Last week we asked… You answered. The best thing to buy from your online grocer is WATER. Thank you, Holly A. for drenching us with your intellect.
Now let’s see what we will find this week!
The Disney Dining Plan. Few add-ons to a Disney vacation elicit such passionate and differing opinions. While many in the Disney fan community believe that the Dining Plan has lost its value over the years, others continue to drink the kool-aid. Your opinion about the DDP may depend on how you like to vacation and eat at Disney. Do you like all aspects of the trip paid up front to eliminate budgeting concerns during the trip? Do you prefer quick-serve meals? Character dining? Signature restaurants? All of these may factor into your opinion of the various Disney Dining Plans.
Cost – Being a DVC member I really have not investigated the different dining options. I know they exist, but really don’t have the interest in looking at them because of the cost of the dining plan. I am sure that with the right restaurants it could be beneficial, but I do not have the time or energy to search and spreadsheet and make reservations until I get to a cost savings option.
Flexibility: I am a planner. That is what I do. I like to plan my trips to a point, and then once I get into the swing of things, I change and adapt as I go. I do not plan a table service meal every night, and between hanging with friends, going with the flow, and my new non-commando Disney attitude, I have learned to adjust as I go, I don’t want to be locked into being somewhere at a certain time, all the time.
Budgeting: When it comes to vacation I like to budget. The more I can prepare for and prepay the happier I will be. I like the fact that when you go on vacation all your meals will be paid for, and that there will more food available to me than I can possibly eat in a week.
Amanda, what say you?
Good – Budgeting: If you’re someone who likes to know exactly how much your vacation will cost, the Disney Dining Plan may be a good option. Since you pre-pay for dining before you leave (except for tips for your sit-down meals), you have a pretty clear idea how much your vacation will cost. It also allows you to pay for dining in small increments as you find extra money in your budget so that you can vacation debt-free. I think for people who follow Dave Ramsey or use other, similar, budgeting plans, this may provide peace of mind. No need to calculate the cost of each meal to make sure you’re staying in budget.
Lack of flexibility: Not only does using the Disney Dining Plan force you to plan out sit-down meals in advance, it controls what food you may order at those meals. Counter service meal? You get an entree and non-alcoholic beverage. Sit-down meal? You get an entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage. You prefer to eat 2 appetizers and skip dessert? Nope. Want a salad instead of dessert? Nope. Like to enjoy a nice cold beer with dinner instead of your fountain soda? You can pay for it but you’re wasting the drink component of your pre-paid dining plan. The one time I traveled with “free” dining, I found myself with tons of snack credits left over and lots of unexpected out of pocket expenses when the way I like to eat didn’t match up with the rules….
Character buffets: If the goal of your Disney dining experience is to maximize your character dining experience, the dining plan may be for you. Buffets are outrageously expensive and if you can plan ahead enough to guarantee that most/all sit-down meals are buffets, you may save money. It’s important to look closely at the cost of your planned meals compared to the cost of the dining plan. With 4 children – all of whom will be “Disney adults” by the time of our next trip – buffets are crazy expensive. If we wanted to hit a buffet per day, the Disney dining plan might be the only reasonable way to make that happen. As Disney veterans, I’m not sure that’s a priority for these kids anymore (how many times can we ride Expedition Everest in a row is more their speed nowadays) but I might consider a dining plan if they had pangs of nostalgia.
Special Guest Jon North, What are you cookin’ up?:
Disney dining plans are already hated by most Disney regulars. A search of the typical boards leads to a very consistent theme: you save money by paying out of pocket, it is too much food, and ultimately there is no great reason to do the plan. And that is for the regular plan. While you can find some people who like these plans, once the discussion moves to the Deluxe Plan, there is a very universal no. Being on of the few people to crunch the numbers and determine, correctly, that the Deluxe Plan would save my family money, I thought some positives and negatives would be nice
Save Money. I realize that people say you can’t save money on this plan, but during our last visit, we saved over $300 using the DDP. This happened during the hurricane in October when the park closed down, which means we saved this money while having 12 credits left over (due to restaurants closing and us being unable to use planned credits). There are a lot of small reasons for this, but one trick on the plan is that we could invite friends to dinner, use the plan for the friends, and have them pay us for their dinner (we would give them the dessert or app free so they got something extra as well). This offset the 3 sit-down meals–we only had one sit-down breakfast on the plan. One item that isn’t advertised about the DDP, but is a huge help on the cost side, is that credits are credits. That means the kids’ credits you purchase can be used for adults (see our friends joining us for dinner). Equally important for our 7-year-old, she was allowed to order food from the adult or kids menu on the DDP. If you have kids who like to try different food and get sick of the kid’s food, DDP is a huge money saver as well.
