It is amazing how much control our brains have over our senses. Obviously, the food you get at a Disney restaurant is no different whether you are on the Dining Plan or not. From my personal Disney vacations, however, I can enjoy my dining experience so much more when the price of the meal is never a consideration.
I understand the debate over the true value of the Dining Plan and that you can sometimes spend less without it. Not everyone wants a dessert at every meal or the most expensive item on the menu. The real value of the dining credits, however, has nothing to do with the actual prices and everything to do with being able to escape the thought of prices altogether.
When I am not using the Disney Dining Plan, my overwhelming cheapness monopolizes my mind and controls how much I enjoy my dining experience. In my mind, I know that the Sesame Chicken I just ate at Nine Dragons was good but not that much better than my local Chinese take-out place as to support its price point. Even at a quick service location, the prices will dominate your experience. I know that the Lobster Roll at Columbia Harbour House is outstanding and one of the best “values” in the park, but my mood is still shot by the fact that I just spent $50 for my family of four to eat lunch and all my kids had to eat were macaroni and cheese and an Uncrustable PB&J. The price point is forcing my brain to make comparisons between what I am having and what I could be having for less outside of the parks.
Now, when I do have the Dining Plan, I don’t pay attention to the price at all. It’s just not a consideration. I can enjoy my meal. I can enjoy the first class Disney service that I am getting. And, I can enjoy the time I am spending with my family. Is it still true that I could be getting the same or better food for less outside the park? Sure, that is a consideration that was made back when I booked my trip and decided to get the Dining Plan, but it hasn’t been thought of since. So, I am able to enjoy my meal and walk away with a positive reaction to my dining experience because I am not trying to compare my food with what I could be getting for that price elsewhere. The Dining Plan allows us to escape the worries and negative thoughts associated with the cost of the meal and fully experience our time in the park.
When I am looking back on a restaurant experience at Disney, my memories will either be positive or negative. The taste of the food is only a small part of what will determine that position. The price you are paying is going to set the bar for your expectations on the level of service, the quality of the food, the atmosphere, and every other aspect of your dining experience. With the Dining Plan, Disney eliminates the price from the equation and all of your expectations are reset. So looking back, you may remember the food tasting a lot better when you were using the Disney Dining Plan.
So what do you think? Is the Disney Dining Plan all about the numbers? Or, is it more about a state of mind?