Beyond Burgers: Unique Quick Service locations at Walt Disney World

beyondburgers

As a fan of any of Disney’s dining plans, we know our way around the menu! In fact, we’ve challenged ourselves to not eat any sort of  “theme park food” during our stays which include chicken fingers, burgers, and hot dogs. Surprisingly, it’s easier than I expected it to be if you know where to look! So today we’re going beyond burgers around Walt Disney World.

And where else to start but with the most difficult park – The Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is best known for being the family friendly park. It’s a crowd favorite and therefore I think it tries to cater to the masses which means a lot of basic menu items and a lot of kid friendly items. If you want to avoid that theme park food experience, check out…

  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn – a new Mexican style flair which is going a year strong and something that was definitely needed in a park full of burgers. Combine that with the toppings bar and you can easily have a meal for 2 with just 1 quick service credit.
  • Be Our Guest – This would be at breakfast or lunch ONLY since dinner is table service. And a big note – this is the only quick service location that requires reservations so advanced planning is needed here!
  • Columbia Harbour House – with things like Fish and Chips and Lobster Rolls, it’s a unique menu and located toward the “middle” of the park so it’s fairly easily accessible from anywhere!

From the most difficult, to the easiest…over to Epcot! With ethnic flairs around World Showcase and even running into a location in Future World, there’s a lot to be had here! It’s a place I wouldn’t plan for too many sit down meals because quick service is delicious and gives you more time to explore fun new and old as well as a lot of great characters!

  • If you’re in Future World, check out Sunshine Seasons on the first floor of the Land Pavilion. This is the same location you’ll find Soarin’ and Living with the Land so if you plan your FastPasses accordingly, you can Soar around the World and then have a great meal!
  • If you find yourself in World Showcase without a dining reservation, check out Mexico, China, Morocco, England, Japan, and my favorite – France for unique menu items without a burger or fry in sight!

Hollywood Studios is another park that is similar to Magic Kingdom with many locations serving burgers and fries, but there are a few unique options!

  • The new PizzeRizzo opens this week with pizzas, pastas and a meatball sub that looks really amazing!
  • Starring Rolls is a great option for those with the a sweet tooth – while there are not a ton of quick service menu items, it’s a great way to find a sweet treat after you’re done with your lunch or dinner!
  • Fairfax Fare has the most unique menu items with ribs and BBQ pork recently added to the menu. It’s a great little stop on your way over to Fantasmic – you can bring food in!

Most of Animal Kingdom‘s food is unique so you’ll happily find flavor and beyond burgers all over the park. Some highlights for me:

  • Flame Tree BBQ – You’ll see this well rated by guests across Disney blogs. Good BBQ, fresh flavors, and a nice view!
  • Harambe Market – Another newer location in Disney World – you’ll find African spices and more unique menu items we’d happily go back for!
  • Yak & Yeti Counter Service – This is actually my favorite choice in Animal Kingdom. It’s a taste of the table service location with portion sizes that are more comfortable for my stomach (anyone that follows me knows that we often share meals at table service and quick service location when it’s possible so it’s a nice medium that would allow us to share if we’re not really hungry but lets eat our own portion if we didn’t have a big breakfast!)

Outside of the parks, Disney Springs has a plethora of unique options!

  • Earl of Sandwich – great for folks not on a dining plan because the price point is very reasonable by Disney Standards
  • Along the same lines, Blaze Pizza. We have one locally so it’s not a location we will frequent in Disney but the food is good, reasonably priced, and can be shared quite easily!
  • Wolfgang Puck Express has good pasta and pizza options with massive portion sizes!

BUT let’s not forget about the resorts! While all resorts have their own take on dining with unique themes based on location, there are some that are a cut above the rest – no pun intended!

  • Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors is somewhere we’ll go no matter where we stay. It’s worth the trip! I could easily eat a few menu items on a daily basis and my husband loves that there are some Indian inspired dishes on the menu!
  • The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is another location that gives some African spices and flavors to the menu items. There’s a great BBQ flatbread on the menu that we would happily eat multiple times in a single trip! It’s a bit of a hike, but if you’re staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Villas, it’s worth checking out!
  • Contempo Cafe in Contemporary Resort. A quick hop skip and a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom, it’s a great place to dine outside of MK if you want a break or if you want some good food. Hot and cold sandwiches, flatbreads, and salads are all good!
  • Capt’n Cooks in Polynesian Village. Similar to Contemporary – a quick monorail ride away and a nice break from the parks. Nachos, adult grilled cheese, and unique Polynesian style means available and it’s a great rest break from what can be a long day at Magic Kingdom!
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)

Are you up for the beyond burger challenge in Disney World? It’s actually easier than you think! Bon appetit! 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 agent that is part of 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!

