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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10 Things…

One thing I get asked a lot about or seems to be a big hit when I talk about it is…packing advice.  I did a Facebook post last week about 3 things I was hesitant to pack, but so glad I did (check it out)…but for this blog post I thought I would list 10 things that perhaps most people wouldn’t think to pack…assuming you all remember to pack the basics…sunscreen, sunglasses, good walking shoes and of course a poncho (Florida rain).  These are things outside of the typical list:

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So in no particular order…10 things I always pack but not everyone thinks about…

Nightlight (comforts of home):  This is great for families, people with little kids.  Not only do I pack a nightlight for bathrooms trips in the dark…but I pack fun pillowcases, favorite stuffed toys, blankets, pillows…a few little things that my kids usually sleep with…it helps with the first night away and it helps make the resort room seem like home.  The pillowcase is a great trick for those getting a non-cartoon themed resort, but want to “kid-up” the space.

Entertainment:  So as most people might think to bring video games and up-load movies on their phone/tablet for kids…I am suggesting something non-media related.  Although a movie in a LONG line is a major plus.  For our last trip I packed my 5 year old a kid puzzle book…as it was mainly for the plane…but I also pack it in our backpack for the parks…and was so GLAD I did.  During times when she was either a little bored (line), tired or too stimulated to even focus…she would do her puzzle book.  It was a major life saver.  And for the 2 year old…I packed him a toy Disney Camera that talks “Say Cheese”…this was a huge hit and when he was getting to little “special”…I just had him take pictures.  Also…crayons, markers, stickers, paper, coloring book, comics, homework, lol.

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Blister aids:  I posted about this one on my facebook page…but it was too good of a thing to not post about again, lol.  For all the years I have been going to Disney…I always come back with a few souvenirs I didn’t pay for; sunburn, worn/tired muscles and blisters.  This time I was prepared to remember a blister solution.  I ended up getting Band-Aid Blister bandages and used on my baby toe….before it was a major blister.  The band-aid stayed on…through showers, long days and so on.  And my toe was never a problem and it didn’t once hurt or give me a hard time walking – it was AWESOME.

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Baggies/Containers:  I also posted about this too.  I got colored baggies, 4 colors for the 4 of us…and used for everything.  But the best part was using for food, aka leftovers and snacks for the day.  Now Disney isn’t a fan of people taking food from the restaurants…something about not wanting to be responsible for anyone getting sick from eating a hot old sandwich that sat in the stroller and thus turned.  So beware of eating something that isn’t good anymore…but in general we ate ours within minutes of leaving the restaurant.  Plus I pack ice packs.  It was great for mickey waffles, fresh fruit, proteins, etc.  I would cut up at the restaurant…and then serve to the kids when in line for a ride or sometimes directly after eating…character meals are often too exciting to meet and eat at the same time, lol.  Also perfect when sharing a large tub of popcorn.  The different colored bags represent each person, thus I always knew whose germy fingers were in which bag.

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Wipes:  So when I say wipes…I mean nice, germ dissolving wipes.  I use wipes instead of sanitizer gel.  I use on my kids hands, on the play areas, interactive ride queues, on all our tables/chairs at restaurants, in the airplane, resort room and so on.  So by now…your thinking why is she such a germ freak…well I wasn’t always this way, but both my kids have severe allergies…so I NEED to wipe down every surface to protect them.  Not to mention when you think about all the millions of people that go to Disney and how many of them might have something to spread.  No-one wants to get sick on vacation and I don’t want my kids to go to the ER due to touching a surface that had cheesy fingers on it.  Another tip…I get the car tub pack of “Wet Ones” and put in the mesh pocket area of my backpack, instead of a water bottle.  Can you say..”Easy access”.

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Bottle holder:  Ok this was a life saver for us.  First when I say bottle holder I mean for on your stroller.  But they do make bottle holders for belts and keychain ones to hook on the loops on your pants…in case you are stroller free.  We use 2 cheap umbrella strollers when we go to Disney…1 kid/stroller per parent.  And between all 4 of us drinking water…a bottle holder was a NEED.  I purchased 2, 1 per stroller.  They were perfect for ANY bottle, a bag of snacks and even my phone.  They still allowed our strollers to collapse with ease and they were used 24/7.

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Portable Charger:  Now I’m not talking about your cord charger…but pack that too.  I’m talking about a 12+ hour backup battery charger that you plug into your device when it’s low…and it charges it up.  See Picture.  Now…I did pack this, as everyone said too, but I never used.  I am just not someone who’s on my phone when on vacation.  Well not a Disney vacation, lol.  But this is perfect for people that use their devices to watch movies in line, take videos of the parades and basically FB, tweet and text during their vacation.  Cell battery power drains super-fast, especially when you’re using the Disney apps or the line apps.

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Chef cards (Allergy cards):  I have been making Allergy cards for years…I use them all the time at home; kids backpacks, lunch boxes, when dining out, visiting, and I use on vacation.  But at Disney…I have special “Chef” cards as Disney is the only time I allow other people (chefs) to cook for my kids…and for a week on end.  I have made several through-out the years and have finally developed a great one for Disney.  Every time I need to order a meal…I present my card.  It clearly lists all allergies and it gives the chefs something visual to look at as you discuss your food needs.  These are perfect for people with multiple allergies and is something I am now offering for my clients.  I will design a card for anyone who books with me and needs one.  I also have one for families with more than one person with allergies.  Also great for vegans, clearing listing what you DON’T eat.

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Address Labels:  I love labels…the more the better.  And my favorite is using the free address ones you get in the mail from certain non-profits.  I use them for our luggage tags, to label our character books…I put them on everything.  Label your camera, phone, tablet, and stroller.  I grab extra of those FREE airline tags, slap on an address label…and boom I can attach to backpacks, camera bags, anything.  Disney has a great lost and found…but it’s easier when your stuff is labeled.

Cash/change:  Ok so this might seem obvious…but you would be surprised how many people forget.  Magicbands and credit cards has made life so easy for making purchases…but something’s you just need cash for.  Tips?  I personally like to tip with cash.  I pay for my dining with my magicband, using dining plan credits, and then tip the waitress with cash.  I also tip the Mouse-keepers (housekeepers), bell hops, bus driver, etc with cash.  I also pack LOTS of pennies and quarters for “smashed penny” machines.  Kids love those, I love those.  Plus…every kid wants to throw coins in a fountain…and there are plenty of those at Disney too.

I hope you found this list to be helpful.  Disney is often a week long adventure and it’s helpful to have everything you need at your fingertips.   Visiting Disney the “Smart and Prepared Way” and book/plan your trip with me.  Remember I am FREE and have lots of wonderful travel tested advice to share.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

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.