Disney Dining Plan Comparison

If you didn’t know how crazy organized we are, you’re about to. When we first went to Disney as a family of four in 2016 we got the dining plan. Then for our next trip in 2017, we decided to see if the dining plan was actually worth the cost. We got the dining plan and wrote down everything we spent. Everything. All snacks, quick service, and table service. Then in 2018 we decided to not do the dining plan, and see if we ate “normally” (i.e. not trying to meet the quota of snacks and meals) what the comparison would be. B wrote down everything in an excel document and I’m happy to share our results with you!

Before we get started a few things to note. First, the price of the dining plan has changed, so always check what their latest prices are. Second, this is for two adults and two kids on the standard dining plan (2 snacks, 1 quick service, and 1 table service per night of stay).

First up, our 2017 on the dining plan table:

 

So on the dining plan we actually came out 223.50 ahead of the plan cost (essentially we spent more than the plan cost). And we spent everything. No quick service unused, all snacks accounted for, and plenty of character meals (always a higher cost).

Second up is our 2018 not on the dining plan table:

This time around we ate how we wanted. We didn’t always get quick service, sometimes we had snacks for lunch, and we only did one character meal (Ohana breakfast). If we had gotten the dining plan we actually would have lost $88.63. Not a big difference, but still close to $100.

So, what did we conclude? If you are planning to eat at least a quick service, table service, and two snacks per person per day the plan is a good choice. If you are planning to do a bunch of character meals the plan is a great choice. If you want to be able to pay for your food in advance and not have to worry about it when you get there the plan is an excellent choice. However, if you are doing more quick service, don’t want to worry about keeping up with how many snacks you have left to spend, and aren’t doing hardly any character meals then you may find the plan is not for you. This, obviously, is only one example, but hopefully it provides some insight into the dining plan and it’s cost!

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Mobile Ordering at Disney

 

On our last Disney trip we tried out Mobile Ordering for the first time and had such a great experience I had to share! A lot of people haven’t used it before, so from a “not at Disney right now” standpoint it can be hard to see why it’s beneficial. There are several benefits that make it a must use on our future trips. First, you can set up an order before you get to your lunch location. We selected our lunch order from Flame Tree Barbecue will on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in Animal Kingdom. The boys were writing down information in their Wilderness Explorer Guides while we set it up. For many quick service restaurants you can order it in advance (like several hours or even the day before), and then you just a tap a button when you are headed towards the restaurant and they will prep it for you.

Second, you get to avoid lines. After standing in line at Disney nothing is more stressful than having to stand in yet another line to get food, and having your kids suddenly unable to decide between chicken fingers or chicken nuggets. You’re able to walk to the restaurant and grab a table first, and sit and wait for the order to pop up as ready on your phone. Then you go have one or two people grab it while everyone else can sit at the table.

Third, it’s relatively new so people tend to not use it, or not realize they can so it’s super fast. It’s like the fast pass of food. We have literally walked by a line thirty people long and grabbed a Dole Whip that we’ve mobile ordered. So use it now before everyone else has it figured it out!

Lastly, you can specify exactly what you want or don’t want on the food, and it’s on a typed list. This is helpful with our food allergies. It takes less time to select items you want or don’t want on a sandwich than having to list it all out in person, and we have found the menus to be pretty customizable. The other thing I really like is it automatically emails you a receipt, so there is no having to keep up with paper receipts (they do give you a paper receipt as well when you pick up your order):

Overall, we have had a great experience with mobile ordering, so I would recommend trying it out! It is also compatible with the Disney dining plan at many locations now, making it an even better value! Happy Disney traveling!

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Disney Packing Guide

Traveling with two kiddos, often, I’ve got our packing down to almost (almost!) an exact science. I find especially when we get close to leaving on our trips that I am most stressed about forgetting something. Not that you can’t purchase items at Disney, but I like to be prepared. I do want to preface this with the fact that we almost always drive to Disney, so we have a little more room to bring extra items, like snacks and water bottles. However, if you do fly there are several good grocery services (and Amazon if you have Amazon Prime) that you can order items to be delivered to your hotel. Today I’m sharing my packing lists (you can download it here: Disney World List), and a few other essentials for our trips!

