This is How We Disney – Planning Advice

When I first started planning for Disney I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. However, as the process continued, I learned so much about Disney. I know it will help me anytime we want to go back there, and I can help family and friends plan as well. I learned a lot along the way, and I would like to share that with you.

When to Plan

If you want to go to Disney, start planning now. It’s never too early to start planning You have some people that plan 3 years ahead of time. That’s not me at all, but I do recommend that you start 1 year before you want to go. Learn Disney. Ask yourself what it is that you want to do most. Do you want to see all of the princesses? Is it more important that you do all of the rides? Do you care for seeing the shows? Are you seeking out the Fab 5 or all things Star Wars? Knowing the answers to questions like these will help you decide which parks you want to go to and how you want to spend your time there. If you know what you want to do, but aren’t really sure how to make that happen, I suggest you go to the Disney website and take a look at what each park has to offer. Then I would pay for a subscription to Touring Plans. Touring Plans can help you greatly with every part of your planning. There are even schedules you can copy. For instance, we used the princess schedules to get an idea of how we should spend our time. I tweaked it a lot, but having a blueprint was very helpful.Plus Touring Plans seems to be more up-to-date than the Disney website when it comes to which shows are showing when, which rides are closed, and even on how long wait times are for rides!

When to Go

This was easy for us to decide because we knew we wanted to go for Johanna’s birthday, but it may not be as easy for you. Take into consideration your budget – Can you afford to go during the high seasons, or should you wait until the off season to go? Do you want to go for one of the big Disney celebrations like Halloween and Christmas? If so and you plan to do all the things that come with that (the parties and special events) that’s going to take more $$$. Do you hate summer? Then you may want to consider not going between May – September. Is swimming a must for you? We found that you could swim in the coldest month (January), but everyday is not a guaranteed swim day like it is after February. Do you want late nights at the park? If so, winter is not for you. The parks close earlier in the winter than they do the rest of the year. However, January is the cheapest time to go, so if your budget is the biggest determining factor, take that into major consideration. It did not suck at all to go in January. The weather was perfect for us (66-80 degrees). We didn’t get all hot, sweaty, and disgusting while bouncing from ride to ride, the parks aren’t as full, and Johanna was still able to swim. If you go in the summer expect the exact opposite. If you’re ok with that, then have a great time! Stay cool, get some frogg toggs cooling towels and stay hydrated.

Where to Stay

I already touched on this earlier this week, but I will reiterate that if you are a family with less than 5 members, and your kids are Disney obsessed, I would definitely consider staying at one of the POP resorts because they scream DISNEY. However, my number 1 resort choice would be Art of Animation, and they have suites! If your kids could care less about how Disney the room is, Port Orleans Riverside was awesome! But if you can afford it, definitely consider the more luxurious resorts. Their more spacious, grand, and on the monorail system making it easier to get to the parks. Keep this question in mind when you are making your decision – How much time will we spend in the room, at the resort? If you don’t have resort days built into your schedule and you will simply be going back to the room to shower and sleep, then staying at the grandest resort will probably be a waste of your money.

Also, I think it’s important for you to know that the resorts do allow early check-in when they can. Of course it’s easier in the off season than it is in the thick of the high season, but it does not hurt to request an early check in. We did, letting them know we would get there at 11, and as I mentioned in the resort post, there was a room available, just not the one we wanted. The one we wanted became available at 1. That gave us time to eat, and see a bit of the resort.

The Dining Plan

We got the dining plan, but not the deluxe dining plan. I can’t ever see us getting the deluxe. It’s just way too much food! The regular dining plan was too much food for us, although on paper it does not look like it will be. What people don’t tell you is that alot of the restaurants are buffets, quite a few give you healthy portions, and only a couple give you regular sized portions. I promise you that if we ate breakfast we still weren’t necessarily hungry at dinnertime. We ate only because we didn’t want the money we spent on the dining plan to go to waste. Here is what our plan included:

  • 1 Quick Service Meal (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
  • 1 Table Service Meal (entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic drink or full buffet meal)
  • 2 Snacks
  • 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person

When we got out plan it seemed to be a mixture of the old and new. We got 2 snack credits a day (which is new), but we still got a dessert with our Quick Service entree (which is old). The refillable mugs can be used at any of the resorts, and even if you don’t have the dining plan you can buy your own mug at the resorts. As I mentioned before snacks can really fill you up as well, so don’t ever think you’ll go hungry eating a snack. If you aren’t interested in doing character meals, I think going without the dining planning and simply paying out of pocket, or getting the Quick Service dining plan will be sufficient for you. The QS dining plan includes:

  • 2 Quick Service Meals (entrée and non-alcoholic drink)
  • 2 Snacks
  • 1 Resort Refillable Mug per person

That is more than enough!

