Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Value of Deluxe Dining Plan 2018

We are back from our January 2018 Disney trip.  We added the Deluxe Dining Plan to our trip because the math worked for us.  You can see the pre trip numbers here.

Our meal schedule was heavy in the character meals as it was our 3 year old's first trip.  My mother-in-law joined us in the parks for 3 of our days, that is really where our value was added by having deluxe dining.  She used 6 of our credits, without her there those credits would have had much less value.  Generally speaking we would have used those credits but probably more as a shareable lunch at a quick service instead of a full table service meal. So those 6 credits would have gone from a $35-49 value down to $20-25.  We would have still saved some money, so its still good to do the math.

Big things to remember when thinking about the difference of the deluxe dining plan and the quick or standard plan is that deluxe included an appetizer and desert for table service meals.  Our 3 year old also was not required to eat off the kids menu (I think that is not the case for standard dining plan table service).  Only 3 of our meals were not buffets the first one I did not realize that she could order a standard meal/appetizer, the second we ordered her an adult appetizer (after the waitress suggested it) but a kids meal and the third (Be Our Guest) I did not order her a meal she shared with us.  It's my understanding that for quick service the meals are all grouped together and kids are not required to order kids meals so that makes for much better value.  I would recommend knowing where the best shareable quick service locations are to maximize your value.  We used one of our credits at Flame Tree BBQ and shared it between 4 people (toddler included) because we got the chicken, ribs, and pulled pork combo.

I will admit that I did not maximize our snack credits  because I had just intended to use them instead of spending any money on snacks.  Looking back I wish I would have gotten water to take into the parks as I bought several bottles of smart water, at $4.5 a bottle its a good value but if I would bought it before hand at $1.50 a bottle it would have freed up several snack credits.  Even if I only had a bottle a day to start our day with it would have given us 5 extra snack credits.  I only purchased one cupcake out of pocket when we were leaving the hotel so our credits really covered our needs just not anything extra to take home.  I also wish I would have had a better plan to have a grab and go breakfast in our room for my husband.  A bag of bagels would have saved us a lot of stress.  I had planned several late breakfasts so that we could ride stuff first then head to breakfast on those days we really needed something to take with us for he and my daughter to eat at the bus stop or walking through the park.

As I look back the best advice I can give you is check the numbers based on what you would order at each location you want to visit.  If you plan to have two rooms really check the value of one room with deluxe dining and one room with a different plan until you find a combo that will benefit you.  Be creative if you planned on having two rooms one with 2 adults and one with 2 adults and 1 child it might make more sense to have 3 adults and 1 child on the deluxe plan and the other adult on no plan.  You have to be careful because this affects your room entry but if your all going to be together or if  your rooms are adjoining keep the door open and it wont matter.  When doing the math it always makes more sense for kids to be on the deluxe plan rather than an adult.  My sister and I have discussed this option and really think the next time we visit it will be the way to save money.  What you need to do when you plan ahead is to be sure that the standard dining plan is used for buffet meals and the deluxe is used where at non buffet table service options.  You also need to be sure that you plan if you all wont be dining together that someone has meals on their account to use.  I would also have a written plan of what room will pay for which meals so that you don't have to think about it once your there.

Day 1:
Hollywood and Vine (Fantasmic Package) - 3 credits
Sci-Fi Drive In - 3 credits

Day 2:
Crystal Palace - 3 credits
Tony's Town Square - 3 credits

Day 3:
Akershus - 4 credits
Garden Grill - 4 credits

Day 4:
Be Our Guest - 3 credits
Cinderella's Royal Table - 8 credits

Day 5:
Tucker House - 4 credits
Flame Tree BBQ - 1 credit

Out of pocket$1,339.86
Deluxe Dining$1,090.00
Refillable Mugs (3)$53.97
Snacks ($4.50 each)$96.00

Total Value$399.83

Monday, February 5, 2018

Disney Dining Plan 2018 - Specialty Drinks

So as of January 1, 2018 the Disney Dining Plan includes specialty drinks.  We just finished a 5 day trip on the deluxe dining plan under the new specialty drinks plan.  Short version: If you drink alcohol you will get great value from the new plan, if you don't you will have to be aware that there is not much for you that changes other than the price of the plan. 

In previous years you could get a milkshake for your drink if you asked (or had a waitress/waiter that suggested it for you).  So that makes the value added for milkshakes not anything new.  Previously you could also get flavor added to your drinks as well, I remember getting several vanilla cokes the last time I was at Disney.  So what can you get?  If you were hoping for some new line of specialty non-alcoholic drinks available for all the kids and non-drinking adults you're out of luck.  I was hoping for some specialty coffee drinks or additional flavor options but none of that either. 

What was there?  The alcoholic beverage menu that you used to have to pay to drink off of is now available to choose items.  You can order virgin items off of that menu if there are options like the pina coloda from Sci-Fi or other locations.  Also, remember that if its merchandise it is not included so no glowing lights for the kids or souvenir cups.

