Everything you need to know about Disney Dining Plans in 2017

dining2017

Disney’s dining plans can be a confusing, but it’s meant to simplify your your trip. Adding the dining plan to your package reservation essential makes it an all inclusive stay! So what do you need to know about it and is it for you?

Adding the dining plan to your reservation

In order to add a Dining plan to your reservation, you must be an on site guest and booking as a package ($200 deposit required and final payment due 30 days prior to your arrival). Disney does allow room + dining packages with no tickets and full packages with room, tickets, and dining coupled together. Military families can only book room + dining packages (tickets must be purchased separately from their local ticket office. If you elect to add the dining plan to your package reservation, each guest in your room MUST be included and it must be for your entire length of stay (there are some ways around this policy including booking a “split stay” reservation).

What about free dining?

The free dining promotional offer has been available over the last several years. Disney used to offer the same discount for January and February, but that seems like it is going by the wayside with other similar promotions (discounted but not free). During the fall months, Disney has offered this promotional offer for select dates but I think we’re all waiting for the year when it does go away. These big package promotions are used to help fill unbooked rooms but with overall park attendance up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go.

Dining credits?

All of Disney’s dining plans provide you with dining credits to be used during your stay. Your credits are broken down into credit categories – quick service, table service, and snack. All of your credits will be given to you upon your arrival at your Disney World resort to be used any way you choose during your stay. Depending on the plan you choose, you’ll receive credits for each NIGHT you stay.

Who gets credits?

Anyone on the dining plan age 3+ will receive credits. Children under age 3 are free at Disney and therefore will not need their own credits. This means they must share with a sibling or another adult at any plated table service meal and quick service locations. Credits are broken down to child credits (ages 3-9) and adult credits (ages 10+). This is important for table service and buffet restaurants. Child quick service credits can be used for adult meals (SHHH! Little known fact – helpful if you stretch your dollar and share more meals during your stay).

Dining Plan Options

Disney has 3 dining plans for 2017: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Regardless of your choice, each member of your traveling party will receive a refillable mug to be used at your resort. It can actually be refilled at any resort during your stay. No refills at the parks though!

The quick service dining plan provides you with 2 quick service credits and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  • Each quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner

PLUS dining (or the Disney dining plan) provides you with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and TWO snacks for each night stayed.

  • Quick service credit comes with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage whether you use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
  • Table service credits come with an entree, non-alcoholic beverage and dessert. No dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast.
  • Table service credits can also exchanged for a buffet or family style meal.

The Deluxe Dining Plan provides you with 3 credits which can be used for either table service or quick service and 2 snacks for each night stayed.

  •  Quick service credits come with an entree and non-alcoholic beverage. 
  • Table service credits come with an appetizer, entree, non-alcoholic beverage, and dessert. No appetizer or dessert will be offered if you choose to use a credit at breakfast. (This is an appetizer per person – not for your entire group so if you have a group of 4 you will receive 4 appetizers)
  • Table service credits can also be exchanged for buffet or family style meals. 

What is a snack?

Disney suggests a piece of fruit or box of popcorn as a snack. I suggest any drink at Starbucks (yes my venti raspberry white chocolate mocha was covered!), a cupcake, Mickey premium bar, giant pretzel, etc. There are so many great snack options available at Disney, so don’t limit yourself! In years past, there used to be a correlation to a dollar value for snack credits but I’ve seen snacks that are anywhere from $5-8!

What about two credit dining options?

Several Disney table service restaurants require 2 credits on Disney’s Dining Plan. These are listed as “dinner shows” or “signature dining” when searching for dining options. These include:

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table

    Cinderella's Royal Table is one of Disney's most popular restaurants

    Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of Disney’s most popular restaurants

  • Le Cellier
  • Monsieur Paul
  • Hollywood Brown Derby
  • Jiko
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse
  • California Grill
  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
  • Citricos
  • Narcoosee’s
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
  • Artist Point
  • Fulton’s Crab House (becoming Paddlefish in Late 2016)
  • Flying Fish
  • The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

As always, this is subject to change and up to Disney’s discretion!

What about tipping?

All table service restaurants do require gratuity. This includes buffet restaurants. This is NOT optional as your servers are providing you a service. The exception are the dinner shows and Cinderella’s Table which have gratuity included in the price of the experience.

Should I add the dining plan to my package reservation?

Generally yes! Most families benefit from one of Disney’s dining plans. You have a lot of food but it doesn’t limit your options/choice in terms of menu items.  Disney says you can save up to 15% on your food by choosing the dining plan. Out of pure curiosity, I kept all of my receipts from a recent trip and we came out ahead after we used all of our dining credits!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2017 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!w!

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Disney’s Dining Plan for First Timers

Disney's dining plan for first timers

Disney’s dining plan – something that I think is useful in some way, shape, or form to nearly every family who travels to Disney. There are a few exceptions to every rule, but truly without any of Disney’s dining plans, how are you going to eat? 

