Friday, February 22, 2013

Food at Walt Disney World – The Good, The Bad and the Dining Plan

Food at Walt Disney World – The Good, The Bad and the Dining Plan
By: Rebecca M. Farrell (@RMZFarrell)

When I travel for work, the last thing I think about is food. As long as I’m staying in a hotel with a restaurant, I know that I have a spot to grab coffee in the morning, dinner with colleagues/clients in the evening, etc.

But at Disney, food is part of the vacation experience. It is s varied as the countries in Epcot’s World Showcase.  In the next few paragraphs, I’ll impart some wisdom about the Disney Dining Plan (DDP) and meal planning that I've learned over the years.

Disney Restaurant Types and Definitions
There are four basic types of dining that you need to be aware of as they relate to food at Disney. Here’s a VERY brief overview:

Counter/Quick Service
A restaurant where you walk in, order food from a cast member or kiosk and choose your own seat, cafeteria style.
Pecos Bill’s (MK)
Tangierine Café (Epcot)
Flame Tree BBQ (AK)
Table Service
A restaurant where you likely make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) and are waited on by a cast member. This can include character meals and buffets as well.
Plaza Restaurant (MK)
Kona Café (Polynesian)
Coral Reef (Epcot)
Signature Dining
A restaurant where you absolutely must make an ADR 180 days in advance that requires two (2) table service meal credits per person dining.
Cinderella’s Royal Table (MK)
Le Cellier (Epcot)
Flying Fish Café (Boardwalk)
California Grill (Contemporary)
Food carts/Snacks
Food carts or permanent stands in the theme parks that sell drinks, ice cream and assorted snack items. Look for the DDP logo if you’re unsure about what is covered by the plan.
Safari Pretzel (AK)
Italy Gelato Stand (Epcot)

DDP: Getting Your Money’s Worth
DDP is just like Disney – it’s not for everyone. I know folks who bring their own groceries, brown bag lunch for the parks, and make no dining reservations.  But I’m not a brown bagger. I am a DDP chow-downer.

The DDP has several levels, but for the purposes of this article, we'll only discuss the standard plan. If you purchase the standard DDP (more details available here), it works like this – for everyone in your party, you get a certain number of meal credits per NIGHT of your stay. For example, if dear husband (DH) and I have a 9-night, 8-day stay and use the standard DDP, that means one (1) table service, one (1) quick service and one (1) snack per person, per night of your stay. That means I have nine (9) of each for myself and another nine (9) for DH. That’s 18 total for those of you keeping score at home.

Using DDP Credits
As part of the itinerary that I create for all of my trips to Disney (contact me for a template copy), I figure out where DH and I will eat each day. This helps sort out how we will use our DDP credits.

When you’re planning where and when to eat, keep your family’s preferences and meal habits top of mind. (Note: you can find great lists of menus and reviews of every Disney restaurant here). A few tips:
    • Not a morning person? Don’t schedule early character meals in the parks because you’ll need at least an hour of travel time to get where you’re going.
    • Are you cool with coffee and a muffin in the morning? Don’t use a meal credit! Pay out-of-pocket or have some things in your room to grab and go.
    • Picky eaters on your list? Stick with restaurants where everyone will find something they’ll like.  Be sure to check out the link above to see up-to-date Disney menus…I do that any time we’re scouting out a new location to make sure DH will have a few options.
Here’s a snapshot from a recent trip itinerary that includes our meals for the day. As you’ll see, we used our TS credits for dinner and paid out-of-pocket (OOP) for breakfasts.

Day Part
Arrive @MCO, ME to Polynesian Resort
EPCOT/CS lunch - Check out UK pavilion for events
Any CS
1 CS
Break at hotel/Magic Kingdom for 9pm MSEL & Wishes
Pecos Bill
1 CS
Day Part
Resort breakfast/Transfer to EPCOT
Kona Café
Future World (Kim Possible)

Lunch location TBD (stroll casually, enjoy entertainment in WS)
Any CS
1 CS
World Showcase/Illuminations
Via Napoli
1 TS
Day Part
Sleep in/Resort breakfast
Grand Floridian Café
Transfer to EPCOT - Future World and World Showcase attractions
Any CS
1 CS
TSMM (may have to wait in line!)

