Disney Dining…the “PLAN”

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The Disney Dining Meal Plan is something I whole-heartily LOVE, especially for those with Food Allergies.  We get it EVERY trip…and yes I have to pay the same price as everyone else…no kickbacks for this gal 😦   But for some reason the “meal plan” concept can confuse many and I mean many people.  In fact it’s one of the most popular questions from my clients…a daily question for sure.  After years of booking Disney vacations and booking dining for other people…I find I have “experience” on the subject, lol.

So…in an attempt to Dis-Confuse you…here you go.  And in an effort to keep this simple, but yet detailed…I am only talking about the Basic plan, the middle plan, the Disney “Plus” plan, the Disney Dining Plan…as it seems to have many names these days.

The Disney Dining “Plus” Meal Plan includes…

  • 1 Table Service Meal Credit
  • 1 Quick Service Meal Credit
  • 1 Snack Credit
  • And 1 Refillable Mug (per person Ages 3+) – A great souvenir for home.
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Pick up at your resort, 4 different colors

Easy right…ummm for me it is…for others…they need more info…so keep reading

How many do I get?  And who gets it?

The number of credits you get are based on the number of nights you’re staying…so if you’re staying 7 nights and 8 days…that’s 7 credits per person (aged 3+).  So no matter how many days you’re spending at the parks…it’s based on nights staying at the resort.  As far as who gets it?  It’s for everyone in your party, everyone on your reservation…everyone that is aged 3 and up.  Those under 3 are not on the plan, do NOT get meal credits and do NOT get a mug…they can however eat off your plate (especially at a buffet meal) and in many cases a chef will make your portion a little larger knowing your also feeding a little one.

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You will get this when you check-in…a total summary breakdown.

Does everyone have to be on the plan? – YES, everyone on your RESORT reservation must have the same plan, the same everything actually.

Can I use the “Credit” at my Resort? – YES, you can use those credits anywhere on Disney property, were it is accepted.  Yes, some places do NOT accept the plan…but 99% of them do 🙂

So…how come some require 2 credits?  All the Dinner shows, Fine Dining experiences and Specially Restaurants (like Cinderella’s Royal Table) take 2 credits (as it’s more than just eating)…but the majority requires 1 credit, including most of the character meals.

What does a Table Service Meal, a Quick Service and a Snack mean?  Ah…the question of all questions.

  • A Table Service Meal…is basically all restaurants that have a waitress, that require a reservation, that are sit down. This includes the Character meals, any fun Themed dining and other yummy places.  They are either buffets or menu ordering.  Consider this your BIG meal, the meal that will fill you up the most…thus I plan for when I might be the hungriest.

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  • A Quick Service Meal…is basically all the other restaurants. They don’t take reservations, you don’t get a waitress and you seat yourself.  You walk up to the counter, order, take a seat and wait for either your beeper to go off or for your food to be brought out.  I often tell people to think of this as your “fast food” meal…but that seems to make people think you’re getting burgers and hotdogs…NO…there are plenty of awesome, yummy, healthy options at these places…and they go far beyond your typical fast food joint, by FAR.  Gourmet burritos, sandwiches, salads, yes burgers too, deluxe pizza, and so on.

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  • A Snack…a snack on the dining plan will be clearly labeled with a little icon symbol. But in general if the item is less than $5…it’s probably a snack credit.  But for the purpose of being detailed; dole whips, Mickey pretzels, popcorn, soda, bottle of water, fruit, bagel, cupcake, rice krispy treat, coffee, hummus/chips, ice cream, Mickey’s premium bar, etc are ALL snacks 🙂

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And this brings me to the BIG question:  How /when do I use these credits?  Now…this is something I do for my clients (for FREE)…I will walk you through the calendar, the parks and restaurants and find your family the best ones…for you.  Then we discuss the best time to eat these meals, based on your families’ specific needs…then I BOOK them for you…again for FREE.  So…this part of the planning is under control and I will walk you through it, step by step.  But for those that wonder…you can mix/match these credits…you are NOT required to use 1 per day or on a certain day.  They are your credits…so as long as you use them before midnight on the day you check-out…use to your needs and enjoyment.  And every time you use one (of any kind), your receipt will tell you how many you have left…so keep track.