What are these exceptions? Family members with extremely limited diets due to medical restrictions (i.e. need to cook my own meals or else…) and potentially those that are staying in a 1 or 2 bedroom villas and have the ability to truly cook their own food. Disney fits the mold of everything else. Have picky eaters? No problem – Disney totally understands picky kids and adults, so there’s something for everyone if you know where to look (and we can plan together to find the best option for your crew). I think I’ve truly dealt with it all. Food allergies? Again, no problem! Disney has equipped kitchens (even with buffet style meals) to help accommodate all sorts of allergies. Even if there are multiple allergies or truly limited options, a chef will come to your table and get a sense of what you or your family member can eat and make sure it’s prepared in a safe, allergy free manner. I’ve been truly impressed with all Disney has done for guests with allergies (going beyond the simple gluten and peanuts!)

First, how does the dining plan work?

Each guest receives credits for their length of stay (breakdown below) – you cannot pick and choose dates or people in a room to have a dining plan. It’s all or nothing.  Guests age 3-9 will receive child credits while guests 10+ will receive adult credits. Your tiny guests under age 3 will be free, but will have to share from another guest’s plate. If you are choosing a buffet style meal, he or she may have a plate of food at no cost (because truly that’s what sharing is at a buffet!)

Your credits are issued to you at the time of check in and can be used in any way, shape, or form you wish. If you’d like to use all of your snack credits in one day (say during Food & Wine Festival in the fall), you may do so. If you choose to add 2 table service dining credits together to use toward a dinner show or Cinderella’s Table and then just eat quick service the following day, that’s perfectly ok as well! There’s no “per day” usage requirements, so the plan truly is flexible. The only “rule”, I have is USE ALL OF  YOUR CREDITS!!

In addition to your credits, each of your guests age 3+ will receive a refillable mug which can be used at any of Disney’s resorts (not inside the theme parks – but still useful to bring 1 to split soft drinks or use as a water cup). The refill stations at the resort include Coca Cola products, blue PowerAde, Coffee, Iced Tea, water, and hot chocolate. There’s a mug rinse sink as well but we bring a small container of dish soap because coffee followed by diet coke does not taste very good!

Next, what Disney dining plan is for you (since we’ve established, that it’s for almost everybody!)

  • Quick Service Dining Plan – This plan offers guests 2 quick service credits plus 1 snack credit per person per night of pecosbillstay. This is a good option for families that aren’t interested in sitting down to meals or those with extremely picky palates (especially if the picky palates are over age 10 as there are less options to choose at sit down meals for the “big” kids). While you receive 2 meals per day, there are ways to stretch your credits to feed yourselves for a full day – sharing a breakfast and lunch quick service is a good start (or using your snack at breakfast time and bringing a few snacks from home at the park). There are several options inside the theme parks that have very large portion sizes which can be shared between 2 adults.
  • Disney Dining Plan – This plan offers guests with 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and 1 snack credit per person per night of stay. This plan is best for those that want a taste of some of the 80+ table service restaurants but don’t want to sit down to most (or every) meal. You have the option to couple your table service credits together for dinner shows or signature dining (the best of the best in steak and seafood). You can also redeem your table service credits for character dining. For families with at least 1 child under the age of 10 and interested in at least 2 character dining experiences, this is truly worth its while. I know it seems like a bit out of pocket expense, but it’s difficult to only spend $20 per day on a child’s food in the absence of a dining plan. Plus, a dinner at Chef Mickey’s is over $40 per adult and a dinner at Ohana (which is one of our favorites) is just under $100 for a party of 2 adults. Knowing WHERE to dine is how to make this well worth its while, and doing the math on paper with what is included in your plan, makes true dollars and cents!
  • Deluxe Dining Plan – If you need 3 meals each day, or you are a family that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, this is the plan for you! If you’ve got any “foodies”, this is also the plan for you. This plan offers 3 meal credits per day (and can be used in a mix of quick service and table service at your preference). You also receive 2 snack credits per person per night of stay. Those that feel most successful with this plan often plan 2 table service meals and use snack and quick service meals to “fill in”. Lunch and dinner on this plan come with an appetizer, entree, and dessert per person so it’s a lot of food but a great way to try new things and great for the adventurous people (or great for those that want a ton of character dining)! I’d never shy anyone away from deluxe dining, but would hesitate to schedule every single dining credit ahead of time (as many people end up cancelling a few along the way because they are just too full to eat 3 full meals per day – at least in my family that’s how it goes!)
  • Platinum Dining Plan – This plan is for families who want to PLAY and DINE! You receive all of the accompaniments of the deluxe dining plan plus additional water sports and activities. This plan is less about the park time and more about everything else and is most geared toward adults and older children. You cannot use this dining plan under any promotional rates, but it’s a great way to do some of the lesser known Disney experiences if you’re not a “theme park” person! 

What do my credits include? 

Disney’s dining credits are not just an entree, it’s much more!

Under the quick service plan & the Disney dining plan, your table service and quick service meals include an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per person. At some locations, you can get an “upgraded” beverage besides lemonade, iced tea, or coke products. If you choose breakfast for any of your credits, you will not receive a dessert (just entree and beverage). 

Under the deluxe and platinum dining plans, you receive an appetizer, entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage per person at lunch and dinner. Breakfast again does not include a dessert and on this plan; no appetizer either!

