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Old 12-31-2012, 02:47 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by sablebomb View Post
I was reading a bit about the dining plans but kept going back to the comments that if you want to have character meals, you should get the dining plan? Is the dining plan make it easier to reserve the character meals? or is it just that the character meals are more expensive so it makes it more worth it? That's what I haven't come across yet. (tons of info and I've spent hours on here so far reading up on all kinds of great topics!).
What exactly is this character dining?
You hit that one right on, the character dining is more money. They are more popular hence the need for ADR's. All Ears has a good site with menu's and pricing to help, as well Davids Disney site has a good calculator to help. Davids DVC has some good tools to use, you may like the DVC option as well but I would agree with other posters that DVC while a great option is not for first time visitors.
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Old 12-31-2012, 03:20 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by sablebomb View Post
I was reading a bit about the dining plans but kept going back to the comments that if you want to have character meals, you should get the dining plan? or is it just that the character meals are more expensive so it makes it more worth it?
one theory is that disney overprices their food to make the dining plan look better. so it's very possible that if you do several table service meals with characters, the DDP will save you money.

but you would still need to have the reservations made ahead of time. if you show up and a restaurant is full, you might risk losing your dining credits and getting nothing in return (unless you can find a less popular restaurant nearby which has tables available).

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Old 12-31-2012, 03:51 PM   #18
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There are now several dining plans. There'sa quick serve option, that offers no savings at all and is a bad idea, except as a gaugue of what food costs.

There is also a deluxe plan, then allows three table serve meals per day ,and is also generally not a good diea, unless you are hard set upon the idea of getting room service every day. If you are, then it might be a good deal.

(sorry, I make too many typos when I'm trying to be quick.)

The middle of the road dining plan, used to be a great deal. For 2013, it's not not going to offer much savings. It works this way, for the adult and kids over 9, the cost is about $55 per person per day. For your daughter, it runs about $17 per day. In short, the dinig plan gives you vouchers on your room key. Ech person gets a voucher fora complete quick serve meal, a complete table serve meal and a snack each day. A "snack" is almost anythign edible that costs $4 or less (and a few thgins over $4). A Meal includes entree, dessert, and a non alcoholic drink. (so at a quick serve you get a completemeal: burger/fries/drink/dessert, and a similar offering at dinner: Entree with side dish as listed on the menu - or- complete buffet, drink and dessert) To redeem your vouchers, you just hand over your room key, and the cashier deducts the credits. Cashiers will help you to navigate the system -but taking advantage of the dining plan means (except breakfast) getting a soft drink and dessert with every meal. It also means ordering one of the more expensive items off the menu, or dining at a buffet (as in the DDP is a good deal at the buffets). If you are a small eater, skip desserts, and/or drink water with your meals - it won't save money at the price Disney has set for 2013 (as I said, prices for 2014 are not out yet. But the price of DDP has gone up each year and the discount has evaporated. Still, Disney could offer a great price in 2014.) Another key point is that your vouchers expire if you don't use them - you don't get the value back. Another key thing is that DDP does not cover appetizers, gratuity, or alcohol. those costs you pay out of pocket.

The one nice thing about DDP is that it's a way to prepay your meals. It's also useful as a guide. If you eat one quick serve, one Table serve, and one snack each day- then you will average about $55 per adutls (plus tip and alcohol), and probably about $20 on your daughter.

To use DDP, you dont HAVE to make ADR's, but it's strongly advised that you make one ADR each day. Practically speaking, you will have to make one for each day. However...the table service restaurants and buffets do get booked up fulll, especially if you want to eat at a normal time. Almost always you can find one restaurant that has an opening, but it might be at 9pm, or not be the neatest place to eat.

Disney restaurants have really great theming. It's sort of becoem a trend nowadays for some chain dinig to offer fun theming. the 12year old may be beyond a the idea of a meal with characters, but yoru daughter will likey love a princess dinner.

