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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Let’s Talk MAGICBANDS…

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What is this MagicBand?  Why do I Need it?  What makes it so Magical?…Oh the many questions regarding this new AWESOME device.  For anyone who has either never been to Walt Disney World or hasn’t been recently…these are thoughts you will have.  So in an attempt to answer them all or at least the main ones…here you go.

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MagicBands 101:  

MagicBands are awesome, silicone (NO Latex) grade bracelets that Disney guests wear on their wrists.  And YES…they are Magical.  They are your key to everything.  Within the bracelet lies magical electronic awesomeness that links your band to your Disney Vacation Package.  They open your resort room, they hold your ticket info to get you into the parks, they contain all your fastpasses, your dining plan credits, your memory maker link and…you can use them to make purchases throughout the property.  And…they are FREE to ALL Disney Resort guests – just one of the many perks to staying on property.

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The GOOD:

  • They are Waterproof: you can wear them in the shower, pool or in the rain
  • They are adjustable for sizing: for kids, just remove the outer gray lining
  • They can be customized: pick your own color and printed name
  • They can be decorated: special covers, sliders, paint, glitter, jewels, temporary tattoos, etc
  • They can be reused: save for future trips or start a collection to match your daily park outfits
  • Non-Property guest can purchase separately…basic colors are $12.99
  • If lost…all your information is 100% safe…no actual information is stored on the magicband
  • Disney ships them directly to your home – about 3-4 weeks out from your vacation.

The BAD:

  • Mine fell off a few times, caught on my backpack. But I felt it happen and thus never lost.
  • Many people find them annoying to wear or not comfortable. I was fine wearing mine during the day…but not while sleeping or washing my hair.
  • Do NOT take off and forget and leave in the room…you will be sorry. Wear 24/7 if at all possible.
  • The super cute ones are NOT free – special new designs come out often…roughly $25+

The UGLY:

  • Doesn’t work in the REAL world…
  • Nothing really terrible about these…unless you have a desire to start a collection and thus begins another Disney addiction, lol

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So…in my opinion the Magicband is truly magical and I really enjoyed using on my vacation.  And for those that are staying off property…YES I do recommend spending the extra money to purchase…especially when staying longer then 1-2 days.  My 2 year old still wears his, he won’t take it off.  It’s starting to look very dingy in color but has never fallen off – going strong after 5+ months. Best Souvenir EVER…well other than Mickey Ears 🙂

Decorating Tip…

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I rather enjoyed decorating our bands myself with fingernail polish and received many complements at the parks.  I chose not to clear coat as I wanted to see if it was needed.  Our bands remained bright and painted during our entire trip…but after wearing a few weeks post trip…paint started peeling off.  I did find that making a painting mistake was easy to remove with polish remover…but then it spread a foggy residue color over the area…so paint carefully.  I loved adding little Mickey heads throughout my designs but try to keep the band on a round surface to prevent rolling up while drying.  I wrapped mine on a water bottle while painting/drying.

As always…I am here to book all Disney vacations; World, Land, Cruise and more.  My services are FREE; custom planning and organization.  I do ALL the work and you do ALL the playing.  Contact me today – Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

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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

I ❤ Disney’s Garden Kiosk…and Babycakes

As a mother of 2 kids with food allergies and as a Vegan…Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a blessing in disguise…in fact I think most people just blaze right past this little gem.  What is this “Garden Kiosk”?  Good Question, lol.

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Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a cart stand located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  This little foodie stand specializes in safe treats for those with dietary restrictions – I’m talking to you Celiacs, Vegans, Diabetics and Food Allergy peeps.  This little stand of heaven serves various nutritional goodies for those that often have a hard time “snacking” while at the parks.  For some (peeps like me) this stand is as awesome as any attraction or ride…it’s where one can get Babycakes, Tofutti, allergy friendly popcorn, hummus/veggies, gluten free beer and of course water.  Ok…I know some of you are thinking…Oh what’s so special about that.  Well when you have a dairy allergy, an egg allergy and/or are Gluten sensitive…that’s a big deal.

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This past trip…snacking at the kiosk was a must as I began planning our trip dreaming of Babycakes.  So on our Animal Kingdom day…I  practically raced over to Asia (Discovery Island)…tripping over strollers, knocking people over…ok no I was walking normally and taking pictures…but in my mind I was racing to some sort of finish line.  I had heard rumors that the Babycakes products sometimes run out early so I was NOT missing out on my safe treats.  Problem was…we just finished eating at Tusker House (stay tuned) and well…no-one was hungry.  Note to self…next time either walk slower or eat earlier so tummy has room for some goodies.  Ok back to Babycakes…We got to the kiosks and I was in treat overload…since all of the treats were also 1 “snack” credit (dining plan) I decided it was worth it to use like 6 credit and get more treats than we needed and save for the next day.

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We got 1 tub of Vanilla (chocolate also available) Tofutti (soy based ice cream) which was amazing as the WHOLE tub was only 1 “snack” credit and we all attempted to share…we got through 1/3 of the tub before we were to full…remember we just ate.  We got 2 donuts and a 4 pack of mini cupcakes to take with us…along with some other yummy treats (safe caramel popcorn)…but it was the Babycakes that was the goal.  So even though we didn’t enjoy until later…I can honestly tell you that those donuts were the BEST Vegan/Gluten Free donuts I have ever had.

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And for those that don’t know…Babycakes is a Vegan/Gluten Free Bakery that use to have a store front at Downtown Disney…the store is currently gone (due to construction) but its popularity is still going strong and one can still find some goodies at certain resorts, the Garden Kiosk and by ordering from the bakery.  I did hear a rumor that a store is returning (stay tuned)…but until then…the race is on and “finding Babycakes” is a popular mission.  It is important to mention that although the goodies seem “nut-free” they do use a GF flour that has potential CC issue with nuts…so avoid depending on the severity of your Peanut/Tree Nut allergy.

