Mouse Math: Saving Money by Skipping the Disney Dining Plan

We took a gamble on our last Disney World vacation and decided to ditch the Disney Dining Plan.   We wanted to see if using a grocery delivery service and taking advantage of our new Disney Vacation Club discount would be cheaper than purchasing the dining plan.

You can view the discounts we received here:  DVC Disney World Membership Extras for 2018

Saving money by skipping the disney dining plan

Did we save money?  Absolutely!  On this trip we ended up saving $291.25.  Without the dining plan we spent a total of $769.13 on our meals and groceries.  The dining plan (1 table service, 1 quick service and 2 snacks) for 2 adults and 1 child for 6 nights would have cost us $1,060.38.

The savings actually should have been around $312.25, but we didn’t catch mistakes on our bills at ‘Ohana and Kona Cafe until it was too late.  Kona Cafe forgot to issue us our DVC discount and ‘Ohana charged Lil’ Man as an adult instead of a child (a difference of $24).  OUCH!  Please learn from our mistakes.  Be sure to scrutinize every bill and make sure you are not being overcharged by the Mouse!

Most days we ate at 1 table service and 1 quick service with a light meal and snacks in the room.  We opted to stick to breakfast buffets since there is a higher charge per person for lunch and dinner.  We also avoided the more expensive “signature” restaurants (these cost 2 credits per person on the dining plan).

Grocery Delivery

Using a grocery delivery service helped save us a lot of money, and allowed me to stock our little fridge full of healthy foods.  We enjoyed several light lunches of sandwiches and lots of fruit!  We also made our own coffee in the morning which helped save us quite a bit of money.

I see a lot of questions from those who are interested in trying resort grocery delivery for the first time.  If you have access to a kitchenette or kitchen, I highly recommend taking advantage of this service.  A lot of people like to use Dizzy Dolphin and Garden Grocers.  I found their prices a little high.  They also had less items that would meet the needs of my restricted diet (i.e., dairy free).  Since this was our first grocery delivery we went through Instacart to take advantage of the free delivery for first-time customers.  Unfortunately, the free delivery promotion I was e-mailed didn’t work, but I was able to find a $10 coupon online which covered the fee.

If you decide to use Instacart for your grocery delivery, know that 1) the tip is included in the total cost and 2) the delivery fee varies depending on customer demand.  I recommend placing your order in advance in order to avoid paying a higher delivery fee.  My husband was nervous about our room being ready right at 4:00 pm, so he wouldn’t let me place the order in advance.  We ended up getting slapped with a higher delivery fee because we waited (husband: “yes dear, you were right”).

Overall, our shopper was able to pick up everything we wanted with the exception of the bread (she chose a substitute).  If you use a service like Instacart, you will need to meet your shopper curbside of the resort lobby.  We ordered two 24 packs of bottled water, so we used our son’s stroller to cart it all the way back from the Poly’s Ceremonial Longhouse to our room in Moorea.

You can check out my original Disney Dining Plan post Is the Disney Dining Plan Worth it? And a Free Table to Track Your Dining Credits or check out our video below for more information.

Do we Still Recommend the Dining Plan?

It really depends on where you plan to dine and what you want to eat.  There are quite a few Disney Dining Plan calculators out there that can give you a rough idea of whether or not the Dining Plan is in your best interest financially, but those don’t take into the account the exact entree you’ll be ordering as well as other factors (e.g., ordering alcohol, appetizers, TIPs, etc.,).  You may want to look at the menus ahead of time and ask yourself will you be ordering the more expensive entrees?  Will you order alcohol at meals and how much?  Will the kids get the souvenir cup with light up straw?  Do you have access to dining discounts through being a DVC member, Annual Passholder, or other means?

In the end, I recommend taking a look at what you and your party will most likely be ordering at each meal and doing the math yourself.  While some will surely benefit from the Disney Dining Plan, families like ours are better off eating at Disney sans the dining plan.

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