Top 10 Character Dining options in Walt Disney World!

Some of the most requested and favorite dining options in Disney are character restaurants. These are typically buffet meals (and often somewhat similar in cuisine). These are the top choices for those with kids and are also a good use of Disney Dining Plan table service credits (although not a great choice if you are doing deluxe dining). My top 10 is based on the most coveted reservations and best character interactions.

10. Hollywood & Vine. The best place to meet Disney Junior Characters. This location is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While it doesn’t get rave reviews for meal content, it’s great for the little ones in your life! Disney has recently enhanced this restaurant to also include a dinner hosted by Minnie with a seasonal theme. It started with Minnie’s Holiday dine and has scheduled events through 2016! Food is above average for character dining especially at dinner! The character interaction at our dinner was above average as well. Very funny characters!

9. 1900 Park Fare Supercalafragilist Breakfast. One of the few places that you can see Mary Poppins, Alice, and the Mad Hatter. (Alice and Mary Poppins are available in the parks, but not often and lines are often long). This is a great breakfast right before your Magic Kingdom day or to take a break in the late morning! It’s a nice alternative to ‘Ohana if it’s not available!

8. Crystal Palace. Available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Pooh and friends are available for hugs! The best part of Crystal Palace for me is breakfast! I try and snag a pre-park opening breakfast for a stroll down Main Street USA and some castle photos. Breakfast is tasty here and character to table ratio is pretty low so they come around quickly. You don’t spend a ton of time waiting for characters when you’re done with meals!

7. Garden Grill. The silly antics of Chip and Dale as well as a little visit with Farmer Mickey and his old pal Pluto make this aGarden Grill fun experience for kids of all ages. This restaurant inside the land pavilion gives you a great view and the food is good. This past fall, the location added reservations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want some great character interaction, this restaurant is great (it may seem just ok on the surface but characters continue to come back around for more entertainment which is different than most character dining experiences). Watch out for Chip and Dale – they are full of trouble.

6. 1900 Park Fare Happily Ever After Dinner. Always a favorite of kids and adults. This is the best place to meet Prince Charming and Cinderella’s stepmother and step sisters. There’s a lot of great conversation and sass! This is a great place to meet Cinderella if you can’t get into her royal table at Magic Kingdom! If you’ve got a Disney dad in your group, a stop here is a must for a little fun and games!

5. ‘Ohana. This is a character meal for breakfast only, but the only place to find Lilo and Stitch in Disney.Located in Disney’s Polynesian, join Lilo and Stitch on a tropical breakfast and their friends Mickey and Pluto are along for the adventure. This is one of the tastier breakfast options (and served table side with unlimited refills) in the world and has more than the basic waffles. I like doing a later breakfast after rope drop at Magic Kingdom and hopping the monorail over and then being full Stitch Ohanauntil dinner! Recently, Disney extended the hours until 12 pm making it a great way to start your day in Magic Kingdom early and having a great dinner!

4. Tusker House. This is only also character meal for breakfast, but it’s a great one to get before or around park opening. Have a safari breakfast with Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy. It’s another fun place for great character interaction and the food is a little different, plus you get a different photo op than the typical Mickey and Goofy attire! The food is for the more adventurous type with some African and Indian food style items on the menu at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’ve got picky eaters, you’ll still find some items on the menu, just not a wide variety.

3. Chef Mickey’s. Located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort with a view of the monorail, this is the best place to meet Mickey, Minnie, and the gang. Another extremely popular reservation, prime breakfast and dinner times go quickly. I like lunch reservations, because it’s a nice break from Magic Kingdom (and you can walk or take the monorail). The addition of “brunch” makes reservations a bit more attainable here and you can still get your Mickey waffles!

2. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. One of the greatest princess meals and it’s only one credit on the Disney Dining Plan! Cuisine is Norwegian (pretty standard breakfast stuff). You receive a photo before your meal with the princesses (typically Belle in her large ball gown) Character interaction here is some of the best among all the parks and it’s open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Before park opening breakfast and dinner reservations before 7 are the first to go. It’s a great option if Cinderella’s Table is unavailable (or if you don’t want to use 2 credits for your dining plan)

1. Cinderella’s Royal Table. This one is no surprise! Dining in Cinderella’s Castle is the most magical experience in all of Disney World. A personal photo with Cinderella before your meal and priceless interaction with many of the Disney princesses at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These reservations go quickly (especially breakfast before park opening and dinner reservations before 7 pm). This restaurant is one of the smallest so the ratio of guests to characters is low making it one of the great options available.

Sorry Cape May Cafe, you don’t make the cut this time. It’s not the most popular option, but a great choice if you’re staying in the Epcot resort area for a convenient and tasty dining option!

Do you have a favorite character dining meal or special family tradition with character dining? I’d love to hear about it!

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)

Ready to get started planning your 2016 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 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!

Friday Five: 5 Restaurants in Epcot that are worth your money!

For today’s Friday 5, we’re going to Epcot! It’s a park that families with young children often overlook and adults love. When many people think of Epcot they think of World Showcase and not about everything the park has to offer (perhaps a topic for another Friday 5 in the future). Both inside and outside World Showcase there are some fantastic culinary delights. Today, we explore 5 of my favorites that are worth your money whether using a dining plan or paying out of pocket.

1. Via Napoli. Anyone that knows me or anyone that has booked a vacation with me knows that this is my favorite Epcot restaurant, so no surprise it’s on the top of my list. Pizza, pasta, what’s not to love? This Italian girl hasn’t found anything on the menu she doesn’t like! Both on and off the dining plan, this location offers a great value. When using dining plan credits, you may not share pizzas from the menu, off, you may. We often go here and have an appetizer, share a pizza, and get some delightful sangria. It often has leftovers available for breakfast the following morning (don’t judge – I’m on vacation

2. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Of any restaurant throughout Disney World, this is the best value for dining credits (at dinner). Breakfast and lunch value is also in the top 10. The biggest draw isn’t the food, it’s the princesses! The experience is similar to Cinderella’s Royal Table without the added expense, pre-payment, or the 2 credits on the dining plan. You’ll see a similar set of princesses here but the experience is a bit more unique at Cindy’s. The menu here is a bit unique. There are some authentic Norwegian dishes available for all 3 meals of the day. If you want your princess fix but have picky kids (or adults), try breakfast. Be aware that it’s a hike from the main entrance of Epcot!

3. Garden Grill. This location gets a nod because it is unique! Located in the land pavilion, you sit in a rotating dining area as servers bring your family style meal to you. The food is good, the characters (Chip n Dale) are fun and  some of the food is locally sourced from Epcot’s gardens. Cool, right? Disney agrees with me as they just expanded service from dinner only to breakfast, lunch, and dinner beginning in early November! This means you can potentially grab a reservation before the park opens to have a character meal and still enjoy low lines. It’s a great way to enjoy Soarin’ standby after your meal and still have a FastPass for Test Track (hint, hint!)

4. Coral Reef. This is a great location for the visual aspect. Many say the food can be hit or miss and I agree. Built around the world’s largest inland salt water aquarium/tank, it’s a great place for families with kids who like to stay busy. There is all sorts of visual stimulation without having too much noise inside the restaurant. Again, check the menu! Lots of seafood options here but some good non-seafood choices as well. Portions are large enough to share here. Sharing is allowed between adult and child, child and child, and adult and adult depending on your level of hunger! Stretch those dining credits!

5. San Angel Inn. The last choice is hard! I thought Le Cellier, Teppan Edo, Chefs de France, but I’m only allowed 5, so Mexican wins the race for now. San Angel Inn is another great “Share a meal” destination. We typically share an appetizer and entree here and skip the dessert. The chips and salsa they bring out is a great filler. I personally prefer the lunch menu over dinner (and the cost fits a little nicer as well). On the dining plan, consider the prix fixe menu to stretch your credit a bit further – you’ll get an appetizer, entree, and dessert (so the appetizer is a bit of a bonus). Enjoy the surroundings here as well while boats go by from the Grand Fiesta tour attraction. Ask nicely to sit by the water when you arrive.