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So…in major conclusion…I hope I helped clarify the meal plan.  In simple terms…you are purchasing credits; you’re paying for the meal before you dine…and at a discount.  Then when you’re at Disney…you click your Magicband (pay a tip if at a table service) and walk away.  No need to pinch pennies or skip the most expensive item on the menu…enjoy what you want since it’s already paid for.   And to get the most bang from your “credit”…you want to aim for the most expensive places and meal times.  But for us…we just aim for our favorites…the ones that make our trip the most magical, aka the Character Meals.  Those make and save our trip…they are entertaining and prevent me from standing in line after line to meet a Character…dining with them “kills two birds with one stone” (as the saying goes).

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Remember I am a FREE Disney Travel Agent…booking all Disney Vacations daily…my services are ALWAYS free when you book a trip with me.  I specialize in food allergies and special diets at Disney…and with all our Food “issues”…I am the perfect gal to help you with your food choices.

Contact me anytime – Nina 734-890-2350 or Nina@goTMCtravel.com

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Eating with Pooh…and Piglet too!

One thing my family does EVERY Walt Disney World vacation is Crystal Palace…home of Winnie the Pooh and friends.  Dining with Pooh is my daughter’s (5 years old) FAVORITE attraction, lol.  Every time we go to WDW her only concern is if we got reservations to eat with Pooh.  So what’s the hype you ask?

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Well besides the above mentioned eating with pooh…you get to eat with Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet too.  And if you’re lucky…and everyone is…you’ll get to be part of a Pooh parade and follow the characters around the room.  Kids march around the room with the characters while music is playing – can someone say photo op?  And the thought of marching around with Pooh is enough to excite kids with ear to ear grins.  No tears in this place.  And with characters aside…Crystal Palace has a few other perks;

  • Unlimited Friendly Buffet – one of my husband’s favorites, and he’s picky
  • Location – It’s located inside Magic Kingdom, no need to leave the park.
  • Availability – When many character experiences book up at the 180 day mark…Crystal Palace almost always has an opening…which is perfect for last minute vacationers
  • Hours – It’s open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and if you’re an early bird…you can get a reservation before the park even opens and see Magic Kingdom privately and get a beautiful picture in front of the castle without all the other vacationers in your perfect shot.

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Of course for my family…there is one other perk…Chef Mike.  That’s right…the Disney Chefs are celebrities to us…they keep my family safe, fed and happy.  They go out of their way to make sure my kids and I have what we need to continue with our magical vacation.  Due to our various food allergies…we pretty much always get special service.  And usually that means specially prepared food just for us.  Some people with allergies can eat the food that the restaurant regularly prepares; they just get a non-contaminated plate of goods from the back.  But my family needs, well…specially made goods.

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Chef Mike

After getting a call from the chef 1-2 weeks before our trip…Chef Mike and I were able to come up with a game plan to make sure my kids could get similar foods as the other guests.  This meant special Gluten Free, Diary and Egg free pancakes.  Frozen waffles were offered, but I wanted something we don’t usually eat at home.  We were able to have the home potatoes from the back, fresh strawberries (which was special) and real Maple Syrup.  Other foods were available…but these were the favs.

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And since the Chef had called for the kids, I couldn’t help but to ask about me – I am vegan with a dairy allergy.  So…as most vegans I was curious about some protein.  Crystal Palace doesn’t usually carry vegan meats, but Chef Mike being awesome…ordered some fake chicken for me, cooked it up special and I devoured.  I was even able to cut some up for later.  Not bad; food for now, some for later 🙂

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For dessert…we were given several packages of Enjoy Life cookies.  As I have mentioned in previous posts…that is the standard dessert for most peeps with food allergies so it gets tiring after a while…but the kids didn’t care and it gave me something to treat them with later as well.

And for those that wondered…my husband ate from the buffet…took about 3-4 trips.  We practically had to roll him out the door.  He had plates and plates of food, and then one whole plate filled with baked goodies like muffins, brownies, cookies and such.   He left a happy dad and was able to use his fuel to continue on with our day and wasn’t hungry again until dinner.

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Dining tip:  We usually like to eat our table service meal at about 10:45-11:00am – as you still get some breakfast goodies like waffles and then also eat the typical lunch proteins to help you fuel for the long day ahead.  But this last trip…it was a little too much breakfast and I think the kids did get tired of Mickey waffle after Mickey waffle 😦  So next time…I think we will do half brunch time and half dinner times – Just “Food for Thought”

As usual – I am a FREE Disney Travel Agent that specializes in Food Allergies and Special Diets at Disney.  I do book WDW, Disneyland and Disney Cruises.  Disney pays me, so you don’t have to.  Contact me anytime and I can get you organized and prepared for the most Magical Vacation.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com

Garden Grill – a Rotating Experience…

First I want to say that this dining experience was HANDS-DOWN my favorite this past trip…based solely on the fact that I was stuffed FULL…even the thought of unbuttoning my pants came to mind.