Fast Passes

My biggest advice is to use your fast passes as early as you can with the rides that run out of fast passes first, like Frozen Ever After. Once you have used your 3 fastpass+ reservations, you can get one additional FastPass reservation at a time on the day of your visit.

Fast Pass+ is basically a reservation system that allows you to reserve a time on a ride or an attraction at the theme parks. You have one hour from the time of your reservation to use your fast pass. If you make a reservation to ride Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train at8:30am you have until 9:30am to use your fast pass. If you find yourself running behind you can cancel your fast pass in hopes of booking later. If you miss your window of time, that’s it, you can’t jump in the fast pass line for that ride, you just have to wait. I suggest you show up 5 minutes early for your fast pass.

For more information on the fastpass+ system, go here.

Last Piece of Advice

Have fun! Do the things you normally wouldn’t do. Have a silhouette of your children made. Go to the parades! Enjoy the shows. They are all apart of the magic. Disney is so much more than rides. It’s the experiences and the encounters that really make it magical. Stay late for a fireworks show, meet new people, try something different to eat at Epcot. While you are there let yourself enjoy it! The time goes by so fast, and you’re so exhausted in the end. You might as well make some magical memories while you’re there. Oh, and get memory maker. You don’t have to get it every time, but if it’s your first visit, just do it. DO IT! There’s nothing like seeing Johanna’s face the first time she was on 7 Dwarf’s Mine Train. Nothing like it.

The posts this week were in no way intended to be an end all be all on how to do Disney. There are plenty of websites that offer that. It was supposed to give you a snapshot of how we did Disney, what worked for us, and what did not. I hope you enjoyed checking it out as much as I enjoyed reliving it! I feel very blessed that the Lord has blessed my husband and I with the opportunity to share Disney with our kids.Happy plannig! Have a magical time, and if there are any questions I can answer for you, please feel free to ask!

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This is How We Disney – All the Food!

When you’re going to Disney, ya gotta eat. All that walking you do, you have to refuel. Once we had our resort picked out and figured out which parks we wanted to do and when, we had to decided on meals. If you are staying at Disney you can book your meals 180 days in advance of your arrival.That sounded so crazy to me. Who makes dining reservations 180 days advance? You do, if you want to actually be able to get in to the restaurant of your choice, especially if you want to go on a specific day and around a specific time.

porfood

Let me start with Dining at Port Orleans Riverside. I will tell you that we have no idea what table service food there is like. We seriously only at quick service food there, and it was good. There were burgers, pizza, fried seafood, an awesome little salad spot, and a sandwich area. There was also an area with just treats.We don’t have any regrets.

We knew we wanted to make Johanna’s 6th birthday extra special, so picking the right restaurant was key. Based upon her love for princesses, we narrowed down our options to Akershus at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) at Magic Kingdom. After much thought we chose CRT because at the time we were not sure if we were going to Epcot, but we knew that Magic Kingdom would be, well, magical, for her birthday.

cinderellas-royal-table

CRT is expensive. When I called to book I didn’t have the dining plan yet. I had pay (yes pay in advance) $200 for 3 of us to eat. While that did include the tip, It was still a very expensive meal for such a little person. The plus was that she was guaranteed to meet 5 princesses, including the Princess of all Princesses, Cinderella (who she doesn’t care about at all mind you) and she would get to eat in the castle. What little girl wouldn’t love that? Once we found out we were going to Epcot I did make a reservation at Akershus, but we ended up cancelling it and here’s why. There is no guarantee of which princesses will be where for either restaurant. I believe the only given is that Cinderella will be at CRT and not at Akershus. In hindsight, I would’ve chosen Akershus for the princess experience because the food choices are much better than at CRT and Johanna could care less that she was eating inside the castle. Also, if you get the dining plan, CRT is 2 table credits. Not worth it. We went to CRT on Thursday and found out taht the exact same princesses minus Cinederella were going to be at Akershus on Friday, when we had our reservation. Because of that, we switched our reservation to Via Napoli.

via-napoli

I had heard wonderful things about the pizza at Via Napoli, but wouldn’t you know, pizza isn’t what I ordered. My husband and Johanna got pizza and raved about it. I got Candele, which is stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine meathballs, mozzarella, and ricotta. It was so friggin good. So good! But it wasn’t the best meal I had while there.