What are your favorite Epcot restaurants? Did I miss something you truly enjoy? I’d love to hear about your favorites in Epcot!

Friday Five: 5 lesser known Disney World resort dining reservations worth trying

So you’re looking for a break from the theme parks or you have an off day. You know all of the favorites – Chef Mickey’s, Ohana, etc. etc. Well, today we’re going to off the beaten path to talk about some of the lesser known options that are still worth going to:

1. Boma. Yes this is my #1 choice! Whether it’s breakfast with their caramel pecan bread pudding, their African specialties, made to order omelets, or POG juice, it’s worth a little detour before your Animal Kingdom park day or on an off date for a later breakfast/brunch. If you’re paying out of pocket for your meals, it’s a great value for the quality of food you receive. If you’re not big breakfast eaters, dinner is also a fantastic meal! It’s a little more unique in menu, but don’t let that scare your picky eaters away. There are basics like mac and cheese, chicken fingers, and pasta as well as fruit and bread. For those looking for a unique experience with a bit of African and Indian flair, this is some of the best food on Disney property. If you’re lucky you can try their ribs (which go quickly but some of the best flavor I’ve ever tasted). You’ll likely also see prime rib, unique soups and salads and to end your meal the famous zebra domes which were worth the wait after all of these years of us hemming and hawing over taking the trek out of the way.

2. Landscape of Flavors. This quick service location at Art of Animation is better than your average “food court” food. For families with younger kiddos, it’s a great little detour to see all of the recognizable Disney characters around the resort, especially their version of radiator springs. Sandwiches, made to order pasta, smoothies (which are a snack credit!!!), and other unique options for lunch and dinner, it’s a really fun location with great food.

3. Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory. Another location off the beaten path at Port Orleans French Quarter. Their beignets are to die and 3 are a snack credit. If you’re looking for a little bit of exploration on an off day or some time at Downtown Disney, hop a boat down the river and make a stop at this New Orleans inspired restaurant. It’s quaint and cozy.

4. Beaches and Cream. A great detour on a Hollywood Studios or Epcot day or a day you just want to explore the Boardwalk area (or use your free mini golf coupon). It’s a small location (only about 10 tables in the whole place), but good burgers with a fun 50s atmosphere (plus FLAVORED cokes)! Desserts are to die for – great ice cream concoctions that we’ll keep going back for again and again. A great location to embarrass a family member for a birthday. Because it’s a small location, they can do a little more.

5. Whispering Canyon Cafe. This restaurant seems to make a top list every time I talk about dining. It’s a family favorite! Just a relaxing boat ride away from Magic Kingdom at the quiet and beautiful Wilderness Lodge, this restaurant mixes food AND fun for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If dinner options aren’t available, grab lunch! The menu is a bit different but the fun and style of food are both tasty. Play along with some of the fun or just watch from the sidelines while others get involved in the silliness. If you do grab a dinner reservation, get the dinner skillet. It’s the only thing to get is the skillet (all you can eat). You also have bottomless milkshakes which is included as a drink if you’re using a dining plan.

 

5 steps to planning an all inclusive Disney World vacation

5 Steps to Planning an All Inclusive Disney World Vacation!

So you want an all inclusive vacation, how about Disney World? Most people don’t think about Disney destinations as an all inclusive type trip, but they can be. Have everything paid for up front, reservations made for your favorite restaurants and attractions and even skip a few lines with these 5 easy steps:

1. Make your Disney World package reservation a resort that’s most convenient to your family’s wants and needs. Want to spend more time in Magic Kingdom and less time traveling? Think about Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or even Wilderness Lodge. Love Epcot? Think about Beach or Yacht Club. Parks not so important? How about club level service at any of the deluxe resorts to enjoy some down time in their lounge with a few snacks and drinks? With well over 20 resort options, there’s surely something for everyone!

