Planning Our Next Walt Disney World Trip!

Well, we agreed we were going to skip Disney this year and take our 10 year old to Universal Orlando. But things change, and when Disney’s “free dining” promotion came out in April, I couldn’t resist the temptation to just see what was available. Luckily, the dates were extended an extra 3 weeks early to Disney Chase Visa cardholders. Meaning instead of August 20th, we could book free dining starting August 2nd (this is why having the Disney Visa is a good thing, even if you don’t plan on using it often.)

After grabbing a reservation at an All-Star resort (not exciting, but fine) I continued to look around and couldn’t believe my eyes when a value studio popped up at Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few hundred more than we would be paying for our stay at All-Star, and we wouldn’t have to upgrade from the quick serve plan (stays at deluxe resorts include the standard dining plan.) We’re normally not Deluxe resort-type people. We figure our hotel just needs a clean room and a decent pool. But hey, if you twist my arm, I guess I’ll stay at a deluxe resort complete with a savanna with zebras, giraffes, and ankole cattle, one of the best pools on property and 3 of the best restaurants in all of the Walt Disney World resort. So we are doing 4 nights at AKL with free dining! We are so very excited.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

In addition, months before I booked this trip, I decided to try out renting Disney Vacation Club points to see what it was all about so I could report back about my experience. So after we check out of AKL Jambo House, we check in for one night to AKL Kidani Village, which is the DVC only part of Animal Kingdom Lodge. We will be staying in a Savanna view studio. With me so far?

5028312859_fea2849a06_b
photo credit: Loren Javier via flickr

Then, while planning our week, something else happened…Disney released the dates for the 2018 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, with the first date being the night we are scheduled to leave. And is also the day before my husband’s birthday. We happen to love the Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, even if we have to go in August. So, we added on a 2 night stay at Pop Century, taking advantage of the room discount promotion currently going on.

mnsshp (83 of 106)

We are looking forward to seeing the brand new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. We have a Fastpass for Slinky Dog Dash and plan to “rope drop” Alien Swirling Saucers. I’m very excited to try some of the yummy-looking food at Woody’s Lunch Box, too. We will also be spending a lot of time in Animal Kingdom in Pandora, one of our favorite places!

disneysum2017 (238)

Our dining reservations are all set as well. We will be trying some new restaurants, like The Plaza in Magic Kingdom, Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness, and Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. We’ll be hitting our faves Tusker House, Garden Grill, and Be Our Guest too. We simply love free dining and can’t wait to try some new snacks on this trip.

7102903991_56a02e3862_h
photo credit: Nicole Pacitti via flickr

So, those are the details of our 7 day August trip. We can’t wait to share all the fun with you! Make sure you keep up with all our adventures by subscribing to the blog.

Advertisements

Disney Character Dining Ranked by Us for You!

Hi folks! I have been deep into planning mode lately. Our August trip has evolved from just Universal Orlando to a hybrid Disney/ UO trip, but I’ll share more of that later. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of wishing that I was back at Walt Disney World, soaking up the warm temperatures and hanging with my favorite characters.

One of the things we love most is character dining at Walt Disney World. Even though our daughter is growing out of it, she’s still a pretty good sport about it. Character dining is a great way to meet your fav characters and get a great (most of the time) meal! We thought it would be fun to rate each of the character dining meals we have experienced to help out those who may be having trouble deciding where to try. The “location” category is for how convenient or special the restaurant’s location is, while the “atmosphere” category rates the overall feeling of the restaurant. This is, of course, our personal opinion. Yours may differ. With that being said, enjoy our character dining ratings!

IMG_0532

Tusker House— Food: 5 Character Interaction: 5 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 4                                      Characters include: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy

Garden Grill— Food: 4 Character Interaction: 5 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 5                                        Characters include: Mickey, Pluto, Chip, Dale

Akershus— Food: 4 Character Interaction: 5 Location: 4 Atmosphere: 5                                               Characters include: Snow White, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Belle

IMG_0752

Hollywood and Vine (L, D)— Food: 2 Character Interaction: 4 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 3               Characters include: Goofy, Minnie, Mickey, Donald, Daisy

(Hollywood and Vine also has a character breakfast with Disney Jr. characters which we’ve never personally experienced. )

Crystal Palace— Food: 3 Character Interaction: 4 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 5                                      Characters include: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet

Cinderella’s Royal Table— Food: 3 Character Interaction: 2 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 5                    Characters include: Ariel, Jasmine, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle

1900 Park Fare (B)— Food: 4 Character Interaction: 3 Location: 4 Atmosphere: 3                               Characters include: Alice, Mad Hatter, Pooh, Mary Poppins

1900 Park Fare (D)— Food: 2 Character Interaction: 5 Location: 4 Atmosphere: 3                              Characters include: Cinderella, Prince Charming, Drizella, Anastasia, Step-Mother

‘Ohana (B)—Food: 4  Character Interaction: 3 Location: 5 Atmosphere: 4                                              Characters include: Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, Pluto

Chef Mickey’s— Food: 3 Character Interaction: 4 Location: 4 Atmosphere: 3                                       Characters include: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cape May Cafe (B)— Food: 4 Character Interaction: 5 Location 3 Atmosphere: 3                               Characters include: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Daisy

Trattoria al Forno (B)– Food: 5 Character Interaction: 4 Location: 4 Atmosphere: 4                          Characters include Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel, Prince Eric

disneysum2017 (801)

 

That about does it. We didn’t rate Mickey’s Backyard BBQ at Fort Wilderness, as we have not done that experience, and probably won’t any time soon (it’s out of our price range!) I hope you’ve found this post useful, or at least mildly entertaining. At any rate, we had a blast remembering  our past character dining experiences. What’s your favorite character meal? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Meal Delivery Services Save You Money?

