Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: Standard Disney Dining Plan

Disney offers 3 different types of dining plans, Quick Service, Standard Dining Plan, and Deluxe Dining Plan.  This is a review of the Standard Dining Plan.

The Standard Disney Dining Plan includes:

  • Per Night each person receives
    • 1 Quick Service meal
    • 1 Table Service meal 
    • 2 Snacks per person
  • Per your stay each person receives
    • 1 refillable mug
A couple things worth noting when you have a child (9 or under) on the plan they have to order off the kids menu at table service restaurants.  This will have a relatively mild impact on your planning especially if  you have a child that wants to meet characters as those meals are generally a high priced buffet or family style option anyway.  Children (9 or under) on the plan can order anything at Quick service locations.  In other words Disney lumps all your Quick Service credits together to use as you see fit.

So for this review I will give you an idea of how we used our credits and also what those credits included. 

  • 2 Adults and 1 child (4 years old) for 7 nights
    • 3 refillable mugs 
    • 14 Adult Table Service credits
    • 7 Child Table Service credits
    • 21 Quick Service credits
    • 42 snack credits
How did we use those credits?  Mostly character meal dinners or "experience" meals so that adds to the cost, there is no cheap way to eat at Chef Mickey so that make the dining plan a better option for those meals vs other menu order table service options.  First we will look at what were our table service meals.
  • Garden Grill Dinner
  • Whispering Canyon Dinner
  • Tusker House Dinner
  • 50's Prime Time Dinner
  • Coral Reef  Dinner
  • Hollywood and Vine Dinner
  • Chef Mickey Brunch
We had planned to have a guest with us at Chef Mickey so I set aside a Table service credit to use at that meal.  I decided that at 50's Prime Time my husband would order the sampler, and a milkshake and a dessert, I would order the wedge salad appetizer and a iced tea.  We swapped the milkshake for the tea and I had the meatloaf from the sample with my salad.  That meal ended up with terrible service issues and they comped the drink (and my daughter ended up with a giant cup of sprinkles to take home since she fell asleep waiting on her ice cream with mickey sprinkles) so it was $9.10 out of pocket there.  Ended up that our guest did not make it to Chef Mickey so we used the credit for last minute snacks which was not a good value however I it made much more sense to pay $9 for a meal than $45 brunch buffet.  We really enjoyed Garden Grill and Whispering Canyon and our family is not a big fan of buffets so those meals were just ok.  We had a long slow meal at 50's and probably would have felt better about that meal if we had not overheard the tables around us discussing getting an anytime fastpass because of their issues.  However, we did not get charged for a drink and my daughters upgrade to a sundae, but like I said she never took a bite of the ice cream because she fell asleep, that also the reason we were so patient because she needed the nap and we had a comfy place to sit while she slept.

Now for the quick service credits, remember we had a toddler with adult credits.  Also our toddler is more likely to nibble off our plates rather than eat a full meal.
  • Breakfast - Be Our Guest - 2
  • Lunch - Pecos Bills - 1
  • Lunch - Santuli Canteen - 1
  • Lunch - Back lot - 1
  • Lunch - Be Our Guest - 3
  • Lunch - Wolfgang - 3
  • Breakfast - Pop Century  - 1 
  • Dinner - Liberty Tree Tavern - 2
  • Breakfast - Art of Animation - 2
So you can see that a lot of the time we just split a larger portion meal like the fajitas at Pecos Bill or the chicken and beef salad at Santuli Canteen.  Even at breakfast we could split a bounty platter or at Be Our Guest we could easily share with our toddler.  I do wish we would have picked up a few more quick service meals to at least try a few more places.  Our surprise best meal was at Liberty Tree Tavern in the American Pavilion at Epcot.  That was a selection my husband made looking through the app while we waited at Character Spot.  I got the Cobb salad and he got a Crispy Chicken sandwich and we got a cupcake to split.  When we finished my husband said "I could eat that meal again right now it was so good".  That night we realized that the kids meals had our daughter's favorite drinkable yogurt in them and I think looking back I would have ordered her a few kids meals here and there to get some kid friendly items just on our trays since we had extra credits anyway.

