I would never purchase the Disney Dining Plan but if it comes free with your booking it's a no-brainer and frankly it added massively to our overall enjoyment. It's another reason I'd automatically book a Disney resort the next time we visit....
I eat breakfast in the room, lunch and dinner in the park. Usually counter service, but at least one meal per trip is at a nice restaurant and I'm just working my way through the restaurants.
Universal's meal deal sucks. they aren't good at every restaurant, only selected ones which are guaranteed to be crowded if it's anywhere near dinner time. Plus, it's not like it's even the good restaurants. It's the crummy ones that no one would eat at if they hadn't already bought the meal deal. Definitely avoid this plan
What dining plans really offer are is less worry. You don't have to think about what you want to eat and how to pay for it. It's already been covered. This works best at Disney since nearly every food venue is a part of the plan.
I haven't used a plan elsewhere but researching the Universal and SF plans, guests are restricted to specific restaurants. This can cause problems for groups that want to eat together or guests who have dietary restrictions.
Although my next trip to WDW is fall of 2014 which will likely be another free dining plan promotion, I would pay for the basic level dining plan just to create the ease of mind.
As a diabetic, it's important for me to eat while at a park. But I've been lax in the past, often going 10-12 hours at a park eating nothing but a soft pretzel, sometimes not even that. I've gotten better the last two years, though.
That was one of my reasons for buying the SF Plan this season. For $70, I get a lunch and/or dinner at the park, depending on what time I arrive and how long I stay. Is the food I get healthy? No, although some options are. I also have found my capacity for food intake at a meal has dropped in the last two years or so. But I got the plan because this way, I know I'll eat. Unfortunately the heat and other factors have kept me from going to Great Adventure as often as I usually do. But I'll still break even at worst. What I do at other parks varies.
Not necessarily since you have to make reservations for certain table service restaurants on your own. To really make it worth the effort, the dining plan should have that concierge service flair that it currently lacks.
The dining plan should also be more flexible as what you'll expect from concierge service. People ought to order appetizers instead of desserts or substitute a dessert/drink for a wine or beer. If you eat salads or sandwiches, which are lower cost items, why not make up the value with both appetizers and desserts.
Personally, I have never tried it, but like most things, if you overeat, it can't continue throughout your full trip. By the 4th day, you will need a break from the greasy theme park food. Time to try something else or skip a meal.
Best way to save money is (1) eat breakfast in your room (especially if room has microwave and refrigerator) or free continental breakfast at a good value hotel, (2) bring sandwichs, soda, water, and pre-popped popcorn and other snacks in your backpack or stroller, (3) order fast casual for dinner in the parks, or leave early and eat outside the parks.
However, as others have stated, only select restaurants participate. The food choices at Six Flags is very limited and often your only choices are hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken strips. And they seem to want to put fries with everything as filler and most of the time I'm just throwing them away.
One thing that really ticked us off, though, is that its not usable in other Six Flags parks. Its only suppose to be used at the park you bought your pass from. Is it really that much of a cost factor? As far as I know there was nothing in the literature that explicitly stated that you couldn't use it at other parks (nothing you said you could either). I had actually used it a couple of times in another park, but I think during those times their machines were down and by default they give it to you if your pass had it written on it. We were very mad the next time we came through and were completely denied.
Also, they severely limit WHEN you can eat... 11:30 to 3:30 for lunch and 4:30 to 7:30 for dinner. If you are in between those hours, or after before/after those hours, tough luck.
In addition, if you paid for your whole family and say someone can't come that day... you CANT use their pass to get a meal. Only those passes that got scanned while coming into the park.
Just so many limitations... obviously to reduce the amount you use it. So in the end, it becomes more of a hassle than benefit.
I would not recommend getting it.
With a guilty conscience, I admit that my husband and I frequently plan our vacations around where we get to eat :-). We went to New Orleans earlier this year and the most detailed conversations about the trip centered around food!
That being said, we have our favorite places at Universal (Latin Quarter, Hard Rock, Mythos, Finnegans, Lombards....and I think we're gonna have to add a few Simpsons locations....) and we just figure out how we're going to work them in.
We don't worry about dining plans. We DO have the benefit of annual pass discounts, but that doesn't really determine where and when we go. The package deals seem too limited -- we'd rather budget to spend a little extra on food and enjoy ourselves, rather than try to fit to a plan.
I think that's Mythos at IOA's secret weapon: extremly good food at not an outrageous price.
Still, I think that the recommendations on TPI (and especially Robert's picks) will steer you in the right direction. France is very underrated along with Morocco at EPCOT to use some examples.
Personally, I liked Disney's meal plan, but then again, I knew exactly where I was going to use the credits to get the most value for my buck.
I know it wasn't mentioned (because its only offered to a couple of different groups), but the Tables in Wonderland is the best deal at Disney. For $100, you and nine other people can eat at virtually every table service resturant at Disney World and get 20%. There are some restrictions (no Japan and no holidays), but it should pay for itself in about 3 visits (if you have a party of 5)
Neither of you know what you're talking about regarding the Six Flags Dining Pass.
The Six Flags Dining Pass offers more than just three entrees and the program is offered at most of the restaurants within each park. Entree choices include more than just hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken strips. You just haven't spent the time to learn about the program and the entree choices offered at your park.
126.96.36.199 you're especially ridiculous! You paid $70 and you're given the option of two meals each time you visit. That's a pretty amazing offer, yet you're upset about the meal hours which are pretty generous, the fact that you can't use it at other Six Flags parks and for being unable to use the meals for a passholder who is not present. Are you for real?
You didn't pay for your entire family. You paid for each individual to have the dining pass and I think it's expected that they should be present to be given the benefit you paid for.
Finally, most kids, which theme parks cater to, like French fries with their meal. You don't go to a theme park to eat healthy.
The Six Flags Dining Pass is an unreal value! It's almost too good to be true.
With that said the $70 to $90 dining plan is great financially speaking IF you go to the parks often. If you compare it to what you would normally spend per meal (say $8 to $10 for just an entree), you win after 4 trips (if you do both lunch and dinner). But think about what that must mean the parks make profit-wise from any one meal. Six Flags must spend no more than a buck or two at most for each entree... which again, I think speaks to the quality of the food. I think this is the reason Six Flags can afford to do this kind of season long dining plan... because it probably doesn't spend a lot on the food to begin with. You will probably never see anything like this at Busch Gardens. In addition, the entrees don't include any extras like drinks or desserts or anything else. So, you get JUST the entree, even if it's just 3 chicken strips (plus the fries).
With that said... it is a good deal if you go often. It's understandable that they don't do it across parks (different costs per geographical area), but that would be a nice perk if they did this again next year. Even if they upcharged for it.
BTW, when I looked into SFGA's meal plan, the only choices being offered were chicken wings and two other entrees which were not vegetarian fare. If you can find a meal plan at this park which would suit the needs of a vegetarian I'd love to hear about it - if you can tell us about it without verbally attacking other TPI members.