Typically when we eat at WDW, we share food. So while two meals per day may not sound like much, it's plenty for most folks. (the again, you have a 12 year old boy. Some boys at that age are still small eaters, and some are big eaters..) Typically for our family, the DDP is about the right amount of food, but we don't eat all the desserts. We also prefer water with some meals.

conversely, eating one table serve emal each day, but not more than one table serve meal each day, is a good rough guide. A table service meal allows you to sit down. With full active days, a table serve dinner is nice. In the mornign, a quick food coutr meal is a great way to get out quickly. Also, though I'm not a big fan of the food court in my loacla mall, Disney food court food is fairly decent. Not stellar, but better than most amusement parks. the table serve emals go from so-so to rather great. I haven't mentioned Signature dinig, but that's still one more option. (You can use two vouchers per person to do a signature meal or room service- again not a great value on DDP - but an option you should be aware of)

I mention signature dining nott to overwhelm you, but just to let you know there are some really high quality options at WDW. Compared to most themem parks where food is really marginal, I'm quite happy withthe food quality at WDW. Not allthe food is stellar, but there are lots of little fun treats, fun desserts, and really fun themes. Like in DTD, there's a restaurnat with giant animatronic dinosaurs! Another fun option is a dinner show. (double credit, but fun) another place is designed to look like an old fashioned drive-in movie theater! With actual movie clips showing. Many meals have characters. they walk aroudn while you are eating and you can get a picture, and autograh, and just have fun acting like a kid. It's actually fun for adutls, if you can get intothe spirit of it.

Still other dinig will 'take you some place exotic'. Almost every restaurant offers a basic steak with potato- so don't feel too intimidated. But it may LOOK like you are in China, dining next to Canada's Victoria Gardens. There's also a restaurant where your table has a view of a giant aquarium. (think nurse sharks) There's too many fun options to list here, but it's worth looking at your dinig options and having alittle fun.

for yoru third meal of the day (lunch, for us) quick serve again sia good option because it gives you flexibilty. While the table serve options are lots of fun, they also take a while.

WDW is very large. Getting from place to place takes a long time. Soemtimes it may take over an hour to get fromyour resort to a restaurant - so I'll help you be strategic. that's where a little planning pays off (picking apark each day, and having your tables erve emal in that park) Also, table serve meals take sometimes 90 minutes- especially if you have to wait for your table - so that's why I only like to do one per day. Oh, and I plan no more than onebuffet every 24hour period. it's just too much food. If you like to table serve lunches, or breakfasts or a mix of meals that's perfectly fine..but if you are not sure- my tried and true is to have breakfast i our food court, a quick serve lunch, and a table serve dinner - as our most common pattern. (this has several advantages that I can explain later)

So now that you have a time frame....find a resort you like. Again, think abou your budget. Oh - you also should think about how long you want to stay. Mousesavers gives great tables, pricing info, as does the parent website of the DIS. Allearsnet.com is another great place for good info - like menus. Somewhere between five to nine full days is ideal for a first trip. Do what appeals to you, and what fits your budget. You willl find plenty to keep you busy for nine days- with some ride repeats. Five is not enough time to see everything, but you'll at least get to each park once with five full days. Six or seven full days is my suggestion. (You will get some time on arrival and departure days, but not a full day, especially if you have to go through customs and all)

Find a resort you like. Look at price, theming and dining options there. Once you get a resort in mind, and an overall budget....you can have fun finding some table serve dining that appeals to you. You can certainly be happy doing less thanone table serve per day...but that's my rough guide suggestion.

Oh - ....If you DO decide on a deluxe resort....then WDW does offer a club level. I only mention since you said you like room service. Club level is kind of a neat option if you want the convenience of somethig like room service, but it's not a budget option to be sure.
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Old 01-01-2013, 02:35 AM   #19
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I would just like to say Welcome, and if any of my links can help you with your planning, feel free!