Enjoy some of the finer resorts on Disney property: Contemporary

Enjoy some of the finer resorts on Disney property: Contemporary

2. Choosing your dining plan. Of course, the most important part of an all inclusive vacation is the FOOD! Disney offers several different dining plan options that fits your needs. Have a toddler who’s on the go? Try the quick service plan which gives you the flexibility and maximizes your park time. Like sitting down for a meal and trying new things but still want an option to grab and go? Disney’s PLUS dining is for you! Love to be adventurous and try new things? Are vacations all about the food? Deluxe dining might be the best choice for you! While it involves a lot of planning, it’s an amazing experience to try some of the finer things Disney has to offer! How about some recreational activities as well as live shows and adventures? Check out the premium dining plan! This has the same entitlements as the deluxe dining plan, but allows you to use your credits differently as well as unlimited recreational sports for the ULTIMATE in all inclusive vacations. Above that is the platinum dining plan which includes everything the premium plan has to offer plus a fireworks cruise and spa treatment. This also includes pre-arriving planning service by a Disney cast member (because you’ll need it to pack everything into your trip!)

3. Make your reservation more than 180 days in advance. This will allow you to get your choice of dining reservations when they become available for your travel dates. Do your research, take a look at menus, talk to friends and family and carefully pick your top choice dining experiences during your stay. This is only for table service restaurants, no need for reservations at any quick service dining locations.

4. Make your FastPass+ reservations. 60 days prior to your arrival, you can book all of your FastPass+ reservations! Check out popular attractions like the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Soarin’, Toy Story Mania, or meet your child’s favorite Disney characters: Anna & Elsa, Cinderella, or even Mickey Mouse himself! Remember, 3 FastPass choices per park day per person and they don’t all have to be the same!

5. Buy a few gift cards. Since Disney does require gratuity on all table service meals, to make it a true all inclusive vacation, you’ll need to stash some cash for that extra cost. Grab some gift cards whether they be the Disney or Visa variety. Either way, you won’t go home spending a dime! Maybe even grab a few more for some sounveirs!

There you have! 5 easy steps to making your Disney World vacation, all inclusive! To save you some work on the process, try out a travel agent that specializes in Disney. It’s free, it’s easy, and you don’t have to do any of the work!

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!

Disney World Dining reservations – what 180 +10 really means

So it’s the first time you’re able to making your dining reservations taking advantage of the 180 + 10. You’ve made a list of all of the dining reservations you’d like. You’re hoping for popular spots like Be Our Guest for dinner, ‘Ohana at that coveted 5 pm opening slot, Chef Mickey’s for a prime time dinner at 6 pm, and California Grill at 8:45 so you can enjoy the 10 pm fireworks. You wake up early, log into your My Disney Experience account and try and select your days, and it doesn’t work! You wait the long, agonizing hour for the phone lines to open up and ask a cast member what the heck is going on and find out that 180 + 10 does not mean 190 days, it really truly means 180 days!

So what the heck? What does that +10 really mean? It means, you can book dining on that 180th day prior to your arrival and the first 10 days of your vacation. If your trip is less than 10 days long, that means your ENTIRE vacation! The concept is confusing, I’ll admit it, but once it’s explained properly, it kind of makes sense.  Why 10 days? I have no idea, but for all the vacation packages I book for guests, 10 days is the max for many (except for some of my international travelers).

**As a refresher, the 180+ 10 applies to guests who have made a Disney World resort or package reservation. Online reservations open up at 6 am EST and via phone at 7 am EST.

Still have questions? I’d love to try and explain a little better, feel free to contact me at any time! Good luck!

Top 10 Disney World Table Service Restaurants when paying out of pocket

 

It’s no secret that Disney World is expensive and if you don’t choose Disney’s dining plan, you may get sticker shock at the cost of food. While you can survive on quick service meals, snacks, and purchasing food from a nearby grocery store, I always suggest at least one table service meal to enjoy the full magic of Disney World!

If you’re looking to save money, here are the top X Table service restaurants when paying out of pocket. This takes into account portion size, the ability to share a meal, and overall cost.