So if you were going to pay for alcoholic beverages you will benefit from the new change to the dining plan.  Otherwise if you decide a dining plan is a good value for your family then take a minute to ask your waitress what non-alcoholic drinks are available to you before you order.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Deluxe Disney Dining Plan - Actual Cost comparison

Ok so I just planned our dining for an upcoming trip in 2018, family of 3.  We are not drinkers so I never even looked at the drink prices but for a 4 night 5 day stay the difference for paying out of pocket and the deluxe dining plan was going to be $165 more than oop.  Then I calculated the refillable mugs and snacks to be a $150 value, and we would have 7 additional dining credits to utilize while onsite (we will have some others joining us for some of the time so we can pay for a meal and utilize the credits).  If we utilize 5 of those credits at whispering canyon like we are currently considering that meal will be about $237.  Now that is a majority of character meals, but my point is just do the math.  Pick where you want to eat then check the price comparison at that point don't try to justify eating more than you would just because its a better value justify with actual numbers for me I also like its already paid for so there is less stress when we are at the parks.

Out of pocket $924.80
Deluxe Dining$1,090.00
Refillable Mugs (3)$53.97
Snacks ($4 each)$96.00
Extra Credits Value (7)$245.00
Total Value$394.97

Monday, September 11, 2017

Idlewild Season Passes

I will write a full review of  soon but wanted to get a little bit of info out for those looking at a last minute trip at the end of season or are considering a season pass.

First off my two year old had a great time when we went this summer.  She turned 3 near the end of the summer so we had to determine if our daughter would enjoy it next year or not, as she was free as a two year old so we figured it was a good year to try it out.  I also bought our summer only season passes for 2017 on black Friday 2016.

I have been watching the prices for Idlewild season passes and ticket in general since the summer of 2016 as we considered making a trip last summer but the timing did not work out.  We also has season passes several years ago when our oldest daughter was about 14.  So I almost bought season passes last September when I knew I want passes for the summer of 2017 and thought we might be able to make a trip in September since they generally have a special if you buy our pass at the end of summer its good for the rest of the current season.  We decided we would not be able to make a trip in 2016 so we passed on the passes at that time.

I decided to purchase passes on black Friday 2016 for 2017.  I highly recommend saving the current year pricing and list of perks for a reference when you are evaluating the pricing offered for black Friday as they don't have a good info-graphic available then like they do other times.  Also take a look at the discount page under the plan a visit page on their page.  The discounts page is updated a couple times a month so I check it at least at the beginning of the month and also when I am thinking about planning a trip.  The extra "bring a buddy days" are generally a great day to go because crowd levels are pretty low.

I have inserted the price and benefits from the 2017 and 2018 years and a sample of the discounts available for season pass holders and the buddy discount days.  These are unavailable during black Friday shopping.  They also don't have any way to get feedback about black Friday offerings so you need know be as aware as you can ahead of time or accept a bit of risk when you make your purchase.

They also have a meal deal season pass.  It was 69.99 last black Friday and 79.99 during the summer.  It was good for 2 meals a day (4 hours apart) and a snack of popcorn or cotton candy.  It had to be purchased with a platinum pass so you also had a refillable drink cup to use with it.  If you were to purchase food at rack rate it was about $8-10 a meal so you need to be planning on visiting at least 4 times to make it a good value.  The first time we went I will admit I was not prepared for the food to be so pricey.   If you plan to go often and will be purchasing some food at the park it would be a good value, they have a large flyer of what the choices are but that flyer has already been removed off the website.  Without that flyer its hard to remember what was covered but it seemed that there was a decent amount of variety.  Next year I will have to save that as well.

So long story short if you have a toddler or young child or a child that likes water parks and are less than a couple hours away you can probably get  your moneys worth out of the pass.  They also have a payment plan option during the off season. Last year when I got 2 summer passes I just made $14 monthly payments (0% interest) it was paid for by April so when I went to the park for the first time it had already been paid in full.  Also you can upgrade your pass at anytime so if you buy the basic pass and decide you want to take someone with you later you can upgrade to the next level of pass (then use your 3 free passes and upgrade again).  They use the going rate of the pass you have to determine what you have to pay to upgrade so we got the summer pass on black Friday for about $53 but they used the $58 dollar price to to determine the cost to upgrade to the $74 dollar pass.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: Sunset Beach Park, Claysville, PA

GPS: 40.131623, -80.371125
Address: 4185 State Route 40, Claysville, PA 15323

Visit Day and Time: August 21, 2017 from 11:30 am -1pm Eclipse Day
Temperature at visit:  Cloudy but warmer probably low 80s.
Crowd level: Very low, about 3-4 families in the low end and a couple more in the deep end it felt very empty (school had started back at most places and other pools in the area had already cut their hours back to weekends only or limited hours in the evening).


