:
  • You are an annual pass holder (or plan to purchase one) as you are required to purchase Magic Your Way tickets as part of your package.
  • You enjoy eating at Table Service restaurants, even only once or twice on your trip.
  • You are not a big eater or prefer to snack your way through the day.
  • You want more varied options for deserts, drinks (such as an adult beverage or two).
  • You do not think you will utilize two snack credits per night of your trip.
  • You can obtain bigger discount by booking your vacation components separately (room only reservation discounts are typically better than packages) – room, tickets, meals.

 Is it Worth It?

On the surface, $35 sounds like a bunch of money for eating nothing but fast food each day, and that is right, it most places.  Remember, however, you are a captive audience at a vacation resort, the prices will be higher.  Also, we are not just talking burgers and fries (although there are some good options for that), there are actually some very tasty, varied options at Disney quick service restaurants (such as my favorite, the Tangerine Café in the Morocco pavilion of Epcot).  The kids get the short end of the stick at many places as their options are very limited and repetitious.

First, lets compare what the plan costs over a vacation stay vs. purchasing the same meals, snacks and a mug out of pocket.  This is how Disney will show you the value of the plan and it is a fair place to start.  Once again, our favorite Disney Travel Dude Family, the Generics will be our test subjects.  As a refresher, the Generics are a family of four with two adults (Mom and Dad) and two kids (Bobby age 5 and Cindy age 8).  They hail from Normal, IL and are staying at Disney’s Pop Century resort for their six night visit.
School Bread from the Norway Pavilion at Epcot

Utilizing the menus posted at, I took the liberty of picking the restaurants and menu choices for the Generics for their stay.  They pick up  the tab, however.   I'll save from posting the details of each meal and keep it at the total tab less tax for each one.  For snacks, I used a $3 average per snack credit.

Day 1
Lunch at Pecos Bill’s : $38.12
Dinner at Sunshine Seasons: $40.92
Snacks: $24

Day 2:
Lunch at Flametree BBQ: $40.52
Dinner at Pop Century: $38.91
Snacks: $24

Day 3:
Breakfast at Pop Century: $33.72
Dinner at ABC Commissary: $39.32
Snacks: $24

Day 4:
Lunch at Columbia Harbor House: $37.92
Dinner at Earl of Sandwich: $32.92
Snacks: $24

Day 5:
Lunch at Pizzasafari: $39.32
Dinner at Back lot Express: $39.12
Snacks: $24

Day 6:
Lunch at La Cantina de San Angel: $48.33
Dinner at Tangerine Café: $47.22
Snacks: $24

Add in Four Resort Refillable Mugs at $13.99 each

The Total Out of Pocket Dining for Generics is :$676.32

Cost of the Quick Service Dining Plan
Two adults at $34.99 per night and two children at $11.99 per night: $563.76

In this example, the Quick Service Meal Plan saves our beloved Generic family $112.56, or $18.76 a day.

$112.56 is a nice savings, so it should be a no-brainer to book this package, right?


To realize the savings, the Generics need to eat (all quick service, 2 deserts a day, two snacks)like this for their trip and utilize all their credits.  If they prefer a bit more flexibility, a bit more choice and do not plan to eat quite this much, it may not be the best choice for the family.

As mentioned earlier, while some quick service locations have nice desert locations (except for the kids who are pretty much stuck with cookies or brownies), some have very generic selections such as pre-packaged cake in a cup or a brownie while others, like the Tangerine Café only give you once choice (baklava – very good, but that is all you have).  You can’t decide to have desert elsewhere unless you plan to pay out of pocket or use a snack credit if applicable.

You may plan to use a snack credit for breakfast and save one for later.  So, you grab a muffin and a coffee, that two credits (leaving none for later)or one credit and paying for one item (adding to your out of pocket expense).  As you go along in your trip and the calories build up, you may not want that muffin or mickey bar later in the day.  In my experience, Snack credits tend to build up on your trip, especially when you have more than one a day.  You regularly see guests stocking up on rice krispie treats and Mickey pretzles to fill their suitcases up so the credits don’t go to waste. 
Pop Century's Quick Service Options are varied and tasty.

The refillable mugs always seem like a great deal.  I have a nice collection of them from trips past in the cupboard.  Considering a fountain drink is roughly $2.50, it pays for itself fast.  However, the mugs can only be used at your resort and only for the length of your stay (yes, I know this rule is commonly broken, but here, we and specifically the Generics are law abiding folk).  If you plan on spending most of your day, if not all of it, and considering your meals come with a soft drink, you may find that you do not use the mugs as much as you think.  Add in the fact that you have to walk to the food court to use them, maybe even less so.  You may be better off buying a few tow liter bottles of soda for your room, even at Disney prices, it will save you money.

Lets now take a look at a more scaled back dining adventure for the Generics, one that may seem a bit more, well, generic or normal.   What if they ate the same meals but eliminated one desert a day and one snack every other day (half the days enjoying one snack, the other half indulging in two) what would happen to the out of pocket cost?

The out of pocket cost goes down to $595.95, still a bit more expensive that the full plan ($32.19).  Removing the refillable mugs brings further the cost down to $539.98, now less than the plan, even if you add in $12 for some tow liter bottles of soda for your room, the out of pocket expense is less.

Also, what if the Generic parents decide to give in to the kids and manage to sneak in for a character meal, or decide they want to relax with a nice table service meal?  That would be paid out of pocket (figure in the neighborhood of $100) and then you have an extra meal credit to use later in the trip.  That extra cost starts to negate the savings of buying the quick service plan.

Lastly, to purchase this plan it must be a part of a Magic Your Way package with park tickets and room.  This limits the ability to obtain discounts on your vacation cost.  There are generally more discounts (and usually for more savings) on room only reservations, savings that can add up to more than what the Quick Service plan saves you.

What’s the bottom line?

The above breakdowns only speak to the dollar cost of the plan, not necessarily the value.  Value is a bit harder to quantify as it will vary from person to person, family to family.  If you are on a tight budget or there is a better discount for booking a room only reservation then this really is not be the best option for you.  Additionally, if you are an Annual Pass Holder or plan on purchasing one (even just for the discounts – see my previous Disney Dining Plan Part 1 post for more on that), this plan simply does not make sense as you are required to purchase park tickets with it.

If you like the convenience of having things prepaid , plan on eating all that comes with the plan and do not desire any table service meals (or making advanced dining reservations), and spend more time at the resort where you can use your mug more often,  then it could be a good value for you.

Personally, I have a hard time finding the value in the plan for the way I vacation.   I enjoy having a sit down meal or three while visiting and know I can generally save more money with an Annual Pass holder discounted room only reservation. 

The best way to determine the value for you is to examine how you plan to eat and spend your time while on vacation, research all available discounts and add up the pluses and minuses and see where you stand.  A good travel agent who specializes in Disney will be able to help you with making this choice, I highly recommend using one. 

What do you think?

1 comment:

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