Disney World meal plans (and all things Disney at this point) (1 Viewer)

guidomerkinsrules

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looking for feedback from those who have Disney Worlded and used the meal plans
which one did you use?
did you like it?
what kind of food are you getting with Quick Service?
 

Waymer

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As someone who knows WDW in and out (about 5 trips a year), I can tell you this definitely depends on your family and desires.

What is your family situation (adults/kids), do you want to go to any of the more upscale restaurants, length of stay, do you drink soda, etc?
 
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guidomerkinsrules

guidomerkinsrules

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As someone who knows WDW in and out (about 5 trips a year), I can tell you this definitely depends on your family and desires.

What is your family situation (adults/kids), do you want to go to any of the more upscale restaurants, length of stay, do you drink soda, etc?
me and wife, 8yr old and 2 yr old (they'll almost be 9 & 3 for the trip)
6 nights
don't really need upscale, would be lost on the boys
budget is a concern
but this will be first real vacation as a family, so want to enjoy it

edited: 5 TRIPS A YEAR? wow
 

Bayouboy

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If you are flexible with your vacation, Disney often gives out free dining plans as promotions during certain times of the year.
 

Waymer

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We live in FL with FL resident passes, so it's just a short car ride over and a weekend getaway. And my wife and I do not have kids. It's just us. So we can go for quick and cheap.

Here's the issue with the dining plan. If you go the dining plan route, you really have to make it a mental point to get your money's worth.

What I mean by that, is something like a snack for instance. When using your snack credits, the kids may want popcorn or simple ice cream bar or even a bottle of water on a hot day. Those are "terrible" uses of a snack credit (I say terrible only in a value sense...whatever makes a family happy is obviously more important of course). But the snack credit items that may be closer to $6 in cost, may not interest kids, especially the younger ones.

Same thing with the refillable soda mug. The mug is essentially a $16 value these days. If you're going to give the 3-year old soda at least 2 times each day, then the value is there. But if you're not, it's $16 of money wasted in the plan.

Obviously this depends on your 3 year old too, but depending on how much he eats, it might be a lot of food for him. Some of the quick service places are A LOT of food, like Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom and other places. So much so that often my wife and I will split a meal and a snack, rather than each having our own.

If you really do the dining plan correctly and are all big, big soda drinkers and the kids are great at finishing everything on their plates, you eat at the most expensive places allowed, etc...then it's not a bad deal at all. You can save 15% usually and not worry about paying each time. But if you're not, then the margins start to shrink and turn to Disney's favor (hence why they sell the dining plans in the first place...believe me, they aren't losing money).

My honest recommendation (and I've done dining plans and non-dining plans) is don't do the dining plan. It forces you to "use up" credits you may not really want to use or need at the time. That 15% savings is really hard to get to, especially with kids -- especially a 3 year old (even though I don't have kids, I've helped many families with kids).

If budget is the biggest consideration, I'd actually recommend this: get yourself a Target RedCard if you don't have one (they do debit cards, not just credit). With a Target RedCard, you can buy Disney Gift Cards online or in store at a 5% discount. So if you were buying $500 in cards, you'd only pay $475 total, etc. And you don't have to carry around a stack of $50 gift cards (you can if you want though)...Disney has an online setup that allows you to combine cards. In my experience, that 5% will exceed whatever savings a DDP would give a family.

(If you're more than say 150 days from your trip, then there are even more ways to make that 5% even bigger, using a Disney Vacation Account).

BTW, Disney gift cards can be used to pay for EVERYTHING at Disney with almost no exceptions (rare exceptions are some little carts and kiosks at Disney Springs, etc that are there on a license agreement). So you can pay for your room with gift cards, merchandise, etc. It's the easiest way to save 5% (or more) FWIW.

Anyhow, I'm rambling. I could talk all day about tips, tricks, thoughts, etc. If you have questions, I'm here.

But the long and short of it is, in my opinion, the DDP is usually not worth it to visitors and families, because it locks them in and forces them into choices and almost spending credits just so they don't leave them on the table. If you do go with the DDP, with small kids I would say definitely quick service though.
 
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guidomerkinsrules

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very helpful
(and my wife does love her Target)
kids don't drink any soda -water and the occasional juice

thanks again
just a heads up, as we get closer to the trip window i'm coming at you with all kinds of quetions
 
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BTW, Disney gift cards can be used to pay for EVERYTHING at Disney with almost no exceptions (rare exceptions are some little carts and kiosks at Disney Springs, etc that are there on a license agreement). So you can pay for your room with gift cards, merchandise, etc. It's the easiest way to save 5% (or more) FWIW..
I am in the same boat. First trip for my wife and I in 20 years and our son will be 4.

I was taking this route. Can you elaborate on saving more? We are planning an April trip.
 

livefromDC

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Wow, that's great info Waymer!