Any table service credit can be exchanged for a buffet meal which includes “all you can eat” and at least one beverage (as big fans of a few breakfast locations, you can get coffee and their delightful POG juice) which are both included. If you want coffee with your dessert, ask your sever if you can do coffee as your beverage and just order water with your meal or if the restaurant will allow both. 

Quick service credits are much more than just burgers and fries. You can find BBQ ribs, lobster roll, fish and chips, tacos, stir IMG_4418fry, and much more if you know where to look! For the picky eaters, you are able to find the basics, but try to go beyond it if you can because there are truly some unique and tasty options around Walt Disney World!

Snack credits are a really relative term. A snack can be a piece of fresh fruit, a pre-packaged drink like juice, milk or bottled water, but can also be used for caramel apples, gourmet cookies and cupcakes, pastries, and sometimes real “food” during Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festival in Epcot. We can make a day out of snack credits and be completely full without every touching a quick service or table service credits during these events. You can receive sampler platters of tacos, sandwiches, and more under the “cost” of a snack credit. It’s truly a great value with some items holding an out of pocket cost of $6 or more!

But we’re not dessert eaters…

For the non-dessert eaters of the world like my brother in law (seriously, I don’t get it), there is an option for you. You can exchange your dessert portion of quick service or table service credits for something that is a snack credit. These are easy to ascertain at quick service dining locations as they are labeled, but please ask your cast member if you can sub in a cup of soup or a salad at your table service meals in lieu of dessert. This is NEW for 2016, and something I’m really excited about so the non-dessert eaters of the world are not just stocking up on bottled water!

How do I keep track of all of this?

Disney makes it easy and you have a few ways to track your dining credits – after you use a credit, the bottom of your receipt will show your remaining credits in that category (and the cashier will often verbally tell you the amount as well). If you are trying to get an overall view of the details, stop by your resort’s concierge desk and ask for a printout. It will give you an up to the moment review of all of your remaining credits for your trip and if you feel like something is incorrect, you may ask for a more detailed review of what has been used where!

I truly hope this makes you more comfortable with Disney’s dining plan. It’s a money saver and advantageous for about 99% of families! I hope it’s something you’ll consider for your next vacation.

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for your Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Interested in experiencing either a Disney World vacation in 2016?  Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free vacation opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

10 Disney World Non-character dining restaurants your kids will love

 

The first thing many people think about when dining for kids are character dining meals. These can get tiresome for adults as they are all character meals and are often quite noisy. This experience can also be a long one as you wait for characters to make their rounds (especially at larger locations). If you’re looking for a few non-character meals that your kids will enjoy, look no further! Here are a few of my favorite suggestions:

Rainforest Café. Locations in both Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Menus at both locations are essentially the same, it’s a matter of scheduling and convenience. During the winter months and off peak travel times, Animal Kingdom often closes around 5 pm (sometimes earlier), so a later dinner would be out of the question – transportation will be a bit more limited if you choose a later reservation time as well.

T-REX. This fun location in Downtown Disney is an alternative to Rainforest Café, but is also more popular! Kids marvel at the outside and the interior is just as fun. Dinner reservations go fast, so make sure it’s one near the top of your list.

Coral Reef. Wouldn’t you like to dine with one of the largest aquariums in the world? Located in Epcot Future World, this is more than just seafood. There are chicken and steak options as well. Your kids will really enjoy the aquarium while you enjoy a really tasty meal. This is not an extremely tough reservation to get and is open for lunch and dinner. A 2 or 3 pm reservation should fill your bellies for the rest of the night, especially in the summer sun of Florida!

Via Napoli. A quick trek over to Italy in World Showcase, Via Napoli has some delicious pizza and pasta options and one of the favorite menus of kids. Adults can enjoy some sangria and some of the friendliest wait staff in all of Disney (my opinion of course!) The food is made quickly, so you won’t be waiting long. There’s a reason that this location is consistently booked up 20-30 days before arrival!

Boma. Yes, Boma is a buffet, but it’s not your ordinary buffet meal! Disney imagineers did a great job styling this like an African Market. Breakfast is one of boma-flavors-of-africamy favorite meals in all of Disney. While it’s not the most convenient location if you are staying outside of the Animal Kingdom area and don’t have a car, it’s worth a trip during an off day or a day you are planning on touring Animal Kingdom. The food here is a little different, but has options for picky eaters as well.

50s Prime Time Café. Elbows off the table! This 50s diner in Hollywood Studios is well themed and cast members really play their part. Encourage your kids to play along! This is a cast member favorite to bring their family and friends when they’re not on duty. In addition to the fun atmosphere that your kids will love, enjoy some huge portion sizes (sharing is highly encouraged) and save room for dessert!

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. Your booths are cars. Can it get any more fun than that? While you may share a space with another family depending on your party size, enjoy this fun and exciting themed restaurant. It’s a fairly inexpensive themed table service restaurant for those paying out of pocket for their meals. It’s a great first experience for those looking for one or two dining meals during their stay. Don’t worry, their “sci fi movies” are more goofy and not scary!