DHS for PM EMH (Select rides/attractions - hit the highlights, don't stay any later than we need to)
50s Prime Time Café
1 TS

Side bar – the in-room coffee makers at Disney aren't the greatest…so if you want to get your java fix taken care of first thing in the morning, I highly recommend renting a coffee maker from Kelly’s Personal Disney Shopper

Planning Tips Specifically for Dining
  • If you have a little one who is bent on eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table, plan to be on the phone with Disney Dining (1-407-WDW-DINE) the moment that the reservation lines open 180 days from the scheduled start of your vacation. Otherwise, you will NOT get a reservation.
  • Be flexible – if there’s a restaurant you’re really excited to try but there’s no availability, consider switching around your itinerary. Same goes if you decide to change your plans mid-trip; you can call Disney Dining or speak to the concierge at your hotel for available reservations.
  • Tips are not included with the dining plan – please tip according to the level of service that you receive and don’t ever feel obligated to leave 20% just because you’re at a Signature Dining location.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a Cast Member if you don’t understand what’s included in the dining plan – most of them are very well versed and can help you make the appropriate selections.
I hope you've found this information helpful! Now I’m off to grab some lunch, all of this DDP writing has made me hungry!

All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Skillet at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge

Mediterranean sliders (lamb, chicken and falafel) at Tangerine Cafe, Morocco Pavilion, Epcot

Dole Whip - the best invention EVER at Aloha Isle, Adventureland, Magic Kingdom

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Too excited for words


I've been so excited about the Princess Half Marathon, I haven't been able to focus on a post!
If you see me or someone wearing this on a shirt, make sure to chEAR extra loudly!  I'll be back with fresh new ideas in a week!

For updates, make sure to follow on twitter and facebook!

See you real soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Few Solo Days

Welcome back Rebecca Farrell (@RMZFarrell) for more Disney fun!

Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to attend a conference held at the Yacht & Beach Club Convention Center at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. As part of my company’s continuing education program, I got to learn from some of the brightest minds in my industry about the intersection of social media and public relations. Fascinating stuff.

In addition to some amazing learning and networking experiences, I also had a chance to spend time in the parks SOLO – for the first time ever. Here’s how my days went with one caveat – as a frequent Disney traveler, I have a few friends in the area, so I was never 100 percent by myself – but about 75% of my trip was on my own.

Arrival day – Wednesday
Flight landed around 10:30am and I was at my resort (Boardwalk) by 12pm. After picking up my room key (I did online check in and my room was ready!), I headed for the bus stop to hit Downtown Disney to do some souvenir shopping. After waiting about 15 minutes, some other impatient people and I shared a cab (total cost for 4 people with tip - $12) and I spent a few hours wandering the shops, picking up items for friends, family and co-workers who had made special requests.  And of course I took advantage of Disney’s package shipment service back to my home resort.

Food concerns: Nobody wants to be that lame-o eating all alone, right? Pshaw! Shrug it off! I knew that they served the full menu at the bar of Rainforest Café, so I bellied up there and had some lunch. The service was just as friendly and attentive as if I had been at a table with others. The food was terrible, but it served a purpose.

After a little while longer at DTD (let’s face it, I can only shop for so long!), I decided to take the bus over to the Polynesian where I had a dining reservation for dinner and planned to watch the 8pm Wishes fireworks from the beach. Granted, it was only about 3pm at this point and I had several hours to “kill”, but sitting poolside IN FEBRUARY was fantastic. When I tired of that, I sat in the lobby, all the while reading a book on my Kindle app for iPhone.  Lucky me, I happened to be in the lobby when they did the daily torch lighting ceremony – which I’d never had a chance to experience before. Very cool stuff!

I had dinner at Kona Café that night, and it was delightful.  The server took very good care of me and I honestly didn’t care that I was on my own. I read my book, people-watched, and truly enjoyed my food.
After dinner, I went down to Captain Cooks, the Poly’s quick service location, and grabbed a Dole Whip before going out to the beach, pulling up a lounge chair, and waiting for the fireworks. I will say that it was cool on the beach, and I was glad that I had my fleece and a pool towel to keep me warm. Afterwards, I rinsed my feet in the pool – which was SO warm I didn’t want to leave – and headed inside to meet a Cast Member friend (someone I have known since grad school) for a quick hello.