We did the dining meal plan but I'm a plan well in advance guy. We did the meal plan because we used them for all (and I mean all) of the character dining meals. My daughter was big into princesses at that time so we wanted to have that experience. The meal plan was used to cover all of those we did 2 or even 3 a day for 6 days, the really hard to book ones require you to book real early in your planning . And when we didn't do a character meal we did fine dining. I think we came out ahead. The next time we go back we probably won't do the meal plan. It worked great for the character stuff and the quick meal credits were more than enough. Minus all the character meals though, I'd just do what Waymer suggested. I'm definitely stealing that trick.
 
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Can I just get the meal plan for the wife and I and not our son?

He eats like a bird. We share most our meals in a restaurant.
 

RussTKD

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Can I just get the meal plan for the wife and I and not our son?

He eats like a bird. We share most our meals in a restaurant.
Nope. But the kid's plan is significantly less than the adult's.
 

GW93

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If budget is the biggest consideration, I'd actually recommend this: get yourself a Target RedCard if you don't have one (they do debit cards, not just credit). With a Target RedCard, you can buy Disney Gift Cards online or in store at a 5% discount. So if you were buying $500 in cards, you'd only pay $475 total, etc. And you don't have to carry around a stack of $50 gift cards (you can if you want though)...Disney has an online setup that allows you to combine cards. In my experience, that 5% will exceed whatever savings a DDP would give a family.

(If you're more than say 150 days from your trip, then there are even more ways to make that 5% even bigger, using a Disney Vacation Account).

BTW, Disney gift cards can be used to pay for EVERYTHING at Disney with almost no exceptions (rare exceptions are some little carts and kiosks at Disney Springs, etc that are there on a license agreement). So you can pay for your room with gift cards, merchandise, etc. It's the easiest way to save 5% (or more) FWIW.
THAT is a great tip. I'm gonna have to remember this one.

Does the meal plan have to cover the entire trip? Could I get enough meal plan to do a couple of character dinners and leave it at that?
 

Waymer

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Alright, I'll try and elaborate on all these questions, and I don't mind at all. So hit me up anyone.

For the record, there is nothing that says my methods are the best. They've what I've learned over the past five years of extensive Disney travel/visits, but it doesn't mean they are perfect and work for everyone. If you feel something is better for your family, by all means, go with that over my advice if you aren't comfortable with my advice. No offense here, and you don't even have to tell me. :hihi: But where I can try and help, I will. The real key to Disney is this: Expect to spin a ton of money, even with every savings method. Expect to wait in line. Expect to be hot. Expect a few issues, or some rain, or whatever it may be you hate. Because it will probably happen if it can. It's just how Disney (and Florida) work. But if you go in without feeling all the pressure in the (Disney) world, then it will be much better, I promise. That's easy for me to say when I go many times, I know. But trust me. Enjoy the big picture, don't stress the details.

very helpful
(and my wife does love her Target)
kids don't drink any soda -water and the occasional juice

thanks again
just a heads up, as we get closer to the trip window i'm coming at you with all kinds of quetions
Like I said above, I am an open Disney book, so just ask. I took my wife to California and Disneyland even for 12 days. WDW, Disneyland, Disney Cruises. I've paid for them all. :hihi:

A big part of the DDP (Disney Dining Plan) is the benefit of the refillable mug. But if the family isn't big soda drinkers, that's essentially $80 (family of 4) lost after cost and tax. Disney includes this in their "discount," so right away you lose value in your DDP. If you were a family that drank soda 10 times a day, it would be a bargain. Cold water out of the machines is free, and you didn't hear this from me, but at least for now, hot chocolate is free without a mug at the drink center. Against the rules, yes. But just an FYI. Truthfully, Disney wants you to buy hot chocolate (and you might since it's right before Christmas), but Cast Members (name for Disney employees) have told me many, many times just go get it for free with a disposable cup. They (the CMs) truly want you to enjoy yourself rather than standing in line to buy a $2 hot chocolate that costs them 2 cents.

And Target is a god send. If you buy cards and want to combine like I said, just google it. You can combine them up to $1000.

I am in the same boat. First trip for my wife and I in 20 years and our son will be 4.

I was taking this route. Can you elaborate on saving more? We are planning an April trip.
Yep, so here's the deal. If you open a Disney Vacation Account (DVA - just google it), for every $1000 you spend out of the account, you get a $20 Disney gift card. DVA was designed as a way for people to put away for vacations (layaway for the mouse, if you will). They debit your bank account or charge your credit card say $30 a month for a year, and then you have an account set aside with $360 in it, for example. BUT, the nice thing about DVA is you can also fund it with Disney gift cards. You have to put a future payment in there first, but can cancel it. Example, I set up a payment for 9/1/16 to take $10 from me. But on 8/20/16 I can load it with a Disney gift card for $XX, then cancel the payment on 9/1. Now my DVA is funded. The DVA can then be used to pay for any sort of Disney accommodation stay (WDW hotel, Cruise, DLand, etc) and also Disney park tickets, etc.