Most of our trips start out like this:

Packed in to our SUV, with headphones on, backpacks with essential items, and lots of snacks. A few of my favorite items that make road trips easier are packing cubes to divide out our items in suitcases, easy to access thermoses for the boys, and kid friendly headphones for their devices or DVD player. We usually separate the trip into two days on the way down and then drive all the way back in one day. I also have a trusty collection of Vera Bradley bags that I use to corral items throughout the trip. We’ve added more things to the list through the years (especially medicine, it can be expensive at Disney), but the items above are our tried and true! Happy planning and packing!

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Disney Five Day Travel Guide

One of the things that we get asked a lot about going to Disney, is it worth it to do all the work/planning ahead to go? And my answer is always yes. I’m a planner by nature, so I love checklists, charts, etc. so planning all of our days in advance is definitely something I enjoy. However, even if you are not a planner like me, you can still do just a bit of pre-trip organization to make your experience while you’re there much more enjoyable. Our favorite website to use for ride/event planning is WDWPrepSchool, and our favorite food planning site is DisneyFoodBlog. For every trip we go on I plan out a travel guide that includes our fast passes, dining places, and events. We sometimes follow it exactly, and other times we go off the path. For example, on our last trip we walked into Disney early on Saturday, so we ran to fantasyland and liberty square and walked on several rides we weren’t planning to go on. Another day, we were headed out of lunch in Frontierland and there was only a 25 minute wait at Splash Mountain so B and J went and rode it.

A couple of other items to note, as I’ve talked about in the past A doesn’t like big rides, so we actually divide up our magic bands, so J can ride them with either B or I. You can tell this in the set-up if there is a big ride, but it says N & A it is typically J & N. This is a good plan if you have one like ours, or a kiddo who’s not quite tall enough for the rides and one who is.

The last thing, is that I try to plan so we aren’t trekking back and forth across the park, you will log a lot of steps anyway, and backtracking with kids is not fun. Happy Disney trip planning!

Disney World

Monday-Arrival Day

  • Arrive at Beach Club and drop off luggage 
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Lunch: The Mara
  • Pool at Beach Club

Tuesday- Magic Kingdom Day 1

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Dole Whip Snack Aloha Isle
  • Pirate Adventure Kiosk
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  • Lunch: Pecos Bill 
  • Thunder Mountain 11:40-12:40 FP x 2 A &B
  • Splash Mountain 12:35-1:35 FP x 2 J & N
  • Tom Sawyer Island
  • Haunted Mansion FP x 4 1:35-2:35
  • Peter Pan FP x 4 2:40-3:40
  • Finish pirate scavenger hunt
  • Take Disney train 
  • Mermaid cupcake or Mickey cinnamon roll
  • Dinner: Casey’s Corner

Wednesday- Epcot Day 2

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Explore World Showcase
  • Test Track FP x 4 1:30-2:30
  • Spaceship Earth FP x 4 3:00-4:00
  • Living with the Land FP x 4 4:45-5:45
  • The Seas
  • Finding Nemo Ride 
  • Dinner: Coral Reef 6:50 p.m.
  • Soarin’

Thursday- Hollywood Studios Day 3

  • Toy Story Mania FP x 4 9:45-10:45
  • Lunch: ABC Commissary 
  • Rocking roller coaster 12:00-1:00 FP x 2 B & J
  • March of the First Order 1:00
  • Tower of Terror 12:40-1:40 FP x 2 N & A
  • Star Tours x 2 FP 2:15-3:15 B & J
  • Muppets 3 D
  • Dinner: Via Napoli 7:05 p.m.

Friday-Animal Kingdom Day 4

  • Wilderness Explorer Books
  • Kilimanjaro Safari
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch
  • Jungle Juice Slush @ Tambu Tambu- Snack
  • Pretzel – Snack
  • Gorilla Falls Trail
  • Lunch: Flame Tree BBQ QS 11:00
  • Kali River Rapids – FP x 4 12:25-1:25
  • Dinosaur 1:50-2:50 FP x 2 B & J
  • Boneyard
  • Snack
  • Navi River Journey 3:05-4:05 FP x 2 N & A
  • Flight of Passage x 2 3:25-4:25 FP x 2 B & J
  • Expedition Everest x 2 4:40-5:40 N & A
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek
  • Flights of Wonder
  • Dinner: Yak and Yeti 6:15 p.m.