  1. 50s Prime Time Café. Located in Hollywood Studios, it boasts some of the largest portion sizes in all of Disney World and is one of my top two choices for meal sharing. At least two entrees on their menu can be shared between 2 adults with no problem!
  2. Via Napoli. In my husband’s top 5 Disney restaurants overall (and probably up there in mine as well), Via Napoli can be found in the Italy Pavilion in World Showcase. An individual pizza can be shared between two adults, however that’s not allowed on Disney’s dining plan. Their pasta dishes are also large enough to share if you augment it with an appetizer or dessert, but they’re so yummy you may not want to! This is my other top choice for shareable meals at Disney restaurants. Lunch and dinner menus here are the same, so go anytime although my favorite time is around 3:30 (last lunch seating and it’s a perfect way to start our evening at Epcot).
  3. Rainforest Café. Located in both Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney, this location has decently priced entrees and a fun atmosphere for kids and kids at heart!
  4. Beaches & Cream. A lesser known option in Beach Club resort (between Epcot and Hollywood Studios). It’s a nice little break from the theme parks. This small diner only seats about 30 people, but the food is good, better than average burgers. Stay for some ice cream or make ice cream your main meal.
  5. Liberty Tree Tavern. This is only for lunch as their menus are drastically different. This is one of the lowest price table service meals in Magic Kingdom and the food is good. Many families have Liberty Tree Tavern as a must do for every vacation. Save room for the Ooey Gooey Toffee Café for dessert. It’s amazing!
  6. Boma. This amazing buffet meal is better than your standard buffet food. You can find this bustling restaurant in Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s definitely a bit of a hike for anyone not staying in that vicinity, but it’s a great and filling option on a day off from the parks or on a day you are at Animal boma-flavors-of-africaKingdom. Reservations are rarely hard to come by and both breakfast and dinner provide some interesting and different food from the standard buffet style meals. It’s a must try at least once! We can’t wait to go back from breakfast and dinner next time!
  7. Tusker House. Another great option in Animal Kingdom. Breakfast and lunch are character meals, but not as expensive as many others on property. Lunch and dinner food is very similar, so you’ll get the most value out of lunch!
  8. San Angel Inn. A beautiful table service restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion on Epcot. A family of 4 can share an appetizer or two and then 1-2 entrees at lunch. Lunch and dinner menus are different, so be aware of your options!
  9. Trails End. A little bit off the beaten path at Fort Wilderness, it’s easily the cheapest buffet meal on Disney property. Breakfast is a delicious option and it’s usually not that busy! You’ll likely be able to get in without a reservation.
  10. Kona Café. Breakfast and lunch menus are fairly inexpensive. As 2 adults, we can get breakfast for around $30 and be full until late lunch or early dinnertime. Dinner becomes a bit more pricy, so check the menus before you book.

A few other things to think about:

  • Don’t be afraid to share a few appetizers or share an entrée. At some locations it’s encouraged!
  • Check the menus. Some restaurants have different lunch and dinner menus, but that often means a price break at lunch as well. As long as your preferred meal is there, book a late lunch and be full the rest of the night!
  • Do character meals for breakfast. While this can cut into some of your park time, you’ll save more money (many of them run until 11 am, so it’s more like brunch!)

Interested in a restaurant not on this list? Book it! Enjoy yourself and eat what you really want! When you get to the restaurant of your choice and you’re not very hungry, you can just order an appetizer or dessert and head out.

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!

My Favorite Disney World Quick Service Meals

 

A little change of pace. While everything in my blog has a little bit of Melissa flair and is sometimes slightly biased of my likes and dislikes, this one is all about my favorite quick service  meals in Disney World. These vary by location, you can get a little taste of the things I really love in Disney World. These are typically places that we hit up every single time we go to Disney or places that I’m attempting to try everything on the menu. Instead of making a countdown, I’ll list them in order of location (partially because after Be Our Guest,  I just can’t choose an order!) This is perfect timing in light of FREE DINING expected to be released on Monday next week.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. Disney’s newest and most popular restaurant in new Fantasyland. We were lucky enough to get a FastPass+ reservation for lunch. I know my husband well, and armed with some insider information from a coworker, I order our food ahead of time. We had 2 opportunities to make changes, but I didn’t feel the need. I ate the Croque-Monseiur and he had the Braised Pork. Both were delicious and I’d eat them again. The braised pork was something that could have been on a dinner menu at a table service restaurant. The plating and the quality were great. Ending with a cupcake was delicious as well. Four thumbs way up. We’ll definitely be going back here.

For information on snagging a reservation for lunch, check out FastPass+ for Be Our Guest.

Pecos Bill’s. Easy in, easy out, plenty of seating. A great resting place and a really yummy toppings bar. The toppings bar makes it even easier to share a counter service meal. I often order the taco salad and I forget it’s good but not my favorite thing. My husband tried the BBQ pork and the sweet BBQ sauce was right up my alley. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before an afternoon parade, it’s right on the beginning of the parade route.

