Showing posts with label DDP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DDP. Show all posts

What to Know About Dining in Walt Disney World Resort

Welcome to Part 2 of Your First Trip to Walt Disney World!  Today we're focused on all you need to know about dining around Walt Disney World Resort.  This is typically your next big decision following your hotel accommodations (see Part 1 of this blog series for more on picking the right place for you and your family!)  When thinking about your dining reservations in Walt Disney World, there are a few big decisions to make.

Do I purchase the Disney Dining Plan or not?
The Disney Dining Plan comes in three different tiers and may be a great option for your vacation.  The latest details on each option can be found here on the Walt Disney World website.  I highly recommend thinking about your dining needs and weigh the costs of this plan against the benefits.  If you can snag this during a "free dining" deal from Disney, it's of course a no brainer!  It's also a great option if you like the idea of an all inclusive price on your Disney vacation where you can minimize out of pocket costs during your actual trip.  However, the dining plan isn't cheap.  I've only used it once during an adult only trip where we planned several high end meals that only used one table service credit each - making this a great bargain!  On our most recent family trip, we opted not to purchase the dining plan because my three year old is such a picky eater, the cost didn't make sense.

Catch up with Farmer Mickey at Garden Grill's
new character breakfast!
What's the difference between Table Service and Quick Service restaurants?
Table Service restaurants are going to be what you would typically expect in a restaurant featuring a waiter, a menu with multiple courses, and nice surroundings.  Quick service restaurants are more "cafeteria" style where you approach the counter to order of a limited menu and then take your food to open seating in the restaurant.  There are good choices at each of these levels and your vacation will most likely feature some of each.

Do I need to make reservations ahead of time?
YES!  Table service restaurants offer reservations and you really need to make them prior to your trip.  More about the timeline for making dining reservations can be found here, but the simple rule is that they open 60 days prior.  More popular restaurants like Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey's, and Cinderella's Royal Table often book up within hours of the reservation window opening while others will feature a lot of availability up until the beginning of your trip.  Don't despair though if you can't grab your favorite reservation right away.  I've been able to get some great reservations within two weeks prior to the start of my trip by checking the My Disney Experience app frequently!

Is Character Dining the right choice for my family?
Character meals are a great choice in my opinion - especially if you have young kids!  These provide a great way to interact with the characters while getting pictures and autographs too.  Some characters will feature long lines in the parks, but you can save time by sharing a meal with them.  However, character meals can be expensive.  Make sure you look at pricing for the ones you are interested in so that you're not surprised.  One of my favorite tips is to book a late character breakfast.  You pay the cheapest price of the day and can fill up for lunch too!

There are so many great restaurants in Walt Disney World!  With so many great options, you only need to do a little research to discover the tasty delights that await you on your vacation!

Saving money on food in Disney!

When traveling to Walt Disney World, one very large (and oftentimes underestimated) cost of the trip is buying food.  Even if you choose to purchase the Disney Dining Plan, you will probably still need some snacks and staples throughout the day.  So how can you save money on food?  Easy, buy groceries!

Now, you may be thinking I'm nuts.  Nobody wants to grocery shop on vacation and a lot of resort guests don't rent a car to easily get out.  Orlando though is home to numerous online grocery shopping services that are worth considering on your next trip.  On our most recent trip, we used Garden Grocer and couldn't have been happier with their service.

Here's how it works.  We visited their site about a month before our trip.  I knew that in our Studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village we would have a fridge, sink, and some cabinet space.  I ordered easy breakfast items (milk, bananas, grapes, yogurt, bakery fresh muffins, cereal) and drinks (Capri Sun, soda, juice, case of water) as well as a few healthy snacks to pack for the park (granola bars, apples, pretzels, etc).    We don't know exactly how much money we saved by taking advantage of this service, but I know it was substantial.  Think about just water alone.  Water is one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan or $2.50 a bottle when you buy it out in the parks.  From Garden Grocer, we received a case of water for $6.99 (or just $0.29 a bottle). The case was more than enough for what our family of 3 needed to last for the 5 days we were in Disney.  Between the online grocery order and some snacks we packed from home, we had a lot of options that saved us a great deal of money in the parks.  Once you place your order on their website, you select the delivery date, time frame, and resort destination.  They will deliver the groceries to bell services at your hotel where Disney staff will keep cold stuff refrigerated for you until you are back in your room to receive them.  When you arrive at your hotel, simply call bell services and they'll deliver your groceries to your room.  Voila!    