50sprimetime

The best meal goes to 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios. Oh my goodness! 50’s Prime Time is American comfort food in a 50’s kitchen/dining room. Johanna stayed boring and ordered chicken nuggets, but my husband and I ordered A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes which includes fried Chicken, Pot Roast, and meatloaf. When I tell you that is some of the best fried chicken I ever had! And that pot roast was super tender and flavorful. Even the meatloaf was yummy. And our waiter? Was super awesome. He not only had our area of the dining room sing happy birthday to Johanna, but he also has another family he was serving do the same. And although the specialty drinks are not a part of the dining plan, he brought Johanna one anyway and gave her an extra dessert for her birthday. He made it so special for her and we were so thankful. Also, when they call you to seat you, they call your name out like your mom would when she’s calling you to dinner. Love it!


Another fave of ours was Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Crystal Palace almost didn’t make it on our list because Johanna isn’t a big Pooh fan at all, but hubby and I are! We love him! And I’m so happy we did it because it was our best character interaction experience. She even got to hold Piglets hand in a parade around our side of the dining room! All of the characters were as sweet as you would imagine they would be, and the food. The FOOD! We went just in time to experience breakfast AND lunch (11:15 reservation), but we only ate breakfast because it was plentiful and we were still full from the day before. My husband loved the breakfast lasagna and I loved this egg-sausage combo thing they had going on.

We at at Cosmic Ray’s one night for a quick service meal and it brought back great memories from the last time I was there in my early 20s! The burgers are still as yummy as they were back then.

blaze

I must mention that we LOVED the pizza at Blaze in Disney Springs and were over the moon when we learned that they have a few in our state. Can’t wait to visit them again!

magic-kingdom-snacks

Also, my favorite snack credit was that gigantic cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern at Magic Kingdom. Not only was it hot and tasty, but all 3 of us were able to eat off of it.

Here are more restaurants that were recommended to me (QS – Quick Service/SC – Snack Credit/TS – Table Service):

Magic Kingdom

  • Mini kitchen sink dessert in MK (sc)
  • The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (sc)
  • Liberty Tree (ts)
  • Columbia Harbour House (qs)
  • Skipper Canteen (MK)

Epcot

  • Electric Umbrella (qs) – Epcot
  • Lotus Blossom Eggrolls or potstickers (sc)
  • Chips and guacamole in Mexico (sc)
  • Anything from the bakeries in France and Norway (sc)
  • The Caramel Shop in Germany (sc)
  •  Garden Grill (ts and character meal – Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale)
  • Rose and Crown (ts). Get a 7:30-7:45 reservation so you can watch Illuminations after your meal

Hollywood Studios

  • Hollywood and Vine only because you can meet Doc, Sofia the First, Jake, and Handy (ts)
  • Sci Fi Dine In for good burgers (ts)
  • Starring Rolls (sn)
  • ABC Commissary (qs)

Animal Kingdom

  • Tusker House (ts)
  • Rum Dole Whip (sc)
  • Flametree (qs)
  • Yak & Yeti (qs)
  • Boma (ts)

Outside the Parks

  • 1900 Park Faire (ts – character dining: evil stepsisters) – Grand Floridian Resort
  • Chef Mickey for the character interaction (ts – the fab five) – Contemporary Resort
  • Ohana (ts – Lilo and Stitch and friends) – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe (ts) – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

My advice:

If you’re on the dining plan, order the most expensive item on the menu for your meal. Get the biggest bang for your buck. That’s the only thing that will make the dining plan worth it.

Use the dining plan calculator to see if it is really worth it for you to get the plan. It wouldn’t have been for us because we just don’t eat enough for it. In fact, we had to spend $170 more to make it worth it. However, with the stay, play, dine package , we ended up paying $20 less for the trip in total with the plan, so it worked out.

Double check that all of your dining reservations are actually listed on your account. Crystal Palace somehow fell off of ours and they had to go through some backdoor server to find it. It was a mess.If you don’t see your reservation call in to make sure they link it and follow up within 24 hours to make sure it was done!

Typcially the food at Character dining is not amazing, but the pay off is that you get to meet many characters at once, which is important if you plan on getting autographs or photos. Decide earlier which ones you are willing to stand in line to see, which ones you want to skip, and which ones you would like to get close and personal with in a dining situation.

Figure out where you may want to use your snack credits ahead of time (you can go here for more suggestions). You don’t have to have a schedule, but just have it in the back of your head so you don’t wander around aimlessly and just keep getting popcorn or nuts because you’re not sure where you can use your snack credit.

Figure out your reservations at least a week before your 180 days. It’ll make things go super smooth when you can make your reservations.

You have to call to make Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservations ((407) 939-3463). You cannot make them from your disney account.

Again, you can make reservations 180 days before your stay. Go to the Disney dining website  at 6 a.m. Eastern time, ordo phone reservations at 7 a.m.

For more information on dining, go here.

What is your absolute favorite thing to eat at Disney?

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