August 12, 2015

Should I Stay On Site? All About Disney Resort Hotels

Walt Disney World is almost 42 square miles, and holds many hotels in that area. Disney owns 25 resorts, and there are many others within Walt Disney World (not owned by Disney, but on Disney property). So which hotel do you choose? Is it better to stay on or off site? I have done both, but I prefer to stay on site. Before you tell me I’m crazy, let me explain a little.

Finding Nemo the Musical

A Little Background Story…

When My family visited the Orlando area in 2012, we rented a house very close to Walt Disney World and rented a car. We stayed for a week and visited Universal Orlando, Sea World and Kennedy Space Center. For these destinations, it was great. We liked having the room of a house, and we could prepare meals when we wanted. After a week of staying there, we were off to Walt Disney World! We returned the rental car back to the airport, and were off on Disney’s Magical Express (look for a post all about that service soon!). We stayed at a Value resort and took advantage of the Disney transportation.

In the same trip, my sister Alex was feeling under the weather 🙁 but Disney transportation was very fast (they even dispatched an entire bus for the 5 of us to get us to the hotel faster!) It also helps that wheelchairs have priority getting on Disney buses, because they need to be tied down. Being so close to the parks helped in this case, because when she was at a park and wanted to head back to rest, she could easily go with my Dad.

I find that with the size of Walt Disney World it is easier to take Disney Transportation than renting a car, and you can also get the Disney Dining Plan. If you are staying at a resort that is in Walt Disney Word but not owned by Disney, you may be able to get free transportation to the parks. I have never done this, but know that it may be available at some resorts.

Gawrsh!!

Gawrsh!!

The Disney Resorts

The resorts that are owned by Disney in Walt Disney World are split into three categories: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Value are the least expensive, moderate are in the middle, and deluxe are the most expensive.

Value resorts include Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the All Stars: All Star Music, All Star Movies, and All Star Sports.

Moderate resorts include Caribbean Beach (my favourite), Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Fort Wilderness cabins and campground, and Coronado Springs.

Deluxe Resorts include Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Beach Club and Yacht Club.

There are a lot of advantages to staying on site. Disney Resorts guests get access to the parks earlier and later on specific days called “Extra Magic Hours”. I would strongly suggest taking advantage of this if you stay at a Disney resort.

What To Consider When Selecting A Disney Resort

Location! Location can be really important, especially if you are relying on Disney Transportation. In some cases you can even WALK to the parks. Like how friggen cool is that? In general, location can be something to consider. I tend to like resorts in the Epcot area, because they are central, and close to 2 of the 4 theme parks. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are somewhat out of the way, so getting to the other parks can take a little longer if you are staying close to a Kingdom park. Location can also be great, like at Caribbean Beach you can see Illuminations from the main pool. At the Contemporary, you can watch Wishes from the California Grill.

The Muppets

Special Offers

Disney usually creates special offers for guests staying at Disney Resorts, by giving you up to 30% off your stay. You should always check, because they are only for certain dates. You can find the information on the offer by visiting the “Special Offers” page on the Walt Disney World website.

A Note About Disney Transportation

Buses only go from resort to park and from park to park. Not from resort to resort! You have to take time into consideration when making reservations at a resort that is not your own. If you are visiting a park that day it won’t be that hard to get there, but getting back can be time consuming. Buses run to Downtown Disney until after midnight most nights, so you would have to take a bus to Downtown Disney and transfer there to the resort you are staying at. It sounds confusing but I hope it makes sense!

Good Morning to you!

It can be cheaper to stay outside of Walt Disney World, but I feel like it is much more convenient and adds to the experience to stay on site. Especially if you are dedicating your entire vacation to  WDW, which I would recommend to get the most of your Walt Disney World experience.

Which do you prefer, staying on site or off? If you like to stay on site, which is your favourite resort and why?

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelsey
August 5, 2015

What I Love About Epcot

There are so many things that I love about Walt Disney World, I had to divide posts between parks! There are different things that I love about each park, and I wanted to share the things that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I think that a lot of people can find Epcot intimidating, because it isn’t as “kid friendly” as Magic Kingdom. It’s the largest park walking-wise, so that can certainly be a factor when pushing a stroller around. But I have pushed my sister Alexandra in a wheelchair all around Walt Disney World, so if I can do it, so can you! Epcot is educational, especially in World Showcase and is very detailed and beautiful.