Whispering Canyon Café. Located in Wilderness Lodge and just a boat ride away from Magic Kingdom, this is another place to encourage your kids to play along. You’ll find pony races, literal interpretations of meal requests, and just try and ask for ketchup! While it’s a noisy restaurant, it’s a fun dining experience for all. Some teens may roll their eyes at some of the corny jokes, but it’s still a blast!

Be Our Guest. Yes this is the most difficult reservation in all of Disney World. Yes, there’s been some difficulty getting FastPass+ lunch reservations after June 28th, but yes it’s an amazing atmosphere as well. Located in New Fantasyland, it’s the first Disney restaurant that is quick service at lunch and table service at dinner. It’s also a great way to allow more people to visit the restaurant each day. We really enjoyed our lunch and I’d definitely go back again. If you can get it, definitely go! It’s a very enjoy able experience and beautifully thought out.

‘Ohana. Breakfast is a character meal, but dinner is not. Located at Disney’s Polynesian, it’s one of Disney’s most popular restaurants, so make your reservations as soon as possible to get a reasonable time (the closer to 5 pm, the better as later times may run late). ‘Ohana also underwent a menu change recently, but I’m sure it’s still a delicious family style meal with a Polynesian flair and atmosphere. It’s also a longer meal with multiple courses, but the food and the fun keep going and kids of all ages are entertained during the entire length of their meal.

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Tips & Trick for Disney World Refillable Mugs

 

As you may know, all Disney resorts of Refillable Mugs which can be used at your resort any of the Disney World resorts. In 2014, Disney updated their machines and mugs for “Rapid Refill”. In addition, costs have changed as well and is more of a tiered system which looks a little like this:

$8.99 for 1 Day
$11.99 for 2 Days
$14.99 for 3 Days
$17.99 for Length of Stay

There is a hard coded “length of stay”, but keep your receipt if you exceed that date and a cast member can make adjustments.

Another change to this program is a wait time between refills. You must wait 2 minutes before you can refill your mug again. For most people that’s no problem and it saves people from filling cups that are not their mugs/cheating the system. Outside of water, all soft drinks, coffee, and tea will only be dispensed with an active mug placed on the tray (you cannot hold it and fill). Display screens provide appropriate directions.

What  if my child is too small to see the screen?

My experience is that they yell for mom because they think the machine is broken. (I got a little chuckle out of it several time!)

Is water still free?

Yes. You won’t have trouble getting ice or water in your own container if you so choose.

Disney’s Dining Plan

Everyone with Disney’s dining plan will also receive a mug as part of your package. To pick yours up, head to the quick service location of your choice and have the cashier scan your MagicBands. He or she will likely ask if you are on the Dining Plan, but it never hurts to make mention of it.

What if I’m part of a split stay?

If you are part of a split stay and your mug purchase or dining plan is on the first half of your stay, see a cast member to add additional days to your mug. Keep your receipt from your original purchase. You’ll rarely be second guessed, but it’s good to have.

If your dining plan credits don’t activate until the second half of your stay, you’re out of luck unless you’d like to purchase a separate mug. If it’s only a day or two, just wait it out. No need to purchase something you’ll soon get for free.

I’m not on the dining plan, is this worth the money?

It depends on how much time you’ll be staying at your resort and the convenience of the refill stations to your room. Even if you average $1.99 per drink refill, you’d have to use your mug 4 times in 24 hours. If you divide the charge over 6 nights (a pretty average length of stay for many families), you’d only have to use your mug twice each day to make it worth the money. If we’re not staying club level, I really enjoy having a mug, even more so at a value resort!

Can I use my mugs in the theme parks?

No, sorry! We often fill our mugs  with coffee in the morning, hop on the bus and head to our park of the day. We also grab a few napkins to toss inside the mugs after we’re done with them so coffee doesn’t get all of our small bag/tote for the day. After we get through our main attractions early in the day, we rinse them out in a bathroom or water fountain and refill. Yes, Orlando water does taste kind of yucky, but with a packet of Crystal Light, problem solved!

If you are eating a quick service lunch, the mugs are a great thing to have to split those giant drinks (or take the rest of your table service drink to go).

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box! (subject to minimum vacation package)

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

101 Tips to make a magical Disney World vacation!

 

 

For 2015 and 2016 Disney World vacations, these are the best tips and tricks! While there’s a million different opinions out there, who knows what’s current and what’s outdated! Having just come back from another research expedition in Disney World, I’m confident these tips will help you on your Disney World vacation!

In no particular order…
1. Research, research, research! The more you know, the better your trip!

2. If cost is an issue, know when the best deals are. If crowd levels are an issue, know when the lowest crowd times are (hint, they are typically very similar times). Crowd calendar 2015, best times for 2015.

3. Start walking before you go. You can easily log 8-10 miles a day at Disney and while you take breaks, you’ll need to build some endurance. Take some family walks and start to get your legs ready!

4. STAY ON PROPERTY! While it may seem more expensive on the surface, you won’t need to rent a car, get transportation to/from the airport, or pay for parking.

5. Think about using a travel agent. We know how to get the best discounts, when discounts come out, and are actively looking to save you time and money! Plus, we are FREE to work with!!!