Next to discuss snacks, our trip before this one I found us using snack credits on things we wanted but that were not a good value use of a credit.  We used all of our snack credits through out our trip and I even paid out of pocket for a cupcake to take with us on the way out.  What I did this time was I purchased $35 worth of snacks from Amazon Prime Now.  That included 12 bottles of water, a pack of bagels, bananas, strawberries, grapes and similar items.  I also brought granola bars and fruit snacks in our luggage.  So I was able to utilize our snacks for much better value items but I had a ton to use at the end of the trip.  I used 20 snack credits at Goofy's candy company in Disney Springs which was fun and made for a good value as the check out price was over $110.  

Even doing that we still had 5 Quick Service and 1 Table Service credit we had to convert to snacks.  We used our snacks to create a better buffer between our meals we would get a snack at 10-11 am then we could eat lunch at 2pm.  This was good and bad for our toddler she would share the snack, say a pretzel or the mac and cheese (at AK Smiling Crocodile) and last a little longer then be asleep before we sat down for lunch.  That was part of the reason we had left over Quick service credits because had she been awake I would have been more likely to purchase a second meal but with her asleep we would share one and pick up something small or she would have a granola bar after her nap. Then she would last until our early dinner ADR usually between 4:30-5:30 pm.

The refillable mugs are a blessing and a curse, by that I mean having unlimited beverages are great but the refillable mugs leak and get cumbersome if you take them to the parks with you and don't actually hold that much.  So here is how I handle them.  I brought refillable water bottles to take with us in the parks.  I would take our three mugs and our two water bottles with me in the morning I would make fresh brewed sweet tea for my husband (because he hated the fountain sweet tea).  He ended up with a water bottle full of sweet tea and I had my bottle with unsweetened tea that we would take with us each morning and a bottle of water.  That easily lasted until lunch and we would refill our water bottles at lunch if we could.  So we really limited what we had to purchase as far as drinks by being a little more prepared.

Here is what the numbers ended up looking like.
  • 2 Adults and 1 child (4 years old) for 7 nights
    • 3 refillable mugs - $60.68
    • 13 Adult Table Service credits & 7 Child Table Service credits - $829.36
    • 16 Quick Service credits - $290.94
    • 5 Quick Service credits converted to 15 snacks - $66.85
    • 1 Adult Table Service credits converted to 3 snacks - $15.00
    • 42 snack credits - $220.78
  • Was it worth it?
    • The plan cost $1,237.11
    • Cost of the items we purchase $1,483.61
    • Value? We saved $246.50
Could that number have been more?  Yes it could have been, it also could have been less.  With any Disney Dining Plan  you can not leave credits unused, when you do Disney wins.  Also, the dining plans now include a "specialty" beverage that can include alcohol, we don't drink alcohol so we can't tell you much other than if you do you will save more because alcohol at Disney is expensive.  Ask your server what is included and sometimes you can get the "fancy alcohol" drinks without the alcohol but still with the light up glow cube.  

In full disclosure, we got the quick service dining free with a free dining discount and paid to upgrade to the standard dining plan.  I really think this is the plan that we will use more regularly moving forward.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: Disney World - Tony's Town Square

We had dinner with a group of 3 (including one 3 year old).  The food was pretty average to below average.  We had a calamari appetizer and it was chewy and ended up being left mostly untouched by our family. 

Our waitress was very kind and we discussed if the kids Ariel cup was considered a specialty beverage and she said there was discussion last week that it was but if its not she would not charge us.  She confirmed it was not considered a specialty beverage but did not charge us so my daughter was a happy camper.  She also suggested we get our daughter an adult appetizer because my husband and I both wanted a salad bur wanted to try the calamari.  She even reminded us that we could order my daughter an adult meal (since we were on the deluxe dining plan) but she was happy with the kids pizza.