Epcot

La Canita de San Angel. By far this is my husband’s first choice of quick service restaurant in Epcot. He really loves the steak tacos. Thankfully it’s easily accessible once you hit world showcase as Mexico greets you as the first country in the line of many. I’ve had most of the items on this menu and the nachos and steak tacos are by far my two favorites. The churros with caramel sauce are a great dessert. Pair anything with a drink from Cava de Tequila right across the street, and you’re set! Nachos are definitely large enough to share. Tacos come with a large portion of chips, and 2 types of salsa are available at the condiment bar.

Sunshine Seasons. Located in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there’s an extensive and different menu. There’s plenty of healthy options here too (healthy food on vacation? Preposterous!) There are some awesome desserts too! If you’re in Epcot during Extra Magic Hours in the evening, there is some limited service before or after hitting up Soarin’ with a short line. It’s also one of the few locations open for breakfast.

Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls. While this is one of my favorite locations for a cupcake or a quick break at Hollywood Studios (and it’s especially perfect because it’s right in the middle of Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller Coaster). This is also a great hidden gem of quick service locations. The sandwiches here are enormous and definitely large enough to share, especially if you pair it with a cupcake as your dessert. We like to just share one of the amazing cupcakes. We’re just short of trying all the varieties because we chose an adorable seasonal cupcake instead of the last one on the “to do” list of their regular menu. 

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree BBQ. Not only is this my top choice for Animal Kingdom, but it’s one of my top choices in all of Disney. I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ, but I really love this place. For those looking to save a few dollars, try the chicken and ribs platter to share. This location both smells and tastes amazing. We didn’t make a stop at Animal Kingdom on our last, short trip, but I almost did just to eat there!

Yak & Yeti Counter Service. A quick taste of the table service without the extra cash or time of a sit down meal. The portions are definitely big enough to share if you’re not super hungry, but you may not want to because the food is so yummy. A late afternoon lunch could fill you for the rest of the day. There’s also a small amount of snack-worthy items here as well.

Downtown Disney

Earl of Sandwich. While this is a terrible use of a quick service dining credit, it’s a great out of pocket meal and a tasty one at that. The menu seems a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone who loves this place can’t be wrong! It’s not a must visit every time, but it’s a tasty meal and a good break from the heat or the rain while in Downtown Disney!

Wolfgang Puck Express. With some delicious Italian options including huge portions of pasta and amazing individual pizzas that really should be shared, I love this place! It’s a great place to have a 30-45 minute break in Downtown Disney. There’s not a ton of seating (or there wasn’t last time we visited), but it’s one of the best uses of quick service credits I can think of.

Resorts


Contempo Cafe. I admit it. Once again, this location is chosen partially because of cupcakes, but it’s so delicious! The menu here is different from the standard burgers and chicken. Flatbreads and warm sandwiches and grab one of the huge cupcakes (to share or not to share, that is the question). This location is rarely crowded and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a great little break from Magic Kingdom: just a monorail ride away! Plus it gives you a chance to scope out a location for your next trip.

The Mara. Unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a trip to The Mara is a little out of the way, but two words: Zebra Domes. These delicious little pieces of heaven are worth every penny. The food here is also good for a quick service (I’ve only had lunch) but it’s tasty. Or have breakfast at Boma and take these tasty morsels to go (just be careful, they don’t keep well unless they are cold!)

Did I miss any of your favorites around Disney World? I haven’t tried everything yet, but these are definitely my top choices. Can’t wait to go back next year and try something else new!

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 and Tricks for Free Dining at Disney World

freediningdisney

It’s that time of year again, the whispers begin about free dining for fall travel dates. The latest rumor is that free dining for September will be coming out before the end of April due to low DVC (Disney Vacation Club) bookings for that time of year. Great news for those that want to save a few bucks at Disney World this year! Free dining sounds like a great deal, and for most families it really is, but you really need to do the math to see what the best option is; typically Disney also offers a room only discount at the same time.


