This one is tricky to cover. Mostly because I don’t know you or your family’s eating habits. What I would say is this. There are three different classifications of food “joint” on property: Snack, Counter Service, Table Service. You should estimate that a snack is going to cost you about $4.00/person/item. So if you want a bottle of water and a box of popcorn, that’s at least $8.00. Counter Service is typically going to cost you $15/person for an entree, side and drink. Think of this as nuggets, fries and a coke. Table Service is going to be around $25/person for an entree, side and drink… and maybe desert, not including a tip.
My wife and I (and the kids) have been known to go and eat only Counter Service meals and snacks the entire time. On the other hand, a nice Table Service meal is good, too. It just depends upon your tastes and what you think you’re going to want. Adding in children who have varying eating habits or who aren’t yet ready for sit-down niceties, and, well, you need to make a value judgment on your own.
If you’re not flying in, make sure you stop somewhere right off property to buy a pallet of water and whatever other snacks you and your family likes. You can all wear backpacks into the parks if you want… so it’s easy to carry that kind of stuff with you. Remember, a bottle of water is at least $3.50 in the parks. 🙂 If you’re staying on property, take a bus to the nearest Park. Change busses and go to the Boardwalk Resort. Walk out the front door of the resort, down the street and head over to the Hess gas station on the corner. It’s the only gas station officially on property and prices are typical convenience store prices plus a little bit for being Disney’d. But you can get snacks and water there and then hand-carry it back to your hotel doing the bus trips in reverse.
Also available is Garden Grocer or Amazon.com. Order online and have the items shipped straight to your resort. You can even order before you arrive and schedule your delivery for the morning of your arrival. Go to AllEars.net for the address for each resort.
No longer new, but constantly updated, is the Disney Dining Plan, now called Magic Your Way Plus Dining (MYWPD), as it’s an add-on to the MYW ticket/room packages. It’s basically a meal plan for a fixed price. Currently, Disney offers five versions of MYWPD: MYWPD-Quick-Service, MYWPD (the basic plan), MYWPD-Deluxe, MYWPD-Premium, and MYWPD-Platinum. With all of these differences, it’s a shame Disney doesn’t do a good job of charting it out. Leave it to AllEars to do it for you. But the basics are this:
|Plan||Number of Table Service||Number of Quick Service||Number of Snacks||Extras||Expires|
|Quick Service||0||2||1||Refillable Mug*||Expire 14 days after 1st use|
|Basic||1||1||1||Refillable Mug*||Expire 14 days after 1st use|
|Deluxe||3 shared between these||1||Refillable Mug*||Expire 14 days after 1st use|
|Premium||3 shared between these||1||Refillable Mug*, included recreation**||Expire 14 days after 1st use|
|Platinum||3 shared between these||1||Refillable Mug*, included recreation**, premium reservations/seating||Expire 14 days after 1st use|
|*Mugs can be refilled at any Quick Service restaurant on property as many times as you wish.|
To determine whether the MYWPD is a good option for you, at the end of the day, you have to think about how much food you’ll get from the plan and compare it to your estimated eating habits. Just remember that it’s basically a “credit” added per person/day for each “meal”. So if you skip a meal on one day, you’ll have an extra credit to use on a different day. And some restaurants require 2 credits per person… so you have to get creative if you’re going to use the MYWPD to its full potential. But, once you leave WDW, your MYWPD credits are worthless. So if you have extra meals, especially snacks, on the last day, you might want to think about living it up… or buying a few extra snacks (my wife is partial to Mickeyhead Rice Crispy Treats on a stick) for the road.
Virtually no one I know has ever made full value out of the MYWPD. And now that they’ve altered the plan to adjust to the different resorts (Quick Service vs Basic vs Deluxe vs Premium vs Platinum), the chance of you liking the plan is even worse. However, I have heard stories of people feeling completely satisfied with the MYWPD. For example, if you have teenagers who eat their bodyweight on a daily basis, the MYWPD could work for your family. AllEars.net has menus (with prices) for virtually every restaurant on property. So take a moment to check the plan you’re considering buying against the restaurant list of the places you can go to eat. Consider what you think you’ll eat and add it up to get a rough estimate. If it doesn’t significantly exceed the cost of the MYWPD, don’t get the plan. Another individual has also taken it to the next step and allows you to try to calculate the comparative costs of paying a la carte versus the DDP.
I’ve only gotten the MYWPD twice – and both times, it was a freebie. On one of those trips, I kept track of the food costs that we both: a) ate; and, b) would’ve eaten had we not received so much for free (ie: deserts). What we discovered was that it was almost a wash. Had we paid for the MYWPD, we would’ve just about eaten the full value of the MYWPD. But had we not purchased the MYWPD and instead were paying for our food that we wanted to eat, we would’ve lost money by buying the MYWPD.
If you don’t want the MYWPD, but like the idea of having a refillable mug, Disney has you covered. For just a few dollars per day (with a max of $18 for your full stay), you can just get the refillable mug. Remember, though, that it ONLY works at Disney resorts, but NOT inside any of the Parks. So you either have to carry it with you or remember it before you head out to each meal. It’s not always convenient, but it’s absolutely cost effective if you drink a fair amount of soft drinks.