Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dining... Part II

Now, on to the hard core stuff.

Disney has three primary levels of dining plans: MYW + Quick Service; MYW + Dining; and MYW + Deluxe Dining.  (There's also a MYW Platinum Package, but if you are buying this, then you're pretty much bought your own ticket to do everything and eat everywhere in WDW, and you're probably not reading my little blog!)

What does this all mean?  Well, here's the breakdown.  I've included links to the plan specific brochures as well.  These brochures include the list of the participating restaurants as well.  

Snack options are the same for all plans.  Examples of a snack is: 1 frozen ice cream novelty, popsicle, fruit bar, popcorn scoop (single-serving box); single-serving bag of snacks; single piece of whole fruit; 20-oz. bottle of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or Dasani water; 22-oz. fountain soft drink; 12-oz. coffee, hot chocolate or hot tea; single-serving prepackaged milk or juice.  Personally, my favorite use of snack comes when we have a lot of credits at the end of our trip, and we stock up on their rice cereal treats in the shape of Mickey with the ears dipped in chocolate.  Yum....

MYW + Quick Service  brochure

If you have very little interest in ever having a sit down meal, this is the plan for you.  MYW + QS gives you 2 quick-service meals and 2 snacks per person per night of your package stay. You'll also receive a mug you can refill as often as you like at any quick-service restaurant at your Disney Resort hotel.  Pretty straight forward.

Each quick-service meal includes:
For Breakfast
  • 1 juice
  • 1 entrée
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage
For Lunch and Dinner
  • 1 entrée
  • 1 dessert
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

MYW + Dining  brochure

This plan is the most popular, and this is the one that we choose on our trips.  This is the one that works for us.  For each night of your stay, each person receives 1 snack plus:

1 Table Service Meal
Each table-service meal includes:
  • 1 appetizer (Guests ages 3-9 only)
  • 1 entrée
  • 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only)
  • 1 juice (breakfast only)
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage
  • 1 full buffet
1 Quick Service Meal
Each quick-service meal includes:
  • 1 entrée
  • 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only)
  • 1 juice (breakfast only)
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

There is no refillable resort mug included in this package.  The mugs are available at each resort for about $13 each.  If you're staying for more than a few nights, it's worth the price to buy.

MYW + Deluxe Dining  brochure

If you like to have all meals covered, like to eat a lot of sit down meals or just want it all, then this is for you. This is what you want if you want to have your 3 daily meals covered for each night of your stay, plus 2 snacks.  Plus, you get a bit more food at your TS meals, and this plan also includes the refillable mug at your resort.

Each adult table-service meal includes:
  • 1 appetizer, 1 entrée and 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only)
  • 1 juice (breakfast only)
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage
  • 1 full buffet
Each child table-service meal includes:
  • 1 appetizer, 1 entrée and 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only)
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage
  • 1 full buffet
Each quick-service meal includes:
  • 1 entrée
  • 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only)
  • 1 juice (breakfast only)
  • 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

So, what looks good to you???

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010

    To Dining Plan, or Not To Dining Plan? Part I

    One of the questions about WDW I have heard the most revolves around the dining plan options, aka the Disney Dining Plan, aka DDP.  Back in my younger years, there was no DDP.  I remember going to Epcot (well, EPCOT Center back then) and my mom running to the video kiosks under Spaceship Earth to grab a lunch reservation for the Rose and Crown.  Those days are long gone, and to make things more fun, Disney likes to tweak the process every now and then.  It's not always the most clear part of planning a Disney vacation.

    Before we start, let's talk basics  WDW has quick service (QS) and table service (TS) meals.  Pretty self explanatory.  And to get the dining plan, you must stay on Disney property, and you must purchase a package, which means you have to buy your tickets and room bundled together.  Disney calls the room and ticket bundle a Magic Your Way (MYW) package.  

    Children under 3 aren't eligible for the dining plan, and children ages 3 - 9 on the dining plan must order from the children's menu.  This usually isn't an issue, other than some kids over the age of 9 still prefer smaller portions, but there's no way around this.  Most Disney restaurants participate in the DDP, but there are a few that won't.  The exceptions are so few that I don't even worry about it, but be sure to check the official list (more on this later).

