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
July 15, 2015

What’s In My Bag?

Being prepared at Walt Disney World is very important. Knowing what to have on hand in the parks can save you money and stress. During my trip in February I carried one backpack with the essentials while my boyfriend Ethan carried a backpack holding both of our Canon DSLR cameras and extra lenses, among other accessories. We found this really worked well, and I think we would do the same thing on our next trip.

Ethan

Ethan carrying the camera backpack

Here’s what I keep in my bag at Walt Disney World:

Water

When in Florida it can get HOT! It’s important to stay hydrated, especially because you are walking so much while in the parks. I hate the taste of Dasani water, and unfortunately that is all they sell in WDW. I use a filtered water bottle so in a pinch I could fill up my water bottle using the sinks in the hotel room or even washroom sinks at the parks. There are many drinking fountains in the parks, but it’s a bonus to have the filter if needed.

 

Sunscreen

Again, in Florida it’s hot and sunny! Make sure to bring sunscreen with you, and apply it often! I would apply sunscreen while getting ready in the morning, and every couple of hours throughout the day. I’ve learned the hard way that some sunscreen is not waterproof (thank you Splash Mountain!), so make sure you are wearing a waterproof sunscreen! Sunscreen takes 20-30 minutes to start working, so applying it when you are in shade would be a good idea. That’s also a reason putting it on while getting ready in the morning works!

 

Sweater/ Change of Clothes

During our trip in February it really cooled down at night, so I always made sure to carry sweaters for both Ethan and I. Even when we usually travel in May I bring a sweater, because the buses have the Air Conditioning blasting to keep the windows from fogging up with the humidity. I get cold pretty easily so I’m comfortable in a hooded sweater at night.

Also think about bringing a change of clothes if you are heading to a park that has water rides you are wanting to experience. Or bring a poncho! At Magic Kingdom there is Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean (which you rarely get soaked). Animal Kingdom has Kali River Rapids (you WILL get wet!). If you are planning to head back to your hotel to change after, don’t worry about bringing a change of clothes. If I’m only planning on spending half a day at Animal Kingdom, I will experience Kali River Rapids last before heading back to the hotel so I’m not walking around soaked all day. I’ve learned from experience with this one! In 2007 my mom experienced Kali River Rapids in denim shorts. Needless to say she spent 20 minutes in the washroom attempting to dry her shorts under the hand dryers!

The Great Movie Ride

Sunglasses

You’ve protected your skin, make sure to protect your eyes as well! Make sure the sunglasses you are wearing have UV A and B protection, and polarized is a plus! Your eyes will thank you! I wear glasses so I make sure to change to prescription sunglasses when I can and carry both cases for rides I don’t want to lose my glasses on! (I’m looking at you Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Rollercoaster!)

 

Medications

Being at the parks all day can be tiring. Overcast skies can give me headaches, so I always keep Advil on me. I’ve also learned that I have a sensitive stomach when I booked dinner reservations at different times every night to eat at the restaurants I wanted. I went from feeling really hungry to sick fast. Pepto Bismol capsules have saved me. I keep them with me all the time as well, and they sure come in handy. And other medication would be good to have on you, because you never know what you might need in the park. It’s always better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it.

 

Band-Aids!

The parks all have First-Aid stations, but if you feel a blister forming you may not want to walk all the way across the park to get there! I find that having them on me usually means I don’t need them, but it’s always good to be prepared! First Aid might have some Advil as well, but you could also buy it in one of the many gift shops.

 

Cameras!

These were technically in our other bag, but it’s really important to capture the memories you are making! Disney Photopass service is available at all of the parks, but if you bring your camera with you the photographer will usually take a picture with your camera as well. I feel bad asking, but if it saves me money on buying prints, I’ll do it.

 

The Bag(s)

Lastly, the bag I keep everything in! On my trip in 2013 I brought a huge Mickey bag that my Mom purchased on another trip. After a few hours in the Magic Kingdom, my shoulder was killing me. Ethan didn’t want to be seen carrying a shoulder bag (I don’t blame him) so we headed into the shops on Main Street. We purchased this backpack, and it worked well for us.

The backpack we purchased in 2013

The backpack we purchased in 2013

We travelled in May in 2013, so the needs changed when we went in February this year. I brought the 2013 backpack hoping it would work, but after packing it full, we realized it was too full. We headed to Main Street again and bought this backpack.

The backpack we bought in February

The backpack we bought in February

It’s larger but not too large, and was made of a thicker material. It even had a pocket on the side for my water bottle which I loved. I also purchased the matching wallet later that day. 🙂 I think that having a backpack is important, to even out the weight of all of the things you need. It’s also helpful if other members in your party are willing to wear it!

Both backpacks side by side.

Both backpacks side by side.

There is not a huge size difference between backpacks, but it did make a difference!

Now on to the camera bag!

 

Ethan's Backpack

The backpack with pockets open.

The backpack with pockets open.

This is the camera bag we used. It’s a Vanguard Adaptor 45. As you can see it has pockets on either side and one on the top. One side we used for Ethan’s Canon Rebel T5i, the other we used for accessories and extra lenses, and the top fit my Canon Rebel SL1 perfectly. We have found that it works perfectly for us! It’s not too big, and even has a strap for a tripod if you don’t want to carry one!

An Epcot Afternoon :)

An Epcot Afternoon 🙂

And as a reward for looking at pictures of backpacks, here’s a nice photo of Spaceship Earth !

What do you bring with you to the parks? What can you not live without? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you so much for reading!

Kelsey