It's a Small but Magical World - a Thanksgiving 2018 Trip Report

jrmint427

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 19, 2013
The Trip Home

This is the depressing part… writing about the trip home. But first, a few more pictures from our resort.

We woke up in the Animal Kingdom Lodge for one more morning. We were in a standard room now and had asked for a partial view if one was available. I’d say we had a good view considering we weren’t supposed to have a savanna view at all!

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There weren’t many animals out here our first couple mornings, but as we were packing up, DD4 goes, “There’s a giraffe!” Sure enough, a giraffe wandered into our corner.

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And then there were three of them!

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We had a breakfast reservation at Kona for this morning but cancelled it several days before. We could tell we were going to be exhausted days before. We wanted to sleep in and get on the road sooner vs. getting up early to pack up before breakfast. I was really sad I wouldn’t be getting to try Tonga Toast, but there’s always a future trip, right?

We waited for what felt like eternity for Bell Services to send a luggage carrier to our room. So long in fact that Pat eventually went and pulled our van up front and I had made 2 trips with pieces of luggage while waiting for them to come to our room. I was a little annoyed at this point that we couldn’t just borrow a luggage carrier to handle this ourselves because we were eager to get on the road.

We loaded the car and then my MIL and I made a quick stop at the gift shop. I really wanted to buy a Christmas ornament to commemorate our trip. I found one with Mickey and Minnie in front of the Tree of Life and then ended up buying a Dumbo coffee mug too.

On our way out of town we wanted to stop at one of the cheaper gift shops for a few other mementos we were still looking for. And there were tons of gift shops to choose from! My MIL really wanted a pin with the year 2018 on it and DD4 wanted to get a princess gift to bring back to a couple of her friends from school. We found what we were looking for on our second stop.

We picked up some McDonald’s and then hit the road. We saw some pretty devastating hurricane damage as we were driving through the panhandle.

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We stopped in Gulfport, MS for the night. Once again, we were tempted to drive our way through the night and just get home as soon as possible, but it was good to have the rest. The rest of our trip was uneventful. We got home earlier than planned.

That’s it for the trip, but I’ll write one more post on some final thoughts, including the breakdown of how much we saved by not doing the dining plan. Then maybe a preview of our upcoming trip!
 
  • jrmint427

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    The Dining Plan

    In this post, I'm going to talk about the Dining Plan. My goal is not to convince others that the Dining Plan is good or bad. I believe it works well for some families but not for all. I'm hoping that by sharing our experience and the details of our food costs, I might help other families who are trying to decide whether or not to purchase a Dining Plan.

    In 2017 we tried the dining plan and felt like it didn’t quite work for our family. I fully believe it works well for some families, it just wasn't the right fit for us. For our family (keep in mind our daughters were 1 and 3 at the time and we had 5 adults in our party), it was too much food, too many leftover credits, and too much feeling like we needed to order more food than we actually wanted to eat. I also felt, as a vegetarian, that I didn’t get the same value as the meat-eaters in our group. A vegetarian meal is often cheaper than a meal that includes meat.

    On the plus side, there were things we liked about the Dining Plan - it was easy to use and pay, no thinking about costs when deciding what we wanted to eat, and fun that we could all pick our own dessert after dinner. We had a lot of snack credits leftover at the end of the trip, which meant we got to pick fun snacks to take home.

    Despite the benefits that we enjoyed with the Dining Plan, we knew we were going to skip it on this trip. Also factoring into our decision was the cost for a 4-year-old child. DD4 would have been charged the same as a 9-year-old child. And I can promise you she doesn’t eat as much as most 9-year-olds. So it was an easy decision to skip the dining plan this time.

    I was curious whether we would actually save any money by skipping the Dining Plan, so I saved all of our receipts in order to do a comparison back home. We were missing out on the convenience factor of the dining plan, but would it pay off? For us, it did. I calculated that we saved $637.77.

    Just to be clear, I recognize that my calculations were based on a few conditions which might have changed if we had the dining plan. If we had the dining plan, it most definitely would have changed what and how much we chose to eat. For example, if an alcoholic beverage was included with every dinner, we might have consumed more alcohol, which would have made the cost savings less. Or ordered more dessert, or eaten more snack credits. And we probably wouldn’t have cancelled some of the dining reservations we had planned because we would have felt like we already paid for those meals. Which might have annoyed us, but again, would have also led to a fewer “cost savings” than the $637 I calculated.

    At the same time, not having the dining plan allowed us to eat how we truly wanted to eat. We let ourselves order whatever we were in the mood for – any entrée, dessert, or drink. We went offsite to Panera one night because we were in the mood for their soup. We didn’t try to cut corners to save money, but only ordered what we truly wanted.