We have been to Tony's a couple time before and really enjoyed our meals. However, this meal was not worth the price at all and I would have been even more disappointed if I had paid out of pocket because the check was one of the most expensive of our trip.  So, I have to agree with the reviews of hit or miss with this place. 
Not a specialty drink

Monday, May 21, 2018

Review: Disney World - Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

There is a check in station near the main walking path toward the lake side.  Its easy to walk past it if you only are looking for the restaurant sign and then you have to head back toward the lake and look for the check in station again.

We had dinner with a group of 6 (including one 3 year old).  The food was good standard breakfast food.  My family is not adventuress enough to try the lunch or dinner options so we stick to breakfast here.  Its a good mix of buffet and family style where you can go immediately to the buffet and they bring your table the warm options of eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage.

Our waitress was good just as you would expect.

The characters were good and spent plenty of time with us. They have a princess parade which my toddler enjoyed but it was a little odd because she was big enough to want to participate but not big enough to go on her own.

Overall this is a good use of a Disney dining credit and a good option if you cant get an ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) at Cinderella's castle. 

3 Adults and 1 Child

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Review: Tucker Boulder Park

Tucker Boulder Park, Appalachian Highway, Davis, WV, 26260
GPS: 39.132675, -79.473774

Visit Day and Time: April 6, 2018
Temperature at visit: 50-65 degrees (mild but warm enough to enjoy it)
Crowd level: None


  • Very unique park 
  • New park
  • Nice seating
  • Multiple levels of climbing from little kids to adults 


  • If you have a hard time letting your kids climb and fall it might be a stressful park for you
  • If your child climbs up and panics might be hard to get them back down

Trash Info

  • No trash around
  • Trash Cans available 

Shade Info

  • There are a few trees around so probably some shade for the benches but the climbing rock are out in the full sun.

Adult Seating

  • Several nice metal benches available 
  • Bleachers are near by at the baseball feild


  • None


  • None


  • Handicap Parking very close 
  • Pathways are only gravel and might be harder to navigate


  • There is a donation box onsite to collect funds for Rock #3 so be sure to take some cash with you if you get to enjoy this park or better yet donate online via their website.

Broken equipment

  • None

Rock #1 basic climber
Rock #2 Complex Climber
Climbing Park 2 Rocks with room for one more
Benches and Trash
Parking is pretty close

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Review: Grand Vue Park Playground

GPS: 39.940031, -80.729304

Visit Day and Time: Thursday 5/10/2018
Temperature at visit: Hot
Crowd level: Low

  • New play structure 
  • Lots of variety in the activities 
  • Music based play spaces
    They had these drums and an electric piano activity.
  • All of the the play structures are out in the sun, so my toddler complained the slides were hot.
  • The road getting to the park is narrow in some spots and is generally very out of the way.
Trash Info
  • There were several cans along 
Shade Info
  • There is a covered picnic structure but otherwise not much shade for the play structures. 
Adult Seating
  • There are several benches around the play area.
  • There is a covered picnic area with multiple tables at the front of the park.
Sheltered area with picnic tables
  • There are several swings including a couple accessible swings.
Unique swing
  • There were six open air slides.
     Slides in the younger children section
     Slides in the younger children section

     Slides in the younger children section

  • Accessible swings available.
  • There is a sidewalk all the way around the play structure.
  • Restrooms were onsite at the entry to the play structure.
  • There is also a pool very close to the play ground.  Check it out here.

Broken equipment
  • None
Climbing structure in the older children's area
Climbing structure in they younger children's area
Lots of parking

As you enter from the parking lot there is a building with restrooms to the left

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Review: Idlewild

GPS: 40.262589, -79.276311
Address: Idlewild & SoakZone, 2574 U.S. 30, Ligonier, PA 15658