6. If you book your Disney vacation before a discount comes out, you will have to call Disney to apply the new discount. It doesn’t get changed automatically. During a big discount, you may be on hold for a very long time!

7. Think about your budget. Now think about adding about 20% more to it to make it a more reasonable number for Disney. You can definitely do Disney on the cheap, but if you’re thinking about cost the whole time, it makes it less fun for the adults!

8. Look into the dining plan and what it includes. See if it’s for you (or how you can get it for free!)

9. Make sure Disney knows about any celebrations during your stay! You’ll get a few freebies and some recognition as well.

10. Children under 3 are free in Disney. If you’re thinking about a vacation before or after your child turns 3, you’ll likely save at least $300 if you go when they’re 2!

11. Similarly, Disney considers 10 year olds Disney adults. That means there’s a price break between 9 and 10. Park tickets don’t make a huge difference, but dining does!

12. Park tickets become cheaper the more days you add (sometimes adding a day of park tickets can be as low as $30 for a family of 3-4). Disney does the math for you when you are booking your package, so check it out!

13. Plan for a day off. Disney can get exhausting. Make sure you take a break during your trip, whether it’s a planned pool day, downtown Disney, or just a day without parks. You won’t get bored!

14. Ask questions! If you’re in Disney and are confused, lost, or need help, cast members (Disney employees) are here to help!

15. Plan at least one table service dinner. Even if you’re not on the dining plan, it’s a good experience!

16. Try new food! You’re on vacation. Don’t be afraid to book a unique restaurant or menu item (especially on the dining plan!)

17. Ask your server for suggestions. They’ll give you a good opinion or at least tell you the most popular menu items.

18. Save room for dessert! There’s some awesome options on all the menus.

19. Explore other resorts. It’s fun to just look around another resort if you’re in the area (think Magic Kingdom and Epcot areas). You don’t need any sort of ticket or pass to walk around in the common areas. It’s fun to look around!

20. Bring sunscreen and wear it! Bring more than you think you need. Nothing like feeling miserable and uncomfortable after one day of vacation! Reapply after pool or water rides.

21. Bring snacks to the park. You can also bring your own water bottles. Anything except glass and alcohol is allowed into the parks! If you have a place to store it or are fine carrying it, you’ll save a ton of money!

22. Bring your own stroller. Sure it’s a pain to lug it through the airport and check it at the gate, but it’s better than $18/day for a single stroller or $31/day for a double stroller!

23. Decorate your stroller so you know it’s yours. Colored ribbon, a sign, etc. will all be helpful. Yes you left it in a certain place, but cast members rearrange strollers for the most capacity. This is especially helpful if you are renting a stroller.

24. Share meals. Share meals! Seriously. For quick service/counter service meals, start with one meal for every 2 people. You can always go back and get another or one or get a snack to share. Don’t throw away the expensive food!!! Look at appetizers and meals to share for table service meals. If you made a reservation and you’re not that hungry, don’t be afraid to share a meal. The only place you can’t share are buffet meals. Via Napoli does not allow sharing on the dining plan, but you can share if paying out of pocket.

25. Bring your refillable mugs to the parks! While you can’t officially refill them, it’s a great way to share one of the large fountain drinks from counter service meals. You can also fill them with water from the water fountains or ask for some free ice water at any counter service (a word of warning that Orlando water doesn’t taste the greatest!)

26. Use Disney transportation. It’s FREE! It adds to the experience of Disney.

27. Know how to get from here to there BEFORE you leave! If you need to make a cheat sheet on your phone or index cards, do it! You’ll save headaches later.

28. Driving to Disney? Parking is free at your resort and all the theme parks if you stay in a Disney resort! Bring a GPS or some directions to get you to the main roads. Once there, Disney signage is great to get you to your destination.

29. Download the My Disney Experience app to your smart phone. You can update reservations on the fly and check for various show times and character meets in the park.

30. Arrive at the parks 30-45 minutes prior to park open. At times the parks open before the posted time. You can get through more of the park in the first 2-3 hours of the day than any other time!

31. Even if you’re tired, wake up for “rope drop” (park opening). You can always take a break later.

32. Take breaks! Whether it’s for lunch inside the park or a nap or some pool time outside of the park. You can’t make it 12-14 hours in the park without a break.

33. Be aware of Extra Magic Hours. Late hours are great to get some more popular attractions out of the way. If you are willing to get up early for morning Magic Hours, make sure you arrive before the park opens, otherwise it’s not worth it.

34. Fall brings some early park closures to the general public. Check the park hours on Disney’s website for days that close early due to special events. You may want to avoid that park. Animal Kingdom also closes earlier during lower crowd levels. Make sure you plan ahead if you have park hopper tickets.

35. Make your FastPass+ reservations at your 60 day window – this is for your entire vacation. This opens at midnight EST. If you want to meet Anna & Elsa, this needs to be done the second the window opens! Make sure your reservations are made at least 30 days in advance as that’s when day guests can make reservations.

36. Take advantage of all your FastPass+ allotments. Even if you aren’t sure, book it!

37. Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This has become extremely competitive in the last 2-3 years. Resort guests can make reservations 180 days in advance (this is for your entire vacation, not just one day). If you don’t have a resort reservation, you can make reservations 180 days in advance (but you’ll have to do it each day).