Saturday – Magic Kingdom Day 5

  • Breakfast: Ohana 7:50 a.m.
  • Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Prince Charming Carousel
  • It’s a small world 
  • Dumbo 
  • Meet Disney carnival characters
  • Lunch: Be Our Guest 12:20 p.m.
  • Seven Dwarves 1:05-2:05 FP x 2 B & J
  • Little Mermaid 1:10-2:10 FP x 2 N & A
  • Carousel of Progress
  • Space Mountain 3:10-4:10 FP x 2 B & J
  • Tomorrowland Speedway 2:30-3:30 FP x 2 N & A
  • Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor 
  • Buzz Lightyear 4:35-5:35 FP x 4 
  • Dinner: Ohana 6:50 p.m.
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ESPN Club

The ESPN Club at The Boardwalk in Disney doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition, but for three sports loving boys, it was one of their favorite restaurants at the resort. The restaurant is filled with sports memorabilia and lots of televisions to watch all the games that are playing at that time. The meal itself was very good, and our waiter was excellent. I especially appreciated how kind the waiter was with our boys, answering their endless sports questions patiently, and bringing celebratory apples (A’s request) for A’s birthday.

B picked the ESPN burger…

And I chose the fish and chips:

J selected the hot dog:

And A loved his birthday apple slices!

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Current favorite Disney souvenirs

Part of the fun of going to Disney is finding some new souvenirs! As I discussed in a past post we had a set amount of souvenir money for each kid. It worked out great. Especially for math loving A who decided to evenly split his money among each park. A carefully considers a variety of items before he decides on a final purchase. Like this classic Mickey Mouse to add to his Mickey Mouse collection:

J on the other hand is very decisive, he sees what he wants and immediately makes a choice like this guy:

Just kidding. While very lovable, this almost life size Stitch was out of his price range. He instead settled on this:

Pluto with the keys!

We also love the wall of Tsum Tsums at Big Top Souvenirs:

And all the plush animals in Animal Kingdom:

It’s always fun to have a memory to bring home of our trips! I have found through our many visits that the office supplies are very enticing, but can be a bit overpriced. In addition, the books are usually very overpriced, and unless it is a Disney exclusive, I’ll suggest the boys save that idea, and I’ll order it off Amazon for Christmas or a Birthday. In contrast, the plush animals and many home goods are priced pretty reasonably. Happy souvenir shopping!

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Orlando Stopover before Disney

We’re a good ten hours from Disney World, which means that it’s either one very long driving day, or we split it into two days. We’ve made various halfway stops on our trip down, but on this particular trip we drove almost all the way in, stopping at Lake Buena Vista. We ate at Shake Shack for dinner (one of my favorites):

 

One of my life quests is to get the unique concretes (ice cream) at every Shake Shack. I’ve got three so far (DC, Austin, Orlando):

Then we marveled at the huge (and I do mean huge) Ferris wheel, at the outdoor entertainment venue where Shake Shack is located. There is also an awesome pirate themed miniature golf, that we decided next time we should take into consideration!

We stayed at The Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista, which was very nice. It does always make me laugh that B wants to get a suite because most of the time the boys end up wanting to sleep in the same room as us instead of taking the pull out sofa in the separate room.

This would be a great option if you were visiting both Universal Studios and Disney World! However, our sights were set for Disney!

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Disney Snack Round-Up

From classics to new finds, I’ve rounded-up some of our favorite snacks from our Disney trip! We share a lot of snacks on our trip, just because some are typically large snacks, and also to cut down on the sugar overload. I’ve marked through the post snacks that we’ve split, or got individual servings, to give you a better idea of the portions.

First up, the dole whip. You will not ever find a Disney trip that I don’t get a dole whip. Ever. We typically buy two and split them.

Second, classic Mickey bars. The boys always request these, and our favorite spot to eat them is anywhere shaded. We buy individual ones for these because they get messy really fast and they aren’t that big.

Third, Mickey pretzels. These are always good, which is why we make a stop for one on every trip. We typically get three and split.

