This is one of the top 3 questions I’ve been asked about Disney (the others would all be about accommodations). In short the answer is maybe. It depends on so many factors.
Do you want to do multiple character meals?
Character meals usually go from $35-$60/per person (some are slightly cheaper for breakfast or lunch). One meal for an adult would be close to the Dining Plan price for a whole day. If you plan more then one of these meals in your trip I would highly recommend the plan.
Do you like to prepay so you know exactly what you are going to spend and then not worry during the trip?
I like to not worry about my budget on trips. Pre-planning and pre-paying the amount means I can indulge and not gasp at the price of something my husband orders. Or better yet I can order whatever I want on the menu and not try to stick to the cheapest thing (and then wish I had something the guest next to me is eating).
Do you like to indulge in food on vacation?
If you like to indulge in food and treats the Dining Plan is the right choice. The number one compliant I hear is “it’s too much food.”
With quick service you get 2 meals per day, that outside of breakfast include dessert, 2 snacks and 1 refillable mug. With the regular dining plan you get 1 quick service meal, 1 table service (both include dessert), 2 snacks and 1 mug. With the Deluxe Dining Plan you get 3 meals of your choosing, 2 snacks and 1 refillable mug. No matter what plan it is a lot of food. But if you want to try new things, eat dessert at every turn and always have a soda or iced tea handy then the Disney Dining Plan is for you.*
Do you have an Annual Pass or Disney Visa?
Annual Pass and Disney Visa holders receive other discounts on food. Through the end of September 2017 Disney is offering AP holders 20% off at many restaurants, the Disney Visa offers 10% discounts at varying restaurants as well. The app MousePerks (available in Google Play Store) is helpful in figuring out where you get the best discount. With a little research and planning you can see if the discounts work better than the DDP for you.
Do you like to eat minimally on vacation or not be constricted to entrée + dessert?
Maybe you don’t want to be overloaded with food, the DDP provides more than most people can eat. Or you prefer to order an appetizer and dessert rather than a whole entrée. While the DDP has some flexibility (more on that here), it’s not for everyone. I usually use the DDP and enjoy getting the most out of it, but I admit I have thrown away desserts I thought I would eat in my hotel room or snacks that were saved past their prime.
Do you prefer to save on food and indulge on your accommodations?
Even free dining costs something. Compare the discounted rate for just the room vs the rack room plus “free” dining cost. Usually the higher discounts are saved for the Deluxe Resorts. You may decide it’s worth more to you to save on the room and pay out of pocket for dining with less table service meals.
*There is a bonus to the Regular and Deluxe plans if you have children under 3 travelling with you. Kids under 3 can eat off your plate at buffets and table service. This will save you ordering them kids meals at quick service. When my twins were 2 this saved us money. With one kid who always nibbles from your plate it may not matter, but if your child eats typically for a toddler this can be a way to save a few bucks.