Magic Kingdom Frequently Asked Questions

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While I do have an FAQ section to my blog, I thought it might be helpful to dig a little deeper into each theme park. We’ll start with links to each of the “lands” inside Magic Kingdom:

What are the hours of Magic Kingdom?

Hours vary by day and time of year. Be aware of special events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as the park closes to the general public earlier in the day. If you have a ticket to this special event, you can gain entry to the park beginning at 4 pm. You can even use your regular tickets for a different park even if you don’t have park hoppers!

What are the “must do” attractions?

It depends on your family and how adventurous you want to be. The three mountains: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain are always on my list! The upcoming Seven Dwarfs Mine Train should be on everyone’s list as well as it’s going to be one of the hottest tickets in all of Disney World (as we’ve all been waiting in anticipation for over 2 years).

If you have little ones, the sisters of Frozen Anna & Elsa are available for meet and greet. This line gets long very quickly, so plan accordingly! Dumbo is a kid favorite as well (sometimes kids of all ages) and the reimagined Dumbo is something to be seen.

There’s also the attractions that scream Disney to me: Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a small world, and Jungle Cruise that are not to be missed.

What characters are available for meet and greets?

You name it, they’ve probably got it! While some character meet and greets change by season and even by week. If you are looking for something indoors, find Mickey in Town Square (plus he actually talks). Cinderella & Rapunzel and Anna & Elsa are available in Princess Fairy Tale Hall, Ariel is waiting for you in her Grotto. Tinkerbell and friends are locations in Adventureland. Head over to Pete’s Silly Sideshow and choose to say hello to Donald & Goofy or Minnie & Daisy (or both if you’re willing to stand in both lines).

Outdoors, Gaston is near his tavern, characters from Toy Story are near the entrance to Splash Mountain, and there’s usually someone hanging around the entrance on Main Street. Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin and Jasmine, Tiana and Price Naveen are all available throughout the park as well. Remember, these are all subject to change and based on the weather.

What are the best FastPass+ attractions?

Magic Kingdom by far as the most FastPass+ option. Based on wait times, here’s my suggestion on the order you should book your FastPass. This is only my suggestion, so please book what you find most important to you!

  • Meet Anna & Elsa at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (after official open)
  • Space Mountain frontierland
  • Splash Mountain
  • Enchanted Tales With Belle
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Meet Rapunzel & Cinderella at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Meet Ariel at her Grotto
  • Meet Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Mickey Mouse talks here!)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Main Street Electrical Parade (Reserved Area)
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • it’s a small world
  • Mad Tea Party (Spinning teacups)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Wishes (Reserved Area – Rose Garden)

Remember to choose times in the afternoon or early evening when wait times are longest. Outside of Anna & Elsa meet and greet and Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, I wouldn’t book anything else before 11:30 or noon unless you absolutely have to!

Where is the best place to eat?

crtI have never been overly impressed with the table service meals in Magic Kingdom, although two great character dining experiences are available. The highly sought after Cinderella’s Royal Table is located in Cindy’s Castle and Crystal Palace offers an opportunity to say hello to Winnie the Pooh and friends at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My absolute favorite is to snag one of the few pre-park opening meals at either location!

Two of my favorite quick service locations are in Magic Kingdom: Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café (Tomorrowland) and Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn (Frontierland). Both have great food on their menu and plenty of places to sit.

My new favorite place is Be Our Guest. Our lunch there was my favorite of our trip and I’ve heard similar rave reviews. While we didn’t get the opportunity to try dinner, a quick service lunch at such a beautiful restaurant was well worth the price of admission! Try snagging a FastPass to skip the line!

Let’s talk snacks! I dream about Cheshire Café. Their cupcake cup is amazing. Flavors change each day but it’s layers of cupcake and buttercream frosting with a huge mound of frosting on top. No first trip to Disney is complete without Dole Whip. Stop at Aloha Isle for one of these cold treats. If you’re on the dining plan, use one of your credits for any size Starbucks drink.

What parades are available?

Daily parades are the new Festival of Fantasy parade which is wonderful. My Disney convert husband said “WOW” multiple times and I was highly impressed with the floats and costuming. This is daily at 3 pm. The evening parade, Main Street Electrical parade, typically begins at 9 pm. Both of these parades initiate near Splash Mountain and end at the end of Main Street USA (see parade map below).

Magic Kingdom Parade Route (click to enlarge)

Magic Kingdom Parade Route (click to enlarge)

Some days have a repeat of Main Street Electrical parade at 11 pm in which the route is reversed starting at Main Street and ending near Splash. If you want a front row seat, make sure you arrive at your preferred location about 30 minutes prior to the parade. If you want a shady spot, you may want one person to stake their claim even earlier.

Preferred location depends on what you’d like to do after the parade. If you are planning on heading out the park after the parade, find a spot on Main Street or the railroad platform. If you are planning on staying in the parks, grab a spot in Liberty Square. It’s a quick trip over to Haunted Mansion or into Fantasyland. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to get to Splash Mountain after the parade. It’s a bottleneck and a mess!

Where should I watch the evening fireworks?

There are plenty of places to watch Wishes. For a first timer, if you can weave your way onto Main Street, it’s a great straight on view of the castle. The fireworks are shot off to the right of the castle (as you are looking it from Main Street). I’ve also watched the show from the bridge to Tomorrowland. It’s a nice view of the fireworks, but it’s loud and echo-y. It may not be the best place if you have younger kids. If you want to be farther away from the action, hop the monorail around to Polynesian and have a seat on their beach.