It is strongly recommended that you play this video while reading, to complete the Epcot experience. I do not own the video, but thought it would be appropriate for the post.

Spaceship Earth

I’m always amazed walking through the gates of Epcot seeing Spaceship Earth for the first time. I just love that feeling. The feeling of walking into Epcot. You can see it from just about anywhere. I also love the attraction inside of it.  As you approach it, it really hits you how massive it really is. Then, you notice the details, and they confuse you a little! Here’s what I mean…

Spaceship Earth Close-up

Soarin’

I try not to place attractions on these lists, but Soarin’ is special. As mentioned above, my sister Alex is in a wheelchair. Soarin’ is an example of something she may never get a chance to experience in life, and seeing the look on her face during the ride is almost better than the ride itself. It’s so realistic, it feels like you are flying!. I have the music on a cd and listening to it always brings a smile to my face.

World Showcase

This can definitely fall under “the details”. Next time you visit Epcot, spend some time in World Showcase. Try to wander off the path a little. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. The shops are fun and the shows are entertaining.

China Pavillion

Club Cool

I hadn’t experienced Club Cool until my last visit, but really enjoyed it. In Club Cool you step into an air conditioned building (score!) and get to sample soda’s from around the world. My advice: try them all. Especially the Beverly. It’s a right of passage! Club Cool is located to the right of the Fountain of Nations just before the path to World Showcase, near Innoventions West.

Park Closing Walk-through

I only experienced this for the first time in February, and can’t wait to experience it in the other parks. After Illuminations the park is technically closed, so if you want to take your time exiting the park, try to view the fireworks from the far side of  World Showcase Lagoon. When we viewed Illuminations we were outside of Japan, so we took our time walking back through the countries, stopping to take some pictures. None of the Cast Members rushed us, so it was pretty relaxing. One of the security guards even asked if we got a nice picture! Because we were relying on the buses to get back to our hotel, we didn’t lose anything by walking around a little longer. If anything we probably spent the extra amount of time in the park rather than waiting in line for the bus. If you are taking Disney Transportation at night, I would definitely recommend doing this! Buses run up to one hour after park closing, but if you are there a little longer they won’t leave you stranded!

Spaceship Earth at night

FOOD

Epcot has some of the best and most diverse food options in Walt Disney World. While World Showcase is not home to many attractions, every country has dining options. It’s always nice to try something new, and I try to eat at a new restaurant each time I visit. In World Showcase I have really enjoyed eating at the Italy, Mexico, England, Japan and Morocco pavilions. There are also some really nice options in Future World. Coral Reef Restaurant, The Garden Grill, Sunshine Seasons are all great choices.

Flower and Garden Festival

This is my favourite time of year to visit Walt Disney World. The character topiaries located around World Showcase are beautiful and mind-blowing. The weather is perfect, it’s still a nice change from Canada, and crowds are fairly low. In recent years they have made the Flower and Garden festival a little like the Food and Wine Festival, with booths around World Showcase where you can purchase sample sized meals. This way you can sample a lot of food without the crowds of the Food and Wine Festival.

The original WDW park

EPCOT was not the first park to open in Walt Disney World, but was the first park that was original to Walt Disney World. EPCOT was a passion of Walt Disney’s. He wanted it to be something amazing. He wanted it to be a community that people could live in, and it would be constantly evolving and have the newest technologies. When Epcot was first designed, it’s name was an acronym. Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Although Epcot is not what Walt Disney originally envisioned, I think the park is really special. It still has the opportunity to evolve, and I think it will be great to see it change.

Red Monorail

There’s even more to love! Check out what I Love about Magic Kingdom, and all of Walt Disney World!

 

What do you love about Epcot? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading!

Kelsey
July 29, 2015

Dining Plan: Yes or No?

Walt Disney World has so many great dining options to choose from, so is it worth it to buy the dining plan?

I have purchased the dining plan, and paid out-of-pocket. I’ll break down the plans before giving my opinion.

Be Our Guest

Who is eligible?

In order to purchase the dining plan, you need to be staying in a Disney Resort Hotel. The dining plan is a credit system, with the number of credits allocated per night of your stay at a Disney Resort Hotel.  You can purchase the dining plan separately (for example purchasing discount tickets and adding the dining plan later). The Dining Plans are available to guests ages 3 and up.

What are my options?