    For each night of your stay, each child 3+ and adult gets the appropriate daily credits depending on what kind of plan you choose (more on that later).  The credits all get dumped in to piles - one for children's meals, one for adult meals and one for snacks.  If one adult wants to eat 10 TS meals in one day, and there's 15 credits in the pile, then that's fine.  They aren't assigned to each person.  And each time you use the DDP, you will find your total remaining credits at the bottom of the receipt.

    Chew on this, then check out part II.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Meal Options for DLR's World of Color

    All the online boards are all a flutter with news of and anticipation for World of Color.  This new nighttime show will be at DCA over the water, and standing room only seating will be in Paradise Pier.  This new show will open on June 11, and no one is quite sure exactly how the standing room is going to work.  But they do expect very heavy crowds, and even people camping out overnight the day before, all just to get a coveted FastPass for WoC.

    If standing for hours on end, holding your space, using up valuable ride time, isn't your speed, Disney's got a few food options that will also get you in to WoC.

    DLR has announced that picnic dinners are available for World of Color!  It appears that guests will be able to order a box lunch at least one day and no more than 60 days in advance, and these guests will also receive passes for guaranteed entry to WoC.  Meals are to be ordered online, NOT via phone with Disney Dining.

    Here's the details:

    • Online orders may be placed up to 60 days in advance but may not be placed on the same day as redemption. The meals may be picked up at the Sonoma Terrace from 2:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
    • Subject to availability, guests who order Picnic meals online will be assigned to the evening’s first show, and guests who make a walk-up purchase will be assigned to that evening’s second show.
    • Picnic meal options include four selections for adults: “The All American” (cold honey-stung fried chicken), “The Taste of Asia” (chilled miso-glazed salmon), “The European Antipasto” (cured meats, regional cheeses, artichoke heart, sun-dried tomato) and “The Mediterranean Vegetarian” (marinated grilled vegetables in a whole wheat wrap with roasted garlic hummus). Kids’ options for chidren ages 3-9 include “The Junior All American” (chicken), “The Lunchbox Classic” (peanut butter and jelly) and “The Little Squirt’s Box” (apple wedges, string cheese).
    • All picnic meals with “World of Color” Reserved Viewing are priced at $14.99 and must be redeemed for the designated reserved show date and time. No refunds, exchanges or other discounts.
    • Each guest entering the reserved viewing area must have reserved viewing area admission. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Guests may only enter the viewing area during designated times and no early or late admission will be allowed. Guests in large parties may not be guaranteed admission within the same reserved viewing area. Separate theme park admission is required.
    • Want to see a video?  Click here
    If you'd rather eat in a restaurant, well, they've got you covered there, too.  Try a WoC dinner package at Ariel's Grotto (note - character meals have been suspended for dinner due to this package) and Wine Country Trattoria.  Here's Disney's lowdown on these meals:

    ~~Guests may order from a selection of Italian cuisine at Wine Country Trattoria ($39.99 for adults; $12.99 for children ages 3-9), or a varied menu of seafood, meat and vegetarian options at Ariel’s Grotto ($36.99 for adults; $20.99 for children ages 3-9). Both restaurants offer Preferred Reserved Viewing for “World of Color.” Reservations: (714) 781-DINE. Seatings are at specified times and space is limited. No early or late admissions. Children must be accompanied by an adult. No refunds, exchanges or other discounts. Separate theme park admission is required.~~

    Note that both of these meals are from a limited menu.  Diners who want to eat at these restaurants and NOT do a WoC package will be allowed to do so, and they will have access to the entire menu.

    So, if WoC is in your plans this summer, a dining package just might be the way to go!

    This news is from the Disney Park Blog.

    Where should we stay?

    Congratulations!  You're going to Disney World.  Now the planning begins.  And one of the biggest questions is, "Where should we stay?"  Let me see if I can help!