Did I miss anything that you still have questions about? Feel free to ask on my Facebook page or use the form below or check out tips & tricks for your Magic Kingdom park day.

If you would like more great frequently asked questions or tips and tricks for a Disney Vacation, please sign up for my newsletter.

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

Interested in booking a free dining Disney vacation package of your own? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. Did you know that working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? Receive advice, park strategy, knowledge, and the gift of time (before, during, and after your trip) for no additional cost to you! I can typically respond to most quotes in less than an hour!

If you have a current Disney World reservation and want me to do the hard work of calling to update your reservation to free dining, you are able to transfer your trip to me at no cost. (You do not need to cancel your existing reservation or pay any additional deposit to make this change. It’s one piece of paperwork and an email away! This is subject to Disney approval).

 

 

Disney World PIN Codes: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

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Having never actually received a Disney PIN code in my life, I always thought they were a myth, however I know this is false now that two of my very lucky clients have received codes in the last few weeks. They are real folks and they can save you lots of money or truly enhance your vacation! The most recent codes I’ve seen are for a free park hopper upgrade plus a room discount. For a family of 4, park hoppers can run well over $200 and coupled with a room discount, it can make for a really fun and exciting vacation!

What is a Disney PIN code?

Disney PIN codes are special discount codes that are sent at via mail or email that are specific to your name and address. These are said to be random and discounts can vary from a very small percentage off discount to as big as free dining.

How do I get a PIN code?

Pin offers are said to be completely randomly generated.  In order to receive a code you have to be “registered” with the Disney system. Some suggestions are to request a DVD, order customized maps, sign up for a Disney.com or MyDisneyExperience.com account and update your contact information, or play around with quotes or costs on DisneyWorld.com. While none of these are guarantees, if you’re thinking about a trip, it’s worth a shot! Be sure to check your junk mail just in case it gets filtered to your spam folder.

I think I got a PIN code!

First check to see if it’s a 3 letter/number combination code or if it’s longer. The 3 character long codes are promotional offers that often provide either a small or no discount from current pricing. A PIN code is longer (often 12-14 characters) long and is specific to your name and address.

Ok, now I know it’s a pin, now what?Disney-World-First-Visit-Button

If you have a trip booked, you can call and have the discount applied to your current trip. You may need to upgrade your current room view to take part in the promotion. In select situations, you may need to switch resorts to be included in the discounts as each different exclusions based on the available offer. Unfortunately you are not able to apply the discount online after you have a trip booked. If you booked through a travel agent, he or she would call on your behalf (another benefit to working with a travel agent instead of calling yourself!)

If you don’t have a trip booked, you can use the website provided with the PIN to look at cost comparisons or call Disney and work with one of their cast members. Similarly, you could send it over to your travel agent and they can do all the hard work for you! Easy as that.

Can I combine a PIN discount with a Disney World Special Offer?

Unfortunately, no. You have to choose the discount that most benefits your family. In the case of free dining, this may not be as simple as looking at dollar value as the value of free dining for a family of 4 over a week’s vacation can be well over $1000. If you have questions, contact a cast member, or even easier, contact a Disney travel agent.

The PIN is in my name but my husband/wife is the lead traveler on our reservation, is that a problem?

Nope! As long as the person who has the code is a member of the traveling party, you are able to apply the code to your reservation. In fact, you can book multiple rooms under the same PIN code (typically up to 3 rooms)! But for that, you’ll have to call a cast member for help.

For more information on Disney PIN codes or for any questions, please feel free to comment or use the contact form below. (I typically answer all questions via email within 1 hour) Interested in planning a 2014 or 2015 Disney World vacation or have one you have questions about? Feel free to contact me for a free quote or use the form below. Disney Travel agents are 100% free to use, but you never know what fun things may come your way. Plus you’ll get the benefit of years of knowledge as well as more time before, during, and after your vacation. That’s less time on the phone, less time waiting in lines, less time trying to figure out how to make your reservations, and more time with your family! I look forward to hearing from you!

 

101 Tips to make a magical Disney World vacation!

 

101 Tips to Make a Magical Disney World Vacation

For 2014 and 2015 Disney World vacations, these are the best tips and tricks! While there’s a million different opinions out there, who knows what’s current and what’s outdated! Having just come back from another research expedition in Disney World, I’m confident these tips will help you on your Disney World vacation!



In no particular order…
1. Research, research, research! The more you know, the better your trip!

2. If cost is an issue, know when the best deals are. If crowd levels are an issue, know when the lowest crowd times are (hint, they are typically very similar times). Crowd calendar 2014, best times for 2015.

3. Start walking before you go. You can easily log 8-10 miles a day at Disney and while you take breaks, you’ll need to build some endurance. Take some family walks and start to get your legs ready!

4. STAY ON PROPERTY! While it may seem more expensive on the surface, you won’t need to rent a car, get transportation to/from the airport, or pay for parking.

5. Think about using a travel agent. We know how to get the best discounts, when discounts come out, and are actively looking to save you time and money! Plus, we are FREE to work with!!!

6. If you book your Disney vacation before a discount comes out, you will have to call Disney to apply the new discount. It doesn’t get changed automatically. During a big discount, you may be on hold for a very long time!

7. Think about your budget. Now think about adding about 20% more to it to make it a more reasonable number for Disney. You can definitely do Disney on the cheap, but if you’re thinking about cost the whole time, it makes it less fun for the adults!

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8. Look into the dining plan and what it includes. See if it’s for you (or how you can get it for free!)

