Which Disney Dining Plan is right for you?

If you have been or are planning to go on a DisneyWorld vacation I’m sure you have heard all about the Dining plan option. This may seem like a good idea when booking, it may even seem like a deal. But is it really a deal, and is the dining plan worth it for you and your family? And which Dining plan is the right one for your family. To start off let’s look at the basic dining plan options:(all prices listed are for 2017)

Quick service plan $48.19 per adult: With this plan you get 2 quick service credits and 2 snack credits. A quick service is a place such as Cosmic Ray’s or Casey’s corner in the Magic Kingdom. These are usually quicker Dining experiences with a  lower quality menu and usually not a sit down Dining. Usually order it at a kiosk type location and pick the food up yourself. You also receive 1 Resort refillable mug.

Regular Dining plan $69.35: With this plan you get 1 quick service credit, 1 table service credit, 2 snacks and 1 refillable resort mug. A table service credit is good for a meal at designated sit down style restaurants and buffets. Places such as Chef Mickey’s, Coral Reef on Epcot and O’hana’s in the Polynesian are valid table services.

Signature Dining Plan $106.68: this plan give you 3 table service credits, 2 snacks and a refillable resort mug. With this plan you can use 2 table service credits to use for the phenomenal signature restaurants throughout WDW such as Narcoosees and Citricos in the Grand Floridian or the California Grille atop the Contemporary. These are more formal Dining experiences than the normal table service restaurants. With those you just get an entree, non alcoholic drink and a dessert. At the signature restaurants you get an appetizer, entree, non alcoholic beverage and a dessert. The menus at the signature restaurants are amazing and the food is top notch. Then you can use the third table service on a regular TS for breakfast or dinner.

Ok, you are probably thinking which one of these is for you? Well I guess it depends on your family’s Disney style. If your family is always on the go and want to do as much in the parks as possible, the quick service plan is probably for you. If you like to take your time sand take breaks from the parks and try other experiences and have a nice sit down meal or character buffet, then maybe the regular plan is for you. Or maybe you are traveling alone as a couple, no children, and want to some of the best Dining experiences available at WaltDisneyWorld, then definitely do the signature plan. You will have access to some4 star restaurants and it is probably the best value of the 3 plans.

One thing to remember is that having the plan, no matter which plan it may be will be a lot of food. After a week of the plan I sometimes don’t want to even think of food, so take that into consideration. Also if you have a plan and need to make ADR’s for your restaurants, you will see that everyday rotates around your dining reservations, so if you plan to have dinner at O’hana’s in the Poly, don’t plan on spending the day at Epcot. It can take a lot of time traveling back and forth, it can take some smart planning, and some may not be bothered which then the quick service would be better.

There are so many things to look at in regards to the dining plans, which is one reason why some people decide to go to Disney vacation planners. But what those planners won’t tell you is that whether or not the Dining plan is worth it at all and if it’s economically the best decision. My post tomorrow will look st that question exactly… Have a magical day!


Which cruise line fits in with what you are looking for..

There are so many cruise lines out there to choose from, not all are the same and not all are equal. You could be trying to figure out which one is for you whether it be what they offer on the ship or whether it be the price. I am going to give you a quick run down of what to expect on each cruise line. Each cruise line has something they are really good at or offer.  It really depends on what you are looking for. So I will go with Norwegian, Carnival, Disney, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and finally Princess. There are other cruise lines but I am focusing on these 6 main ones.

6. Norwegian: Norwegian’s big thing has been freestyle cruising. No set dining room assignments, it’s anytime dining at all times in their main dining rooms. Other cruise lines have followed their lead offering anytime dining options with also a set dining option also. Norwegian main goal was to basically tell the customer you can do what you want when you want, we aren’t going to tell you what you have to do.

Now the big thing is their Free at Sea promotion. The higher class cabin you get,the more perks you get free. You have your choice of 5 options such as free specialty dining or beverage package, if you book a suite you get all 5. You can save money on drinks, gratuities, dining’s, excursions or even get shipboard credit. THis has been drawing in some crowds and has been working,

I’ve been on Norwegians ships a few times. To me the quality is lacking in a Norwegian Cruise. Their goal is to get the first time cruisers and keep them coming back andnot letting go of them. That strategy does seem to be working. To me the food quality is poor on Norwegian, the Buffets have been average at best and dining rooms below average. They make the buffets and dining rooms poorer quality to push you to go to their pay restaurants which are actually pretty good. Entertainment is on average to the rest of the industry. The cruise directors crew were entertaining, friendly and engaging for the most part. I personally though have no urge to cruise again on Norwegian, for these reasons and others which I will not discuss because most likely they were not common accurances, but still I’m my opinion we’re not handled well. But I will say customer service on Norwegian is well behind henother cruise lines.