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Old 01-01-2013, 02:41 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by myzel View Post
You hit that one right on, the character dining is more money. They are more popular hence the need for ADR's. All Ears has a good site with menu's and pricing to help, as well Davids Disney site has a good calculator to help. Davids DVC has some good tools to use, you may like the DVC option as well but I would agree with other posters that DVC while a great option is not for first time visitors.
Most of the chracter meals are buffets, and are pricey. It used to be that DDP was less expensive than paying for buffets - at least when you consider the value of the QSmeal credit and the snack. As I said earlier the way it's priced for 2013, it's not much of a savings. At any meal, if don't picka drink or dessert, then you aren't maxing your credit. You simply 'lose' that credit. Sometiems you have the optioh topick something like yogurt as your dessert or a packaged cookiepackaged applesauce. If youa re sharing, then a yogurt could make a lunch snack for a second person, while prepackaged desserts can be saved for later. Most quick serve desserts are nothing to get excited about.

A snack credit is worth up to $4 (usually, there are rare exceptions where it's worth over $4), but also as low as $1.60 if you use it for a soda.

An adult QS meal credit is worth up to about $17 (Pizzafari combo meal: pizza/salad/dessert/drink, $17.25). It's about $9 for a low end breakfast sandwich+drink (Pizzafari you don't get dessert w/breakfast). Kids quick serve meals are all about $6, and always include drink/side/dessert. Kids' meals are nearly the same everywhere.

the table serve meals are more highly variable. If the place has a menu, and you order the vegtarian meal, The DDP will lose money, as most veggie meals are about $15 (plus drink/$3 and dessert/$4-7). The most expensive single credit buffets ( 1900Park Fare, Chef Mickey's) are around $40 with tax. So at that meal, your TS 'credit' is worth $40 for adults and $20 for kids. At the Plaza, a TS might be worth as low as $19, for example. Lunches are also often around the $20-25 value mark.

So if you max out your snack, $4, your QS, $17.5, and your TS, $40 then your DDP credits for one day are worth up to approx $61.30. but you aren't going to eat at the same buffet every day. If you did, then the DDP would save you $5.7 - except that DDP doesn't include a tip for your server....so the more you max out the value of your TS credit - the more you should also leave as a gratuity. If you eat vegtarian, or use your TS credit at lunch or breakfast, and don't max out your snack credits (drink, $1.60, apple $1.30), skip dessert at lunch, and drink water, then you could easily lose $25 or more each day on DDP.

[The short answer for your daughter is that she will probably come out about $5-10 ahead each day. For your son, it's complicated. He has to pay the adult price for DDP. If he's a small eater, and you don't do DDP, then most QS will allow you to buy him a child meal. If he's a big eater, then effectively he's like a third adult.]

A downside of DDP if you will - at least as it is priced now - is that you REALLY have to make sure you are maxing the value of your credits. In practice, it requires a fair amount of thought to police your family memebers and make sure everyone is remembering to order their desserts and drinks- even if they don't want them. You also end up ordering the steak - not because it's what you want to eat- but because it maxes out your credits. (then agian, withtout DDP you may be the type to orders the least expensive entree, just because it's less $$)

Dining reservations are competely seperate from the dinig plan. They are not at all tied to one another. The only exception is if you have DDP, then there area few dinner show type meals that you don't have to prepay.

Last year, Disney complicated dining reservations by requiring a credit card security on it's most popular locations. (all buffets and character meals) In order to make a reservation, you now have to provide a CC number. In short, if you are a no show- Disney will charge you ten $ per no show guest. In your case, you would be charged $40 for being a no show at a character meal. At the Signature meals, they charge $20 per no no show- so $80 for your family. It's a big YIKES!

If you cancel more than 24 hours before the reservation they won't charge you. If however, you don't feel like eating a big dinner one night, your child gets sick, or it's pouring rain (happens quite a bit in the summer months) - guests are kind of compelled to go to dinner anyhow. (Can you tell I'm not a fan of this new policy?) If you are a no show and don't eat, you lose your DDP credits plus the $40 charge - so you could lose BOTH your DDP credits AND be charged for a meal that you did not eat.

So that's one more facet in the 'how to plan your dining at WDW'. Again, hopefully I'm not overwhelming you. the simple solution is that DDP is not a great deal in 2013, not when you consider the risk. It doesn't save much money, requires a good deal of thought/hassle (planning to max your credits) and potentially sets you up to lose quite a bit of money. Unless you are gungho about prepaying your meals, I suggest just payingfor meals as you go. Unless of course Disney comes out witha special package discount in 2014.

