The GOOD:****If you like food, and like to try different things, then it is great. You can try different foods and restaurants that you might not if you were "paying" at the time. With DDP, you can order a $45 steak and not feel bad.****If you have kids under 9, it is very good. $15 a day, easily recouped with a character buffet that can cost close to $25.****Convenience...I love not having to "pay" each time.****With planning, we have saved close to $400 each of my last 3 trips.
The BAD:****no flexibility...would love to trade the dessert for appetizer at some restaurants.
In my opinion, the Disney Dining Plan is only worth it if it is included as part of a hotel promotion. We typically don't eat a lot in the parks or share meals if we were not on the Dining Plan. It was definitely better before Disney made the modifications by taking away the second "snack" credit per day and eliminating the appetizer. However, even as it is constructed now, the DDP can be a valuable incentive to stay on-site and can be worth far more than the @$30/day they charge for it as a stand-alone option.
The Universal Meal Deal is my least favorite, because it does not include beverages and severely limits the types of food you can get. If you're not a fast-food junkie, the Universal deal is a waste, and if you don't want to eat more than 2 meals in a day, it's also pretty worthless. I did find it pretty advantageous for us last October, because with an infant, it's much easier to have the kid nibble off a plate I can replenish for free than to purchase a kids' meal only to have the kid turn his nose up and throw away only to say 2 hours later that he's hungry. Universal says that "sharing" is prohibited with the Meal Deal, but I think a 2-year old nibbling off a parents plate is well within reason, afterall, Disney allows kids under 3 to eat free at all of their buffets.
The Sea World All-Day Dining is a great deal, again if you're planning on eating 2 or more meals in the park. It does include beverages, which is a godsend on hot days. However, much like the Unviersal deal, the locations are limited, but unlike the Universal deal, those restuarants have much more diverse menus. You can get items from the BBQ, handmade sandwhiches from the Spice Mill, or fast food-style items from other park eateries. The big drawback to the Sea World Plan is that because all of their restuarants have relatively long lines, even during low season, it can take a big chunk of the day to stop and eat, and the plan is not eligible at many of the quick-service eateries.
Ultimately, guests need to look at what they typically eat when they go to theme parks, and examine the menus before purchasing any plan. The parks are counting on guests not eating the value, and using the plan as a convenience, so if you don't want to get ripped off, it requires you to do some homework before buying into it.
I had heard it was soooo much food. I don't really watch my diet on vacations, but I don't like the idea of "forcing" myself to eat more:( (and I know I would to make it "worth it" ) to use up all the dining credits.
With a large family (8) it is incredibly expensive. While on vacation I try to only eat out 1/day. I bring sandwiches and snacks and eat breakfast in the room.
I would get it if you didn't have to have it for each day at the resort. If you could buy it for 4 of a 7 day stay, I would definitely do it, then I could spread out the meals over the 7 days instead of wasting so much food each day. This would also help with people who also want to go to Universal during their stay.
There needs to be a recognition that not everyone wants to eat junk, particularly two or three times a day!