9. Make sure Disney knows about any celebrations during your stay! You’ll get a few freebies and some recognition as well.

10. Children under 3 are free in Disney. If you’re thinking about a vacation before or after your child turns 3, you’ll likely save at least $300 if you go when they’re 2!

11. Similarly, Disney considers 10 year olds Disney adults. That means there’s a price break between 9 and 10. Park tickets don’t make a huge difference, but dining does!

12. Park tickets become cheaper the more days you add (sometimes adding a day of park tickets can be as low as $30 for a family of 3-4). Disney does the math for you when you are booking your package, so check it out!

13. Plan for a day off. Disney can get exhausting. Make sure you take a break during your trip, whether it’s a planned pool day, downtown Disney, or just a day without parks. You won’t get bored!

14. Ask questions! If you’re in Disney and are confused, lost, or need help, cast members (Disney employees) are here to help!

15. Plan at least one table service dinner. Even if you’re not on the dining plan, it’s a good experience!

16. Try new food! You’re on vacation. Don’t be afraid to book a unique restaurant or menu item (especially on the dining plan!)

17. Ask your server for suggestions. They’ll give you a good opinion or at least tell you the most popular menu items.

18. Save room for dessert! There’s some awesome options on all the menus.

Pros and Cons of Disney Deluxe Villas

19. Explore other resorts. It’s fun to just look around another resort if you’re in the area (think Magic Kingdom and Epcot areas). You don’t need any sort of ticket or pass to walk around in the common areas. It’s fun to look around!

20. Bring sunscreen and wear it! Bring more than you think you need. Nothing like feeling miserable and uncomfortable after one day of vacation! Reapply after pool or water rides.

21. Bring snacks to the park. You can also bring your own water bottles. Anything except glass and alcohol is allowed into the parks! If you have a place to store it or are fine carrying it, you’ll save a ton of money!

22. Bring your own stroller. Sure it’s a pain to lug it through the airport and check it at the gate, but it’s better than $18/day for a single stroller or $31/day for a double stroller!

23. Decorate your stroller so you know it’s yours. Colored ribbon, a sign, etc. will all be helpful. Yes you left it in a certain place, but cast members rearrange strollers for the most capacity. This is especially helpful if you are renting a stroller.

24. Share meals. Share meals! Seriously. For quick service/counter service meals, start with one meal for every 2 people. You can always go back and get another or one or get a snack to share. Don’t throw away the expensive food!!! Look at appetizers and meals to share for table service meals. If you made a reservation and you’re not that hungry, don’t be afraid to share a meal. The only place you can’t share are buffet meals. Via Napoli does not allow sharing on the dining plan, but you can share if paying out of pocket.

25. Bring your refillable mugs to the parks! While you can’t officially refill them, it’s a great way to share one of the large fountain drinks from counter service meals. You can also fill them with water from the water fountains or ask for some free ice water at any counter service (a word of warning that Orlando water doesn’t taste the greatest!)

26. Use Disney transportation. It’s FREE! It adds to the experience of Disney.

27. Know how to get from here to there BEFORE you leave! If you need to make a cheat sheet on your phone or index cards, do it! You’ll save headaches later.

28. Driving to Disney? Parking is free at your resort and all the theme parks if you stay in a Disney resort! Bring a GPS or some directions to get you to the main roads. Once there, Disney signage is great to get you to your destination.

29. Download the My Disney Experience app to your smart phone. You can update reservations on the fly and check for various show times and character meets in the park.

30. Arrive at the parks 30-45 minutes prior to park open. At times the parks open before the posted time. You can get through more of the park in the first 2-3 hours of the day than any other time!

31. Even if you’re tired, wake up for “rope drop” (park opening). You can always take a break later.

32. Take breaks! Whether it’s for lunch inside the park or a nap or some pool time outside of the park. You can’t make it 12-14 hours in the park without a break.

DME bus

33. Be aware of Extra Magic Hours. Late hours are great to get some more popular attractions out of the way. If you are willing to get up early for morning Magic Hours, make sure you arrive before the park opens, otherwise it’s not worth it.

34. Fall brings some early park closures to the general public. Check the park hours on Disney’s website for days that close early due to special events. You may want to avoid that park. Animal Kingdom also closes earlier during lower crowd levels. Make sure you plan ahead if you have park hopper tickets.

35. Make your FastPass+ reservations at your 60 day window – this is for your entire vacation. This opens at midnight EST. If you want to meet Anna & Elsa, this needs to be done the second the window opens! Make sure your reservations are made at least 30 days in advance as that’s when day guests can make reservations.

36. Take advantage of all your FastPass+ allotments. Even if you aren’t sure, book it!

37. Make your dining reservations as soon as possible. This has become extremely competitive in the last 2-3 years. Resort guests can make reservations 180 days in advance (this is for your entire vacation, not just one day). If you don’t have a resort reservation, you can make reservations 180 days in advance (but you’ll have to do it each day).

38. Check out the FastPass+ bypass for Be Our Guest for lunch.

39. Package reservations must be paid in full at 45 days prior to your arrival. Room only reservations are paid upon arrival.

40. Think about online check in. If you are arriving earlier in the day, make sure Disney knows about it. While it’s no guarantee, the more they know, the better.

41. If you don’t like your room assignment on check in, you can always ask the front desk if there is another available room you can switch to (in a different location on the grounds). The worst they can say is no!