Like all accommodations and park tickets, the dining plan comes with options. There are five levels of the dining plan: Quick Service Dining Plan, Dining Plan, Deluxe Dining Plan, Premium Dining Plan, and the Platinum Dining Plan. Gratuities are not included with the dining plans. You also get a refillable mug included with the plan to use at your resort for the length of your stay. I have only ever purchased the Regular Plan, and have liked what comes with it.

Make sure to note that not all restaurants take the Dining Plan, so if you are making a reservation make sure the restaurant you are looking at accepts it!

The Quick Service Plan allocates 2 Quick Service meals per day, and one snack.  Each Quick Service Meal comes with an entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage or a combo meal.

The (Regular) Dining Plan gives you 1 Table Service meal and 1 Quick Service meal per night of your stay. You also receive 1 snack. Each Table Service meal comes with an appetizer, entrée and dessert, with a non-alcoholic beverage or a buffet.  Appetizers and desserts are only for lunch and dinner.

The Deluxe Dining Plan comes with all 3 meals at either Quick Service or Table Service Restaurants. You also get 2 snacks with the Deluxe Dining Plan.

The Platinum Dining Plans come with the same meals as the Deluxe Dining Plan (all 3 meals), but with more extras for the rest of your vacation.

Lastly, the Premium Dining Plan comes with the same meal breakdown as the Deluxe and Platinum plans, but with added benefits throughout your vacation.

For more information about what comes with the specific  Dining Plans, visit the Walt Disney World Website.

50's Prime Time Diner

What are the different types of restaurants?

The Disney Dining Plans categorize the restaurants in Walt Disney World. There are quick service restaurants, and table service restaurants. Quick Service Restaurants are restaurants where orders are placed at a window or a counter, and you take your order on a tray to your seat. This would be similar to a McDonald’s. These restaurants do not require reservations. A Table Service meal is just that; one where you receive your service from your table. This is what I call a “Sit Down” meal. These restaurants generally require reservations, which I strongly recommend having. Some Table Service restaurants are worth two dining credits, like Cinderella’s Royal Table, or deluxe resort restaurants like California Grill.

How does it work?

When you book your vacation and purchase the dining plan, you are allocated credits for each night of your stay in a Disney Resort Hotel. Depending on the plan you choose, you will receive a certain number of each type of credit per day. The credits are taken when you sit down for your meal at a Table Service or at the counter of a Quick Service Restaurant.

Credits are automatically loaded onto your MagicBand, and reservations are loaded onto the My Disney Experience App. Credits are not taken when you make the reservation, but when you actually dine.

Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance from the Walt Disney World website, and can also be made by calling 407 WDW-DINE. Reservations generally require credit card information, and can be cancelled at any time. Your credit card will only be charged if you do not show up for your reservation. If you want to change the number of people dining, you do have to call 407 WDW- DINE. It’s a little annoying to not be able to adjust the reservation using My Disney Experience, but hopefully this option will come with time.

Restaurant Marrakesh

Tips for getting the most out of the Dining Plan

If you are going to Walt Disney World when Free Dining is an option, take advantage of it! If booking a trip online you need to go through the Special Offers page to have it become available. The price of rooms generally go up when free dining is available, but it is still worth it!

The Dining Plans come with A LOT OF FOOD! By splitting meals when you can, you can get the most out of your credits. If you use this strategy, you can potentially make a 2-credit meal even more worth it, with credits you have saved by not using them at other meals. Or, if you are dining at a 2-credit restaurant, you can pay out of pocket for another Table Service meal, or pay for a Quick Service meal. You can look at the costs of certain restaurants that accept the dining plan to decide which you would be getting the best deal from, but I would only suggest doing this if you really want to

Generally when I am in Walt Disney World I will purchase something small for breakfast (if at all), and use a Quick Service for lunch and Table Service for dinner.

My Opinion

I have used the Disney Dining Plan during vacations, and I have paid out-of-pocket during vacations. I do not think that you save a lot of money by skipping the dining plan and paying out of pocket. In February we budgeted and kept track of all of the food we purchased to see if we saved money, and while we saved a bit, keeping track of everything was time consuming and took away from the fact that we were on vacation! By purchasing the dining plan, everything is paid for in advance, and you don’t have to think about how much you are spending. You also get more food when purchasing the Dining Plan (like dessert), and while you may not want it if you are paying out of pocket, it’s nice to get a complete meal.

Welcome!

Have you ever used the Disney Dining Plans? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Kelsey