38. Check out the FastPass+ bypass for Be Our Guest for lunch.

39. Package reservations must be paid in full at 45 days prior to your arrival. Room only reservations are paid upon arrival.

40. Think about online check in. If you are arriving earlier in the day, make sure Disney knows about it. While it’s no guarantee, the more they know, the better.

41. If you don’t like your room assignment on check in, you can always ask the front desk if there is another available room you can switch to (in a different location on the grounds). The worst they can say is no!

42. Wear good walking shoes! Flip flops are not good walking shoes.

43. Bring an extra pair of shoes in case one gets wet from rain or if you get a blister.

44. Bring first aid supplies. Disney does have first aid at each of their theme parks, however bring some good band aids, blister band aids, and moleskin with you. It’ll save you walking time to get there and making your injuries worse.

45. On days with a threat of rain, pack a pair of sandals or crocs. This is the only time I’ll ever suggest sandals in Disney. EVER. More suggestions on what to do on rainy days.

46. Pack your own ponchos. You’ll save money. Don’t forget a poncho or tarp for your stroller!

47. Pack a ziplock bag or two for cameras and cell phones on rides where you can get wet.

48. Take a photo of where you parked. After a long, hot day, you may not remember. Also take a photo of your rental car’s license plate!

49. Bring an extension cord. There aren’t always enough plugs available or in a nice place.

50. Think about staying closer to the park you’ll be at the most. You’ll save time traveling to and from your resort each day.

51. If pool time is important to you, choose a location with a great pool. You may want to spend a little more money on a moderate or deluxe resort to have a water slide. My favorite pools are at Beach & Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Coronado Springs. Of the value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century have fun pools (but no water slides).

52. Decide if you want to park hop. I think park hopping is beneficial, but it may be too much for young children or your first trip. You will get to see more in less time. Add a park hopper to your tickets and cut down on the number of days of tickets giving you time to take a day off!

53. Explore Downtown Disney. The World of Disney store has everything you could ever want to buy!

54. Stay cool. Drink water, don’t get dehydrated. If you’re feeling ill find a cool indoor show to watch or take a little break in one of the bathrooms.

55. Stop and enjoy your surroundings. Running from one thing to the next isn’t very much fun! Enjoy your surroundings.

56. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t plan every second of every day. Go in with a general plan and be open to change.

57. Know height restrictions for different Disney attractions before you go. They are strict.

58. Don’t make your kids go on something they are afraid of. There’s always another trip another time.

59. Find free stuff in Disney! Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom gives you free cards. Play the game or just take the cards. It’s a great distraction.

60. Really enjoy each country of World Showcase in Epcot. They are really interesting and intricate.

61. Take family photos with the Disney photographers. Your MagicBands will upload the photos to your account. Even if you don’t purchase them, it’s still fun!

62. If you see a Disney photographer hovering around, it’s likely because a pop up character meet will be on the way. If you want to know, ask! They’ll tell you the information they have.

63. Check out all the evening fireworks/shows. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios each have one and they are all amazing, whether it’s the first or 100th time you’ve seen them.

64. Watch Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from different vantage points: Main Street, Tommorowland Bridge, Polynesian Beach, California Grill (reservations required).

65. Get your spot for parades early. The shady spots go first, so if that’s important, stake your claim!

66. Think about Memory Maker. You’ll be able to put your camera away and have tons of pictures for your return!

67. Customize your MagicBands. It’s so much fun to see the rainbow of colors arrive at your doorstep instead of plain gray ones.

68. Use your MagicBands to their fullest extent. They’re more than just a key to open your door. Pay for anything and everything in Disney World, gain entry to the parks, use your FastPasses, etc. It’s actually really fun!

69. Call Disney if you need more than one room. It’s easier to properly link the reservations and they can book it faster than you could online. While you’re on the phone, ask if there are any PIN codes attached to your account.

70. Start your vacation on Sunday. Friday night and Saturday night stays are the most expensive. Crowds are also highest on a Saturday.

71. Arrive early in the day and leave late in the day. This will allow you the most time. Even if you’re not going to the parks.

72. Magical Express service TO your resort can take up to 90 minutes from your arrival. You’ll likely stop at other resorts on the way to your own. Be patient!

73. Magical Express service FROM your resort typically leaves 3 hours before your flight. Plan your flight accordingly.

74. Be cautious before booking a dining reservation the night you arrive. Flights get delayed, things happen.

75. Try a character meal! Even if you are dining as adults, it’s fun to watch kids faces light up.

76. Don’t yell at your kids. You’re in public and people can hear you!

77. Eat at off peak times. You’ll definitely be able to tell peak lunch and dinner times by the amount the crowds dwindle. If you can take advantage of that, you’ll get more for your time.

78. Did you know the average number of attractions done in a day is 8.5? While it’s definitely possible to do more, don’t have extreme expectations for your visit.

79. Stop and enjoy the cupcakes.

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80. Study park maps before your arrive to know where you’re going on day one!

81. Grab a daily schedule for the parks on your way in. You’ll know about special events, live shows, and character meets.

