I am sure that by now you are well aware of Heather’s opinion on Disney Dining Plan (DDP). For the longest time, I was totally #teamddp all the way too!! ……..but lately, not so much.
The one thing I absolutely hands down agree with Heather about is that I like my meals & snacks to be paid for beforehand, so I don’t have to stress about bringing cash or running up my credit card while on vacation. That prepaid “all-inclusive” vibe is definitely pretty important to me! The way I differ though is that I prefer to put all that money I’d spend on buying DDP into a gift card or two!
Now, I’ve tried the gift card route before. When Michael & I went to Disney back in 2014 for a long weekend, we brought gift cards. Back then, though, you couldn’t combine them, so I quite literally brought a stack of 20 gift cards with us. It was awful! Trying to keep track of which been used and which had not was a pain, and it was so embarrassing to think I was handing over a $25 and a $10 gift card, and find out I handed over a $1.07 and $3.24 gift card. Doing it that way was even more stressful than just using cash or the bank card.
However! Yes, there is a glorious however here! However, now you can combine Disney gift card amounts onto one card – up to $1000! It would cost me $1513.32 to buy DDP for my family of 4 for our upcoming 6 night stay – that’s $25.75/night for Little J & $75.49/night for Michael, Big J, and me. I’d rather have two gift cards with $1500 total on them, and use those for food!
One of Heather’s points in favor of DDP is how it lets her not say no to the girls. Gift cards do that for our family. I’m not likely to say no to a Mickey ice cream bar with or without DDP, but on DDP I am very likely to say no to an appetizer. I’ve already paid so much for full meals with the DDP that I don’t want to pay extra for other food… but with the gift cards we can do the appetizer and then split an entree. Or whatever.
One thing that people bring up in favor of DDP is how it is a money saver… of course, one thing that other people bring up against DDP is how it is a waste of money! Honestly, DDP is not necessarily a money saver. It can be, especially if you’re going for a steak dinner every night, but whenever we’ve done the math it’s been a wash. Some years DDP saved us some money, some years it cost more than what we ate… but I didn’t care, because it was the convenience factor more than the money saving factor that led me to loving DDP. However, DDP didn’t consistently save me enough money that I would consider it more convenient than the gift cards!
It especially doesn’t save money when we go outside of any Festival time. Using snack credits at the food kiosks is cool, but a Disney trip without a food festival? When we have DDP, we always wind up buying 15-25 snacks on our last day that will make it back home. That’s… kind of pointless, honestly. We have rock candy in my pantry from 2015 that we bought to give my nephew & niece as a souvenir gift… and never got around to giving it to them. Without DDP I wouldn’t even think about stockpiling candy and cookies.
Also, and this is pretty stupid but… I just really love my gift cards. Using them gives me a happy. I like to collect special card. The basic ones with just Mickey on the front that you can find at any grocery store, those I just load into my gift card account, transfer the balance to a specialty card, and toss. But I have a Maleficent card, a Toy Story card, a funky Mickey card… I’d really like to get a card with Remi (from Ratatouille) on it as my dedicated dining gift card, or maybe a Lady & the Tramp card – you know, with the iconic spaghetti scene?
Also also, even with DDP you still need to pull out some form of payment for tips. You can use cash, a credit card, a gift card, or charge it to your room… but tips are not included on DDP. So if I’m already still having to “pay” for something… why not just put it all together instead of prepaying some but cash paying other?
There are different dining plan options… historically my family has always gone for the mid-tier, standard DDP. Michael & I talked about doing the quick serve DDP instead. I like so many of the sit down restaurants, and want to try so many more, but when I think of Disney food? I think Columbia Harbour House, or Flame Tree BBQ, or Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe… all quick serves. Yes, I also enjoyed Skipper Canteen or 50’s Prime Time Café, but I think of them after the quick serves. So it made sense to try out the quick serve plan, and maybe just pay out of pocket for a table service meal one night. I never wound up doing it with Michael, but my mom & I tried it once.
I hated the thought of paying so much extra for that dinner, since we had already prepaid for food that trip. Then we also just had a whole extra meal to try and make up on the plan. It was just a big mess.
In the end, for me and my family, I think the gift card route offers us the best of all worlds: the prepaid “it’s now all-inclusive” mentality, but also the flexibility to say yes to the extras my family might want.