Dining at Disney (World)

Let’s chat about Disney World’s dining plans. Well, namely, the “Plus” Dining Plan - it’s Disney’s standard dining plan that generally works for just about every guest. A few things to get out of the way first: no, the dining plan won’t always save money - sometimes you’ll just barely break even. The dining plan is 99% convenience - being able to pay for your food before you arrive is one heck of a deal for me! I don’t know about you, but theme park sticker shock is a real thing & it knowing my food is paid for before I even arrive makes it easier to feel like I can order whatever I want when I’m sitting down for a nice meal!

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Okay! So let’s talk about the dining plan.
It runs a steep cost, for some: approximately $75 for ages 10+, per night & $28 for ages 3 - 9, per night. So, let’s say we have a family of 4 with two adults and two kiddos ages 3 - 9, staying for 6 nights — you are looking at the dining plan adding about $1250 to your overall vacation cost. $1000+ for a weeks worth of food sounds like a lot - trust me, I KNOW. So let’s talk about what this cost is going to cover:

  • 1 Quick Service credit per person, per night. Quick service is Disney’s equivalent of “fast food” - though, don’t take that to mean hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken nuggets (although, it most certainly can!). One of my favorites in Magic Kingdom is Columbia Harbour House, which features a great menu such as fish & chips, lobster rolls, New England clam chowder, among other awesome choices. Another favorite, in Animal Kingdom, is Satuli Canteen - this location offers bowls where you choose your base (rice, potato hash, greens), protein (chicken, beef, tofu, sustainable fish), and you choose your sauce — oh my GOSH, this is one of the best meals I’ve had at Disney and it’s a quick service “fast food” meal!

  • 1 Table Service credit per person, per night. Table service meals are those that require reservations and are sit-down meals that you take time for. This includes character meals, too!! These meals can range in price wildly. For example, my meal at Artist Point was $60 per person, not including alcohol. So after all was said & done, mine and Casey’s meal (pre gratuity), ended up being $160 - which is more than what the dining plan costs for 2 adults for an entire day’s worth of food! So I mean…. great deal!

  • 2 Snack credits per person, per night. Here is where people get tripped up on how to use these credits. Basically anything in the $5 price range is considered a snack - popcorn, ice cream, churros, cupcakes, coffee at Starbucks, donuts, cinnamon rolls, dole whip… I could go on. These snack credits can even be used on select menu items during Epcot’s food festivals!!

So that’s what is included with those credits, exactly? With each quick service & table service meal, you are allowed to order an entree, dessert and beverage. This includes alcoholic beverages at participating locations! Unfortunately, the dessert can’t be switched to an appetizer, if that’s more your style, so that’s something to consider! Dining style comes into play a lot when choosing if the dining plan is right for you!

So now we lead to HOW to use those credits. And this is the fun part.
Credits can be used literally any way that you want to use them. The credits are all pooled together at the beginning of your vacation, and every time you redeem them, the number of credits just goes down from there, so you aren’t restricted to using each type of credit per day, you can So, let’s take that example of the family of 4, staying for six nights again! They would start their vacation with 24 Quick Service credits, 24 Table Service credits & 48 snack credits. So you could do 2 table service meals in one day, or no table service credits - it all depends on how you want to use them!

Here’s an example of a recent trip of mine:

Day 1
Breakfast: Cinnamon roll at resort using snack credit
Lunch: Casey’s Corner using a quick service credit
Afternoon Snack: Dole whip using a snack credit
Dinner: Artist Point using a table service credit

Day 2
Breakfast: Ohana using a table service credit
Lunch: used 2 snack credits in Epcot at Food & Wine Festival
Dinner: Rose & Crown using a table service credit

So, as you can see - you can use them HOWEVER you’d like, as long as you don’t go over or under the credit allotment (this is something I help plan out so you don’t have to stress about it!).

How can I maximize my dining plan credits?
** Go to character meals - these meals are generally $40 - 60 out of pocket, making them great uses of credits.
** Order the steak! No seriously, your credit is good for anything on the menu, so order whatever your heart desires, even if it is the most expensive menu item!
** Use table service credits on lunch or dinner, as those are typically the most expensive meals of the day for table service restaurants.
** A couple of restaurants offer dining packages for 1 table service credit and this is a real dang good value most of the time!

I’m staying off property, can I still use a dining plan?
Unfortunately, dining plans are reserved as a “perk” to Disney Resort guests & can only be purchased by adding it to your Disney vacation package.