82. If you are in line for an attraction before the park closes, you’ll be able to ride or meet a character. A cast member will turn you away if the park is already closed, but you won’t have to leave the line.

83. Disney buses run until the last guest is out of the parks. You won’t get left behind!

84. There’s a place for nursing mothers if you’re taking a very young child to Disney. Ask a cast member for more information.

85. Enjoy attractions more than once. Just because you already did them on this trip, doesn’t mean you can’t do it again, especially if the line is short!

86. Head straight for the headlining attractions/rides first thing in the morning when lines are shortest.

87. Eat a decent breakfast. Even if you plan on enjoying some food at the parks, don’t go on an empty stomach and then get lost in running from ride to ride.

88. Pack some simple breakfast foods in your luggage. Pop Tarts and granola bars are easy grab and go things to get you to the parks early!

89. Think about club level service. Breakfast, snacks, hot and cold appetizers, happy hour drinks for adults, desserts, and after dinner cordials. It won’t be all of your meals, but we were able to keep full throughout our stay. Free bottled water too!

90. Meet at least one character during your trip. I don’t care if it’s kids or adults, it’s still fun!

91. Prepare your kids for the trip: waiting in line, being courteous, using manners, etc.

92. If there are two lines, choose left. 95% of the time that line is shorter!

93. The shops on Main Street in Magic Kingdom are open longer than the park. Shop on your way out after the fireworks show.

94. Get a set of “first ears”!Anna & Elsa - Frozen

95. Enjoy Club Cool in Epcot. Get a free beverage and try the different flavors of Coke around the world!

96. Take a night off and watch a movie at your resort. Don’t like the movie your resort has, check out the other resorts!

97. Try Dole Whip (I prefer the floats!)

98. Sit and enjoy some of the live shows. Don’t feel like it’s a waste of time. They are truly enjoyable and it’s a load off your feet.

99. Pay attention to the details! The different things on Cinderella’s Castle, all the animals in the Tree of Life, etc. It’s truly amazing!

100. Think about a dinner show! Disney has 3 on property and they’ll all really fun! Two credits on the dining plan or a decent out of pocket charge, but it’s a great way to take a nice long break!

101. Learn about Pin Trading and trade with cast members!

Whew! Did I forget anything important?

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

Two credit meals on the Disney Dining Plan are they worth it?: The ultimate debate!

 

Continuing the theme of Disney Dining with Free Dining on the horizon…Disney’s Dining Plan offers credits for table service meals. You receive one credit per person for each night you stay at your Disney World resort hotel. A handful of Disney restaurants and dinner shows require 2 dining credits based on the cost of their meals or the experience provided. These are categorized as either Signature Dining or Dinner Shows. While many Disney veterans will argue that you lose money by choosing 2 credit dining options, I argue that some are just too hard to pass up! Plus, all Disney dining locations provide you with so much food that it’s almost hard to use all of your credits during your visit.

The 2 credit dining restaurants are as follows:

  • Artist Point – Wilderness Lodge

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

  • California Grill – Contemporary
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Magic Kingdom
  • Citircos – Grand Floridian
  • Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café – Downtown Disney
  • Fulton’s Crab House – Downtown Disney
  • Flying Fish Café – Boardwalk
  • Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios
  • Jiko – Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Le Cellier – Epcot
  • Monsieur Paul – Epcot
  • Narcoossee’s – Grand Floridian
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse – Yacht Club

Dinner Shows which are also 2 credits include (some alcoholic beverages are also included for adults at these locations):

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue – Fort Wilderness
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – Fort Wilderness
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show – Polynesian

While I haven’t dined at all of these locations, the food I have tried is definitely a cut above the rest. I’d absolutely go back to any of the signature restaurants again without hesitation.

Is it worth it?

Value of worth is really based on your definition of “worth it”. If you’re going purely based on dollar value and paying for the Dining Plan out of pocket, dining at a 2 credit location may not recoup the cost you paid for it.

A very quick math lesson on Disney’s dining plan for an adult assuming a very common vacation of 7 days, 6 nights.

Per night cost for an adult $64.58.

  • Subtract a per day cost of $3 for the cost of the refillable mug ($17.99 for length of stay if purchased out of pocket)
  • Subtract $4 for snack credit (any good snack will be around the $4 mark or above)
  • Subtract $9.79 + $2.99 + $3.29 = $16.07 (the average cost for a counter service meal with fountain drink and dessert included as part of your quick service credits).
  • This leaves $41.51 to make up for in cost for a table service meal each day.
  • Subtracting $3 for a drink and $8 for a dessert, that leaves the need for about a $30 entree for each counter service meal. While that sounds excessively expensive, that’s pretty easy to find in Disney.

Now for the argument of using a 2 credit table service meal. You’re not likely to recoup the cost of about $65 in an entree (assuming that a dessert costs a little bit more at a signature restaurant). Does that mean I don’t dine at signature restaurants, definitely not! It’s some of my favorite food and a totally different atmosphere and amazing service. If you choose a signature meal, you’ll likely be able to share a different 1 credit table service meal which will tilt the scale back to the green (1 and 1/2 times the cost of a table service credit is definitely feasible at a signature restaurant where some entrees are upwards of $50 – and worth every delicious morsel!)