Conference Day 1 – Thursday
Since I was actually at Disney to LEARN, my second day was spent in presentations and educational sessions. We did have a wonderful lunch outside on the boardwalk as well as a fantastic private event at Hollywood Studios in the evening (check my Facebook page for more details!). I got to see Fantasmic, a show I’ve only gone to once before in my 9 trips to the parks, and have dinner at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular after the park had closed.

Conference Day 2 – Friday
The conference was scheduled for only a half day on Friday, which freed me up to hit Magic Kingdom for a few hours. As a conference attendee, I was entitled to purchase an “after 2pm” ticket – which is exactly what it sounds like. I was admitted into MK at EXACTLY 2pm and sped towards Be Our Guest for lunch. I only waited in line for about 20 minutes, but it was not a positive experience. The food was pretty lousy…I’d be willing to give the location another shot, but my expectations were NOT met. The theme of the whole castle is amazing, but they should pay more attention to the food.

Also, the park was PACKED with teenaged cheerleaders in town for the National Cheerleading Championships. As a former cheerleader myself, I certainly won’t begrudge these young girls a good time, but I’m in my late 30s now and they pretty much annoyed the beans out of me.

Being alone did free me up to do the things my husband is rarely game to do, including meeting Princess Tiana, Princess Merida, riding Jungle Cruise and finishing all of the jokes, and meeting up with a former co-worker for dinner. I had a very forgettable meal at Cosmic Rays and then rode the PeopleMover during Wishes before grabbing a Dole Whip and heading to Big Thunder for one last ride. On my way out of the park, I swung by to meet Tinkerbell and then went to the bus stop. I spent about seven and a half hours in the park, which was scheduled to close at 10pm.

Full on Fun Day – Saturday

When I had originally made my travel plans, I knew that I wanted to spend an entire day at Epcot because it was within walking distance from my resort. So that’s exactly what I did! I arrived at the International Gateway entrance around 8:40am and guests were admitted to the park at 8:50am. I waited at the bridge into World Showcase until 9:00am on the dot and was admitted to the France pavilion where I picked up a delicious chocolate croissant and coffee at the newly refurbished Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie. At about $6 for two items, I thought it was overpriced and the coffee was bitter. No matter. Breakfast in hand; I made my way to Future World and straight for Test Track! There was no wait via the single rider line, and while I did skip the whole ‘create your own vehicle’ experience, the ride itself was awesome! Gone is the corny opening video, replaced with a very TRON-like atmosphere throughout. I don’t want to give up much more information that that, you need to experience it for yourself! I hit a few more rides in Future World after that: Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, visited the Living Seas to see the manatees. After that, it was time to head back to World Showcase, where I was on hand to be one of the first guests to enter the Mexico Pavilion at 11am to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour. Headed to Norway right after that and WALKED ON to Maelstrom – that never happens!

I spent the rest of my day at EPCOT taking in the live entertainment that I enjoy so much, namely Voices of Liberty at the American Adventure; Off Kilter in Canada and British Revolution in the UK. If you’ve never seen any of these acts, you are really and truly missing out…be sure to put them in your plans for your next trip!

I also met Tigger, Pooh, Snow White, Aladdin and Jasmine! Grabbed lunch with friends at Tangerine Café (AMAZING FOOD) and took a short break in my room in the late afternoon to check on my Magical Express reservations.

I grabbed a very quick, and late, dinner at Katsura Grill – the quick service location in the Japan pavilion – just some sushi and edamame. I also grabbed a chocolate éclair ($$$) at the bakery in France but threw it away because it was too rich.

All in all, it was a good trip for me – not the best food experiences for someone who has come to expect a lot from Disney restaurants over the years – but that was completely eclipsed by the amount of FUN I had racing around MK and Epcot on my own. I was never lonely or scared – sure I missed my hubby, but this was a good experience and one that I’d definitely tackle again if I had the chance.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Final Days!

Oh My Goodness.

I am only days away from getting on that airplane to fly to Orlando!

I have so much to do.