The really nice thing is after you spend $1000 out of your DVA, you get a free $20 Disney gift card.

The only catch is you have to have your DVA set up and funded at least 120 days in advance. So Guido's vacation would be close or pushing it depending on exact dates. If you know you're going to spend $1000 (and if you're staying 4+ nights and getting tickets for 4+ you probably will be for sure), then the free $20 is a nice bonus. In the future you can keep doing this with DVA, without the 120 day worry anymore.

Note, the $1000 doesn't have to be at once. If you spend $750 in April and $400 in 2018, it would all count towards $1000. So there's not necessarily a downside outside of a little manual effort, so long as you hit $1000 at some point.

So for example. Getting back to Target. If you bought $1000 in gift cards from Target (and you can, trust me...before my honeymoon I once bought $3000 at one time), you would only pay $950 with the 5% RedCard savings. If you then put that $1000 into your DVA and used your DVA to pay for your vacation, you can then request the $20 gift card. So you've essentially reduced your out of pocket to $930 to pay the $1000. So that stretches your savings to 7% total right there.

And you can do all this with or without a DDP, with or without tickets, etc. Just a little extra tip/trick if anyone is interested.

Wow, that's great info Waymer!

We did the dining meal plan but I'm a plan well in advance guy. We did the meal plan because we used them for all (and I mean all) of the character dining meals. My daughter was big into princesses at that time so we wanted to have that experience. The meal plan was used to cover all of those we did 2 or even 3 a day for 6 days, the really hard to book ones require you to book real early in your planning . And when we didn't do a character meal we did fine dining. I think we came out ahead. The next time we go back we probably won't do the meal plan. It worked great for the character stuff and the quick meal credits were more than enough. Minus all the character meals though, I'd just do what Waymer suggested. I'm definitely stealing that trick.
Yep, some things simply make it worth it cost wise, which was kind of why my question to guido at the start was if he was doing fine dining, etc. You definitely CAN save money with the DDP if you plan it out well in advance, know various meals you want, etc. Some things are money savers, no question about it. Just really comes down to individual needs and desires.

Keep in mind WDW keeps getting more and more stingy though. Some restaurants are considered "signature dining" which would cost 2 table service credits, not just one. So planning does really matter.

Can I just get the meal plan for the wife and I and not our son?

He eats like a bird. We share most our meals in a restaurant.
Nope. Like was said above by another poster.

THAT is a great tip. I'm gonna have to remember this one.

Does the meal plan have to cover the entire trip? Could I get enough meal plan to do a couple of character dinners and leave it at that?
Nope. DDP can only be purchased as part of a vacation package, so it's linked to whatever stay you have.
--------------

One other tip. I use this myself, and I'm someone who goes all the time. Definitely use a certified Disney Travel Agent (DTA). They are 100% free, and there are absolutely benefits to using them (especially the good ones). A lot of times when you book, it's the best deal there is and will be. BUT, many times Disney runs promotions (especially for me as a FL resident, but also in general). If you book a vacation for example that was 15% off the room rate, but 2 months after you book a deal comes out for 25% off the rate, most people don't know or realize you can actually get the new rate. You can do all this yourselves, but it requires your time and you have to watch for the rates. A (good) DTA will automatically see this and adjust it for you. Plus they will do anything you want (the good ones) and book reservations at restaurants, etc, etc. Really can save time and confusion and money.

I've worked with them (well, they've worked for me), and they are so great. I have a few I would recommend. If you're interested PM me.

And a DTA will NOT cost you anything. Let me be very, very clear about that. They are 100% free. If you go to a travel agent and they try to book WDW for you and charge you, DO NOT use them. DTAs get their commission from Disney (typically 6-10% of your trip), and you do not pay them, and your trip cost is the EXACT same as if you did it yourself. Trust me, in my early WDW days I verified this many times over, including testing by booking the same trip they did all the way to final confirmation. They are great to work with. I know many people here have used them, myself included.

Anymore questions, I'll be here...unless I'm at Disney. :)
 
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Waymer

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Oh, and if you don't think I love Disney, did I mention my dog Porter was selected as one of the only 101 (yeah, 101, get it) non-service dogs to ever be allowed into Disney for a big "Disney Side Costume Party?" He went as Simba from The Lion King.

So yeah, my wife, myself, and my dog are Disney nerds.

And yeah, that's his first visit in 2014, not ours. :hihi: And no, he was unable to pull the sword out of the stone. ;)









 
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Thanks for the tips

I am thinking it will end up costing us $3000 when it's all said and done, so the extra $60 is nice.
 

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