I argue from the other side that any meal is “worth it” with free dining. While you are not getting a discount for your room, at a moderate resort, the discount over a 6 night vacation is only in the realm of $200-$300 while free dining can save you well over $1000. How’s that for math?

Confused yet?

Yeah, me too! It’s the continuous debate among Disney veterans, and those that just like to argue about things. There’s no right or wrong answer to Disney dining. The only right answer I have for you is check out the menus. If the food looks good, make a reservation. Don’t listen to one bad review online or one good review from a friend. Every experience is different and things change over the years. Enjoy yourself! You’re on vacation.  Try something new. And overall, HAVE FUN! It’s the only place you can be an adult but act like a kid again!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!

 

 

 

Top things to add on to your Disney World vacation package

 

When booking a Disney World vacation, you have many different options to customize your experience. The most basic vacation would be a room only reservation which is exactly what it sounds like. A room reservation with no tickets. Adding base park tickets to your reservation makes it a package reservation.

Not all “add-ons” are created equal. Some require a package reservation, while others are available with or without a Disney World resort hotel reservation. Here’s a breakdown of each item, cost, explanation, as well my opinion on the value of worth.


Park Hopper Passes. This cost is variable based on a number of factors including number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and any active promotions (including free or discounted days of park tickets). This add on allows you to visit any and all 4 Disney World theme parks in one day. This is a great option no matter what kind of trip you want to have! This may be too much for those with kids under 5 (although some families love to park hop no matter what the age!)

Water Park Fun & More. This cost is also variable based on number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and if you are also included park hoppers. Without park hoppers, the cost of adding this option vs. one day of water park tickets is more costly. If you add park hoppers plus water park fun & more, you may get more for your money with the ability to visit both water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and mini golf. Unlike theme park tickets, these tickets are per use, not per day meaning you can take a day off from the parks to golf in the morning and visit a water park in the afternoon.photo 2(2)

Disney Dining Plan. This is another option that requires park tickets to add this to your Disney World package. Disney offers 5 different dining plans, however the three most popular are: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Cost is variable based on the dining plan you choose, any available discounts at the time, number of nights stayed, and number of guests in your room. For more on the the Disney Dining Plan, review Flavorful Friday. The dining plan will be coming to you FREE this fall! Click for more tips and tricks regarding Free Dining at Disney World.

Memory Maker. This amazing new add on does not require any sort of package or even a reservation to a Disney World resort. This can be ordered through a travel agent or from Disney’s web site. Guests staying offsite can order Memory Maker. Rather than scanning your MagicBand, you are given an RFID enabled card to store all of your vacation photos. The great thing about Memory Maker is that for the $149 advanced price ($199 if purchased after your arrival), you receive an unlimited number of photos uploaded to your account. You are instantly able to share with family and friends and able to download them all to save forever after your trip. For more on Memory Maker, check out what it’s all about as well as all the must take photo locations around Disney World.

Travel Insurance. Another option that doesn’t require a package reservation, but understandably, this is for Disney resort hotel guests only. Disney offers travel insurance for all guests staying in their resorts to recoup the cost of their likely very expensive vacation in case of unforeseen issues. The details are spelled out clearly as well as the coverage. I suggest travel insurance to everyone I work with, and although I’d guess only half the people I work with elect to keep it, it’s a peace of mind I like to have on my trips. Kids get sick, adults lose jobs, life happens, luggage gets lost. It’s better to have the opportunity to reschedule your vacation than lose some of your hard earned money! Cost is $75.95 per adult (children are at no cost).


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
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While this isn’t technically part if any Disney World package, it’s something to consider in your budget when making your reservation. BBB has 2 locations in Disney World: Cinderella’s Castle, and Downtown Disney. Both locations have Fairy Godmothers transform your child into the princess (or prince) they’ve dreamed of. Cost varies but starts at $54.95 (and goes well over $200 for the top of the line package). It’s an experience that is not forgotten. Plus, add more photos to your Memory Maker package with this one of a kind experience. Sessions take 30-60 minutes depending on the package you choose and the time of day you are scheduled.

Overall each add on feature has its pros and cons. My favorites are definitely Memory Maker and Park Hopper Passes. It’s something that I plan on adding to all of my vacations going forward based on the way we enjoy traveling. While each family is different and sometimes budgets put a cap on what you can do, it’s always nice to know your options!

Ready to get started planning your 2015 Disney World vacation? Please contact me at any time for a free quote. The benefits to using an authorized Disney vacation planner include saving time before and during your vacation with itinerary planning which can help save you hours of standing in line each day. Plus you won’t have to watch for available discounts, research resorts, wake up early for dining reservations, or stay up late for FastPasses. The best part about using a travel planner instead of planning yourself? It’s totally FREE! Plus I’ll take away some of the stress and confusion of planning a Disney vacation (especially if it’s your first one!)It’s also a worry free cruise opportunity. I’ll walk through through all of the steps to the process with a few little insider tips along the way! If you already have your vacation planned and are interested in transferring your vacation, ask me how!