So much that if I don't write it down, it may not happen!  So, here goes:

  • Get pins together
  • Make stroller sign
  • Finish Adam's tutu - yeah, you read that write.  Love you, Adam!
  • Make a grocery list for my parents (they're awesome enough to bring us food!)
  • Order diapers/wipes on amazon to deliver to my parents as well (or could be sent to resort)
  • Pack the boys clothes - my plan is to pack outfits in ziplocks so they're ready to go daily!
  • Buy extra shoes for Noah - his old shoes are too small - hopefully Target has a pair with a little bit of a wedge - he needs about 1" to get on the 40" rides.  I'm hopeful!
  • Pack our clothes (including our running stuff)
  • Get carry on stuff together!
I think that's it!  It's a lot, but should be good to go!

In serious need of Magic!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tiggerific Tuesday Trivia

Did you know:
The Dapper Dans, the barbershop quartet that frequents Main Street, U.S.A. has been present in the Disney Parks since 1959.

They're one of my favorite Disney traditions and I always love to see a performance!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Another blogger opp, another giveaway!

Hosted By:

Event Dates:
March 1st-15th AND March 16th-31st

Two chances to win! Boba Baby Carrier (RV $125+)

Free Twitter with announcement post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Great Blogger Opportunity!

My Four Littles and Four Littles Media 
are excited to bring you a Kindle Fire Giveaway!
Event Dates: March 1-31, 2013
One FREE link with announcement.
You can write your own announcement or use the text HERE.
Co-host (host page and up to four links): $15
Host Pages: $10
Additional Links: $2
Daily Votes: $4
Referral Prize: Free Co-host.
Click here to sign up.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tiggerific Tuesday Trivia

I'm pretty sure we're late to the game, but my family is now completely hooked on Phineas and Ferb.

A week or so ago, my 3 year old told us that, instead of The Adventures of Chuck or Curious George, he wanted to watch Phineas and Ferb.   At first, I didn't get it... but now, I'm in.

Did you know:
O.W.C.A., the agency that Agent P works for, stands for "Organization Without Cool Acronym."  I laughed for about 5 minutes when I learned that!

On that note, I'm looking forward to meeting Phineas and Ferb at Disney's Hollywood Studios, playing Agent P's World Showcase Adventure in EPCOT and also trying the Doofenslurper while at EPCOT!

Two Weeks Away

The last two weeks are upon us - thanks to President's Day, our work days are less (though some longer, thanks to me working 2 nights this week)..

But, aside from that, most of the dirty work has been taken care of:

I almost missed the deadline to pre-order photopass +
- unlike regular photopass, you must pre-order 2 weeks due to materials being mailed to you! The difference - character meals and ride pictures are included... since Noah will finally be tall enough for some rides, I went with this expensive upgrade!  I fudged at only 13 days out, but my-inlaws are joining us and leaving after us, so they can always stop by our mailbox if need be!

Left on my list?
  • Plane toys - we have books, movies, crayons, and coloring pages (printed from but we need some new toys for the little guy!
  • a package to my parents (though this could be sent to the resort - has anyone sent directly to a resort before?) of diapers, wipes, snacks, etc...
  • Pack!
  • Check-in before we go - save time at the airport AND Disney resort by checking in early online!

Can't wait!

Friday, February 8, 2013

For Valentines Day, I would like...

I'm going to admit straight off the bat, I've never really considered buying a Disney Dooney and Bourke.  At first, they didn't really do it for me and now, I just can't spend the money (I'm cheap, what can I say?).  But, Le Sport Sac has some fantastic options at a much more reasonable price...

and now with some other Disney bloggers, we're giving one away to you!

The contest will run from February 10th-16th, so enter and share with your friends!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Undiscovered Disney

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Blue. Today, we are sharing some of the best treasures that are truly Undiscovered Disney.

When I was standing out in the freezing cold morning before the Presidential Inauguration Parade in Washington, D.C., I knew I had to think of a good topic for this month's loop. What came to mind were those not-too-old, but dated enough, Disney documentaries (on Netflix!) called "Undiscovered Disney." Is anyone else singing the theme song?

The problem with those movies, is that all the "undiscovered" details are the Cinderella Castle Suite or Disney Quest - not really secrets to those of us reading/writing Disney blogs.  Plus, there is a scene in one of them that shows Epcot with the wand, so they're in need of a serious update.

Movies aside, Disney is known for "plussing up" everything - adding extra details, attractions, and amenities where they may not be needed, but they add to the magical experience.