Can I purchase the dining plan for only select members of my party?
Nope - when you add a dining plan to a package, everyone must have the dining plan.

Can I purchase the dining plan for only select days of my vacation?
This is a big one that I get asked all the time! The answer is no - when you add a dining plan to your vacation, it is for the entire length of your stay, not just parts of it.

How do I feed my kids who aren’t old enough for the dining plan? (2 and under do not receive dining plan entitlements)
The littles who aren’t old enough to have their own dining plan credits can still eat, I promise! At buffets, they are welcome to have their own plate, free of charge. At restaurants where you order off of a menu (such as quick service locations, and other table service restaurants that are not buffet or family style), you can order anything off the menu a la cart and pay for it out of pocket OR they can share from your plate (or siblings plates) at no extra charge.

Anything else included in the dining plan that you haven’t mentioned?
Rapid Refill Mugs! These mugs are good for the length of your stay and give you free soda/coffee/water refills at any Disney Resort (not just the one you’re staying at!). You pick these up at your resort’s food court, usually on the day you check in. Note: these mugs can be purchased even if you’re not on the dining plan!

What is NOT included in the dining plan?
Gratuity is NOT included (except at a select few restaurants) and that’s very important to note! So while this plan makes your vacation 98% all inclusive, there will be that extra 2% you need to account for — 1% on gratuity at table service meals and 1% on souvenirs. ;)

What are some of your favorite quick service locations?
** In Animal Kingdom - Satuli Canteen, Flame Tree BBQ
** In Epcot - Sunshine Seasons + any of the stops in World Showcase!
** In Hollywood Studios - Woody’s Lunchbox, Backlot Express
** In Magic Kingdom - Casey’s Corner, Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn, Be Our Guest (breakfast/lunch), Pinocchio’s Village Haus

What are some of your favorite table service restaurants?
** In Animal Kingdom - Tusker House
** In Epcot - Rose & Crown Dining Room, Le Chefs de France, Garden Grill, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
** In Hollywood Studios - Mama Melrose (with Fantasmic package), 50s Prime Time Cafe, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
** In Magic Kingdom - Skipper Canteen, Cinderella’s Royal Table (but I wouldn’t use dining plan here, I’d pay out of pocket for this one!), Crystal Palace
** Elsewhere in WDW - Ohana (breakfast/dinner), Artist Point, Homecomin’, Sebastian’s Bistro, 1900 Park Fare, Cape May Cafe, Splitsville (bowling alley + food!)

I think that’s it for now - if you have any questions, feel free to ask and I’ll update this post as things change!

Until next time!
-Haley

split stays @ wdw

A few weeks ago, I visited Disney for a quick two night stay. Because the trip was so short, I thought, WHY NOT split up my stay with two different resorts? So that’s exactly what I did. For this trip, I picked a value resort - All Star Movies - and a deluxe resort - The Grand Floridian. So this is kind of going to be a Q&A on doing split stays PLUS reviews on these two resorts.

Although I’ve stayed at All Star Movies before, it had a) been two years since I’d last stayed and b) gotten a room remodel since then. So I wanted to check out the new rooms there. The remodel is exactly the same as the Pop Century remodel that happened in 2017. I LOVE these rooms - they feature laminate hardwood (no more gross hotel carpet!), a really nice vanity area in the bathroom (though, no double sinks like in many deluxe resorts), a huge TV, and the biggest change of all - QUEEN size beds (they used to be full size!!). They have one “regular” bed and one murphy bed that folds up in the wall. Having slept on the Murphy bed at Pop Century on more than one occasion, I can confirm that it is actually comfortable.

Staying here was nice! The room is at a value price without looking like a value. The grounds of the resort definitely feel like a value, though, so keep that in mind when considering this resort (the buildings are motel-style, the pool is very basic, etc) . Comparing it to my last stay at All Star Movies (in September 2017), this was a MUCH better stay.

So I checked in here on April 30th and out on May 1 - just a one night stay! After checking out, I requested a Minnie Van through the Lyft app to pick me up right outside my building and take me to my next resort, The Grand Floridian! Upon arrival, I got checked in and settled in at the pool. It was that easy. This transportation comes with a price tag (for my specific pick up and destination, it was a price tag to the tune of $40…), but in my opinion, it was 100% worth it because I was able to keep my luggage with me, I felt in control of my timing & I felt like an absolute VIP rolling up to the Grand Floridian in my private transfer. ;)

Now, the Grand Floridian was an EXPERIENCE. I didn’t want to go to a park this day because I wanted to just walk around, sit at the pool, eat the food at the resort and really just enjoy being a guest at the Grand. The grounds are gorgeous. The pools are amazing - especially for kiddos (splash pads! zero entry! fun theming!). The quick service dining is top notch, as well as the table service offerings (I’ve done 1900 Park Fare a couple of times on previous trips, as well as Grand Floridian Cafe & the Afternoon Tea at the Grand - all of which I highly recommend!). This is just a fabulous resort.

