The different options are as follows: (PLEASE NOTE- 2013 PRICES!!!)
(as explained in great detail at http://touringplans.com/walt-disney-world/disney-dining-plan )
The very first time our family stayed on Disney property (in spring of 2010 with our 2 children who were 7 and 3) we thought it would be a great idea to take advantage of the Deluxe Disney Dining plan. What were we thinking!?? This was WAY TOO MUCH FOOD everyday for our family!! I cannot even begin to tell you how much food was wasted on this plan. It paid for us each to have 3 full meals a day PLUS 2 snacks! Wowzers, we could hardly do anything but eat! Haha! We agreed that a dining plan was a GREAT thing to have for several reasons which I will detail below, BUT not to this level of amount of food, for sure. Maybe if we had several strapping young lad who ate everything that didn't eat them!
So, the next time we went to stay in the world (in Spring of 2012, when our children were 9 and 5) we again got the Disney Dining plan, but this time the Standard (now called "Plus") plan and it was absolutely PERFECT for us! There were a few days we had planned to spend away from Disney (one at Sea World and one at Siesta Key beach) so we were able to use any "Extra" meals to go towards our Character dining experiences that required more than one meal credit per person.
What we LOVED about the Disney Dining plans:
1- CARE FREE ORDERING!
©DisneyNow, don't let this factor be misleading. Disney Dining plans CAN be confusing when you are trying to figure out at a resort quick service place how many different items you can get and what it will count for- a snack or a quick service? etc
BUT when I say care-free ordering, I mean going into a restaurant (be it quick service or table service) and knowing we can order whatever we want off the menu and not even LOOK At the prices! Now, THAT is what I call being on vacation!! Because I don't know about your family, but at home, we try to be conservative with our spending and do not splurge on high priced foods on a regular basis. I know what you are thinking - you ARE Paying for it, just all rolled into one lump sum in the trip price (unless you are blessed enough to get the free dining option). But at least by the time you get there, everything has been paid for and you are covered for the rest of your trip! So even if getting the dining plan ends up being more than we would have spent on all of our food expenses otherwise, it is full worth it just for the experience!
2- CHARACTER DINING!!
3- BUILT IN SNACKS!!
4- DESSERT AND A DRINK WITH EVERY MEAL!!
I had you at "dessert," didn't I?! Seriously though, how much more magical can each day get for a kid when EVERY meal includes a dessert?!! (except breakfast, obviously). This is just GREAT and for people like us (who normally NEVER order a dessert out and ALWAYS order water only because ordering drinks really adds to the bill) these are 2 huge luxuries that we look forward to when vacationing at Disney World!