Having some breakfast food in the room allowed us to enjoy some leisurely mornings watching the animals from our balcony.
So how do you know if online groceries are right for your next trip?  The biggest suggestion I have is to check out what kind of refrigerator your room has.  All Walt Disney World Resort hotels now feature a refrigerator, but they do vary in size from mini-fridges in the value resorts to full size refrigerators and kitchens in most Disney Vacation Club property villas.  You'll want an idea of how much space you have for cold things before you place your order.  Many park visitors aren't aware that you can bring food into the park (including soft-sided coolers), but this little trick can add up to big savings!

What other tips or tricks do you have to save money on food when visiting Walt Disney World Resort?

What to Consider When Staying Off Property

Let's face it - Disney is an expensive trip for a family.  And staying on property can make the trip even more expensive then taking advantage of some of the cheaper hotels that are in Orlando.  But, is staying off property the right choice for you and your family?  Here are some things to consider before making that decision.

Transportation - When you stay on property, Disney provides free Magical Express transportation to and from the airport as well as free transportation to and from your resort to the parks and Downtown Disney.  If you stay off property, you'll have to think about how you will get to and from the airport and to the parks.  One of the options would be renting a car.  Car rental prices in Florida are among the most expensive in the nation and you'll also have to pay for parking at the parks and maybe at your resort.  A second option that may work for you if your hotel provides free transportation to the parks via their own shuttles, is to simply arrange for transportation through Mears or another private company to get to and from the airport.  There is a range of options that private companies provide from a communal van / bus (cheapest) to private cars / limos.  A word of caution about free transportation from your hotel to the parks though - most will likely take you to the Ticketing and Transportation Center, not directly to the parks.  From the TTC, you'll have to catch another bus to the park of your choosing.  This can make for long travel times so keep this in mind if you have small kids.  We stayed off property in 2011 with some friends at the Hilton on I-Drive and as a group of four adults it wasn't that bad to manage.  However, I don't know that I would feel the same way toting small children, strollers, and diaper bags through multiple transportation changes.

Extra Magic Hours / Disney Dining Plan - This perk is extended to guests staying on Disney property and to a few off-site hotels.  If you're a Disney novice and not familiar with it, on select days some parks will open an hour early and stay open later for guests.  It's worth checking into if you enjoy the EMH benefit.  For me, EMH are nice but would not be a deal breaker if I could save several hundred dollars staying off property.  The Disney Dining Plan is only offered to guests staying on property.  If this is something that is important to you, you won't be able to take advantage of it while off property.

FastPass+ - This is probably one of the biggest considerations right now if you are looking to score hard to get FastPass+ times.  Resort guests have the ability to begin booking 60 days in advance of their reservation while guests staying off-property can only start booking 30 days in advance.  For my upcoming trip, I began booking FP+ times at the 60 day mark and their were some I couldn't get.  I would imagine times and attractions may be limited for guests staying off property who are at a disadvantage.

The Disney Experience - This is a biggie for me.  I loved our Hilton hotel when we were there.  The pool was beautiful, food was great, room was wonderful and had a great view of Epcot.  On top of all of that, it was free with Hilton points we accumulated and we were upgraded to a suite since Dan travels so much for work and has Diamond status at Hilton properties.  However, I missed Mickey.  Again, I haven't stayed off property much so maybe other hotels have more Mickey touches then the Hilton, but it didn't "feel" like Disney.  Especially now that I'm traveling with a little mouseketeer in tow, I enjoy being immersed in pixie dust and it's not the same staying off site.

The pool at the Walt Disney World Hilton on I-Drive

So, is staying off site the right choice for you and your family?  It depends.  There are certainly plenty of options that are cheaper then staying on property if that is your number one concern.  Don't forget to calculate any extra transportation costs that you may incur though.  I'm sure we'll stay off property again in the future, but my preference is to be on property whenever possible.