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Old 12-18-2010, 07:47 AM   #46
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Originally Posted by cymbaldiva View Post
Thank you for the virtual "kick in the pants" to get this done! I've been working on it, but have been thinking through my overall conclusions. Here goes the rest of the report...
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Old 12-18-2010, 07:54 AM   #47
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Wednesday: EPCOT and Teppan Edo and quick service in China

Another breakfast in the room and off to the parks! Even though this is DDP Dad, we still need to get to the parks before it opens – got to get our money’s worth and don’t want to miss any moment in a Disney park.

Around 11am, we found ourselves near the America section and our friends bought some funnel cakes. My wife was very interested…but bummed when they wouldn’t qualify as a snack. We wanted one badly enough, so we bought a pumpkin funnel cake (or was it called Fall Spice? I can’t remember). While I can’t remember the name, I definitely remember liking it!
OOP: $7

One of the downsides of the DDP is that frugal dad ends up feeling limited with the snack choices. While my wife is pretty frugal too – we both felt it was worth it to not get too hung up on snack options…

Here’s the sign for the awesome funnel cakes.

I had given the wife and kids a few choices at EPCOT and there was a lot of interest in Teppan Edo. The kids had enjoyed an experience like this (where the chef prepares your food in front of you) a few years ago and were very excited by the idea. Here’s where DDP Dad really enjoyed his day. Instead of thinking about paying $29.95 for a lunch – I could enjoy splurging on something fun.

We were a little late for our ADR (about 20 minutes – the show ran long in the American Adventure), but they seated us pretty quickly. Considering how quiet the overall park was, I was surprised to see how full the place was. We were seated with another family (each table seats 8 or 9 people or so) that also had 2 small children. A very nice waitress came out, welcomed us, explained the menu and took our drink orders. And they kept the glasses full throughout with great service.

Lunch moved along without feeling rushed. Considering there’s so much to see in the park, I wasn’t looking for a leisurely lunch (especially with a 2 year old!) but I didn’t want to feel like I was on an assembly line either. They did just perfect!

The chef came out, verified our orders, and starting cooking the veggies. He was pleasant and engaging.

As you can see he was preparing steak, shrimp, scallops, and veggies together. I’m not a big mushroom fan, but I loved the sauces so much, that it was easy to keep eating them! By the way, the waitress came out and made chopsticks for the kids that kept them closed (wish I had taken a picture). Hard to explain, but it allowed them to try and use chopsticks.

This is right before he lit the onion volcano on fire. I had seen someone else’s trip review on this board and it was one of the things that intrigued me. All of us really enjoyed this meal. The 2 year old didn’t order her own meal – so she ate parts of ours – and that worked out just fine.

Total Disney Table Service Credits Used: 4 + $29 for tip
Cost w/o DDP: $146 ($37pp)
OOP: $29

After a few more hours of wandering around the park with our friends, it was time to decide where we were going to eat dinner. Now remember, I was all about the food this trip, so there were many, many places I was interested in eating! After we consulted 8 different people (that’s how many were in our party) we were down to a Japanese place or the quick serve place in China. We selected the Lotus Blossom Cafe in China and most of us had the orange chicken. I forgot to take pictures but dinner was fine.

Total Quick Service Credits Used: 4
OOP: $0

Total Cost for the Day:
4 QS
6 Snacks
4 TS
Total OOP for Wednesday: $36
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Old 12-18-2010, 07:55 AM   #48
Earning My Ears
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Thursday: Disney Studios – no table service, quick service at Sunset Ranch Area

Ate a late lunch at the Sunset Ranch area across from the Beauty and the Beast Show. I had a hamburger, and the rest of the family ate chicken strips. It was fine. We all ordered the chocolate cake – but they all went into the stroller for later consumption. I had mine while I was waiting for the parade to start – it was okay, but definitely not a $3.49 value. There were other desserts (but not at that location) that I would have been much more interested in.

As the day went on, we used several of our snack credits. I got some pineapple that I shared with our 2 year old – and we bought popcorn, drinks, etc. We also ate some of the snacks we brought along with us (things like crackers, beef jerky, etc).