42. Wear good walking shoes! Flip flops are not good walking shoes.

43. Bring an extra pair of shoes in case one gets wet from rain or if you get a blister.

44. Bring first aid supplies. Disney does have first aid at each of their theme parks, however bring some good band aids, blister band aids, and moleskin with you. It’ll save you walking time to get there and making your injuries worse.

45. On days with a threat of rain, pack a pair of sandals or crocs. This is the only time I’ll ever suggest sandals in Disney. EVER. More suggestions on what to do on rainy days.

Tips & Tricks for Getting a Be Our Guest Reservation

46. Pack your own ponchos. You’ll save money. Don’t forget a poncho or tarp for your stroller!

47. Pack a ziplock bag or two for cameras and cell phones on rides where you can get wet.

48. Take a photo of where you parked. After a long, hot day, you may not remember. Also take a photo of your rental car’s license plate!

49. Bring an extension cord. There aren’t always enough plugs available or in a nice place.

50. Think about staying closer to the park you’ll be at the most. You’ll save time traveling to and from your resort each day.

51. If pool time is important to you, choose a location with a great pool. You may want to spend a little more money on a moderate or deluxe resort to have a water slide. My favorite pools are at Beach & Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Coronado Springs. Of the value resorts, Art of Animation and Pop Century have fun pools (but no water slides).

52. Decide if you want to park hop. I think park hopping is beneficial, but it may be too much for young children or your first trip. You will get to see more in less time. Add a park hopper to your tickets and cut down on the number of days of tickets giving you time to take a day off!

53. Explore Downtown Disney. The World of Disney store has everything you could ever want to buy!

54. Stay cool. Drink water, don’t get dehydrated. If you’re feeling ill find a cool indoor show to watch or take a little break in one of the bathrooms.

55. Stop and enjoy your surroundings. Running from one thing to the next isn’t very much fun! Enjoy your surroundings.

56. Don’t try and do too much. Don’t plan every second of every day. Go in with a general plan and be open to change.

57. Know height restrictions for different Disney attractions before you go. They are strict.

58. Don’t make your kids go on something they are afraid of. There’s always another trip another time.

59. Find free stuff in Disney! Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom gives you free cards. Play the game or just take the cards. It’s a great distraction.

60. Really enjoy each country of World Showcase in Epcot. They are really interesting and intricate.

61. Take family photos with the Disney photographers. Your MagicBands will upload the photos to your account. Even if you don’t purchase them, it’s still fun!

62. If you see a Disney photographer hovering around, it’s likely because a pop up character meet will be on the way. If you want to know, ask! They’ll tell you the information they have.

63. Check out all the evening fireworks/shows. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios each have one and they are all amazing, whether it’s the first or 100th time you’ve seen them.

64. Watch Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from different vantage points: Main Street, Tommorowland Bridge, Polynesian Beach, California Grill (reservations required).

65. Get your spot for parades early. The shady spots go first, so if that’s important, stake your claim!

66. Think about Memory Maker. You’ll be able to put your camera away and have tons of pictures for your return!

67. Customize your MagicBands. It’s so much fun to see the rainbow of colors arrive at your doorstep instead of plain gray ones.

Disney-MagicBand

68. Use your MagicBands to their fullest extent. They’re more than just a key to open your door. Pay for anything and everything in Disney World, gain entry to the parks, use your FastPasses, etc. It’s actually really fun!

69. Call Disney if you need more than one room. It’s easier to properly link the reservations and they can book it faster than you could online. While you’re on the phone, ask if there are any PIN codes attached to your account.

70. Start your vacation on Sunday. Friday night and Saturday night stays are the most expensive. Crowds are also highest on a Saturday.

71. Arrive early in the day and leave late in the day. This will allow you the most time. Even if you’re not going to the parks.

72. Magical Express service TO your resort can take up to 90 minutes from your arrival. You’ll likely stop at other resorts on the way to your own. Be patient!

73. Magical Express service FROM your resort typically leaves 3 hours before your flight. Plan your flight accordingly.

74. Be cautious before booking a dining reservation the night you arrive. Flights get delayed, things happen.

75. Try a character meal! Even if you are dining as adults, it’s fun to watch kids faces light up.

76. Don’t yell at your kids. You’re in public and people can hear you!

77. Eat at off peak times. You’ll definitely be able to tell peak lunch and dinner times by the amount the crowds dwindle. If you can take advantage of that, you’ll get more for your time.

78. Did you know the average number of attractions done in a day is 8.5? While it’s definitely possible to do more, don’t have extreme expectations for your visit.

79. Stop and enjoy the cupcakes.

photo 2(2)

80. Order customized maps and study them before you arrive. It’ll help you as you get to the parks each day. This is done on Disney’s web site.

81. Grab a daily schedule for the parks on your way in. You’ll know about special events, live shows, and character meets.

82. If you are in line for an attraction before the park closes, you’ll be able to ride or meet a character. A cast member will turn you away if the park is already closed, but you won’t have to leave the line.

83. Disney buses run until the last guest is out of the parks. You won’t get left behind!

84. There’s a place for nursing mothers if you’re taking a very young child to Disney. Ask a cast member for more information.

85. Enjoy attractions more than once. Just because you already did them on this trip, doesn’t mean you can’t do it again, especially if the line is short!

86. Head straight for the headlining attractions/rides first thing in the morning when lines are shortest.

87. Eat a decent breakfast. Even if you plan on enjoying some food at the parks, don’t go on an empty stomach and then get lost in running from ride to ride.

88. Pack some simple breakfast foods in your luggage. Pop Tarts and granola bars are easy grab and go things to get you to the parks early!