Carnival- Carnival brands themselves as the “Fun Ship.” If you are looking for a good time this is your line. They try to emphasize “Fun Ship” and try to get away from the label of”Party Ship.” But for the most part it’s a big party at see. Carnival is one of the best for activities on board and have one of the better kids clubs. They try to make it a family fun trip. But be careful, the crowds on the Carnival ships, especially in the USA ports can get rowdy and wild. People do go for the party atmosphere and that usually includes alcohol. If you go on some of the international cruises offered the crowd is a lot more tame and actually the quality is better.

If you are looking for fun and a good time at sea this is for you. The prices on Carnival are a bit cheaper than the industry average also which has its pluses and minuses. Food is ok, a notch below the next four, but not bad. Entertainment is good and there are lots of activities. The crowd on board can get a bit wild so be prepared. Things can get loud and rambunctious. I have been on a few Carnival ships and my feelings are mixed. Your fellow passengers can be a little too much, I wouldn’t bring my kids on Carnival, and to me the food is much better on others. It’s great for the 20 something crowd and those wanting to let loose.

Disney- Disney Cruise Lines are routinely voted the best cruise line by passengers every year, but is that accurate? Disney is a good cruise line, right up there with Celebrity, Royal Caribbean and Princess. But Disney has Mickey Mouse. They have a very very loyal clientele, who are insanely loyal and vocal about their passion for Disney. So when you have passenger cruise rankings you take them with a grain of salt.

One thing Disney knows better than anyone is catering to children and families. It’s Disney, what did you expect? The food on board is good, the entertainment is good also. Looking to win a little money at the casino on board? Don’t look at Disney then, they do not have a Casino. The rest of the industry is catching up to Disney in terms of family entertainment and activities but they will never catch them.  The food is good, right up there with the tops in the industry, are they the best? Probably not, are they he best in entertainment? Probably not unless you just love Disney Shows. Here is the catch, Disney prices their cruises like they are head and shoulders above the rest. I love Disney, been going since i can remember and it’s not going to stop, but let’s be realistic here. I am not paying double the price of a RCL cruise or Celebrity or Princess. DCL is not that much better than the others and are probably right on par with them, except they have the Disney thing going for them and you aren’t getting that on any other cruise line.

Princess- Personally Princess is my favorite cruise line, but it’s pretty close between the remaining three lines. It all depends on wht you are looking for. Princess is a little more upscale and slightly more expensive than the celebrityand RCL ships. Best food I’ve had in Be dining rooms have been on Princess and entertainment is good also. It’s a little deceiving because I once went on a Princess ship that had the great Marty Allen as the comedian, and he was by far he best comedian on any cruise I’ve been on. Princess really doesn’t have any gimmicks on the ship, and sometimes at see they lack in activities so kids may be a little bored throughout the day. The ships  have nice decor for he most part and are very clean. Princess passengers seem to be a little older  but you will still find lots of small children and families on board.

Again, my favorite cruise line, and my favorite ships. But I have sailed with Princes without children so I’d recommend other cruise lines for families, but for the single or couples without children I 100% recommend Princess.

Royal Caribbean- RCL is making waves with all their new ships they are bringing out. Each one seems to get bigger and better than the next. These ships are huge, and have some incredible activities on board. Some have the Zip line across he ship, the virtual skydiving, surfing simulator, parks on board, bumper cars and circus trapeze acts you can learn. These ships have it all. Thing is big ships carry a lot of passenger and that means some public areas will get crowded. The buffets on these ships are packed, long lines will await you at each station and you may find it difficult to find a table sometimes. But the food is usually good and the dining room food is good also.

Entertainment can be hit or miss on RCL. I’ve been on ships that had real good shows or entertainment and been on ships that were just plain bad (Anthem of the Seas). Another issue with the bigger ships is that RCL seems to make the ship itself the main attraction and cut back on activities throughout the day.they want you enjoy the ship itself than to have more classes or seminars etc.

So I do recommend RCL for really  anyone, but I would stay away from the older smaller ships and go on the newer bigger ships.

Celebrity- Celebrity to me and to many others have the best buffets on the Seas. They usually have the best and freshest food on their buffets. The Cuisine in the dining rooms is very good also, just below Princess. The ships are maintained very well and are very clean. Entertainment as a whole is generally pretty good, but just as with Princess, there aren’t as many activities and things to do during the day, so things can get a little boring if you are feeling active.

For me Celebrity is a close second to Princess, the ships aren’t too big and crowded, they for the most part don’t have huge ships like RCL, but they seem have more room and they ship and don’t seem as crowded. It’s always easy getting chairs at the pool or tables at he buffet. Wouldn’t recommend for the cruisers who are always looking to be on the move and being active. But for those that like to relax, enjoy a slightly slower paced atmosphere but also have some fun and enjoy some good food and prices seem just a little below or right around Princess but a little higher than RCL, this is the line for you. The average age of passengers on this ship isn’t as old as Princess but you won’t have the rowdy crowds of Carnival.