Guilt Free Ordering. While I can sit at home and say I will order whatever I want when I am at Disney, this just isn’t true. The numbers add up fast. As I get through part of the trip and see how much we are spending, I start to look at the price of everything. That includes food, which leads me to make choices based on price, not want. DDP allowed me to ignore this–it didn’t mean we ate the most expensive items, it meant we ordered whatever we wanted without worrying about price. This includes feeling comfortable ordering food you may want to try but aren’t sure if you will like. If you are a foodie or a person who loves trying new food, the DDP helps you try more food, including apps and desserts, without worry about paying for food you may not like. Plus you have so many snack credits you can offset a poor meal with snacks at no extra cost also.
Too Much of Everything: For me specifically, this is too much food and too much rushing. While the dining plan is 3 sit-down meals per trip, our approach included breakfast in the room plus two sit-down meals. This allowed us to incorporate a lot of signature dining into our trip. But a 3-course lunch and a 3-course dinner added up quickly, and there was way more food than needed. My wife hated this more than I did–but I felt comfortable ordering a dessert having 3 bites, and even doing that it was too much food. This means you will be wasting food, eating much smaller portions than served, or overeating for your entire trip. There was also a bit too much scheduling–it got to the point we felt like we were always rushing to get to the next reservation. With the addition of the scheduled FP+ ride model, our entire trip felt like a fight to get to the next thing, and the DDP just made this worse as it was another location we had to drag the kids to. And after a day in the park we didn’t want to go right to dinner, so it was run back to the hotel, shower/change, drag the kids back out to dinner…just made the trip feel rushed.
Jonathan has been to Disney 6 times, 3 times as a kid, once as an adult with no kids, and twice as a parent. With constant pressure from wife and kids for more trips, he is always looking to increase the fun while decreasing the total cost of trips.
Last week we asked… You and Holly Adams answered. The most important thing to pack are those extra comfy shoes. .
Now let’s see what we will find this week!
While many people continue to harbor the misconception that Disney World is only for families with children, Disney can be a great vacation for a solo traveler. With dining options ranging from counter service, communal, food festivals, to bars and lounges, it is easy to have a meal by yourself without worrying about feeling awkward. There are several events which target adult fans of Disney such as race weekends, D23 Events such as Fanniversary or sip and stroll, or Food and Wine Festival with all sorts of courses and events that would be perfect for a solo traveler.
Single Rider Lines – Want to take another spin on Test Track? Need to face the Yeti again? Aerosmith wants you to rock and roll? It’s all good with single rider lines. As a solo traveler, there are multiple options for a single rider and many other attractions that will look for that one more passenger. Way too often, they are looking for that ‘odd’ rider to fill a journey on Star Tours or that last body for dino bait.
Go at your own pace. I found that as a solo traveler, I would tour hardcore from rope drop to lunch time, and then take my break, and go slow the rest of the day. As a single rider, you can maximize your time, and just do those things that are calling out to you. No need for groupthink on this trip!
You get to choose the must dos. Way too often we over book our vacations… Touring plans, ADRs, Fast Passes. Want to blow off a day and do the monorail loop dining plan… you can do it. Want to meet some friends in world showcase, and not see Rivers of Light… why not? Sometimes it’s fun to be free!
Amanda, what say you?
Amanda here: Most of my solo travel experiences have been during race weekends where I have had roommates and running friends for companionship although I have traveled alone on a few occasions.
One of my favorite solo trip experiences involved a magical day at Animal Kingdom where I literally rode Expedition Everest five times in a row. I got there at rope drop and kept riding until there was a line. It was super fun and not something I would ask anyone else to endure. The ability to do whatever you feel like doing is a major advantage to solo travel.
Most Disney trips are non-stop action with a focus on getting as much done as possible. When you’re alone, you can take the time to stop and smell the roses. I had a fantastic day at Epcot during Flower and Garden Festival (I was in Orlando for a work conference and was able to sneak away for one day). I’m not a great photographer but I brought a DSLR camera and spent the day taking photos of the flowers. There is NO way my kids would have tolerated that. Having the ability to Slow Down and enjoy the details is a real luxury.
I am a natural born extrovert who could make a new best friend in line at the grocery store (much to my children’s horror) so one of my favorite things about solo travel is the ability to meet people and talk to them. I love talking to cast members and fellow travelers. Disney attracts a diverse group of people and it’s fun to hear everyone’s stories. Plus, as someone involved in the Disney fan community, it’s rare for me to be at the World without knowing someone else there. When you’re with a group, it’s harder to keep the flexibility necessary to meet up with others. When you’re by yourself, it’s easy.
Special Guest David Koch of the Mickey Dudes Podcast: How about you:
Stopping to smell the roses in the World Showcase.
I like to wander the pavilions of the World Showcase and really appreciate the intricate architecture of all the buildings. I then like to take a slow look in all the shops, experience some of the cuisine and have a nice drink associated with that pavilion. I also like to take time and experience all the character greetings and entertainment offerings of each pavilion: be it a band or an acrobat.