Total Quick Service Credits Used: 4 – would have cost $63 if OOP or (~$16 pp).
OOP: $0

Total Cost for the Day:
4 QS
7 Snacks
0 TS
Total OOP for Thursday: $0
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:11 AM   #49
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Friday: hang out and go to early Hoop De Revue

Friday: hang out and go to early Hoop De Revue (6 credits total – spouse not going) and late departure for Houston

We got up and finished off most things that we had brought (fruit, milk, cereal, etc). After packing up the car, we headed over to the Mara for another lunch. Since my wife and 2-year-old weren’t going to Hoop De Doo Revue, we decided to split 3 QS meals among us. The Mara has good portions – so that worked fine. I think we might have augmented it with a kids meal that we split among the kids – so that was the only OOP. As you can read in an earlier posting in my review, this was a family favorite. Great entrees, lots of drink options, and great desserts.

Total Quick Service Credits Used: 3 – would have cost ~$45 if OOP or (~$15 pp).
OOP: $7?

We hung out at the pool area at Kidani Village until about 3:45pm. Then we drove over to Fort Wilderness where my wife dropped the two older kids and myself off for the HDDR. She drove back to downtown Disney where she used the last QS meal for another great meal at Wolfgang Puck Express (WPE: see earlier posting – another family favorite!).

Total QS credits used: 1 + 1 snack for the 2 year old at WPE

I had asked her to get some of the “create your own snacks” at the Goofy Candy Company – but she said when she tried, they said you couldn’t use a snack credit for those. I thought it was strange because I thought I had seen them listed on the boards – and – I thought the lady had told my daughter earlier in the week that we could. My wife ended up buying 4 packages of gummy worms with our remaining snack items. While in theory that represents $3.99 in value – frugal dad didn’t totally agree with Disney’s assessment. All those people who’ve written something like “frugal dad never really goes away” are nodding to themselves : )

While she was hanging out at DD, the kids and I were checking out Fort W. I had only been able to get reservations for the 5pm show – but it turns out that I really enjoyed that. By getting to the front of FW at 4:15 – it was still light so we could see the campground and the scenery. Plus, once we got to the area where dinner is located (forgot the name of the area) it was still light enough to check the place out a bit. Plus we got a great picture or two of the family.

Dinner itself was really fun. It’s just the right kind of speed for a 10 and 12 year old. They liked the silly jokes, the constant activity, and serving dinner from buckets. Admittedly, it wasn’t my favorite food (the fried chicken was good – the ribs were okay – the mashed potatoes were okay – and the beans were “not my favorite” as we say at our house), but like the 1900 Park Fare experience – we weren’t really there for the food – it was for the show and the time as a family.

Here’s a blurry picture of dinner.

What I did appreciate was that even though I was a category 2 seating (only thing you can get at the 5 or 7:15 shows on the DDP) had surprisingly good views. It’s a reasonably intimate space so I’d think that any seat in the house feels close to the action.

This is the view from our seats. (That’s some other family in the photo…but it gives you a sense how close we felt to the action). At a couple of different points during the show the actors come out into the audience so they get even closer.

The kids and I really enjoyed the show.

HDDR was something I’ve been interested in for a long time – and was partially my rationale for buying the DDP. Using 2 TS credits for a dinner seemed cheaper than paying OOP for it. Not sure that’s really true (I’m certain someone on the board would know), but it “felt” that way… And, I must say it was nice to not have to have the cost of the tip included in the meal.

Total Cost for the Day:
4 QS
4 Snacks
6 TS
Total OOP for Friday: $6 (estimate)
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Old 12-18-2010, 08:15 AM   #50
Earning My Ears
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So what was the total cost?


Out of Pocket: No dining plan – 3.5 days
• Wednesday: arrival day -- $78 in supplies
• Thursday: Blizzard Beach Water Park $59 (but free dinner with friends)
• Friday: Magic Kingdom Day #1 -- $74.50
• Saturday: Magic Kingdom Day #2 -- $61.75
• Wednesday: $78
• Sunday (half day): $46.17
• Grand Total: $319

So using these figures, we spent an average total OOP per day (4 days): $80. And if you calculate that on a per person basis (didn’t count the 2 year old) that’s about $20 a day ($80/4 = $20). However, we ate quick service meals or off property.