Now I would not recommend Norwegian or Carnival. But it all depends on what you are looking for. If you want he fun party atmosphere and don’t care much about some of the other thing then hit Carnival. But I’d recommend Princess, RCL or Celebrity. I don’t think you can go wrong with either, it’s really about your own tastes. Norwegian I have too many bad experiences with, but I know many people who swear by them. You have to see what’s right for you. When I was a Disney vacation planner, I would book cruises also, and for this industry, we booked Norwegian and Carnival he most, so obviously someone likes them. So figured out what you are looking for most in a cruise and do your research on each line and potential ship. Try to avoid the passenger reviews because those are very deceiving whether they be good or bad. Try not to worry too much on if you are making the right decision, odds are no matter which cruise line you choose you will enjoy your vacation at sea.

Is there really a best time to get cheapest Airfare?

Since my post yesterday about my hardship in finding cheap airfare, I was thinking about what really is the best times to find the cheapest airfare. The long standing theory is the best time to get that is 2 months out from your departure date. Well without getting too scientific and just going off my observations I’ll dig in further.

Now usually it does seem 2 months out or so is a good time…. usually. Other factors have to be taken into consideration. These can be the time of year, if it’s a holiday season, busy season for the location you are flying to, or if the airport is a popular business destination, such as New York or Chicago. If you are traveling to a large convention town, such as Orlando or Las Vegas, that will play into this also if there is a large convention in town. This will also effect Hotel prices.

But for 2 specific Airlines, Southwest and Jet Blue, I like to check air prices right when the dates come out for booking as long as I know when exactly we are going to be traveling. A lot of times the fares will start out low and work their way up. I am going away to Florida in August, checked Southwest and Jet Blue for fares when they became available. Jet Blue was a little high, but I was able to get Southwest for $180 pp rt, which is a great rate. United usually doesn’t start off cheap, but I’ll check. I’m in NJ so American and Delta don’t have direct flights out and the flights are normally high so inusually don’t even bother to check their rates. Spirit air is usually real cheap, but there are so many issues with them it’s just not worth it.

I realize I’m trying to predict what the airlines do, I’m trying to get a feel of past results and tendencies with them. It isn’t 100% perfect, but I have a pretty good track record trying to feel things out this way.

With the landscape now, rising price of oil may change things, but I personally think the price will stabilize and start coming down more. Some fares may be a little high now because of that, but I don’t think it will be a trend in the future.

Your best bet is to do what I said earlier, check Airlines right when they put the dates available for your date, if nothing just keep an eye on things, check every now and then for rates, check more frequently as you get closer. Keep an eye on the seat map, check to see what amount of seats are available. Granted that is 100% but a decently ok indicator. If there are a lot available, odds are there are still a lot of seats available. If there aren’t well prices will still be high… it’s supply and demand. If there aren’t a lot of seats, if you find an acceptable airfare jump on it. If it seems like there is a decent amount left, wait up. Prices will go down, be patient until you feel you get the right price. Be patient, don’t get nervous and panic. If you miss out, there is always Spirit Air!

What to do when Airfare is so high?

I have a trip to Disney planned in April, 2 weeks after Easter, so the heavy crowds should be all heading for home or already there. But here is my Dilemma, I have my DVC resort booked for the Beach Club, but decent Airfare is incredibly hard to find.

Prices are sky high, both flying to MCO and flying back home. Luckily, thanks to my signing up for the Southwest Airlines credit card I received 60,000 rewards points, add in referring people for the card and getting an extra 10,000 points each, I had more than enough to purchase   A flight going out from Newark to Orlando for my 2 kids, my wife and myself and the Mother on Law. Problem is  coming home I am not having much luck. Points are high for southwest and United, and prices are high, I am looking at about $1200-$1400 for the 5 of us just for the flight home. I can get a somewhat decent price if we wanted to fly out at 530 or 6am. But that’s not happening.

So here is my other option. I am possibly going to rent a car (SUV) for the week in Disney. Pick it up in MCO and then drive it home to New Jersey and drop it off in Newark for a little over $200 which is a good price. Or I can pick up a minivan at MCO on the Friday before we leave, drive it to NJ, drop it off in Newark, for about $60. So I have options, just have to drive home from Florida to Nj. Not ideal but it can save me some money. Booked it through Priceline and Hotwire so I have free cancellation just in case I am able to find a decent price for a flight home, which is very possible. But, I have to have a backup plan just in case these insanely high air prices don’t go down.