A couple of weeks ago I started getting really curious about these meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. My Facebook feed must have felt it because all at once I had adverts for 5 different companies offering $30 off! First 3 meals free! Etc, etc. So, what does a curious-minded budget blogger do? She takes the bait and dives in head first, all for the sake of her dear readers (all 10 of you.)

I got an account with Blue Apron and signed up for 4 family meals a week (each meal serves 4) with a $30 coupon, my total was a little over $100. It seemed pricey to me until I reminded myself that I now had no need to go grocery shopping for the week, except to pick up a few breakfast and lunch items. I tend to buy higher quality meat and produce, which adds up quickly at the old Whole Foods. The other benefit was no meal planning! I was honestly getting in a dinner rut. Mexican night was happening all too frequently and it wasn’t much of a fiesta anymore.

img_0147

So when my delivery date arrived and I pulled into my driveway, I was ecstatic to see my meals waiting for me in 2 cardboard boxes. I quickly unpacked everything, looked over my recipes and put all the perishables (kept nice and chilly in an insulated liner and ice packs) away in the fridge. The meals looked delicious, and I immediately picked a Shrimp and Udon Noodle salad to make. These meals are more complicated than what I assume most people with kids are used to making. This is actually a good thing, as meal time has become something to look forward to, knowing I’ll be having a well thought-out, flavorful meal with quality ingredients, with little work on my part. You do still need to prepare and cook these from scratch. The veggies come in their natural state, so get ready to slice, dice and grate.

If you go for the family plan, you will be paying $140 for 4 nights of meals for your family or, just under $9 per serving. Unless you eat at a sit down restaurant almost every night, you probably are paying less than that to currently feed your family. If you would rather receive meals less frequently, it is so easy to change your plan or skip a few weeks. I’m currently trying a couple of different plans to see what works best for us (the 2 person plan might work since my husband rarely has dinner with us, but I like having leftovers)

When you factor in the time you are saving going food shopping every week and meal planning, and the quality of the food, which is probably better than you normally allow yourself to buy if you’re on a budget, it starts to make more sense. I am sticking with Blue Apron for the time being and am really happy with it. Cooking is fun again, and we are eating out much less frequently than we used to. If you use one of these services, let me know what you think! Cover photo courtesy of Basheer Tome via flickr

Should You Buy a Dining Plan?

Disney is an expensive place to eat at. Many people think purchasing a Disney Dining Plan (DDP) will save them money, and that may be true in many cases. There are many opinions on whether it is better to pay out-of-pocket (OOP) or use one of Disney’s many dining plan options.

Here’s a quick rundown of each plan and what is included. The Disney Dining Plans have several tiers with increasing prices.

  • Quick Service Plan– This plan entitles each person in your party to two counter-service meals, and one snack per night, and one refillable drink cup. If you are staying at a Disney resort for 5 nights, you will have 5 days of meals, even if you’re in the parks 6 days. Get it?
  • Standard Dining Plan– With this plan, each person will have one counter-service meal, one table-service meal (including character dining,) and a snack per night, and a refillable cup. This is the plan we get and have been really happy with it.
  • Deluxe Dining Plan– Each person gets three meals per day. That can be a counter-service or table-service, and appetizers are included. You also get two snacks, and a refillable cup.
  • The Premium Plan is the same as the Deluxe except that for signature meals that would normally take two dining credits from your bank of credits, every meal is only one.
  • The Platinum Plan basically entitles you to the first born of any Disney cast member. But seriously, if you’re getting the Platinum plan, you don’t need to worry about budgeting for Disney.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Getting silly at Chef Mickey’s
Each meal takes a credit out of your allotment of dining credits. Now, if you are set on dining in the castle at the Magic Kingdom and get an ADR to Cinderella’s Royal Table, you should know that it will cost you two of your credits. So, you will have to skip a meal on another day or pay OOP.

There are so many fantastic signature restaurants and dinner shows (all 2 credits) on which you might want to splurge (we always do.) California Grill is a favorite of ours, and the view from the top of the Contemporary resort is worth 2 credits alone. I usually schedule a reasonably-priced meal on another day that we can easily pay out-of -pocket, like a breakfast buffet at Crystal Palace or lunch at the Plaza restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Hanging with Dale at the Garden Grill at Epcot
So, back to the question of “should you or shouldn’t you?” In my opinion, if you are going to do a lot of buffets and character meals, the dining plan is probably a good idea. Let’s look at some numbers. For an adult, the standard DDP costs $63.70 per night in 2016. Dinner at Akershus in Epcot, which features all your favorite princesses is about $45-$50. The New York strip steak, Olaf cupcake and fountain drink on the menu at ABC Commissary totals almost $23. Add $4 for a Dole Whip float and you’ve spent in the area of $77.

If you’re a light eater, you might balk at the idea of all that food. If splitting meals and grabbing a hot dog for dinner is more your speed, the Dining Plan will almost certainly be too much food for you. Save the money for a few special souvenirs or upgrade your resort room. Take a moment to peruse the menus on Disney’s website to get an idea of what your family would order. You’ll quickly see if any of the Disney Dining Plans make sense for you.