My family might not entirely agree…but that’s opinions for you…but me – I still dream of that meal.

I must point out that due to my family’s eating restrictions and food allergies…we aren’t the easiest group to please, feed and sometimes see completely full.  We are a happy, thankful bunch…but we do require some thought and preparation.  Between my kids and I…there are at least 8 food allergies and several avoidances…and to make matters more fun…I am vegan.  The husband is an eat everything kind of guy and pretty much left every meal full and happy…but even he has his favorites (stay-tuned).

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So…the Garden Grill is a table service restaurant at Epcot…located in the Land Pavilion…and it rotates.  Yep…it’s a rotating diner…and for those with motion sickness (join the club)…it’s very, very slow…but we managed to rotate completely around at least 1 time during our meal.  And to make it even cooler…it’s a character experience…bring on Harvest Chip & Dale and pals.  We ate with Chip & Dale (of course), Pluto and Mickey.  It is a dinner only location and is family style…meaning the wait staff brings the table an assortment of eats and you just dig in.  My husband who ate the traditional meal everyone enjoys found it to be OK…not his particular favorite, but he ate it all.  What was wrong with his meal you ask…nothing…he just likes to order from a menu.

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So before I get to my eats…I want to point out that as you eat, dine and chat…the Characters walk around and stop at every table for a few minutes…just enough time to get an autograph and snap a few pictures.  Since we had special food accommodations…we sat a little longer than others and saw all the characters twice – major bonus.

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Since we have 3 different people, all with different allergies…I often contact the restaurant before dining…I send an email and anxiously await a phone call.  I was lucky as Chef Javier called me, while I was at home about 10 days before my trip started, and we discussed meals.  We talked about the traditional menu that is offered and tried to find solutions for my family.  Most of the usual options available were perfect for us (sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, veggies, gluten-free rolls and so on…but I couldn’t help but to ask for a few changes…first due to the abundance of chicken at Disney I asked about a hamburger patty for my daughter and also a special dessert.  As the restaurant doesn’t make burgers the chef was kind enough to order beef and make my kid a few special patties just for her.  And for me…I wasn’t fond of the traditional veggie dish on the menu…”stuff peppers” and sides.  I requested vegan meat (not typical for that location)…and he delivered.

So…fast forward to that night…we arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled dining reservation…we waited for the restaurant to open and we were seated promptly.  I was prepared to have to wait several minutes for the Chef…nope not Chef Javier…he had been cooking for my family already…waiting for us actually.  He already had ALL our food in the oven (no grilling or frying due to cross-contamination) and was waiting for us to finish our salads.  He warned me that his goal…”was to have us ROLL out of here”, lol.  I did for sure.  To my surprise he was able to deliver ALL my requests and they were delicious.  The vegan dish he “made-up” with the vegan beef was amazing and with all the sides…I was stuffed.  My son (dairy, eggs, and peanuts) was able to share my dish and was shoving it in.  My daughter (dairy, GF, peanuts, legumes, corn, and red dye) was able to cut her giant burger patties in half and eat with her GF buns…to make a quick burger.

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Dessert wasn’t as grand…but still had enough sweetness to finish the meal.  He was able to simplify the traditional dessert by using “Enjoy Life” cookies and fresh fruit filling, no whip and created a crumb-like fruit dish.

Major shout-out for Chef Javier that night and many thanks.  I enjoyed my meal SO much…I asked to speak to a manager and shared my happiness…apparently the Chef was gonna get some company shout-outs after dinner thanks to his awesomeness.

I also want to point out that getting a call from the chef before your trip is not typical…they are busy, busy bees and usually can accommodate your special food requests “the night of”…but due to our various allergies…I usually get a call and thus can request special items.  This is also something I can help you with as your Travel Agent…all services I provide for free when booking your Disney trip with me.  When it comes to food allergies, eating “out” is often a stressful event…but being prepared helps and when your family leaves the table safe and full…well that’s a huge success in my book.  Disney does an excellent job at accommodating food allergies and does it on a daily basis…so let me help you relieve the stress and help you enjoy food time for a change…you deserve it.