So after being beyond full, we bagged up our goodies and continued on with our day…but to be honest I couldn’t really concentrate since I knew I had Babycakes in my bag…just calling my name.  My only regret was not getting more donuts.  Between chocolate glazed and cinnamon sugar…I got 1 of each…but I should have gotten 2-3 of each and just saved as they came in individual containers.  As for those with food issues…baked treats/desserts at the parks are often the hardest thing to get…too many CC issues.  Often we are left with Enjoy Life cookies and one can only eat so many before they aren’t really appetizing anymore…but if I had more Babycakes in my bag to enjoy – that’s more magical goodness for me (us).

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The Garden Kiosk is also the place to inquire about safe treats/food at Animal Kingdom…the cast members behind the cart are full of knowledge and can guide you to the best places to dine with your specific allergy or sensitivity.  It’s also worth noting that after you have enjoyed the Garden Kiosk and all its spender…please go to guest relations at the front of the park and let them know that you loved the Garden Kiosk and that you think adding one to EVERY park is something you would enjoy and benefit from.  A safe place to snack and discuss food related issues is something all the parks need…so pass on the love and we might get rewarded with more awesome goodness.

Also remember that I specialize in Food Allergies and Dietary restrictions at Disney…so for those that can’t wait to find out the safe places to dine, stay or snack…I am your gal.  I book Magical Vacations daily and my services are FREE…All you need to do is contact me and we can go from there.  I can quote you various resort options, discuss your food dilemmas and step by step…you will have one awesome vacation planned…safe and sound.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

**UPDATE (Feb 2015) – Babycakes is NOW Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC – same company, different name.  The Allergy Kiosk still carries some of her baked goodies…but NOT the donuts.  The current donuts at the Kiosk are GF and Dairy-free, but contain egg.  For Erin’s (Babycakes) Donuts and other fabulous goodies you need to head over to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) and go to her new Store front (Coming Really Soon).

Quick Service…Say What?

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What is a Quick Service (QS)?  Where are Quick Services?  What Quick Services are on the meal plan?  How many Quick Services do I get on the meal plan?  What are your favorite quick services, what’s most popular?  And the questions go on and on.  I get questions about QS almost daily…and yet…even after my explanation, things still seem fuzzy, lol.  So here you go…the ins/out of quick service meals.

Quick Service restaurants are basically fast food restaurants…you don’t need a reservation, you don’t have a waitress and you don’t leave a tip.  At Disney…quick services places are, IMO, a major step up from fast food with quality food…but that’s the best way to describe them.  You order your food from a menu on the wall above the cashier, you wait for your food, you take it to a table, you eat and then you walk away (cleaning up is preferable).  Simple and Easy.

Most quick services places at Disney are set-up more like Cafeterias…multiple ordering windows, some with windows that only offer a certain types of food; salads here, burgers here, sandwiches here, dessert here…that kind of thing.  The larger ones can be a bit overwhelming…but any cast member is willing to help explain things to you.  If you are a little nervous…try going at a non-popular dining time; 11am instead of noon, 4:30 instead of 5-6:00pm.

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My kids loved this..how to get your plastic-ware – Sanitary

Where are Quick Services located; umm…they are everywhere.  All Disney resorts have them, all Disney parks including the waterparks have them and even Downtown Disney has them.  They are located in almost every land within a park and pretty much all of them are on the Disney Dining plan…which means you can dine at them all using your meal credits.  So can I dine at one at a different resort from where I am staying? – YES.  Can I eat at the parks even though I am on the plan? – YES.  Can I eat at more than 1 per day? – YES.  You can dine at a quick service as often as you want…just be careful because if you are on the plan…you are only allotted so many…so if you power through all of them…you will need to pay out of pocket for the rest.

Meal credit on the Disney dining plan depend on 1: what plan you’re on and 2: how many nights you are staying.  So if you are staying 8 days, 7 nights…you get 7 on the regular “plus” dining plan…but don’t forget  to count your table service meals too (a different post).  If you are on the Quick service plan…you’d get 14 total QS meals.

My Favs…Oh this is tough.  I like different QS for different reasons; some for the atmosphere, some for the selection and some for just one particular dish, lol.  But here is a quick, quick service list:

  • Tortuga Tavern (MK, near Pirates…) – LOVE the burrito and the unlimited toppings bar (open 11-3pm) so plan ahead.
  • Pinocchio Village Haus – (MK) – eat and watch fellow guests on “Small World” with flatbread pizza/pasta.
  • Sunshine Seasons – (Epcot) – So many options, so little time. Lots of treats for Food Allergy peeps too.
  • Flame Tree BBQ – (AK) – a favorite amongst my clients – Apparently killer BBQ
  • Pizza Planet Arcade (HS) – Need I say more, lol. Yummy fun Pizza – Kids paradise.
  • Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney) – Sandwich, after giant mouthwatering sandwich

As far as most popular…one of the perks of booking with me…is right before your travel date I send you a tip card with all the yummy QS listed…that way when you’re in Tomorrowland and hunger strikes…you can easily look up the best QS in the area.  And don’t worry Food Allergy and Special Diet peeps…I have a special card for you too.

Disney is my home away from home and I LOVE to eat and try new dining experiences…I also have 2 kids with food allergies so I am more than familiar with my way around Disney dining and special accommodations for my family.  Contact me today and let me show you how magical your vacation can really be…the smart and prepared way.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350 – FREE Disney Vacation Planning (I promise).