Not having to worry about anyone else. I’ve lost track of how many times I have been to Walt Disney World. I have experienced a vast majority of the magic. When I am with other people in Disney, my main concern is to help others experience the magic. When I’m alone I don’t have to worry about other’s enjoyment. I can just take it for what it is and not have to worry about being a manager of the world.
It’s a good time to socialize.
Believe it or not, the trips where I come solo, I am the most social. This blog, for example, is for Disney fans, by Disney fans. Chances are if you are reading this, you are a member of some type of community of Disney Park fans. Through social media, I have made lots of friends in the Disney community. Every time I am here I meet up other travelers or locals. With travelers, they are usually with their family. So as to not impede on family time I might meet them for just a little while to experience a few attractions or to get a bite to eat. Locals have met me in the parks after work for a few hours almost every time I came. I have even used meetup.com and a well know Disney Parks fan forum to attend a monorail bar crawls of mostly locals looking to meet like minded people. I find that I am more social when I travel solo. When others are in my travel party, I tend to stay with them and am unable to meet up with others. When I’m solo I just see where the wind takes me. In my experiences, a simple tweet or Facebook post saying I will be in WDW with dates has always yielded somebody to hang out with for a time.
Dave Koch @FigmentsReality is a relatively new fan of Disney Parks, only visiting for the first time 7 years ago. You can say he has made up for lost time holding an AP for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. He is the cohost of The Mickey Dudes podcast, (https://themickeydudespodcast.podbean.com/) where a group of guys discuss all things Disney. His spirit animal is Figment and he collects pictures of himself with different Disney characters: having over 150 of them.
Last week we asked… You and Julie Patton answered. The best thing about Moana was: the soundtrack!
Now let’s see what we will find this week!
Characters. Its one of the reasons to visit a Disney Park or resort. Sure they can be expensive, but there is no better way to meet Mickey or one of his pals in a more relaxed accessible setting, get a photo, and special autograph. Character meals have often been the centerpiece of a Disney Vacation.
Cape May Café – I like Cape May Café any time of the day – the buffet for dinner is awesome but even better is the breakfast buffet because of the addition of the characters. This one is a bit more unique than the others because anyone – including Minnie, Donald and Goofy – can wear a bathing suit. I think it is above many of the others because this is generally quiet and easier to get an ADR than many of the other character locations. In my opinion, it has the same food as other breakfast buffet locations, but I think this one has slightly better quality. With its central location, it has great access to 2 parks in the morning.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – There is a lot to like about Fort Wilderness, the openness, the get away from it all, its history, and the great outdoors. I have many great memories of this buffet, from the crazy antics of Chip and Dale to the ribs, corn, and beans (not to mention the open bar), and a full night of entertainment. I’m thinking its about time I went back!
Chef Mickey’s Buffet – I am a big fan of the character interaction, and Chef Mickey’s has it all – all fab 5! I really enjoyed my time as a kid in Chef Mickeys, and have been reluctant to return due to the noise, cleanliness, and mayhem of my last visit mostly the overwhelming noise.
Amanda, what say you?
I’m a sucker for the Fab 5 and Chef Mickey is a great place to see them. An easily accessible location for a pre-park breakfast, a mid-day break, or pre-fireworks dinner. The noise can be deafening but the buffet has a wide variety of options and, well, did I mention Fab 5???
It’s off the beaten path but Mickey’s Backyard BBQ is a fun way to escape the madness of the parks and enjoy the outdoors. Fort Wilderness is an easy boat ride from the Magic Kingdom but still feels like it’s a world away when you’re there. There’s plenty of BBQ and no need for kids to sit still. Plus the Fort is a fun place to visit!
Although there are many other good choices, I think dinner at 1900 Park Fare deserves the final spot. The buffet is surprisingly good and the characters are great fun. Where else can you argue with Lady Tremaine and her daughters over who is the step-child in their family? And for non-Princess loving brothers being dragged to Princess events, Prince Charming provides a rare human male presence.
Special Guest Kim Scharoff: How about you?
(*Disclosure – have not done Cape May Cafe for Breakfast) :
Chef Mickey has to be my first cause who doesn’t love the Fab 5! The classic characters are great. Goofy is my favorite of that bunch. The buffet is good with lots of choices. Love the swinging of napkins with the characters.
1900 Park Fare Breakfast – yes, I need to specify the meal because the characters are different at Breakfast and Dinner. At breakfast, you get Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. The face characters are great because they will interact with you at a different level. The food is at a higher level than other places as well.
1900 Park Fare Dinner because the characters are great and the food is fantastic. Cinderella and her family make appearances. The stepsisters and stepmother are amazing! A number of choices on the buffet are great and there is something for everyone.
Kim (@kscharoff) is a Figment lover. She runs Disney as an excuse to go visit her home away from home as many times as possible.