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Walt Disney World: deluxe meal plan

Updated on August 30, 2013

Planning for Dining at Walt Disney World

I love to read travel guides and magazines. I pick up travel brochures everywhere I go. I love sites like tripadvisor.com and Yelp. I always read web reviews of places we are going to eat, even locally.

So you can imagine that planning for THE trip--Walt Disney World took me several months.

I read several guides to Disney--cover-to-cover--highlighting as I went. Although my two sons were coming on this trip (ages 10 and 7, at the time), I even read Disney for Adults, so that I could be armed with any information that I may need planning this huge trip.

To us it was a huge trip--six grand for the week with meals. It was the meal plan that I hesitated about buying, and then I had to choose which plan from the two plans that WDW offered.

I decided to go big, and I purchased the 'deluxe'--meaning expensive--food plan. The first problem that I encountered was my own honesty. My son was going to turn 10 just 3 days before we were to arrive in WDW, and 10 for the folks at Disney mean 'adult'; yep a child of 10 = an adult.

So, against the little devil on my shoulder telling me to put a 9 instead of a 10 in the age box, I was honest.

Checking that box meant that a 10 year old child would now be eating 21 meals and 14 snacks off of the adult menu at WDW for a week, and I would be paying lots of money for him to do so (hundreds and hundreds of extra dollars for the 10 year old.) Each of those dinners came with an appetizer and dessert. Large appetizers and large desserts.

Come on Disney, really? 10 is an adult for a food plan? I can see 13, even 12, for a boy who can put away the food, but 10?----it is 5 years later, and I am still mad about it.

Every time I think about spending all of that money for my son to eat, I am reminded of the evening at the steakhouse in our WDW hotel (The Yachtsman Club, which required advanced reservations. Men need to wear a collared shirt, and each meal cost two meal credits) where some of the staff came out of the kitchen and to our table to see the little boy try to eat the 24 ounce steak! FYI: He didn't finish it; he probably had 6 ounces at the most, remember the appetizers and desserts. You know it is too much food when kids beg not to order another dessert.

Don't get me started; I am still sad about how much 'adult' food was wasted during the week, and how many poor families it could have fed in the Orlando area. According to The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, in Orlando, the number of children living in poverty has risen by about 50 percent, from 82,000 to 116,000, since the start of the recession. That is a lot of hungry kids.

Walt Disney World really needs to incorporate a plan where guests can donate their meal credits to a local food bank or such organization rather than order food that they can't eat. Perhaps realizing that a ten-year old is a child--not an adult.

Okay, so we purchased the Disney deluxe food plan, for three adults (one 10 years old) and one child.

After finalizing our Disney booking online, and putting my credit card number in to pay, I got busy planning.

I know that we were going to Walt Disney World for the parks and the overall experience, but since I had put out such a large chunk of of cash for food, I wanted to make sure that we got to eat where we wanted.

The important thing here is to call WDW dining 90 days before your arrival. If you fail to do this, you may be very disappointed with your dining experience. On our trip we saw several families turned away from a few restaurants, because they did not have reservations.

Overall the food was great, and so was the entire WDW experience; however, we all ate way too much food. It got to the point where we just wanted to skip dining, but we had already paid for it--this is where WDW needs to have a plan in place for folks to donate their meals to others not so fortunate.

Was purchasing the dining package worth it?

It was pretty great enjoying some spectacular restaurants; our favorite was The California Grille in the Contemporary Hotel. TIP: Make sure to ask for a window seat to view the fireworks. The atmosphere and the food was incredible. Make sure that you make a reservation ahead of your trip; men need to wear collared shirts, and each person will use 2 meal credits. The waiter showed us a second exit off of the dining room to the roof-top viewing of the spectacular Disney fireworks! The area where he took us was much less crowded, and it made the night one to remember.

A more casual Walt Disney World restaurant is in Epcot at The Rose and Crown Pub. TIP: Ask for an outside terrace table to see the Illumination's laser show. This place is one meal credit.


Our least favorite restaurant--actually the only place that we ate at in Walt Disney World that we didn't get exceptional or even adequate service and food was in Epocot at Le Celler Steakhouse.

We are planning on going back to WDW in a few years, but this time I will not be purchasing the deluxe dining plan; I am hoping that they have a smaller plan in place by then that allows for us to have a few gourmet meals at the places we loved, and the rest of the time we can eat healthy food without all the mandatory appetizers and desserts. TIP: Save up your meal credits for one or two extra special dinners. If you like to eat--a lot-- and love rich gourmet food, then the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan might be for you. I still vividly remember the 2 lb lobster sitting in front of the ten year old adult; sadly we were all too full to help him eat it.


Character breakfast at The Magic Kingdom: one child and two adults, according to WDW
Character breakfast at The Magic Kingdom: one child and two adults, according to WDW

The California Grille in the Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World

5 stars for Overall Experience

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