Fourth, Gaston’s cinnamon roll. My recommendation is to ask them to warm the roll (it’s supposed to come warm, but ours didn’t). We got one and split it, it’s very sweet.

Fifth, Mickey cinnamon roll. This was less sweet than Gaston’s cinnamon roll (which I liked), but I didn’t like the chocolate sauce that much, plus it melted super fast. We got one and split it, but it wasn’t nearly enough. I’d get two.

Sixth, the Mickey rice krispie bar with m&ms. This is the ultimate sugar rush, but delicious! We got two and split them.

Seventh, the shaved ice in Epcot Japan. These are huge, we got one and split it.

Eighth, the school bread in Epcot Norway. This is a spice-flavored, creamy bun, and it is not super sweet. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it’s worth getting once just to see what all the hype is about. We got one and split it.

Pastries in Epcot France. Definitely get your own. Not that they aren’t shareable, but typically you won’t want to share (featured are the duo and parfaits aux fruits):

And finally, these apple cider donut holes were my favorite. I’d maybe share it, but I think you could get individual ones and easily eat them all. These may be seasonal, but I found them at the Isle of Java spot in Animal Kingdom:

Happy snacking!

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Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe

Nestled in a corner of Frontierland is Pecos Bill’s. We stopped here for lunch after we finished our morning in Adventureland, and before our fast passes in Frontierland started. I had visited Pecos Bill before, but hadn’t been in quite a few years because I was unsure how well the boys would eat the premade tacos. Obviously I should have checked the menu and reviews more closely because this was actually the perfect spot for the boys.

A and I split the beef tacos, and what you get on the tacos is just that, beef. Then you can make your way over to the toppings bar and add whatever you want to your tacos. This is an awesome way to split a meal and make it customizable. So as you can see we made our own choices…

J was on a macaroni and cheese kick this trip, so that was his choice:

We also saw some country bears on the way out!

Here’s a breakdown of our Magic Kingdom plan focusing on Adventureland and Frontierland:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean 
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Dole Whip Snack Aloha Isle
  • Pirate Adventure Kiosk
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  • Lunch: Pecos Bill 
  • Thunder Mountain 11:40-12:40 FP x 2 A &B
  • Splash Mountain 12:35-1:35 FP x 2 J & N
  • Tom Sawyer Island
  • Haunted Mansion FP x 4 1:35-2:35
  • Peter Pan FP x 4 2:40-3:40
  • Finish pirate scavenger hunt

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The Beach Club Review

When I was a kid going to Disney my family always stayed at an Epcot area hotel. My parents liked the convience of being able to walk into a park, or take a boat instead of dealing with the buses. Since it was A’s 10th birthday celebration we decided to stay at The Beach Club for our trip, because A’s favorite park is Epcot. I was interested to try The Beach Club since it had been probably about twenty years since I have stayed there. Here is a breakdown of our experience!

We stayed in a garden view room, which I liked because it was quiet and not too far from the entrance to walk to Epcot. I was not pleased with our first floor room, so I requested to change it and they moved us to the second floor, which was much better.

Our room overall was very nice, but I will say it was a bit dated and they didn’t put a dust cover on the box spring, which was odd. The boys loved that they didn’t have to share a bed, and I liked the larger balcony to sit out on in the mornings before we got started with our day.

The Beach Club is the closest resort to walk into Epcot and I have to say, you can’t really beat that convenience. We walked out the first night to watch the fireworks and just stood on the bridge.

It’s also a short walk to The Boardwalk resort, where we got Ample Hills ice cream, and wandered into some of the shops.

The pool at The Beach Club is also one of the best pools of all the Disney resorts. It has two water slides, a lazy river, and a sand bottom. It also can only be used by guests of The Beach Club and The Yacht Club. They also have a good arcade that kept the boys occupied until our room was ready.

The Beach Club has an east coast feel, so it doesn’t have much overt Disney decor. However, we really enjoyed the welcoming and family friendly atmosphere. The resort has a character meal, two restaurants, a lounge, and a quick service area with muffins, Mickey waffles, and other pastries. Several mornings we grabbed items from the quick service area for breakfast.

Every cast members we encountered was great, and we loved being able to walk into a park. If you are considering one of the deluxe Epcot resorts this would be my choice!

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