July 28, 2013

How we do Disney Part 2: Planning & booking Disney Dining

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It's no secret that our family is severely addicted to Disney.  In my first installment of this series, I talk about saving and booking a trip to Disney World.  Once you have that part covered, you can move on to the next phase which should be planning & booking your dining.

Dining Plan

Every time we have gone to Disney, we have opted the Dining Plan.  Why?  It is expensive to eat there, but the food is totally worth it.  Disney could jack up the prices over and over and we will all still continue to eat at their restaurants!  We've done the math a few times, and for our family of 3, we definitely save money by choosing the plan.  You have to make the decision based on your family though!  For us, we love paying for the dining ahead of time and then not having to worry about budgeting much for food on our trips.  Sure we still have to pay for some snacks, or an adult beverage or two, but the convenience having 95% of our meals paid for is wonderful for us.  You don't have to do the dining plan at all, you can still enjoy great food while in Disney without it!

We get the plan that includes 1 snack, 1 counter service (almost like fast food, but a little better) and 1 sit-down (restaurant) meal per person, per night of the trip.  This last trip we stayed 7 nights so each of us had 7 snacks, 7 CS, and 7 SD meals.


We use the snack in the mornings, Ashley always gets a blueberry muffin and Dave & I each get a bagel with cream cheese.  It's the perfect amount of food and carbs to start a day of lots of walking and swimming and other fun things.  If we want a snack in the park, we just pay for those (usually only Ashley wants a snack, like popcorn or ice cream, Dave & I are usually so stuffed from whatever meal we have just eaten that we hardly snack at all!) With the dining plan, you get the refillable mug to use at your resort - unlimited refills on fountain sodas, tea and coffee.  We always use these for our morning beverages!  We always eat breakfast in our resort - every resort has some sort of marketplace that you can visit to start your day;)  There are places all over that you could use your snack credit for breakfast, places like the Main Street Bakery in MK or Boardwalk Bakery are other great choices!

Counter  Services

The counter services are usually our lunch - we've been branching out and tracking down some of the best counter services around the World.  Our favorite by FAR is the new Be Our Guest in Magic
Kingdom, New Fantasyland.  Seriously, that could be a sit down meal.  Counter services include the entree, drink and a dessert.  It's usually way too much food - and I recommend picking a dessert that you can take with you (hello, snack for later!!) like the chocolate chip cookies.  WDW has the BEST chocolate chip cookies!! Other counter services we love or have heard are awesome are Cosmic Rays and Columbia House in MK, Flame Tree in AK, ANY of the CS in World Showcase in Epcot (seriously, we love them all.  Mexico and Japan are some of our true faves!)

Sit Down Dining

Disney has some of the best dining we've ever tasted.  Seriously.  I know there are a ton of people out there who totally hate the food here and I have never understood that.  Maybe they aren't eating at the right places?  Maybe they are basing those opinions on the cheeseburger joints (which are just quick eating, not fine dining?)  Whatever the reason, I think those people are cracked.  We love eating everywhere in Disney, but especially at their sit down restaurants.  On the dining plan, you get an entree, a dessert and a drink (non-alcoholic) but you are welcome to add an appetizer, adult beverage, etc to your meals.  You will have a hard time finishing any meal - they give you a lot of food.  When you eat at a buffet, make sure you eat an early lunch and be prepared to fill up.  Our favorites?  Oh there are so many, but I'll try to keep the list short:  Ohana, Boma, Chef Mickeys, Whispering Canyon, Crystal Palace, Les Chefs, Ragland Road, Rose & Crown, and Coral Reef.  There are still so many places we haven't tried, and I can't wait to go back and experience more!

Making Reservations

To book your reservations at the sit downs, you really need to try to do this way before your trip.  You travel agent can do this for you, or you can call up Disney dining and they can help you, or you can go online and book them all yourself.  I choose the latter of these, because I can play around with the times and choices myself, all while asking Dave & Ashley what they think and want, and change as necessary.  Some restaurants require your credit card to hold your spot, these are the places that are really popular and take the reservation very seriously.  You have to show up, or they will charge you a small fee.  If for some reason you need to cancel, try to do so 24 hours beforehand.  If there is an emergency (one time I was sick and we had to cancel Ohana breakfast) just call them and tell them that and they usually won't charge you.

For the most popular choices like Be Our Guest (they do sit down dining for dinner) or Cinderella's Royal Table, you'll want to call as close to that 180 day mark (before your trip) as possible.  People are clamoring to get the same sit down time slot, and depending on the time of the year you go, you have to beat them to it!  I've never done this, personally, we've always been lucky enough to get what we want and if we don't we choose something else, which ends up working well for us because we discover new places that way!

Sum of it all...

Dining in Disney rocks my socks off.  Food in Disney is amazing.  It's one of our favorite parts of the trip - experience new and wonderful food and dining experiences together.  This last trip we tried Ohana dinner for the first time and wondered WHY IN THE WORLD have we not done that yet.  Seriously...we've even STAYED in the Polynesian before and we missed out?!?!  There are so many reasons to love Disney, and the dining is definitely one of them!  Cheers!

Stay tuned for Part 3...