*pre* trip report!

I’m doing something fun that I’ve never done before and I’m going to walk you through my vacation plans before I travel and then compare how it actually went when I get back from that trip!

For the pre Trip Report, I will follow my same formula that I use for my regular reports to break down what I plan to do… here we go!

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Vacation Dates: September 7 - 14. We are doing Disney World from the 7th-12th, and then Universal from the 12th - 14th!
Crowd Levels: They are predicted to be low-mid level crowds. With going 10 days after Galaxy’s Edge opening, as well as Food & Wine at Epcot… I feel like they’ll lean more on the heavier side, but I’m hoping for the best!
Weather: It’s gonna be hotter than hell’s gates, my friends. And it’s gonna rain. #hurricaneseason
New for this trip: UNIVERSAL! Neither of us have been to Universal AT ALL! We are also staying at 3 totally new to us hotels over the trip, as well as Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, and 2 restaurants that I’ve never eaten at before!

Saturday: We are flying out of Kansas City, and don’t arrive until close to 5 pm, so we don’t have much of anything planned for this day, aside from grabbing dinner at Disney Springs and maybe doing the new NBA Experience. We will be checking into Saratoga Springs for the first 4 nights of our stay. We are toying with the idea of buying into DVC sometime in the near future (I think Casey has come to understand that he has MANY more Disney vacations in his future….), and Saratoga Springs or Animal Kingdom Lodge will likely be one of the resorts we will be considering… so it’s a test run by staying there! We are most excited about being walking distance to Disney Springs!

Sunday: We are hitting the ground running, with breakfast at Be Our Guest at 8 am! We plan to spend the majority of the day at Magic Kingdom, since it’s a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party day, and crowds tend to be super light on party days! We have FastPasses stacked from 9:30 - 11:30 am for Peter Pan’s Flight, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We don’t have a huge agenda for what we do this day, mainly because we did it all on our last visit when we went to After Hours. After we are done at Magic Kingdom, we are going to head back to our resort, clean up a bit for dinner, and head over to Disney Springs for our reservation at Morimoto Asia. This was Casey’s #1 request for this trip, we are both very excited to eat here!

Monday: Zero plans, nada, nothing at all. Well, until our dinner reservation at Akershus in Epcot. Casey had requested we do one character meal, so of course, I booked the princess meal, ha! I’m not sure what we are going to do, but since we have a park hopper plus ticket (which allows water park entries), I’m thiiiiiinking…? we might go to Typhoon Lagoon for a few hours, if we feel like it. I don’t know if Casey will be huge on visiting a water park, but I’ve only ever been to Blizzard Beach and it was like 6 years ago, so it’s high time I do a water park again.

Tuesday: Animal Kingdom day! We have FastPasses stacked from 9:45 - 11:45 for Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Flight of Passage. SO excited, because I’ve never been on Kali River Rapids and Casey’s never been on Flight of Passage! We don’t have any set plans for the evening - kind of keeping it open and basing it on wait times around the other parks, and potentially going back to Epcot for some Food & Wine sampling!

Wednesday: The exciting part — we are checking out of Saratoga Springs and into the POLYNESIAN! We are so blessed to have been gifted this for this trip and we plan to make the most of it! We are booked for a Club Level room with a Magic Kingdom view - so obviously, we have zero plans for that evening except to hang around the resort and watch fireworks from our balcony! However… before all that, we plan to be at Hollywood Studios at 6 am for Extra Extra Magic Hours. We hope to do as much as we can in Hollywood Studios, including use our FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash and eat an early lunch at Sci-Fi, but as soon as we have hit everything we want to do, we are OUT of there so we can go enjoy our stay at the Polynesian! I’m thinking, pool time in the afternoon, Trader Sam’s in the evening… it’s going to be an amazing day!

Thursday: We’ll be checking out of The Polynesian and heading over to Universal to stay 2 nights there! Since we are doing just 2 quick nights, and planning to be in the parks a ton, we decided to save money and stay at the Cabana Bay Beach Hotel. I’m excited because it’s got a great view of Volcano Bay! This day, we plan to just head over to the parks whenever we feel like it, take it slow and stay for Halloween Horror Nights. It’s going to be a late night, so we aren’t too stressed about getting there early in the day.

Friday: This is our day we will do the parks a little harder and try to accomplish more! We mainly just want to see and do allllll the Harry Potter! The parks close a little early (because of Halloween Horror Nights), but we aren’t planning to do HHN a second night, so I’m thinking we might do dinner at CowFish? I’ve heard great things about it, so we’ll see! I kinda just want to keep the whole Universal portion of the trip as relaxed and go with the flow as we can.

Saturday: We’ll leave bright and early for a 9 am flight!

I think I’ll be sad when leaving this time, because I know we’ll never have a trip like this again - a) I never stay for a full week and b) Casey doesn’t usually join on my trips. I am hoping to savor every single second of this trip! It’s definitely going to be a special one!

OKAY! THAT’S ALL! It’s a packed full week but it’s going to be amazing! I can’t wait to update you all on how things actually went! Should be interesting because when you make plans….you almost never actually keep them, ha!

Until next time!

Haley

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