  • Very large pool
  • Interesting add-in features


  • The pool floor was very rough.  I always have swim shoes on my toddler but I don't generally wear them, next time we go I will have to have them for this pool.
  • Some of the add-in features were closed or not functioning.  Some of this could have been to limited visitor/staff.  The water slide was closed and the dumping water bucket was not working/running.

  • The space was clean but dated.

Adult Info

  • This is a cash only location.  They have an ATM onsite.
  • There was a food concession area onsite but I never checked the prices.


  • The way to get into the toddler area was a couple of awkward large steps with no rail.
  • There was a zero entry area on one side of the pool.
  • The entire pool is gated with a main entry exit area.
  • Parking is on grass with a basic gravel road down each lane.  


  • Stalls were very tiny, clean but dated.

  • This pool would have value as a day trip but for the cost of admission it would be hard to justify just stopping in for a couple hours.  The only reason we did was my daughter was in for Germany and we had planned to visit a different pool this day but it was already closed on the weekdays for the season.  My sister told me she always just packed a picnic lunch and they stayed for most of the day. 


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: Olgebay Outdoor Pool

GPS: 40.104540, -80.658365
Address: 465 Lodge Dr, Wheeling, WV 26003

Visit Day and Time: Friday August 18, 2017 at 6pm until 7:30
Temperature at visit: Probably low 80s after a warm day
Crowd level: very mild


  • Splash pad area (new as of 2016)
  • Ramp for easy entry
  • Blowup activiy are a for older kids or adults
  • Wall climb area
  • Large swimming area
  • Lots of very nice seating

  • Changing area needs updated (Men's area does not have curtains in the showers or changing stalls)


  • General pool area was good
  • Again the changing areas could us an update and that would help with the dingy feeling

Adult Info

  • Our toddler was cold and tired by about after 1.5 hours so for the first time go in the evening for their discounted entry price of $3 per adult.  Its a good test to see if you and your child will have fun.


  • Splash pad was zero entry
  • Ramp access the main pool
  • The splash pad area is fully fenced from the rest of the pool so you can feel pretty comfortable knowing you only have to watch for one exit to the main pool and one exit to leave the pool completely 

  • Restrooms were very tiny (very difficult to squeeze a toddler and mom in, I actually let my toddler use the potty with the door open it was that small and there was no one in the area)

  • There was a concession stand, it was overpriced.  A soft pretzel was priced at $3.75, when we left we went to the playground and the concession area near it a pretzel was $1.75.


  • Evenings (after 5 pm) $3 per adult $1 per child
  • I cant quite remember but I think it was about $9 per adult unsure about the child rate

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Zoo: Oglebay’s Good Zoo, Wheeling, WV

 Address:465 Lodge Dr, Wheeling, WV 26003

Visit Day and Time: Monday May 29, 2017 10:30 am - 1:30 pm
Temperature at visit: 72 degree dry and sunny
Crowd level: Moderate it was memorial day and there were a good crowd of people at the zoo but it was still a very manageable crowd

  • Pros
    • Small zoo very manageable for a couple hour adventure
    • Nice train ride
    • Feeding goats is permitted ($.25 - quarters needed for dispenser)
    • Feeding the lorikeets is permitted ($1.03 for a cup of nectar cash or card)
  • Cons
    • Zoo path is pretty hilly so be prepared for some hill climbing
    • Range of animals are pretty limited
  • Cleanliness
    • There are trash cans around to use one of the liners had fallen in the can but generally the park is very clean
    • There are chickens that roam the zoo and seem to have the popcorn clean up job
  • Adult Info
    • This is a pretty stress free zoo because its easy to keep an eye on your little one while still giving them the freedom to walk with you
  • Access
    • This zoo can make it hard to get around if you are pushing anything heavy because of the hills in the park
    • The leg room is pretty limited on the train
  • Restrooms
    • There are restrooms in the main building
    • There is a restroom at the barn (I have not been in this one)
    • There is a single restroom at the Lorikeet landing building
  • Misc
    • Train runs on the hour and half hour
    • There are some animal encounters available 
    • They were walking the tortoise in the zoo and allowed visitors to touch the its shell
    • They seem to get a different animal each year so there is some variety for year to year visitors
    • The playground was very wet due to some recent rains be on the safe side if you plan to play and bring extra clothes/shoes 
  • Pricing
    • $9.95 for adults and $6.95 for kids 3-12 More Info
    • Zoo admission is included in the Oglebay activity band ($18.95) More Info
    • Membership start at $73 for the basic family pass for the year 
    • The zoo also participates reciprocal zoo listing so if you are a member of another zoo check to see if you can get discounted admission
The train room is one of the first things you see if you take your stroller down the elevator
Lots to see here if you are a member use a rainy day to enjoy the train room
Some of the indoor space this area was remodeled this spring
Stuffed animal care area we are waiting for a rainy day to spend some quality time in this building
Just a pic with a fake crocodile
More inside exhibits
More inside exhibits
The tortoise taking a walk 
Barnyard area

Feeding the lorikeets
The playground was very wet due to some recent rains