OK...think my hotel choices are narrowing down. Are there "set" deals (like the DLP recurring ones) that I should look out for? Are the dining plans necessary and/or worthwhile? I'm still premature with my planning, so I'm in no rush
The Free Dining Plan offers are really popular.http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2016/04/14/news-disney-world-free-dining-plan-offer-may-be-coming-soon/
As for other fixed offers, not sure.
As for the Dining Plan being worth it... That's tricky to say.
It's certainly convenient, I had the Deluxe Dining Plan on my visit, and while it's expensive, it's really easy not having to worry about the cost of food, only the cost of tips (18% by default, ouch).
Is it cheaper than paying as you go?
Especially on the Standard Dining Plan, I doubt it.
Though Disney has recently started making the price for Lunch and Dinner the same (usually the Lunch menu was cheaper), which makes it a little more attractive.
But if you want to do character meals (which are usually 2 credits on the Dining Plan), then paying as you go is probably cheaper for a family.