89. Think about club level service. Breakfast, snacks, hot and cold appetizers, happy hour drinks for adults, desserts, and after dinner cordials. It won’t be all of your meals, but we were able to keep full throughout our stay. Free bottled water too!

90. Meet at least one character during your trip. I don’t care if it’s kids or adults, it’s still fun!

91. Prepare your kids for the trip: waiting in line, being courteous, using manners, etc.

92. If there are two lines, choose left. 95% of the time that line is shorter!

93. The shops on Main Street in Magic Kingdom are open longer than the park. Shop on your way out after the fireworks show.

94. Get a set of “first ears”!Anna & Elsa - Frozen

95. Enjoy Club Cool in Epcot. Get a free beverage and try the different flavors of Coke around the world!

96. Take a night off and watch a movie at your resort. Don’t like the movie your resort has, check out the other resorts!

97. Try Dole Whip (I prefer the floats!)

98. Sit and enjoy some of the live shows. Don’t feel like it’s a waste of time. They are truly enjoyable and it’s a load off your feet.

99. Pay attention to the details! The different things on Cinderella’s Castle, all the animals in the Tree of Life, etc. It’s truly amazing!

100. Think about a dinner show! Disney has 3 on property and they’ll all really fun! Two credits on the dining plan or a decent out of pocket charge, but it’s a great way to take a nice long break!

101. Learn about Pin Trading and trade with cast members!

Whew! Did I forget anything important?

If you want more tips & tricks, sign up for my monthly newsletter. You’ll also be qualified for my Disney giveaway!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

A free gift for Disney vacation! The amazing and exciting Minnie Box!

Interested in booking a free dining Disney vacation package of your own? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. While we won’t know until Monday what resorts are included, it’s great to be able to make a quick, informed decision about your vacation package as some rooms go quickly and they are all on a first come, first serve basis. If you do not have an active Disney reservation, it is very easy to make a new reservation online and secure your spot. Did you know that working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? Receive advice, park strategy, knowledge, and the gift of time (before, during, and after your trip) for no additional cost to you!

If you have a current Disney World reservation and want me to do the hard work of calling to update your reservation to free dining, you are able to transfer your trip to me at no cost. (You do not need to cancel your existing reservation or pay any additional deposit to make this change. It’s one piece of paperwork and an email away! This is subject to Disney approval).

Two credit meals on the Disney Dining Plan are they worth it?: The ultimate debate!

Two Credit Meals on the Disney Dining Plan

Continuing the theme of Disney Dining with Free Dining on the horizon…Disney’s Dining Plan offers credits for table service meals. You receive one credit per person for each night you stay at your Disney World resort hotel. A handful of Disney restaurants and dinner shows require 2 dining credits based on the cost of their meals or the experience provided. These are categorized as either Signature Dining or Dinner Shows. While many Disney veterans will argue that you lose money by choosing 2 credit dining options, I argue that some are just too hard to pass up! Plus, all Disney dining locations provide you with so much food that it’s almost hard to use all of your credits during your visit.

The 2 credit dining restaurants are as follows:

  • Artist Point – Wilderness Lodge

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

    Just a few of the wine bottles available at California Grill

  • California Grill – Contemporary
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Magic Kingdom
  • Citircos – Grand Floridian
  • Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Café – Downtown Disney
  • Fulton’s Crab House – Downtown Disney
  • Flying Fish Café – Boardwalk
  • Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios
  • Jiko – Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Le Cellier – Epcot
  • Monsieur Paul – Epcot
  • Narcoossee’s – Grand Floridian
  • Yachtsman Steakhouse – Yacht Club

Dinner Shows which are also 2 credits include (some alcoholic beverages are also included for adults at these locations):

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue – Fort Wilderness
  • Mickey’s Backyard BBQ – Fort Wilderness
  • Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show – Polynesian

While I haven’t dined at all of these locations, the food I have tried is definitely a cut above the rest. I’d absolutely go back to any of the signature restaurants again without hesitation.

You can't put a price on this mouthwatering dish from Le Cellier

You can’t put a price on this mouthwatering dish from Le Cellier

Is it worth it?

Value of worth is really based on your definition of “worth it”. If you’re going purely based on dollar value and paying for the Dining Plan out of pocket, dining at a 2 credit location may not recoup the cost you paid for it.

A very quick math lesson on Disney’s dining plan for an adult assuming a very common vacation of 7 days, 6 nights.

Per night cost for an adult $64.58.

  • Subtract a per day cost of $3 for the cost of the refillable mug ($17.99 for length of stay if purchased out of pocket)
  • Subtract $4 for snack credit (any good snack will be around the $4 mark or above)
  • Subtract $9.79 + $2.99 + $3.29 = $16.07 (the average cost for a counter service meal with fountain drink and dessert included as part of your quick service credits).
  • This leaves $41.51 to make up for in cost for a table service meal each day.
  • Subtracting $3 for a drink and $8 for a dessert, that leaves the need for about a $30 entree for each counter service meal. While that sounds excessively expensive, that’s pretty easy to find in Disney.

Now for the argument of using a 2 credit table service meal. You’re not likely to recoup the cost of about $65 in an entree (assuming that a dessert costs a little bit more at a signature restaurant). Does that mean I don’t dine at signature restaurants, definitely not! It’s some of my favorite food and a totally different atmosphere and amazing service. If you choose a signature meal, you’ll likely be able to share a different 1 credit table service meal which will tilt the scale back to the green (1 and 1/2 times the cost of a table service credit is definitely feasible at a signature restaurant where some entrees are upwards of $50 – and worth every delicious morsel!)

