Lisa is a very funny friend of mine from a Disney board. Lisa may or may not have Swine Flu at this very moment, but she forced herself to write this guest post out of the kindness of her heart. Why? Because she cares so much. So when you read this, remember that she allegedly wrote this while laying pale and weak in bed like some sickly 19th century heroine in a French novel. Only with a laptop. Here's her take on the Disney Dining Plan:
Free Dining has once again been offered for August 16 through October 3rd for guests staying on Disney property, and if you're anything like me, you have just found your excuse for a 2009 Disney trip(like you needed an excuse). But for those who may have not heard about the Disney Dining Plan or are not sure if it's is for you, here's some info and insight on one of my favorite Magic Your Way add-on options.
Disney has 3 different dining plans: the new Quick Service plan, the regular Disney dining plan, and the Deluxe plan. There is also an add-on option to the plans called the Wine & Dine-which I will get into later.
The Quick Service plan is the newest and consists of 2 quick service meals (think Burger, Chicken fingers, BBQ sandwiches) and 2 snacks a day per person, per day.It also includes 1 refillable mug per person. The price for this package is $29.99 per adult (10 and up), and $8.99 per child (ages 3-9). While this is not my idea of vacation dining, it does hold a lot of allure for folks who a) don't like to plan their meals 90 days out, b) don't like their theme park time interrupted by having to go eat, c) would prefer to grab a burger then go to a fancy sit down meal. Another perk about this plan, no gratuities. If you are trying to really plan your budget, this plan is the pay one price up front way to go.
The regular Dining plan consists of 1 counter service meal, 1 sit-down meal, and one snack per day, per person. The price is $39.99 per adult (10 and up), and $10.99 per child (ages 3-9). Your meal consists of an non-alcoholic beverage, an entree, and a dessert. It does not include gratuities. I like this plan, because you can really get a lot out of it. You can interchange the meal credits so that you can use your sit-down credits for a character breakfasts one day and dinner at a nice restaurant another. There are hundreds of snack options, and depending on you eating style you could get a full days worth of dining by using your snacks for a light breakfast (Continental style: bagels, cinnamon buns, etc.), have lunch in the parks counter service restaurants, and dinner at one of the many resorts of theme park sit- down restaurants.
This brings us to my favorite option, the Deluxe dining plan. With this plan you get 3 either sit-down or counter service meals (your choice how to use them) and 2 snacks per person, per day. Plus you also get 1 refillable mug per person. The price for this plan is $71.99 per adult (10 and up) and $20.99 per child (ages 3-9) per day. Gratuities are also not included, but appetizers are. Now true, this is the Cadillac of plans, but if you are a foodie like me and can spend upwards to 2-3 hours on one meal-this plan offers a lot of options for some truly wonderful dining while at Disney.
Now, if you are like most and the thought of 3 full meals plus 2 snacks a day seems a bit much, then you can use the Deluxe plan to try some of Disneys' best restaurants. How? Well here's our trick. We book a character breakfast everyday for the latest breakfast seating they have. Since most of the character breakfasts are either buffet or all you can eat, we have a big filling breakfast closer to brunch time (10:30ish) and are pretty much good until dinner time. If you are peckish in the morning, you can always use the snack credits for a light breakfast.You can also book your breakfast for early morning and then use you snacks to get you through to dinner. We are not early risers on vacation, so we usually go for the first option.
Now that brings us to dinner. Since most of the character breakfasts are 1 credit meals, you still have 2 credits per person to use. For our dinners we use our credits for signature dining restaurants like Jiko, California Grill and even dining shows like the Luau. For us, this is the best part of out vacation. Be like I said-we're foodies. By using your credits in this way, you can experience some of Disneys' best restaurants.
Don't forget your snack credits. Each person in your party has 2 per day. They do not have to be used every day, in fact you can use no credits or all your credits in one cay. We like that we don't have to worry about the cost of a snack attack and we also like to use them in creative ways as well. Depending on when you go to WDW, you might find the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is going on. This is a prime time to use your snack credits, as your snack credits are good for most food samples in the many booths in the World Showcase. It does not include alcohol, but I could not find any food it did not cover, including a $7 lobster roll. You can also use your snack credits for some nice treats like Mickey rice crispy treats, and Minnie cookies to take home with you.
One other option I wanted to talk about was the Wine & Dine plan. This is for the wine drinkers among us. This plan allows you one bottle of wine per night. Just like with snack credits, they do not have to be use daily, and like signature restaurants, you can use 2 credits for a reserve bottle of wine. Some of the brands include well known purveyors such as Chalk Hill, Iron Horse, Argyle, Kings Estate and Cakebread. The cost is $39.99 per room. Is this a good value? That all depends on you. We have kicked around adding this on for our vacations, but the truth is we don't always have wine. Some meals it's a cocktail, or a cold beer, or after dinner ports and cordials. But if you and you partner generally have 2 glasses of wine each with your meal, the wine & dine add on could be a big savings, especially considering the average price for a glass of wine at Disney is $10. You get, on the average, 5 glasses out of a bottle, so the savings could add up-or if nothing else you get an extra glass of wine free per night.
While it's not for everyone, our we are big fans of the Disney dining plans. Will it work for you? If you love to eat and try new restaurants, like to pay before you go and don't mind making you dining plans in advance-it is a great addition to your Walt Disney World vacation. But of course it might not be for everyone. One thing though, if your dates allow it, try it out by taking advantage of the Free Dining promotion. It is a great way to get a taste (no pun intended) of the dining plan and how it works and it will cost you nothing but a little bit of time making your advance dining reservations.
Happy eating and have a magical vacation!