Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Is the Disney World Dining Plan Really Worth It?

Epcot, France Bakery

Photo by rickpilot_2000 via Flickr

The dining plans at Disney World profess to offer you a great value, but do they?  Is a dining plan the right choice for your family?  The answer is, for some people, the dining plan is absolutely a great value; find out here if you are one of them.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be looking at the Standard Dining Plan.  We’ll look at the Quick Service Dining Plan and Deluxe Dining Plan another time.

There are two ways in which the dining plan provides a value.  First, there is a set cost for each dining plan.  The idea is, if the amount you’d spend normally would exceed the cost of the dining plan, then you will save money by purchasing it.  Let’s take a look at how this works:

The 2013 Dining Plan is $56.94 (peak season) per person per day.  This includes 1 quick service, 1 table service and 1 snack each day, plus a refillable resort mug.  To compare costs, we can look at some menu items to see what we’d be purchasing during our stay.  Let’s say we’re going to eat at Sunshine Seasons for our quick service today, the Princess dinner at Akershus in the Norway pavilion, and we’ll get ourselves a delicious Napolean from the France Pavilion.  I’ll pick the Spicy Cashew Chicken  at Sunshine Seasons for $9.99  , the buffet at the Princess dinner is $55.37 (price changes seasonally), and my snack of a Napoleon from Boulangerie Patisserie costs $4.50.   You can see we’re already at  $69.86.  We’re already over the daily price for the dining plan.  But wait – there’s more!  The dining plan includes dessert and basic drinks (soda, milk, tea, coffee, etc) with each meal, which we haven’t included with our lunch here (this particular dinner is a buffet and does included dessert) added in to our total, so there are more savings to be had.  Ok some of you are thinking there is no way you’d normally pay for dessert.  Fair enough, except, if it was more or less free, consider how fun it is to try new desserts everywhere you go!

Maybe you aren’t sure if you will always get savings with the plan or if some days you might just break even.  That brings us to the second way that the dining plan provides value: peace of mind.  Let’s go with that – what if you only break even?  Why have the dining plan then?  Well, if you are like many people, sitting down at expensive restaurants (and let’s face it, the Disney restaurants are expensive) while on vacation can lead to sticker shock each time you open a menu.  You may see an item you really want but then tell yourself you should order the cheaper item.  Maybe your husband always wants to order the most expensive steak and you tend to bicker over it (ahem…personal experience here perhaps…).  Having the dining plan means that you have already paid for your food.  When you sit down and you open that menu, it doesn’t matter what you choose – you can freely order whichever entrée looks good.  You can get any dessert you’d like.  You can get your $30 plate and he can get his $50. Or maybe, you’ll get that $50 plate now, too, because why not??  It’s already paid for, already done, and there’s no need to stress over the prices or experience sticker shock each day.   So the second value in the dining plan is peace of mind and reducing stress.  And in the end, shouldn’t your vacation be filled with as little stress as possible?

Not everyone needs the dining plan… those who eat very little, or those who really enjoy bringing their own food into the parks and perhaps cooking in a condo rental for dinner won’t find value in it, of course.  And you can certainly just pay as you go for each meal.  But if you’re on the fence and you’ve never tried it, give it a go and see what you think.  Once I tried it, I never wanted to go without it again!


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Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Why Taking a Vacation Without the Kids is Good for Your Marriage

Bungalows on Bora Bora

Bungalows on Bora Bora. Photo by Reza Ahmeds.

I know, I know, a lot of what I write about is family vacations and traveling with children.  I plan a lot of family vacations, and I fully believe in the magic of them.  BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t know how important a romantic getaway can be for a married couple.  In fact, I think a romantic getaway without the kids can be healthy for the family as a whole.

Sometimes, moms and dads need to just get away for a bit, to recharge and reconnect.  Yes, family vacations are awesome and the memories you build are incredible.  But it’s time to consider making room in your travel plans for a romantic getaway – just the two of you.  Why?  Let’s take a look at some of the findings of a recent study from


Traveling inspires romance: 72% of respondents said that traveling inspires romance and 83% of couples who travel together say romance is still alive in their relationship.  Almost two thirds of couples believe that traveling helps couples stay together longer.


Traveling is more important than gifts: Nearly two thirds of respondents said that travel is more likely to create romance than large or small gifts.  Only 15% of respondents felt that big gifts like jewelry were as important.  There’s something to remember for your next anniversary, Valentine’s Day, etc!