I argue from the other side that any meal is “worth it” with free dining. While you are not getting a discount for your room, at a moderate resort, the discount over a 6 night vacation is only in the realm of $200-$300 while free dining can save you well over $1000. How’s that for math?

Confused yet?

Yeah, me too! It’s the continuous debate among Disney veterans, and those that just like to argue about things. There’s no right or wrong answer to Disney dining. The only right answer I have for you is check out the menus. If the food looks good, make a reservation. Don’t listen to one bad review online or one good review from a friend. Every experience is different and things change over the years. Enjoy yourself! You’re on vacation.  Try something new. And overall, HAVE FUN! It’s the only place you can be an adult but act like a kid again!

For more tips & tricks, helpful information, and information regarding releases of Disney promotions, please sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Interested in booking a free dining Disney vacation package of your own? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. While we won’t know until Monday what resorts are included, it’s great to be able to make a quick, informed decision about your vacation package as some rooms go quickly and they are all on a first come, first serve basis. If you do not have an active Disney reservation, it is very easy to make a new reservation online and secure your spot. Did you know that working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? Receive advice, park strategy, knowledge, and the gift of time (before, during, and after your trip) for no additional cost to you! If you have a current Disney World reservation and want me to do the hard work of calling to update your reservation to free dining, you are able to transfer your trip to me at no cost. (You do not need to cancel your existing reservation or pay any additional deposit to make this change. It’s one piece of paperwork and an email away! This is subject to Disney approval).

 

 

 

Disney World Free Dining: What’s all the fuss about? (an FAQ)

 

disney wishes

Most people go crazy for anything free, but Disney World giving something away for nothing? It’s true! Free dining is a favorite promotion for many Disney guests, both new and veterans, but what’s the big deal? Well, depending on your family size and length of stay, I’ve seen people save as much as $2100 after I did the math. That’s the big deal.


Frequently asked questions

Q. Who qualifies for free dining?

A. Anyone who is taking a Disney World during the promotional period qualifies for free dining.

Q.  I already have a reservation during that time, will Disney give me free dining?

A. No. You must call Disney to request that free dining be added to your reservation. If this was done through a travel agent (lucky you – you’ll save lots of time on the phone), your travel agent will have to call to make the update. This will require an additional $200 deposit. Be prepared to have a conversation about switching resorts as not all resorts have the free dining promotion available. It’s good to have a first, second, and third choice. Do your research before you pick up the phone.

Q. What resorts do qualify for free dining?

A. I won’t know the answer to this until the promotion is released (which is likely Monday, April 21st). The last several promotions going back to the end of 2013 and early 2014 have excluded all 3-bedroom villas, the Little Mermaid Suites in Art of Animation, the Villas at Grand Floridian, and the campsites at Fort Wilderness. I would expect this promotion to be the same. Each promotion is different, so some of the value or moderate resorts may be included or excluded based on how many rooms are booked at the time the promotion is released.

Q. What dining plan is included with free dining?

A. In previous years the quick service dining plan was included at the value resorts and the full dining plan (plus dining) was included at the moderate and deluxe resorts as well as the deluxe villas. I have no reason to believe that will change.

Q. What is included with each dining plan?Free Dining at Disney World

A. See the tips & tricks for Free Dining and Flavorful Friday: Getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan for complete details

Q. Can I upgrade my dining plan?

A. Absolutely! If you choose to stay at a value resort, you can upgrade to plus dining or at any resort, you can upgrade to deluxe dining. This would be an additional out of pocket cost. You would be paying the difference between the two plans. To upgrade to plus dining from free quick service is usually only $200-$400 depending on the number of guests traveling and their ages (usually on the lower end). If you plan on 1-2 character meals during your time in Disney World, the upgrade is well worth it! If you don’t want any table service meals, then just smile and thank Disney for the free food!

Q. Are there any hidden costs?

A. No hidden costs. You receive the dining plan for free with any full price hotel reservation and a minimum of 2 days of park tickets as part of your package. As a note, the dining plan does not include gratuity for table service restaurants, so plan for 18-20% tips for each table service meal. Other than that, no other fees or hidden costs!

Q. How much Money will I save?

A. Let’s do the math

While you do pay full price for your hotel room stay, free dining saves each adult $64.58 for adults and each child$20.48 per night. The quick service plan (offered free at the value resorts, works out to be $44.72 and $17.07 for kids) . You also have to remember that any child 10 and older is considered a Disney adult and would pay the adult price for dining and park tickets.

 

Meet the Mouse Family

Meet the Mouse Family. Mr. and Mrs. Mouse are 2 adults and they have 2 children, a boy Mickey age 11 and a girl Minnie age 7. They would like to take advantage of free dining in September and stay 7 days and 6 nights at a moderate resort, giving them the plus dining plan (this includes a table service credit, quick service credit, and snack credit per person for each night stayed).  This gives them a total cost savings of $214.22 per night which equals $1285.32 over their length of stay. Many families fall into this category based on the ages of their children. Here’s a handy little chart to see where your family falls in the realm of possibilities:

Cost savings per night using free dining (click to enlarge)

Cost savings per night using free dining (click to enlarge)

To calculate your overall cost savings, multiple the number above with your total number of night’s stayed (NOT days or number of days of park tickets).

Still have questions? Please contact me at any time using the form below! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about free dining or any other Disney World promotion!