    For those who like the details, here they are:

    • We spent 9 nights at Disney. If we had stayed onsite and bought the dining plan for 9 nights for 3 adults and 1 child, it would have cost us $2269.98 (not including tips)
    • We spent $205.69 on “extras” that would not have been covered by the dining plan. This included appetizers and dessert that wouldn’t have been included with lunch. I also included our Dunkin Donuts and Panera meals that wouldn’t have been covered by the dining plan; I recognize we might not have made those stops if we had been on the dining plan, but if we had wanted to eat offsite for those meals, it wouldn’t have been covered.
    • In total, we would have paid $2475 in food (not including tips) for the dining plan + extras. In reality, we spent $1838 not including tips. That’s a difference of $637.
    • The Annual Pass saved us $98.41 in dining costs; the cost savings would have been almost $100 less if I hadn’t had the Annual Pass. But even if you subtract the "extras" and the AP savings, we still would have saved $334.
    • If we had eaten with the dining plan, we would have had many leftover credits: 3 TS, 8 QS and 19 snack credits remaining. Those QS credits would have resulted in 43 remaining snack credits. We might have used more snack credits if we were on the dining plan, but we still would have been bringing a lot of food home!
    • For those interested in budgeting, we spent about $220 in tips at 9 sit-down restaurants. We typically tip 18-20%.

    In summary, I think the Dining Plan can make sense for some families depending on your eating habits and where you want to eat. With careful planning, you could probably come out ahead on the dining plan. I also see the convenience benefits: not having to take your credit card out at every meal, not having to worry about looking at prices because you’ve already paid, not feeling guilt if you want an alcoholic drink or dessert with dinner because it’s covered. It was even kind of fun to have a few credits remaining last year so we had treats to take home.

    But all that said, the $637 we saved was worth it in my mind, especially for our family situation (combination of young kids and vegetarians in the family). It was nice for us to go off site for a few meals since we had a car and could. The flexibility was important to us on this trip.

    So there you go! I’m happy to answer any questions.

    Now it’s time to start planning our 2019 trip! I’m not sure I’ll do an official PTR, but I will check-in again here with our plans as they are forming. Thank you to everyone who has followed along!
     

    StarWarsMomofGirls!

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 16, 2015
    The dinning plan def works in certain times. It used to work for us, but as we eat at less and less buffets / Character meals the less it makes sense for us. And now our oldest is considered an adult! Eek! I totally see how the dinning plan wouldn't be the best being vegetarian. Sometimes to "make" your money you "need" to order those steaks.
     

    jrmint427

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    Thanks for posting this trip report! We are thinking about going over Thanksgiving and I was curious how the crowds were.
    Thanks for reading! Hopefully this helped you get a sense of the crowds. I definitely recommend sticking around the week after the holiday.

    The dinning plan def works in certain times. It used to work for us, but as we eat at less and less buffets / Character meals the less it makes sense for us. And now our oldest is considered an adult! Eek! I totally see how the dinning plan wouldn't be the best being vegetarian. Sometimes to "make" your money you "need" to order those steaks.
    So true! I’m sure if you did your research you could save money with the dining plan. We would pick more character meals if we did it again. Maybe when the girls are older... but yeah, treating a 10 year old like an adult doesn’t make much sense to me either!
     
  • Cloe Colton

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 6, 2018
    I'm so glad you guys had a great trip!

    Love the dining plan wrap up at the end! I think the way you analyzed it is the only way it makes sense to compare because obviously the value of the food you would get on the dining plan probably would outweigh its cost but would you realistically eat that way? Probably not lol I think for people who do order that much food it can make sense or possibly with older children but I'm with you on just using AP/TIW savings!
     

    jrmint427

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    Just started reading your trip report!!!:-)
    Thanks for joining in!!

    Your "Home" shirt is adorable. Can I ask where you got it?
    I actually bought that one used on a Facebook group. I'm sure you can find someone to make a similar shirt! I saw other people wearing the same one.

    Glad you had a fun trip! And I agree on the Dining Plan Calculations - it never works for me either!
    Thank you! I was glad we gave it a try, and maybe it will make sense when the girls are older, but I felt like we saved so much money on this trip by not buying the dining plan.

    I'm so glad you guys had a great trip!

    Love the dining plan wrap up at the end! I think the way you analyzed it is the only way it makes sense to compare because obviously the value of the food you would get on the dining plan probably would outweigh its cost but would you realistically eat that way? Probably not lol I think for people who do order that much food it can make sense or possibly with older children but I'm with you on just using AP/TIW savings!
    Thank you! I agree, it could make sense for some, but we felt like we over-ate the year before because we were trying to get value out of the DP. I wish we went more often to take advantage of TIW too!
     