Traveling helps improve intimacy: Three quarters of couples who travel say they have a good sex life, whereas only 63% of those who don’t travel said the same.  Of those who said their sex life improved after travel, 40% said the improvement was permanent.


Life gets a little crazy and we can easily get disconnected from our spouses in the midst of it.  A romantic vacation is a great way to step outside of everyday life, enjoy each other and experience new things together.  Doing so allows you to refresh, reconnect and create new, happy memories.

It’s traditional for a couple to take a honeymoon to celebrate the beginning of their marriage.  Most would agree that the honeymoon is a wonderful bonding experience.  Why is it that so few of us consider repeating that experience through more romantic vacations over the years?  There are so many beautiful destinations just waiting to help keep up the spark in your marriage – now is the time to start planning to get away with the one you love!


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5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

5 Things You May Not Have Thought of Packing for Disney World

Epcot Spaceship Earth

Planning your Disney World vacation?  You may have thought of all the usual items to pack, but there are a few more unusual things to consider for this vacation.  Add these 5 things to your bag before you head to Disney World and be a few steps ahead of the rest!


1. Band-Aids

If you’ve never been to Disney World, you may not realize just how huge the parks are.  You will do miles of walking each day!  Combine that with shoes you may not be wearing right now at home or new shoes you bought for vacation, and it’s a recipe for blisters!  Bring a long a few bandaids for a quick fix so you can get on with your day.

2. Phone number bracelets or tattoos for your kids

Losing your kids is not very likely, but it’s always good to be prepared.  Cast members at Disney are trained to watch out for lost children and bring to the lost child center to wait for you.  That said, it’s much faster for the cast members to locate you if your child has a phone number on them.  Older children may not need this, but this is especially important for preschoolers and early elementary kids.  You can make the bracelets yourself at a craft store or order some online and several sites sell personalized temporary tattoos.  Be sure not to use the child’s name on either, as you don’t want any strangers using that info.

3. Gum

Sound strange?  Gum is everywhere, right?  Not in Disney World!  You won’t find gum to purchase anywhere on property, so if you are a gum addict, make sure you bring enough with you!

4. Rain ponchos

Do yourself a favor and bring a disposable poncho for each member of your family.  You’ll be so glad you did!  There are two reasons this comes in handy: 1) Florida is famous for it’s random downpours.  If you get caught in a sudden rainstorm, you are miles ahead of the crowds rushing for cover and trying to buy expensive ponchos in the shops.  2) Use it for Kali River Rapids.  I promise you’ll be glad you did!  If you’re following my vacation itinerary advice, you’ll probably be riding this in the earlier morning before it’s all that hot outside, which means it won’t be all that hot out yet.  And yes, this rides gets you completely soaked otherwise.  Getting splashed may sound fun – getting full out drenched in your street clothes and then having to walk all over the park?  Not as fun.  Slip the poncho on right before you ride, and walk off with just a few sprinkles and splashes on you.

5. Filtered Water bottle

You will, of course, be thirsty with all that walking and heat.  You can, of course, buy bottled water in the parks for a pretty penny.  You can also drink free water from water fountains and get free ice water in cups at the restaurants.  So what’s this about a filtered water bottle?  Well, many people don’t like the taste of the Florida tap water.  If you aren’t from that area, it kinda tastes like sulfur and chlorine mixed together, in my opinion.  Thus, having a filter inside your water bottle gets rid of some of that taste making the free water that much more pleasant.  You can find them in stores or online at Amazon.

Bonus tip:  Not sure you want to buy a new water bottle for each member of your family just for this trip?  You can also have bottled water shipped directly to your hotel before you arrive!  Costco has very reasonable prices for this (far cheaper than buying water in the park).  Simply ship it directly to your resort, using this info:
Name + Reservation number

c/o Name of Disney Resort

Resort Address

Date of arrival (You can also write HOLD for guest if you’d like)


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Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

 Flying With Kids: How to Avoid Melt Downs

Flying with kids

photo credit: [email protected]

Ok, parents, let’s talk flying.  We’ve all been on those flights with screaming children.  And then, when we have children and it’s time for our family vacation, we immediately think of those same flights when we consider flying with our own.  It doesn’t have to be scary to take your kids on board, though.  With a little prep, you can minimize the outbursts and arrive at your destination without being exasperated and hiding your face as you exit the plane.
First, think about the schedule when you are choosing a flight.  Are your kids going to do well being woken up at 4am to go to the airport or will that set you up for full on meltdowns later in the day?  Also consider your lay overs.  The ticket may be cheaper, but a 3 ½ hour layover is a long time to entertain children in an airport.  Consider non-stop flights when possible, or choose a shorter layover to avoid this.  Also, I’ve heard others recommended to fly when the children will normally be sleeping.  If your kid is the kind who will conk out anywhere, anytime if he’s tired, then that’s a good plan.  But if he’s anything but the most perfect of sleepers, I’m not sure I’d choose that route: kids are excited about airplanes, excited about the destination and all that excitement means they have no intention of closing their eyes for their normal nap or night time.  What you may end up with instead is an extremely over tired child, and we all know what that means!