For more tips & tricks, helpful information, and information regarding releases of Disney promotions, please sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Interested in booking a free dining Disney vacation package of your own? Contact me at any time for a free quote or use the form below. While we won’t know until Monday what resorts are included, it’s great to be able to make a quick, informed decision about your vacation package as some rooms go quickly and they are all on a first come, first serve basis. If you do not have an active Disney reservation, it is very easy to make a new reservation online and secure your spot. Did you know that working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? Receive advice, park strategy, knowledge, and the gift of time (before, during, and after your trip) for no additional cost to you! If you have a current Disney World reservation and want me to do the hard work of calling to update your reservation to free dining, you are able to transfer your trip to me at no cost. (You do not need to cancel your existing reservation or pay any additional deposit to make this change. It’s one piece of paperwork and an email away! This is subject to Disney approval).

 

My Favorite Disney World Quick Service Meals

Favorite Quick Service Restaurants in Disney World

A little change of pace. While everything in my blog has a little bit of Melissa flair and is sometimes slightly biased of my likes and dislikes, this one is all about my favorite quick service  meals in Disney World. These vary by location, you can get a little taste of the things I really love in Disney World. These are typically places that we hit up every single time we go to Disney or places that I’m attempting to try everything on the menu. Instead of making a countdown, I’ll list them in order of location (partially because after Be Our Guest,  I just can’t choose an order!) This is perfect timing in light of FREE DINING expected to be released on Monday next week.

Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest. Disney’s newest and most popular restaurant in new Fantasyland. We were lucky enough to get a FastPass+ reservation for lunch. I know my husband well, and armed with some insider information from a coworker, I order our food ahead of time. We had 2 opportunities to make changes, but I didn’t feel the need. I ate the Croque-Monseiur and he had the Braised Pork. Both were delicious and I’d eat them again. The braised pork was something that could have been on a dinner menu at a table service restaurant. The plating and the quality were great. Ending with a cupcake was delicious as well. Four thumbs way up. We’ll definitely be going back here.

For information on snagging a reservation for lunch, check out FastPass+ for Be Our Guest.

Pecos Bill’s. Easy in, easy out, plenty of seating. A great resting place and a really yummy toppings bar. The toppings bar makes it even easier to share a counter service meal. I often order the taco salad and I forget it’s good but not my favorite thing. My husband tried the BBQ pork and the sweet BBQ sauce was right up my alley. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before an afternoon parade, it’s right on the beginning of the parade route.

Epcot

La Canita de San Angel. By far this is my husband’s first choice of quick service restaurant in Epcot. He really loves the steak tacos. Thankfully it’s easily accessible once you hit world showcase as Mexico greets you as the first country in the line of many. I’ve had most of the items on this menu and the nachos and steak tacos are by far my two favorites. The churros with caramel sauce are a great dessert. Pair anything with a drink from Cava de Tequila right across the street, and you’re set! Nachos are definitely large enough to share. Tacos come with a large portion of chips, and 2 types of salsa are available at the condiment bar. sunshineseasons

Sunshine Seasons. Located in the Land Pavilion in Future World, there’s an extensive and different menu. There’s plenty of healthy options here too (healthy food on vacation? Preposterous!) There are some awesome desserts too! If you’re in Epcot during Extra Magic Hours in the evening, there is some limited service before or after hitting up Soarin’ with a short line. It’s also one of the few locations open for breakfast.

Hollywood Studios

Starring Rolls. While this is one of my favorite locations for a cupcake or a quick break at Hollywood Studios (and it’s especially perfect because it’s right in the middle of Toy Story Mania and Rock n Roller Coaster). This is also a great hidden gem of quick service locations. The sandwiches here are enormous and definitely large enough to share, especially if you pair it with a cupcake as your dessert. We like to just share one of the amazing cupcakes. We’re just short of trying all the varieties because we chose an adorable seasonal cupcake instead of the last one on the “to do” list of their regular menu. 

Animal Kingdom

Flame Tree BBQ. Not only is this my top choice for Animal Kingdom, but it’s one of my top choices in all of Disney. I’m not the biggest fan of BBQ, but I really love this place. For those looking to save a few dollars, try the chicken and ribs platter to share. This location both smells and tastes amazing. We didn’t make a stop at Animal Kingdom on our last, short trip, but I almost did just to eat there!

Yak & Yeti Counter Service. A quick taste of the table service without the extra cash or time of a sit down meal. The portions are definitely big enough to share if you’re not super hungry, but you may not want to because the food is so yummy. A late afternoon lunch could fill you for the rest of the day. There’s also a small amount of snack-worthy items here as well.

Downtown Disney

Earl of Sandwich. While this is a terrible use of a quick service dining credit, it’s a great out of pocket meal and a tasty one at that. The menu seems a bit overwhelming at first, but everyone who loves this place can’t be wrong! It’s not a must visit every time, but it’s a tasty meal and a good break from the heat or the rain while in Downtown Disney!

Wolfgang Puck Express. With some delicious Italian options including huge portions of pasta and amazing individual pizzas that really should be shared, I love this place! It’s a great place to have a 30-45 minute break in Downtown Disney. There’s not a ton of seating (or there wasn’t last time we visited), but it’s one of the best uses of quick service credits I can think of.

Resorts

contempo-cafeContempo Cafe. I admit it. Once again, this location is chosen partially because of cupcakes, but it’s so delicious! The menu here is different from the standard burgers and chicken. Flatbreads and warm sandwiches and grab one of the huge cupcakes (to share or not to share, that is the question). This location is rarely crowded and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a great little break from Magic Kingdom: just a monorail ride away! Plus it gives you a chance to scope out a location for your next trip.

