Food. Let’s face it, it’s one of the reasons we DADventure to Walt Disney World – right? There’s lot of good food to hunt down (DD Post: Top 10 Snacks I’m Hunting Down This Fall), savor and sip.
The Disney Meal Plan is here to help take some of the stress away it all… Right? Well, at least it used to.
When my wife and I went on our honeymoon, we went the same time of year our family is going this fall – November.
In 2013, we enjoyed the free Disney Dining with our stay at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. When I booked this year’s trip, the free dining plan had rolled out, but November wasn’t a part of it. Bummer.
We loved the Dining Plan in 2013. You’d get a dessert with every counter/quick service meal.
We enjoyed an appetizer AND dessert with every table service meal.
All we had to pay for was alcohol, which wasn’t a problem as we aren’t, at all, big drinkers.
When starting my 2019 DADventure, I added the Disney Dining Plan to our package. You get 2 snacks, 1 counter/quick service and 1 table service meal, per day you stay. Great! Sounds fantastic.
If anyone in your party has the dining plan – everyone in your party (over 2 years old) has to have a dining plan. So, that meant a dining plan for my wife, one for me, one for the 5 year old and one for the 3 year old. The baby is allowed to ‘eat off your plate’. Still seemed ok to me. I didn’t have to budget for every meal, it was paid for up front and we’d all enjoy good food.
I booked dining reservations (at 180 days out from our arrival) for many of the spots we’re excited to enjoy. (DD POST: My Love of Sanaa for Lunch)
As I started my deep research into the dining plan, I found myself constantly making the ‘bummer’ emoji face.
Gone are the desserts from counter/quick service meals.
Gone are the appetizers from the table service meals.
They’ve replaced these items, everyone loves, with a free ‘specialty drink’ or alcoholic drink.
Want to know that the kids’ specialty drink is at pretty much EVERY restaurant? Lemonade. Every – Single – Time.
Speaking of the kids. This part REALLY made me upset…
Read the fine print there… kids MUST choose from a kid’s menu, when available. Want to know what’s on the kids menu at almost every single restaurant? Chicken fingers and mac & cheese.
Let’s take an example… Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café is a great spot for a quick service meal at the Magic Kingdom. They’re known for their hotdogs, sloppy joes, big sandwiches and especially their burgers. The toppings bar for burgers is one of the reasons to go to Cosmic Rays – right?
Here’s the kids menu at Cosmic Ray’s:
Chicken fingers. Mac & Cheese. Salad.
WHERE is the kid’s burger? Seriously – a burger place and my son, who LOVES burgers, is NOT ALLOWED to have a burger.
I was steaming.
Here are some things you need to know about my family.
1. We really only ever drink water. We don’t have sugary drinks in the house (NO soda) and rarely do we even have juice. Water is great. Also, like I said before – my wife and I don’t really drink alcohol all that often. A glass of wine, a drink or a beer is great from time to time, but every meal – twice a day – for 6 days – WITH my kids – at an amusement park? Yeah… no.
2. My kids have amazing palates. And you know what? I’m assuming a lot more kids do now, too. Gone are the days where we raise kids on crap from a box and in the microwave. My kids are little, but they really enjoy good food.
Why would Disney World – a place BUILT for kids – treat them like second-class citizens in the food department? Why can my wife and I enjoy an amazing meal somewhere while my kids have to have chicken fingers or mac & cheese for the 10th time that week?
3. Appetizers are the best parts of meals. We often will just make 4 different apps for a dinner.
Add all that up, and this just wasn’t going to work for us.
I wanted clarification from Disney, so my research got deeper.
I emailed Disney World and said all the things above about my kids wanting to eat better food than chicken fingers and mac & cheese every day. I received a canned response:
We also, have special dietary information on our website: Special Dietary Requests
If you have specific inquiries regarding the food served at the Park restaurants, Guests may contact our special dietary assistants at the following email address: email@example.com
We would also like to mention that, as an exception to our standard policy, Guests who have specific food allergies are welcome to bring a cooler smaller than 24″ length by 15″ width by 18″ height (which mirrors the large locker size) into the Park with snacks that require no cooking or reheating. Coolers will be inspected for glass and alcoholic beverages which are not permitted. Picnic baskets, ice chests, and larger coolers are not permitted.
NO HELP THERE! My kids wanting to eat flavorful food is not an allergy or special need.
I went on the My Disney Experience Ap and chatted with one of their online folks asking the same questions.
Their answer…. I can pay to upgrade my kids (aged 3 and 5) to ADULT tickets and ADULT meal plans.
These are LITTLE kids – they won’t eat adult portions. And why do I now have to pay for them to be adult pricing everywhere – just to get them good food? All I want is a kid’s sized portion of whatever food everyone else is ‘allowed’ to eat at Disney World.
SO, I tried one more – I went to the Disney Parks’ Mom Panel blog which is a part of the official Disney website.
I got a good answer, but more about how to eat ‘healthy’ than being able to enjoy the full menu.
First off, you’re going to want to look for menu items that have the Disney Check Symbol, which is an easy way for you and your kids to make healthy choices together. These meals include lean proteins, fresh veggies and fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and other tasty things that little ones really enjoy. You can find these kinds of meals at dining locations all around Walt Disney World Resort! When you’re at Magic Kingdom Park, you can visit my favorite Quick-Service restaurant, Columbia Harbour House, where your kids can choose from a selection of delicious sandwiches and even a Garden Salad with Chicken. You mentioned that your kids have good taste, so if your family is out enjoying a signature meal at a place like Flying Fish at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, they can create their own entrées that feature incredible ingredients like Seared Sea Bass or Grilled Wagyu steak. There are healthy meals to please even the pickiest palates, so have a look at the menus for some of the places you want to eat and see what’s available for you to choose from!
That was the best answer I received because it gave some specific places I could go. Friends were trying to get me to just lie and tell the counter service cast members that all the food is for adults. But, I don’t feel right about that.
Our answer – forget the Disney Dining Plan. We don’t want to be stuck into what it is our kids MUST eat.
BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE!!
Only July 16th, Walt Disney World released a NEW wave of FREE Dining for the time of my stay!
I got all excited. Screw the no plan, plan. Let’s do this! My amazing Disney Travel Guide, Shannon from Magical Moments Vacations, tried everything she could do to apply the free plan to my Caribbean Beach Resort Stay. But, alas, there was such a limited supply, we missed out.
I could change my stay to the tower at Coronado Springs, or upgrade to a Pirate Room at Caribbean to make it work.
But, I love Caribbean Beach Resort, I want to be on the Skyliner path, and I don’t want to sleep in a pirate ship. I got so caught up in the FREE offer, I forgot about all the reasons above that we didn’t want to do the Disney Dining Plan.
Once the FREE-ness wore off, I was again happy with my plan to simply pay as we go with food on our fall DADventure this year.
And oh… did I mention it’s still the Epcot Food & Wine when we’re there? Yeah, we’ll be eating just fine.
So, what about you? Do you like the new drinks but no appetizers set up? Are your kids excited to eat chicken fingers every day? Or, are you like me and pretty upset about the way the kids are handled on the meal plan?
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the DADventure!