Dishin’ on Disney Dining: Part 1 – Overview

I had no idea just how much information is out there about eating in Disney World. It’s a little scary actually.

When the whirlwind mania of planning our trip began, I hadn’t thought much about it – Lil’ G required baby food, Miss A and the husband are two of the world’s pickiest eaters, and I’m still trying to lose a few pounds, so I wasn’t looking to overindulge with big meals every day…basically, I figured we’d play it by ear and snack here and there. So when the travel agent from Small World Vacations first suggested the Disney Dining Plan, my initial reaction was NO WAY. It would be a big ol’ waste of money.

Our decision to go to Disney was very spontaneous, so we booked the trip barely 6 weeks prior to going. In Disney Vacation Planning Terms, that’s nothing. I  figured there would not be a snowball’s chance in Florida that I’d be able to get reservations for any of the various character meals offered – and told my agent so. By the next morning, she showed me what’s what with  a neatly organized spreadsheet with confirmed reservations for a different character meal each day of our vacation. Seeing that Miss A would get to have one- on-one time with the likes of Cinderella, Lilo and Stitch, Mickey, Donald, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Mary  Poppins, the Mad Hatter, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Jojo and Goliath, and many others…and add to that the fact that I wouldn’t have to think about where to eat,  or how much it’s costing while we were actually on vacation…well – it all started to sound much more appealing. So I gulped back my shock at the price tag and agreed to add the Dining Plan to our vacation.

crystal palace lunch 1

I’m not sure exactly how much money we saved by going with the Dining Plan vs. winging it – I didn’t do a meal by meal price breakdown with receipts compared to the daily cost of the plan (that would kind of take away from the whole “not having to think about what it’s costing while I’m on vacation” aspect) but I am quite sure we saved a decent amount. Of course, if we were not on the plan, we probably would not have gone to as many character meals as we did (and hence saved some money in that respect). Without crunching any numbers, I know for sure that we saved at least $100 by having the dining plan for Miss A. Add that to the fact that she had some truly magical moments at these meals (which in turn saved us A LOT of time since we didn’t have to wait in lines to see those characters), and some of my favorite trip memories happened during them and well – it’s pretty hard to put a price on that.

tusker house breakfast

From time to time, Disney will offer a special vacation package offering free dining – of course, this makes for an awesome opportunity to try the program “risk free,” but I fear this will lead the restaurants to be packed beyond anything I experienced during our stay…and certainly inhibit some of the enjoyment. This is simply speculation on my part though, and if we ever venture down to Disney during such a promotion, I’ll let you know if it’s an accurate prediction.

1900 park fare breakfast

Overall I am glad I added the Dining Package, and am very thankful to our wonderful travel agent for all her help in scheduling the various meals. This was our first time, however, and I certainly learned alot…and have quite a few tips, complaints, and insight on Dining in Disney.  To make it all a little easier to digest (ha!ha!) I will serve up all this commentary in little tidbits. As with anything on a buffet menu – take what you like and leave the rest.

So keep your eye out in the Thursdays to come,  some items on the menu include: a review of all the restaurants we hit (including food, service, ambiance  and character experience), tips on how to make the dining plan really work for you, suggestions on things not to miss (and those that might be better to skip), ideas on how to schedule the meals into your vacation, and some always helpful “I wish I knew that BEFORE” comments that might be useful, and that I plan to implement whenever we go on our next trip.

Bon Appetit! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

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