I do think planning one or two character meals and buffets is fun. They are event meals. The rest of the time, we find we are better off eating at menu type places where we have the freedom to order what we feel like eating, and only paying for what we eat.

I'll add that much of what you are likely reading is about DDP in the past. Just a few years ago, DDP was priced much lower. Almost no matter what, it saved money, even if you didn't get dessert. If you planned to eat at some buffetss/character meals, it saved a good deal of $$. Disney's no show charge policy did not exist, or was only at a very few places. At one point DDP included appetizers and tips! So back then it was a really good deal.
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:00 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by sablebomb View Post
1. 2 adults, 2 kids- ages 6 (girl) and 12 (Boy). First time for all of us. We live in Nova Scotia Canada.

2. we are simple eaters. We probably prefer quick and easy stuff. Nothing fancy (the kids won't appreciate it anyway). We wouldn't mind room service a time or two. Like buffets as well.
2b. I'd go on the picky eater side. Hubby will eat anything (loves new stuff). The rest of us, not so much.

3. I think the first time being there, we'd love the Disney. Not a 10 but certainly not a 1 either. I'll go with a little higher than the middle- let's say a 6 or 7!

4. We are a bit of both. Love keeping busy and the kids will love keeping busy and want to do it all. However, we'd probably like to have a day or two of just chilling and swimming for the day. A relaxing day in the middle would be perfect!! Hubby is also the type who won't want to go go go all the time. He will want to relax a bit. I have a feeling I may end up taking a day and going with the kids while he stays at the hotel.

5. No disabilities or mobility issues. Tired kids if we have to do a bunch of walking is about it. lol

Thanks so much for all of the help you guys are all giving! I appreciate it!!
Now that I've bored you to death with dining details...I'll throw in you really don't have to make any hard choices for quite some time. You will probably want to have some dining choices lined up when you get to the 180 day mark, and around then you may want to have airfare lined up. You won't be ableto book your room until August at the earliest (full rack rates), and a discount offer probably offered in the November/December/Jan time frame.

So I'll get back to this post.
If you ipcka deluxe resort, or evne a mod, then eating at your home resort's TS at least one night is smart and easy, and gives you lots of flexibilty. It's a good idea. If you pick a top tier deluxe like Poly - you may well want to eat at yoru home resort twice.

While Disney pricing seems high, and it is, keep in mind that disney does give you somethign for your moeny, and it's not always clearly spelled out on the website. Oftne the intangible factor is high quality dining, well themed decor, and convenience getting to the parks, and nearby deluxe resorts. the BC/YC/BWK are all close toeach other, they are also very close to LOTS of restaurants in Epcot. The monorail resorts (contemp/Poly/GF) are clsoe to MK and each other. Contemp probably has the least intersting decor, but offers convenience in location. the moderate resorts give you LOTS of theming, great pools, very good dining- but you lose quite abit of time getting aroudnwitin the resort and getting to/from the parks. the value resorts- are least expensive, are super clean, and give you a ton for the money- but they are not fancy, the rooms are not huge, and the beds are full size. Where as deluxes are queen beds. Aong the top themed resorts are WL and AKL, but the rooms are slightly smaller and the transportation not quite as good as the top tier deluxes. Still they are oth amazing and beautiful. They are both among my faves. I haven't been to the newest AoA yet, but the food court sounds great. the DVc resorts have a ktichen, but are pricey, and locations may not be quite as great as the deluxes. (even where they are nextdoor to a deluxe, you lose time walking to the pool/food court/bus stop.)

Most ypically these days, I opt for deluxes or value resorts.

I suggest onsite is good place to stay based on what you've told me. There are LOTS of amazing offsite resorts. Offfsite, you often get more space for less Money - but you trade the convenience of being onsite. If you are ina situation where you have lots of bonus points, and could stay at somethign lieka Marriott using points, then yeah! do it. If you love the idea of renting a house, offsite might be for you. Probably though, onsite is going to be best, since it's easy.
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