    1.  What's your budget?  Okay, to this ranks up in the 'duh' category, but it's important.  Not only how much can you pay, but what are you willing to pay for your room?  There's three levels of resorts: Value, Moderate and Deluxe, each with their own benefits.  Price will also vary depending on what time of the year you visit, as well as available discounts.  If Disney isn't offering a deal for your travel dates, I strongly suggest going through AAA.  Discounts vary, but we've saved up to 20% off of rack rates on our room before.  Mousesavers.com is a great resource for available discounts.

    2.  How do you see your room?  Some people see their Disney room as a place to lay their heads and don't want to pay much even though they can.  Others see their resort as part of the Disney Experience (this would be me) and would be willing to a bit more to have a specific type of resort experience.

    3.  What's important to you?  Do you want space?  Maybe a family suite in a Value resort or a villa will work best for you.  Do you want to be on the monorail?  Check out the MK area resorts.  Do you want to be close to Epcot?  Stay at Beach Club, Yacht Club or Boardwalk.  Want queen size beds?  The Deluxe resorts all have queens (or kings on request), as well as some Moderates, but not Values.

    4.  Do not compare Disney resorts to outside hotels.  Doing this will ruin your mind!  It's a common complaint that Disney Deluxe resorts do not match up, dollar for dollar, with comparably priced outside hotels.  Of course not!  When I stay in a Deluxe resort, I'm not expecting the Four Seasons, even though I could often stay at a Four Seasons for the same price!  Disney resort prices are, yes, higher overall, but it's about more than just the room.  You're paying for transportation and other intangibles.  I'm okay with this, others are not.  And that's fine.  Just know that if you're paying $200+ for your room, it's going to be clean, it's going to be fun, it's going to be nice, just not the same as paying the same rate at another hotel.

    Just some food for thought!

    Disney's Contemporary Resort

    You know the Contemporary Resort, even if you don't realize it.  It's one of WDW's original resorts, the big, hulking A frame structure sitting between Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.  The ugly one.  See it in the distance under the rainbow?

    For years, CR was saddled in some odd interpretation of futuristic contemporary.  Orange and purple abounded in the rooms.  But a few years ago, CR underwent a much needed transformation.  Rooms now are sleek and modern - square sinks in the bathroom! - and decorated in earth tones.  A flat screen TV hangs above a faux mantle and glass mosaic tiles that are backlit to give the impression of a flameless fireplace (this also doubles as a nightlight!).  Rooms are quite large, which is always nice.  Here's some shots of our room:

    Even after I swore I'd never stay here, I relented.  The S Man is offering to take me to WDW yet again.  I wasn't going to fight him on our resort!  And Little W Man wanted to stay here so we could catch the monorail inside so he wouldn't get so sweaty (he just decided to ignore that he would be sweaty the rest of the day).

    I must say, all four of us enjoyed CR!  You just can't beat the location when you have little ones.  It's the only resort from where you can walk to the MK.  How nice it was not to have to stand in the long line for the resort monorail during nighttime Extra Magic Hours.  While some detractors consider the new CR decor sterile and devoid of character, we loved it.  We found it very soothing after spending long days in a very stimulating environment.  Plus, the S Man wanted to stay on the monorail, and the CR is the cheapest of the three monorail resorts.

    There are two choices for room location - the garden wing, which is close to the pool, and the tower.  Below is an aerial shot of the garden wing (and you can see the Wilderness Lodge in the distance).

    We chose to stay in the tower so as to be in the same building with the resort's amenities.  In the tower, you have a choice of two views - Bay Lake and MK views.  The MK view is more expensive than the other.  We opted for the Bay Lake view, and we were not disappointed.  Here's daybreak from our room:

    It doesn't matter if you choose to stay in the tower or the garden wing, you will have to come in to the tower to catch the monorail, eat at quick service, go to the front desk, dine at Chef Mickey's, the Wave or the California Grill, shop, etc.  The tower is a huge, well lit atrium.

    The main atrium level is level 4, and it's called the Grand Concourse.  This is where almost everything except the front desk can be found.  And of course, it's the home of the famous mural.

    Of course, you've got to have the pool!  There's two pools - one is quiet, the other is heavily populated with kids.  While not as visually stimulating as pools at other resorts - there's no volcano, dragon or sandbottom here - there's still a large slide.  Little W Man loved it.