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I was put in the Sago Cay building at the Grand, which is right next to the quick service dining and just a 2 minute walk from the main building - I loved this location! Though, if you are facing the opposite direction I was, I imagine it can get quite loud upon occasion, as it’s located near where they pick up trash. The building itself is accessed only by Magic Band after a certain point in the evening, which feels very secure - I did love that. The building was quiet. Eerily quiet! I’ve never stayed at a Disney resort that was this quiet!

The room was AMAZING. I was in a dormer section of the building, so on the 4th floor, I was the top floor, with vaulted ceilings and a gorgeous deck that faced the lagoon and the monorail. The room had 2 queen beds, a gorgeous desk with a big mirror (perfect if you have more than a few people getting ready at the same time), as well as a couch that folded down into a single sleeper (so this room sleeps 5!). The bathroom was huge and so nice - double vanity here!

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I highly recommend BOTH of these resorts - but which one you go with 100% depends on the type of experience you are looking for as well as your budget. The Grand Floridian is notoriously on the steep end of pricing, so it all depends on what you are looking for and what you are willing to spend!

SPLIT STAY FAQ

Q: What’s the best way to be transported between hotels? Any good complimentary transportation?
A:
My favorite is honestly the Minnie Van - it’s not free, but it’s a major time saver as it can take you directly from one to the next, and allows you to keep your luggage with you - which is a perk, to me (bit of a control freak…ha!). A free option would be to have bell services move your luggage for you and use Disney’s bus transportation, the only issue with this is that you’d have to take the bus to a park, then switch to the next resort’s bus to get to your final destination - it’s a bit of time suck.

Q: I’m guessing bell services takes care of your luggage transfer?
A:
Correct!! You can take your luggage to bell services at Hotel #1 and tell them that you are checking into Hotel #2 and need it transferred. It will then be left for you at Hotel #2’s bell services for you to pick up later. This could take a couple of hours, though, so be aware of that!

Q: If you have a car, do you pay the parking fee at both resorts?
A:
Yes, you do, since Disney bases the parking fee on a per night basis that is tacked onto your room charges at the end of your stay, not just a one-time fee. So, in my situation, if I’d had a car on this trip, I would’ve paid $13 to park at All Star Movies one night, and $24 to park at The Grand Floridian the next night.

Q: Are you able to use the hotel amenities for the full day you check in and the full day you check out?
A:
Amazing question, because the answer is a resounding YES. The moment you check in, you are officially a guest & can begin using the amenities such as pool & resort activities. When checking out, you still have full access to everything except your room.

Hi, it’s just me, living my best life as a guest at the Grand Floridian! This was taken about an hour after checking in, but before my room was even ready! I left my luggage at bell services and had a swimsuit in my day bag.

Hi, it’s just me, living my best life as a guest at the Grand Floridian! This was taken about an hour after checking in, but before my room was even ready! I left my luggage at bell services and had a swimsuit in my day bag.

Q: How does it work with park tickets, now that they are date based?
A:
This is where things get tricky BUT with someone on your side that knows the in’s and out’s of Disney (that’s me!!), it’s a lot easier to figure out the logistics. When I have clients that want to do split stays, we put the tickets that they need for their entire length of stay on their FIRST resort reservation, that way, you can make FastPasses for your entire length of stay on one date, instead of only being able to make FastPasses for a few days at a time. Then, since they don’t need tickets on the second part of their stay, we simply do a ticketless package for the second resort — so, so easy!

Q: Can I still use Magical Express?
A:
Yep, sure can!

Q: Will I receive more than one set of Magic Bands?
A:
Yes - but you won’t need both. Magic Bands are linked to the person, not just the reservation. So any Magic Band can be used for any reservation. :)

Q: Is there any benefit to doing a split stay?
A:
It’s a fantastic way to not only try more resorts, but also to maximize the budget. Say you want to stay at the Polynesian, but it’s just not in the budget to stay there all 7 nights - split your stay with a moderate or value to bring down the price a little on the first half of your stay!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! I am now super obsessed with split stays - I 100% recommend trying sometime!

Until next time!
Haley