Meet and Greet with Daniel Tiger
  • Little kids can join parents on most rides
  • Lots of spaces for preschool age kids
  • Plenty of active play areas
  • Seem to be play spaces with limited entrance and exits to make it easier to keep track of your kids
  • Variety of food onsite
  • Refillable drink cup options
  • Crowds seem manageable (when we have been there especially on the extra bring a buddy days)
  • Park is pretty old and some areas really show their age
  • Sometimes their staff is limited causing rides or booths to be closed (especially when the local schools go back in late august)  
  • Food onsite is pretty pricey (combat this by bringing your own or getting the season meal pass)
  • Its pretty clean but older so some areas seem dingy even though there is not trash littered around
Adult Info
  • The younger your kids are the more they will enjoy themselves
  • If your older kids like water parks they will probably be happy as well 
  • There are gravel paths and some steeper inclines in areas so be area when we have our stroller they suggest going in via the parking area immediately to the left after the gates.
  • Some of the restrooms are smaller (due to their age) and you might need to be aware of that.
  • Wave pool is a zero entry pool as far as I could tell from passing by it.
  • They do have wheelchair rentals available. 
  • There are plenty of restrooms around but some are older so they are little and kind of dingy (but they free of trash)
  • We enjoy this park with our toddler.  I like using the bring a buddy days to drag along friends and relatives that are not sure the park is worth it.  
  • We had passes several years ago with our older daughter one year.
  • We have had passes for 2017 and 2018 with our toddler.  
  • I purchased one of the 2018 All Season Dining Pass on Black Friday for $69.99 I will try and report back on the value of this as the season goes on.  Comment below if you have any questions.
  • There is a Chick-Fil-A about 30 minutes before you get to the park (coming from the west) and we would get sandwiches and put them in a cooler and have after we spend a couple hours in the park.  
  • We tend to get to park at opening and stay until 3-5pm so we can make it a day trip (we drive about an hour and 40 minutes to get there)
  • At the gate price is $44.99 - DON'T pay that you can get it as low as $29.99 for just ordering online before you go or a 4 pack starting at $114
  • Season passes start for just $59.99 (This is a great option if you are planning on going a couple times during the summer)
  • If you plan to go during the week you can get the platinum or gold pass and use the buddy passes for someone in your family.  (Example family of 4 could get 2 gold passes for $74.99 each and take 2 trips (Monday - Friday) and end up paying $18.75 each for the two trips.  If you can squeeze a trip on the extra bring a buddy days you can keep bringing that price down.
  • You can always pay the price difference to the next level of pass and get more buddy passes.  NOTE:  I bought a pass on Black Friday and upgraded it and they only charged me the current difference from the price of my current pass to the one I upgraded.  So don't worry if you get a great Black Friday deal you don't lose any of that discount.
  • Towards the end of the season they will offer discounts to purchase a season pass for the following year and you get the rest of the current year.  I actually renewed my summer only pass at the end of august to the gold level season pass for next year and got buddy passes for the current year and next year.
  • In 2017 my summer only pass was also given access to the fall leaf weekend for no additional charge (September weekend but not the Hallowboo weekends.) So make sure you follow them on Facebook and check to see if any additional bonuses have been added to your passes.
  • Tickets and Passes

Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: Disney World - The Garden Grill Review

First off this was the best character meal we had during our last visit.

We had dinner with a group of 6 (including one 3 year old).  The food was great, basically all of it.  More specifically the meats were great even the french fries were amazing.  The broccoli was great too.  The mac and cheese was extremely cheesy.  Honestly all the food was good standard home cooked food.

Our waiter was amazing had been working at Disney for something like 26 years.  My family is a bunch of jokers so we had some great moments of banter.  He was funny and very attentive we never had to worry about our drinks going empty.  Additionally he confirmed that Garden Grill is one of the few places on property that brews their own sweet tea.  That's huge plus for my husband as he drinks a ton of tea and was bummed by the gold peak tea everywhere else.  So as a part of our waiter's joking my husband ended up with multiple glasses of tea at a time which was great because he drank the majority of them or filled up our portable travel bottle when we left.

The characters were great and spent plenty of time with us and even a couple even made it around more than just once.  Which was great because we were not waiting on that last character when we really wanted to be on our way.

This was the first time we ate here but definitely will not be the last.  We already plan to stop there on our next trip.

3 Adults and 1 Child