The Basics

Free Dining is offered at most Disney World resort hotels. Value resorts come with the quick service dining plan. Moderate, deluxe, and deluxe villas come with the full dining plan. At any of the four resort classes, you are able to upgrade your plan (quick service to full dining plan or full dining plan to deluxe) at minimal cost. The cost of upgrade is based on the number of guests in each room, their ages, and how many nights you are staying

The Dining Plans

Quick Service dining plan: This plan provides 2 quick service credit and one snack per person for each night stayed.

Disney Dining Plan (the “full” dining plan): This plan provides 1 table service credit, 1 quick service credit, and one snack credit per person for each night stayed.

Deluxe Dining Plan: This plan provides 3 credits (which can be quick service or table service) and 2 snacks per person for each night stayed. This is A LOT of food!

Each plan also includes a refillable mug for each member of your party. This can be used at any resort, but not refillable at the parks. A great suggestion is to bring them with to use them in the parks and make it easier to split a drink at quick service locations.

Quick service meals (also called counter service meals) are those that do not accept reservations. You order of a menu board in front of cashier and then wait for your food to be prepared. Think of McDonalds, Burger King, or Hardee’s but with better food and better variety! Quick service credits cannot be combined to convert to a table service credit (nice try though!) Feel free to share meals at any time!

Table Service meals are sit down restaurants in which you order off a menu with a server. This also could be a buffet meal. Some table service meals are 2 credits (signature meals, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and dinner shows). Most meals can be shared with the exception of buffets for obvious reasons.

Snacks are everything from an apple, bottle of water, all the way up to a giant filled soft pretzel or cupcake. During the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot, there are countless options considered snack credits that can make a meal.

You receive all of your credits upon check in to your resort. Children ages 3-9 will receive child credits for quick service and table service meals. If there happens to be no children’s menu, they are able to choose items off the full menu.There is no difference in snack credits for children or adults.

Comparing Discounts

A favorite argument of Disney fans is that “free dining isn’t free”. I will always disagree with them. Yes the dining plan is FREE, however you pay full price for your hotel room stay. In order to accurately compare the two discounts, you will need to price out free dining and then the room only discount PLUS tickets and the dining plan added. Free dining is a better deal at value and moderate resorts 99 out of 100 times (the exception is a family of two staying for a short period of time).

That math really becomes important at deluxe resorts and deluxe villas where discounts are typically 30% or more in the fall. Typically a 5-6 night stay makes for a $500 discount with room only. This deal would be greater for a family of 1 adult and 1 child or 2 adults during a short stay. For a group larger than two or three, the discount typically comes close or free dining is a better deal. Remember, if it saves you more money on a room discount, you can always pay for the dining plan and still save a few bucks along the way.

Making the dining plan work for you!

Even though the dining plan is free, it’s still good to know general dining plan strategy: choosing characters meals when available (these are all buffet but great if you’ve got kids), planning your table service meals ahead of time. You are able to book dining reservations up to 180 days in advance whether you have a resort reservation or not. Make sure you make enough reservations to use up all of your table service credits. These reservations are best made for lunch or dinner as these are typically the most expensive meals. A late lunch or early are my favorites – you can likely get away with meals each day plus a snack.

Depending on your arrival and departure times, you may need to plan carefully to use all of your credits. If you have an early departure on your last day, don’t be afraid to use all but one of your credits for a filling breakfast on your way back home. On the contrary, if you have a late departure, save at least one table service credit for a great lunch before you head home.

The Fine Print

Not all resorts are included in free dining. Typically Disney chooses resorts based on how many guests are booked in that resort at the time of the promotion (as a way to entice guests to fill specific resorts). Excluded for almost every promotion are all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Rooms at Art of Animation, the campsites at Fort Wilderness, and the Villas at Grand Floridian. No specific information on what will be included this time around. The more flexible you are able to be, the better your chances of getting the dining plan for free!

Free dining requires a package stay (Disney resort stay PLUS park tickets). You are required to to have a 2 day base ticket if you are interested in adding free dining. This includes those that are Annual Passholders. You are able to put the cost of your 2 day base ticket toward next year’s annual pass if you wish to take part in free dining. You are also required a minimum of 2 night’s stay (while Disney’s promotional materials say 6 days, 5 nights, it’s not a requirement!)

Children under 3 are free at Disney World and therefore do not need park tickets or the dining plan. If you choose to eat at buffet locations, they are able to have their own plate of food. At table service and quick service restaurants, they can share with an adult or another child.

Related Posts

Need help?

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!