    This view shows both pools, the garden wing and some of the water sprayers outside the pool.

    Although we've loved our stays at other Disney resorts, the CR is now our new go-to resort!

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    What do all those little letters mean?

    The more you look at any travel site about Disney World or Disney Land, you will be bombarded with acronyms.  Here's a list to help you get started.  It's a work in progress - I'm sure I'll be adding to it as time goes on!

    Walt Disney World
    WDW - Walt Disney World
    MK - Magic Kingdom
    DHS - Disney's Hollywood Studios
    AK - Animal Kingdom
    FW - Future World
    WS - World Showcase
    SSL - Seven Seas Lagoon
    CM - Chef Mickey's (or Cast Member, depending on the context)
    BL - Bay Lake
    ME - Magical Express
    EE - Expedition Everest
    KRR - Kali River Rapids
    TL - Typhoon Lagoon
    BB - Blizzard Beach
    DDP - Disney Dining Plan
    TS - Table Service
    CS - Counter Service
    ADR - Advance Dining Reservation
    MYW - Magic Your Way

    Resort Abbreviations-
    Poly - Polynesian Resort
    WL - Wilderness Lodge
    WLV - Wilderness Lodge Villas
    POP - Pop Century Resort
    POFQ - Port Orleans French Quarter Resort
    PO - Port Orleans Resort
    CBR - Caribbean Beach Resort
    CS - Coronado Springs Resort
    BC - Beach Club Resort
    YC - Yacht Club Resort
    BW - Bordwalk Resort
    BWV - Boardwalk Villas
    BLT - Bay Lake Tower
    GF - Grand Floridian Resort
    CR - Contemporary Resort
    FW - Fort Wilderness 
    SOG - Shades of Green

    DLR - Disneyland Resort
    DCA - Disney California Adventure
    WoC - World of Color
    GC - Grand Californian Hotel
    DLH - Disneyland Hotel
    PPH - Paradise Pier Hotel
    DL - Disneyland Park
    DTD - Downtown Disney
    GRR - Grizzly River Rapids

    Abbreviations Used By Both
    PoTC - Pirates of the Caribbean

    IASW - It's a Small World
    HM - Haunted Mansion
    BTMR - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    FL - Fantasyland
    TL - Tomorrowland
    DTD - Downtown Disney
    CM - Cast Member

    So, why am I doing this?

    To know me is to know that I love Disney.  Not in some kind of obsessive, overcrazed way.  But I get the Mouse.  I get the appeal.

    Growing up, it was pretty common for us to go to Florida with my grandparents for a week long vacation.  My grandparents stayed at the same hotel in Ormond Beach for 30+ years, every year, without fail, until my grandmother's health prevented her from making the trip.  They'd have a room, we'd have a room.  My parents would usually say we weren't going to Disney that year, we're taking a break.  But about Tuesday, I'd get the itch, and so did they.  We'd go over for a day, sometimes two or three, and hit the parks.  Some years, I'd feel extra lucky.  We'd go down a few days early, stay in the World, then head to the beach.

    Then a funny thing happened.  I grew up, went to college and got married.  Suddenly, I'm off the parental payroll!  I have my own bills!  And, gasp, a kid!  The in 2006, I fell victim to a very well done ad campaign by Disney - a family of four can spend a week for something in the neighborhood of $1500.  Score!  We were only a family of three at the time.  The more we investigated, looked and planned, by the time we booked, what we chose was WAY more than $1500.  But that was okay, as it was our first week long trip since our honeymoon.  What an amazing trip this was!

    And here we are.  Four years later, and I'm totally sucked in again.  I swore I'd never take a baby, and there I was a few years ago, running around with a 10 month old.  I love planning our trips so much, and I have stored so much information away.  I love talking about planning so much that people have emailed me, had me over to their house and talked to me for long periods of time just trying to get a grasp on this massive place called Walt Disney World.  I'm starting this blog to help others, help my friends and help myself by giving me an outlet to share.

    Now we're planning a trip to Disneyland, and I couldn't be more excited!

    Welcome, and I hope you find this blog useful and entertaining.