The Mara. Unless you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, a trip to The Mara is a little out of the way, but two words: Zebra Domes. These delicious little pieces of heaven are worth every penny. The food here is also good for a quick service (I’ve only had lunch) but it’s tasty. Or have breakfast at Boma and take these tasty morsels to go (just be careful, they don’t keep well unless they are cold!)

Did I miss any of your favorites around Disney World? I haven’t tried everything yet, but these are definitely my top choices. Can’t wait to go back next year and try something else new!

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Interested in trying one of these delicious locations during your own Disney World vacation? Contact me any time for a free quote or use the form below. Using an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you! Plus you’ll receive the gift of time (before, during, and after your vacation) as well as years of knowledge and experience. You’ve got nothing to lose but time waiting in line. In addition, you’ll receive some fun little things to get you excited for your vacation and you may be eligible to receive Magical Vacations specialized itinerary to help you get through the parks faster with less time waiting in line.

Top things to add on to your Disney World vacation package

Add ons to your Magical Disney World Vacation

When booking a Disney World vacation, you have many different options to customize your experience. The most basic vacation would be a room only reservation which is exactly what it sounds like. A room reservation with no tickets. Adding base park tickets to your reservation makes it a package reservation.

Not all “add-ons” are created equal. Some require a package reservation, while others are available with or without a Disney World resort hotel reservation. Here’s a breakdown of each item, cost, explanation, as well my opinion on the value of worth.


Park Hopper Passes. This cost is variable based on a number of factors including number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and any active promotions (including free or discounted days of park tickets). This add on allows you to visit any and all 4 Disney World theme parks in one day. This is a great option no matter what kind of trip you want to have! This may be too much for those with kids under 5 (although some families love to park hop no matter what the age!)

Water Park Fun & More. This cost is also variable based on number of days of park tickets, number of children and adults, and if you are also included park hoppers. Without park hoppers, the cost of adding this option vs. one day of water park tickets is more costly. If you add park hoppers plus water park fun & more, you may get more for your money with the ability to visit both water parks, Disney Quest, golf, and mini golf. Unlike theme park tickets, these tickets are per use, not per day meaning you can take a day off from the parks to golf in the morning and visit a water park in the afternoon.photo 2(2)

Disney Dining Plan. This is another option that requires park tickets to add this to your Disney World package. Disney offers 5 different dining plans, however the three most popular are: Quick Service, Plus Dining, and Deluxe Dining. Cost is variable based on the dining plan you choose, any available discounts at the time, number of nights stayed, and number of guests in your room. For more on the the Disney Dining Plan, review Flavorful Friday. The dining plan will be coming to you FREE this fall! Click for more tips and tricks regarding Free Dining at Disney World.

Memory Maker. This amazing new add on does not require any sort of package or even a reservation to a Disney World resort. This can be ordered through a travel agent or from Disney’s web site. Guests staying offsite can order Memory Maker. Rather than scanning your MagicBand, you are given an RFID enabled card to store all of your vacation photos. The great thing about Memory Maker is that for the $149 advanced price ($199 if purchased after your arrival), you receive an unlimited number of photos uploaded to your account. You are instantly able to share with family and friends and able to download them all to save forever after your trip. For more on Memory Maker, check out what it’s all about as well as all the must take photo locations around Disney World.

Travel Insurance. Another option that doesn’t require a package reservation, but understandably, this is for Disney resort hotel guests only. Disney offers travel insurance for all guests staying in their resorts to recoup the cost of their likely very expensive vacation in case of unforeseen issues. The details are spelled out clearly as well as the coverage. I suggest travel insurance to everyone I work with, and although I’d guess only half the people I work with elect to keep it, it’s a peace of mind I like to have on my trips. Kids get sick, adults lose jobs, life happens, luggage gets lost. It’s better to have the opportunity to reschedule your vacation than lose some of your hard earned money! Cost is $75.95 per adult (children are at no cost).

BBBBibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. While this isn’t technically part if any Disney World package, it’s something to consider in your budget when making your reservation. BBB has 2 locations in Disney World: Cinderella’s Castle, and Downtown Disney. Both locations have Fairy Godmothers transform your child into the princess (or prince) they’ve dreamed of. Cost varies but starts at $54.95 (and goes well over $200 for the top of the line package). It’s an experience that is not forgotten. Plus, add more photos to your Memory Maker package with this one of a kind experience. Sessions take 30-60 minutes depending on the package you choose and the time of day you are scheduled.

Overall each add on feature has its pros and cons. My favorites are definitely Memory Maker and Park Hopper Passes. It’s something that I plan on adding to all of my vacations going forward based on the way we enjoy traveling. While each family is different and sometimes budgets put a cap on what you can do, it’s always nice to know your options!

Interested in planning your own Disney World vacation in 2014 or 2015? Contact me for a free quote or use the form below. Did you know working with an authorized Disney travel planner is 100% free to you? That’s right! FREE and no catch. The only thing you have to lose is time waiting in line as Magical Vacations provides you with an amazing itinerary to make your trip easy. Plus, I’m here to do all the hard work for you when it comes to the planning process. I listen to all of your thoughts about your vacation, really get to know your family to find the perfect resort and vacation package (all while staying within budget of course). Even if you already have a package, I’m happy to answer any questions you may have about an upcoming reservation. I hope to hear from you soon!