My friend Meg asked me a couple days ago if I was feeling down about being home from Disney, and my quick, easy answer was no! We had nonstop fun for three days, got our fill of Disney, and then happily came home. I love to go away, and I love to come home.
Let’s get started with a park review! Yay! We had so much fun on Thursday and I’m excited to recap our first afternoon/evening of Disney magic. If you missed part one from our vacation, you can read that first here and then come back to this post. 🙂
Thursday’s plan was to leisurely walk around the resort and eat breakfast once the girls were up, go back and take naps, and then let them wake up on their own and head to the park whenever we were ready. Though Jamie and I were busting to get there, we also wanted to make sure they were rested enough. We knew the trip would be a bust if they were melting down from exhaustion. We saw no point in pushing them!
They woke up at 2 p.m., and 30 minutes later we were out the door to catch a complimentary bus ride directly from our resort to Hollywood Studios.
Our first Fast Pass wasn’t until 4:15 for the Frozen singalong, so we walked around until we saw a short wait to meet Olaf. Hadley has been very shy in the past when she’s seen characters at carnivals and stuff, so our expectations were very low. We both figured that she would enjoy the characters with a big, shy smile from a distance, but that wasn’t the case.
We walked in and I immediately gave Olaf a big hug to show her it was okay. She smiled so big and then gave him a huge hug all on her own without our suggesting it. We were shocked, but so happy!
She spotted Chip and Dale next and immediately asked to go meet them. Jamie and I were all “Oh my gosh YES!” We were thrilled that she was so excited about all of this, and we instantly felt like we’d made the best decision to book this trip.
Sadie did great too and loved the characters.
Next, we walked around for a bit, snagged some snacks using our snack credits, and then headed to the Frozen sing-a-long. I don’t have any pictures from that, but take my suggestion that it’s absolutely worth going to. We assumed it would simply just be a sing-a-long, but it was a total comedy show! Jamie and I were roaring at the jokes and puns, and Hadley sang along to every song. I got choked up three or four times on this trip, and during the sing-a-long was one of them. As soon as she saw Elsa burst onto the stage, she made a face I’d never seen her make. It took my breath away!
After Frozen, we used our next Fast Pass for Toy Story Mania. Cute, fun interactive ride. I was so impressed that every single ride that Hadley went on, Sadie could also go on. So fun for our whole family!
After Toy Story, we headed to our 6:15 dinner reservation at Hollywood and Vine to have dinner with Mickey Mouse and his crew.
Dining plan: let’s talk about it! I want to be brief but informative! Using the dining plan made our trip 100x better. We paid for the dining plan before we left for the trip, and we never paid one single penny for a non-alcoholic drink, snack, or meal. All we paid for for food and beverages was three tips and a couple beers/glasses of wine. Because I would appreciate someone breaking down the specific cost if I were planning a trip, I’m happy to do that for you all, if you’re interested.
We paid just under $600 total (with tax!) for our dining plan for three full days for our family of four. Since we paid for four nights at the resort, we had to pay for four night on the dining plan, but that worked out flawlessly.
Sadie was free (under three is free), so we paid the adult price for Jamie and I and kids price for Hadley (ages 3-9). We each received four table service meals (the really nice character meals or upscale restaurants), four quick-service meals (such as our resort food court), eight snacks (two per person per day), and a refillable mug that could be used for unlimited coffee, soda, etc. at our resort (the parks would fill it with ice water for free).
So this broke down to $200 per day for our whole family. Here’s why this is a great deal: The character/princess/etc. meals were between $130-$160 each for our family! So without the dining plan, we would have paid $50+ for breakfast, $50-$150+ for the next meal, and $30-$50+ in snacks, cold drinks, and coffee throughout the day. Not only did the dining plan save us money, but we were able to enjoy a character meal every single day! It was so nice to pay for the dining plan upfront and then toss the $150 character bills to the side.
I’m jumping ahead here, but we did three character meals. Those alone would have totaled around $450. For only $150 more, we got to eat at two more really fancy, wonderful restaurants (our bill at one of them would have been $120 and the other $90), we got three food court (quick service) meals at our resort, unlimited drinks, and tons of snacks (including 16 to take home to gift to Hadley’s teachers and friends!)
Without the meal plan, here’s how much we would have paid:
Four table service meals: ~$600
Four quick service meals: ~$200
24 snacks: $~120
Our soda and coffee that we drank with refillable mug: $~50
Without the meal plan, we would have paid about $970. Instead we paid $600.
I hope this makes sense. We had a reservation or mental plan for every single meal that we ate before we even left our home, and that was truly wonderful. Having a schedule and paying for everything ahead of time made it fee like a mindless, all-inclusive vacation. I cannot explain how much the dining plan enhanced our trip.
Well, that wasn’t so brief. On with the show!
So we ate dinner at Hollywood and Vine, and Hadley got to meet all of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse crew! This was her only time to meet them since they don’t walk around the park. You also have to wait 30+ minutes per character if you don’t reserve a meal with them, so that aspect right there is a big enough reason to do a character meal. Our time walking around the park was spent doing other things instead of waiting on line after line to meet one character at a time.
Sadie was so precious at the character meals and strained to keep an eye on them as they walked all around the restaurant. The stimulation of this trip was so good for her! Her personality came out in big ways!
Hadley’s eyes lit up as each character circled around to our table. It was precious. Jamie and I sat at dinner that night just pinching ourselves. We were so happy to see our girls loving this.
We had some time to kill after dinner, so we went over to Tower of Terror to ride it solo utilizing the “rider swap” option. Basically, one of us rides solo, and then the other gets to go through the Fast Pass lane to ride it next.
Here Hadley and I are waiting for Jamie while he rides Tower of Terror.
Here I am riding solo. I’m in the middle row with my eyes closed. Ha! We’ve always loved this ride!
And here’s Jamie on the back row. Would have been fun to ride together, but we’ll have years and years to do that on future trips. 🙂
Because Tower of Terror took longer than we expected, we missed our last Fast Pass for The Voyage of the Little Mermaid, but by this point it was 8:15 anyway, so we headed back to catch a bus back to our resort. Everybody crashed pretty hard back in our room and got some good sleep in preparation for park day #2: Epcot!
PS: Check out this side-by-side of my mom and me. 🙂 My dad sent me a few pictures of he and my mom during their trip to Disney as newlyweds 30+ years ago, so I jumped at the chance to recreate it. Think we look alike or what?! Speaking of my parents, HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! We love you so much.
To continue reading part three from our trip, click here!
What questions do you have about the dining plan or character meals? Have you done character meals or the dining plan before? How was your experience?