    Isabelle12345

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2019
    Awesome trip report! It makes me so happy to read about other people’a experience!
    I am so exited for our next Disney trip and our kids will be about the same age as your daughters (5 and 2) so it was very helpful to read!
    I have a question for you: how did you manage the outfits changes? Did you prepack in ziplock bags? Did you have a separate bag with all change of clothes? I like the idea of putting the kids in character/movies related outfits (although I find it more challenging for boys than for girls!)
    Thanks again for the awesome trip report, looking forward to read your next ones!
     

    jrmint427

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    Awesome trip report! It makes me so happy to read about other people’a experience!
    I am so exited for our next Disney trip and our kids will be about the same age as your daughters (5 and 2) so it was very helpful to read!
    I have a question for you: how did you manage the outfits changes? Did you prepack in ziplock bags? Did you have a separate bag with all change of clothes? I like the idea of putting the kids in character/movies related outfits (although I find it more challenging for boys than for girls!)
    Thanks again for the awesome trip report, looking forward to read your next ones!
    Thanks for reading! I hoped this would be helpful for others with young kids.

    Yes, that is exactly how we managed the outfit changes. I pack gallon size bags per character/outfit per day. So if we had 2 outfit changes planned for a day, I would have 3 bags for that day - one for the morning, and two that we would take with us in the diaper bag for the day. Where we had matching shirts, I threw them in the same bags as the girls' dresses. It's a lot of work to do in advance, but makes figuring out what to wear the day of very easy!

    I actually think it's easier for boys - you can find t-shirts that match the theme or have them made :) I follow a number of FB groups for Disney customs resales. People post items every day and you can post what characters you are searching for. I think it's fun! I also re-sell when we're done with items and just use that money toward outfits for the next trip.

    We are heading back very soon! I plan to post another trip report after that one :) I'm almost done coordinating/ordering our outfits for that trip - luckily a lot of items from last year still fit my girls!
     

    Isabelle12345

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2019
    Thanks for reading! I hoped this would be helpful for others with young kids.

    Yes, that is exactly how we managed the outfit changes. I pack gallon size bags per character/outfit per day. So if we had 2 outfit changes planned for a day, I would have 3 bags for that day - one for the morning, and two that we would take with us in the diaper bag for the day. Where we had matching shirts, I threw them in the same bags as the girls' dresses. It's a lot of work to do in advance, but makes figuring out what to wear the day of very easy!

    I actually think it's easier for boys - you can find t-shirts that match the theme or have them made :) I follow a number of FB groups for Disney customs resales. People post items every day and you can post what characters you are searching for. I think it's fun! I also re-sell when we're done with items and just use that money toward outfits for the next trip.

    We are heading back very soon! I plan to post another trip report after that one :) I'm almost done coordinating/ordering our outfits for that trip - luckily a lot of items from last year still fit my girls!
    Sorry to ask another very specific question, but did you feel that putting the clothes in Ziploc bags made them wrinkled? Did you need to iron them the night before?
    I have tried packing cubes but they are not as practical as ziploc bags so I was wondering how you did it! (Because you all look so nice in the pictures!!!)
     

    jrmint427

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 19, 2013
    Sorry to ask another very specific question, but did you feel that putting the clothes in Ziploc bags made them wrinkled? Did you need to iron them the night before?
    I have tried packing cubes but they are not as practical as ziploc bags so I was wondering how you did it! (Because you all look so nice in the pictures!!!)
    It's no problem! No, I don't think we did any ironing on this trip :) It's not a perfect system, but I try to iron clothes that need it before packing, and then using the "rolling" method to pack the clothes. I fold them in half and then roll them up to avoid too many wrinkles. I also label the gallon size bags as I go - so I'll write "11/25 - AK - #1 of 3" - then I know that's for the morning of 11/25, and I'll grab #2 of 3 and #3 of 3 to pack in our bag. This way I remember how many outfit changes we have planned :) I only pack the girls' dresses and our shirts this way - pants, cardigans, etc., I just pack separately in a suitcase and pull out as we need.

    To plan our outfits, I use Touring Plans to first plan our days, including which characters we want to meet and what meals we have planned. Then I figure out which ones I want to try to dress in theme for. I think this year I'm limiting us to a max of 3 outfits per day (so only 2 changes in the parks). We had a day with 4 last year and it was too much, even for us. I'm trying to plan only 1 outfit change most days this year, but have a few days with 2.

    This year, I'm also not having the adults match every character (and we missed some last year too) - and my parents will be going and are not interested in matching us :)

    Once I have my plans, I print out the schedule and write into our plans when we need to change our clothes. Again, it's not a perfect system - plans change. But I like to remember to build in 10 minutes here and there for the changes. Also, the past two years, there were a few outfit changes I had planned that we never made. It was disappointing to have bought items that weren't used. One day it was too hot and people were cranky. Another it was too cold and no one felt like unbundling to change. I tried to be better prepared this year by not planning so many changes every day.

    It's a bit of work, but also fun to have all the pictures of the girls matching their favorite characters - and this year they were more into the planning process with me! I'm happy to answer any other questions :)
     

    Isabelle12345

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2019
    Thanks, that’s very helpful!!!! It gives me so many ideas! I, like you, am a planner so I like to hear other people’s experiences! This will help me so much!
    Can’t wait to hear about your next trip!
     



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