Disney Dining Plan – 5 full days
• Sunday: Move In Day to Animal Kingdom Lodge and Boma’s
--- OOP $ 26
• Monday: Daughter’s B-day and 1900 Park Fare
--- OOP $41
• Tuesday: Hang out and use 2 extra TS credits at Kona’s
--- OOP $40
• Wednesday: EPCOT! And Teppan Edo
--- OOP $36
• Thursday: Disney Studios – no table service
--- OOP $0
• Friday: hang out and go to early Hoop De Revue (6 credits total – spouse not going) and late departure for Houston
--- OOP $6

So total costs of food (not including the breakfast items that we ate in the room that were purchased before our arrival at AKL) was $839.80 for 5 days of DDP for 4 people (adult price of $41.99/day) plus $149 in out of pocket costs for a total of $989 or $198/day or $49.50 (essentially $50) per person/day.

This might be a good place to say that I “saved” money because, if I had purchased everything OOP, I would have spent more than the $50 per person/day. For example, when we went to Teppan Edo, we spent close to $40 per person (dinner + drink + dessert). That one meal almost paid for the $42/day cost. However, if I had been there OOP, I would have skipped the dessert and probably had water – so some of the costs were things that I wouldn’t have had normally.

Frugal dad spent $20 per person and DDP dad spent nearly $50 per person. While it might be easy to just compare the cost per person differences and “prove” that the DDP is expensive – I have to admit that’s not a complete apples-to-apples comparison.

Here are some of the benefits of each option (at least from my perspective).

Benefits of OOP:
• Could choose any snack I wanted (didn’t have to worry if it was on the list)
• Complete flexibility: didn’t feel pressured to have to fit into a specific number of table service or quick service meals
• Cheaper
• Overall felt more flexible
• Had my desserts when I wanted them with more choices (didn’t have to choose when I was at a meal)

Downsides of OOP
• Frugal dad has a hard time spending money on things that feel expensive!

Benefits of DDP –
• Felt more free to choose more expensive menu items (this is a biggie for me)
• Ate higher quality food
• Saved money over the costs of the individual items if purchased separately
• Enjoyed the planning of all the meals for the weeks leading up to the trip (but see downside below)

Downsides of DDP
• Expensive – and Disney just increased the price another $4 for 2011
• Ended up eating more desserts and calories than I normally would --of course, as other people have pointed out on the boards – no one has a gun to my head when I’m eating! : )
• Spent way more time managing meal reservations
• Meals took longer. A sitdown meal is a more time-consuming activity. So if I was on my first trip to WDW, I wouldn’t have spent all the time eating when I could have been on rides.

So, after all that, I have to admit that I’m still not certain whether we’ll do the DDP next time. I still wonder if we’d have been better off just setting aside $1000 (what we spent during the 5 DDP days) and just eating what we wanted. But I sure did enjoy the opportunity to try the DDP!

So what do you think?
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Old 12-18-2010, 11:04 AM   #51
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Yikes, I didn't know it went up another $4 in 2011.

Anyways, GREAT review I love your comparison. For us, I don't think the plan would work for us. I just noticed that you have a 10 year old so, did the 10 year old eat all adult type meals. I didn't even notice throughout the review. My issue when we go my 10 year old who just turned 10 probably would not always order off the adult menu. It just depends on the day. She likes steak and fish so, she would order those if they are an option but she doesn't like fancy sauces, etc.. So, I don't think it would be a good value for her. Plus, the last time we did DDP it included an appetizer and tip & tax. I can't get over how they took those away. We always got appetizers and different ones so, that the kids could try new things. Once we got crab cakes and my kids loved them and now I make them at home all the time. So, how do you think your 10 year old did with the plan? I also don't like you get a dessert with lunch. Most of the time we threw it away because there is another snack we want like dole whips, etc...
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Old 12-18-2010, 11:13 AM   #52
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Also, the other thing I liked about getting an appetizer was that you got some vegetables in. Sometimes a salad would be the only vegetable you would get in for the day. I know it is vacation but I like to eat somewhat healthy for some meals.
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Old 12-18-2010, 04:39 PM   #53
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That's a great breakdown and report! I think to truly compare the costs you may have to go through the days on DDP and figure out what the costs would have been OOP if you had been "middle of the road" dad. A dad and family who still went to all the same table service restaurants and would have ordered perhaps the same entrees but skimped on maybe the extra drinks and desserts.

From the total costs though it definitely seems that doing any TS is a pretty pricey option. I was especially surprised by the $140 bill for Teppan Edo, but then I guess I am pretty frugal when it comes to what I consider overpriced food.

I did find the photo of the stroller packed with food quite amusing!
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Old 12-18-2010, 07:33 PM   #54
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Loved your reviews! Thanks for sharing!!