One place in particular strikes me as "Undiscovered" more than everything else - Fort Wilderness. Most people know about Fort Wilderness for the Hoop-Dee-Do Revue, but I rarely hear anything else. And, probably because camping has never been on my radar, I've never really thought too much about that area. But now, there is so much about Fort Wilderness that I want to check out - mostly, the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
Picture from Wikipedia

Tri-Circle-D stands for the 3 circles of the mickey head and D for, well, what else but Disney? It's home to all of the horses on Disney property - the ones that pull the cars down Main Street, that are in the parade, etc... They even have carriage rides, pony rides, and more!

There are Disney-inexpensive wagon rides around the ranch ($8 for adults, $5 for kids)
Picture from

Other than horses, Fort Wilderness also has an archery experience for kids 6 and up. That's something I never knew until I started researching this post!

Another experience to look for at Fort Wilderness is Chip and Dale's Campfire Sing-a-long - though Disney hosts camp fires and movie nights at many resorts, the one at Fort Wilderness is the only one (that I know of) with characters!

Have you ever experienced Fort Wilderness? I'm hoping to experience it in just a couple of weeks!

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Days in the Park.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard: **1st Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog 2nd Stop ~ Days in the Park 3rd Stop ~ Pursuing the Magic 4th Stop ~ The CanaDisney Blog

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Transfer Week TAKE 2!!

Who wants a FREE Mickey Treat Cooler?!  It's Disney Transfer Week!  For one week only, you can transfer your reservation to Kelly with Disney Guru Travel and take advantage of incredible freebies, just for Disney Babies Blog Readers readers.  If you booked your Disney World package with Disney (by phone or online), you can let Kelly help you with your vacation planning.  

When you transfer your reservation, your reservation stays exactly the same.  The only change is Kelly's agency will be added to your reservation.  Then Kelly can then help you plan the rest of your trip with their itinerary planning, dining suggestions and reservations,  You also get lots of freebies including:
MousePerks - Hundreds of crafts, activities sheets, tips, and more created just for our guests.  Receive magic in your email box!

Disney Theme Park Guide Maps - Learn your way around the parks, before you get there with Disney Theme Park Guide Maps
Autograph Pictures of Mickey Mouse - Your kids will love the autograph pictures of Mickey Mouse!

When you transfer you will receive the Mickey Treat Cooler with Mickey Mouse plush, Mickey clock, snacks, and Mickey Cooler (valued at $75).  It is a simple procedure to let Kelly  take over your reservation.  You will complete this form.  Kelly will contact you to see if you have any additional questions and then email you a transfer form.  You will sign the bottom of the transfer form and fax to Disney.  It then takes Disney about a week to add them to your reservation.  Everything else stays the same on your reservation.  Then let the fun begin!

Please note that your reservation must comply with the following rules and regulations: 
*Disney Magic Your Way Packages only.  No tickets or room only.
*Packages must be $2500 (before tax and airfare) to transfer and get this free in room gift
*Package must be transferred within 30 days of booking with Disney and only deposit paid on reservation.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Traveling with Kids - Packing List

Traveling with 2 kids, our packing list just for them is going to be quite in depth.  This particular list won't include our carry on needs.  That's for another day!

For our 3 year old:
For this monkey!
  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Swim clothes
  • Night time diapers
  • Lots of underwear
  • T-shirts (5 or more)
  • Shorts (4)
  • Pants (4)
  • Sweatshirts (3 or more)
  • Sleepers (4)
  • Socks (5)
  • Warm hat
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • medicine
  • lotion
For the baby:

  • Mouse ears (gifted to him early!)
  • Diapers - day and nighttime
  • Bottle/Formula - while I nurse, I've had to begin supplementing, so for race mornings, he'll have bottles.  Not my first choice, but I've come to accept it as reality!
  • Sippy cup
  • Onesies - 7 - variety of short and long sleeve
  • Pants/Shorts - 4-6
  • Socks - 8 (we'll probably lose some!)
  • Blankets
  • Sweatshirts - 3
  • Sleepers
  • Warm hat
  • medicine!
  • Bibs
  • Placemats
For both:
  • Johnson and Johnson soap
  • Books
  • Sunscreen
  • Books
  • Tylenol (just in case)
  • Baby wipes

I will probably be adding/adjusting this list as the weeks go by, but this is my basic must-haves!  

**I plan to purchase snacks down there, or ordering from Amazon to have shipped to our resort!**