Granted, for my family of five, if we ate like kings all week, free food would seem like a good deal, but if we ate like we normally do (small breakfast on the go, light lunch, moderate dinner), the room discount is always a better offer.
Think about it this way: if you stayed at the Beach Club Resort utilizing the Buy 4 Days - Get 3 Free offer, you would have saved $1000 on your room. I don't know about most folks, but $1000 worth of food - even at a theme park - seems excessive for a seven day trip. I don't even spend that much in a month at home.
Remember too that free dining does not include the tip, so if you eat at the most expensive restaurants and order the most expensive menu items, you still have to fork out an additional 18 - 20% tip on a meal that you wouldn't have even considered without free dining.
Remember, Disney is in the business of making money.... question everything. The truth is out there.
As for the dining plan at Disney, my family did the math and it was cheaper doing the Deluxe plan IF we ate like that (and weighed 400 pounds each)
My view on the Dining plan was it was great deal, but way too much food! But I agree, regular Dining Plan will get you far and usually keeps you in budget.
And, W McDougal, all I will say about Celebration is this: only travel there during the day! People are strange when you're a stranger.... ;)
The only complaint I have is that its ALOT of food, but for the amount of food you are spending, its worth it. I also greatly enjoyed using the meal plan at Yachtsman, Hoop de Do, and the Luau. But yeah, tried it once, that was enough for us so I guess I agree with you guys...sorta
All that said, the homes I've been in are nice. The lots are small, but that's not a huge issue for me (being used to living in Pasadena). I like the trails and it's a very convenient staging place for trips to Disney.
For our group, however, a Disney Vacation Club was the best option on our recent vacation. Why?
Accommodation Price: For our group of eight, we would require two rooms or a suite at Universal's hotels, both of which are more expensive than the DVC rate we received by booking from the DIS Discussion Boards.
Proximity: Universal's two parks require two days of driving if I'm off-site; extra if I visit CityWalk often. Disney's parks require between four and six days of driving if I'm off-site; extra if I see the water parks, Downtown Disney, the Boardwalk, mini-putt, etc.
Extended Park Access: We only visit parks during the off-season. For this reason, the only long lines we experience are with new attractions: on our recent trip, Toy Story Midway Mania and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. We were able to see Midway Mania with a ten minute wait thanks to Fastpass, but Rip Ride Rockit did not have its Universal Express line open yet. Additionally, Extra Magic Hours decrease not only wait times but crowds in general. Dining and strolling after hours is much more enjoyable in an empty, cooled down park.
Dining: I would never pay full price for a DVC just to get free dining. Free Disney food for a week or more would make me lethargic and useless. Disney's DVC suites, however, provide full kitchens, making dining exceptionally cheap.
Free Parking: If I don't stay at Universal, I have to pay for Universal parking twice. If I don't stay at Disney, I have to pay for Disney parking at least four to six times, maybe more for the water parks et al.
Advantage for my group: Disney.
Thats why my family is part of DVC at OKW!
Its alot of money up front, but it pays off if you are going to Disney at least once a year for a week or more!