I'm definitely frugal as well (and I think my DH is worse actually), so I agree that with the DDP we definitely eat better and don't stress as much about cost (since it's already paid for). Although we are getting the DDP again for our upcoming trip in January I do agree that it has become very expensive (but since Disney is raising prices it does make the dining plan look appearingly more affordable).

Last trip we definitey came out ahead with the DDP, so we'll see with this one if that's the case again. I still have my receipts from 2 years ago, so it'll be interesting to see the price changes at places we'll be eating at again.
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Old 12-19-2010, 01:41 AM   #55
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Great Review

I totally agree with your conclusion. I just recently went in mid Dec using DDP for the first time.

It was not our first trip to Disney, so we enjoyed our table service meals and rode the rides we wanted to ride. We didn't do any character meals (no kids this time), so Idk how families manage to do the meals and keep the family sane . We were also disappointed in the dessert and snack department. There were not a lot of choices. It seem that all the QS only had cheesecake, carrot cake, choc cake, and/or brownie to offer. I would of been happy to have an option to not use the dessert and swap for another snack credit.

Would we do DDP again? I think with the Free DDP offer, we would definitely try it again. But to pay it OOP, I rather pack some water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in our bag. We always rent a car, so getting to a grocery store is easy.

Thanks for your analysis. It was a great report.

Dec 11 - POP (can't say no to the mouse);Dec 10 - POP (first time with free dining); Jun 09 - US (before Harry Potter); Aug 08 - SSR (first time on location and with TS Fay); May 07 - DL/US (off site, missed Nemo Sub ride by one month, will try to visit again); Apr 06 - WDW (off site, rode Expedition Everest and loved it); Apr 96 - WDW/US (off site); Aug 95- WDW/US (off site); Summer '89 - WDW (off site); Summer '84 - DL/US (off site)
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Old 12-19-2010, 04:17 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by DadwhoLOVESDisney View Post
Thank you for the virtual "kick in the pants" to get this done! I've been working on it, but have been thinking through my overall conclusions. Here goes the rest of the report...
You're welcome - I've been waiting for this!

Going to scroll back up to read it now....

Edited because now I have - fabulous report!

I'm pretty darn sure the dining plan isn't for me - I just have me to consider though; no spouse or kids. For me, well - I'd have to agree with your disadvantages. It takes up a lot of planning time, a lot of park time, and I eat way too much on the plan.

Thank you so much for your report - you gave great information and your writing style is terrific!

Last edited by cymbaldiva; 12-19-2010 at 04:37 AM.
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Old 12-19-2010, 10:47 AM   #57
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Hi there Frugal!

I have enjoyed reading your report and was much taken, just before I left, with the post that your dd got soup at Puck's for a snack credit. As Butternut Squash Soup is my favorite there I thought I would give it a try but to no avail.

I have gotten the soup in place of an entree when eating there and am wondering if that is what happened to you or you just lucked out. Happens sometimes.

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Old 12-24-2010, 01:08 PM   #58
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Thanks for the report. I think we are making the right choice for us this trip , and trying it without the dining plan. Since I also tend to be on the "frugal " side, and also really watch my diet/calorie intake, I hate the way I feel when we have the dining plan (regular), I am never really hungry. I know how you feel about "you don't have to eat it, you don't hava a gun to your head" but I also hate wasting credits.
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Old 12-28-2010, 05:34 PM   #59
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Great report. Thank you for sharing. We have decided next summer to simply take the cost of the plans and put them on a Disney GC and go from there. We also find that the DDP forces us to eat more than we would as we feel obligated to get things since they are covered.

Next summer, our hope is to simply eat the way we want, the snacks we want and go from there. We already decided that we won't be frugal and allow everyone to have the equivalent of what they would be allowed on the plan to really see how we compare.

Worst case, we spend a little more. Best case, we don't. Since we are also DVC and have been able to do both QSDP and DDP on our past trips due to split stays, we are taking that approach again.

We will see how things play out come August and will sure to post a report!

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Old 12-28-2010, 10:37 PM   #60
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Loved your dining report. Especially the mathmatical analysis. I keep our receipts and do this every trip and then present my findings to the rest of the family, much to their chagrin.

Also being frugally turned, I have decided the DDP is not for us after 2 attempts. We like the flexibility of ordering what we really want to eat and in the end it saves us money.

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