Second, food.  Food works wonders with kids.  Gone are the days where the airlines serve you complimentary everything.  In fact, on my last flight, the flight attendant told me that the cookie I was getting was the last time the cookies were being served on flights – only soda from now on.  Sad!   Feed your kids before boarding the plane, or if a normal meal time is shortly after take off, you can buy some food at the airport and bring it on board.  Pack lots of little snacks in your carryon.  If you have too many, you can use them at your hotel…too few might mean your little one is hungry with nothing left to eat for another 3 hours on the plane.  Non-messy snacks work best, for the sake of you AND the flight attendants.  Consider granola bars, crackers, fruit leather, squeezable fruit pouches, etc.

Third, be prepared with lots of entertainment.  This, of course, depends on the age of your children.  If you have an iPad or similar device, this is a gold mine.  Games and movies can occupy a child for quite a long time and works for a large age range.  Coloring books and crayons will occupy many children.  Small toys can be fun to play with on the trays.  I adore the little sticker books you can get to make various picture scenes.  A  great source for tiny activity books is here:  Many are just a $1 each!  And one of the best tips I received some years ago was to buy a small assortment of toys at the dollar store and stash them in your carry on.  Bring out a new toy every so often and your children will be delighted – something new!

A little prep goes a long way in making the beginning and ending of your family vacation much more pleasant.  Flying with kids doesn’t have to be torture.  Just think carefully about your flight schedule, snacks and entertainment and you’ll be fine!


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How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

How Far in Advance Should I Book My Disney World Vacation?

Disney World Electrical Parade

If You Wait, Your Options Are Limited

I find that it’s very tempting for some people to wait until Disney releases a set of discounts applicable to their travel dates before booking.  However, doing this puts you at a disadvantage in some cases.  Disney World is a vacation that many people book far in advance, meaning that if you wait too long, you’ll have less choice of rooms and resorts.  Even more important, though, is the lack of dining reservations left when you book too late.

What’s Too Late?

So what’s too late?  I always advise my clients to book at least 6 months in advance when possible.  Why?  At 180 days before your arrival date, you’ll be eligible to make dining reservations.  Popular character dining and themed restaurants are often completely booked up right after this window of opportunity.  For some, this may not matter much, but if you know that your kids really want to dine with Mickey and friends, or you and your spouse really want that dinner at California Grill while overlooking the Wishes fireworks show, you definitely want be set to go at 180 days in advance.

Coming soon is the new MyMagic+, which will also best be used with some forethought.  One of the features of this new program is that you will be able to reserve times at a set number of attractions per day 60 days in advance.  Again, this means you need to have a reservation in place to take advantage of this.

There are several things that make this easier than you may think.   First, Disney only requires a $200 deposit on vacation packages, with the rest due 45 days before arrival.  This makes it easy to book far in advance without having to pay a lot on the spot.  Second, Disney also allows reservations to be moved to the new discount rates when they do come out, subject to availability (and if you are before your 45 day final payment window).  This means that if you are hoping for a free dining plan promotion, you don’t have to wait until it’s released to book your dates; you can book now and apply it when it comes out later.

Don’t Stress Planning Your Disney Vacation!

If the idea of figuring out your vacation so far in advance and tracking discount codes as they come out has you a little panicked, don’t worry: I’m here to help!  When I help you plan your Disney World Vacation, I recommend all of your best options, get it booked with deposit for you, and then I’ll carefully plan your itinerary using the least crowded parks each day, matching your restaurant choices to your days in each park, secure your advance dining reservations for you right on that 180 day mark (early in the morning, I might add!), and keep an eye on the discounts, getting your reservation moved to the new discount if it applies.   And, of course, I also offer theme park touring strategies and so much more!

So if you want to plan a vacation to Disney World, contact me early so we can get you the best experience possible!


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